Cleanse This: Wedding Preparations Gone Mad

il_570xN.326980696In three days, Professor McGregor and I are getting married.


There are a lot of moving parts involved in such a happening. So far this week, I’ve spray painted four dozen wooden snowflakes, made our seating chart, remade our seating chart when it turns out we had the wrong kind of tables, cut out a million tiny triangles for bunting, and seriously considered showing up in pajamas for the ceremony, so that I didn’t have to get my dress steamed.

Just to make sure I’m not forgetting anything important, I took to the internet. “Google,” I asked the great god of aimless questions, “What should I be doing the week before my wedding?” It turns out, the answer is: a lot of shit. There are checklists to be checked and eighty people to contact. There are, also, a lot of widely suggested things that I think are ridiculous.

  1. Getting a Facial – Take away my womanhood card, if you must, but I am not going to have my face tortured by some sadistic stranger wielding an extractor, just to have “a bridal glow.” They make make-up precisely so I don’t have to naturally exude a glow. This isn’t Twilight, I don’t need to sparkle!
  2. Starting an Exfoliation Routine – In order to walk down the aisle, my whole body is apparently supposed to be as smooth as a baby’s bottom. And yet I currently have no plans to remove the top layer of my skin, in order to achieve that. Lotion will have to do.
  3. Scheduling a Bikini Wax – Everyone on the internet is in agreement with this one thing: In order to have a good wedding night, you can’t have any extra hair down there. It’s just not womanly! Except, oh wait, it’s the natural state of a woman’s body. Pardon me, if I don’t immediately have it all yanked out with hot wax.
  4. Avoiding Excessive Caffeine – If someone tells you she’s sleeping normally the week before her wedding, do not believe her. If coffee didn’t exist, I would have had a mental breakdown right now. I give zero fucks if it makes me retain water, there will be caffeine.
  5. Getting a Spray Tan – It’s the middle of winter, why exactly must we pretend that I’m a naturally a toasted almond color? Pale blonde girl has always been a good look for me. I shall not trade it in for skin the color of carrots! 
  6. A Juice Cleanse – Go through the hell that has been this week without real food? Ha! Someone go get me a cheeseburger.
  7. A Colon Cleanse – Nope. Just nope. Google, I think it’s time you saw a psychiatrist, in order to deal with all these delusions you’re having.

– Grace

The Sewist Bride Buys a Wedding Dress

Two months.

Two months! In precisely sixty days, Professor McGregor and I are going to trot down the aisle and tie the proverbial knot. Woohoo! As you know, I’ve been a rather casual bride. We’re having a simple wedding: Sunday brunch, lovely low key little venue, lots of balloons and flowers and bunting. Thanks to a close held hatred of rigmarole, I’ve officially cut out a lot of the typical American wedding shenanigans. There will be no DJ or releasing of the doves or—just kill me now—garter toss. We can all agree that the marriage is the important thing, not having a gigantic sparkly princess day of wonder. That’s never been my dream.

Except, of course, for The Dress. The very small list of important Grace concerns in planning this shindig were, in order: Professor McGregor, the dress, cake. Since the dear professor is consistently the most lovely man alive and the (three) cakes are being made—fondant free!—by my longtime favorite bakery, the dress absorbed my worries. So, so many worries.

As an advanced sewist, there was one question to be answered. Will I make the dress myself? 

It’s a completely legit consideration, especially in this day and age. Not only are modern dresses hilariously over priced but they are, as I’ve recounted here before, remarkably homogeneous. If you want a strapless A-line white dress, no problem! The shops have rows and rows of neatly hung poofy confections for strap-haters. However, when you start swaying away from the herd? Fat chance. The section with sleeves is minuscule, colors other than white are unheard of, and no one who’s anyone gets married in a short dress.

For sewists, this is enraging. One trip to the bridal shoppe—they can never just be a simple shop, kittens—is enough to start even the most sainted bride plotting the doom of Badgley, Vera, and that hawker of polyester swill, David himself. Sewists are used to taking matters in their own hands. If a pattern doesn’t have sleeves, add them. If you hate the feel of flammable, melt-prone fabrics against your skin, don’t use them. Sartorial beliefs, we have them in spades! All it took was a couple of post-engagement internet browsing sessions for me to know the usual bridal shop was not my destiny.

So, I compiled a list. What was my dream dress, exactly? If I couldn’t find it, sewing was a viable option, so I could afford to be mindbogglingly specific. Thanks to vintage fashion catalogs, a vision quickly coalesced.

Note: Professor McGregor, if you’re reading this, stop right now! Your superstitious side demands it. 

Grace’s Dream Dress: A Bulleted List

  • Bottom-of-knee length
  • Lace bodice
  • Sleeves, preferably 3/4
  • Button back. Not a zipper with buttons over it, either. Silk-covered buttons with working loops or death!
  • Color featured somehow
  • Layered circle skirt for a 1950s silhouette
  • Natural materials, preferably silks
  • Lower neckline

Surprise! This dress doesn’t exist at David’s Bridal. Initially, I considered going with one of the oft-pinned, retro dresses of Dolly Couture, but I had serious doubts about their quality. Reviews were spotty, their standard offerings are all polyester, and no design perfectly fit my vision. Sewing was looking like my best option. And yet…

Y’all, I’m going to be straight up here. I didn’t want to sew my own wedding dress. Down that path lived stress and obsessively washing my hands while sewing and time-consuming muslin fittings. People kept asking me if I had a “clean room” to store it in, while I sewed. Fuck that. I can barely keep myself clean, much less my sewing room. Someday, I would love to make a complete couture gown for myself, but that day will come when there are no dissertations to finish or moves to make. So, I started finding vintage patterns, but dreading what my autumn would be like.

Enter Pinterest. On one of my random wedding dress pictures binges, I typed in the words “short British wedding dress.” The lovely designers across the pond are much more open to retro designs and lengths other than floor. I’d stumbled across a handful of designers with gorgeous not-quite-right-but-almost gowns.

Then I found her. Joanne Fleming, an up-and-coming wedding dress designer out of Brighton. She is famous for her craftsmanship, use of luxury French fabrics, and gorgeous twists on classic designs. If I wanted a bias-cut column gown, she had twenty amazing options. If I wanted a colored lacy confections, there were samples aplenty. And if I wanted a button-back, lace and organza, knee-length fifties confection with sleeves and a low neckline? Oh, that’s called the Annie dress.

Mine, custom made to my measurements and specifications, is shipping out next week. Next week! Yes, I have been ridiculously squealing “Wedding Dress!” at odd times, since getting this news. Professor McGregor is temporarily deaf from all the high pitched squees.

The only alterations I made were to add a blush pink back-bow sash and coordinating pink silk petticoat binding. It is lovely, it is wonderful, and I’m not slaving away in my sewing room, cursing the day lace was invented. Joy! 

What do you think, friends? Would you sew your own wedding dress or go with an indie designer/seamstress? I’d love to hear about what you chose for your own. Sure, it’s just a dress, but it’s probably the only one we’ll be asked about for the rest of our lives. It’s also worth noting that one of my favorite bloggers, Mel from Poppykettle, is much braver than I and taking the plunge on making her own. It’s sure to be a gorgeous, fascinating process.

– Grace

Note: Here’s a link to my favorite real bride shoot, featuring an Annie dress. Lovely, no?

The Apathetic Bride Weeps Over Mini-Quiche

001Last week, I had a meltdown. One minute I was calmly sitting in my office chair, returning e-mails, then the next I was sobbing like a fourteen year-old Taylor Swift fan—loudly, accompanied by flails.

This crying jag was, of course, brought on by pancakes. It’s totally normal to have a prolonged breakdown over fluffy breakfast foods, right? RIGHT? Fine, I concede. It was crazy and I lost my damned mind. There is only one thing to blame: the wedding.

My impending nuptials to Professor McGregor are making me have heart palpitations. It’s not that I’m worried about things going well, or stressed over what sort of quiche to serve, it’s that I don’t want to think about any of it. These aren’t Bridezilla moments, these are apathetic bridal nightmares. Sending the catering costs to my father made my want to jump off a tall bridge. Reading the word “tablescape,” as if it is a real, important thing to be concerned over—like the Sudan or whether or not to cut my own bangs—has me reaching for the hemlock. I want to get married, not plan an event.

And yet…apart from chucking the whole thing and eloping to Vegas, there’s no way to avoid it. People want to know what your colors are and how it’s all going and whether or not they can bring a plus one. Everyone wants to talk about our wedding, but it’s the last thing I want to dwell on. Because if I were honest with people, they’d be horrified. My bridal concerns, the things that keep me up at night and create untold numbers of tears, make me sound like an evil, ungrateful scalawag.

Naturally, I’m going to share them with you.

Wedding Things That Make Grace Cry: A List

  1. People RSVP-ing Yes –  Too many people love us. Throwing a wedding, and all that entails, has turned me into a person who actively wishes for people to dislike her. The more people who RSVP yes to this shindig, the more money we spend and the more people will be there to watch it go down. When we were initially drafting a guest list, I was super smug about my methodology, having a list of invitees and a running total of likely yeses. People, it turns out, are totally unpredictable. Maiden aunts we’d never considered attending have already bought plane tickets. Family friends are changing vacation plans around our wedding day. People are saying yes and are so excited about participating, but all I feel is nauseated, then guilty about feeling nauseated. If I post a bigoted political rant on Facebook, will my college friends bail out, at least?
  2. Having Events About Us – Part of getting married is being a rare and sparkling jewel. As a bride, you get not only a day of marriage, but wedding showers and bachelorette parties and lots of people wanting to hear about your plans. This makes me super uncomfortable. Professor McGregor and I fell in love and decided to spend our lives together, we didn’t cure cancer or hike across Antarctica in swimsuits. I didn’t do anything to deserve such attention! I wish there was a societal program, which allowed you to decide which major life events deserved epic parties. I’d choose first book deal and perfect macaron baking every time!
  3. The Cost of Mini-Quiche – Each mini-quiche produced costs $2. Apparently, those little egg pies are made not just of eggs and cheese,but gold passed through the digestive track of a rare Australian water ostrich. I never wanted to know this, darlings, but now I do. I also know the exact price of peppermint sticks, rented champagne flutes, and maple syrup. All of these numbers, swirling around my mind in a budgetary conga line, make me want to hurl. There is a reason I didn’t go into finance. Money stresses me out; spending vast quantities of it on one day stresses me out even more. As someone having a relatively modest & simple wedding, it boggles my mind what more mainstream brides must feel. Congress, won’t you do something about the inflation of mini-quiche?

If you need me, I’m just going to be over there in that corner, curled into a ball. Any wails you may hear are probably me, not actually a dying, rabid bat. I’m told this is totally normal behavior for a bride. When you’re planning The Happiest Day Of Your Life Ever, Including Major Career Milestones and Birth of Spawn, “happy” tears are natural.

– Grace

The Apathetic Bride Cheats at Cards

MailboxSurprise_GilElvgrenDarlings, I have seen the light. It is rubbery and comes in all the colors of the rainbow.

It’s also sold on Etsy, so get your mind out of the gutter. Last I checked, crafters weren’t hawking organic woodland creature vibrators yet. Though, if they were, I think we can all agree that one would be called “Foxxxy Lady,” because people can’t resist a good pun. What I’m actually here to buzz about today—It was too easy!—is something infinitely more pedestrian: a stamp.

People adore handing out wedding advice to newly engaged couples. Don’t tell them, but most of it is useless. So much about a wedding ends up being individual to the couple—by luck of venue choice, season of the year, or budget—and thus can’t really be prepared for with a handy one-liner from your neighbor’s mother. There is only one piece of advice that I’m planning to actively follow, as it came from my wise and reasonable friend, Girl on the Contrary. “Write thank-you notes as the gifts come, grasshopper” she said to me, over a giant plate of brisket.

That makes so much sense! The last thing I want to do is arrive back from our honeymoon, only to be faced by a mountain of 200 thank you notes waiting to be written. My hand hurts just thinking about it! So, I’m resolved to write them immediately upon receipt of gift.

Only…I’ve also already had to address Save The Dates, which was a giant pain, plus the invitation suites are looming. Is there no way to save myself from bridal carpal tunnel? Won’t someone think of my metacarpals!?

Someone did. Darlings, you can buy a self-inking return address stamp. Do you know how much writing that saves? On the invitation suites alone, you have to write “Professor McGregor & Grace O’Kelly, 100 Curmudgeon Lane, Not Austin, TX  666-66″ at least twice per invite. It’s the most tedious thing ever. So…buy a stamp. Seriously, if you do one thing I tell you to in your lifetime, make it the purchase of return address stamp.il_570xN.415978758_s0we

I bought the above one, from Rubber Stamp Press on Etsy, and I absolutely adore it. If Professor McGregor hadn’t asked me first, I’d probably marry this thing. It leaves a super clean imprint, legitimately looks hand written/fancy, and is so much fun to use. I stamped 10 sheets of paper, when it first arrived, just so I could use it. Even better, if you’re still in a name-changing quandary, this particular one doesn’t use last names. It can be used forever, even if you eventually decide to become Mrs. Ethel Frankenbaum-Woo. There are thousands of these available on Etsy, however, so the choices are endless. You can get one with penguins on it, symbolizing your shared love of arctic fowl, or one that looks elegantly minimalist.

If you want to spend as little time preparing for this wedding hoopla as possible, get a stamp. They are cheap and they are wonderful. I’ve named mine Archibald and swear to love him forever. That’s good practice for the actual wedding, right?

A Kick In The Cake Balls

cakeballsScrew the cake ball.

I’m sorry, that came off poorly. Screw the fucking cake ball. Darling readers, today I need to get something off my chest. Namely, the gross ganache covered bits of mushy cake mush that people keep trying to pass off as wedding cake.

These days, brides are doing all we can to be original. That makes a certain amount of sense. After all, you want your wedding to reflect the perfect, sparkly love that you and your darling darlingkins feel for each other’s naughty bits. Ergo, everything should be unique to you, including the cake! Why have plain, old wedding cake, when you can have something super cool like cake balls? Cake is for the olds. You and your darlingkins are young and hip and have a love like mushy cake mush. It is beautiful, non?


Kittens, regular cake is delicious. It comes in all sorts of flavors, is pretty to look at, delicious to eat, and covered in frosting. Why mess with a good thing? When people come to weddings, they expect wedding cake. It’s part of the fun! As a guest, I look forward to nothing so much as the end of the meal and subsequent cake unveiling. Will it be a lovely white cake covered in butter cream? Will the bride show her rebellious side and choose German chocolate? The possibilities are endlessly delicious! As long as it’s not covered in fondant sugary cardboard, the cake and I are compadres.

So, when people delete the cake altogether, my spleen starts a’twitching. It began with cupcakes, which at least retained the genre. They were smaller, but still had frosting! Acceptable. But then—then, kittens!—I attended a wedding with ice cream sundaes and another with fruit tarts. Raj and Griselda may have called them funnel cakes, but everyone knows that’s just another name for spidery donuts. The wedding cake, classic and delightful, is becoming an endangered species.

Cake balls are, in my book, the worst offenders. They dress themselves up as cake, with frosting and crumbling centers and dainty decorations, but they fail on every level. In order to get cake into a photogenic little ball, one must destroy it. The cake batter is made unnaturally gooey, so it can be properly scooped, then half-baked and covered in sugary cement. How does that sound appetizing? If I wanted crunchy mush balls, I’d eat a deep fried Twinkie. Cake was not meant to be scooped! It’s belittling to such a noble, respected pastry. Cake, my dear ground squirrels, should be cut—whether into slices or squares, I leave to you—but never, not ever, attacked with a spoon.

Further more, it should not be miniscule. Cake does not exist to be tiny and cute, but to bring comfort and diabetic comas. I don’t want a small ball of it on a decorative toothpick, instead of a sizable slice that requires a fork. Where are the people clamoring for less cake? Your bridesmaids did not don Spanx underneath those taffeta monstrosities, in order to eat small amounts of pastry goo. Only dessert communists would want to ration the joy.

I may not care about much, when it comes to my own wedding, but the people will have cake! More specifically, they will have cakes. We couldn’t make up our minds at the tasting—because cake is, as we’ve covered, delicious—so we’re having three. Wedding guests, I’d wear the stretchy pants, come December.

– Grace

This Extravaganza Needs More Exorcisms

IMG_5551I’ve seen Hell. It’s swathed in buttercream, wearing a tiara of evil. Call it not Beelzebub, dear ones, but its proper name: The Austin Bridal Extravaganza.

You think I’m exaggerating. It’s that word “extravaganza,” isn’t it? Nothing truly perilous ends in -aganza. Why, the sound alone suggests silk and tiny caviar hotdogs and all that is fancy! That’s what I thought, too. The setup was thus: a hundred of Austin’s most popular wedding vendors would be under one roof, handing out discounts and free samples. Free cake and less time spent Googling “Austin wedding gnomes?” Sign me up! Girl on the Contrary and I planned to eat delicious things, do some vendor reconnaissance, and cackle our way through the day. How harrowing could it be?

Two words: bridal dildo. You see, it’s not just florists and photographers who take stalls at bridal expositions. Any vendor ever-so-tangentially related to weddings has a booth. Festooned with blinking lights and polyester satin, they line the convention center. As you walk by, pamphlets and samples are thrust into your hands. Questions fire from vendors armed with wide, manic smiles.

Do you have a photographer!? Do you need super soft sheets for your marriage bed!? Do you want an angelic chorus of angelic angels singing you down the aisle angelically?

Would you like to touch my plague rat!?

Okay. That last one was wishful thinking. Instead it was: Would you like us to come into your home and sell dildos? For real. There was not one, but three companies there to hawk lube and not-for-that-digit rings. A “pleasure expert” would arrange to come into your home—ostensibly for a bachelorette party, but perhaps just because you want to know what color rabbit your sister-in-law owns—and sell sex toys. It’s like a Tupperware party, but with more vital cleaning instructions! Woohoo! Or, you know, not.

Attendees went wild for these booths. As they did the seven booths promising to make you beautiful for your big day, with just a little chemical peel. And the four booths promoting their bridal boot-camp exercise programs, because people can only love skinny brides. No one looked askance. Women with hot pink V.I.P. Bride stickers (in this case, Very Important denoting their ability to buy tickets online) cooed over tiny sausage skewers and his-and-hers personalized napkin rings.

That’s when it hit me. Brides will buy into anything. Whole posses of women, all wearing matching Candy/Brandy/Sandy’s Wedding EXTRAVAGANZAGASM t-shirts, roamed around assuring their very important friends that this was all normal. Of course, you need a lighting company to hang chandeliers from trees, darling! It’s not a bachelorette party, if you’re not saying “Pass me those anal beads, Nana.” Slap the word bridal on it and someone will think it adorable and necessary.

If I ever need another career, I’m choosing the wedding industry. Only, instead of a photographer or a pleasure purveyor, I have an altogether different plan. Just call me Grace O’Kelly, Bridal Exorcist. Because the only reason I can think of that a woman would feel the need to chemically peel off her top layer of skin, exchange vibrator tips with her future grandmother-in-law, and custom order a puce silk suit for her beloved is because she’s possessed. The wedding industry is spiking young women’s coffee with chevrom-and-mason-jar obsessed wedding spirits. It’s the only explanation!

Or, perhaps, it’s our materialistic modern sensibilities at work again. Either way, I’m thinking Ghostbusters III: With This (Cock) Ring, I Thee Wed would be a big hit.

As for GotC and I, we gorged ourselves on cake samples and left in a hurry. We may not have brought home any new ideas, but we did get some pretty sweet photo booth jazz hands. I’m totally cool being that bride who just doesn’t get the rest of it.


Everybody who hates this extravaganza do jazz hands!

– Grace

The Apathetic Bridal Guide

l_b25aab40-f095-11e1-aee4-f3a7ac600006There exists in this world a rare and wonderful creature. The Apathetic Bride. Unlike her cousin, The Relentlessly Excited Bride, she does not walk in beauty like the night, but in indifference like the esoteric holiday. She is the Happy Arbor Day! of engaged women. Her wedding planning resembles a Hawaiian Columbus Day parade: short-lived, rife with confusion, and ending with a relieved trip to the beach. Centerpieces bore her and her idea of a catering meeting is a trip to Whataburger. The Apathetic Bride would rather participate in a rousing game of Collect The Camel Spit than attend The Bridal Extravaganza.

I am an apathetic bride, friends.

Don’t tell the bridal industry gods, as they get a bit smite-happy with those pointy cake toppers, but wedding planning is mind-numbing. There are so many things to consider, none of which I care about. Outside of my dress (which I’m making) and the cake (delicious), I could give two shits about any of it. Two giant whale shits. Worse, there is no advice for my kind. We don’t make the industry any money, so we don’t have our own handbook or magazine. We’d have to care about weddings, in order to produce our own pamphlet. The Apathetic Bride would much rather watch paint dry, thanks. And so, it is left to me. For while I don’t enjoy talking about weddings, I do so love making fun of them!

My dear ennui-struck compatriots, I give you my Magnum Opus:

The Apathetic Bridal Guide: Part One, Because A Whole Opus Takes A Really Long Time and I Have Sundresses to Sew.


Apathetic Bride, do you have a favorite color that you want to splash everything with on your special yeti day? No? Don’t worry about. People will say that, for your wedding to make sense thematically, you must reduce the essence of you and yours to a color pairing. What will your guests do, if they don’t know that your relationship is best portrayed by sea green and puce? They’ll deal with it. Your wedding does not need a theme. Your wedding does not need a color. Pick some stuff you like, plan a party like you normally do, and don’t stress about it. I’m going to have lots of shades of rose & floral prints, because I like them and they’re easy.

When people badger you about “your colors,” feel free to take my response:

Innocent Bystander: Grace, you must be so excited about your WEDDINGMARRIAGEAWESOMEDAYOFAWESOME!
Grace: Totes.
Innocent Bystander: So, what are your colors?
Grace: Torment and anguish!
Innocent Bystander: Oh, like a fancy gothic wedding?
Grace: No, like how I feel when people tell me I should pick out specific colors for this party. Why do I need a perfect color pairing? We’re not painting a baby, we’re throwing a party. A PARTY! WOOHOO!

*run off yelling woohoo*


1930sbrideFlowers are a big deal for weddings. They’re also hella expensive and will die a disgusting, wilting mildew death within a few days. You are not going to be Miss Havisham, surrounded forever by the corpses of your wedding day, so they really don’t need to be that fancy. Have you ever seen hideous flowers? Of course, not. They’re Mother Nature’s version of nipple tassles: bright, shiny, and attractive to horny insects. Whichever ones you pick—roses, daisies, even the much-reviled carnations—will be pleasing to the eye. As such, you don’t actually need to pay a florist half your budget. Order some wholesale flowers from a reputable source, then blithely gather bottles and vases during your engagement period. On the day, throw some flowers in some containers and group them on tables as you want.

Voila! Instant “rustic chic” centerpieces. You’re welcome.


You don’t have to wear a white, strapless dress.

That’s all the advice I have. Wear whatever you want, whether that’s a gigantic Vera Wang ball gown, or an orange bias-cut column gown from your favorite vintage shop. There is no law saying it must be white, expensive, and kept for future generations. Hell, if you get married on a nude beach, it need not even exist. These are my words of freedom to you. Wear something you like, then get married.


Wedding chicken sucks. It’s also expensive, boring, and needless. There are plenty of interesting ways to get around the traditional catering menu. Professor McGregor and I have decided to have an early-afternoon wedding and will be serving—All the pancake lovers rejoice!—brunch. You can have a beloved food truck roll up to your shindig or rent a BBQ smoker. You can serve hamburgers. Or, have a truly “retro wedding” and just eat cake & punch. Hell, you can get married in November and have Luby’s cater the entire thing as a Thanksgiving Dinner. Turkey and cranberry sauce for everyone!

Do not chain yourself to $35/plate catering menus. They aren’t your only option, whatever the wedding magazines tell you. Before you book a venue, make sure they don’t tie you to such shenanigans.

Here’s my final tip for wedding planning, dear ennui-struck ones: Don’t stress about lame things! All of those “traditions” you think are awkward and boring? Don’t do them. Invite some people, eat some food, then get married as fuck. It’s not odd to be uninterested in your wedding; it’s normal.

We will get through this lace-bedecked hellscape together.

– Grace

Why Is There A Couch In This Meadow?

45Congratulations! You’re officially engaged. It all seems like fun and games, marrying the love of your life, but there are expectations, darling. As a modern engaged woman, you must: set a date, find a fluffy dress, act like you care about centerpieces, play catering chicken roulette, and get engagement photos done.

What’s that you say? You don’t need professional engagement photos? You’re perfectly happy just sending out invitations, not Save the Date postcards, and besides you’re going to have wedding pictures taken anyway, so what’s the point? The point, liebling, is that it’s expected. People, apparently, want to see glossy pictures of you and Dr. Swoodilypooper. They want you to post them on Facebook. That want you to make Save the Date magnets with them. They want to stare at your smoldering love eyes while they eat cheesecake from a box at midnight, damn it, so smolder already.

Or, I guess that’s the point. I’m kind of foggy on the whole thing myself. People are really insistent that Professor McGregor and I have an engagement photo shoot. Note: that’s a photo shoot, not a quick portrait session. Important distinction! We need to be wearing perfectly coordinated outfits in a grassy field, or else. Ideally, a professional photographer will lie in wait for us there, snapping shots of us frolicking, staring deeply into each other’s eyes, and lying whimsically on a couch. Lolly-gagging on furniture in meadows is how people recognize true love!

Engagement photo shoots are, let’s be honest, a very odd phenomenon. The generations before us did not think it normal to hire a professional photographer, rent an abandoned warehouse, then stand broodingly against a brick wall staring into the distance. That’s not vintage romance, that’s modern excess. We’ve gone from using the camera to document our lives, to fashioning our lives for the camera. From my Facebook feed alone, I’ve seen couples posed in fields, reenacting classic movie train scenes, and posing in faux-picnic scenes. We do not see couples being in love, we see photography skill and styling.

Is this another example of our generation, the oft maligned Millennials, being self-obsessed twits? It’s easy to say yes. The wedding industry preys on our notion that this life event is just that: an event. Brides are fairy princesses, to be indulged in their every whim, and the union they form with their grooms is unique, magical, and rare. As such, that love should be documented properly! Instead of candid pictures of the couple at football games or Scrabble tournaments, they need glossy professionally finished photos worthy of magazine spreads. Or, rather: blogs and Pinterest boards and Facebook feeds. That is where this phenomenon comes from. Now that our whole lives have been boiled down to the images and text on a screen, those images take on more value. Our generation actively judges people based on their engagement photos. Of course, they’re going to get ridiculous.


We don’t believe you stumbled across vintage furniture in a meadow or that you bring a Victrola on your romantic picnics, but we do believe you should. When the self is distilled into a social media page, the desire to properly express that self is inevitable. You like vintage things? Grab an old dress and find an airport hanger: you’re on a retro vacation! You’re originally from Texas? You’ll want perfectly coordinated cowboy boots and a picturesque horse ranch. Hipsters need edgy graffiti; comic lovers need to fend off zombie hordes. How else will your friends and family know the true nature of your love?

Y’all, this is ridiculous. Life does not exist to look lovely on your Pinterest board. A relationship’s strength should not be judged by how photogenic it is. We’re not fooling anyone with these pictures. No one seriously snuggles up on velvet couches in poppy fields, or packs for a honeymoon in vintage suitcases. They’re lovely, but—darling, please!—a carry-on needs wheels. Must we all look like Stock Photo Couple #34, for our friends to know our relationship is legit? Do we really have a rare “fairytale” love, when it’s portrayed just like everyone else’s?

I vote we stop with this nonsense. If your grandchildren need proof you were once hot, you’ll have your wedding photos. A professional photograph is not required for all our life events. If we really want keepsakes, we’re doing it wrong. It’s not awkward smizing on a bench we’ll remember in fifty years, but the parties with friends and shared triumphs. We should be documenting the truth of our lives—the imperfect makeup, along with the real from-the-gut laughter—not a glossy, solar-flared impression of it.

– Grace

Your Wedding Dress Makes Me Sleepy

1920s brideHoly rice birdseed sparklers flower petals bubbles! There were a lot of weddings this weekend, kittens. No less than four couples of my acquaintance tied the knot. Of course, since I’m an unholy virago, I wasn’t invited to any of them. I did stalk them all on Facebook, though. Fuzzy Instagram pictures of floral arrangements are the cat’s pajamas! Or, they are usually, anyway. Lately, all the weddings I look at just seem…boring.

Wait. That sounds pretty judgmental, which I’m fundamentally against when it comes to weddings, but for the love of Chanel, why do all bridal gowns look the same? Every bride I know—seriously, every single veil-bedecked one of them—has worn a long strapless dress.

Whyyyyyyyyy? My kingdom for a cap sleeve! My treasure for a high neckline! My autographed Anderson Cooper memoir for a short hem!

Kittens, there are other dress silhouettes in the world. I’ve seen them! There are short dresses with wide skirts and bias-cut column gowns with delicate straps. What looks ravishing on one woman, may be awful on another. For every bride, there is a dress, turn, turn, turn. So, why do we all pick the same thing? We aren’t the same bride, so—logically— we shouldn’t have the same dress.

c840149355b04cb259c0e7dd3e5c758bWhen I first got engaged, I was most excited about three things: having a beloved who grilled amazing Brussels sprouts, taste-testing wedding cake, and finding The Dress. Being a fashion nerd, I knew exactly the look I wanted: a circle skirt falling to just below the knee, a very defined waist, and sleeves! Something straight out of a 50s Dior show. My best friends brought over some bridal magazines and the hunt was on!

Only, it wasn’t. In the eight magazines on my bedside tables, all promising “Thousands of Amazing Dresses Made From Amazingness!”, I found nary a fluffy candidate. By the third magazine, I would have settled for anything with sleeves or a short hemline. I longed for a lace neckline; I pined for tea lengths. Instead, it was page after page of dresses that looked eerily identical. There were small differences, mermaid silhouettes versus A-lines, but  they were all long and strapless. For a culture that stresses this day as our one perfect princess day—which should be unique and personal and memorable ad nauseam—our dress selection is disturbingly homogenous.

Surely, I am not the first bride to want sleeves or easy bathroom access. I know I’m a special snowflake and all, but that’s just ludicrous. It’s easier to believe that we all pick the same dress, because there are no other viable options. When I went dress shopping with my BFF, Girl on the Contrary, last year, there were precisely two dresses we found with straps. (She ended up with the most wonderful of dresses—this sweetheart neckline confection, with an amazing bouncy overskirt—which both suited her perfectly and was legitimately unique, because seriously check out that overlay!) When one of the best bridal salons in America’s self-professed weirdest city doesn’t have variation, something has gone dreadfully awry.

I know we were all traumatized by the giant sleeves of the eighties, but perhaps it’s time to admit we’ve gone a bit overboard. Not all sleeves are bad. Why, nobody shunned Kate Middleton for wearing them! If you want sleeves or straps, you should have them. Vive la manche! Similarly, if you desire the option of urinating without aid on The Big Day, you should be able to do so. We don’t all want a big, poofy white dress. If you want a strapless ball gown, you should have it, but can’t I also have my vintage-inspired tea dress? A little design creativity would make us all happier brides.

1950s bride2Personally, I’m down to two options: have my dress made by a bespoke dress designer, or make the damned thing myself. In my search, I did find a few companies making great short dresses. If you’re similarly desperate for something different, check out Dolly Couture, Stephanie James, and Candy Anthony. If we keep taking our business to indie designers and seamstresses, maybe the great and terrible Wedding Industry will get the hint? Why, maybe someday we’ll even have wedding dresses that aren’t white. A girl can dream (of sleeves).

– Grace

His Name May (or May Not) Be My Name, Too

grace-kelly-wedding-dress_largeMy name is Grace O’Kelly.

Actually, it’s not. My name is something completely different, which I subbed for an homage to my favorite actress, because this blog gets very, very personal and my Great Aunt Gert doesn’t need to know about my sex life. I also have two separate pen names for my fiction forays, adult and YA, that were vetted by my agent for maximum shelf allure. As someone who plays fast and loose with her virtual identity, I shouldn’t have a particular attachment to my actual name.

Except, of course, I do. For twenty-seven years, I’ve responded to it and signed it and, all too often, winced when people sang the nursery rhymes featuring it. Despite that time in fifth grade, when I tried to change it to Josephine Applesauce, I quite like my full appellation. It flows well, has a good syllable ratio, and fits me. Which is a bit of sticky wicket, since I’m now expected to change it.

Part of the trouble with never planning to marry is that I’m constantly blindsided by societal expectations I’ve not fully processed. Take the marital name change. People, it turns out, totally expect me to take Professor McGregor’s last name, without any deliberation at all. You’re getting married, they remind me, it’s what wives do! That’s nice and all, but it was never something I expected to do. If I eventually found a chap I liked enough to marry, I’d keep my last name, no big deal. This is 2013! Women do it all the time!

Only, they don’t. 90% of women in America still take their husband’s last name. Even more staggering, 10% of Americans believe a woman lacks commitment to the marriage, if she decides not to change. No offense, my dear countrymen, but that’s fucked up. If anything, it shows a decided presence of commitment not to chuck the name you’ve had all your life, because some dude puts a ring on it. It was one thing when marriage meant going from a father’s protection to a husband’s, but those days have long since past. Thank heavens! We have choices and options. We go to school, we holds jobs, we lead countries. Yet, still we keep this convention, this most basic indicator that we are not equals in marriage or life?

It’s more complicated than that, unfortunately. The choice is not so cut and dried, as my feminist core insists. If you and yours plan on having children, what will they go by? When people unthinkingly address checks to Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, will the bank give you a hard time about it? (Fun fact: Yes, they will!) Is your current last name really yours at all, or just your father’s name anyway? People you love—not just the general public, but friends, neighbors, in-laws—may doubt the strength of your union, because of the choice you make. Worse, your future husband may have strong feelings about you taking his name. To him, maybe it’s not a symbol of the patriarchy at all, but a symbol of family. Hell, you could be like Mae—a hardcore feminist with the world’s hardest to pronounce last name, who became Mrs. Thoughtful so she could stop correcting the pronunciation of every pizza boy. Often, the marital name change makes life easier.

So, what will it be, Grace? My friends are already calling me by my assumed marital name—my real first name rhymes perfectly with the professor’s real surname, so it’s great fun for everyone—and I roll my eyes. I know I won’t take only his last name, both for feminist reasons and not wanting to sound like a nursery rhyme, but should I hyphenate? We do eventually want children, so that would be the easiest thing, as teachers/parole officers will automatically call me Mrs. McGregor anyway. Hyphenation would allow my name to have a presence. The professor doesn’t care if I change or not, but he’s also not too keen on hyphenating his own last name, so is that punctuation mark giving up feminist ground?

gracekelly07I don’t know. And, quite frankly, it angers my intestinal villi that I even have to ponder this. It’s complicated to change my name, but just as hard to keep it the same. I keep coming back to the fact that men aren’t expected to do this. People look askance at a guy, if he even considers taking his wife’s last name, calling it unmanly or unnatural. That doesn’t sound so equal, kittens. If this basic issue is anything to go by, maybe we haven’t come so far, after all…

– Grace