This is a Sad Post About Friendship, Love, and Death

Dearest blog,

I have not forgotten you. I have just been terribly busy with wonderful things, very sad things, and all other sorts of things in between.

In the past six days, I have finished my first semester of my doctorate, gone on a staycation with my Pastry love courtesy of a door prize win at a venue we did not book, interviewed a DJ for our karaoke reception, marveled at said DJ’s amazing Indian Jones’ themed backyard and pool, started the ring design process for the every so lovely custom engagement ring, finalized the wedding gown I want to buy, harassed my best friend into coming to visit me this coming weekend, booked a pie tasting adventure, interviewed a wedding coordinator, read four books on building communities of practice, worried when said best friend suddenly was in the hospital, signed up for a gym membership to tone these arms, and lost another good friend of 27 years as she decided to end her life after struggling with her bipolar disorder for so long.

That last bit is definitely an immensely sad addition to a generally frivolous wedding blog, but it’s true and powerful and painful. 

The last time I talked to her was about how excited she was to come to the wedding next May and how her husband was recovering well from a recent surgery. She was a gloriously eclectic, whip-smart, charismatic, and vibrant friend since the time my family moved in next to hers when I was around 4. She was almost 7 at the time, and she told my mom she was disappointed it was us as she had been told a nice Chinese family was moving in instead. We had all sorts of growing-up adventures, playing street hockey, raising kittens and trapping scorpions on the hillside, racing down the street on skateboards (me, very badly), going to the beach to body-board or just to be seen, stealing squashes out of a neighbor’s yard, learning the finer points of adolescent flirting, going to college parties while I was still in high school, visiting each other in our respective cities as we both moved around during college and post-college. We shut down karaoke bars in Hollywood, and ate cheap Mexican food in the middle of the night in a variety of locales. After my dad passed away several years ago, she was one of the only people to visit my mom and I after his memorial service, bringing a bag of carefully selected snacks and an orchid (that we inevitably killed due to lack of water shortly near after). I took for granted that she would always be there, loud, talkative, slyly challenging people with her wit. She was not perfect in my memory or in hers, and she seemed to constantly worry that she was living her life in an inherently flawed way, struggling with a history of severe mental health issues and the sudden loss of both of her parents in the last couple of years. And, so she ended her own life.

I am so sad that she is gone. And, I feel so privileged to have known her.

It would now be easy to frame this in terms of a wedding for the sake of blog coherency, new beginnings and endings all becoming very transparent in the process of creating a new, little family. But, I don’t want to diminish my friend, her experiences, or the loss. So, simply, I am a bit sad, but I will be okay. And, though she is gone, I know that she will be okay in the end. And, the rest will continue to move-on, arrangements for weddings and memorial services, plans, lives, families, losses, loves, and deaths. Friendship moves and changes people in such unexpected ways. And, she changed me to be me, flaws and all. I will miss her dearly.

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The Bridal Expo Adventure: We Laughed, We Played Bridal Bingo, We Tasted Terrible Cake

Pastry, my mom, and I went to a massive Bridal Expo at the downtown convention center. And, it was gloriously fun for all the wrong reasons.

The first adventure in the bridal convention was purchasing and printing tickets. A venue we have been considering had a link for two-for-one tickets for the reasonable price of $12. So, I decided that would be a great option as Pastry AND my amazingly snarky mom could also attend for the festive people watching and cake tasting. I bought a duo of tickets planning to purchase one at the door and went to print them out. 100 pieces of paper later, I had, well, 100 different bridal expo tickets laying on the floor of my office. They all had different bar codes, so I freaked out in case I had accidently charged my debit account $600 in Bridal Expo tickets. But, nope, only a $12 charge on my card for a mere 100 tickets! Deal of the century!

“Bwhahahahaha…,” said the paper-eating printer, “I shall print Bridal Expo tickets till the END OF TIME.”

On our way there, my mom was sitting in the backseat of my car, imparting wedding advice. The snark runs deep in our family.

My mom on us planning a fairly non-traditional wedding and what would make both families uncomfortable: “You know, I think you should draw the line at animal sacrifice. I mean, if you sacrifice a chicken at the ceremony, you will lose a few people.”

My mom on reception activities: “Have you two considered those giant hamster balls for people? That would be fun!”

My mom on her possible wedding attire: “Maybe a giant quinceanera dress! Those are so great…” (She really does love them.)

Upon arriving at the expo with our 937 printed tickets, the attendant checking people in handed us nametags, your choices being “guest,” “bride,” or “groom,” mixing ours up so I ended up with the groom tag. Previous to our arrival, Pastry and I put together basically a list of Bridal Bingo, things we were expecting to see at the show. Points were awarded for the following categories:

  • Wearing a veil with regular clothing
  • Wearing a tiara with regular clothing
  • Wearing a veil AND a tiara
  • Rhinestone shirt with reference to bride in any way
  • Reference to “her special day”
  • Reference to “fairytale” or “happily ever after”
  • Crying in public
  • Debates over color names, g. white, ecru, cream, champagne, etc.
  • Coordinated bridal party outfits
  • Coordinated bride and groom outfits

Bingo2

The Bridal Expo Bingo card for your enjoyment.

Perhaps my favorite siting of all of the above, was this classy groom along with his fiancé, perusing a floral booth. I stalked him down for this picture, slightly terrified he would figure out what I was doing and go all Sons of Anarchy on me.

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You can almost feel the romance waft off of him…

Otherwise, it was a very full convention center full of an exceedingly diverse group of people. The gender split was not as female-heavy as I thought it would be, and the grooms in attendance seemed happily amused participants. We did see one groom in a pure white three-piece suit with a bright blue tie and matching blue shoes. He definitely won most overdressed. There were giant parties of bridesmaids in customized matching shirts and a pair of exceptionally preppy couples wearing matching orange outfits. I fell in love with a crazy expensive bouquet of succulents, pheasant feathers, sunflowers, herbs, and other weird things. Pastry and I kept remarking that a bunch of the couples looked like they were 12.

We went to pretty much every photo booth option possible, and tasted enough cake to henceforth decide NO CAKE at our wedding as we are serious about wedding pie. A drunken DJ who smelled so strongly of rum I thought I would get drunk standing next to him, enthusiastically introduced us to all his vendor friends throughout the fair. Another high point was an outlet mall weirdly promoting themselves with half-naked men in suspenders with a bunch of semi-horrified ladies milling about them. So, Pastry stepped right up, introduced himself, and took an amazing picture with the stripper-esque men to the vast amusement of the entire crowd.

And, then we found my mom some brightly colored quinceanera dresses in the wedding dress section, and it made her day.

We had crossed most of our items off the list by the time we left (after searching for an exit for 20 minutes) except the “crying” item. Lo, on our way back to the car, we happened upon a girl walking down the street crying with her boyfriend. She didn’t have a veil on, but I maintained it counted.

Bingo!

The next morning my mom emailed me a link to a coupon for a discounted human-sized Hamster Ball Experience with the note, “Don’t say I didn’t help with creative wedding ideas.”

“WE ARE GATHERED HERE TODAY….ROLL, PASTRY, ROLL!”

The Weighted Decision Matrix of Romance

I am a Vulcan of love. Rational, logical, analytical, melding my mind with my Pastry on our mutual adoration of air hockey, pie, and adventures. I am by trade a researcher, educator, and artist. In Pastry’s phone contacts I am still listed as “Cucumber The Singer/Researcher” from our first date (a glorious evening of sushi, people watching at Walmart, and playing Battleship at Ihop over hot chocolate). So, I research stuff, and by stuff, I mean everything. And, I love me a good criteria, rigorous study, and analysis. This process, probably to the chagrin of my more emotionally driven love, is how I have approached my equal part in planning our wedding.

At least 800 thread count, please.

First, reconnaissance.

Reconnaissance is generally defined as a preliminary surveying to gather information or a strategic, military observation to ascertain strategic features. Within my own field, reconnaissance is a preparatory stage, an initial phase in which an exploratory stance is adopted, the understanding of the problem is developed, and plans are made for an interventionary strategy. So, wedding coordinators beware, I AM ON A MISSION. A MISSION OF LOVE AND EVENT COORDINATION, possibly with a signature bourbon cocktail and a small zoo animal encounter during the reception.

I think I have perhaps slightly terrified Pastry in my martial scouting of possible wedding venues. Meanwhile, The Wedding Industry Machine has instilled in me a great fear of not being able to find a venue, afford a venue, book beyond the select caterer, plan the nuptial date, coordinate ALL THE THINGS, incorporate whatever deranged rustic rodeo clown in Paris theme we desire, GET EXACTLY WHAT WE WANT, DO IT NOW, NOW NOW OR YOU WILL LOSE OUT FOREVER ON THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE, FEAR FEAR FEAR FEAR. (Pant, pant, pant.)

“Ugh” followed by a “This post doesn’t seem to be very aware of the cost of health care and education these days…”

In actuality, Pastry and I have discussed how though a wedding is a kickass way to celebrate our official union with our nearest and dearest, it is likely not going to be the Most Important Day of Our Lives. And, how our lives together will be composed of important days of various weights, graduating with a terminal degree, getting a promotion, having/adopting children, falling more in love, battling in future air hockey championships, playing Battleship and pie on our anniversary years and years down the road. The wedding is an important day, but it’s just a day. My sincerest hope is that it is just another great day in our lifetimes of many good and great days.

But, back to the assault upon finding a venue as the first wedding-related task. I coordinate very large events (1,000+) quite frequently for my actual job so I do know the importance of a solid timeline. As much fear-mongering all wedding planning guides instill in the average reader, there is some bizarre truth to it all as this shit needs to get done a year in advance. Which is ridiculous, but there you go. So, we’ve been gathering reconnaissance on venues, non-traditional, farms, zoos, gardens, parks, all-inclusive, historic buildings, cultural centers, goat farms, whatever place that might let us gallivant in our best finery and then drink in semi-public with our families. I made an Excel spreadsheet to track it all. I haven’t color coded it yet, but it is really just a matter of time. And, thus, this weekend we are off to start the whole looking at expensive places to hold this shindig.

Excellent showing, madam or sir, excellent showing.

Second, a weighted decision matrix. (Also sometimes referred to as a grid analysis, Pugh Matrix Analysis, or Multi-Attribute Utility Theory.)

My mom taught me some very important things in my life; How to stand up to injustice, how to endeavor to be fair, how being a strong woman is a wonderful thing to be. She also taught me how to put together awesome Powerpoint presentations (circa 4th grade when I made my astounding marking presentation debut with the innovative, “patent-pending” Sponge Coat, a rain jacket made of sponges) as well as the utter glory that is the weighted decision matrix (which I still currently utilize in my everyday practice). Essentially, you use this handy ol’ tool when you need to make one choice based on a multitude of criteria as well as account for the importance of the criteria by reducing everything down to a numerical weight. I am a nerd and I love this shit. #noapologies

Pastry is on board with my analytical framework as he is just as much of a data nerd. In my Vulcan logic-is-king manner, I was listing out possible criteria, location, catering/booze, flexibility, parking, insurance provision, cost, as well as the associated importance. Pastry kindly asked that we include an “x-factor” to my very tangible list of criteria, so that we could account for what just pulled at our heartstrings the most, the place that we just knew in our hearts was the place, what moved us the most. This. This is why he is my partner and makes me a better person. So, I gave our x-factor the highest numerical weight.  Because even sometimes Vulcans can fall in love with humans.

Bonus Spock .GIF as recommended by Pastry: