Take Homes from Planning a DIY Wedding Overseas

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Photo by Anna Roussos

I know posts like this are a dime a dozen these days, but during the year and a half that my husband, parents and I planned out our big day, I got a lot of really solid advice. Here's a few things that are definitely worth passing on if you or someone you're close to is newly engaged:

1. You can have anything you want- just not everything. 
Somehow, some way, we pulled off a "destination" wedding- and a pretty big one- without a wedding planner. This was not without some sacrifice in what I envisioned for our wedding. In this day and age, with the internet's seemingly endless supply of picture-perfect weddings stuffed to the gills with lush florals, fancy personal cocktails and epic couture gowns, it's easy to think this is the reality for most people and that a wedding without these things is somehow less than perfect. It's not. It will be less extravagant, it will be yours, and it will be perfect.

2. Compromise
So, as I was hinting above, compromise. I promise you, it's not the end of the world if you go for a cake because your parents feel strongly about that tradition, or you find a bargain dress instead of that 7k number you spotted on pinterest. At the end of the day, it wasn't a big deal that not every table had a garland on it, or that my wedding dress wasn't my favorite choice, or even that we cut a plastic cake neither the husband or I had any interest in and served sheet cake to our guests. Nobody cared. Everyone had a good time in spite of these little details that may seem so important now. And really, one well-placed garland, a beautiful string of bistro lights, and plain wooden tables and chairs ended up looking completely perfect under the mountain scenery of Crete. Lush florals, fancy glitter bombs and extravagant gifts won't really be missed.

3. But not on the important stuff...
I followed the general rule of picking three non-negotiables: an awesome photographer (see above,) our restaurant venue, and bistro lights. Don't ask me why. My husband had his own picks (great Cretan food and a live Cretan band- he agreed on the venue with me) and my parents (who definitely get a say if they're footing more than half the bill- common sense, really) really wanted that cake-cutting moment and for us to marry at the village church rather than the larger monastery down the road, so they got it. In the end, we were all happy with our choices and happy with each other, because we focused on a few important things, and found reasonable (and frankly really pretty) solutions for everything else.

4. Make choices with your guests in mind
My wise, just married before us cousin put this perfectly: for a wedding to be "easy" for your wedding guests, it often has to be really, really complicated for you. For our purposes that meant: arranging buses with specific pick ups and drop offs so everyone could imbibe freely, offering plenty of food and drink while we took wedding portraits, scrambling at the last minute to buy up all the shawls and scarves in Old Town when we realized the temperatures would get cooler at night than expected, and having a diverse set of dishes for our family-style meal, so that any paleo, vegetarian or gluten free friends would be as well-fed as our non-dieters. None of this was easy, but, as my Dad kindly reminded me, a wedding is not, in fact, "all about you." You're really just hosting a really big party that (in our case) people went through great effort to get to- so make sure they're well cared for.
(In this vein, we also put a lot of work into an easily navigable website and welcome bags for everyone who traveled from so far. I'm really glad everyone agreed on that last one- it was a simple way to show everyone how much we appreciated the effort they made to come to our wedding.)

5. If you want your guests to dance...
Then dance! Another pearl from my cousin, haha! I have social anxiety- FOMO, is-everyone-hanging-out-without-me nervousness that, compounded with a Cretan band and a guest list of mostly non-Cretans, had me envisioning an awkward, empty dance floor the whole night. I feared that without a DJ, our reception would be a big fat flop. So when Laura passed on this tip from her own DJ, in addition to polling friends for song requests, buying a few cheap props for people to play with and cherry-picking every single song on our list, we took that thought to heart and kept our feet moving as long as we could- and it worked! Our super-nerdy, not-cool dance moves aside, our dance floor was packed the whole night. If that is something at all important to you, remember that when your social anxiety kicks in ;)

So there's my biggest take homes from planning this wedding, without a wedding planner, in a foreign country. A few smaller, but definitely valuable pearls:

- Even if you're skipping the planner, a day-of coordinator is well worth the money to take the sweat off of you and your family.
- Throw a few get-togethers before the wedding- this allows both sides of the family and friends to meet and mingle before hand, and makes for a less awkward atmosphere on the big day
- If you're planning a destination wedding, you should expect a few people who are important to you to not come. It hurts. It sucks. Try not to take it personally, and modify your expectations beforehand to be aware of this.
- Don't feel pressured to do things if you really don't want to. It is sort of your day, after all.
- If you're not organized (*raises hand*) google has an awesome template for wedding planning. Just google it (no really.) It's bare bones, uncomplicated and super easy to use!

What about you? Any other newlyweds with some solid wedding advice? I'd love to hear :)

Pieces of Art

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Somewhere in the Metropolitan Museum 

[update: the above image is from Pierre Bonnard's Garden- hurray google image search! The rest of the answers will be included below, if you want to test your art history chops.]

After days of staring at blank computer screens and dull-looking charts, I gave myself a mental treat going through some close-ups I took at the New York Met on one of my first trips into the city last month. Only problem? My burned out brain can't remember which artist the works are attributed to- let alone the title of the paintings! Oh well...pop quiz time? If anyone can tell me the artist who painted the above (and below) works, I'll be eternally grateful (and seriously impressed.)

 As you can tell, I've got a thing for Impressionism. Not sure I can quite explain it- something about the use of color, maybe, or the way the brush strokes and the handiwork can be traced when you get close to the painting. I know they're intended to be viewed at a distance, but I think they can be more beautiful even a few inches away. My brain tries to picture how the artist's hand would have moved to create such lovely patterns.

 So this one (and the bit above) is obviously Monet's Water Lilies. I have an especially soft spot for Monet. He was the first artist I learned about in school, and I was lucky to visit Giverny as a kid- what a dreamy place! I love the way the intense purples and sage-greens blend and balance seamlessly.

And of course Van Gogh. This one I found fairly easily on the Met's wonderfully navigable website.
The beautiful swirling brush strokes are almost synonymous with his name.

I hope this has been a little visual pick me up for your hump day. It's definitely perked up my week a bit :) If you know who the unnamed artists are, please share (I suspect one is Gauguin, and one may be Cezanne...?) And if you're in New York any time soon, I highly recommend an afternoon at the Met- it's a really special place.

p.s. if your looker for the lighter side of the fine art world, this collection of Medieval Twitter's finest moments had me in tears this morning.

p.p.s. answer to our impromptu pop quiz:

Image 2: Andre Derain
Image 3: Edouard Vuillard
Image 4: Van Gogh's Cherry Tree

Sunday Thoughts

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wow. It's been a few, hasn't it? Sorry about that! In the busy-ness of life this space often takes the back seat for me out of necessity. In the flurry of moving, starting work for the first time ever (!) and transitioning into married life, it's not always easy to sit down and break down thoughts swirling in my head into cohesive sentences.

Residency, as I expected, is the busiest I've ever been. The cycle of signing out, seeing patients, developing plans, rounding, revising plans, placing orders, touching base with nurses, touching base with families, changing orders, changing plans, signing out and then writing notes seems never-ending, but I like it, in a strange way. Idleness never looked good on me. Being kept busy means my brain has no time to worry about anything- where we're going to live, how we're going to live, what we're going to eat, how tired I am- and it feels good to not worry.

My husband (! it feels amazing to write it out) is being as kind and incredible as ever. In the midst of intense hours spent job-hunting he has become incredible at anticipating our needs. Whether it's a clean apartment or simply a home-cooked meal, he really has thrown all his energy into making the best life for us. I feel undeserving.

In the meantime, I can't wait to share pictures of Crete and of Santorini- when I finally find a moment to go through them! Suffice it to say it was an incredible journey, and I pray that the Greeks make the best decision for them, and that Germany and the rest of the European Union recall the lessons learned in the post-war era that allowed them to flourish again.

Have a blessed week.