Monday, September 9, 2013


Just a note to give people the address of our wedsite -

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thoughts on Mothers

It's been a while since I last posted - life has been busy, the fella and I finally moved in together completely and i've been focused on getting the house in order.

I've also been spending a lot of time in my favorite new virtual place -  The Offbeat Bride Tribe is a private forum for engaged people (brides and grooms) to journal, ask questions, compare notes, and vent!

This is from a journal that I posted there in response to a post from a bride and groom who are having troubles with his mom.


I was reading two posts about a couple who don't want his mother to attend the wedding, and it got me thinking about challenging relationships with mothers (and other family members) and how tragic they can be. Sorry for the long, rambling post - I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this, but I just feel that it needs to be written.

My mother and I have a "difficult" relationship. We have done pretty much since I hit puberty and started developing my own independence. You see, I am an only child and shortly before I was born my mother quit her job to devote herself full time to being a housewife and raising me. On one hand it is admirable to be in a position to be able to provide a child with such stability and TIME. On the other hand, if that stay at home parent invests all their emotional energy into their child and loses their social life and connection to their community, it can be a recipe for disaster when that child reaches the age where they want to exert normal and healthy independence, and the parent has lost themselves along the way.

I was a pretty good kid. I was badly bullied in school because I was "different" (read: artistic, sensitive, and smart). I never got into drugs, my underage drinking was very sporadic and pretty tame. My Achilles heel was boys - once I developed a shapely behind and boobs, they gave me the "positive" attention that I craved from my peers. (And that's a whole other discussion) Suffice to say that whilst I did give my parents their fair share of frustration growing up, I wasn't unusually difficult.

My parents raised me to be open minded (they had friends of different sexual orientations and different religions). They allowed me to wait until I was curious about attending Sunday School before they made me go. (My mother is non-attending Catholic, my Dad is United - and it was the United Church I ended up attending) They encouraged me to explore and learn about the world around me, travelled quite extensively with me from a young age, and always spoke to me as an intelligent person (my mother never did baby talk around me - quite probably that is why I started speaking VERY early and had a vocabulary of 100 words by the time I turned 1). I am grateful for that, because I have ended up as someone who does her best to be accepting of peoples' differences, reads voraciously, adores travelling, and has never stopped learning.

Back to my mom. My fragile, emotionally damaged mother, who somehow managed to do a pretty bang up job raising me - and can't handle the fact that I've ended up more mature, healthier, better educated, and independent than she is. The sad truth is, for the past 20 years she has been painfully jealous. My dad finally convinced me of that fact after she and I had barely spoken for 5 years because she wouldn't allow him to co-sign a car loan for me - for a used Chevy Sprint - after I'd been living on my own, debt free and employed, for 4 years. The dealership was quite happy to give me a loan on my own, but would have given me a better rate of interest if my dad co-signed as I was only 23. I'd have saved $1500. The reason my mom wouldn't let him co-sign? ...I'd saved up money to spend two months backpacking around Europe. She said to my Dad "why does she have to have the car AND the trip?". Yeah.

I made the effort to reconnect when I got engaged at 26. It took some work, mostly because she kept trying to get me to agree that she was right, and the most I was willing to do was agree to disagree. The wedding plans didn't help, you see my (then) fiancé was thoroughly Agnostic, and refused to be married in a church. (I'm pagan). When we announced that we would be married outside instead of in a church my mother threw what can only be described as a toddler's temper tantrum. Have you ever seen a grown woman lying on the floor hammering the carpet with her fists whilst sobbing?
I decided that it was more important for my fiancé to attend the wedding than my mother.

She didn't attend the wedding ceremony.

She did attend the reception, as my Dad (bless him) - for the first time in their marriage - put his foot down and told her that he would be very disappointed in her if she didn't at least attend the reception.

We never got to do the fun things like going to a dress shop together to see me try on dresses.

So, I'm engaged again. My mother hasn't left the house in four years. I'm finally starting to accept the fact that she has agoraphobia. She's always been "nervous" (read: suffering from clinical anxiety). She's been on various anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs for as long as I can remember (she was on Valium for at least 30 years). When I was born she cut off all of her fingernails because she was terrified of scratching me. She also has emphysema from smoking for 57 years and is on oxygen 24/7, osteoporosis, and a variety of other health issues. My wonderful 83 year old father is her primary caregiver, and has been dealing with a diagnosis of Alzheimers for over a decade. (He does really well under the circumstances, but that's another story). I try to help out as much as I can, but just spending time with my mother is kind of like trying to cuddle a porcupine - you do it very very carefully to avoid the spikes.  (I should point out that some of the spikes are mine - I try, but I get frustrated easily sometimes)

Which brings me to the point of this whole post. I'm getting married for a second time (and hopefully the last time) and my mother will most likely not be attending this one either. Despite the fact that we're getting along fairly well she won't be coming to see me try on dresses. Even discussing the wedding plans is challenging because the wedding is going to be offbeat and she doesn't approve. ...and that makes me sad because she's the kind of person for whom it was really important to share in her daughter's milestones, and it's because of her own choices that she is missing out on those things.
At least she likes my fiancé.

It can be very hard to accept that our parents are human, with frailties and flaws and baggage. I am sad for all those parents and children alike whose choices have driven a wedge between each other. I am sad for those people whose damage is so bad that they can't stop being toxic. Can't step back from their situation long enough to realize that they are not only damaging a very valuable relationship, but they are sabotaging THEMSELVES.

My heart goes out to those of you who are dealing with similar things. It's tough. It really is. You can't change your family members. ...but what you can do is work on being the healthiest, most empowered person you can be, with the healthiest, most empowered relationship. I wish you the best on your path. <3

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Did I mention i'm offbeat?

Occasionally I am reminded just how outside the box of a person I am. I'm signed up to a wedding website with discussion forums. I mentioned my cabaret show wedding concept and you'd think I was suggesting that I disembowel a small animal during the ceremony, they're that aghast.
I got reactions that ranged from "I'd think you were nuts, but I think it would be fun" to "I would be offended if I attended a wedding like that, I think it's rude and disrespectful of your guests".  One of the responders put it best - "well, it's a good thing none of us are invited".  Yup - I'm pretty sure there are going to be some guests who think the wedding is kind of kooky, but if they don't think they can let their hair down for an evening and join us in the fun, they are welcome to politely decline the invitation.  I know there are lots of people - both family and friends - who think the idea is fun and can't wait to participate.
Honestly, I was surprised.  This was the website that sent me the 20 Traditions that you don't have to do at your wedding list just a couple of weeks ago after all.  In this day and age where people get married barefoot on beaches and while scuba diving, what's so strange about wanting to be the finale act of a show?  So, I commented about it on Facebook, and got the flip side of the opinion - "It's a great idea. Gives people an opportunity to pay homage to the couple, reinvents the aisle, provides some genuine entertainment, and you'll have the best bridesmaids ever. Plus Youtube."  
 People pointed out that for the average person, having a day all about them where they get to wear a fairytale dress and pick out colors and have a big party is pretty darned creative.  For those of us who live theatrical lives, that can seem a bit mundane.  
 I guess the point I wanted to make today is that at its simplest form, a wedding is people getting up in front of witnesses to announce their intention to pairbond.  What you do beyond that is dependent on your culture, tastes, and personalities. 

Vive le difference!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Catering on a budget

Sorry it's been a few days since I've blogged - I've been distracted trying to rent out my condo as my fiance and I are finally fully moving in together at the end of the month.  YAY for not living out of a suitcase and a couple of drawers!

In my last post I described how the cocktail reception portion of our wedding had grown from 30 people to 100.

I've spent the past couple of weeks getting quotes from caterers, comparison shopping, and coming up with a plan that is both affordable AND wonderful!

One of the things I want at the wedding is a candy/dessert buffet.  They have a great deal of visual appeal, and if you get little bags or boxes they double as both a catering item and your guest favors.

I REALLY like the glass apothecary jars that seem to be de rigeur for a candy buffet, but they are pricey.  However, they are available at Michaels crafts, who often have 50% off coupons for a single item.  Plan to stop by a store every week and pick one up, and you can get some beautiful glassware at a discount, OR do what I did - combine one or two of the pretty jars from Michaels with a bunch of clear glass vases, goblets, and bowls from a thrift store (6 items for $20!) and you have a beautiful bunch of display items that won't break your wallet.

An interesting side note - there is a brisk business on craigslist of brides selling the decor from their weddings to other brides.  They've discovered that it's often less expensive to buy decor items and resell them than to hire a decorating company.   Hooray for recycling!

As for the catering itself, I've gotten three quotes for a cocktail reception.  Two were for hand passed horsdoevres - one came in at just under $8000, the other at just under $3000.  Big difference?  The lower quote was from an up and coming catering company from a suburb.  The higher one from an established caterer from Vancouver.  If I didn't have an alternate plan, I would totally go with the suburban place - Fiesta Creative Catering.  I had their horsdoevres at a wedding show recently and they were delicious!

I got a third quote for a buffet table full of finger food from a catering company that is used a lot at the University I work at.  It came in around $3000 as well.  (Calhouns Catering)

None of those quotes included a dessert buffet.  

My future Mother in Law suggested an alternative - she'll do the platters of antipasto, charcuterie, fruit, and vegetables, my friend the chef can then concentrate on the more elaborate food items such as the baby bocconcini skewers, mini yorkies, italian meatball skewers, and prawn puttanesca, and we will see if some of the aunts would be interested in putting together the baked goods for the dessert portion of the dessert/candy buffet.  I figure we can do all this (including rentals) for about $2000.

Slate magazine posted an interesting article about the "average" cost of weddings these days - pointing out that "average" is a very misleading number.  It can be very skewed by a small percentage of weddings with stratospheric budgets, and most likely isn't factoring in the very small budgets of  DIY'er brides.  A more realistic number would be the "median" cost - which is significantly lower than the "average".  The article is here:

Based on the article, the 27K average wedding is actually an 18K median wedding - still a HUGE amount of money, but much more realistic.  Another thing I think people don't realize is that non-party related costs are included in most wedding budgets - including the engagement and wedding rings - which can be appx. 20% of the budget.

My budget has trickled upwards from my original plan of 6K, and is sitting closer to 8K now - but that's still less than half of the median wedding cost of 2012. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The numbers game

One of the things I learned when planning a wedding the first time is to expect the unexpected.  That's good advice for event planning in general - stuff is going to come up that you hadn't planned for, and the ability to roll with the punches is a good thing.

Our original plan was to have a small (25-30) person cocktail reception for the wedding party, immediate family and performers before opening the doors to the extended guest list (100+) for the cabaret show wedding, with a dessert buffet and dancing afterwards.  A good friend of ours who is a chef had offered to cater the cocktail reception at an amazing price.  He doesn't have a commercial kitchen so he was going to do all the cooking in our kitchen, which isn't far from the venue. We'd just need to find someone to help transport all the food from point A to point B and help set it up.  (He's the friend who I collaborated with to design and who prepared the food for the amazing 7 Deadly Sins Birthday dinner party last year).

...and then along came a monkeywrench. 

My darling fiance and I both have a good chunk of Irish Catholic in our backgrounds.  That means lots and lots of relatives.  Whereas the majority of my relatives live either on the east coast or in the UK, the majority of his family live in BC - and his family is really close knit.  So, our 25-30 person cocktail reception has grown to a 100 person cocktail reception (80% of which is his side).  I don't really mind that it will be mostly his people - I love his boisterous, happy family, and they've embraced me as one of their own.

BUT - complete rethink of the catering is required.  Do we attempt the insanity of trying to cater for 100 people out of a residential kitchen?  Do we blow the budget and hire a caterer?  (I got one catering quote yesterday that came to almost 9K - I think they misheard me when I said we were on a budget).  Do we order sushi from the restaurant across the street?

Excuse me while I go calm down my stressing-out fiance.

On a brighter note - my sweetie's gorgeous Brian Boru jacket arrived from Edinburgh today!  *happydance*  He wants to wear a formal kilt outfit to the wedding, but he's Irish (literally! He has the citizenship papers to prove it!), and the local rental companies just do Scottish Prince Charlie jackets with lion buttons.  I found an ex-rental 100% Barathea wool Brian Boru (it's got a shawl collar instead of a notched collar and harp buttons) jacket and matching vest on Ebay - $166 with shipping.  Great thing is that he'll be able to wear it with his Irish National Tartan kilt when we go to burlesque shows and parties.  (gotta love a man in a kilt!)  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Apparently i'm a trendsetter...

Got an email from "The Knot" today - the big all things wedding website where we have our wedding website ( with a list of "20 Wedding Traditions You Can Skip".  I'm up to #11 and so far I'm only planning on doing one of the traditions listed (not letting him see me in the dress until i'm coming up the aisle.  I'm all for that dramatic moment!).

Here's the list:

1 - Wedding dresses don't have to be plain white.
2 - You don't have to wear a big veil.
3 - You can have more than two wedding colors.
4 - Traditional ceremonies can be personalized.
5 - The bride can walk down the aisle to something other than Wagner.
6 - Ceremony programs can be fun and informal.
7 - It's ok to see each other before the ceremony.
8 - Alternatives to rice and confetti to see the couple off with.
9 - The wedding party doesn't have to be all male on the groom's side and all female on the bride's side.
10 - Cocktail hour doesn't have to take place after the ceremony.
11 - Bridesmaids can wear non-matching dresses.
12 - The bride doesn't have to be walked down the aisle by her father.
13 - There's more than one way to design ceremony seating - circular?!
14 - Child attendants (ring bearer and flower girl) aren't required.
15 - Non-traditional seating for ceremonies - pillows, quilts, couches.
16 - Creative altar ideas - not just an arch of flowers.
17 - The bride's accessories don't have to be understated.  (This one made me laugh! of COURSE not!)
18 - Write your own vows - the ceremony doesn't have to be boilerplate.
19 - Creative and mis-matched bridesmaid bouquets.
20 - Think outside the church for ceremony locations.

Ok, i'm through the list and our wedding is doing all but four of these!  (Possibly five - my plan right now is to walk down the aisle alone, but I may change my mind and have my beloved 83 year old father walk with me.)

Can you guess the other three?

Here's the article -

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's been 11 days...

The man of my dreams proposed to me 11 days ago.

This isn't my first kick at the can - I was married 18 years ago (it lasted 6 1/2 years and ended amicably), and I know it might sound cliche, but I really feel that THIS is the right person.

We took our time getting to know each other, didn't rush into moving in together, and I couldn't ask for someone who balances me any better than he does. (Did I mention that I go from a casual-around-the-house quiet person who likes to cook and read books to an incredibly glammed up blonde bombshell in a sequin gown on a regular basis? It takes a special kind of guy to not just tolerate but love, nurture, and support my two alter egos.)

So, 11 days. I find it kind of amusing that as soon as you get engaged and start telling people, they almost invariably say the same thing - "Congratulations! When's the date?" (Um, he only proposed yesterday, let me catch my breath!)

...but, having done this before, and also having produced a plethera of shows before, means I know that nailing down a venue (particularly if it is in demand) as soon as possible is a good policy.

We had been planning on going to Europe next July for the World Yoyo Championships (he's a professional Yoyoer), and then tootling around Italy with backpacks for three weeks. When he proposed he suggested that would make a great honeymoon!  So, the wedding would need to be before July.  Being budget minded, I was considering days of the week other than Saturday.  My future Mother-In-Law reminded me that some of the older relatives wouldn't be up for a late event on a weeknight, so I opted to look at long weekend Sundays. The obvious choice was the Sunday of Victoria Day weekend - which incidentally was the day he proposed to me.  Date Settled!  May 18, 2014.

We'd been discussing what we'd hypothetically want to do for a wedding for a few months, and had loved the idea of a Cabaret show wedding with the ceremony as the finale. It's over the top and not for everyone (my mother spent a good five minutes going "are you kidding?" before she threw up her hands and accepted that yes, her daughter is a ham) but we think it will be a LOT of fun.

So, before we even had our budget in place, I got on the phone to my first choice of venue - The Metro Hall in New Westminster. It's gorgeous - an old dance hall with a stage that has been completely renovated into a glamorous vintage style lounge in red, black, and silver. Black suede furniture, black and white chairs, mirrored tables, and red accent lighting makes this place absolutely ideal for what we had in mind - and meant we wouldn't need much in the way of decor.  My favorite color combination is Red, Black and White, and that was what I had in mind for the wedding colors. No pale pastels for me! I have also produced events and performed at the venue a couple of times in the past, so I am very familiar with it's layout and facilities.  (For prospective brides reading this - they have different color lighting packages available in addition to their standard red)

One of the best things about this venue is the fact that you can arrange your own catering and provide your own alcohol.  Two of the largest expenses in a wedding!  We are planning a small cocktail reception for the wedding party, immediate family, and performers before the show, and then a dessert and candy buffet to accompany the cake for the extended guest list afterwards.

Task #1 of 392,000 done.  I've set myself a formidable task - a glamorous over the top wedding on 1/4 of the average wedding budget in Canada.  Check back in for regular updates as I blog about my progress.