Monday, September 27, 2010

Cupcake Showdown aka 3:10 to YUMmy

Started off the day with Rachel and an 8 cupcake sampler at Baked in Red Hook. Rachel was very nice and took down some of our info while we sipped our free coffee. We tried the Vanilla with Vanilla buttercream frosting, Oreo (chocolate with vanilla buttercream), Salty Sweet (chocolate with salted caramel frosting), Pistachio, Oopsy Daisy (Chocolate with peanut butter frosting), Coffe (Chocolate with coffee frosting), Lemon Drop and the Red Velvet (the spin is that they use cinnamon buttercream as opposed to the ubiquitous cream cheese). I was really looking forward to trying the coconut, but they didn't have it, and the citrus passion fruit. They ended up slicing me a piece of the latter.

5 minutes later my fiance and I were surrounded by cupcake wrappers and talking like Sylverster Stallone following a sugar stroke. Rachel was patient, however and wrote up an estimate for 11 dozen cupcakes and one 8 inch round cake. At two bucks a cupcake, $39 for the cake, $50 delivery and $25 for the cupcake stand we were looking at $383 total. We chose 4 different flavors: pistachio, citrus passionfruit, oopsy daisy and salty sweet. We had no need to fancy up the cakes, the presentation is classy and fun so no extra cost on that. We can change our order up to two weeks to the event and bonus: The head baker (chef?) is appearing on Top Chef: Just Desserts. I'll be dropping that to all my relatives looking for some NYC wow factor.

We did go to our appointment at Sweet Sugar Sunshine, but did not like the attitude or the cupcake selection. Frankly for 50 cents less a cupcake, they lacked the sophistication we got from Baked (picture birthday cupcakes a la mom). The Baked cakes may not be as breathtakingly beautiful as Cupcake Cafe, but they are half the price and the flavors are much more exciting.

If cupcakes are not your, um, piece of cake? I recommend Momofuku Milk Bar. My sister had her wedding cake made there last weekend and it was AMAZING and just as cheap at $350 for a 3 tier. Not sure what they charge for tax or tip, but the flavor was apple pie cake and included layers of cheesecake filling. My fiance had a boner after half a slice. Thank you Momofuku :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cupcakes or a lady on the street and a freak in the bed.

It's noon on a Sunday and I haven't seen my fiance in over a month. I'm craving something naughty.

I used to date someone with an internet porn addiction. I could not understand it at the time. But today, whilst scouring the world wide web for wedding cupcakes, I'm starting to empathize with the intangible high of oodling sweet muffins you can't have. I started by looking up the sweet butter cream and merigue clusters of Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Tart lemon, sweet pistachio and pure coconut morsels layered on top of cupcake trees just asking for it. At $1.50 per cupcake, they truly are the bottom bitches of value. I then jump to BabyCakes with their spelt, dairy-free, egg-free agave sweetend little nature cakes that all of a sudden make me feel like I'm visually humping a birkenstock. Next I'm over to Billy's Bakery where the icing looks like it's been whipped like a gimp into a frothy tower. (Seriously, why isn't everything covered in icing?) But without a price tag anywhere in sight and an over hyping of an already too overly hyped flavor of red velvet. I feel like, I need something edgier. I need to go to the next level...And I'm not talking about the village door knobs (everyone's had a turn) Magnolia Bakery and Crumbs, I need the money shot. I'm going back to an old favorite. I used to date someone at the Cupcake Cafe. At the end of two months I had to decide, my waist line, or death by buttercream? I had to break it off...but I never forgot them. Visual stunners and affordable at $2.75-$4.00 for ordered small/large.

Eleni's is like the girl next door of cupcakes and at $60 for a cupcake tower for 100, she's a cheap date. The prices for personalized cupcakes skyrocket to about $50 for a dozen....hmmm maybe she won't put out after all. This is when I decide to go rogue and check out a Red Hook honey. Interestingly enough, the term "hooker" orignated from the women of the night in Red Hook, Brooklyn....maybe this is a sign. Anyway Baked seems to have it all: lusty, ecclectic flavors and a classy exterior. The Madonna and the whore.

After an hour of searching I have three appointments set up: Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Baked and Cupcake Cafe. Tune in sometime next week for the final show down!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do me a FAVOR, take this crap and love it!

Favors. Why they are called favors, I have no idea. In most cases I feel that I am the one doing the favor by taking that little, superfluous piece of crap off the bride and groom's hands. I mean really, my purse is barely big enough to carry a camera, my wallet, lip gloss and keys. Now you are asking me to shove in a small bag of chocolate covered almonds or a tchotcke that is only going to collect dust until I throw it out 6 mos later? I have to walk around carrying a picture frame an inch tall with YOUR faces in it? A box of four whitman's chocolates? Seriously? The only thing I want at 11 pm after a night of trying to drink the $200 I gifted out of the open bar is a bacon sandwich and a bath.

So now I am sitting in the same position as countless other brides thinking, "What can I give my guests that costs less than $2 that will make them feel how much I appreciate them spending $200 on a hotel room, $300 on plane tickets and buying us the rice maker of our dreams?"

So I thought: What do people want in the dead of a February night, after hours of drinking and dancing? Well probably more to drink, something to warm them, and something very unhealthy. And that's when I got the idea! A hot chocolate bar with "to go" cups and a bottle of peppermint schnapps on the side to Irish up their to go treats as much as they like.

I found some classic NY paper cups for $36 for 100 and white hot chocolate recipes and mixes. I thought I could set up a table near the door where guests can make their own or take some home. Either way, sipping that hot, sugary treat will feel like a soothing hug. Just what I want my guests to feel at the end of a perfect night.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Invitations or Why cutting paper requires a PhD.

Right about when I was feeling my lowest, the immediate moment that I thought, "That's it, the only person I can count on is myself..." I got the call. My friend offered to help me make my invitations, more than that she offered an ear, some sound advice and a couple of, "Well they can just go fuck themselves," to the world ...Basically she handed me a perfectly mixed cocktail of love and support. I bought a ticket to Pittsburgh for $100 and packed my bags. Frankly the invitations were just a beard. I needed three days in pajamas saturated in girl talk and carbs.

We began by going to Walmart. I bought $30 worth of Steeler's pajamas which I promptly wore all weekend. We went to an all you can eat sushi/chinese restaurant. "I can't eat anymore!" I remember saying while defending myself from more potstickers. "But they have soft serve," my friend said. Oh sweet West Virginia Jesus, I was beaten. After I had eaten my way through the first day, we finally got down to some serious work.

My friend Danielle could put Martha Stewart out of a job. She makes it look so easy with quick, artist hands. However after she handed me the razor with the instructions to cut 50 30" x 7" strips of paper I became rapidly aware of my own limitations. I couldn't keep the razor straight, or the ruler would slide ruining my straight line. I ruined feet of paper and bleeted expletives and apologies in front of her two year old son. I almost gave up. I ran my razor through my brand new Walmart pajamas. But Danielle's gentle laughs at my missteps and investment in both my invitations and self kept me going. At the end of the second day I was hot gluing like Wyatt Earp if he subscribed to Real Simple.

Halfway through the trip I told Danielle, "There are just some things worth paying for." At the time I meant that my frustrated attempts at creatively saving a few bucks were not worth feeling like the world's biggest anti-craft loser or the back pain associated with kneeling while scoring countless reems of paper. But after personally making 50 invitations for less than $50 and the $100 it took to be flown away to the magic land of West Virginia, where people have manners, endless supplies of ice cream and friends who truly have your back...well that and the Steelers pjs were worth every cent.

Dani's told me I can't post pics of the invites until I send them out, so we'll have to wait on that. I will say that I was able to put together invites, response cards, reception cards and envelopes for less than $50.  I've asked her for some pics of her other invites. Let's see if she posts

Here's a pic of Dani's son and I being fabulous on a Friday afternoon. Nothing like a younger man to remind you when it's time to toss aside the pajamas and flash what your mama gave ya!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Something blue....

It wasn't so long ago, that I, as a swinging single lady with a penchant for telling outrageous lies while drunk, hit upon what, in hindsight, could have been the great idea that produced the financial windfall I'm so in need of right now.

Let me set the scene. It's 4 years ago, fleet week, Manhattan. I am 5 miller lites to the wind and in some dive bar in Hell's Kitchen. A couple of sailor's approach my friends and me and ask what exactly it is that we do for a living. I'm tired of saying teacher, so I go for the next occupation that comes to mind, "I'm a foot model on a foot fetish website." Say whaaaaa? They ask, "Oh really? What's the name of your website?"

Now in most situations that call for quick thinking, I'm a real bomber. Seriously, if I was ever representing on family fued, I'd probably respond,"weiner," for most answers. But in this one case the gods of wit shone down upon me, "" I replied. "Prove it," they demanded. And of course I had just so happened to have returned from the beach where in another drunken state took a picture of my foot next to my friend's foot as they lay next to each other as we both were pissing in parallel toilets. "This one is for my voyuerism section," I told them. They then asked to take a picture with my famous porno feet to show their friends back home, and of course I obliged.

If only I had pursued that brilliant little piece of intellectual property, I could have paid for my dream wedding on the perverted pennies of foot fetishists, but I supposed we all have those coulda shoulda moments.

But this idea did get me thinking: What about my poor little sexy feet after a night of dancing? I can't exactly slip on some havaianas in February when the blisters start a poppin'. That's when I remembered a recent bogo spree I had. Flats, my friends are back and they are back with a vengeance. Not only that but they are more fun then ever. If there is anything I believe in, it's that a bride should have a dirty little secret, and if it's hiding under her skirt, all the better. Check out this fun (and cheap!) flats I found on and zappos. They're all under $40 and the slippers I found on LL are the perfect thing to start your honeymoon in...and at $29.00 cheaper than a year long membership at!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When a rose smells like a rip off and why I love Emily Thompson

I thought I was a low-key bride. That is until I went to Academy Flowers. After looking through a million bridal magazines at Barnes and Noble, I knew exactly what I didn't want: the same bouquet as everyone else. I found nothing inspiring and couldn't imagine paying $200 for a bouquet I didn't love. While looking through I found what I thought was a perfect compromise: a small nosegay of violets.

On my way home from work that day I stopped by the florist on the same corner as my church and venue. I told them I was getting married in the area and was wondering if they could give me some estimates. I couldn't even get the word violets out before I heard a huge release of air behind me, "Ummm you don't want violets." That's funny, I thought I did. "They are very hard to work with," he added. Okay, well what about gardeni-- "Uuughhh!" exclaimed the saleslady whilst tilting her fact to the heavens. "You do NOT want gardenias. I mean I've never actually worked with them but I've heard they.." "Turn brown when you touch them?" I supplied. "John, how much are the gardenias if you wanted them on a boutinerre? $16?" "Actually $20," Now I knew they were not only trying to crush my dreams, they were trying to upsell me too. "Didn't you bring like a binder or something?" she asked. "Um no."

I couldn't have gotten out of there faster. I also never wanted to talk to anyone about flowers ever again. That was until I met Emily Thompson through a friend of mine. Ms. Thompson owns a shop in DUMBO that doesn't even have any signage, just wild, beautiful plants climbing out her door and down a small staircase. When I walked in she didn't ask for a binder, she asked about my dress, about my fiance, the time of year and the venue. She was able to find a common thematic ground between my 1930s aesthetic and the fried chicken I was serving. She even offered to work well below her normal budget to fit into mine ($800) and told me, "Don't worry, we'll stretch it as far as it can go and whatever I can't do, I will tell you exactly how to do it cheap and easy on your own." I felt like I just got a wedding planner and a flower designer for a rock bottom price. I still don't even refer to her as a florist. I feel that is below her in some way. In November she's even taking me out to the flower district to see which flowers look good on me. I mean really, this is exactly the way every bride wants to be treated.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why I'm happy women love cheese...

People tell you all the time that you don't need a lot of money to throw a great wedding. My dad loves to tell me that it brings out my creative side. "You go to so many weddings where they spend all this money and they all come out the same.  You'll figure it out," he says. By the way "you'll figure it out," is not what I want to hear.  What I want to hear is, "I just discovered this high-yield savings account I forgot all about. Hows about 40 grand?"

Anyway, I heard it so much I almost started to believe that there was some truth in it. That the more lavish the wedding the more it sucked out the intimacy and individuality of the event.  That is until I went to a gazillion dollar wedding at the Waldorf Astoria and promptly realized that the only reason people were telling me this was because I didn't have a choice.

Never before have I seen a more amazing chuppah. It was as if the flower covered trees were bowing to each other in reverence. The string ensemble that accompanied the 20 minute processional had me blowing my nose inside my program. The dress, the veil that went on for days. The collared, 3/4 sleeve shrug that was exactly what I had been looking for all year, made the bride look that perfect blend of beautiful, graceful and nervous. Walking into the reception all I could see were 4 ft. topiarys to rival a terra cotta army and 100 ft ceilings. There was a 12 piece band...The last time I saw that many people on stage was watching MC Hammer videos and trying to do the "2 legit 2 quit" hand signals. And the couple, so in love, eyes catching each other as they were pulled by different friends and relatives in all different directions. There was no denying it. This was not only the grandest wedding I had ever been too, it was also so filled with love in every tiny, possible detail.

Moral of the story, kids? NEVER go to a wedding at the Waldorf Astoria while planning your own. You'll only realize that money really can buy you the wedding of your dreams. But I know what people will say, they'll say, "But everyone has a sushi bar, you're going to have chicken quesadillas! Who doesn't love a quesadilla?!" And that's where I gotta admit that they might be right because the only thing my friends love more than me is cheese, thick...melty...delicious cheese. This might be the only wedding where some guacamole trumps the Waldorf.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why being an alien is NOT out of this world...

So if I were to give one piece of advice to all you thrifty people out there, it would to not marry someone without a U.S. passport. Just getting Britboy into the country to get married is going to cost us about $3,000. There are a lot of checks I do not enjoy writing, but these are the worst. But I should count myself lucky so far. I had one friend who had to shell out roughly $10,000 in processing and laywer fees. Let's hope there's no other fine print I haven't overlooked.

So that sucks, but I'm not factoring immigration costs into the overall $10,000 because I don't want to think about it and most people, hopefully find their future mates somewhere in the continental United States and don't have to worry about that. They also probably don't have to compile documents proving they're in a relationship. You know I actually read an article in the Times that said that some couples actually take pictures of themselves having sex. Even more surprisingly that does not result in an immdiate green card. I briefly thought of submitting a picture of us kissing in front of the Eiffel Tower, but didn't want the immigration agent to puke on the paperwork I spent 10 days preparing.

How I bought my dress and almost became a lesbian...

There were many things I didn't mind getting all cheapy on and I was all about being the kind of bride who didn't get all carried away with her wedding. The Knot told me to make an inspiration board. They even had the balls to tell me 10 months before my wedding that it was never too early to get into wedding shape. They obviously didn't know that inspiration for me always comes smothered in cheese. I was determined not to become that bride...but there was one thing I did want and that was to look fucking amazing.

I had ideas of what kind of dress I wanted, oh I had so many ideas. I was going to find a dress like my Grandma's: lace collar and sleeves over a silk bodice. Grace Kelly was going to get some Strong Island competition from me. The only problem was, I did not want to pay Kleinfeld's prices, nor did I want to rifle through the racks at David's Bridal. My best friend Sarah suggested that I look on She found her dress there and it looked full on couture. However, I did look for months and never found something that I thought could support my massive 34DD monster breasts while also not hiding my smushed coke bottle figure in layers of flowy chiffon.

Eventually The Knot came through with an email notifiying me that Cymbeline was having a sample sale. I didn't see anything in particular that I wanted, but a few styles had potential. I figured that it would be a great opportunity to practice and see what I liked.

Never in my mind did I expect wedding dress shopping to be so freakin' awesome. Ivy, the sales lady called me after I made my appointment to let me know that a new shipment of dresses was coming in the next day and we changed my appointment so I could get first crack. After trying on about 15 dresses (I was the only person in the showroom btdubs), all of which fit me like a GLOVE, I found the one and for less than $2,000. It was nothing like my grandma's and Grace Kelly probably would've passed, but it made my curves put Beyonce's to shame and looked like nothing I had seen in the magazines. I was so happy it was all I could do not to wrap my legs around Renee, the salewoman who pulled the dress, and tickle her larynx with my tongue.

Now this might be out of the budget for many brides, but for me it was the perfect storm of what all brides want from their dress experience: individual attention at a French couture shop, exquisite detailing, a unique style and less than $2,000 with almost no alterations needed. Renee, if things don't work out with Brit boy, I'm giving you a call. Just try to say no to me in that dress!

Why German Grandma's and Pessimistic Dads Can Suck It!

Brit boy and I met on a 2 week trip to South Africa. Before I left I told my roommate, "I'm going to fall in love in South Africa!" She down right burst out laughing in my face. I can't blame her though. I was on a bit of a make out safari way before getting my passport stamped. I was 27 and loving life in NYC. I was on way too many intramural sports making out in way too many bar basements rockin' a sweatband and playing flip cup. I was not exactly on a one-way road to grown-upville. But after ending it with a succession of younger men, I decided a change was gonna come and packed my bags for camping and hiking in the mountains. Day 1 I meet Brit boy and identified him as such by his floppy hair and equally floppy beer belly. Despite the rough edges, baby boy was 6'4" with blue eyes and reeking with potential. This could be a good two weeks, I thought. Well turns out he was 5 years younger than me and that put me way off for at least 6 hours. A week and a half of middle school flirting later, we're trying to get it on inside my tent, but below zero temperatures meant neither of us was keen on getting out of our sleeping bags resulting in a scene straight out of caterpillar porn. Despite initial difficulties, we decided to give our romance a go. I came home and told my dad I met a 22 year old English guy. He threw up his hands, and with them all hopes of having grandchildren, "You're never getting married!" he yelled.

Greg's family took it a little better, that is everyone but his German Grandma who decided that at 27 I must be hiding secret bastard children or a sordid past. Either way, I had to be a tarnished woman, otherwise, why wouldn't I be married at the ripe old age of 27. Brit boy tried to convince her my uterus wasn't pruning over and that I actually had some redeemable qualities, but that didn't keep her from asking him if he met any nice girls each time she subsequently spoke to him.

Ultimately, we proved them all wrong. And there is nothing I enjoy more than defeating the luftwaffe yet again. In the words of Heidi Klum, auf wiedersehen bitches!

Alger House Smalger House

When looking for a cheap venue in NYC, you come across the usual suspects, Alger House, Manhattan Penthouse, Riverside Church, etc. The bottom line is "cheap" is still going to cost you over a hundred per person when you count in tax and tip. Oh and P.S., I'm getting married in February, a week and a half after Valentine's day, so all that "out of season" b.s. isn't really helping much either. New York Magazine published some ideas for how to throw a wedding for under $10K, but that either meant getting married in Central Park (see February, above) and/or doing a pre-fix lunch at a swanky restaurant. None of these options accomodated my 90 person guest list or provided me with a proper reception complete with bacon wrapped mini foods, open bar and dancing.

After lots of depressing phone calls and flexing my bargaining muscles to the point of exhaustion, I was ready to give up. I called my church and asked if I could rent a room there for free. They said yes and even offered to waive the $300 ceremony fee, but after seeing the room, I knew it still wasn't me.

Enter Alison. Not only is she my savior at work, the woman who works so hard she makes me look good and who listens to me rant without ever contributing a negative comment to my life, but she's a NYC fixture and went to school right in the neighborhood where my church was. This particular day she was listening to me moan and mentioned that her cousin had her daughter's bat mizvah at a restaurant a block away from my church. "I forget what it cost, but I remember it was obscenely cheap," she said. "What is your definition of 'obscene'?" I asked her. "Like a few thousand dollars."

She got my attention.

Long story short. 107 West offered to host my 5 hour reception for 90 people for $5,000. This includes 5-6 passed aps, buffet with steak, salmon, chicken, pasta, salad, spinach, etc., apple crumble and open bar beer and wine. I practically humped Nick, the manager when he told me. Oh and the icing on the wedding cake? They are clearing out the glass enclosed dinning area after dinner, putting up speakers and letting me dance the night away. Eat that Alger House!

Forever Isn't Free - A NYC Wedding for under $10,000

The minute I got engaged, everyone started asking, "Aren't you SOOOO excited?!" The truth squished the joy right out of their faces. "Um, not so much," I replied. The truth of the matter is, weddings suck. Unless someone with a bottomless wallet is paying for it and you both have friends and family that truly want to see you happy more than they want to see their own fantasies played out or their own rules of ettiquette adhered too, you're in for at least a year of gritting your teeth and lowering your expectations.

I had seen enough of my friends go through it before me to know what I was in for. I also knew that I would be fronting the bill almost exclusively on my own and thanks to an Irish Catholic family that humped like rabbits on my mom's side, and chronic divorce and remarrying on my father's, I was looking at an invite list that consisted of 75 people, cut off right after first cousins and not including dates for anyone.

My fiance was coming over from England and so was his family. In order to make transportation easy for them, I was looking at having a wedding in NYC for no less than 90 people. My budget was $10,000.

This blog is all about my journey to finance a dream wedding on a shoestring that didn't look like I cut any corners and to highlight the wonderful few who helped me get there.