Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ringing in the New Year

Well, this post is about two months late, but at the time our story takes place, internet was scarce and spending time on it was definitely not a priority.  And so, with the magic of the snow falling outside my window, let us go back to yesteryear.  Specifically, December 2012.

Joey and I went to Israel this winter on Birthright, a wonderful program that allows any Jewish person between the ages of 18 and 26 who has not done so yet to spend ten days touring Israel with other people their age.  Joey had never been to Israel before, and when I visited with Leo Baeck Temple several years ago, there was nobody my age, but there was a six-month-old Eliana Lee Chasen and several grandparents.  Lucky for me, Birthright decided I should have the experience of travelling with my peers, and so, on December 18th, Joey and I landed together in Tel Aviv to begin our Israeli adventure.

Birthright does a great job of making sure you visit "mandatory Israel", as our friend, Gili, who lives outside Tel Aviv, calls the sites that you really can't leave Israel without seeing.  They took us up Masada, down to the Dead Sea, through Jerusalem to the Western Wall, into the nightlife of Tel Aviv, all the things that would be on any respectable "Israel Must-Do" checklist.  There was one thing, however, that Joey and I had on our personal to-do list while we were there, and that was to purchase our wedding rings.

Before my parents got married, my highly academic father did a lot of research into the hows and whys of Jewish marriage customs.  Of course, as I have studied these same rituals, both academically and personally, I have learned very different things than he did.  This has led him to the new conclusion that, despite everyone being absolutely certain in their understanding of Jewish marriage law, nobody's certainties align quite right.  One such matter is that of the rings.  According to my father, a Jewish wedding band must be a simple circle of pure gold.  No diamonds, no breaks.  This to support the initial object of the wedding ring.  That is, for the groom to give an amount of money to the bride that she
keeps for herself in case of emergency.  Should her husband mistreat her and she need to leave him, she has at least something to live on.  In order that the value of the ring be indisputable, it must be made of solid gold (a consistently standardized value) with no stones or adornments, the added value of which could be quibbled over.  In this system, the bride is actually not allowed to give a ring to the groom, as that would negate the value of the ring he just gave her.

Now, I've seen Orthodox rabbi's wives with diamonds in the band, and just about every groom these days wears a wedding ring, so who knows.  And, in fact, traditionally traditonally, (we're talking Anatevka here), the whole village would share a big, elaborate ring that was used just for the ceremony, then passed on to the next couple to wed and the married people wore no signifying jewelry.

Joey and I decided we wanted the simple gold bands quite a while ago.  Since there's nothing visually spectacular about that, we decided to take advantage of the ability to really get them anywhere we wanted.  When shopping for my engagement ring, Joey had very particular things in mind, either that he wanted or that he didn't want, and there were a lot more factors at play, particularly with the stone.  So he shopped around and ultimately, with the help of a good friend, found the ring he wanted in a jewelry shop in Omaha.  For my engagement ring, the specialness and the beauty and the care are evident when you look at it.  For the wedding rings, there would be no way visually to tell them from just about any other simple gold ring, so we wanted their special qualities to come from their making.

While we were in Israel, we asked two of our Israeli guides, Rami and Adi, to give us the name of a good jeweler in Jerusalem, Joey's and my collective favorite city in Israel.  We asked them to help us find someone with a good neshama, a good soul.  This is a little bit of my California hippy heritage coming into play, and many of you have heard me discuss this concept in relation to food, but I believe that the quality and emotions of the person making something (rings, bread pudding) absolutely come through in the finished product.  I think that a simple ring made by a good man carries different qualities than an identical ring made by a greedy, dishonest man.  Joey is perhaps not quite so invested in this strange branch of my personal theology, but he was willing enough to accept it, especially when both Rami and Adi came back to us, independently, with the same name: Meltzer.

The Meltzer shop is just far enough off Ben Yehuda Street, the remarkably touristy area of shops, to be a different type of place entirely.  Gone are the "Special discount for Birthright!" signs and large, brightly-lit displays.  Meltzer's shop has a quiet sign out front and about 100 square feet of space inside.  I walked in and asked the man at the counter "Are you Mr. Meltzer?"  "Yes," he responded, pointing around to the other men in the shop.  "I'm Meltzer, and he's Meltzer, and he's Meltzer.  We are all Meltzers!"  I explained, nervously, why we were there and he pulled out a few trays of rings to show us, none of which quite seemed right.  We said as much, and he pulled a big bag of rings from the back and dumped them out on the display case.  This was definitely not the luxury boutique experience.  We spent quite some time discussing style, finish, thickness, and size, before we left.  Who knew "simple gold band" could be so complicated?  He had to make them special for us, and, being unable to really see the exact rings we wanted fitting on our hands, I was very nervous about what we'd think when we picked them up the next day.  One of the Mr. Meltzers told me I shouldn't be so worried, "it's only marriage."  Joey laughed at his joke.  I did not.

On the last day of 2012 we travelled back to Jerusalem to pick up our rings.  We went to Meltzer's shop, tried them on, and they were perfect.  Exactly what we wanted.  We had our simple gold bands, made by a good man, from a place that was really special and meaningful to us both.  They may not stop anyone on the street with their elaborate beauty, but that's not what they're for.  They're for us to remember what is special and important and meaningful for us.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Peter Pan

Saturday morning at breakfast (Tommy Colina's, best eggs benedicts I've had in Omaha), I saw a young couple, maybe five years older than me and Joey, sitting at a table eating breakfast with their young son, who was just the right age to be dancing in his highchair.  Looking at this young family, my thought was "wow, they are way young to have a kid".  I've noticed lately that parents in general are getting younger and younger.  It's a nationwide epidemic!  Of course, the reality of the situation could not possibly be that I am an adult and at the age that people get married and have kids.  (Are you kidding me?  I'm barely done being a kid myself!)  It's interesting to me that my mind goes to a widespread change in American culture rather than the logical explanation that, over time, I have grown older and out of teenagerhood (which I was only too quick to make myself comfortable in), to adulthood, which, despite having a job and a fiance, still feels way too old for me.

My boss and friend Rabbi Josh Brown shared a theory he read (posited by those smarter than myself, presumably wielding science) that adolescence doesn't actually end until a person achieves stability in his or her life.  "Stability" is not firmly defined here, as it differs from person to person.  Prime stabilizing candidates include finding a life partner, starting a career, buying a home, and having a child.  I do have a job and a partner, but it is a one-year position (hardly "stabilizing"), and my partner and I are in the process of changing our relationship from an informal one secured through a question and a kiss between teenagers to a very formal one secured through contracts and a huge celebration with our friends and family.  Again, it hardly feels like a "stable" moment in our relationship.

One of the courses I took in graduate school was Culture and Romantic Love, a seminar course that was mostly based around discussing an criticizing readings assigned from the professor.  One of the most highly-criticized books we read was Love is a Story, a collection of individual examples and analyses of the different "story" types that relationships can fall into.  There was the "collection story", in which people use their partners to fulfill roles or fill holes in their lives; the "fairy tale", which hardly needs explanation; and the "game story", which we all admitted to playing in at least once, where the "three days rule" comes into play and entire conclaves of women need to be called to determine the appropriate steps to take in a new romance.

One that particularly stuck with me, though, was the "journey story", in which the partners are always focusing on the next great adventure together.  The book chooses to illustrate the folly of living this love story (all the love stories in this book seem to end in disaster) through a young couple that decides to pack up their lives and road trip across the country to open up a restaurant.  The restaurant will probably fail, but that's okay because the couple will just start a new adventure.  Like young sharks in love, as long as they keep moving, their relationship will survive.  If they find stability, they won't know what to do with each other and the once-exciting relationship will crumble under the crushing weight of normalcy.

This picture may only make sense to Kaylen and Brianna.  
When I read this story, I couldn't imagine how any relationship could really stop being a journey.  Looking at my own, it certainly always felt like we were always moving, heading toward some goal.  First we were just getting to know each other and learning how to date through the hardest semester of Joey's undergraduate career.  Then it was the semester leading up to Joey's semester abroad, and figuring out what that would mean for us.  The Paris Semester was an emotional (and literal) odyssey in itself, followed by The MCAT Semester, then The Year of Med School Applications (AKA Learning to Live Off-Campus), and The Year Apart (AKA The Year of Many Job Applications).  Never did I really feel that we were in a comfortable, settled place that wasn't likely to change.  Presumably, the relationship could then continue either to a breakup or towards engagement and marriage.  Since I didn't have my own experience in that realm, I thought of my parents.  After they were married, they had a kid (me), then another (Janna), so those were clearly two big adventures.  And even within that, there's The Newborn, The Toddler, The Newborn and Toddler at the Same Time, The Teenagers... I can't really see a point where things won't still be changing for them, even if it's all stuff they've done but now they're the parents instead of the main players.  I imagine that First Daughter's Wedding is a journey, as is Second Daughter's Graduation and whatever else is in store.

Perhaps the reason that it seems to me that we're all kids doing adult things is because I can't see the stability on the horizon that is supposed to signal the end of adolescence.  Beginning adolescence was obvious.  I got invited to parties that weren't thrown by parents, I learned to drive, my friends were the most important things in my life, and I stayed up all night doing homework.  Beginning adulthood is much more confusing.  I'm getting married and actually have a job where I'm in a position of some power, but it seems "stability" will have to wait, because we're still at the beginning of our journey.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Highly Gifted Marriage

When I was little, I, like every child, would drive my parents crazy when we went to the store by asking for all sorts of things that caught my attention, all of which, of course, were absolutely unnecessary for my little life.  My dad would diagnose me with "a case of the 'I wants'", and explain that, while there are many pink, sparkly, sugar-coated, chocolate-infused things in this world (oh my goodness imagine all four at once), we must all learn the difference between the things we want and the things we need.  This is not to say, of course, that I lived a spartan childhood (though we didn't have cable or a puppy, so it was close).  Birthdays, Chanukkah and Christmas, even Valentine's Day and Halloween were accompanied by gifts and trinkets, almost none of which I needed, but were lovely presents to receive.

As I grew up, I got better at tempering the "I wants", and learned to request rationally or purchase for myself the things that I needed.  In fact, I got so good at suppressing the "I wants" that a new problem arose:  my dad never knew what to get me for those widely-recognized gift-giving occasions.  When I graduated from college, he got me a vacuum because that was all I really needed.  An untraditional graduation gift to be certain, but what's a poor befuddled dad to do?  This year for my birthday he asked for weeks what I'd like for a present, but I really had nothing to tell him.  I was preoccupied with the "I needs" of looking for a job and moving into our new apartment, and paper towels, eggs, and a box of cereal aren't exactly birthday present material.  My father had done such a good job teaching me about not being greedy for things I didn't need, and how to acquire for myself those things that I do, that he turned me into an awful person to have to buy gifts for.  Don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate the gifts I do receive, and both Joey and my dad have discovered my not-so-secret lust for "as seen on TV" products (I thank them for my Magic Bullet, Snuggies, Mighty Putty, and ShamWOW), it is very hard for me to ask for gifts.

And so we come to the wedding gift registry.  As someone who loves to cook and has been living away from parent and dorm for three years by the time I get married, I have already purchased for myself many of the "setting up the home" things that would traditionally go on a gift registry.  Joey and I did a bit of in-store registering over winter break, partially to get an idea of what it was like and partially just as a fun thing to do when it was too cold to spend much time outside.  I've also done some poking around on, since it seems like a good place to collect ideas without needing to make a whole trip out of it or worry about differences in stock between stores.  It's also a good place to snoop on other couples' wedding registries and see what we should be looking for, but we don't know those other couples and they don't know us.  But you do!  So today we are putting the comments section of this blog to work.  Friends, I am asking for your help.  Those of you who are married, recently or not, what things did you register for that you absolutely loved?  What did you register for that seemed like a good idea at the time but hasn't come out of its box enough times since to justify the space it takes up in the garage?  Where are the best places to register?  Unmarried friends, what's the best kitchen utensil you own?  As far as I can tell, that's what makes up half of the registries I've seen.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ponies and Zebras and Yaks, Oh My!

Sorry I've been silent for two months but I've been sitting on a big announcement that I only got confirmed today....


Official proclamation:  The Lowensohn/Rohr Wedding will be held at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu, California

Oh it feels so good to say.  This has been a long time coming, mostly because Joey and I have just not had a spare moment to go out to LA since our big venue hunt in April.  My parents were very willing to check out venues for us and do some of the legwork that we could not, but they were understandably hesitant about committing to a venue without either the bride or groom to be ever having laid eyes on it.    This led to several weeks of me googling, them visiting, and then phone reports of the good and bad.

One place they visited, though, stood head and shoulders above the rest.  It was a vineyard that I had initially dismissed for silly reasons (my cousin, Erin, got married at a vineyard ten years ago and I didn't want to be a copycat) when I was in the initial phase of narrowing down a list of four thousand possible venues in the LA area.  My parents and little sister went to check it out and came back with glowing reports of the beauty, versatility, and added bonuses of the location.  It's in the Malibu Mountains, which means no ocean view (bummer) but beautiful natural backdrops of mountains and plants and all sorts of loveliness, fitting in with my natural and organic vision for the wedding, as opposed to a harsh city atmosphere, which I love for my life, but doesn't reflect the values I want my marriage to be built on.

Saddlerock Ranch's gentle atavistic delights

Another venue we considered, but discarded due to its harsh (but cool) feel

There were several concerns that my mom came back with, like "where do you go to the bathroom on a farm?" and "how do we get everyone in the tiny lot on the tiny road?" and bringing everything in (turns out, farms weren't built to be banquet halls) and lighting the place up.  Fortunately, this is not Saddlerock Ranch's first rodeo, and they have nice bathrooms that aren't, as my mother feared, "executive porta-potties" and a plan for getting everyone there easily.  There's a catering company that we like working with that has all sorts of great ideas for bringing everything in (and it's not nearly as difficult as I had been led to believe), and we have a wonderful close family friend who does professional studio lighting for a living.  All our (minor) fears were alleviated!

The real clincher on Saddlerock Ranch, though, was the added perks.  There's apparently a beautiful bride's room that my mother and sister were gaga over and, most importantly, it has wonderful unusual animals!  As the title of this post suggests, there are ponies and zebras and yaks, as well as water buffalo and llamas and peacocks and camels and other things I can't even remember.  Bottom line: you will receive a carrot along with your cocktail to feed to our fat little pony friends.

That was all I needed to hear.  Joey, who was sitting next to me when I got the original report from my mother on Saddlerock Ranch, just heard the word "zebras" and was done.  He bugged me for weeks asking why we didn't just sign paperwork because obviously, if there are zebras, this was the right place.  For my part, some of you know that I tend to find the symbolism in EVERYTHING, and the idea of a black-and-white striped animal being at my wedding, where a groom dressed in black and a bride dressed in white are joined together just seemed perfect.

For several weeks I played a strange game of ping-pong in which Joey would ask why we hadn't committed to the zebras yet (I honestly think that's the only thing, aside from the carrot and cocktail combo, that he remembers about this place), and my mother would ask when we were coming out to see the ranch so we could commit to it. Of course, this all started in approximately late April, just before finals and packing up my home and graduation and moving and job interviews and Joey's lab rotations and starting my new job and travelling to New York for our dear friends' wedding and hosting visitors here in Omaha and a million other things that made a trip to LA impossible.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I called my mother and explained that I was much too busy and far away to have any realistic role in many wedding decisions.  I could fight that, and insist that the florist and caterer freeze-dry their samples and overnight them to me so that I could personally approve each piece and person, or I could just give in and trust that, between my mother, father, and sister, they could probably choose things that Joey and I would like.  With such glowing reports from all of them and what I could glean from pictures, I wasn't worried.  Secondly, Joey and I had already been telling people, when they asked, that nothing was finalized yet, but, our hopeful wedding venue had zebras and pony carrot cocktail hour.  I explained to my mother that we had told too many people about the zebras and we couldn't go back now, so the wedding was either going to be at Saddlerock Ranch or we were importing zebras to an alternate location.  She laughed and said okay and she'd run as much by me as she could (really just so I have something to blog about for you) and she would call Saddlerock Ranch as soon as possible.

Today, I called Saddlerock Ranch to check on the status of our paperwork and I was told by the lovely lady on the end of the line that we were officially locked in and could spread the good word.  Of course, the loveliest tidbit that comes with signing contracts on our venue is finally having an official date that we can announce to the world.  And so, in an unprecedented DOUBLE DOSE of official proclamations, I hereby announce...

The Lowensohn/Rohr Wedding will take place on May 18, 2013 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Leap of Faith

As much as I understand how the wedding ceremony signals the beginning of our life together as husband and wife, I feel like Joey and I really became a permanent adult couple this week.  When Joey offered and I accepted that beautiful diamond ring on that beautiful Santa Monica day, we made a commitment to each other.  That proposal supposedly was the moment that we officially decided that we were sticking together no matter what, and at the wedding that contract will be sealed.

But this week I moved to Omaha.  This week I left New Orleans, the city that I have come to truly love in a way I never would have expected before that first fateful trip five years ago.  This week I said goodbye to all the wonderful people and things I have become accustomed to and familiar with and all the opportunities I had yet to explore in that crazy beautiful city with so much hidden below the beaded surface.  This week I got in my beloved little red firetruck, the car that has served me faithfully since my first frightened 6am forays behind the wheel onto the streets of Los Angeles, packed up a very confused and concerned kitten, and drove a thousand miles to live in Omaha, Nebraska with the man I love.

To me, this is the commitment.  I am taking a huge leap of faith here.  I am leaving comfort and familiarity, friends and organizations that I know how to work into my life.  I am moving to a place where I know almost nothing and almost no one.  I am moving without a job, without the majority of my belongings including furniture (and cooking utensils!), and without a built-in community into which I will fit, like a university.  I am moving 100% to be with Joey, who has chosen the University of Nebraska Medical Center as his overlord for the next several years of his life.

There is hope, though; Omaha streets appear to have been laid out by sober city planners and Joey has introduced me to a wonderful new group of friends over the course of the last year of visits.  We picked out a great apartment in a safe part of town.  My car and my relationship survived the trip from New Orleans through Mississippi (lots of Mississippi), Arkansas, St Louis (where we were able to take advantage of the everlasting HGM family and stay with the inimitable Dean Tambling), Kansas City, lots more Missouri, Iowa, and finally to Omaha.  I have job interviews lined up all week, and plan to apply for more, so at least I've got that process started.  Joey and I have done a lot of shopping these last two days and now have what I am calling a "minimally functional household".  We have a place to sleep, minimal kitchen utensils, and two chairs.  Our first night here I made midnight pasta which we ate standing up in the kitchen before collapsing on a sheet on the floor of our bedroom.  Our second night, I made miso-glazed salmon from Trader Joe's, brown rice, and steamed green beans, which we ate on newly-purchased dishes with my grandparents' silverware, sitting on newly-purchased patio chairs (thank you, craigslist) on our private balcony before going to sleep on our brand-new mattress in our newly-purchased antique bed.  We are definitely moving in a positive direction, and fast.

Last month I was focused on finals and finishing school (turns out, my last semester was the one in which I finally learned to get things done early and earn consistently good grades).  Three weeks ago I was focused on packing up and downsizing my New Orleans life.  Last week I was hosting my family for graduation while finalizing packing and coordinating my move.  Just a few days ago I was putting all my energy into driving (and worrying about the cat, who was nonplussed about the whole thing).  This week I am setting up my new home and worrying about things like "where do these bowls go?" and "did we buy a sponge?".  Today is my first job interview, for a family looking for a once-a-week babysitter.  It's not a long-term career, but it will give me something to do and some new people to meet for at least a little while.

Next week is when the reality of my new life will really sink in.  Joey is going off to work in a lab for the summer, and it will be up to me to figure out what I'm doing here.  Fortunately, I have the love and support of Joey and, to a lesser extent, Boudreaux.  I have a safe place to live and wonderful friends I can turn to, even if they're far away.  We're moving forward, and the road ahead may be scary, but it's leading somewhere good.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Addressing the Dress

Today I made a big step in the road towards bridehood.  I put down a deposit on my wedding dress.  "But (Ari)Ella," I hear you cry in protest, "How could you possibly have put down a deposit on a dress that has not even been whispered about yet?  Did you not bring 18 friends and acquaintances to Kleinfelds to tell you how beautiful you look in a pink tutu and laugh at the dress of your dreams until that sassy gay man tells them to cut it out and guide you through the path of self-actualization until you shout 'YES!' to your dress through a veil of tears?"  "No," says I, "I did not.  That show scares me."  (and plus, Max hasn't let me watch it in years).

The calm and ease surrounding the acquisition of my wedding dress is a gift from my mother, whose creativity and brainstorm method allows her to come up with the strangest solutions that actually make the most sense.  In this case, her idea was getting a custom gown made.  "But (Ari)Ella," I hear you interrupt again, "Won't that cost an infinite number of dollars?  Why would you do that?"  Well, as it turns out, no. Getting a dress custom-made is shockingly cost-effective, especially considering, you know, it's custom, so I can get exactly what I want and have it love my body like nothing I've ever owned.

When you buy a wedding dress through the usual route, you shop through dresses until you find the perfect one, or until you get fed up and just choose one.  For some people, like my friends Chelsea and Monica, this can be an incredibly easy process.  I think it took Chelsea a week from proposal to purchase, and Monica fell in love with the first dress she tried on.  Other girls just really enjoy the shopping process, so don't care how long it takes them to find their dress.  Those of you who have been shopping with me know this is not me.  My process is usually to go to Target, find three things I like, and then pick the best color or pattern (or two or three) and get out of there.  Alternatively, I fly through Marshall's flipping through dresses and tops like they're pages of a 300-page book I forgot to read for the paper I have to write due tomorrow, grab my allotted seven items, try them, and then toss them or buy them.  Sarah admonishes me when I refuse to try things on because I just want to get to the kitchen aisle.  Joey has even admitted that shopping with me is an unpainful experience. This ruthless efficiency, while good for Joey when I need a new skirt, makes the prospect of appointment upon appointment to try on sample-size wedding dresses fills me with dread.  Make that filled me with dread.  With a custom wedding dress, I just sit down and talk to them about what I want, then go in for a few fittings.  No shopping required.

The other thing is the cost.  Wedding dresses are expensive, a fact that should come as no surprise to anyone.  The average cost of a wedding dress before tailoring and veiling and embellishments and all those extras is upwards of a thousand dollars.  Part of what you are paying for is the name on the label. Vera Wang, Panina... that's all I know.  Also, you want your dress to fit perfectly so you're going to pay for alterations and tailoring on top of that. And even then, you end up with an edited original.  With a custom dress, I get something that is designed to work best with my body.  The woman at the shop pointed out things that would make me look good and steered me away from things that wouldn't work with my shape.  The alterations as we go through the fittings will be made by the original seamstress so she'll know exactly how best to work with the dress to achieve the desired result.  And, because it's being made by Han in Metairie, it's a lot less needlessly expensive than something made by Panina (well, Panina's minions) in Manhattan.  Also, making the dress fit perfectly is part of the process, not a paid extra.  

A few weeks ago, I got the name of a workshop from the lovely Kim Coleman, beautiful fashionista and Maid of Mid-City (to those of you not from New Orleans, that means she rode in a Mardi Gras parade).  I knew she'd know the best places.  I went in for a consultation with them that basically consisted of flipping through Brides magazine and talking about what I liked and didn't like, and what would and would not look good on me.  We sketched out a basic dress and talked about fabric and that was about it.  I sent the sketch and inspiration dresses to my bridesmaid and maid of honor and they approved and gave a couple helpful suggestions.

Today, I went back in for measurements and to put down my deposit.  I'll go in once more for to make a muslin rough draft of what the dress will look like before I leave New Orleans, and then twice more for additional fittings before it's ready for me to bring home.  As my mom pointed out, having to go to New Orleans is not the worst thing in the world.  Also, it will make me happy to have a little NOLA with me as I walk down the aisle.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Venue Visits

Early on in this whole wedding planning process, I decided that I would make a conscious effort to think about what is really important to me in regards to the wedding and what I should really remember is not worth fussing over.  Groom?  VERY important.  Centerpieces?  So long as they're not impeding people's good time, it really doesn't matter that much.  By focusing on the things that were important to me and letting the others slide, I thought I could sail on through this wedding as the easiest, breeziest bride ever in the history of bridedom.  

How wrong I was.  

One of the things that I decided was important to me was the wedding date.  As I discussed in one of the earliest blog posts, there are a lot of factors to consider that will affect when we can have our special day.  The wedding date is also one of the few elements of the wedding that will continue to be relevant for years.  An anniversary is a special event.  Especially for me, since I grew up in a family that celebrated every joyous event to the max.  My mother was still giving me pink rainboots with hearts on them for Valentine's Day through senior year of high school, and my grandmother sent me Halloween cards until she couldn't write anymore.  For these reasons and more, I didn't want my wedding anniversary, one of the most important days of the year for the rest of my life, to be dependent on some stranger's wedding date or the pool-cleaning schedule at a pretty venue I like.  Therefore, when Joey and I picked a date that we liked, that had significance (and convenience!) for us, I kinda latched onto it and decided that it was one of my (hopefully few) non-negotiable elements.  This sounds pretty reasonable, right?  The date is over a year away and at a time that works for our families, so, as far as bridal quirks go, this one is pretty easy to work with ...or so you would think. 

This past weekend, Joey and I travelled to LA to spend Passover with my family and check out wedding venues, with my dad along as expert-on-hand, since Joey and I have no idea what we're doing.  After doing extensive online research, I narrowed our venue visits down to four, which I will call A, B, C, and D.  I was going to write out the locations and include links, but then I realized that I am going to point out positive and negative elements of each and I would feel very stupid if I chose one of these and then all my lovely readers were distracted at our wedding by the off-center arches and corny crown moulding at our venue of choice, or sad that we didn't choose the place with the three-story slide into a bunny pit.  So, until we pick a place, the identity of the candidates shall remain protected.  

Venue A
Venue A was lovely.  We were greeted by a very nice man who walked us through the location and flow of events.  There was a lovely outdoor space for the ceremony as well as indoor dinner/dancing areas, which was exactly what I wanted.  The whole place felt cozy and intimate, and their on-site caterer is actually a very nice restaurant company that both my mom and I have heard of.  The guy who showed us around was very kind and helpful and seemed interested in getting to know us.  His only mistake was telling us about a wedding coming up this month that is no longer coming up this month because the groom got cold feet.  I said we shouldn't even mention such things, to which he replied "Oh, you have nothing to worry about, this guy was only 23!"  I explained why that was in no way comforting and the poor guy started backpedaling and tripping over his words so fast, Joey had to explain that I was just giving him a hard time and it was really okay.  Strangely enough, I think that made me like the guy and the place more.  As we left, I explained that I have no way to gauge Venue A against others, since I hadn't seen any others, but it seemed great!  

Venue B
Venue B was amazing.  Very different from Venue A in that the building itself was amazing, whereas at Venue A it felt like the venue was just a good space to hold an amazing event.  Venue B had a distinct personality all its own.  There was an indoor space and an outdoor space for the ceremony, both of which would be amazing, and a beautiful ballroom area for dinner and dancing that had all the lovely little details that architecture junkies like my family notice.  The woman who showed us around was friendly and funny (well, she laughed at my jokes, you can make of that what you will) and I think that all four of us were feeling really good about the idea of having the wedding there.  Then, as we were sitting and discussing options and logistics, she double-checked our date availability (I had already checked it with another person who worked there when I made the appointment) and learned that it was no longer available.  After such a great tour, that was quite a disappointment.  This is the part where Joey and my dad look to me with that face that says "okay, the special date idea was cute before, but now that it actually matters, can you just let it go?" and oh goodness I wish I could... but I'm emotionally stuck on it now!  And now I'm afraid that this one non-negotiable point is turning me into my biggest fear: Bridezilla.  I'm torn between it being one very reasonable request and it now suddenly becoming a problematic deal-breaker.  We explained the situation to our hostess and left with a very friendly "let us know if anything changes" to go to our next venue.  

Venue C
Venue C was an easy one.  The events team was off for the holiday weekend, which we couldn't really work around because this is our only planned trip to LA for a while, but we were supposed to be able to walk around the space anyway, which looked great from the photos online. Unfortunately, nobody had told them we were coming so it took 20 minutes to get them to let us over to the event space.  When we got there it looked not at all like what we'd seen in the photos and was very harsh and sterile looking, not at all the feeling we wanted for our wedding.  We left pretty quickly (but not before Joey diagnosed the girl working the front desk with Cushings.  Med students are weird).   [someone tell me how to properly punctuate the end of this paragraph!  There are two full sentences inside the parenthetical phrase of the final sentence!]

Venue D
When we walked into Venue D there was nobody to greet us and nobody to talk to, since they were all busy with what appeared to be other couples planning their wedding at the same place. This isn't horrible.  Having to wait five minutes isn't the end of the world and just because other people get married there doesn't make it, in my mother's words, a "wedding factory". The nail in the coffin came before we even began the tour, though.  Before the tour and just after finding our names on her tour sheet for the day (we had made appointments at all these places), she asked us to fill out a form with our contact information and wedding details and "how did you hear about us?" and all other sorts of malarkey.  This brought me and Joey back to the day we spent apartment hunting in Omaha.  Some places made us fill out information cards before they'd talk to us and it just put a bad taste in our mouths.  The place we ultimately chose just wanted to get to know us and our needs and we really liked that.  So I filled out the info card at Venue D cursorily, knowing that this wasn't the place.  Then the tour started, with the woman speaking in an unnervingly unnatural high-pitched sing-songy voice that drove Joey nuts.  She kept pointing out pianos that lived at the venue that we could have available to us on our wedding day.  I thought my mom, who has recently rekindled her love of playing piano, would love this, particularly the grand piano, until I saw all the nicks and scratches in it.  When I notice nicks and scratches from five feet away in a dimly-lit room, you can bet my mother would cry to see a musical instrument so mistreated.  The thing I liked least about the tour was that the woman kept talking to me, saying "so you can do this or that, it's really whatever you want, Ariella", only sometimes mentioning "and Joey" as an afterthought.  I hate the "it's the bride's day" mentality and her consistent semantic reinforcement of this paradigm drove me up a wall.  They do have our date available though!  Joey wanted to check, even though none of the three of us liked the place.  

Venue E -- Surprise!
Don't scroll back to the beginning, you're right, I did say there were four venues.  Well, more specifically, I said I planned for there to be four venues.  One place, Venue E, we were not going to visit because, when I called, they said our date was unavailable, and, as anyone who's ever seen "Say Yes to the Dress" knows, you should never try on what you can't have.  My mom and dad were crazy for this place, though, and wanted me to take a look anyway.  They were not impressed by my Say Yes to the Dress logic.  This is probably because they don't have cable.  Anyway, since the Venue B debacle, I figured we may as well look at this place they liked.  Plus, it was by the beach and I'd been itching to get my toes in the ocean water since Thanksgiving*.  Venue E was amazing.  Beautiful building, beautiful view, everything I'd wanted.  Fortunately, this time I knew it was unavailable before I fell in love again, but it was still hard to see a space so wonderful and know that it was unavailable to me because of my desire for that one special date.  I tried to tell Joey that maybe I could get over the date thing, but even as I tried to say it I couldn't believe myself and he wasn't really buying it either.  As much as he thinks it's a little bit crazy, he knows it's not something I'm going to be able to "just get over".  

The upshot of all this is that we still don't have a venue picked and I'm wishing I had picked something different to focus on, or at least that I hadn't found such a perfect date.  

*Little-known fact:  California girls have a powerful connection to the beach and we need to touch the Pacific Ocean every once in a while to recharge.  Los Angelinas who have moved away, try it if you don't believe me.  Take a trip to the beach next time you're in town.  See how much better you feel afterwards.