mysecondcupofcoffee


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the What Comes to Mind category.

A Reformed Snob

How a sisterly challenge changed my reading perspective.

I’m a literature snob. I admit it. If it is listed on a banned book list, I’m all over it. If it’s popular fiction, I’ll add it to my reading queue. If it’s a classic, I’ll probably enjoy it. So, how does this make me a snob? I’m a literature snob because I want to read what I want to read when I want to read it; I don’t take personal suggestions.

That all changed, however, when my sister issued a challenge that I couldn’t refuse. Her challenge was simple: I’ll read one of yours if you read one of mine.

A bit of history might be handy right about now, so here you go.

My sister, Vicki, is 2002 graduate of Purdue University with a degree in English. I started out as an English major, then opted to be an English minor, then dropped that possible career path altogether to pursue various degrees in communications (graduating in 2010). Regardless of our degrees, however, we are both avid readers. She usually leans toward 19th century British literature; I generally gravitate toward American literature.

While enjoying dinner a few weeks ago, we began discussing the finer points of our respective genre preferences, but our debate was abruptly stymied by our lack of expertise concerning the other’s preferred genre. I don’t care to be uninformed on a given topic, let alone one that involves literature, so this didn’t settle well with me. My wise sister then laid down the aforementioned challenge and I couldn’t refuse (in general, I lack the ability to turn down a challenge… they are a weakness of mine).

In order to make this a fair trade, we established some ground rules. We would each select works from any genre within our personal libraries for the other to read providing that 1) the other hadn’t read it before, and 2) we were able to intelligently discuss any book that we selected for the other to read.

With the rules in place, we each went home pondering what piece of literature we would select for the other to experience. After perusing my shelves, I selected The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. It has been a favorite of mine since I first read it in high school and I thought for sure Vicki would hate the style of writing (Yes, you read that right, I selected a book I thought she wouldn’t like… I thought it would liven up the exchange!). Vicki selected The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier, a lesser-known work by the author of Rebecca.

Though I attempted to keep an open mind, I was skeptical at best about liking the du Maurier work. It just seemed too stogy for my taste. But, true to my word, I hunkered down that evening and began reading. The first evening, I stayed up way too late and read half the book! The story and the writing fascinated me; it was brilliant! The next day, I texted Vicki to let her know that I was hooked and she informed me that she had finished The Outsiders in one sitting; she loved it!

Upon finishing The Scapegoat a few days later, I realized that my snobbery had been keeping me from enjoying some excellent books. Much to my chagrin, I had to admit that the book swap had been a brilliant idea, one that had truly opened my eyes. It’s as Dr. Seuss says in I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Hmm… I wonder what she will give me to read next.

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Next On My List? – Part 1

What should I read next?

I know this questions isn’t as deep as, say, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?,” but it’s a conundrum that has plagued readers since Gutenberg’s press spat more than just the Bible. The problem isn’t that it’s hard to come up with an answer; the problem is that there are SO MANY answers.

I received this text this morning:

It took me forever because of school stuff, but I finally finished “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Once I got to the second half, it was hard to put down. Is there another book I should read?

As I have a deep love for this question, especially when it is asked by a high school senior, I responded immediately. In hopes of narrowing down the options, however, I asked the questioner a few preferences.

Romance?
Yes

Mystery?
No

Literary Classic?
Yes

These responses, alas, still left me hundreds of options. I quickly began to jot down the books that popped into my mind. The original list had well over 20 books (which I was reasonably proud of considering it took me less than 5 minutes), but I whittled it down to these current top picks.

Wuthering Heights
The classic love story of Heathcliff and Catherine. I’m never quite sure whom to love in this tale. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

Farewell to Arms
The love story of Fredric and Catherine (yup, another one). The dry humor is a delightful backdrop to the war the story is set in. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

The Great Gatsby
The love story of Gatsby and Daisy, and fast cars, parties, and swimming pools. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

The Scarlet Letter
Hester Prynne’s journey to turn old-school Boston on its head as she blew stereotypes out of the water (OR: How red thread changed a women’s life and killed a man). It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
“Fred” and Holly Golightly take on New York (sort of). Capote answers the questions: What is an American Geisha? I think a part (no matter how small) of every women wants live in Holly’s shoes. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

Did you notice a theme? Surprisingly enough, I love all these books save one. Bet you can’t guess which one!

As I was composing this post, I received the following text:

Book recommendations? (Yup, twice in one day! I could have hugged my sis-in-law when she texted me this!)

Quite giddy with excitement, I responded…

Genre? Classic or modern?

Response…

All of the above!

…Challenge accepted! My top picks at the moment are…

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
22 essays and the full spectrum of human emotions. Clever, witty, and charming.

Lamb
The life of Jesus as told by his best friend (and hell of a sinner), Biff. This is a DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER moment, if I ever saw one.

Perks of Being a Wallflower
Letters, all letters. But poignant and powerful in the way a teenager is honest and real and raw.

Wild
Hike a trail, find yourself. It’s an emotional workout hiking everyday with the author, but the end is worth the journey.

Fight Club
The first rule of Fight Club is…. This must be the first Chuck Palahniuk book you read. Why? Don’t ask questions; just do it! No really, it’s a great book and an incredibly clever writing style. I appreciate how you can almost step into Chuck’s mind.

And Then There Were None
Possibly my favorite murder mystery. Agatha is a genius… and everyone dies. Whodunit?!

The Host
(Sigh) It pains me a bit to add this to the list (just because I have issues with the author), but it’s the best book Ms. Stephanie wrote and if you want something light, this isn’t a bad weekend read. It’s pretty clever, actually.

So there you have it. This concludes
Part 1 of Next On My List?. 
Tune in next time for a new batch of books!

On a side note, if you want to check out my thoughts on book censorship, click here.


Book vs Movie: The Age-Old Question

Don’t judge a book by its movie.
J.W. Eagan

Eagan is right, you know. You shouldn’t judge a book by its movie, but the same is true in reverse as well. Movies are constantly judged by their book. Before you get your literary panties in a twist, let me be the first to say that the lack of Peeves in the HP movies broke my gosh-dang heart and I berated the director’s lack of foresight. BUT, that oversight doesn’t mean I hate the movies and refuse to watch them. In fact, I love the movies.

Let me explain.

Movies can be brilliant. Books can be brilliant. If movie-watching-readers (like me!) can just learn to separate one from the other, the world would be a happier place. Am I right or am I right?

Accept the fact that screaming “that wasn’t in the books!” doesn’t diminish the pain you felt when Dobby died. I mean, the complete removal of a brilliant character like Glorfindel doesn’t negate the power of Aragorn screaming “but today is not that day!,” does it? Of course not!

See what I mean? Accept the movies and the books of fandoms as two sides of the same coin. Acceptance is the first step to recovery…


An Ode to Java

Oh bitter liquid that starts my day,
How lovely and smooth you are.
A dash of cream, you billow steam,
I drink you in the car.

Oh brown beverage that keeps me sane,
How tempting and rich you remain.
You fill my cup; you wake me up,
I would drink you on a train.

Oh addictive drink that has me enthralled,
Your absence hurts my head.
You have my soul; I’m out of control,
I guess I’ll stop when I’m dead.

Check out my Confessions of a Coffee Addict.


Confessions of a Coffee Addict

Hi, my name is Lynette Fager and I’m a coffee addict. I feel like I should be sitting on a folding chair positioned in a circle amidst others with this same affliction. I didn’t even realize I had a problem until a few weekends ago when I went 72 hours without coffee. I was at a retreat and without access to a coffee pot or Starbucks. If you are a multiple-cups-a-day kind of person (like me), you know this was a challenging.

As hard as it was, however, it was also eye opening. When that withdrawal headache kicked in at hour 18 or so, I chalked it up to the weird weather and lack of sleep. But when it stuck around for hours, not as a full-blown, cranium-splitting headache, but rather as a dull, mind-numbing annoyance, I knew there was more to this headache than I wanted to admit.

I tend to drink coffee like its part of my job (and it was part of my job for years when I was a barista!). I’m one of those individuals who realizes simultaneously that it’s noon and that I have consumed four (or five or six…) cups of coffee already. This, I have deduced, is the problem: I drink it without thinking about it.

Though I’m sure there are worse things to which I could be addicted (crystal meth comes to mind), I don’t care for the idea that a substance can affect me like this. So, I have decided to confront my addiction. I’m not excited about it, but confront it I shall! I will keep better track of my cups of coffee throughout the day and I shall order a grande, not a venti, when I hit up Starbucks for my fix. Will I remove coffee completely from my life? Oh, heck no; it’s far too tasty for that! But will I master the hold that it has on me, yes indeed. It will be a challenge, but I think I’m up to it!

FYI: It’s 10:30 a.m. as I write this and I’m only on cup number two. That’s not a bad start, right?


You Drive Me Crazy

My unofficial thoughts on the quirks in marriage and Britney Spears.

Opposites attract. So do magnets. That’s why my husband, Josh, and I are a good match. Not because we are magnets, but because we are opposites. I could explain all sorts of ways in which we are opposite, but I’d rather explore a few of the little things in marriage that can drive you crazy. How does this relate to our oppositeness? Well, those little things that drive you crazy in a relationship are typically rooted in opposite ways of doing things and living life. Pretty simple, eh?

Example #1:
My husband isn’t bothered with a burning need to put things in their proper place. He walks in the door and leaves his shoes right next to the coat closet (where the shoes belong). He walks two steps past the door and deposits his coat on the back of a chair instead of hanging it in the coat closet that he just walked by. He takes two more steps and leaves his keys on the table instead of the hook by the door … you get the idea. This drives me crazy. I’m much more of a put-it-away-as-you-go kind of person.

Example #2:
On the flip side of crazy, I have never understood the point of carefully rolling toothpaste from the bottom of the tube to the top as you use it. I simply squeeze toothpaste onto my toothbrush and continue in this pattern until the tube is almost empty and then I start squeezing from the bottom of the tube to maximize my toothpaste investment. This drives Josh crazy. He is all about the careful process of rolling the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube for the duration of that particular tube.

Example #3:
I have heard of other marriage misdemeanors involving such weapons as a roll of toilet paper. The couple in question has an ongoing battle of wills. The husband is of the opinion that the toilet paper should roll from the top and the wife is insistent that the paper should be pulled from the bottom. Last I heard this war was still raging. Happily, Josh and I are both of the opinion that toilet paper should be rolled from the top.

So what is the moral to this tale? There isn’t one. These are merely amusing anecdotes about the little glitches that can either stress or strengthen a relationship.

Oh, and there were no thoughts on Britney Spears. I just wanted to use the amusing title.


I Am (Super)Woman

Here me roar… Meooooowwwww!

There are moments when I am supremely proud to be a woman. To be honest, I’m typically very proud to be a woman (though that span of time every 28 days blows), but during the Superbowl halftime show, Beyonce made the power of females come alive.

Superbowl halftime shows have become an ongoing competition for the best pyrotechnics and staging. The past two years have been, in my oh-so-humble opinion, a step in that direction. The past two shows (Madonna and Beyonce) have had awesome staging and costumes and all that jazz, but they have showcased powerful women doing powerful things. Madonna walked up to the door of power, Beyonce marched right through it in black leather stilettos.

I’m not a feminist in the most liberal sense of the word, but I do appreciate when women take a step forward and show the world yet again that we are here and we will be heard on our own terms, not speaking in a basso profondo, but rather in a resonate and clear female sound.

That is why a stage filled with women was appealing. Women playing a (literally) flaming guitar. Women playing drums. Women dancing. Woman in silhouette created the configuration of the stage for Pricilla’s sake! It was a halftime show that wasn’t about having sex on stage, it was about the power and might of women.

I was proud.

Did I like that she was dressed in what a friend described as “scraps of leather and lace” …? I was neither pleased nor saddened. Beyonce is a hottie. But it is more than that; she is the embodiment of the song “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” She isn’t a size two, but she is an hourglass… all curves and muscle. While typically superstars add “body issues” to my list of insecurities, Beyonce doesn’t. In fact, she makes me a bit proud of my figure… funny how that works.

So to sum up: Well played, Beyonce, well played.


Rebecca

Did you ever want something really badly, but you couldn’t conclusively explain why? I have. Maybe you can relate to my tale, maybe you can’t. Either way, I was amazed at the memories (and emotions) a doll could invoke in a 26-year-old’s psyche. Poetic, I know. This is my tale (and my attempt to conclusively explain)…

When I was little, I desperately wanted an American Girl doll. I read through the magazines and I admired the dolls of my friends. Yes, I had dolls of my own (and a slightly unhealthy admiration for Barbies) but there was something about the American Girl Dolls that I longed for. I didn’t realize it then, but I understand it now: I wanted to be a part of her (their) story.

I remember when Addy was released in 1993. She was my instant favorite. I was 6 years old and completely enamored by her. I poured over her books whenever I could get my hands on them. There was something about her life that seemed epic to a 6 year old (and there was something to the fact that she looked different than my other dolls). I didn’t understand at the time that she was a runaway slave and that she, along with her mother, were in search of freedom and the rest of their family. I just knew that her life was constantly changing and that she part of an adventure that I couldn’t possibly emulate, no matter how much I wanted to.

But Addy wasn’t my only American Girl Doll dream, she was just the only one I remember anticipating. There were other stories that I read that planted themselves in my young and impressionable mind and grew in my imagination.

I remember Felicity (released in 1991), the spunky colonial girl growing up as America is on the brink of the Revolutionary War. Looking back, I understand that I was drawn to her free spirit and tomboyish nature (I had a bit of both myself), but when I was young, I just thought she was wild. She rode horses and, instead of learning to be a proper gentlewoman, she went off on adventures. She was who I wanted to be when I was tired of being “good.”

I remember Samantha (released in 1986). Samantha was a rags to riches story (in my childlike mind). She was an orphan but her grandmother (and guardian) was rich and I couldn’t imagine a better way to grow up when I was young. I also desperately wanted a nickname and Samantha had one… Sam. She lived in the early 1900s. She lived in a world that was constantly changing; she was a part of the change and yet, she knew her place in it. She was the one that I wanted to be when I fantasized about a proper, high-class, urban life.

And to round off my list of favorite American Girl Dolls, there was Kirsten (also released in 1986). When I was little, I called her Kristen because I didn’t know any better, but she was special because she reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the real live person whose life I wanted to emulate (until I caught on that she had to use an outhouse and even then, I might have been persuaded). Every day for Kirsten was a challenge and a surprise because she was from “somewhere else” (that’s how my child’s mind  thought of it… she was from Sweden). She was part of the pioneer fantasy that I equated to discovery, wide open spaces, and freedom.

Every American Girl story was so different and I desperately wanted to be part of them all. Well, really only the ones I just mentioned. The only other one I knew and liked when I was a child was Molly and she reminded me of my sister because she had glasses. That was the only similarity, but I was a kid and didn’t know any better. I would fantasize about their worlds and lives. I would wish and pretend to be there.

Even at that young age, I remember feeling acutely the emotions of Addy’s journey as if I was running to Philadelphia with her and her mother. Their stories left a deep impression on my child mind. But somehow, I suppressed their impact as I grew. I attached myself to the Barbie world and left the history and stories of these dolls behind. It wasn’t until I was much older (almost 20 years older) that I realized how much those dolls had meant to my childhood imagination.

It was when I went the house of a dear friend and saw her American Girl doll sitting in a place of honor on her shelf even though my friend hadn’t played with her in many years (she is my age, after all) that I realized that that longing to be a part of the American Girl story was still there.

Call it silly, but I felt as though I had missed out. I felt as though my imagination had been hampered and that, somehow, this missing part of my childhood had impacted my adult life.

Then a gift came from my dear friend… something I never expected. In a small box, just a bit talled and slightly thinner than a pop can, lay my very own American Girl Doll (Did you know they made mini-American Girl Dolls? I didn’t!), a new one whose story I didn’t yet know. Her name is Rebecca Rubin and she is a 9-year-old girl living on the Lower East Side in 1914 with her Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, siblings and a grandmother known only as Bubbie.

It wasn’t until I took her out of her box and admired her historically accurate clothing and pretty face that I remembered the stories of Addy, Felicity, Samantha, and Kirsten. It wasn’t until I started to read Rebecca’s story that I realized how deeply rooted my memories of those other childhood friends were. And as I began to re-read their stories (thank you Google), the memories of why I love them so much welled back up inside me. It is really only as I write this blog that I have put words to my childhood imagination and even now, it makes my heart simultaneously smile and hurt.

Thank you dear friend, you know who you are, for re-opening a long shut door to my childhood. You didn’t know that’s what you were doing, I’m sure, but that’s what you did and sentimental me feels that you need to know how much that simple act meant to someone still searching for her own story.


List Lovers Unite!

I have a slight obsession with book lists (i.e. reading lists). I’m not sure if it’s a pathological need to ensure that I am, in fact, well read, or if it’s the simple love of lists (and the subsequent ability to check things off of them). Either way, there is still a deep-seeded love for book lists deep within my soul.

I stumbled across a blog entitled “10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That Horrid Girl in Twilight)” and couldn’t help but read it. I was compelled to peruse this blogger’s thoughts. I mean, come on, aren’t you?

I probably should preface this list by saying that I struggle to criticize a book that I haven’t read, so, though I don’t think Twilight will be the next Pride & Prejudice (damn, that would be depressing…), I did at least read the entire series so that I knew what all the hype was about. Actually, a friend and I have attended the opening night (or, at least, the opening weekend) of each of the Twilight movies. That was an adventure. But I digress. Back to the list!

The books on this blogger’s list were as follows (my thoughts are in green)…

The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery (maybe just Green Gables and Avonlea)
The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (a classic, though written at a young reader level, that every girl should read)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (good ol’ JK)
Till We Have Face by C.S. Lewis (a lesser-known work of Lewis’, but a brilliant must-read!)
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien (don’t be fooled by how some characters are portrayed in the movies!)
All six Jane Austen classics
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (I’d mark this one off the list, but that’s just me)
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (this one has been added to my list: Need To Read)

I was impressed with the list that the blogger had assembled. I not only agree with the list, but whole-heartedly support her suggestions. I don’t have a daughter, but if I did (or do someday), I would want her to mirror the characters in these novels and not the tripe a protagonist (yes, Bella) from Twilight. I have read all but one of the books on her list and, as I noted, that book has been added to my Need To Read list. This list left me in high-spirits. 

A few minutes after climbing onto my high horse, however, I stumbled upon another list (“10 Books Every Girl Should Read in Her Twenties”) that left me in far lower spirits for two reasons: 1) I haven’t read the majority of the books suggested, and 2) the list suggests these books for women to read while in their 20s. Why does point #2 leave my spirits a bit tarnished? Because I only have three years left in my 20s. That thought hit my like a stampeding rhino as I read her blog and I sobbed in the corner for a bit thanks to that startling realization.

Her list went as follows (my thoughts are, again, in green)…

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, #1) by Sophie Kinsella
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Oh, I’ve read this one!)
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
Bitches on a Budget: Sage Advice for Surviving Tough Times in Style by Rosalyn Hoffman
What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
What Did I Do Wrong? by Liz Pryor
20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction by Christine Hassler
Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled and Independent by Judy Ford

Yup, that’s right, ladies & gentleman. I have only read one of the books on this wise woman’s list and I’m feeling less-than-well-read and a bit ill because of that (if I were a color, I’d be brownish-green… the color of algae on a lake in midsummer).

But, enough sulking! I must press on toward my newly-minted goal: to read all the books mentioned in this post that I haven’t, thus far in life, cracked the cover of. Well, “cracked the cover” is flowery of language as I will, I’m sure, read them on my Nook and therefore, no covers will be cracked. It will be more of an “electronic pages will be swiped from right to left with the tap of a finger,” but you get the point.

The the immortal words of the 10th Doctor, “Allons-y!”


Weddings: A lesson in…

Patience, Conviction, Priorities, & Negotiation.

I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance, A church filled with family and friends.I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for, He said one that would make me his wife.~Author Unknown

After nearly two years of marriage, the nightmares about the wedding planning are finally decreasing in frequency. I can now walk past a wedding boutique without cringing and feeling tulle crawling on my skin. I can eat cake without imagining if guests will like it. I can enjoy flowers for the prettiness and not for there potential in a bouquet.

Long story short, the therapy is working!

Okay, so I’m being extremely sarcastic. Don’t misunderstand, I Love being married, but the wedding planning… well, let’s just say that if I could do it all over again it would be Vegas-style all the way!

Recently, however, a dear friend asked me if I have any wedding-planning advice. Well dear friend (and anyone else planning a wedding), this blog is for you! Keep in mind, though, these are my opinions, I’m sure there are many that would disagree with me, but each wedding is different. It’s up to you whose advice you take. Also, this blog is long and I’m sorry for that, but I feel that everything in the list is important.

Thought #1: Remember that your wedding day is only one day. Yes, there is that perfect dress that you love and you are contemplating selling your car to pay for it, but it’s not really worth it. Make the day about you and your spouse, but don’t get so carried away that you don’t have any money left at the end of the day or that your parents are suffering because of your wedding choices.

Thought #2: I enjoy doing my own make-up. It relaxes me. I thought that having a professional do my make-up on the big day would make life easier, but it stressed me out. I ended up washing off some of what she did (though it looked fine) and redoing it because it was something I enjoy doing and it helped me relax. Think about the things in your life that relax you and make those a part of your day. Be that your hair or your nails or your make-up.

Thought #3: Be kind to your bridal party. Keep their budget it mind as well. I have been many a wedding and have paid a large sum of money for bridesmaid’s dresses that I haven’t worn again (save one which was a fluke… two brides I stood up for chose the same dress in the same color one year apart… don’t count on this happening to you). My choice for my wedding: I gave the bridesmaids a color and a few perimeters (length, solid color, etc.) and let them choose something they loved. Groomsmen wore stuff that they already had in their closets and we rented their vests instead of asking them to rent tuxes. Though these options might not be what you want to do, still keep budgets in mind and don’t ask them to sell their blood on the black market to pay for a dress that you want.

Thought #4: Don’t get so wrapped up in appearances that you spend tons extra on things that aren’t necessary. For instance, if it’s cheaper for you to get married and have a reception at the same location and you like the look of the place, don’t discount this idea just because others think it’s “lame.” It’s your wedding; don’t loose sight of that (though a caveat with that: there is a find line between “this is our wedding” and “I want everything my way”).

Thought#5: Flowers are pricey (and heavy!). When picking bouquets, think about what is common for the season you are getting married in. Also, don’t ask your bridesmaids to hold large bouquets for the entire ceremony (the large the bouquet, the most costly, also).

Thought #6: Remember who you know. I don’t mean hunt down everyone who owns you a favor and call it in. I mean, you went to your friends wedding two months ago and you loved the votives she used… ask if you can borrow them for your wedding and arrange them differently. Your aunt has a large number of tablecloths in the perfect shade of green? Ask if you can use them on your gifts table, head table, etc. The less you rent, the more you save.

Thought #7: If you choose to do a dinner or finger-foods for your reception, I would recommend having it catered. Yes, it costs more, but peace-of-mind and allowing your friends and family to relax during the reception makes it worth it. Remember, there are no requirements about what you must do for your reception. A 5-course meal isn’t a must, it’s a choice. But you must keep in mind the time of day your reception will fall in. If your reception will fall around dinnertime, be kind to your guests and feed them at least something! If it falls around 3pm, finger-foods will be cheaper (probably). Also, a good rule of thumb to remember about the number of invitations you send versus how many people will attend is: (# of Invitations x 2) x 80% = the number of people you should expect.

Thought #8: Don’t get to fancy with food. Beef wellington is tasty, but it’s pricey. Unless it’s your favorite, why serve it on your big day? This is where a themed reception can be nice, because it can lend itself to food decisions. How so? Here’s an example: We had a carnival themed wedding, which meant that we could have coney dogs and sno-cones! Cheap, tasty, and all stuff we love!

Thought #9: Invitations are pricey and a pain in the butt. If you know a graphic artist (not just someone that can draw, but an actual graphic artist!), see if you can make a deal with them. You can have one-of-a-kind invitations, have them printed at Kinkos, and save yourself money.

Thought #10: Set up a wedding website ASAP. Make sure you choose to set up a site on a website that offers to do RSVPs. This will make your existence much happier. It also allows you to give people/guests information during the planning process.

Thought #11: Register is meant to be fun, don’t let it be a chore or cause fights! Set aside an entire day for this experience. It may not take all day (hopefully for your feet it won’t take that long), but if you plan it this way, you won’t be rushed. Make a date out of it and allow yourselves to dream and have fun picking things. Remember to pick things in a variety of price ranges. Guys can get really bored with this project, so I recommend letting your man hold the gun and scan things. It keeps them a bit more engaged. Also, don’t be selfish on this day; let your man choose things he might want too (tools, electronics, etc.). Oh, check the return policy for places you register. Oh and one more thing on this subject: Bed Bath & Beyond is the most fun place to register!

Thought #12: Pick someone, either a professional wedding coordinator or someone you know and trust, to act as coordinator for the day. I think hiring a wedding coordinator is overkill if you are worrying about a budget (in other words, if money was no object, I would have hired one). I would recommend picking someone you trust who is organized and is comfortable with the gig who isn’t going to try to take over to coordinate the day (i.e. make sure everyone is where they need to be at the right time, work with photographer so that you get some “getting ready” shots, makes sure that the reception is ready to go, that the emcee has the proper notes for the reception, etc.).

Thought #13: Speaking of emcees, if you are having dancing at your reception, a DJ isn’t a bad idea (though this can be expensive) because they have experience. However, picking a few hours worth of your favorite music also works. Just make sure you have someone picked to act as emcee for the reception (i.e. introduce the couple and attendant, announce the cutting of the cake, intro the toasts, etc.). Theatre and communication students tend to be good at this task.

Thought #14: Don’t think that everything you need for the wedding must be purchased in a store. For instance, my veil was purchased from Etsy.com. It cost me $15 and was identical to the $85 one at a bridal boutique. Same story can be said for the corset I wore under my dress: $20 online, $65 in stores. The jewelry that I gave my bridesmaids as a thank you, it was all purchased at Etsy.com and was far more unique than anything I could have found in a store for the same price.

Thought #15: Shoes. This can be a tough subject because there are so many cute shoes in the world, but be kind to your feet. You may say, “but I love wearing heels” and that may be true, but if you can avoid it, don’t wear stilettos at your wedding. Wear cute, but comfy shoes, and make sure you break them in before the wedding (can I get an AMEN from other past brides out there?). Also, I’m an advocate for changing shoes for the reception. Don’t go barefoot if you can avoid it; you don’t want to have super messy feet on your wedding day or your wedding night and people can step on your toes (literally) and that hurts. Wear shoes of some kind.

Thought #16: Photography is a BIG deal. You photos are a big deal. If you are going to skimp on cost for your wedding, DON’T DO IT HERE! I’m not saying spend a couple thousand dollars, but don’t ask your Aunt Wanda to take your photos because she has a camera and you want to save money. Ask around, look at samples, see who you like, and then barter with them for the price you want. But don’t skimp on this step just to save a few bucks.

Thought #17: Lots of people in this world do hair, not all of them do it well, but many do it just fine. Find someone you trust to do a good job (do at least one test run!!!!) but don’t feel like you have to go to some fancy boutique to get a good hair-do. It’s not worth it. You’re hair needs to look pretty and stay all day, not cure cancer.

Thought #18: Rent a room SOMEWHERE for you wedding night. Don’t get on a plane that same day and expect it to be darling. Find a nice, quiet hotel somewhere close-ish to the place you got hitched and hunker down there for your wedding night. You will be tired and so will your groom. Don’t set expectations that are too high for this evening. As for the honeymoon, I would recommend taking a few days and going somewhere that will relax you. Save up for a bigger honeymoon on your first anniversary or something like that. Right after the wedding, the most important thing is relaxing and getting used to being with your new spouse. Taking a week in Cancun would be a blast, but it’s pricey and isn’t the most important thing in the world and you shouldn’t go in debt for it. Save your money and take a more exciting trip on your first or second anniversary. By that time, you will know your spouse and things can be a lot more relaxed, fun, and exciting at that point!

Thought #19: Cake is tasty and fun, no questions there. But choose a design and style (and flavor) that you want, don’t give in to what other say you should do. Another option is to forgo cake and do cookies or cupcakes. This can sometimes be cheaper. Ask around, get prices. And remember this, the cake is no longer a HUGE focal point of the wedding, it is just a tradition. Don’t spend tons on this tradition just for traditions sake; allow yourself to think outside the box.

Thought #20: You have the engagement ring, now it’s time to choose the wedding bands. This is what you make of it. My husband and I didn’t spend thousands, but we did select a budget and we stuck to it. We both got something we love! But the key is to decide on a budget and stick to it. Shop around, but make sure you get a warranty of some kind. Rings deal with a lot of wear and tear and damage happens. You don’t want to have to pay tons for your ring repairs because you skimped and didn’t get a warranty.

Thought #21: Becoming a Mrs. is tough work. It takes time and paperwork. Don’t think that changing your name will happen overnight and all will be right in the world, because it won’t. I’ll debunk the Santa Clause myth here to if you like. Gather the paperwork you need and hit the pavement. You need to change your social security card, your bank cards, your license, your mailing address name, etc. Make a list of everything that needs to confirm that you are  now Mrs. [insert your new last name here] and start making calls, seeing what paperwork you need before you go to the office to change it, and don’t get discouraged. This is important, but time consuming.

Thought #22: Thank you notes are a chore, but a necessary chore. People appreciate your thanks. But brides, the gifts weren’t all for you, they were for your husband too! He can help with thank you notes! They aren’t rocket science! These also don’t have to cost a fortune. You can get blank postcards and stamp them and send them as postcards (i.e. without envelopes) and save some money.

Thought #23: This is more of a helpful thought for your receptions, but actually take time to SEE your guests. It flies by and once it’s over, there is no going back. Make the rounds and see the people that have traveled to be part of your day. Don’t let Auntie Velma horde your time and attention.

Thought #24: Bridezilla Syndrome: this is a very real and all-to-common disease that can be avoided if brides realize that their wedding day is ONE day of their life and that things WILL go wrong. It may be little things, but things will go wrong. Prepare yourself to roll with the punches. Don’t get so attached to something that if it doesn’t pan out, you hate life. Remember that at the end of the day, only one thing matters: you said “I Do” and so did he.

And my final thought (at least for now) on weddings is this: A wedding is one day. It’s only ONE day. Don’t let that one day stop you or hinder you in any way from preparing for your actual marriage. Many a good relationship is tarnished during the months of wedding planning. Don’t get so wrapped up in the wedding that you forget that what comes after is FAR more important.