Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cut Your Coat According to your Cloth

As part of our total resistance to the Matrimonial-Industrial Complex, Michael and I decided on vintage clothes for our wedding. One should wear to one's wedding what makes one happiest and most comfortable. For us, rented tuxedos would not fit the bill.

We have also been determined neither to dress alike nor to somehow mock heterosexual weddings. And, we needed clothing suitable for a daytime, outdoor wedding on a farm. Therefore, it should be festive but casual, and eschew black and white.

(At right: Clip-on bowties and red rose boutonnieres lead to fake smiles, regret.)

Our choices engendered some controversy. I found a Hickey-Freeman flannel suit ($75 on eBay), and I thought it would look great alongside a gorgeous midnight-blue cashmere blazer I gave Michael for Christmas. Well, let me say the idea of one groom wearing a suit and the other wearing a blazer - in spite of the casual, outdoor character of the wedding - caused what some would call a kerfuffle. I was seemingly alone in my indifference as to whether our formality coefficients would be precisely equal.

Michael did have a backup option, which was a Zegna suit ($50 at Housing Works thrift shop) whose beauty practically brought the tailor to tears. But I, for one, find this suit to be a tiny bit corporate corporate, and was frankly getting a bit annoyed with the formality-gradient debate. Flannel and cashmere in a meadow in October? Who on earth could find fault with that?!

Fortunately, we had on our team an objective judge: Ronnie, menswear manager and stylist extraordinaire at Julian's (the "mecca of preppie" as it is called in one of the press clips proudly displayed there). We went last weekend to pick up our suits, having had them altered by the in-store tailor. With issues of fit and finish aside, it was possible to evaluate the "look."

Ronnie admitted that the blazer would look just a notch less formal than the suit. But he quickly added two important caveats: that one must consider the time and setting, and that accessories would matter enormously.

Over an hour we pored over ties, pocket squares, vests and shirts. As we identified beautiful combinations - and Ronnie has a very bold eye, which suits us - we grew happier and more comfortable. It was also delightful to spend an afternoon wearing our suits and our new shoes, and feeling at ease in them.

The conclusion: Michael is going to wear his gorgeous midnight-blue cashmere blazer. With an elegant vest, rich tie and bold pocket square, his ensemble equates or exceeds the formality of my flannel suit. We also found coordinating but not matching (Good God, not matching!) Ike Behar ties, so that we look as we feel: distinct, complementary, inseparable.

(At right: Ike Behar, doing his part to make us look good, even without all that dramatic lighting.)


Time Keeps on Slippin', Slippin' . . .

Sorry for light posting this week! Hectic at work getting things done in advance of the long weekend. And, as I've mentioned before, it's hard to find the kernel of "interesting" in all the little projects we've been doing.

Tonight we're starting to make seating charts, and that should constitute the kind of emotionally piqued experience that results in an amusing post. We have bought all the equipment for our centerpieces and tested out the design (more on that soon). We also did our first (only?) big craft project, which was a grosgrain-criss-crossed surface for our escort table (more on that coming, too).

Big upcoming challenges include getting our wine selections finalized and ordered and dealing with the printing of our ceremony programs and menu cards.

Meanwhile, we have to buy a car, which is not the sort of task I like to modify with a meanwhile. Parting with anything more than $25 requires my unwavering (read: obsessive, anxious, neurotic) attention. I'm a little bit frugal.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

This is not a political blog. Certainly the very subject of gay marriage touches on the political and we have occasionally waxed philosophical on current events and social relevance of marriage equality. But this is not a place for political musings, per se.

Except in this post, where I voice my wholehearted support for Russian dominance over pesky former Soviet republics. This might strike you as against my heretofore support for the plight of the Georgian people and my previous pronouncements of Russians as "sneaky" or "evil" or "drunks". But it will be more understandable if you realize that the Russians inevitably have their sights on Ukraine and you may remember that our dance instructor, Yuliya, is Ukrainian and as of last week it is my sincerest wish that Yuliya and all of her people suffer miserably in a Soviet gulag where they are forced to teach salsa to rhythmless orangutans with anger management deficiencies.

This is because Yuliya, during what I believe to have been a beautiful executed left-end leap into a well-structured twinkle, crinkled her nose with a look of disgust which suggested I had just shat directly onto her feet and said, in a tone unbecoming of a lady or educator, "Can you even hear the music?" This was promptly followed by a suggestion that from now on maybe Emerson should lead. Needless to say, Yuliya will not be invited to the wedding. And I am seriously considering launching an investigation into her credentials because in all my years of ballroom dancing I have never witnessed such an obvious lapse in judgment. This will only serve to inflate Emerson's already bloated ego as well as cause irreparable damage to my increasingly fragile self-image. I hope Yuliya is satisfied with herself.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Weekend Only a Mother Could Love

Mom is on her way from Georgia right now, to pitch in with all our final-stretch projects. I'm very excited to see the dress she picked out, in her signature green, and to shop for shoes and accessories to go with it. I'm also excited to start chiseling away at many little worries and details, so that can we sail into October with not a care in the world!

Thursday p.m.: Pick up more wine samples. Shop at the craft store for hurricane lamps, floral supplies, wreath forms and picture frames. Discuss rehearsal dinner plans.
Friday noon: The Tasting!!!
Friday p.m.: Squeal with excitement about the food. Bask in the glow. Shop for shoes and accessories.
Saturday a.m.: Final fitting of our suits, meet with stylist. (You heard right: stylist.)
Saturday p.m.: Shop for cake stand (or appropriate supplies to make one). Paint flower pots and practice assembling centerpieces. Get a little drunk, then practice dancing.
Sunday a.m.: Site visit possible. Big breakfast with George Stephanopoulos on the tube much more likely.

I am so happy and grateful that we planned so much so early (and were such pains in the neck to so many vendors), because all these little tasks are just fun.


Revised/Tentative Ceremony Music

Working with the brass quintet leader is fun. Starting with some raw ideas, we are shaping a great program together. The music - it is hoped - will suit the occasion and our taste as well as the enjoyment of the musicians. They should have fun, too, right?

Prelude: Three movements from Verne Reynolds (b. 1926) Suite for Brass Quintet.
Procession: One movement from Victor Ewald (1860-1935) Brass Quintent No. 1 in B-flat minor.
Psalm: "Boze! Boze! Písen novou" from Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904) Biblical Songs Op. 99.
Interlude: One movement from Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) "Morgenmusik."
Hymn: "Seek Ye First" by Karen Lafferty (b. 1948).
Recession: Three songs from Charles Ives (1874-1954) Four Songs for Brass Quintet.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Roommates Wanted

Over the last week or so, several people have asked me if I knew anyone who needed to share a room; I of course said I'd keep my ear out. And as I work diligently to play wedding guest matchmaker, I thought I'd open this post up for those who wish to bypass my immensely awesome skills.

So feel free to use the comment section to find your dream hotel-mate....


Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Turn

Emerson left yesterday for his bachelor party, much like I left him last month for Andrew's. I must admit, while I haven't become as stupid as he became without me, it's surprising how quickly the house feels empty, even with the zoo we currently have. It's nice to be able to make a full pot of coffee and know it will be consumed; I so made too much this morning. But that's ingrained behavior for you.

I have been able to distract myself, though, with thoughts of my own bachelor party! Unlike Emerson's mine does not involve hiking up a mountain without electricity. It does, however, involve burlesque. And 80s Night.

I also have like two days to figure out what I want inscribed inside Emerson's ring. He's thoughtful and sweet and I'm a cynical jackass. The only two things I've come up with are "Property of Michael" and "Last Chance For Love". This is causing me more stress than I imagined it would. Maybe I should conduct a Facebook poll...


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Journey to the Mountaintop

In 12 hours I leave for my no-doubt unmatchable bachelor weekend. (I neglected to include the committee in my Groomtourage post! Oops!) The high point (har har) of the weekend will be climbing 4,000 feet of Mount Moosilauke on Friday with some of my best friends.

Most of this trip will involve drinking whiskey and playing poker in a primitive cabin in the White Mountains. However, a couple of other incongruous highlights include catching a "reality chamber opera" called Tim Gunn's Podcast as well as a minor league ball game between the NH Fisher Cats and the Harrisburg Senators. A gay groom's bachelor party has to be a crazy pastiche, right?

As excited as I am about all that, there is one other planned activity that is really making my heart race.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be taking our two rings - which have hardly left our hands for two years - to be cut up, melted down, welded, sawed, shaved - whatever it is that the rocking jewelers at Little King want to do. And from two well worn, deeply loved rings we'll have two brand new deeply lovable wedding rings.

I have the inscription for Michael's ring on a post-it note in my wallet right now, I hope it's the right one!

(n.b. Ignore the date stamp on that photo - the picture is actually from Christmas 2006.)



Marrying is a team sport. (Get ready for more sports metaphors, I'm high on the Olympics right now.)

Not only do you have your primary team-mate (him to whom you are affianced), but you get the opportunity to assemble a cracker-jack squad of specialists. Most of these specialists are creative types, and like elite athletes they must be handled with the utmost level of respect and attention.

Our team at this point consists of no fewer than seven farmers, seven musicians, five speechmakers, four declaimers, three therapists, two DJs, two chefs, two visual artists, two jewelers, a tailor, a stylist, a photographer, a choreographer, an administrative assistant and countless personal advisers.

Working with all these brilliant people is a privilege and a responsibility. One can smooth the path, in a way, by aiming low - that is, making all one's own creative decisions and employing mere technicians to execute them. But, we were dedicated to a "collaborative" approach from an early stage. We wanted each of these superstars to bring his or her own viewpoint, enjoyment and artistry to the task. Consequently, we are engaged in deep, sometimes delicate conversations with each of them.

The newest additions to our team are the brass quintet and the tailor. We have just exchanged our first rally of emails with the quintet's leader, Sandy, having started with a number of outlandish musical suggestions. Her response was very thoughtful and sensitive to our taste - which she clearly understood - and now we have parried with a new set list. Our goal is to find music that they are truly excited to play, because we believe that will bring out their best talents.

Mr. Tabet is our tailor, and he too brings not only a reputation for extraordinary skill, but also a strong viewpoint as to how our suits should look. With his strong but unidentifiable accent and hard but pitying glare, he barks out orders like the tiny Bela Karolyi of menswear. Our bill for his services is a little more than double the money we paid for our suits to begin with! Nonetheless, it is a true pleasure to see his experience and competence, and to know that we have avoided the sad fate of the Ukrainian athletes last Friday.


You Should Be Dancing - Yeah! (We Should Maybe Not)

Last night was the third of our five foxtrot lessons. On the upside, we have a routine! It involves such colorful elements as a left-end leap, a sway and a bunch of twinkles. Fortunately, the leap does not involve leaping, and the twinkles do not involve jazz hands (or fingers in any way); on the other hand, the sway is much more complicated than it sounds, requiring something called "arm style."

Another upside is that we get to wear our fabulous new shoes. There is mine on the right. Gorgeous, right? Thanks, Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!

So, you may be asking, what is the downside of our foxtrot lessons? Well, we are just terrible. Yuliya, our adorable, sweet, brilliant teacher, will never tell us so, but we can see it in her eyes. Her voice may be saying "Slow, slow, quick-quick!" But, her eyes are saying, "You dance like a pair of lobotomized rhinos."

The other downside is the flop-sweat. Gross, I know. We are guilty of some combination trying too hard, dancing too fast and raw terror. Perspiration is a vicious cycle, too - the more you worry about it, the faster it comes. Do you think Botox is a terrible idea? How about a Karate Kid-style headband? Yes, Sensei!


Friday, August 8, 2008

Labor in the Vineyards of the Internet

Is it possible to get sick of wine? I mean, wine in general and in principle, not a particular wine.

I suppose there are those who have no love of wine, or elevated sensual experiences, or, you know, being alive. I cannot relate to those people. I am certainly not marrying any of them!

In addition to our well-documented quest for the right dinner wine (come over tomorrow for a tasting of the four finalists for Italian White of the Day), we are also planning a wine country honeymoon. So, I have spent many hours - in my predictable, pernickety way - studying all the vineyards and wineries of northern Sonoma and Mendocino counties to lay out an air-tight and endlessly thrilling itinerary.

For someone who lives in his head as much as I do, reading about wine is very enjoyable. It does not compare to direct experience, but the pleasure is not negligible.

Reading about the Vinicultural Areas we'll visit and the neighborhoods within them, and the vineyards of various sizes, various production and farming principles, different ownership schemes - I learned more planning this trip than I ever learned about wine just by tasting (and looking at labels) or studying a book. I learned a lot because I had to make so many decisions about what one could and should experience there.

Now, I have an idea what to look for when we go tasting. I know that in the Green Valley (which is part of the Russian River Valley, which is part of the Northern Sonoma AVA), we'll be tasting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in the coolest, foggiest part of Sonoma. We'll be trying to mentally contrast what we taste with the Burgundian versions of those wines, and looking for the subtle differences among wines produced in a very tiny, somewhat homogeneous appellation.

I know that in the Dry Creek Valley, which is also part of the Northern Sonoma AVA, we will be tasting a lot of Zinfandel, the flagship grape of the area, which takes on an especially balanced and elegant character here due to the unusual combination of cool temperatures and bright sun (there is relatively little fog). We also know that in addition to Zinfandel, many producers are taking advantage of the climate and soil to produce Bordeaux- and Rhone-style wines.

I also know that we're visiting the one winery with a really good-looking owner.

And, I know that Route 128 between our B&B in Healdsburg and our oceanfront cottage in Elk is the Boulevard Champenoise, with sparkling Pinot and Chardonnay being tasted on both sides of the road, amid orchards and sheep pastures. I think that we should schedule our legal California wedding to take place on the same day that we guzzle a maximum amount of Anderson Valley bubbly.

All these words about wine remind me of the numerous studies that prove that expectations about a wine - or beliefs about its price - radically effect the way we taste it. I don't see that as a problem, necessarily, because it means that a good part of oenophilia is mental, and I can enjoy that part right here at my desk, whenever I please.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Philately Will Get You Everywhere

Emerson recently posted about how the post office is making our lives miserable. Briefly, our reply card is a post card and thus requires only 27 cents of postage, but the post office only makes horrible, ugly tropical fruit post card stamps valued at 27 cents. Tropical fruit, while nice, does not "fit" with our invitation, which has more of a, well, let's just say non-tropical feel.

So after going so far as to calling the post office to find out if they were planning on issuing any other 27 cent stamps in the near future, we realized we would either have give up and put on a first class stamp or come up with another solution. We, of course, came up with another solution since when it comes to the matrimonial-industrial complex failure is not an option.

One of us (probably Emerson) had the brilliant idea that, while first-class stamps today may be 42 cents, they weren't always. At some point in U.S. history, they must have been 27 cents! So the solution becomes simple: Find out when that is, travel back in time and buy up one hundred 27 cent stamps! And by "travel back in time", I mean look on eBay...

Well, it turns out that the U.S. never had a 27 cent stamp before 2008; but back in the early 1990s, during the introduction of self-adhesive stamps, first class postage was 29 cents. And that was close enough for us.

Our second mission was to find an acceptable image that would work stylistically with our invitation. In the early 90s, there were so many wonderful varieties of stamps to choose from! Ducks! Thomas Jefferson! Eagles! More ducks! Squirrels! Wood ducks! Hearts! Various Olympic sports! We ultimately chose a stamp that went very well with our evergreen motif: a pine cone!

Our third mission was to find a seller, or sellers, who had 100 of these stamps from 1993, un-used, at a reasonable price. A book of 29 cent stamps is valued at $5.80 and a book of 42 cent stamps is valued at $8.40. So as long as we kept the price under $8.40 a book, we were spending no more than our most expensive 2008 option, which was a regular old Liberty Bell stamp. And unbelievably, we succeeded. Some guy in Michigan had 5 books of pine cone stamps from 1993 and he was selling them for only $7.50! And with a "bulk order" we only paid $1.00 for shipping! Score!

Grand total: 38.5 cents! To mail a post card. Because the idea of putting a kiwi on my beautiful reply card was so horrific that it gave me nightmares for a week.

And this is to what the matrimonial-industrial complex has reduced us.

UPDATE: Over drinks last night, Emerson pointed out that there were only 18 stamps in the books that we bought, not 20. That actually brings our total per stamp price, after shipping, to 43 cents! So I guess we didn't win, except insomuch as we refused to kowtow to the post office's cruel choice of stamps and ended up getting exactly what we wanted. And if you really stop to think about it, it was only an extra dollar over first class postage, and only $16 more than post card rates. And that's only like half a table-cloth!


It Is Cordial, and It Is on the Way

There's no turning back now . . . invitations are in the mail! They are coming to you complete with carefully selected ink and paper, obsessively guarded design motifs, potentially confusing artwork and 1.4 ounces of pure love. Oh, and vintage postage stamps. But more on that in another post!

Click through for a sneak preview of what you'll find in your box on Saturday.

The surprise visual theme is evergreens - specifically longleaf pine and rosemary. These plants are not only symbolic (in a rather obvious way) but they can be associated with each stop on our journey, from New Hampshire to Fire Island to the Shawangunks to the Piedmont. Thanks again to our geniuses, David and Anders, who - by creating such a fantastic invitation - have set expectations very high for everything else!