A Retrospective: My Top Wedding Planning Tips

Fresh from crossing the threshold from fiance to Mrs in 2014, I’m looking forward to my first year as married woman in 2015 and it’s safe to say things look a little different from here. Going from knowing absolutely nothing about weddings, to having planned and had my own (ten years in the making), it’s crazy how different I feel about it now! I was so completely overwhelmed when I started, that I was ready to give up and elope several times. But boy am I glad we stuck it out and had a great big party to celebrate! It was worth it.

10649856_10102958486236693_1545313371434746882_nHere is my perspective on the process from start to finish, from a wedding newbie starting from scratch, getting married in California and planning from Boston.

Overwhelmed: Where to Start? How about The Dress. I know it’s seems like a strange place to begin, how can you figure out what to wear if you literally have no other details? Well, it’s one of the only things you can do without a date. Most dresses can be altered to add or remove sleeves, for example, if you switch the time of year you get married. It’s also a way to ease in to the wedding world without spending money or making a big commitment, since most salons allow you to try on lots of dresses for free without purchasing right away, or at all.


Find a Venue before you pick a Date. We went through the process of picking our ideal season, best dates and times of year, but when we started searching for venues, that all went out the window. We found the ideal place: a historic walled garden in the heart of downtown old town Monterey, CA: gorgeous, affordable, central: booked two years in advance. They had ONE DATE left for the entire year: August 9th, which at the time, was over a year away. It was the place, we took it. That was after we told most of our friends we would get married in the spring. Oh well! The bottom line: most venues book so far ahead or have seasonal restrictions, that sometimes compromising when you can get married will smooth the planning process.

Invite only as many people as you can feed. It sounds weird, but it’s not a good idea to invite more people, and expect a certain number of “No’s.” Set an early deadline for RSVP’s so you can have a good idea of headcount well before the wedding, and then invite more people as a second tier if you have less than desired. Being underspent is much less of a shock than overestimating.


Have one thing that inspires you. For us, it was our cake. I posted about struggling to find a theme and a color scheme for our wedding ages ago, and how we saw a picture of a cake that gave us the inspiration to start planning. We decided to give that picture to the wonderful ladies at Just Cake and she did an excellent job replicating the original design and preserving our thematic inspiration.


Seriously consider a Wedding Coordinator. I thought it would be a waste of money, with a hefty pricetag and not much value. I decided to hire a coordinator for “Day of” services when it became apparent that planning from afar I would need some boots on the ground with experience. I used Yelp to find Patty Speirs of Every Last Detail. For those unsure of what “Day of” services entail, Patty actually began coordinating two months in advance to get everything organized, interfaced with all my vendors to coordinate set up and clean up, directed the rehearsal, timed the walking down the aisle and the flow of the day, and so many more things that I would never have thought of doing. It might be different for someone else with a lot of wedding experience, but for me, I was able to enjoy the day and be worry-free: a priceless experience.

The best planning resources.

  1. Google Drive: We kept all our spreadsheets here: guest lists, research on florists and venues, made it easy to access from anywhere and plan whenever I could regardless of whether I was on a phone or computer. Not only that, many vendors emailed us documents, and it was much easier to add them directly to a Drive folder, rather than printing everything out.
  2. Here Comes the Guide: Although this is only relevant for brides planning a California, Chicago, Hawaii, or DC wedding, it’s the most comprehensive resource for venues, vendors, pricing, etc, that I found that isn’t totally overwhelming and not user-friendly. It put together details about venues that I didn’t even know I should be thinking about, but having those things itemized gave me the outline of a mental checklist to keep in mind when I visited places in person.
  3. Evernote. I use my iPhone a lot, and this tool was the best way to keep checklists organized, updated, and synced across my computer, phone, and tablet. When something struck me I could just write it down immediately, and it would be in one place, and still everywhere I needed it. It came in most useful toward the homestretch, when there were so many tiny details to think about.
  4. Pinterest. While there is an epidemic or Pinterest-perfect wedding wishes and cliches out there, it’s still a good aggregate of styles, colors, ideas, and DIY’s. On Pinterest I was able to find some wonderful ideas that I made my own, such as the aforementioned cake. I also found my invitation vendor by browsing Pinterest: Elli, which is a unique collective of designers who make customizable wedding stationery so gorgeous, I wish they did more than just weddings!

If you’re planning a wedding, good luck! I’m looking forward to NOT having to plan anymore, and just revel in memories of a happy day!

Venue: Historic Memory Gardens, Monterey, CA

Catering: Grapes of Wrath Catering

Photography: Michael Keel Photography

Cake: Just Cake

Flowers: Kate Healey of Big Sur Flowers

DJ: RockBottom DJ

Wedding Planning: Patty Speirs of Every Last Detail



Chocolate Chip Banana Protein Pancakes

It’s Sunday morning, and there’s no food in the house. All I have is two week old bananas that look a little sad and brown: perfect for cooking! There’s no milk or eggs, only a free bottle of vanilla flavored protein shake I picked up as a sample at Boston’s Earthfest this weekend. I don’t even know why I took one, I hate vanilla flavored drinks! I also had less than half a bag of mini chocolate chips…the makings of some banana pancakes! So instead of running to the corner doughnut shop to pick up breakfast, as my fiance kindly offered to do, I opted to try using this protein shake (which was mostly soymilk based) as a milk substitute in a chocolate chip pancake recipe. The results were surprisingly delicious!

2014-05-18 09.45.01Modified from Bakerella’s Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups of Flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp Flax Meal + 3 Tbsp water, mixed (or 1 egg)
  • 1 cup Svelte Organic Vanilla Protein shake (or milk of choice)
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas (~1 cup)
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips

2014-05-18 12.35.20

The banana and chocolate flavor nicely masked the protein-vanillaness of the shake, and gave it an extra something to keep us full throughout the day. I also used two tablespoons of sugar in my pancakes but I think it could even be omitted since they were plenty sweet already between the shake and the chocolate. I didn’t even have to use syrup.

To start, mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then separately (I like a Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup instead of another bowl) mash the bananas, to one cup. Then add the protein shake “milk” to 2-cups, mix, and add flax “egg”, melted butter and mix it all up. Then pour it into your dry ingredients and stir a few times until combined. I like to melt butter in a pan over medium heat before adding the pancake batter, then flip away! I add more butter each time I make a new batch to prevent the pancakes from sticking. If you have a non-stick griddle this isn’t necessary.

Tips for flipping pancakes perfectly every time: Once I volunteered at a pancake breakfast, pouring and flipping dozens of pancakes at a time. People were surprised how easily and mess-free my flipping skills turned out to be: apparently pancake flipping was my secret superpower! I had learned from my mom how to flip pancakes long ago, and her method turned out to be foolproof. I followed these simple steps:

  1. Pour a spatula sized amount of batter into the pan. Not too big, not too small (although smaller is easier). A little less than a quarter of a cup of batter.
  2. Don’t touch the pancakes until the edges are matte (no longer shiny) and bubbles appear. You should see bubbles even toward the middle of the pancake, even if it is still shiny in the middle.
  3. Slide your spatula underneath, wriggling it slightly side to side as you go
  4. Twist your wrist to flip, and flip with confidence! Don’t panic.

Now you’ve made the perfect pancakes!

2014-05-18 10.13.58




Things I now know about Blizzards

Driving from California to Massachusetts all those years ago, I thought I was over the culture shock within a year. But I had forgotten the kind of events that you may only experience once a year (or not at all some years) that life-long New Englanders have under their belts: a snow storm.

Now with Blizzard Nemo dumping 24 inches in 24, it marks only my second ever experience with over 12 inches of snowfall and my very first blizzard. I’m excited I’ve now experienced one of the top 5 biggest snow storms in Boston’s history! I look back and can’t help but think maybe I’ve learned a thing or two. As a Californian, my idea of being prepared for snow was having chains for your car tires and a hose to melt the ice off your windshield. Turns out, neither of those are a good idea here.

Lesson 1, Shoveling: shovel out as soon as humanly possible, but not before it’s stopped snowing. Do not, under any circumstances allow the snow to melt and re-freeze before shoveling or you’ll just get iced over. Surprisingly, pouring jugs of how water on the ground will not help you remove the ice. Do not wear cute knitted gloves, this will provide no grip and make handling the shovel impossible. You need something with grip, like leather. Figure out where you are going to put the snow, it has to be somewhere it can sit around for a long time.


Lesson 2, The Car: Make sure you’re parked on the correct alternating side of the street. If you don’t plan to drive all winter, at least start the car once in a while–it won’t start at all by the end if you don’t. Put up your wipers up before the snow happens otherwise they will freeze to your windshield. Also, when shoveling around your car don’t forget there can be snow under it too, which will make getting out of your parking spot just as hard. Take the snow off the top of the car first though– it’s probably more than it looks like and then you’ll have to shovel the ground around your car twice. Brush off your car with something soft, like a broom. Ice + scraping = scratches. Keep such an implement in your car all winter. Your wiper fluid will be frozen, so don’t try spraying it on your windshield to remove ice. Learn how to parallel park: two big banks of snow on either side of your shoveled out spot takes an expert to get in and out, if you don’t do it, someone else will. Guard your parking spot like a maniac: use a stroller, lawn chair, whatever you can to save your spot while you’re away, shoveled out spots are good as gold and lots of people are lazy. My personal favorite: trash can.

Lesson 3, transportation: Just because you can drive your car in the snow doesn’t mean it will obey your commands. Public transportation may shut down in the middle of the day so don’t depend on that either. Even walking someplace takes twice as long in lots and lots of snow, do you really have to be wherever it is? Sometimes it’s best to stay home.

Lesson 4, Work: Weigh the cost of what you have to do versus how long it will take you to get there, sometimes it’s just not worth it. Also, if campus is closed, your swipe card may not work: they’ve thought of how to keep overzealous kids like you out.