March 30, 2010

Your Best Bridal Body Part 3: Lift Weights. Big Ones.

Posted in Your Best Bridal Body at 6:33 pm by Andrea

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So there’s this myth out there, and no wonder so many of us believe it, as it’s been propagated in so. many. places. Let’s get it out of the way right now: women cannot bulk up from lifting too much weight. For reals. We don’t have enough testosterone. Ergo, heavy weights are your friend, not your enemy.

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You’re not going to look like those guys, mmkay?

Why heavy weights = slimmer you

The simple reason for this is that muscle burns more calories. Each pound of muscle in your body burns 35-50 calories per day, whereas each pound of fat burns about 5. So, when combined with a sensible diet (one that includes a substantial amount of protein)with a small caloric deficit, you can achieve some great fat loss results.

Okay, before I go any further I need to say that I owe EVERYTHING to the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women.

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Lou Schuler, the author, does a superb job of exploding a whole bunch of myths about women and weights. He and the co-authors break down everything from why most weight machines (you know, the ones that your gym touts and that they probably have setup in some sort of circuit formation) aren’t nearly as good as free weights, to a meal/diet summary, to a full six month weight lifting program. It’s serious and it’s awesome.

How do you lift heavy weights?

Okay, so I am by no means an expert, I just do what awesome books tell me to do. So I suggest, first of all, finding a program that you can follow. New Rules of Lifting For Women (NROLFW) is a great place to start.

Where most women go wrong when it comes to weights is that we completely underestimate what we’re capable of (whereas I bet most men do the opposite!). You want to lift heavy weights. Heavy means that by the time you get to the end of your reps (usually 6, 8, 10 or 12) you are almost at failure; if someone told you you have to lift that barbell or those dumbbells one more time you wouldn’t be able to do it again with good form. That’s where you need to be. From there you should progress. Keep a log. Try to lift slightly heavier with every single workout. You will only get out of your workouts what you put in. Lift weights about three times a week, and make sure you have a rest day between lifting days.

What do you do on days when you don’t lift?

There are tons of routines that can be complementary to weight lifting. I try to work out five days a week, so that breaks down to three days of lifting and two days of something else. I like to mix it up, but lately I’ve been doing HIIT on one of those days and hot yoga on the other. Sometimes I do hot yoga on both non-lifting days, because I do HIIT on lifting days as well.

I say do whatever you like. If you don’t like it, you aren’t going to do it. So whatever it is that you like: spinning, aerobics, dance, yoga, pilates etc., do that.

The proof is in the pants.

(Oops, that sounded unintentionally dirty!). But seriously, you won’t necessarily see huge weightlifting results on the scale, that’s because, especially early on, as you lose fat you are also building muscle, so the scale might not move that much. But take your measurements. Check out how your pants fit. That’s where you’ll really see the results. Since muscle takes up less room than fat, you can technically lose fat, gain muscle, stay the same weight but get considerably slimmer. Also, weightlifting causes your muscles to retain water as they repair themselves, so don’t be startled if you jump on the scale the day after lifting and discover that you’ve gained a few pounds, it’s just water weight.

Since I started NROLFW late last fall, I’ve definitely seen serious changes in my body. My arms are slimmer. My back is nicely muscled and there’s no back fat in sight. Even my thighs, which are definitely my least favourite body part, are showing some nice tone and looking far less thick. The jeans that used to be snug can now come off without me even undoing them. So yeah, it’s definitely working.

Don’t be afraid of getting into the weight room with all the men, be proud of being brave enough to be there and strong enough to lift those weights.


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March 28, 2010

How the heck do I choose a florist 101

Posted in Flowers, General wedding, Planning at 11:04 am by Andrea

Okay, so I have to admit I’m not exactly an expert in choosing a wedding florist. I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever had to plan a wedding before, and because of that, I found choosing a florist to be one of the more bewildering tasks. I figured I might not be the only one who felt that way, so I thought I’d pass along some of the tips I learned along the way.

(1) Collect inspiration. Lots of it.

I started this uber-early, as in, a long time before The Guy proposed. I have an embarrassing, secret folder called “Event Inspiration”(because I was too full of shame to actually call it what it was: Wedding Inspiration) that is full of photos I’ve been collecting for *coughtwoyearscough*. I followed wedding and event planning blogs, and visited sites like The Knot and Weddingbee to collect photos.


Evidently I thought we were going to have a spring wedding, what with all the tulips and peonies. Although it turns out that’s not the case, Collecting inspiration photos, regardless of the flowers used in them, still gave me an idea of the aesthetic I was looking for and, perhaps more importantly, the aesthetic I wasn’t looking for.

(Note: My apologies, but I collected the above photos so long ago that I don’t have their sources)

(2) Research, research, research.

You may recall that I’m allegedly quite resourceful! So once I knew the look I was going for, I started researching florists within the vicinity of our wedding location. I went to a bridal show and collected cards of those I liked, I read local vendor reviews and websites and I ultimately narrowed my list down to two vendors: Vintage Design Co. and My Bouquet, both based in the Niagara region of Ontario.

Some examples of Jennifer’s work (Vintage Design Co.):

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Some examples of Pauline’s work (My Bouquet):

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(3) Meet with the candidates. Bring any and all information that you can.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, make appointments to meet with your top candidates. I was worried that I was going to be at a disadvantage because I don’t really know much about flowers. It turned out that that was totally fine. What really helped though was giving the florists and idea of the aesthetic we wanted. Bring photos of your dress and copies of your inspiration board if you’ve made one. Make sure you zero in on the key words (for us: tailored, modern, clean lines, no spray roses, no calla lilies, nothing too “organic” looking). From there, the florists should be able to get an idea of the flowers that will work for you (for us: garden roses, ranunculus, lysianthus, hydrangeas).

Both of the florists we visited had tons of photos of their work so we were able to tell them what we liked and disliked.

(4) Don’t be afraid to be honest.

For example, at Vintage Design Co., I saw some beautiful birch bark candle holders. While trying to describe the overall look of our wedding I said, “Those birch bark candle holders are beautiful, but they aren’t our style. We don’t want anything that organic.”

(5) Get quotes from all your candidates. Compare. Contrast.

We got quotes from both Pauline and Jennifer. We ended up going back to Pauline and asking her to modify her quote so that it included all the same components as Jennifer’s, as we wanted to make sure we were comparing apples with apples.

(6) Think long and hard.

This was the toughest one for us. After meeting with both florists we were stumped. They both did beautiful work. They both seemed to grasp the look we were going for. We changed our minds several times.

The final decision? Pauline at My Bouquet. We ultimately decided that Pauline’s aesthetic was just that little bit closer to what we were looking for. So, in the end it all came down to staying true to our vision. Making sure we stayed organized and went into the appointments with a clear idea of what we were looking for made the process that much easier though.

I would say to date this was the most difficult wedding-related decision we had to make, but I’m confident we made the right decision for us.

Good luck in your search for the perfect florist for you!

March 24, 2010

What’s in a date?

Posted in General wedding, Planning at 9:47 am by Andrea

We knew we wanted to get married in the fall. In fact, moments after proposing The Guy told me that he thought we should have a fall wedding (he also thrust a whole bunch of diamond-related information and a GIA report in my lap, which I told him, through tears, that I really couldn’t process at that exact moment!). His logic? “If I’m wearing a tux I don’t want to be sweating the whole time.” Leave it to guys to think pragmatically. I, on the other hand, was thinking about the pretty leaves, I mean, obviously, right?

So, the fall it was.

There was really only one venue we were truly interested in that could actually accommodate the 200-ish people we anticipated would be there. They only had a couple dates available for fall 2010: Canadian Thanksgiving (the weekend of October 9) or October 23. We didn’t want to cut into anyone’s turkey eating, so we chose the latter. Done.

While we were still mulling over the available dates, I had a phone conversation with my mum that went something like this (have you gotten the idea yet that my mum and I have a lot of phone conversations?):

Mum: So when I flipped the calendar to October 2010 I was praying October 23 wasn’t a Saturday. But it is.

Andrea: So? What’s the big deal with October 23?

Mum: That’s the day your father and I got married. [They divorced when I was a baby]

Andrea: Oh. Crap. *laughter*

Mum: *laughter* Are you sure you want to get married that day?

Andrea: *thinking* Well, 23 has actually been a good number for The Guy and me. We met when I was 23. The home we built together has 23 in its address. I think we’re okay with it. We’re going to turn it into a good day.

Mum: Okay, but don’t tell your father. He may not think it’s a funny as we do.

My father actually figured it out for himself. And he did find it rather hilarious. He suggested that he and my mum could have an anniversary dance in celebration of what would have been their 39th wedding anniversary!

So, we ran with it and we’re getting married on October 23 (seven months from yesterday!). We decided to not get caught up in superstition, but rather to make the date one that has special meaning for us, regardless of what it means for anyone else in our family.

Does your wedding date have any significance to you or your family?

March 21, 2010

On decisions and ineptitudes

Posted in Boudoir, Photography at 10:27 am by Andrea

The other day I mentioned that I’d gone ahead and chosen a photographer to take my boudoir pics. Since then, I’ve sent in the contract and my deposit…I think that means there’s no turning back now!

After seeing their gorgeous photos and feeling confident in their ability to make even me look sexy, I booked The Last Forty Percent Photography to take my b-pics.

Okay, so seriously, I am a total dweeb in front of the camera. I don’t know how to do anything other than smile. and I have the world’s least pouty lips. So, although my shoot isn’t until late June, I’ve decided I should start practicing now. I need to take Remedial Photo Posing 101. I’m not even joking.

Here are some of the tips I’ve compiled to date:

  • Nobody’s arms look pretty and their thinnest when pressed against one’s side. Bend your arms slightly to keep them away from your body, or put your hands on your hips.
  • Rest most of your weight on one foot. This makes poses look less like poses, more like real life and, most importantly, has a slimming effect.
  • Stick your chest and bum out. Other than just showing off your assets, this will also put a sexy curve in your back and help flatten your tummy.
  • Create shapes and angles with your body — especially triangles.
  • Don’t wear a bra/underwear before your shoot, as they will leave lines on your skin.
  • Make sure you’ve waxed, shaved or otherwise removed facial and body hair, which can be very distracting in photos.
  • Wine. That is all.
  • Relax!
  • And, I think this one is obvious, but you’re going to want to whip out your best Blue Steel or, if you’re feeling really daring, Le Tigre.

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I would be remiss in this post if I weren’t to provide you with some more drool-worthy examples of The Last Forty Percent’s work.Source

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I have until June 23 to get my pose on and perfect my “smeyes”. Surely a liberal dollop of Photoshop will have me well on my way to sexy.

I’m desperate for photo posing tips…so if you have experience in this area or are just innately fierce, do let me in on your secret!


March 18, 2010

Your Best Bridal Body: Part 2 — Turning up the volume on your cardio

Posted in Your Best Bridal Body at 11:00 am by Andrea

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So we’ve all heard, ad nauseum, about the importance of cardiovascular health. So we go to the gym. We become slaves to the elliptical or the treadmill. We pump out mile after mile. But, for me at least, traditional, endurance-based cardio doesn’t seem to provide the results I feel it should. Actually, other than improved endurance and cardiovascular health (which obviously aren’t to be overlooked, but let’s be honest, I’m talking about vanity and health here!) I saw very few physical benefits from cardio once I got settled into a routine.

What has worked for me has been a good mix of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weightlifting (more on that in Part 3).

HIIT is basically interval training on steroids. I do my HIIT on a 2:1 ratio of high intensity to lower intensity. What does that look like? I do mine on the treadmill (HIIT is best done on an outdoor track. But I live in Canada. And it’s March. So…yeah) with the following process: two minutes of walking at 3.5, one minute of running at 8.5, two minutes of walking at 3.5, one minute of running at 8.6, rinse, repeat until you reach the 20 minute mark (you can always start with 15 minutes and work your way up). You want your top speed to be whatever “all out” is for you. Basically, at the end of the minute of high intensity work you should feel totally spent. By the end of your workout you should pretty much feel like death (I know, I’m like so inspirational, right?!).

Quick (kind of) side note — I used to do HIIT going from a jog (5.5) to a sprint (8.5+), but I’ve recently changed to walking at 3.5 for the low intensity portions of my workout and this has been WAY more effective, because it means that I can really go all out when I get to the sprinting portions.

Not sure what the heck I’m on about? Check out this video for a great how-to on HIIT:

So the bottom line is this: HIIT is more effective for fat loss than steady state cardio. Why, you ask? Excellent question! Studies have shown a significant after-burn that goes along with HIIT. When you do steady state cardio you log your, say, 2.5 miles and burn 250 calories; the second you step off the treadmill, you cease burning calories at that higher level. HIIT, on the other hand, keeps your body burning calories well after your workout, so ultimately the burn is higher and your thighs/bum/tummy are smaller.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Next time we’ll talk about lifting some serious weights and why big weights can equal a smaller body.

Have your incorporated HIIT into your fitness routine? What kind of results have you seen?

March 16, 2010

I hope they are capable of miracles

Posted in Boudoir, Photography at 9:36 am by Andrea

GAH! I am SO excited! After months of thinking about it, yesterday I actually did some serious research on boudoir photographers in my area. I narrowed the pool down to three candidates and contacted all of them for more information.

(FYI – The rest of this post contains some NSFW content!)

Tara McMullen is based on Toronto and takes beautiful boudoir photos. I love the softness and the lighting in her work.

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Tara’s work is gorgeous, isn’t it? She’s based in Toronto, so I did some searching to see if I could find some local photographers who do boudoir work as well.

I quickly came across two (thank you Google).

The first was HRM Photography, which has recently set up a studio right here in my city.

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And finally I came across Last Forty Percent Photography. I have no idea how I’d never seen their work before (um, this may have something to do with the fact that I didn’t even research any photographers after we got engaged..I knew immediately who I wanted to book). They’re based here in my city and have awesome style.

Check out these stunning shots:

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I’ve contacted all three, gotten their information and made a decision. I’m just finalizing the paper work now, so stay tuned to see who I chose.

As for the title of this post, I do hope they are capable of miracles. I’m not nearly as concerned about being half-naked as I am about how my face will look in the photos. I haven’t an ounce of posing prowess. I don’t know how to “smeyes” and I certainly don’t know how to look sexy/get all “bedroom eyes” on command. I have one look in photos: looking at the camera and smiling. That is all. Hopefully the photographers will be able to get me beyond the awkwardness. Regardless, I have a feeling The Guy might be focusing on other things when he see the photos 😉

March 14, 2010

Bad Bridesmaid

Posted in General wedding, Vent at 5:13 pm by Andrea

A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with my coworkers about how guilty I felt over asking my best friends to shell out $200+ for dresses for my wedding. I mean, I know this is the way it happens, but I just couldn’t seem to keep the guilt at bay. One of my colleagues assured me that she had something that could assuage my guilt. She returned from lunch triumphantly clutching a book, which she thrust into my hands and encouraged me to read, “This will definitely make you feel better!” she said.

The book? Bad Bridesmaid: Bachelorette Brawls & Taffeta Tantrums — What We Go Through for Her Big Day by Siri Agrell.

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I started the book a couple days later (it made for a good bit of fluff between a couple of nail biters: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire). And sure enough, I felt better.

Agrell tells the story of when she wrote a somewhat sarcastic column about being a bridesmaid and was subsequently kicked out of her close friend’s bridal party. Intrigued by this incident of bridal megalomania, Agrell talked to women across North America about the travesties they’d faced as bridesmaids — frankly, some of it was appalling, and it goes beyond ugly dresses.

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Yes, believe it or not, it can get worse than those.

Examples, you say? Sure, how about the bride who offered to pick up the bridesmaid dress and courier it to her bridemaid’s home…only she wrote the address incorrectly on the package. When the wedding day rolled around and the bridesmaid was without anything to wear (due to the bride’s error), the bride wasn’t sympathetic. No. Instead she kicked her friend out of the bridal party.

Or, my personal favourite, the bride who decided she wanted to give every single guest at her wedding a one-of-a-kind hand painted rock (because that sounds like SUCH a fun favour, no?!) so she enlisted her bridemaids to sit in the sweltering heat of her backyard and paint 150 rocks with very specific design instructions for each one.

Another good one? the bride who, virtually seconds after the engagement ring was on her finger, sent her bridemaids a six page long list of their “duties,” which included picking her dress up from the dry cleaner’s the day after the wedding and addressing her thank you cards while she lazed on a beach on her honeymoon.

Suddenly the $200 dresses didn’t seem so bad to me!

Why is it that these women think their bridesmaids are their personal slaves? I invited my ladies (and bridesman) to be in my bridal party because I wanted to share a very important day with them. I want them to stand beside me when The Guy and I exchange our vows. But I certainly never banked on them doing chores for me (I’m pretty sure if I asked them to they’d tell me to snap out of it and get over myself).

Do you have a horror story from a time you were a bridesmaid? From the sounds of Bad Bridesmaid, most of us do!

March 10, 2010

Your Best Bridal Body: Part 1

Posted in Your Best Bridal Body at 9:44 pm by Andrea


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In the last two years, getting in shape, staying in shape and constantly trying to push myself just that little bit further (I’m a Type A personality, can you tell?!) has become a really meaningful part of my life. I’m not sure how it all started, I think I just got fed up with my lazy, increasingly soft self, so I decided to do something about it. Two years and 15 lbs later, I thought maybe some of the knowledge (okay, I’m an official exercise and nutrition nerd) I’ve gleaned through some trial, and a lot of error, might be helpful to some other brides-to-be out there.

It all started with Jillian Michaels. In the spring of 2008, I started hearing endless buzz about the 30 Day Shred. I thought I’d give it a try. How hard could it be? It was only half an hour after all. Yeah, I ate my words pretty quickly on that one. After my first attempt at level one I couldn’t walk for about three days. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. I stuck with it though. I made it through levels one, two and three, and even started doing two levels back-to-back when I was feeling really motivated. I was getting stronger and my lung capacity was definitely improving, but I didn’t seem to be getting that much smaller.

That’s when the truth about weight loss became clear to me: it doesn’t matter how much you work out if you aren’t watching what you eat.

Best Bridal Body Tip #1: You are what (and how much) you eat.

I started to read more and more (The Nest’s Health and Fitness Board became my daily reading. Those ladies seriously know their stuff!) and discovered that within the fitness community, it seems to be a well-known fact that weight loss is 80%-90% diet, and only 10%-20% exercise.

I know that right now you’re all like, “Thanks for nothing! Everyone knows that.” But I can tell you that people sabotage their own weight loss efforts ALL the time. I know, because I was one of them.

Here’s the thing: You’ve just started working out regularly. You’re doing 30 Day Shred. Those workouts are freaking HARD. You were sweating BUCKETS. So obviously you burned a lot of calories and can have those two cookies after dinner, right? Wrong. 30 Day Shred, for most people, only burns about 150 to 200 calories. That’s about a half cup of ice cream…not very much at all.

I watched what I ate, got my recommended intake of fruits and veggies and ate primarily whole, healthy foods. But I was eating too much of them so the weight wasn’t coming off.

What the best way to overcome this? I know it sounds old school and oh-so-1970s grapefruit diety, but you’ve gotta count calories. It’s easier now than it used to be. I use sparkpeople.com, which is free and a great way to track your food intake. Another stumbling block though: the only way to actually know how much food you’re eating is to weigh it. Measuring spoons and cups are less standardized than we’d like to believe.

Bottomlines:

-Weight loss = calories in vs. calories out. There’s no other “secret'” to it.

– Need to know how much to eat? Find out your Basal Metabolic Rate, then use the Harris Benedict Equation to estimate the number of calories you need to eat to lose weight.

-You can still occasionally treat yourself, just make sure those treats are included in (and not above and beyond) your daily caloric limit

-Give it time! It can take up to six weeks before you start seeing changes in your body..and you may not see them on the scale, trying measuring instead of weighing.

-Don’t just do it for your wedding. Make it a permanent lifestyle change.

In the next installment of Your Best Bridal Body: Stepping up your workouts

March 7, 2010

Beautiful, intelligent and….resourceful?

Posted in General wedding, Uncategorized at 9:08 am by Andrea

You may remember that two weekends ago (the weekend before Canada took home our most important gold medal!), The Guy and I attended a marriage prep course at our church. We spent a lot of the day doing exercises as couples, or in small groups. Sound totally like something would make you want to scratch your eyeballs out? I thought that too (kind of, I was also kind of excited) at the outset, never one for cheesy icebreakers and silly team building exercises (Team Building Exercise ’99!), but it actually turned out to be a lot of fun.

In one such exercise, we were divided into groups of three couples. In our package of materials, we had a list of 70+ character traits. We were instructed to choose three that we thought our partner possessed; along with the answers we were to provide examples of situations when we had noticed these characteristics in action.

For The Guy, I chose affectionate, totally silly and committed. We went around the group and everyone shared one of the characteristics they’d written down. Things like loving, creative, fun and kind came up. I shared with the group how The Guy can be totally silly and I, in turn, can be totally silly when I’m around him. Despite, by all outward appearances, being a responsible, professional couple, we really are a couple of kids at heart and we take constant joy in joking around with one another and making up silly songs. Do you know which characteristic The Guy chose to share about me? Resourceful.

You’re probably asking, “Gee, Andrea, how did you manage to get yourself engaged to such a dreamy romantic?” Well girls, it’s not easy! Oh, wait, it’s probably because I’m soooo resourceful, no?!

Yes, The Guy, apparently, prizes my resourcefulness and, from a list of more than 70 traits, thought that this was one of the top three. The example he provided? I’m good at planning trips and researching hotels. Okay, well, he’s got a point there.

I shared this story with a coworker and her boyfriend a couple days later. Her boyfriend said something like, “Every guy wants a resourceful girlfriend. You must be like MacGyver! Like, if you guys got stuck in a locked room that was about to explode you could craft something with a drinking straw and a piece of lint that would help you escape just in time! That’s awesome!” I shared this anecdote with The Guy. He confirmed that this, in fact, was not what he meant by resourceful. So what did he mean, “You’re just like, really good at finding websites and stuff.”

Be still my beating heart!

P.S. Another guy in our group told his fiancée that one of her top three traits is the fact that she’s organized. I think that may just beat resourceful 😉

March 2, 2010

Conversations with my mother

Posted in Attire, Reception, Vent at 9:09 am by Andrea

I love my mum. She and I are incredibly close. We share the same sense of humour (quirky), the same sense of style (classic elegance) and the same “shapely” thighs (you win some, you lose some). We also differ in some areas, one of these being our thresholds for stress. My mother has had more sleepless nights due to the wedding than I have (well, I haven’t had any…I excel at sleeping).

Actual phone conversation that occurred last night:

Mum: MOH’s mum [my mum’s best friend] called and MOH is going to order her dress tomorrow.
Me: Great!
Mum: Wait! Don’t you think there are some things you should do before she goes ahead and orders the dress?
Me: *thinking* Um….no.
Mum: Don’t you think you need to get a sample fabric swatch?
Me: No, I think I’m good to go.
Mum: But Andrea, how are you going to know what the fabric looks like in different light?
Me: Um, I’m not. I imagine it will just look like chocolate brown taffeta….
Mum: [increasingly frantic] And what about the tablecloths?!
Me: What about them?
Mum: Well don’t you want to get a fabric swatch and bring it to the decorator’s appointment on Saturday to make sure the bridesmaids’ dresses match the tablecloths?
Me: Why in heaven’s name would I want them to match the tablecloths?! No one’s going to check to make sure that they’re the same colour. I’m not planning to use the bridemaids as centerpieces. Why would they have to match?! I don’t understand!
Mum: [exasperated] Forget it. I’ll tell MOH’s mum that MOH can just order the dress. And I’ll tell her you don’t care about the tablecloths. She won’t be happy to hear that.

Can anyone explain this to me?! Why would I want everything to match EXACTLY?! I can see how it might have its uses if we needed to camouflage right into the tablecloths…but other than that…what would the utility be?!

[I apologize for the over-use of exclamation points above, but….seriously?]

In the words of the sulla tips (wise words I always try to heed while planning the wedding), “[N]obody ever leaves a wedding saying, “Yeah, it was soooo great! The mother of the groom’s dress was the SAME EXACT SHADE as the bridesmaids’ shoes and the writing on the matchbooks!” People leave a wedding thinking it was great because it felt great – because the bride and groom were in love and happy, and the party felt appropriately joyous, even if there’s not a single Martha Stewart-ish detail anywhere in sight.”

That is all.

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