February 29, 2008

DIY Menu Project

Posted in Budget Friendly Ideas, Centerpieces and Reception Decor, DIY Projects, Stationary at 12:47 pm by Jess

Individual menus on each place looks fabulous. They are an added detail that makes the table swoon with color and attention to detail. Here are a few that I enjoy immensely:



Dauphine Press

However, I am not making individual menus. Today I officially scratched that off of my list of things to do (which is now only four pages long) and it felt sooo good. Pick your battles people, and you lower the stress enormously.  We are having a buffet and even if we were plating dinner, it’s not like they actually get a choice. Plus, I’m concerned about using too much paper, and not being environmentally conscious. One friend told me wittily, “It is not like someone is going to make it all the way up to the buffet, grab his/her plate and then say ‘Daaaaamn, I just cannot choose! I must go back and look at my menu…'”

Instead of menu cards, I have done a DIY Buffet Menu Card Project. This way each food has its own label which will go in front of each serving vessel. They are large enough for everyone to read, and in our matching colors, for the grand total of 10 dollars.

Step 1: Buy small white frames from a store, I bought mine at IKEA at 2 dollars (I assume, I bought for 3 Francs a piece) for 2 frames.


Step 2: Print your logo or monogram onto the reverse side of the paper insert


Step 3: Taken from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Gild the Edges with a Paint Pen. You have to press the paper into the frame to find out if you have gilded in far enough as the frame covers the margins of the paper.



Step 4: After allowing them time to dry, use another (Same or different color) pen to write the name of each menu item, 1 per frame.


If you are not having a buffet, you could still incorporate this idea, and save a lot of paper by having ONE Frame, of a medium side, placed vertically on the table with the menu (either printed or DIY) inside. I promise, people will not mind passing it around if the tables are small, and if you have one long table, place a few of them in incremental distance.


February 28, 2008

The Proposal: Part I

Posted in Cultural Differences at 11:48 am by Jess

Truth be told, Jon and I have been legally married for over a year. In Switzerland the church marriage is secondary. First and foremost is the civil marriage, which takes place at city hall in the village, town or city where you live. Often couples choose to have two wedding celebrations – one at city hall, and wearing a different, colorful dress, and the second at the church. Guests come and celebrate it, dress up and throw rice .Other times the city hall experience happens with only the “temoins.”

Temoin means witness (I have quite the story about that coming up!!). To marry in Switzerland you need a witness to sign a piece of paper in front of the city hall clerk. That person is your bridal party (since a bridal party like we know in USA does not exist here). The position has a deep significance in terms of friendship to the Swiss, but there are no further duties beyond signing, and from what I have observed, the witnesses don’t stand up with the couple at the ceremony, and certainly don’t wear matching outfits. However, I have seen photos of Swiss weddings with small bridal parties in matching dresses, so I know either these are expat brides, or the trend is drifting over.

Back to me 😉

Legally, I could only enter the country a certain number of times in a year. In the fall of 2006 I had already surpassed that, and surpassed the number of months I was allowed to stay in the country. Around Halloween of 2006 Jon and I began to discuss this, because I was flying home to USA for Christmas. Would I be able to come back in?? It was such a stress and headache.

The two of us have talked about marrying each other since three weeks into our relationship. It’s true – we talked about it rationally, and fantastically, but we just knew right away. So once I came over to Switzerland, even if it was slightly illegal, I was living here, with him and this became my home. All along we felt that we were living as a married couple, but we just had not gotten to that step yet, and we still wanted to wait, to explore and discover each other’s bad sides.

Meanwhile, Switzerland is notorious for keeping tight tabs on all of its people, and especially foreigners. They truly count everyone, and they know where you live! We have heard many stories of people getting the infamous knock on the door a week after their “length of stay” expires, and being exported to the airport by the local police. For this very reason, I made cookies once a month for all of my neighbors – just to keep any potential rats on my side! It sounds silly, but we’ve also heard of someone being ratted out by local neighbors, due to the Swiss culture of strictly abiding by the rules, and their innate skepticism of foreigners. Finally, we decided we’d had enough of the stress of logistics. We want to be together, to live together, and to not worry about me being exported. So, we decided to marry at civil hall, in order for me to receive the permit to stay.

To be honest, this day meant relatively little to us. As this custom of a huge celebration at city hall is not what I had grown up with, it was not something that had a “meaning” to me. Jon and I talked long and hard about what a wedding meant to us, and we decided that the city hall experience was a technicality for us – a detail – and the wedding would be in front of friends and family, with an exchange of vows. We were not quite ready for that – only just a matter of time and money – but we were on the track and knew it. So, we chose two witnesses, went to city hall and it was over in five minutes. No rings, no dress. Nada. We had a drink at a nice hotel afterwards, and then I went to boxing practice.

To this day, I struggle to remember the date.

It sounds horribly unromantic, but that was the point. I have always dreamed of my wedding day with friends and family, and had never dreamed of, or heard of, this city hall wedding. Honestly, we did not tell anyone because we did not want to hear “Congratulations.” We truly wanted all the emotions – ours and others’ – to be reserved for the day that we considered our wedding and marriage day.

It would be another year, living exactly the same as we had before, before I was proposed to. And, like all things when you live in another culture, that came with its own stresses!

February 27, 2008

My Evolving Color Scheme

Posted in Inspiration Boards at 11:22 pm by Jess

I apologize for the lack of credits; I made this before wedding blogging and had not thought of publishing it at the time. Ditto for the one below.
Here is my very first inspiration board ever made. I hope, or think, that the mood conveyed is one of airy summer romance. I saw rustic elements, a muted palate of chocolate brown, sea green and ivory. I was going to wear a brown dress. I really, really wanted those birds nests. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
I wanted people to leave this muted, romantic ceremony and enter a fabulously colorful reception – even shocking to the eye. The food buffet and the salmon here on the left is the key image (ciaothyme.com) because we wanted something that said “America” and had a casual air, but still wonderfully inventive and fresh. The smoked salmon on the bottom is my favorite meal and the presentation here is beautiful. I love all of these images and ideas dearly, and took many hours to find them. Alas, I am not sure that any of them are truly getting played out exactly.
What happened? Nothing serious, just the two main dream killers: Funds and Availability. I am having salmon, but they won’t smoke or fume it, they poach it. There is NO tree near the reception to hang escort cards from. We cannot afford the truffle cake, so we are buying a couple for each person as favors instead probably.
Lessons Learned? Pick Your Battles and Allow Room For Change.
Finally, with three and a half months to go, I have closed in on a color scheme – largely determined by my interior decorating preferences and availability here. Last night I made up an inspiration board that actually covers the even realistically. I share it with you!
What does this board say to you? What kind of mood or feeling does it convey? I have a few words, and a purpose in mind, and I am very curious to know if I’ve succeeded in conveying them.
-Bridesmaid dress in Oasis from Davidsbridal.com; Calla lilly bouquet from theknot.com; lace strapless gown from theknot.com; peony bouquet from theknot.com
-Menu item card is my own photo, I made it; Flowers from theknot.com; Gold shoes from niemanmarcus.com; Bundt cake tower from stylemepretty.com; street signs from perfectbound.blogspot.com; My logo and Date; My napkins photo
-Our location photo; Geneva street photo of flowers; Our photo of DIY Invitations

Choosing a Color Scheme

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 5:55 pm by Jess

Do any of you run into this problem? You pore over design and wedding blogs, happily bookmarking-away all the inspiration boards and color scheme articles that draw your eye. You only bookmark the ones that make you squeal with delight, of course. But then something horrible happens: You open your bookmark file and discover that no less than eighteen color schemes made you squeal. There are a dozen marked as “the one.” If you are like me, picking a color scheme that pleases you is a piece of proverbial cake. But picking “the one”? Hopeless.

image from flickr.com

For me it was fun to imagine colors, but it was also stressful. It’s a heavy weight commiting to a certain color scheme, if you don’t already have one 100% favorite. I was stricken with worry and uttered crazy questions like, “Since when do I like eggplant?” “Are you sure that this would not clash with the grass?” and “Why the hell does Celadon green only truly exist in my head!?”

I quickly became aware that I was drifting in between color schemes. In one email to a friend I would describe the gray, eggplant gala. In another to my mother: hot pink and orange. I just could not choose, so I chose not to.My solution: I decided not to have a color scheme – at least not to pick one directly, not RIGHT AWAY. This decision had one key factor: Not caring if the invitations matched my eventual color scheme. I wish I could have a whole magazine-quality paper line for my day, but it just ain’t happening.Since I was going to be DIYing my invitations anyway, with very very limited paper resources here in Switzerland (Paper Source, I dream of you…), I wanted to take some of the stress of myself by not following a particular color scheme all the way through. I will show you the invitations in a later post, but suffice it to say, this is one of the best decisions that I made concerning my wedding. Why? Not only did I not feel rushed and pressured to pick a color scheme, then go scouring this city up and down trying to make it materialize in pretty papers, but I ACTUALLY ended up making a color scheme loosely based on my invites, but with tangent, compatible colors. Surprisingly, I simultaneously COMPLETLEY NIXED the one color that I was “sure, sure, sure” I would use (first as my own gown, then as a bridesmaid gown): Chocolate Brown. It is the base color of the invitations, but that is where it ends now. I like this. I like the ability to alter my ideas when the event is four months away.

I suppose it is a coincidence that my ultimate wedding colors are the ones from my invitations. But subconsciously, I am sure that I gravitated towards a paper that was in a favorite color, and then when I kept receiving such compliments on the Invites I decided, “Let’s go with these colors…if we can.” (I am always wary of commiting here, because I cannot be sure things are available just because I want them, or just because I have the money, like in America).

Now I realize that some of you want to nail donw a color scheme, and want all of your stationary to match the day. That’s great. It will look beautiful, and for you it may be less stressful to have this out of the way. If you are still struggling to pick a color scheme, here are a few helpful suggestions:

Look at your wardrobe.Your closet holds the key. You may not realize it, but the same colors you buy would make a great color scheme, precisely because they look good on, or around you. It’s the same advice that interior decorators give to clients about choosing paint and fabric. Choose what colors look good on you. However, since you most likely will not be wearing a violet wedding gown, but asking your gals to wear violet, do take into consideration if that color looks good on them. If it truly looks horrid (like yellow looked awful on my two bridesmaids because they are both really, really pale) then maybe switch it up, or try a darker or lighter version of the color.

flickr.com (wish I had those shoes!)

Don’t be shy, ask the groom. He may not be able to name the range of orange tones you are looking at, but that doesn’t mean he cannot tell what he does and doesn’t like. His reactions might shock you. My fiance had – shock to me – quite a bit to say about the colors I was considering. And why shouldn’t he? On the other hand, you might just get a guttural, cave-man-esque reaction, but listen to it. If he groans and sticks out his tongue, listen to that. It might just mean “I cannot articulate why I dislike this color in more than monosyllabic grunts but it makes me want to vomit and will probably make the Y endowed portion of our guests want to vomit too.” He has a point.

Look at paint swatches. My mom and I did this. We went to Home Depot and picked up swatches of colors that we liked. This is so good because you not only get to seeee all the ranges of orange you were trying to explain to hubby, but you get names. Just don’t go crazy. Don’t go home with eighteen swatches. You’ll be no better off than with your twenty “this is it” Inspiration Boards. 🙂

For you expats, you might find my organic take to the color scheme works well here. Choices can be limited. I’d love to hear if anoyone has had an interesting approach to picking their wedding colors.

February 26, 2008

An Alternative to Cupcakes

Posted in Desserts, Food and Beverage at 8:26 pm by Jess

Many readers and writers of wedding blogs post about the desire to do a cupcake buffet, and the fear that it is overdone and out-dated. I do think that if you like the idea – if it makes you happy and excited  then do it. Absolutely. The day is not (only) about showing your up-to-dateness with current trends. It is fundamentally about having the most fun and the most sentiment possible.

That said, maybe there are some alternatives out there to cupcakes. The mini-tart is one.  One of the reasons that cupcakes were and ARE so great is that most people do not want a heavy dessert after a large meal. We recently did a test-run of Jon’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake and we have now nixed it from our DIY dessert buffet because people overwhelmingly said that it was too much after a real meal.  Instead, we are doing a light wedding cake coupled with an assortment of miniature tarts. Ours will be fruit tarts, but there are many, many creative options for individual tarts out there. Here are a few for your perusal!

Wild Blueberry Mini Tarts 

Individual Lemon Meringue Tarts 

Raspberry Pistachio Chocolate Ganache Tarts

Caramel Hazelnut Mini Tarts (for the indulgent types!)

Mini Key Lime Cheesecake: Not actually a “tart” but a cool replacement for people keen on doing cheesecake.

Key Lime Tart with Fresh Meringue and Carambola Sauce from Conroy Catering in Pennsylvania

Take these recipes to your caterer and see what he or she can do!

Setting the Mood of Your Event

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 5:07 pm by Jess

In tandem with choosing a color scheme, it behooves you to define your MOOD. A mood is not a theme. A theme is a guiding image, like “Underwater” or “Fourth of July.” A mood is a series of adjectives and describing words that sum up your vision of your day. Having a mood can change your color scheme. For instance, it would be difficult to pull off a blue-orange color scheme with a “romantic” mood (though possible). If you find your ideal mood clashes with the color scheme you have chosen, you’ll need to choose which one is more important to you.

This happened to me. I had some pretty bright colors in mind.  I spoke the words “romantic, soft, victorian” and then I even went out and bought ribbon and paint in colors that would match this mood. I looked into light, lacey bridesmaid dresses in rose and violet. I was moving right along and yet all the while there was this color of blue STUCK in my head. Every time I saw it -once on an album color, once on a pull and once on the scarf I found, bought and am wearing as I write this – I would scream and grab Mr. M’s arm shouting “That’s it!! That’s my color.”

What was I thinking!? I had already picked the colors and the mood and this blue does not go with them at all. It would be like putting oreos in your tea. So what happened? One night I was online and I stumbled upon a line of dresses made in the very same blue I stalk: I promptly threw out the entire “romantic” mood. Within seconds I had pulled out all the photos of ramanticy, lacey dresses and trashed them. Out went the peach and cream bouquet. I wrote a letter to my mom saying: “You know that wreath we made? Be prepared to change  the ribbons!”

Choosing a mood is a great exercise if you pinpoint the exact words to define it. When you have the words, write them down clearly and tuck them into your file. You can now use these words to direct and give clues to your hair stylist, florist, makeup artist and photographer. Trust me, they will appreciate that you can articulate what you want to see. It makes their job easier, and ultimately then makes the final product look better.

Four Seasons Inspired

Posted in Centerpieces and Reception Decor at 5:01 pm by Jess

A girlfriend of mine and I are talking about doing a collective birthday celebration/gift at the day spa of the Four Seasons Hotel in Paris. I just went to their website to look at the options and found this photo, which I just had to share because I love the floral centerpieces! It’s chic and bright, yet casual all at once.

First of all, one normally wouldn’t think to pair such bright flowers with this tablecloth and yet it works great. I can see a wedding table with a few large vases, and each having its own color floral arrangement. And the gold bust in the center – Quelle Idée! I like it, totally unique.

February 25, 2008

Finding the Red Wine, Part II

Posted in Food and Beverage at 11:15 pm by Jess

Where last I left off we had just downed six bottles of wine along with Pasta Bolognese (and Jon’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake. Did I forget to mention that part last time? I meant to. I’m in denial about the second piece.)

The two wines that we chose were bought at different locations. Jon’s father agreed to call up the Gas Station (yep, you read right) where we found our Argentinian Malbec. The station happens to have a small grocery store attached to it. Apparently his father was able to order six cases. I am so relieved, as we had bought the very last bottle for the tasting.

I am also relieved that we don’t have to drive out there ourselves. Every time we go I am reminded as to why I love Geneva, even if I am bored stiff or hating on Geneva half the time. When we go to this particular gas station everyone we see is in some form of parka and mud-stained work pants and has the horrible, overgrown, vein-ridden, bulbous nose that is a direct result of extreme alcoholism.  (This is not everyone in the town, but a fair amount. It’s why Neuchatel region gets the stereotype of “paysan” meaning Farmer to the Genevoise.) I don’t mean to be judgmental but when I see them I think, HOW did I spend a year living among these people? They are alcoholics, heavy ones, who start around 10 a.m. on the local Chasselas white wine. They have missing teeth, four pack a day habits and fat spilling over their overalls. And yet, when I see it, it puts things in perspective. There was a good reason I got fat and addicted to blogging last year!

But I digress.

Today we went to the large grocery store to buy the Rioja and a few other DIY necessities like Kraft Paper and Napkins. In the wine section we were greeted by an attendant who had the WORST breath I have ever smelled. Jon warned me, right as I walked up to him: “This guy has the worst breath. I can’t breath!”

“Don’t be so dramatic Jon,” I replied.

Then the man walked back around the corner with the cardboard cases for us. He was just slightly taller than me and it just so happened that his mouth was just in line with my nostrils. There were only five cartons of the wine on site, and we needed to order two more of the same year. Suddenly the man cackled, “Oh, that is not possible!” (why he was laughing is just another intricacy to life here) and I was nearly bowled off my feet by his breath.

“Oh Fuck” I said out loud. The man didn’t bat an eyelash, as he didn’t speak English. Jon started giggling outloud, and then the man started laughing even harder, thinking that we were all part of his little inside joke about why it was so funny that we could not order the wine in the same year, thus expelling an even stronger wave of noxious fumes into my face.

I turned and ran for the produce aisle.

We finally were able to order the last two cartons, after hearing the grocery store man’s work schedule for the next week. He ordered us to come on Friday when he would be working, so as not to miss him. At the checkout we met a great surprise: Today marked a one week sale, 20% off all wine if buying over six bottles. Quelle Chance!!

So, we saved 100 dollars on the wine! I guess it was worth meeting this man’s breath for that, though I am not sure I can do it twice.  I’m either getting the Flu or throwing out my back Thursday night. Don’t tell Jon.


Posted in Budget Friendly Ideas, Flowers at 10:47 pm by Jess

The Single White Flower debate: Is one White Calla Lilly flower enough for a “bouquet” for my bridesmaids?

In theory, especially for a budget-concerned bride, this is a great idea. However, once we think about actually sending our gorgeous bridesmaids down the aisle, the idea of one flower falls a little flat.

Or does it?


The Single Flower idea works best if you:

~Use a large flower, like the calla, or even a Bird of Paradise, and make sure your florist knows to get a large one.

~Are not using many flowers at all in your ceremony. I am not, therefore flowers are minimal and the very few that we use will be seen. Having an outdoor location with its own natural beauty helps here, and my budget!

~Play with the flower by adding a large bow, or having the girls cradle the flower in the elbow like shown below.

What do you all think? Have you also thought of doing just one flower (like Emahlee mentioned in her comment here) and felt that it was not enough? Have you done a poll to your friends who are NOT getting married? Go ahead, ask some random people who attend many weddings: “Do you remember the ceremony flowers?” Perhaps one flower is enough, but if not, even two or three of a striking, long stem can be cheaper and elegant.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 21, 2008

Posted in Favors at 7:44 am by Jess

Kolo found via Happy Living Blog 


From the website: “This 4″ x 6″ pebble grain paper album has a minimal design that features a fold-over matchbook cover and a ribbon-bound spine. A handy scrapbook page leads off (ideal as a title sheet), followed by five sheets with removable, protective sleeves (holds 10 photos). The signature Kolo cover window lets you personalize the Matchbook with a photo or artwork.”  What a great little  favor for guests. You could pre-personalize them with a fun photo of the married couple, then wrap them with a disposable (And to take-home) camera, so that eventually they could develop the photos and then fill this little album with their favorite pics from the evening. 

They also offer beautiful leather wedding albums with sewn edge, scratch resistant, water repellent and a cover window for personalization.

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