Day 30: The Day We Decided to Get Married

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30-day challenge is to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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The morning and afternoon leading up to Ben’s proposal was one of the worst days as a temp to date.  At the time, I was assisting a married couple’s computer business in a small office on 18th street.  For several weeks, I was greeted each morning by passive-aggressive comments about how my days as their assistant might be numbered, and that we should explore different online personality tests to figure out if we were really compatible–so you know, healthy work environment.

Somewhat contradictory to their mistrust in my abilities, they decided to leave me in charge of the business for the first time (note that this is two weeks after I started).  On this day, I believe the phone rang approximately 100 times.  This is not, be any means, an exaggeration.  By noon it had become a joke.  Today was the day whenever every wealthy person’s computer decided to die, explode, fall off their desks, mysteriously self-destruct.  Interspersed with the panicked, entitled-rich-person phone calls came the, “Hiiiiii, I just wanted to have a nice slow chat about what your company does.  Are you the owner?”

By lunch time–or lack of lunch time–I had spent no more than five minutes looking at my email, which was now overflowing with emotional meltdowns.  Now, I swear to you, though most days were busy, they were never like this by any stretch of the imagination.  By the time my bosses called to check in, I had scheduled 9 new clients, set up over 15 meeting for fixing computers, and personally put out several fires by just looking up computer-y things on Google.  For once, thank the Lord, they were impressed with me.  Unfortunately for them, this madness put the nail in the coffin of whether I would ever accept this as a permanent position.

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Day 23: The Night I Met Ben

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

With only one week left in this challenge,  I figured it was a good time to tackle the bigger stories, the ones that shifted the course of my 20’s, and really, as luck would have it, my life.  I’ve written about this story before–the night Ben and I met–but never in complete detail.  SO here we go.

I almost didn’t accept the birthday party invitation from Jenn, a friend from college who was celebrating her birthday on the Lower East Side.  Nothing against Jenn, I would have just rather given into my trusty depression and climb back into bed with my laptop.  Yeah, that sounds like a better plan.  I was living at home at the time.  The year leading up to that summer left me in a rough spot.  I graduated college, hiked the Camino de Santiago, went through a vicious breakup three days after finishing the hike, worked in a job with a bully by my side for four months, and then found myself curled up in bed back in North Jersey for several months.  It was like a floodgate of emotional issues, kept at bay for years by the structured world of formal education, released its wrath the moment I left its protection.

Invitations like this were few and far between.  And since I planned to move to NYC, I needed to at least try and become comfortable with having social life there.  Yet there were several issues–I barely had any money and I worried my mood would take a dark turn during the party.  Still, I decided to accept Jenn’s offer and she graciously extended an offer to stay with her in Astoria that night.

It was one of the hottest days of July–July 23rd to be exact–and the only thing I could bare putting on my body that afternoon was a small sundress given to me by my friend Claire years earlier.  I stressed all afternoon about not looking like a weirdo, especially since I knew my ex, and many of his group, may be there that night.  Why I was putting myself through this, I did not know.  I just hoped there would be enough other people there that I could manage to have a good time.

After dropping my things off at Jenn’s, we stepped out into the humid night when a dramatic crack of thunder ripped through the air, sending a deluge of water through the streets.  It was a comical storm really, you had to laugh.  Because of this however, we took a cab–a luxury beyond my means at that time, you can be sure of that.  I noticed during our drive down the east side of Manhattan that this was one of those black cars that didn’t take cards–it’s wild how clueless you feel when you look back on your early-NYC self.  We arrived at the bar and I handed over every dollar I had brought for the evening.  I had money in my checking account, but not a whole lot.  So yeah, this should be an interesting evening.

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Day 7: The First Time I Said I Would Marry Ben

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

The first time I ever said out loud that I would marry Ben, was while standing on a beach after skinny dipping off the coast of North Carolina.  And more strangely, I didn’t even say it to Ben. We had just attended the beautiful wedding our college friends Elyse and Rob, who were letting us stay in her family’s house right on the beach.  At about 23, she was the first of us to get married, and so it was the also first time we all watched two of our friends grow up before our eyes.  Arranging wedding trips in those days was a larger feat than it is today.  Every dollar was important, and doing things like affording gifts or airfare were usually out of the question.  It was also in the height of my most confusing years in New York City, and so a trip like this often was a place to release my extreme frustration at the disappointment my attempted acting career was turning out to be.

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Heading to the wedding!

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New Offbeat Bride Publication: Top 5 joys of attending a wedding after yours is over

Woohoo!  The Offbeat community has been very welcoming and supportive.  I highly recommend wandering around their sites.  Here is a version of my recent post on Offbeat Bride:

Top 5 joys of attending a wedding after yours is over

Photo by Sara Smile Photography (via Offbeat Bride)

Photo by Sara Smile Photography (via Offbeat Bride)

The Joys of Being a Wedding Guest — After Your Own Wedding

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When our own wedding was approaching, and I was wrapped up in a pile of contracts, hot glue guns, and stress, my husband and I got some wonderful words of wisdom:

“The weddings you attend after your wedding are SO much fun.”

It sounded nice at the time, but I had no idea what she was talking about.  How could anyone else’s wedding live up to the feeling of your own personal celebration?  I was wrong.  Attending a wedding after your own is the best- and here’s why:

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The Train to Ben Bartolone

Today is the fifth anniversary of meeting my incredible husband Ben.  Just before we moved further into the suburbs, I was riding the N train back from visiting a friend in Astoria (where Ben and I first lived together) and thought about the stories connected to each station.  The N line, the Path, and now NJ transit to Montclair tells the story of our relationship.  So here is our subway map- from Astoria to Montclair…

Ditmars Blvd: Where Ben lived when we first met.  I would get to this station late at night when he was done with his show.  At this hour, the bakeries were always baking bread.  I will always connect that smell to those magical months where he was one of my only friends in the city, and Astoria was just for us.

From Martha's Country Bakery, our favorite date spot off Ditmars.

From Martha’s Country Bakery in 2010, our favorite date spot off Ditmars.

Astoria Blvd: Where we had our first apartment, and man was it a terrible one.  I choose to remember it fondly because it was our first, but there will always be the story of our “awful first apartment off the tri-borough bridge that was covered in mold”  It is also home of the Astoria Beer Garden, where Ben and I went for his 30th birthday and the bouncer taught him how to say happy birthday is 5 languages.
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30th Ave:  My first apartment.  When I chose it, I sat down in my parents’ house and realized that it was 11 blocks from Ben’s apartment, perfectly walkable on a pretty summer night.

First apartment!

First apartment!

Broadway: Right off of this stop is a Starbucks where Ben and I applied for our first apartment together.  We scraped up every dollar we could find to pay that security deposit and prayed that no one would find out we were actually actors (and not whatever full-time job we made up).

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36th Ave and 39th Ave:  We sailed through these stops and always said “I bet these neighborhoods will be expensive some day, it’s that funny?”  A bedroom is now about double of what I paid in 2010.

Queensboro Plaza:  The tradition of texting “My train!” began.  When we came above ground, Ben would text me that his train was coming.  I knew that if I waited four minutes after the text, I could get to 30th Ave and jump on Ben’s train heading to Ditmars.  He would often go in the front car so I could find him.  To this day we still text that when we’re close, that the other one can listen for the train going by.

59th and Lexington:  This station always reminds me of coming back from the first Steelers bar I even went to with Ben.  I was confused by the sunlight after being in a dark bar on a Sunday for four hours.  And I realized then that I should probably learn about what the heck in going on in a football game.  It eventually caught on…Go Steelers.  (If you change trains at this station, you can take it to where we first met)

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5th and 59th Street:  On our second anniversary, Ben and I boated around Central Park Lake.  This was after he bought me shoes because mine were falling apart.  We hopped on the train to get ready to go out that night.  It is how I hope to always remember Central Park.  (From here you can also walk to where Ben proposed)

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57th Street 7th Ave: This is where Ben once comforted me after our train stalled between stations.  It was one of those weeks where my patience with NYC had run out.  I was exhausted and claustrophobic and just needed to get home.  Ben and I were one of the only ones on the train and just as I was saying/crying that I felt I had no personal space in this city, the homeless man on the train began to CLIMB UNDER OUR SEAT.  Ben was there to keep me from completely losing my mind.  And is a strong man for it.

I also think that the announcement for this station is really sassy, like the lady has a sexy secret about 7th avenue.

49th Street: Early on, Ben told me this was one of his favorite stations because of the beautiful brick and because it reminded him of being in school.  I’ve appreciated the brick each time since.

42nd Street: Is it possible to have a fond memory of Times Square?  Let’s say because it’s closest to what was once was Lily O’Briens chocolate cafe in Bryant Park.  Our second date, we went there to get hot chocolate and talked in the park about Joseph Campbell for approximately three hours.

34th Street:  It’s one of my least favorite parts of the city, but it became our home-base for two and a half years when we rode the Path train.  I once had too many Manhattans and Ben bought me a very delicious chicken kabob off the street.  I told him it was the third best meal of my life.

23rd Street:  I can’t think of anything other than Trader Joe’s.  But it did feed us for a long time.  So yay Trader Joe’s!

14th Street: For a few months, Ben and I actually worked off the same stop and commuted together.  Every morning we would walk by a puppy daycare and look at the doggies playing before parting ways.

9th Street: The neighborhood where I came up with my vows:)

After drinking at Amelie...

After drinking at Amelie…

Christopher Street: We used to have a favorite Italian Bakery off this stop but it turned into a snazzy flower store. But still..delicious.

Hopping to NJ….

Hoboken Station:  Texas Arizona..we will see you in the fall.

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Newport Station, Jersey City:  Where Ben and I used to wander along the pier on pretty summer nights after getting ice cream.  We once watched a poor confused group of friends trying to figure out why the sun dial was broken at night….

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Grove Street, Jersey City: The first station we ever visited in Jersey City.  On the walk back here we decided it would be a nice place to live.  We have shared birthdays, anniversaries, and every frozen yogurt night in between at this station.  We even decided on our wedding ceremony ritual at Roman Nose a block away.

Getting our marriage license off of Grove Street

Getting our marriage license off of Grove Street

Journal Square: This station was the bane of our existence during our time in JC, but it was the station that took us home.  During Sandy, we stood out front and fully took in how the community was trying to come together after such a terrible storm.

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Pedestrian directing traffic during Sandy

Harrison:  No information on this topic.  What is this station?  Is it a real thing?

Newark Penn – Newark Broad:  These will always bring me back to our Audible days.  Ben boosted my confidence enough to not only ride the light rail by myself, but also record a few audiobooks.

Hopping to NJ Transit…

Walnut Street: Our new beautiful home, with the most peaceful walk I could ever ask for.  Ben still meets me though, even though our neighborhood is safe, and it is only a few blocks.

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One of the nicest things though?  There’s a bakery nearby that bakes bread, and that smell always reminds me of you.

Here’s to many more train stations, many more walks home, and many many more years.

Happy Anniversary sweetie:) I love you.

Photo by Kimberley Craven Photography

Photo by Kimberley Craven Photography

A Perfectly Imperfect Wedding

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It has taken some time to figure out how to express our wedding planning experience.  It’s like going on a life changing trip and then having people ask, “Well, how’d it go?”  You have too much to say, and yet nothing you can think of seems to do it justice.

To begin though, it helps to clear up some reasons I was hesitant to share my thoughts for a while…

One of the thousands of messages sent my way via the online wedding industry was: “Don’t write about your wedding, it’s uncouth, and people may see you as an ungrateful or disorganized bride.”  And Lord help us if people pass judgements on us based on old traditions and their own insecurities.

So I am slowly beginning to lay out what I learned in hopes to mold my ideas into a Buddhist-inspired wedding planning guide. I use guide loosely…how about: Suggestions on How to Not Lose Your Mind While Planning the Largest Party of Your Life While Still Remembering That You Are Focusing on the Beginning of Your Amazing Marriage.  And Buddhism is Pretty Neat Too.  I’ll work on that.

Here are some general ideas that I found did NOT aid us in planning our wedding.  They will not make sense for everyone.  You and I are different people, we have different relationships, so we’re going to have different wedding traditions.  Take what you like, and ignore the rest.  I LOVE feedback, but please don’t go all rainbow cake on me:)  (What I mean by rainbow cake.)

Suggestions I didn’t care for…

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1. The Proposal must always be a surprise, and if it isn’t, paint your nails.

Ugh.

Here is the approach Ben and I took: through some alcohol-inspired conversations, and a night where I stumbled upon the ring while looking for some wires for the Wii, I knew Ben was going to propose.  Did that make it any less special?  Of course not.  Knowing ahead of time gave me the proper time-frame to process the idea of getting engaged.  As Ben admitted later, the person proposing has months or years to process this giant idea and the person getting proposed to better decide in under ten seconds, or shit gets awkward.  In the end, it still surprised me, and I was in good shape to say “absolutely”.

Now, many magazines told me that the benefit of knowing is the chance to paint my nails, hire a spy/photographer, and arrange all my friends to stalk us in the bushes for instant party time!  My advice?  Even if you know about it, you will be so full of adrenaline that you will forget what words you said, what the hell your nails looked like, and basically how to stand up (and we were on ice skates to top it off).  All I wanted afterwards to was to be around Ben.  I knew celebrating with friends would follow soon enough.  Oddly enough, both our phone batteries died minutes after he proposed.  So we couldn’t post anything or text anyone, and we were able to walk down Madison Avenue in blissful solitude.

I completely understand why someone would want to capture the moment or hug friends afterwards, I totally get it, and have seen some beautiful photos of friends’ proposals. And that depends on your personality.  But I definitely don’t think fashion or your nail color will be the first thing on your mind.  And all you really need is the person you just got engaged to.

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Looks like someone didn’t read the article on camera face…

Document everything, because it’s better to look back on it later than live in the moment.  Oh and look pretty in pictures, damnit.

I learned pretty quickly that most advice online or in magazines is for presenting your engagement/wedding to the rest of the world and your future self, not for you and your significant other while it is happening.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in photography.  I am super grateful for our gorgeous wedding photos from Kim.  She and Dan were a huge part of our experience.  It’s the other stuff that gets a bit questionable…

Here are some scary gems:

-Don’t wear a weird dress, you’ll think you look dumb in 20 years

-Photograph every moment and always look your best, people love how pretty brides are. Oh, and learn to smile in photos, no one wants to see that double chin.

-Spending money shows that you care about your wedding and your guests.

-Never get tense or stressed around family or bridesmaids, people will think you’re a Bridezilla.

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Raaarrrr!!!

-Be respectful of talking about your wedding too much (or at all to those not invited), it may upset people.

-Choose a date that’s best for every guest, and make sure they have endless information on how to get from point A to point B.

And my least favorite?

-Join a gym.  Being in great physical shape will make you happier with your photos.

Woof.

Looks like all that stretching paid off.

Looks like all that stretching paid off.

One of the ideas I want to primarily focus on in my writing, with the help of some Buddhist teachings, is the idea of living presently and compassionately.  This is both to yourself and others.  I have always loved the idea of “help yourself to help others and help others to help yourself.”  It’s the version of the Golden Rule that makes more sense to me.

In wedding terms, being yourself and taking care of your health and mind will make people naturally celebrate with you.  You want to work out?  Great!  Exercise is wonderful for you. You want to stop eating anything but green beans so you don’t have arm fat?  Maybe rethink your priorities.

And being grateful and respectful to your friends, family, vendors, and guests (the same way you were to them before you were engaged) is all they need to feel appreciated during your special day.  They don’t need their hand held, they don’t need proof that you’re pretty and organized, and they won’t judge you.  If they are, that’s their own deal, not yours.  They love you, which is why you are inviting them to your wedding.  Your wedding is to give people a glimpse of the world you have created as a couple.  And to eat a lot.

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My wedding party has signed up to be indentured servants

Oh Lordy.  Why why why?  These people are your closest friends, the ones you want IN THE ROOM WITH YOU before you go take your wedding vows.  They have agreed to spend money on a dress (or suit) they wear once, several expensive trips, and parties they are expected to plan.  These are fabulous people.

I realized early on that having a bridal party was an excuse to get together with five very close ladies in my life and celebrate each other.  They have cried with me on bathroom floors, gotten me home in one piece after parties, and celebrated each step of my relationship with Ben.  You are blending your life with someone else’s life, and these people are a part of that.  So have a drink, and don’t boss them around.  Think of them as an extension of your constant party that is planning a wedding.  Otherwise, the wedding will end, and you will feel stinky about being a jerk.

My goals was to make sure they were always a little bit tipsy on champange.

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Everything has to be “Perfect”

I snort a little when I think of this word.  A. Because I’m not sure what it means and B. It’s dumb.  Life is never “perfect” and I prefer it that way.  If life had been how I was planning it, I wouldn’t have been living with my parents the night I forced myself out of my moping stupor to go to Jenn’s party. I wouldn’t have met Ben, and wouldn’t be planning this wedding in the first place.

Screw perfect.

Stuff will happen on your wedding day and leading up to it.  Money for your dream budget will not come through, your wedding craft project may look a little wonky (sometimes the wind blows when you’re spray painting tambourines and leaves get stuck on them), a guest you love has to back out, or something really hard happens, like losing a family member or friend.

Life keeps moving even while you’re planning, and it can be hard when your emotions are understandably in la-la land.

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My advice?  (And the basic theme of my book that will theoretically be written?)

Dream about how your want to feel on the day of your wedding, everything else (how it will look, who will be there, how everyone else feels) will fall into place.  Figure out together how your thoughts differ, and find a happy balance.

I knew that when I imagined a “perfect” party, people would be so comfortable in their surroundings that they never want to leave.  It was that feeling of nostalgia you get on a peaceful vacation.  I’ve always had that feeling at the Jersey Shore, so that’s how we found Cape May.

Ben always wanted a Bar Mitsvah-like atmosphere of celebration, where everyone knew they could let loose, eat good food, and celebrate how much they love each other.  And this is how we found the Chalfonte (they had famous fried chicken, we were sold).

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All of the other options: colors, fabrics, flowers, clothing, were then flexible.  If we didn’t have $500 centerpieces as high as the ceiling, would we be able to feel the way we hoped on our day?  Yes.  So screw it, we’ll make our own centerpieces.

I knew that physical distractions drive me crazy.  So I didn’t get a corseted dress and I put flip-flops under our dinner table.

Also, since we are both in theatre, I expressed that I didn’t want our wedding to feel like a flashy production.  We have enough of that.  So we chose The Chalfonte backyard and made almost everything by hand.

It amazed me how all the ideas made sense by the end, and they all had a story behind them.  We made friends with most of our vendors, and we want to return to the Chalfonte every year now.  What more could you ask for?

Things did fall apart: my nails were totally chipped from arranging flowers, my body decided to shut down the week before, and it was 50 degrees days leading up to it.  None of this ever mattered, and we still got married. And still felt nostalgic, relaxed, and ready to party the whole time.

So that’s a start for now!

My goal for writing down all my ideas in some sort of organized manner is to help any couples that feel the way we did about the wedding industry.  There’s a lot of crap out there, and a lot of wonderful traditions as well.  It’s all about finding what works for you as a couple, and enjoying the adventure of planning.  At the end of the night, you want to be pleasantly buzzed, exhausted from hugging everyone and dancing, and ready to continue celebrating how awesome marriage is.

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Clearly more wedding posts to come.  This is just a start to get my mind rolling and write something down.  Thanks for reading:)

Thank you to Helen for the awesome blog title idea.  She is a thinker!

And all of the photos from the wedding day are by Kimberly Craven Photography.  Check them all out at kimcraven.com!!