If It's Broken, Fix It

On the long list of financial priorities, furniture has never been at the top for me. When I moved to San Francisco, I sold most my furniture just to afford the Uhaul trailer I needed for my personal items. The furniture we brought into our apartment was a hodge-podge of items Zac and our first roommate/good friend Ted had acquired over the years, both first and second hand. And that is the furniture that still remains, with only a few additions, six+ years later.

For the most part that has been fine. Our futon, though reminiscent of a college dormitory, functions well for our frequent overnight guests. And although we've made it past the mythical five-year mark for SF, our living situation has always felt a little impermanent (we've been talking about moving for four years at least). I regularly fantasize about selling everything we own and living a vagabond lifestyle, working on organic farms across the UK. Furniture in a weird way to me feels as permanent as a mortgage, though I know people buy and sell pieces all the time.
That said, I'm reaching a point in adulthood where I want everything in my home to feel comfortable, and I want it to feel comfortable now. Living with a broken dresser and having to scrounge socks and underwear from a cardboard box underneath my bed is not comfortable. Using folding chairs at our dining room table is not comfortable. This is what I'm talking about.
At the same time, I can't really afford the furniture I want, which is made in the USA from reclaimed materials with beautiful dove-tail jointing (hello Wooden Duck!). So if I can't have the furniture I really want, should I spend money on any furniture at all? And anyway, aren't we still planning to move?
This is the daily dilemma. For now, cardboard boxes it is.


Regular Life

This weekend was really about getting back into regular life. Since we came back to Sonoma, we've struggled with getting into our normal routine of meal planning, gym-going, and other miscellaneous to-dos. I think I ate out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or more) every day this last week. I really, really can't keep doing that, no matter how good our favorite places are, like Wise Sons above. But sometimes it feels like we don't have anything else we enjoy doing in the city besides going out to restaurants, which is partly true.

Another thing we need to do: get back to the gym. We had been going about twice a week steadily before the wedding. I see the money taken out of my account for this every month, so we really need to use it or lose it. I vote for use it, but it is just so hard to get to the gym after work/before dinner during the week. And I've been unsuccessful at convincing Zac we need to start going in the morning. How to fit it all in? I know some people say that you have to "make time" to workout...but those people are jerks. :)


Photo Walks

Zac and I got out of our cave today and went for a little urban hike in Glen Park Canyon. The purpose of it was three-fold: exercise/sunshine, mushroom hunting, and photography practicing. Zac is turning into a budding mycologist and I've made a point to get better at digital photography. I've loved taking photos since I was in junior high, but I don't actually know squat about photography and have been a slave to the automatic setting all these years. I asked Zac to take me on a  photo walk and teach me all he knew about his digital camera, which is a Panasonic DMC-LXS. I'd like to eventually upgrade to a DSLR, but for now I think I'll teach myself as much as I can on this one. If it means more weekend hikes in the sunshine with my buddy, then so be it.


Zero Waste Life Must Haves

Zero Waste Life Must Haves

Olive wood bowl, $150 / Sur La Table kitchen gadgets tool / Natural Spice Bags / Glass storage jar, $7.53 / J Crew crochet purse / Zojirushi SM-JHE36XA 12-oz Stainless Steel Mug / Ball Collector's Jar (1 Gallon) / Crate & Barrel Set of 5 Produce Bags / Large Spork

Lazy day, lazy weekend. I'm trying to get focused again on creating zero-waste habits, so I put together theses items which I consider some of the essentials: reusable shopping totes, glass storage jars, travel mug, travel utensils, bulk produce/grocery bags, stainless steel stars, and a nice wooden bowl, because salads are always nicer in wooden bowls. Of course, being zero waste isn't about running out and buying a bunch of new things, but without the basics, it becomes a lot harder to commit to the lifestyle on a daily basis. 


Our Wedding Ceremony

Our wedding ceremony was rather short and informal, but we tried to personalize it as much as possible. We opted for a traditional statement of intent/vows and added a short passage regarding "faith" that Zac took from a Unitarian ceremony, so it was not overtly religious (which is good, because we are not religious at all). Yet, we both felt our ceremony needed something that made it feel more...important, rather than just some civil contract between two people.

We also wanted to include a literary reading as a nod to how we met and because literature is very important to both of us. If you search for "literary reading for a wedding" or "cool reading for a wedding" you will happen upon many instances of the same results, quite possibly from texts you have never heard of. Nothing I found really spoke to me and I didn't want to use something just because it was the first search result under "literary reading for a wedding" so I did a bit more searching by focusing on authors I love.  I finally found the perfect passage from an essay written by Henry David Thoreau called "Love". When I sent it to Zac he immediately agreed it was the perfect fit and even if none of our guests could hear it that day, I'm really proud to have had it read at our wedding.

I thought I'd go ahead and post our wedding ceremony in its entirety since I found it helpful to read others when we were putting the pieces together. Here it is:

(can you spot my brother photobombing us in the image above?)

Welcome to all of you, family and friends, who are gathered here to celebrate the love and marriage of T and Z.
Before we begin, T and Z would like to take a moment to honor their loved ones who are no longer with us here in the physical world: Z’s grandfathers Samuel and Vernon; T’s grandmother Shirley and her grandfathers Henry and Robert. Their presence is greatly missed. T and Z would have been proud to share this day with them.
They would also like to thank all of you who have taken time to be here with them today, as well as their family and friends who send their love from afar. You are the roots that will feed the creation of a new family.
This is an occasion both solemn as we reflect on the seriousness of their decision and festive as we share their joy and love.
Marriage is an ancient rite and binds these two in ways that will take a lifetime to comprehend. Today is the start of a journey that will take you to unforeseen places and transform you in unexpected and wonderful ways.
Today you confirm your common values and hopes. Remember, then, that your decision this day is your act of faith in one another. Your faith must not be a vain hope in what the other will do or will not do, might become or not become. Yours must be that deeper faith that you each will be acceptable in the other's eyes despite the changes of the years and the assaults of the world. Such faith requires that you honor yourself as well as attend to the needs of the other. Such faith requires that you learn to listen before you speak. Such faith requires that you each be open to that divine spark within you, and be willing to be guided by the grace of its light. Your pledge to one another is a devotion in freedom, and not a license to control. Your covenant will endure the trials of time only as you keep to that sacred integrity. Finally, do not forget that a generous sense of humour and mirth is a great redeemer in times of trial and strain. It may keep you whole when all else seems lost.
Reading: Excerpt from the essay “Love” by Henry David Thoreau
What a difference, whether, in all your walks, you meet only strangers, or in one house is one who knows you, and whom you know. To have a brother or a sister! To have a gold mine on your farm! To find diamonds in the gravel heaps before your door! How rare these things are! To share the day with you--to people the earth. Whether to have a god or a goddess for companion in your walks, or to walk alone with hinds and villains and carles. Would not a friend enhance the beauty of the landscape as much as a deer or hare? Everything would acknowledge and serve such a relation; the corn in the field, and the cranberries in the meadow. The flowers would bloom, and the birds sing, with a new impulse. There would be more fair days in the year.
The object of love expands and grows before us to eternity, until it includes all that is lovely, and we become all that can love.
No words that I say marry you. It is the promises that you make to each other, the words you speak every day and the actions you take together that create your marriage and your family.
Please face each other and join hands as you make these promises to each other.
Do you T, take Z to be your husband? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live?
Do you Z, take T to be your wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live?
May I have the rings, please? Rings are an ancient and enduring symbol of the promises you make here today. May these rings always remind you of your loving commitment.

As you place the ring or his/her finger, repeat after me:

‘I give you this ring, in token and pledge, of my constant faith, and abiding love. With this ring I marry you.’

Now you have united yourselves in marriage, by joining hands, exchanging your promises of faithful love and by giving rings to symbolize your vows before this gathering. By the virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife.


Wedding Budget

A little recap to discuss the evolution of our wedding budget: The first day we were engaged, we asked the question, "What do we feel comfortable spending?" and came to an agreement at $2,000.

Let's take a moment to laugh here, just a little.

When we actually started looking into costs, that number ballooned to $5,000, which was still $3,000 more than we wanted to spend, but we were at least no longer in denial. As the weeks went by it became very clear why $10,000 is considered a "budget" wedding.

Now, I will say at this point that it's totally possible to get married for $2,000 (or less!). Elopement is an option and despite what the Internet will try to tell you, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy dress and photographer to do it. I didn't really want to fully elope, though. I wanted to celebrate with family so I had to accept that celebrations cost money. If you're thinking of getting married and are adverse to spending thousands of dollars, my advice to you is to not tell anyone you're getting married until you've committed to eloping (and I just mean "eloping" in the sense of going to the courthouse/city hall and not hosting a party). Once you start telling people, they will go CRAZY and it will be hard to beat them back (I'm talking from experience here).

Our total wedding expenses: $8,848

In all honesty, that is not the total amount we spent, because we did spend some money on a few extraneous items that were not required for the wedding, but were things we really wanted anyway. There were also sudden expenses the week of the weeding (dinners and drinks, Uber trips, etc) that I didn't add up. I would say to just expect that you will be spending a few hundred dollars the week of your wedding on things you didn't plan for.

How $8,848 breaks down:

Attire: $1,008 (for both of us, including clothes, undergarments and shoes)

I went through a lot of dresses from places like Nordstrom and JCrew (who have great sales and return policies) before settling on a dress from David's Bridal. I spent a little bit more on the dress than I wanted, but ended up spending only $17 on my shoes. We bought Zac's suit from Nordstrom during their men's half-yearly sale and had it tailored through them as well, which only cost about $30. The total for attire is still a little higher than I really wanted, but I think we looked good/felt good and I plan on selling my bridal jewelry and  dress to make back some of those funds. Plus, Zac now has a great suit/shoes to wear at other occasions, like our friends wedding in May.

Brunch: $383

My parents originally wanted to host a morning-after brunch at the house they were renting, but the landlord told them "no way" about a week before the wedding. I had already invited friends for the event so I didn't want to cancel, but it was clear the only option we had was to host at our house. We made the decision to go ahead and have it catered by a local grocery store (Bi-Rite Market) who dropped off food that morning. It was the right decision, ultimately, as we were both slightly hung over and trying to wake up and make food would've been way too much. While I'm glad we had the brunch, I wished we had planned for a day-after evening BBQ or something as I really wasn't feeling 100% that morning. Lesson learned.

Ceremony: $1,336

This was the largest unexpected cost compared to when we first started planning. If you want to get married at SF City Hall, the cost is around $75 for a five-minute ceremony in the rotunda...but you can only have six guests. So around Christmastime, when it became very clear that we weren't going to be able to say "no" to some of our family, and we had far exceeded the limit for the rotunda, we made the executive decision to plop down cash for the 4th floor North Gallery. The cost above represents the space/time rental (we got an hour), the rental of 26 chairs, and our officiant. It was nice to have a reserved space, but it was still very loud since it is open to the rest of City Hall and we only ended up hanging out there for about 30 minutes.

Décor: $136 (including flowers/bouquet)

I bought a few decorations but spent most of this on my flowers. Again, I used Bi-Rite Market and met with the florist there. She told me she would make me a bouquet for any amount I wanted to spend, so I told her I wanted $50 for a bouquet and $50 for all the other flowers I needed for the table arrangements. I really left it up to her what flowers to use, and while I could've gone a million different ways, I really didn't want to overthink it. It worked out perfectly and I would highly recommend going this route if you live in the area. (I hand wrote the table numbers on some cardstock I already had, then wrapped wire around them and stuck them in the flowers. Took me about 10 minutes to finish the day before the wedding. Using what you already have = win.)

Invitations: $75

I designed our invitations at home with InDesign, bought some supplies at Paper Source and printed everything myself. My big splurge was on Rifle Paper Co. specialty paper  which I used to line the envelopes and then for several other wedding items. I used floral postcards I got with store credit from a local bookstore as RSVPs. I only needed about 20 invitations total, so that really kept the cost down. I also didn't make them very elaborate -- one invitation (plus RSVP) in one envelope. I used the leftover paper to make our wedding programs and I still have leftover supplies that I can use for other projects. I also used Paperless Post for the few Save the Date and brunch invites that I sent, which worked out just fine.

Reception dinner: $5,600

This is obviously the biggest chunk of our costs and we did that consciously. Having good food was our number one priority for our wedding, above attire or anything else. We knew we wanted a reception dinner where we wouldn't have to decorate anything, take out trash or do any dishes, so using a private room in a restaurant was our best bet. I used the site http://sfpdv.com/ to do a lot of comparison between restaurants. We narrowed down our choices and even had a couple meals to test out different restaurants (good thing too, because we ended up eliminating a really crappy place). In the end we went with Absinthe because the minimum costs were reasonable, we knew the food was good and it was within walking distance to City Hall. It was absolutely the right decision and I would recommend it to anyone. The dinner cost more than I expected only because people drank more than expected (and even managed to weasel liquor out of the bartenders when we asked for a wine/beer only service -- ok, I can't lie, this was started by my husband) but it was worth every penny.

Rings: $310

We bought all three rings (2 for me, one for Zac) from jewelers on Etsy who work with recycled materials. A lot of people don't include the cost of rings, but I feel like it should be here because it's money you spend around the same time as everything else, so it adds up. Zac gave me a generous budget for my engagement ring, but I decided to stick with two more reasonably priced rings because 1) I don't value jewelry that much and 2) if I lose these rings, it will be sad, but not horrific. I love my rings, so no regrets here, and even Zac is wearing his regularly when he wasn't sure he would want to.
Tula Jewlery


The Wedding

A week has gone by and it feels like the time to finally write about my wedding day. It was a wedding week, really, if you consider all of the out-of-town guests we had in the days before and after the actual event. It was amazing and stressful. It exceeded our expectations, was one of the best days of our lives, and we both agree we would never do it again. But it was so worth it. But never again. OK, let's just talk details first:

  • WHEN: March 28th, 2014
  • WHERE: City Hall, San Francisco, 4th Floor North Gallery
  • RECEPTION: Absinthe restaurant
  • BRIDAL PARTY: 1 honorary Maid of Honor
  • ATTENDEES: 26 for the ceremony & dinner
  • TOTAL COST: Under $10,000 for wedding ceremony, reception dinner and morning-after brunch (full breakdown coming later)

The morning of our wedding I woke up around 6 a.m. and couldn't fall back asleep, so I ended up crouching in the closet polishing Zac's shoes, trying not to wake him. We decided to spend the night before, and after, together at the house since we had several friends staying with us and we wanted to be close to everyone. It wasn't traditional, but it felt very romantic waking up together knowing we would be getting married later that day.

I spent the hours before the wedding running around in a somewhat stressful fashion. My mom, grandma, niece, BF/MOH and I all had hair appointments at DryBar in downtown SF. They specialize in blow outs, so for $40 a piece we had had our hair done which was awesome considering some of the "bridal up-do" costs I saw in my planning. My friend and I had tossed around the idea of doing our hair ourselves, because all I wanted was a curly down-do, but I'm really glad that we went and had it done instead. It was a really fun outing and a special memory. Too bad my poor niece had food poisoning all through the previous night! She and my grandma, who were sharing a room, were super tired, but they were troopers anyway.

After finishing our hair, my MOH and I went The Balm on Valencia street to get our makeup done. It was free (with suggested purchase of products) so I bought a few things for the both of us. The women that work at The Balm are AWESOME and have made a committed customer out of me. Our makeup looked fantastic and lasted all night. I still can't believe the service was free!

Finally it was time to head back to the house and get dressed. Zac and I had our "first look" in the hallway and immediately the tears were flowing. There was some scrambling with the boutonniere and bouquet at the last moment, but we were still able to get ready and get out of the house on time to make it to City Hall by 2:45.

I met my dad in the lobby of City Hall and had my MOH go upstairs and make sure everyone was there. With only 26 people attending, I really didn't want to start without having everyone seated. Finally she gave me the "all good" sign and it was time to begin.


I walked in with my dad and immediately realized how LOUD City Hall was. Our ceremony was very short and our officiant was a bit soft spoken and I felt like I could hear all the laughing and talking echoing off the walls. I could hear our ceremony just fine, but I'm pretty sure our guests couldn't (though no one has had the guts to tell me yet). Within 10 minutes we had exchanged rings, said our vows and were pronounced Husband and Wife. A lot of people say that the ceremony is the most special moment for them, but I have to be honest and say I felt really uncomfortable for 10 minutes and was glad it was over quickly. Zac and I worked on our ceremony and tried to make it personal, but neither of us wanted anything over-the-top. We only had one reading and used traditional vows because I often think personal vows can be too sentimental and cheesy. Our ceremony was important to us, but I also think it's kind of a performance. At the end of the day, you can say anything you want when you get married, but it's the actions you take and words you speak every day the rest of your life that really define your marriage (in fact, that statement was part of our ceremony as well).

Once the ceremony was complete, we had another hour to kill before we could head to the restaurant. We took photos with our friend/photographer, then ended up at Absinthe right on the dot for our 4:30 drinks/appetizers reception.

I just want to take a minute to say that I had thoroughly prepared myself for something to be awful with the restaurant. People always say, "Things will go wrong, but it will be OK." I never knew what people meant by that, but I always assumed it would mean that the one most important thing to us (ie, good food) would turn out to be crap. I was blown away by how that was NOT the case. The space was perfect for our intimate gathering. We had our own bar and own bathroom so it felt like having a private restaurant. The food was AMAZING. We're still hearing comments from guests about how great dinner was. The service was also impeccable. When one of the bartenders saw my niece was sitting at her table not feeling well, she made a special drink of bitters to help calm her stomach. They did anything we asked (turned down the music, turned up the music, held the dessert) with complete graciousness. I am 200% pleased with the service we got and it was exactly what we wanted. We didn't want a reception with dancing or strange garter tossing traditions. We just wanted a good meal with our family and we got that.

Not to mention, people got along and had a great time! When you lay out seating arrangements for two families and a motley crew of friends, it starts to get a little iffy looking, like, "What are these people going to talk about? Is this going to be a complete disaster?" But never underestimate the power of alcohol and a common bond (the bride and groom). People also felt comfortable enough to get up and move around which I worried about since we had a sit-down dinner. There was laughter, speeches, and did I mention really, really awesome food? And it was all over by 8:30 p.m.!! We were in bed by 11 p.m.!! On our wedding night! It was fucking amazing -- everything two introverted, early-eaters could ever hope for.

We did try for an "after party" at our favorite bar in our neighborhood and while a good group of people came out for it, Zac and I were both already feeling like zombies by 10 p.m. and frankly, that's OK. We ended up having to host brunch the next morning at our house (more on that in a later post).

So yes, insert every wedding cliché you've ever heard HERE. It was magical. I was memorable. It was totally worth it for that incredible experience of seeing all the different people in our world collide and have a good time, even if for just one day. But we're honestly glad it's over with because it was really, really stressful (and expensive) at the same time, despite our best efforts to stay stress-free. So to answer the question, would we do it all over again? Well, we don't plan on it. :)