How We Did It: Cambridge Wedding, Memorial Day Weekend 2015


Read about all of our vendors after the jump…

Ceremony Location: Memorial Church at Harvard, via Harvard Events Management

The groom had a relationship with the venue, so it seemed the thing to do: he sang in the choir every Sunday of his college years, so it was a special place.

Bonus Organist: Ed

If you can manage to have a stellar organist do you a favor and play for your wedding, you should request some Bach. Lots and lots of Bach. Processional: BWV 572 (link opens video). The criteria for the processional were: something really joyous and happy, rather than contemplative, that wouldn’t make the bride cry from the start. And no Wagner. It was really wonderful to cue the bride/groom entrance right at the point where it really sounds like Bach: *BWAAAAAAAANG* Recessional: BWV 651 (link opens video).

Reception Location: Ames Street Deli / Study Restaurant

Throughout the wedding-planning process, we were more comfortable with the idea of hosting a giant dinner party than throwing a wedding reception. The restaurants comprise three main rooms, so the party felt quite different from your average ballroom wedding. Having a wedding in a restaurant makes some things easier: the chefs have home-court advantage, the servers are used to the space, and the set pieces (chairs, tables, flatware) are familiar. This also meant no DJ, band, or dance floor would fit in the space, so the Top 40 Booty Shaking that is requisite for most modern American weddings had to be rescheduled (see Dance Party, below). If you’re looking for a lavish meal with 120 of your closest friends and relations, this a great way to go.

Slammin’ Dance Party (Outsourced): Phoenix Landing

Apparently this stereotypical Cambridge Irish Pub / Dive Bar has a DJ every Friday night and a line out the door. We reserved a couple of tables early in the evening, when it was quiet so we could drink and talk. By 10:00 PM the bar turned into a dance club as the tables cleared away and the DJ started. The dance party was scheduled for the Friday before a Sunday wedding, so we needn’t worry about being too tired and hungover to get to the church on time. The DJ played through some of the most wonderfully-groan-inducing pop songs of the 80s and 90s, then moved on to current Top 40 once the crowd arrived. It felt like everything you could want in a wedding party DJ experience, except we didn’t have to do the work of hiring a DJ, or worrying about booze and space rental. Again: home-court advantage. By the end of the night we were very happy, very tired, and thoroughly satisfied with the experience.

Guest-Arrival Cocktail Party: Meadhall

We wanted a Saturday cocktail party so that arriving guests could visit with old friends, meet new people, and make plans for the rest of the weekend. Meadhall has a lovely 2nd floor balcony space that the groom had visited for networking events. There are at least a dozen leather armchairs in the space, so older relatives and injured friends had a place to rest, hold court, and let everyone come to them. Meadhall set us up with a remarkable number of beers (and mead!) on tap, plus very respectable options for those who wanted non-alcoholic beverages. They were priced much lower than doing a similar event at the wedding hotel. There were lovely platters of snacks that kept everyone sated until they all wandered off to dinner.

Hangover Brunch: State Park

The wedding ceremony and reception were Sunday afternoon and evening. We liked the idea of a hangover brunch to bid our guests farewell. State Park is a pleasingly grungy with Southern-chic brunch food. Perfect for the purpose. I can’t say enough good things about these guys. We actually ended up sipping coffee at State Park, as the unofficial after-party location post-wedding reception. The staff from the restaurant ended up there too around midnight, after working our wedding reception, to celebrate a colleague’s birthday, which should be a compliment to the establishment.

Official Hotel: Boston Marriott Cambridge

The hotel event coordinator was very professional. We were very nervous about adjusting the room block, since Memorial Day weekend is also graduation weekend for many local universities and colleges. They treated us well. They also had sparkling wine and chocolate dipped strawberries sent up about 5 minutes after the concierge noticed us come back in through the lobby. Turns out the bride left her VERY PRECIOUS LaDuca wedding shoes in the hotel room. When we asked at the front desk over a month later they handed us a bag labeled with the date and collection location like a botany specimen.

Officiant: Vanessa Zoltan

If you’re looking for a big ceremony that feels intimate without making promises to any god/goddess/entity, secular humanists are the way to go. She filled the enormous space, made the ceremony feel intimate and was a grounding presence. Vanessa made us cry. In the best possible way. She helps to maintain a secular humanist community here.

Flowers: Forêt Design Studio

For most of this wedding, we wanted to hire very good, very smart people and then step back and let them do their jobs. This was especially true of the florists. I told them that I love Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the spring and summer, where every surface is sprouting something green. There’s a lushness that is different from my native Northern California. The florists took that and ran with it: there were planted containers and small vessels of a few gathered stems all along the tables. It looked like a modern take on a field of wildflowers. The bouquets had white lilacs and stocks, which smelled heavenly, plus the biggest tree peony we had ever seen. The bride and attendants took one look at the thing and went straight to wikipedia (“what’s a tree peony?”).

Printer / Stationer: Shelley Barandes at Albertine Press

Shelley Albertine was our first vendor, and has pride of place. We met with her the morning after our engagement (the groom was cocky and scheduled the appointment the week before). She has an etsy store of lovely cards and notebooks and things that you can purchase.

Photorapher: Jim Canole

We’re pretty awkward in front of a camera. We’re not special in this way. We chose Jim because he has a great eye for depth of field. He got some great shots that have lots of things happening in the background and foreground. If awkward posed shots are a foregone conclusion because of the people you are, might as well have awesome candids.

Bride’s Hair and Makeup: Pyara Salon (Harvard Square)

While I can’t really say anything nice about their schedulers and mid-level management, the hair and makeup artists at Pyara were top notch, and the price point was lower than anything else I found in the area. The salon was just a nice environment to be in on a Sunday morning. Team Bride (the bridal attendants) hung around with coffee and pastry and nobody said boo. The up-do was remarkably secure (I took a three hour walk by the Charles River the day of the hair and makeup trial, and the do didn’t budge.)

Groom’s Wardrobe: Alton Lane

Custom shirts for the price of high-end department store shirts. The suit was glorious and the experience of getting it was just plain fun.

Bride’s Dress: Jenny Yoo

Pro: this designer has a salon in my neighborhood, and it felt good to buy local. The dresses were beautiful, classic, with lots of options for different body types. Con: they don’t do their own alterations, and the tailors they referred me to wanted $1000, which was at least 100% more than my research on the subject informed me was reasonable or expected. I also purchased a lovely lace over-jacket from Jenny Yoo, which I will continue to wear over colored frocks.

Bride’s Shoes: LaDuca

If I’m going to pay that much for shoes, I’m not buying Jimmy Choos that I’ll only wear once and won’t be comfortable. LaDuca makes the shoes for most broadway dancers and does custom work for Broadway shows and tours. The Rockettes? Yeah, they’re wearing LaDucas. They will make one of their stock shoes in a custom leather/color (in this case, silver) for an extra $100 on the list price. In wides. It didn’t even take that long from them to get the order in from the workshop in Italy.

Wedding Rings: Brilliant Earth

We had simple needs: plain, platinum band, not too wide, and must be as ethical as possible. One of us has a nickel allergy, so white gold is out. BE’s sales staff was the softest sell I’d ever experienced in the wedding industry. Very helpful, asked all the right questions and managed our timeline well. The only drawback was the difficulty in achieving parity in the rings: there is a 4mm comfort band sold in the men’s section, but not the women’s section. The sizing is gender-specific in a way that makes me irate. You can’t get a wider band for smaller fingers, or a narrower band for larger fingers such that you both have the same width of band without one of the rings being a special/custom order, which is very easy, but non-returnable. I don’t like the precedent. (End rant.)

The bride’s ring had to be a special order, and was therefore not returnable, plus the order had to be made through a sales rep rather than the online store interface. Did we have to return them? No. Were they produced quickly and efficiently? Yes. Am I still a little irked that I couldn’t buy two of the same ring (because equality dammit!) with no silly hoops to jump through? Yes I am.

Engagement Ring: Silverscape Designs (Northampton, MA)

Silverscape worked to produce a custom design from a few conversations with the groom. Ethical (lab) diamonds had to be sourced from elsewhere. It turns out that the white gold alloy they used is one that uses nickel to make the alloy white, and is rhodium plated, so after a year the ring produced a contact dermatitis reaction on the bride. Until it gets re-plated, it’s sitting forlornly on the shelf. Supposedly the rhodium-plating process is not very expensive. It’s a beautiful design, but there were some design flaws. Every restaurant in New York City asks about allergies and sensitivities, why shouldn’t jewelers?

Prenup: Andy Izenson at Diana Adams Law and Mediation and Jonathan Latimer at J.C. Latimer Law

I can’t say enough good things about these folks. If you need someone to write a contract or some other task under the blanket of “family law,” you should use them. Our first prenup “mediator” attorney was a terrible individual who I secretly wish to punch in the face. There are only about five people in the world I would ever with to do violence to. We fired her, after many tears and a LOT of money down the drain. Andy and Jonathan picked us up, dusted us off, and put us back on track. They made us feel calmer, and genuinely understood. We got the contract signed on time, even having blown several weeks of time on terrible lawyer #1. I just can’t say enough good things about Andy and Jonathan.

Pre-marital Counseling “Checkup”: Midtown Marriage and Family Therapy

If you’re in the market for marriage counseling of any kind, it’s hard to find a recommendation. Ours was awesome, so I feel like we should shout it to the rooftops.

Website: Squarespace

It’s not free, but has a surprising amount of functionality. Overall, this was a good choice that minimized a lot of busywork.

Gifts and Charity: Give Directly

Wedding registries are weird. There’s basically no way to make them drama-free. We wanted to minimize gifts. We’re in our 30s and we have a 650 square foot NYC apartment stuffed full of … well, stuff. We’ve already spent hours agonizing over the right kitchen appliances, and have no desire to replace them just for kicks. We’ll upgrade when things need upgrading, not for gratuitous-present reasons. On the other hand, people seem to really want to contribute to the household formation of two people they like or are related to. Asking people to give to charity doesn’t scratch that itch. So we compromised. We chose a great charity that gives to households in poverty in a way that supports poverty research, using randomized control trials and making their data public. We also listed our home address for contribution to the “Please Oh Please Don’t Give Us Towels Fund.” Sometime in the next couple of years we’re looking at buying a place, and those family and friends that contributed can take a silver sharpie to their particular bricks or kitchen appliances if they like.

Project Planning Technology: Google Docs and Trello

Wow was there a lot of planning. Project planning with a group is a nightmare if you don’t communicate well and set deadlines. All the guest list and correspondence info lived in various shared Google Sheets. To do lists lived in a shared Trello board, with cards whose deadlines sent emails to the parties responsible for that particular task card. All of the information was accessible at all hours of the day or night, allowing us all (bride, groom, best man, team bride) to work on our own schedules. Despite the fact that I’ve been out of the non-academic workforce for a while, I feel like I learned about good and bad biz-team management on this project and I’d certainly use Trello (and scrum) again.

Other Resources: A Practical Wedding (book), A Practical Wedding (website and community)

No matter how you try, anyone who does research on making choices for their wedding at some point feels oppressed by the wedding industrial complex. Webpages, magazines, family members and vendors all project their own expectations on you, and after 50 repetitions of that you might just lose your mind. I read the book at the beginning of our engagement period, and I think it was a great pre-wedding primer (you might forego counseling just from reading the book) that prepared me for times I should dig in, stick to my guns, and tell vendors (or family!) they were being unreasonable. The website is a searchable set of blog entries navigating a lot of the complicated interpersonal choices that come with weddings. It’s a great place to find earnest and thorough content, not just shiny glossy pictures of models. Oh, and read the comments. This is about the only place on the internet where you should read the comments, because it’s an amazing supportive unicorn of a community whose existence boggles my mind. Sure, go buy yourself a stack of wedding mags when you first get engaged. It’s fun for about a week. When you start to feel the body dysmorphia and crushing fear of poverty, switch to A Practical Wedding and maybe Offbeat Bride.