Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Invites

As with most of our wedding plans, we knew we didn't want to do anything particularly traditional for our invitations. I've always been a fan of the long, thin business-sized #10 format, and Austin had a vision for a stacked tag-shaped invite that was held together at the top and fanned out. I knew the basic information that needed to be communicated, but was really struggling with the wording. I tried a thousand different versions of "Together with their families..." and it was never exactly what I wanted.

Then one night in February I woke straight up and had the entire copy for the invite written out in my brain. I got out of bed, wrote it all down, and went back to sleep.

It went like this:

Dearest Family and Friends
After six charmed years
pre-wedded bliss
Delaney Mae Gill
& William Austin Gray
have determined that
this has worked out.
We would be honored
if you would join us for our
wedding celebration
in downtown Nashville
on May 22, 2010
(page 2)
Here's the deal
at 6:30 pm
on the stage of the amphitheatre of the
Bicentennial Mall Capitol Hill State Park
We will be wed.
After the ceremony
we'll all gather on the adjacent lawn to visit
with lemonade and refreshments in hand.
Pace yourselves
because at 8 pm we'll all walk across the street together to
the Market House of the Nashville Farmers' Market
We'll feast on barbecue
a bounty of libations and homemade sweets
and then we'll dance
until we can dance no more.

On the RSVP (page three), we referenced our website for travel and event information, and then gave folks the option of telling us they "Wouldn't miss it for the wide, wide world" or "sending our sorrowful regrets." For the fourth page, Austin did a gorgeous map of the Bicentennial Mall, with helpful indications for where to park, where there is a giant map of Tennessee and where you might find some fountains.

Austin designed them (beautifully, of course), as well as a sticker label for the envelopes. We found the envelopes at Paper Presentation, which was both fast and reasonably priced (two thumbs up!). We had originally talked about getting envelopes with a string-and-button closure, but holy cow those are expensive! Totally ended up not mattering. We had the invites printed at Advocate Printing in Cummins Station, and they also get our enthusiastic positive review. Austin printed the labels on crack-and-peel paper.

I was hoping to mail them 10 weeks before the wedding, and we got pretty close. We picked the printed & trimmed invites up on Friday, March 12th, and Casey, Agnes, Ali, Anna & Brad came over that night to help us assemble everything. Austin and Brad set up shop cutting and trimming the labels in the living room. All the ladies gathered around the kitchen table to attach brass brads to each invite stack, fan the pages out so that the back of page 3 (the RSVP card) was exposed, rubber stamp our return address on the back of that page and apply a postage stamp to the corner. Then we hand-addressed every label, and then labeled, stuffed and applied postage to each envelope.

Monday morning, we were told by a very chipper fellow at our neighborhood post office that a single first-class stamp was not sufficient for our invites. Apparently a brad, a simple office supply, counts as an "object" to the USPS, so we were charged extra for that, as well as the whole thing being just slightly over one ounce in weight. So I doubled our postage investment and sat down on the floor of my office with some other girls (who will remain nameless because I'm sure they had other things they were supposed to be doing...) to get those suckers ready to MAIL.

I've got pics of the invite-stuffing party here, and am hoping, hoping, hoping that Jonathan took some shots of the finished invite when he was capturing the details of our wedding pre-ceremony. If not, we'll take some shots soon and share them, because they came out simply gorgeous!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things that kept me happy during the wedding planning process

1. How I Met Your Mother: I had never watched it before this spring, but started taping syndicated episodes off of Lifetime and eventually started back at the beginning. I love Barney Stinson. Love him. Austin does not participate in this guiltiest of pleasure.

2. Patient coworkers: I work at the coolest company in the world, where no one ever once said, "Are you sure you need to take that 9,000th personal call?" in the midst of the planning and re-planning frenzy. Jesse especially was so, so awesome about never giving me a hard time when I was constantly having to leave early, step out for calls or just gripe.

3. (On a related note) Anna Talley: Not only do I work at the coolest company in the world, but I get to work with some of the nicest, smartest, most clever people on the planet. One of them is Anna Talley, who is so crafty, patient and generous that I'm not sure anybody, except her lovely husband Brad, deserves to be in her presence. Anna listened to every one of my crazy ideas, went crafty shopping with me, gave me advice and did independent research on projects. She made all of our fabric boutonnieres, made 15 six-foot-long table runners out of brown burlap fabric, and painted window shutters (from her own house) for our place card display. So many other coworkers helped with so many other things (Emily, Jake, Kelli, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Heather, I'm sure I'm forgetting others) but Anna was just such an asset to an event planning roster. She's a jewel.

4. Bowling: While it seemed crazy originally, Austin and I signed up for a bowling league (ok, once again, this is through my work, so seriously) that started three weeks before the wedding. I thought, "We won't have time to bowl!" but I'm glad I was wrong. I know it's not exactly exercise, but at least moving around and being competitive felt so good every week, even when I was just a ball of stress. And Austin's been learning how to do the spin bowl move where the ball curves, so he's pretty much obsessed with bowling right now. It was a good choice.

5. Sistie trip to NYC: As I previously mentioned, Casey and I got up to Brooklyn for a weekend visit to see Jenny in March. Sister time is the best time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Plan C

So here it was, Tuesday morning, May 11, eleven days before our wedding. In eleven days, 240 people were going to be ready to celebrate and dine and boogie with us, and damned if I knew where we could make that happen.

Then at work, Kelli IMs me and I can tell she's feeling me out. Was I going to cry if anyone else tried to make vaguely encouraging suggestions about the wedding venue situation? Yes. Yes I was. She sends me a link to a blog post on Ashley's Bride Guide, a local wedding site. It's an article about local event venues with availabilities during the next few weeks, for any weddings that had been displaced by the flood. Mostly the places mentioned in this post are barns in Franklin, nothing we'd really be interested in, but then, in one of the comments, a mother-of-the-bride is talking about her daughter's wedding, which was originally scheduled for the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall on May 22 (that poor girl. My heart goes out to you, whoever you are...). The mom says they've looked at three places as possible alternatives: the Parthenon, the Opera building, and Houston Station. She says that Jeff with Houston Station was wonderfully helpful and supportive even though they ended up going with the Parthenon. I quickly googled Houston Station and was flabbergasted. My heart was pounding when I called Jeff to ask how soon we could come take a look. Emily and I went over there right after lunch and I was completely smitten.

Houston Station is a renovated hosiery factory, located near the Fugitive Art studios, between the baseball park and the fairgrounds. I had no idea this place existed until that morning. They only finished their renovations and started hosting events in October. It is HUGE. We would be able to comfortably transport our entire wedding (ceremony, popcorn hour AND reception) into this space just as we'd planned without having to change a single thing. Basically it was everything we'd hoped the Farmers' Market would be, except with nicer bathrooms, a bridal suite and valet parking. Exposed brick, hardwood floors, burlap lining the interior walls, a long wall full of French doors opening out onto a terrace just a few yards from the railroad tracks.

Emily and I sat down with Jeff after walking around and talked through details. It was pretty clear that everything was going to work perfectly, but we still hadn't talked price. He showed me a ballpark quote that was three times what we had been scheduled to pay at the original venues. My heart just about collapsed. I went back to the office and wrote out an email response to the price quote in which I basically begged, pleaded, wallowed and beseeched Jeff to take less than half of his named price. I have never been comfortable with bargaining but with this wedding I apparently had no qualms about offering an insultingly low fee to vendors who I respected and was dying to work with. And it was totally working! After a particularly heartracing bout of phone tag (remember, my phone wasn't ringing this whole time, just voicemail alerts), Jeff, after checking with his business partners, said YES.

Austin and I (okay, plus a smallish entourage of Shan, Casey, Trent, Brandes, Bethany, Anna and Tracy) went back the next day, Wednesday, so Austin could see the place (okay, I wasn't very well going to broker a contract without his approval) and so we could sign on the dotted line. Everyone was so excited and encouraged about this new plan, and so were we. I left the venue with an endless To Do list and boundless energy. I was a woman possessed. Ten days out, and we had a wedding to plan!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Plan B

To backtrack just a bit, during that week when we were sticking to Plan A, I got one of the sweetest and most generous phone calls of my life. Mike & Mindy Grimes, two of my favorite people on the planet, called me (on a three-way call so that they could both talk) to offer us The Basement as a potential wedding venue. The Basement is a wonderful music venue (underneath Grimey's Record Shop), and it's definitely one of our special places. I thanked them both so much and said I hoped that we wouldn't need to take them up on their offer.

So after I got off the phone with Paul the caterer, fourteen days before the wedding, we sat on the couch in a daze and started to brainstorm Plan B. The Basement was easily at the top of that list. We tried to picture it, the party we'd originally planned, transplanted to this (admittedly small) venue, and it just could almost work. We talked through the possibilities: ceremony on the porch, dinner in the parking lot, dancing on the patio. Casey and Trent drove straight over there to give us an estimate of the size of the parking lot. It seemed like enough room. I called Grimey and he said we could make this happen, that we'd meet on Monday and go through the details.

I called an emergency summit at Shan's house the next day (on her birthday, bless you, Shan...) and all the best ladies gathered around to brainstorm. Everyone left with newly assigned duties and the hope that we were going to pull this plan off. There were some details that were going to be a stretch, for sure. We'd have to hire parking shuttles and try to find a nearby parking lot to borrow for the evening. There would no longer be a traditional processional; most likely we'd just walk down the fire escape from the back door of the record shop. Space was going to be tight for the dessert buffet and the bars. We kept reasoning, people will be understanding, they'll be forgiving if it isn't very convenient or graceful.

Sunday night I went to bed feeling overwhelmed but hopeful. Monday afternoon I met with Mike at the Basement, and it was clear that we had an uphill battle ahead of us. I measured the parking lot and it was just never, ever going to fit 240 guests seated family style. We tossed around ideas for bistro tables or benches. Maybe some tables could go in the (gravel) alley? I started to realize how much of our original vision for the wedding would fall by the wayside if we had the party here. I went back to work after taking some pictures of the parking lot and pretty much fell apart.

I've said that between 4 pm that day and 11 am the next morning was my worst time of the entire wedding-planning process. I was despondent. If someone had poked me gently in the shoulder I would have burst into tears. I was trying so hard to not be a drama queen, to not waste a generously offered last-minute venue when that was what we needed most. That night we went bowling with our Emma league and I tried to shake off my big black cloud, kept telling myself that we'd work it out, that whatever we ended up doing, it would be okay. But in my heart I knew, if someone had told us a year ago that we'd pay $20,000 for a crowded buffet wedding in a parking lot, we'd have walked away.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Wedding Story

The truth is, it was all coming together beautifully. The details, the plans, the vision, all there. So much work and time had already gone into the whole process. Many hours of manual crafty labor from so many generous and clever people. There were some days when there was so much to do that I couldn’t even start. And other days where we were in such good shape, I could just waste time.

And then, on Saturday, May 1, it started to rain. Nashville in May is a generally rainy place, but I’d never seen anything like this. None of us had. Ever. It rained all day and all night and on Sunday morning, Digby walked through the living room leaving wet paw prints behind him. This was because our basement was filling with water, groundwater, soaking in through the walls, under the fireplace, around the pipe that leads to the water heater. Water everywhere. We were lucky, it was simply flowing out of the basement through the garage door, so we never got more than a few inches. Some worthless old furniture was soaked; boxes of family keepsakes made it up to the attic without any important losses.

The rest of the city was not so lucky. Thousands of homes were damaged or ruined. The Opryland Hotel sustained destruction at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. And both the Bicentennial Mall State Park and the Nashville Farmers' Market were under water. A lot of water.

I just scanned back through my blog history and I guess I never really confirmed this: our wedding ceremony was going to be on stage in the amphitheatre of the Bicentennial Mall, and the reception right next door in the Market House of the Farmers' Market. It was a done deal. We'd paid for the venues, had a solid plan for the setup and the decorations, etc. I'd walked through both locations with the photographer, the video dudes, Tracy (our coordinator and dear friend), Agnes, etc. We'd sent the invitations. There was a vision. It was gonna work.

Until the flood. And I know we got off so lucky here. I heard flood war stories about weddings that were cut short when guests had to be rescued off the roof of the church. Or where the groom had to drive through three feet of water to get to the ceremony, where neither the officiant or the musicians arrived. At least we didn't try to get married on May 1.

So for the week of May 3-8, we didn't know quite what was going to happen. My boss sent me a photo of the Bicentennial Mall Amphitheatre, filled with water like a giant pond. We (just barely) weighed some options for Plan B. We were temporarily distracted from even remotely considering the wedding on the Monday after the rain when I got a call that our street was being evacuated. We rushed home to find the water still steadily rising, all the way up to the stop sign at the end of our street. Our house is on a hill and we were very much out of any immediate danger, but so many in our neighborhood were not safe. People were taking boats down Cooper Lane, helping people out of their houses. It was like another world.

We heard many conflicting reports and opinions about whether or not either of our chosen wedding venues were going to be clean and ready by May 22. I went and walked around Bicentennial one morning, and cleanup crews were spread out throughout the park, and it just didn't look that bad. The grass in the amphitheatre was dying, but they were pumping out the last of the water and it was just not clear when everything would be normal again. The Market House was still chained up tight, waiting for Metro Health officials to prescribe a cleanup regimen. But we were holding out for Plan A. Surely in three weeks everything would be back to normal.

Something I'll always remember about the weeks following the flood: Apparently Sprint lost a tower in the Berry Hill area, because for several days, my phone wouldn't ring if I got a call when I was at work. It would direct straight to voicemail. So while we're rushing around trying to figure everything out, trying to confirm that our home and family are safe, and then planning and re-planning every detail of the wedding, I would just get a benign little chime indicating that I had a new message. Each time I almost had a heart attack.

Another (more pleasant memory): on the Wednesday night of that long uncertain week, we snuck out and saw The Losers at the movie theater. It was terrible. And the perfect distraction. For two explosive, streaking bullet-in-slo-mo hours I didn't think once about the flood or the wedding. Bliss.

So after a week of (stubbornly) optimistically sticking with Plan A, I got the call on Saturday night, May 8th, that changed everything. It was Paul, our dear and wonderful and patient and encouraging caterer, who also runs a restaurant located in the Farmers Market. He said he'd spent the day attempting cleanup in the Market House, and flat out told us to find a new venue, stat. He explained how slowly everything was moving under Metro government and that he saw zero likelihood that the space would be ready in two weeks.

So that's how it came about that, two weeks before our wedding, we had to move the whole damn thing. On to Plan B...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Save the Date

Except not really, because the date already happened.

Here's what our Save the Dates looked like. Once I figure out how to do that thing where we blur over the line that shows our mailing address, I'll show the nifty sticker that sealed the cards for mailing.

Thus begins my month-long recap of May 22, aka Best. Wedding. Ever!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Before I get around to Starting at the Beginning

I know, I know. The wedding already happened and I'm still not spilling the lush details. I swear, it's close, I'm going to tackle the daily blogging for the month of June and slowly dole out the whole wedding story, every bit of it. We're still waiting for the majority of the photos to come in and I'll just keep rolling it all out as we go along.

But today, I just want to say goodbye to my old friend Ingrid. She's been gone for a week now and it's very sad. We all knew this was probably her last summer. Summer was never her best time. She was 12 years old, which is very old for a 140 lb. dog with bad hips and bad teeth. In fact, every summer for the last couple of years, there has come a point where Dad has mournfully predicted that she wouldn't make it through to the fall. We certainly didn't think she'd make it through all the way to twelve, which is a conservative assumption of her actual age. The adoption flyer said she was three when I brought her home in December of 2001. And that flyer had been hanging up at Petsmart for a year, so maybe she was already four by the time she joined our family.

Some observations about Ingrid: she was never, ever mad at me. She was always happy to see me (and pretty much everybody else) and she had a great sense of humor. Sometimes she'd run across the yard to me and I would think, "Oh god, she's not going to stop," and my life would flash before my eyes. But she always stopped, and always wanted to give me her big heavy paw. She hated helicopters, sirens and municipal vehicles with flashing lights. And bicycles (sorry, Patrick...). She didn't like strange men or kids walking past our house on Eastside Avenue (that's why she eventually went to live with Dad out in the country).

When she first came to live with me, we tried having her be an inside dog. She even slept in my bed, where she snored heavily and tried to spoon me. That lasted exactly one day. Brandes and Dad built her a pen (this was when I was the sole occupant of the little house out on Ashland City Highway) and it was woefully small. Eventually, after a couple of years of trial and error, we determined that the only fence that would hold Ingrid was one she didn't *want* to breach. If she could lay up against the foundation (or, ideally, the door) of the house where I lived, she would never try to leave. That's when it really worked.

Even though she spent the last few years as the galloping snowbear of Leiper's Fork, where she was doted upon by Dad and Lynn, she remained my big dog. We just went out to visit Dad in April and got to spend some quality time with the Biggest. I'm glad for that. I'm grateful that she was loved and fussed over up until the end. Thanks to Dad and Lynn for that.

RIP Biggy Bigrid, the Biggest Ingrid. Missing you today, my happy happiest.