Wedding Update – Love Me Some Food Tasting and Star Wars Cake Toppers

Hey everyone, I thought I would give another monthly update of what’s going on in wedding planning land!  We managed to take care of bigger items, and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable about our progress (though if I can be honest, I relaxed a lot once I found my dress. ;)).

1) Wedding favors received – these airline luggage tags came in and they’re super cute in person!  I recommend that site as well (no affiliate) – they shipped out quickly, and were half the price of some other sites (plus gave me a modest discount when I asked).  I’m *not* looking forward to inserting the name/table tags in them since they’re kind of tiny, though – if anyone knows of any elves looking for work, holla.

2) Catering booked!  B and I long agreed we’re going buffet-style since we want guests to have serving size autonomy.  After scanning for quotes and going on a couple of tastings, this company was easily the best value, and we decided to go with a stations idea.  Stations are kind of like buffets, except people can select where to go and what time, rather than waiting in one big giant line.  We went with tray-passed appetizers for cocktail hour, which is crab cakes, sesame beef, and brie and apricot jam in a puff pastry (my favorite).  For the stations, we’re going with braised ribs over mashed potatoes, soy-glazed salmon over rice and slaw, and a Southern mac and cheese station where they’re served in a martini glass and they can put whatever toppings they want (bacon bits, prosciutto, berries, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.).  The mac and cheese station also comes with sliders, though we might serve chicken instead.  For the vegans/vegetarians, they get a plate of a tower of delicious roasted vegetables on quinoa.  Everything was delicious and tasting was no doubt my favorite part (plus they were kind enough to box samples for B since he couldn’t make the appointment time).

3) Desserts kinda booked!  We’re mostly doing cupcakes instead of a cake, but my mom also advised that some guests probably won’t like just cake and to have other forms of dessert… which pretty much reads to my mom wants lemon bars! 😉  So we’re going with the same catering company for a selection of desserts, and we’ll most likely only order a certain amount of cupcakes instead of 1 per guest.  Actually – is that tacky?  I would hate to be short on cupcakes, too, but we don’t want too much leftovers, so I’d love to hear thoughts on that.

Pics of the desserts!

4) Cake topper selected!  On Etsy, there’s this one vendor who sells really cute cake toppers that will design the bride and groom according to what the couple’s actual hair, eye, and attire will look like!  However, once I saw these adorable Star Wars one from the same vendor, we *knew* we had to select these instead, not only because we wore the same exact costumes last Halloween (well, he was a Jedi), but because it’s dorkily us. 🙂  And yes, I’m aware that we’re forever 12 years old in this respect… but hey, they’ll also be our future travel companions that we’ll take cool background shots of when we start our adventures in marriage together!

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Star Wars cake toppers… um, note to self: dust!

5) B selected his tuxedo – we’re still debating on ties since I didn’t like the red tie once he tried it on, but we’re for sure picking “Regency” as the groomsmen ties.  It’s cool since they’re renting at Men’s Wearhouse (no affiliate), and since they’ve partnered with David’s Bridal (no affiliate), they’ll match the bridesmaid dresses.  I’m letting my bridesmaids have autonomy of what dress they’d like, but I’m loving the vibrancy of regency.

6) Invite sample is in – and I am in love!  My friend did such an amazing job, and she created a really cool aeronautical logo with our names.  I’m not going to display it, but if anyone wants to take a gander, just let me know (well, so long as I kinda know you, at least).

So that’s that for now – we’re still on the hunt for a DJ though we have some quotes, as well as cupcake vendor and florist.  I’m meeting with a local florist who has a wooden stand a few blocks from me, whom I love because whenever I go to a special occasion (like grandma’s birthday), I give her a given amount and ask her to do her magic, and she creates these beautiful arrangements.  When she asked what I want for the bouquets, I merely said “red and round”, so she laughed and said she’ll have some samples for our appointment.

In October, we’re going to our second Pre-Cana class, and since this one’s a weekend retreat (we have to bunk with someone of the same sex who’s also getting married), it should be interesting!

Telling Your Partner About Your Debt

A common search phrase I get on my blog is ‘telling my partner (or spouse) about my debt.”  The search varies from should I, when, or how to, so I thought it was worth exploring a bit more about when is a good time to tell your partner about your debt.

For full disclosure’s sake, I admit to not telling my partner about my debt until just over two years of being together and right before I knew a proposal was imminent, despite us already cohabitating for almost a year.  Despite it working out in the best way possible since he merely asked how much it was, why it occurred, and what I was doing about it before carrying on with our day, I still might not be the best spokesperson to discuss this issue.  However, since money is the number one relationship argument and in 2011, a Forbes article cited that 31% of people admitted to about money to their spouse, it’s worth discussing.  As a disclaimer, since everyone’s situation is different and I’m definitely no expert as seen by my experience, these are just meant as things to think about and not intended to be set examples.  Read the rest on Economag!

International Haggling for Fun and Kicks

Happy Thursday!  I was reading Done by Forty’s post on haggling and negotiating, which was not only an interesting post so do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200-but-go-straight-to-the-post-and-read-it, but also had a bunch of interesting and thoughtful comments.  Like in most cases, I think delivery is everything – while some might be dogmatic when it comes to haggling, others can say it in a gentler way.  I tend to be the latter, since I still want to get the most bang for my buck but it’s just not really in me to be emphatic.  My dad, and sometimes B, tend to be the former and with their tough as nails attitudes, they tend to get the best deals, and sometimes at drastically reduced prices.  While I do respect that, I also don’t like feeling like I made them feel bad in a situation, even though if they ended up getting more of my money, they obviously wouldn’t be so.  I think Mrs. DbF and a couple other commenters said it best when the ideal situation is when both parties come out satisfied, so that it’s a win-win.

Anyway, a tangent was that Mr. DbF stated that he negotiates whenever he can, even if it means negotiating with the “impoverished in foreign countries selling their wares,” so that got me thinking – is it bad if I haggle abroad, especially in second/third world countries?  I’m no stranger to haggling, but am I just some mean tourist if I try to haggle a price down even if it just means one or two bucks that would mean more to the seller than myself?  I don’t have any tips or anything, but I do have a couple of pretty funny anecdotes from haggling internationally.  To preface, I can’t remember what I wore on Tuesday let alone a trip that happened years ago, so my pricing might be off from what I remember.

Scenario #1 – The Frog That Ribbets

704954_10151149025024103_1330032960_oOne of the places we went to in Thailand was the floating market, where people primarily sell their wares on boats.  Our tourist guide advised us that the pricing here tends to be higher than normal rates, and to haggle.  I don’t really collect souvenirs, but a middle-aged, gaunt man came up to me and started stroking a stick behind a wodden frog’s back, which caused it to croak and make a “ribbet” sound.  He then busted out a mini-version that made a mini-ribbet sound, which sent me in cooing overdrive.  He knew he had me, so he priced it at 80 bhat (less than $3 dollars).  I then responded with 30 bhat ($1), to which he playfully winced at and said 70 bhat, to which I then firmly said 30 bhat, and, after a bit of back and forth, we settled at 50 bhat.

In that case, I came out $1 “ahead” of his original asking price, but I regarded it more as haggling for playful banter’s sake, rather than really trying to come out ahead $1 richer.  Perhaps I should’ve given him the asking price since it really is just a dollar (I mean, I did come with a tour guide and all), but I think in a “haggle-approved” area, it was more for the spirit of it rather than getting the best price.  I viewed it like playing mah jong or poker at family parties – it’s always that much more fun even if you’re playing for quarters, rather than just for merely playing.  Plus, not only did it end up just being one more thing to dust, but when we went back out to the main streets, I saw it priced at 30 bhat.  So in this case, it felt like he came ahead.

Scenario #2: Taxi in Costa Rica

My favorite shot - the cab driver was kind enough to stop and take a pic since apparently it was foggy and this was the first time in a month that it was clear to see Arenal

My favorite shot – the cab driver was kind enough to stop and take a pic since apparently it was foggy and this was the first time in a month that it was clear to see Arenal

During a vacation to Costa Rica, one of the places we visited was a little city that had a view of the Arenal volcano.  We ended up staying in the Arenal Observatory lodges, which is one of lodging places closest to Arenal but is a bit of a distance from the main city.  In order to get there, we had to take a taxi, and he was charging something along the lines of $30 (they accepted USD, I believe).  Knowing that taxis “should” be cheaper in Costa Rica, and that it was only a few miles away, we replied $10, and after a bit of back and forth and us starting to make our way to another driver, it settled to around $15.  During the ride, he also played tour guide and pointed out different things along the ride, even kindly stopping at a really great view of Arenal so he could take our pics.  The experience was worthwhile so I ended up giving him a $5 tip, and he advised the lodging office of who he was since we agreed we’ll call him for a lift back.  So the next day, we called him, and he said that he would drive us… for $35.  At that point, we were stuck since taxis weren’t lined up like they were in town, and since we were pressed for time to meet up at a tour, we only managed to haggle $5 off.

In retrospect from that whole process, I did feel a bit crummy the first time I haggled (especially since he was so kind during the cab ride), but thought it pretty much came full circle during the second cab ride when he had more leverage to stick it to us.  By that point, though, since he was so nice and a cool person, I also didn’t feel the least bit ripped off, and actually thought “touche!” when he first told us the price.  So in that respect, I think both parties were essentially a win-win.

Lessons Learned

So all in all, I don’t think it’s essentially bad to haggle even if one is traveling in a country that’s less well of than yours.  For the most part, because you’re a tourist, I do think they hike up prices, so it’s only reasonable to haggle (especially in areas where it’s pretty well known/acceptable to haggle).  I do admit, the only times I haven’t haggled was with little children, especially if they make an attempt to run after me and insist I buy their embroidered cloths which will help keep my tortillas warm – if that doesn’t warm your heart, then you pretty much have no soul.  Otherwise, I think it’s pretty fair game, even if just for the “fun” of it.

What are your thoughts or experiences on haggling abroad?

Are Biometrics Like Fingerprint Scanners for Passcodes a Safe Idea?

Apple Inc. recently announced that Touch ID will be embedded into their new iPhone 5S, a fingerprint scanner that allows the user’s fingerprint to serve as passcodes to unlock the phone, as well as give access to the iTunes store.  Using voice recognition, facial distinctions, or fingerprints – known as biometrics – have long appeared in action movies as the top notch level in security since it identifies the user’s authenticity based on his or her unique biological features.  Though some businesses have began using biometrics a couple of years ago, such as 24 hour Fitness, Apple’s implementation of it with such a popular device as their iPhone have given biometrics exponential exposure to the “every day world.”  But if biometrics becomes so advanced that it essentially replaces all passwords for other items or services requiring identity authorization, how safe is it?  Read the rest on Economag!

How I Got My Haggle On (kind of) and Some Shopping Teachable Moments

So as I previously wrote here, I found my wedding dress and got some discounts for it.  The lovely Femme Frugality requested that I post about how I haggled, so this is what went down (it’s anti-climactic now that I think about it, since all I did was ask).

I first researched dress places around me and asked if they had dresses true to my size, since I don’t really like having to clip dresses so much in the back that you don’t get the true effect.  It turns out in this case that I liked the floor sample in a store, but have learned to not impulse buy.  So I went home, did some research, and discovered a couple of online sites that offered stuff such as a free veil, or free shipping and $300 for the next order which I could then use for bridal party gifts, veil, etc.   I was a bit hesitant since I’ve heard some nightmare experiences by buying online for wedding dresses, and since it would be delivered around late December, it was a bit too close for comfort when taking alterations into account.  However, the store didn’t have to know I had these reservations, so I called to ask for a discount.

Initially, they said that they would just dry clean it.  I asked if there’s more that they can do, and when she said she had to speak to her manager, I merely replied, “Great, I’d appreciate it!”  She called back and said they’ll add a back panel and take $100 off, and still not loving that, I said I would sleep on it.

I called other stores around me but didn’t have luck (or would convince me to come in to try alternatives, which I admit, I was too lazy to drive to).  I also discovered dry cleaning can come out to a pretty penny, so I took this cost into account.  I went back to the store, and asked if they can match the online offers, since I want to give them my business but the offers were hard to resist.  They then came back that they’ll give me half off veil, and when I asked how about just give me a veil, they then offered half off veil and shoes. Despite not really liking their shoe selection, I figured the discounts were essentially a wash and at least I wouldn’t have to worry about delivery time crunches, and took the deal.

I also noticed some beading was coming loose and pointed that out to them, so they said their seamstress would retouch them up.  I then asked if they would throw in taking care of all the alterations, but they said no.  Hey, I tried! 🙂

I kinda hoped for a bigger discount and free veil, but oh well.  However, here’s some teachable moments from this dress shopping process:

1) Once your wedding date is set, actively search for a dress right away!  I scoured Craigslist, Ebay, and pre-owned wedding websites, and though I found some great ones on CL, they were gone by the time I inquired about it!  Online sites are a bit of a challenge since you can’t look at/try it prior to purchasing, especially since wedding dresses run smaller than street sizes, but if you know the style you want then they can be great resources if you don’t mind pre-loved.  If you want new, then I’d definitely search right away, so you have enough lead time for the dress to be made/delivered since it can take up to 6 months (or more!).

2) Consider renting the dress, though in my case, renting it would have only been $200 difference from purchasing.  I figured this way, I can at least try to re-sell to recoup some of the cost afterward, provided I find a shorty-doo-wop who likes my style. 🙂

3) Do some homework online to make sure you’re getting the best price.  Consider all the discounts or offers, and let the stores know that there’s some great deals online and would they match it.  All they can say is no, and it’s not worth it to worry what they think about you since you’ll probably never see them again (especially wedding vendors).  I am 96.35% sure you aren’t the first person to try and haggle, and no doubt you won’t be the last.

4) I don’t know how this would have played in all of it, but I probably wouldn’t have worn my engagement ring while trying to haggle, and I wouldn’t have disclosed my venue (neither are fancy, but I think the less vendors know, the better).  I don’t know what good it would have done, but I noticed when I went for tastings at catering and cupcake vendors, they were a bit more accommodating when I threw out low-ball offers when I didn’t wear my ring.  But who knows, since there’s probably more catering/cupcake vendors out there than wedding dress shops?

5) Haggle (or really just ask for discounts in my case) when you can.  There’s so many wedding vendors vying for your business, that if you do enough research you can find the best price point, or you can get a lower price point and see if the vendor you like can match it.  I’ve received anywhere from 10%-20% off on other wedding stuff, or tossing in free kickbacks, so again, all you can do is try!

Do you have any effective haggle tips?

Marketing Ploys of the Toothpaste Industry

I know what you’re thinking: is she really going to talk about something as controversial and sexy as toothpaste?  Though not the most exciting topic, it’s something that we use on a daily basis as practitioners of basic hygiene habits and $1.8 billion is spent on toothpaste annually, so it’s at least worth briefly discussing.  Read the rest of my article at Economag!

Having the Ramos Legs

Growing up, I remember having stockier legs than the other girls – everyone seemed to have thin legs, and I was so envious of that.  When I asked my mom why my legs didn’t look like the other girls, she just stated matter of fact, “You have the Ramos* legs – I have them, grandma has them, and your aunts have them.”  She said this not really shamefully, nor wistfully even, but with a connotation that it’s just something I had to deal with.

So throughout my teen and college years, I struggled with the fact that I had the Ramos legs, and that they were just something I had to live with.  I remember feeling awkward how everyone had room in the thighs when wearing shorts, while mine were more snug.  I remember constantly wearing black tights to make them appear slimmer, despite the silhouette just making them shapelier.  And I remember sneaking to borrow my mom’s Thigh Master, in hopes that constantly doing them will give me legs like Suzanne Somers.  Countless things to try and slim them down, because I just didn’t accept them, and deep inside, didn’t accept me.

Then, I found running, and after awhile, I noticed something going on with my legs.  As I started testing my boundaries and capabilities of what I can accomplish through them, I noticed they weren’t really getting any slimmer, but they were getting more muscular and more defined.  Beyond these physical changes, I noticed that my perspective on them changed – not automatically, but over time.  That my legs are what they are, and they’re not stocky – they’re muscular, strong, and resilient.  They can handle enough endurance to complete marathons and half-marathons, and all the training miles associated with it.  They’ve taken me on countless hikes, the Trans-Catalina Trail, and the summit of Mt. Whitney.  And they’ve helped me bike the California coastline, and constantly forgive me despite giving them battle scars from the countless times I’ve toppled over my mountain bike.

They’re strong and have endured so much, and, over time it started to gel that I view them this way because I am strong and have endured, not only with my physical activities but also from some life challenges.  And, I’ve realized, that these Ramos legs are the best things I could have inherited from my mom’s side of the family.  All these amazing women who have endured and gone through so much – raising children, divorces, financial hardships – yet still push forth.  And we all carry this family heirloom that not only have a strong presence in the physical sense, but is symbolic of our inner strength and endurance for life’s constant challenges.  Because of this, I am no longer dealing or accepting the fact that I have Ramos legs – but I’m proud of it.

So if I’m lucky enough to have a daughter someday, and she also carries the Ramos legs and wonders why her legs are shaped the way they are, I’m just going to respond, “Because you have the Ramos legs – Congratulations!  It means you’re strong, resilient, and capable of whatever lies ahead of you.”

*Ramos used to depict my mom’s maiden name, though it’s not really so.