Monday, November 29, 2010

Manners Mondays installment #2: Party Etiquette

In the spirit of weddings and holidays, no doubt everyone out there will receive at least one invite to a holiday party and or wedding in the coming weeks. But paper goods are no longer as treasured as they used to be. It's almost 2011, I know. People are being eco-friendly and high-tech with virtual and digital invitations these days, and they seem to be getting more and more sophisticated by the hour. BUT. Yes, I said it. BUT... just because the invitation format has changed, that does not mean invitation and party attendance etiquette should or needs to change as well. Here are some quick rules of thumb:

If you are sending invitations:
- Balance the timing. For a more formal party, particularly one where a headcount needs to be given or a specific amount of food needs to be purchased, give guests extra time to plan ahead and time for yourself to remind them accordingly. However, too much advanced notice and your guests may not feel the need to pay attention. 2-3 weeks for a more casual affair seems to be sufficient, but perhaps an additional week if you need strict numbers!
- Be clear about who is invited - your friends will not be offended. If you plan to have an adults only kind of party, say so. You may risk some friends not being able to make, but lots of parents may appreciate the no-kids atmosphere and use it as an opportunity to decompress! Accordingly, if you prefer to have a more intimate affair, say a dinner party, make sure guests know how many people they are allowed to bring.
- Don't be afraid to ask your guests to contribute. You may be the host, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to bleed your wallet dry to have a rockin' time. If you're hosting, especially at your home, ask guests to bring beverages, desserts, sides, snacks, etc. Chances are, people will do that anyway, but providing some direction is very helpful so you don't end up with one six-pack and 6 fruitcakes!
- Beware the theme party! Theme parties are fun, but if you want your party to be more inclusive, suggest multiple ways guests can participate, particularly if it's a costumed theme party. Dressing up, particularly if your guests are traveling some distance (and using public transit), may not always be a desirable option.
- An obvious one: make sure the date, time & location is very clear. Also, provide your phone number and/or your venue's phone number in the event your guests need directions, are running late, etc.
- Thank your guests for coming. In person, by email, whatever works. If you took photos, you can use this as an excuse to share them!

If you are guest who has received an invitation:
- Respect the RSVP. Evite, email, by phone or by post, if you are expected to respond to the invitation, please do so. This is the major complaint I get from so many of my friends. An email invitation should be taken as seriously as a paper one. If your host took the time to create and distribute the invitation and plan the event, you should respect that and reply in kind. It will take you no time at all, and save your host from that awkward moment when all the food has run out and you show up with five friends.
- Respect your host's wishes, and don't hesitate to call and ask questions if something isn't clear.
- If you are being invited to someone's home, respect their space. Don't get out of control drunk, break dishes and spill drinks everywhere. Of course, accidents happen, but you can prevent them by acting accordingly. And if you do something accidentally, fess up to it at the very least. From experience, nothing is more infuriating (and inspiration to stop having parties) than finding a mess, a broken glass, etc., that a guest made after the party is all over and everyone has left. If you're truly a good friend and you are responsible, clean up immediately, offer to pay for cleaning or the cost of replacing the broken item. It's the grown up thing to do.
- Respect your host's guest requests. If your host is allowing a plus one only, but your two best friends from high school dropped into town unexpectedly, just ask if it's ok. And although plus one is generally reserved for significant others, spouses and partners, close friends or family are a-ok to bring as well. But use your judgment when bringing random friends.
- Try not to show up empty-handed when going to a party at someone's home, unless specifically requested. You can never have too much booze and you don't have to worry about other guests' food allergies! But even a small box of chocolates just for the hosts is always appreciated.
- Be realistic about your RSVP. Don't say you're going to someone's birthday bash if you're really not feelin' it. Put yourself as a maybe and let your host know what the probability of you showing up. If the event is happening across multiple venues over an evening, meet up with the group later.
- If you are invited to a party at a bar, restaurant, etc., let your host know in advance if you are planning to arrive later than the first 30 mins of the party. Particularly if your host is having dinner at a restaurant and has made a reservation for a specific number of people at a specific time, your host could end up losing their reserved area and risk being embarrassed by venue staff for no-shows. Again, from personal experience, not cool to make the host look bad.

That's all for today folks! Happy Monday!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Black...Weekend!

The tradition of Black Friday seems like it's slowly being tossed out the window these days! In the spirit of money saving, I suppose, many sales have been extended through the weekend, and some even started on Thanksgiving day (yeesh!). I was really into Black Friday at one point. About 2 years ago, I dragged my mom to Woodbury Commons with me for their "Midnight Madness". Surprisingly, it was not too crowded, and what better way to digest your humongo turkey day feast than to burn some calories shopping, right? Also, I'm not a morning person, so to be home and in bed by 1AM without fear of the 5AM wake-up call was bliss!

However, a warning about many of these Black Friday deals. Some of them are great for holiday shopping, and who doesn't want to save money when your gift list is on the long side? But if you're picking up some gifts for yourself along the way, my advice is to wait a little if you can. Case in point: on the above-mentioned shopping trip, I purchased a pair of Kenneth Cole knee high, low heeled black boots from the outlet. They were/are (still wearing them with pride!) beautiful, and I thought, what a bargain, when the final price tag was about $120 (original price was close to $200). Well, my mom bought a similar pair, and ended up returning them about a month later, and to my chagrin, she reported that the boots I purchased were now an extra 50% off the sale price, bringing the cost down to about $75 or $80. Booo. You might imagine the sheer frustration I felt. Since they were so perfect, I had been wearing them with glee nearly every day since I bought them and tossed the receipt, so sadly I couldn't pull the ole swap-a-roo (buy a new pair, and then return them with the old receipt) or request a price adjustment to get some of my money back.

This year, I was much wiser. I spent Black Friday trolling the interwebs for deals in my pjs. In general, my new favoritest thing is etsy. Wow, the abundance of things available is endless! I first discovered etsy through various and sundry wedding blogs I've been following, and have scored numerous deals on a few key wedding items (hair goodies and my veil!). But via Twitter, I've also see a TON of mega discount codes for various shops (20-30% off!). But besides the variety of things you can get, what's so great about etsy you say? One word: HANDMADE! Ok, two words: VINTAGE! What can be cooler than being the recipient of a near one-of-a-kind item? Or one-of-a-kind, top quality vintage item? These are independent sellers who use their skills to craft beautiful things or collect really cool stuff. And because you're buying virtually, no overhead costs to the sellers = bigger savings for you! Home decor, stationary, patterns & raw materials, handmade/sewn clothes, wedding favors, you name it - it's on etsy! Locavore? You can even find sellers by zip code so you can buy from your neighbor(s), literally! Get on the etsy train folks! You'll thank me, I promise :)

Some of my favorites:
Funky vintage things:

Gorgeous vintage style accessories:

Salted Caramels, my obsession!

Clever wine glass/beer bottle tags - essential for any entertainer!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lessons in Modesty: M is for Manners Mondays!

So why "A Modest Bride" you ask? Well modesty doesn't just describe my financial means. It describes the way I conduct myself out in the world. I grew up being taught the importance of manners. The importance of respecting yourself and others. Over the last 5 years or so, at the dawn of the age of Facebook and the reign of e-mail and instant messaging, I've noticed an unfortunate decline in my generation of general manners and thoughtfulness. So I thought I would begin a weekly "column" on appropriate ways to conduct oneself in life, and how to adhere to time-honored and accepted social graces. And as someone in the midst of planning a wedding, this becomes very important!

However, I thought I would start out with something not exactly wedding-related, but a universal truism related to email correspondence. My first "M is for Manners" Monday segment is about the age-old email form letter. I am in the process of obtaining hotel room blocks for my wedding, and have chosen two different hotels for my guests' convenience. After speaking with a sales rep at one hotel for nearly 1/2 an hour about the wedding and our guest room needs, I received the following follow up email last Friday:
Dear Jackie,
Thank you for choosing the (hotel name here) for your son’s wedding.  We host many weddings every year.  Keeping groups satisfied is my specialty.  I look forward to working with you.  I will get the marriage license information and send it to you soon.
Your group agreement is attached to this email.  Please sign it and return it by 10/22/10.

First, let's note that I DO NOT have a son. Nor any children for that matter. And I was asked what my role in the wedding was, to which I responded that I was the bride. Second, last Friday's date was 11/19. I'm not sure exactly how I'm supposed to submit a contract retroactively. Clearly this email was used for someone else, and I find it disheartening and sad that for a large hotel chain trying to win my business, this sales person can't even take an extra 5 minutes to proofread her correspondence with me, and edit it appropriately so that it feels like it was personalized. 

This can be extrapolated and applied to emailed cover letters or resume submissions as well. Folks, take the time and the energy and the care to re-read your emails before you send them! Form letters are great in that they save you time, but don't embarrass yourself/ruin your chances of getting that interview/risk losing a potential customer by being completely careless. Here are a few tips to help safeguard yourself against this very awkward situation:

1) Prior to resending a form letter, jot down 2-3 things that only apply to this person or company. This will make it very easy to personalize your note. For example, the individual above could have mentioned the venue I chose and/or the time of year of the wedding. 

2) Copy and paste your form letter in the a Word or TextEdit or WordPad document. This forces you to actually re-edit your letter, rather than slapping it immediately into a blank email.

3) Go through the letter and delete ALL mentions of the previous person/company/situation BEFORE adding the new person/company/situation specific details.

4) After copying & pasting your edited letter into a blank email, re-read it one more time before inserting the recipient's email address. This will allow you to catch anything that you missed when editing in document form. And if you're feeling rushed, save a draft of the email, send another email or two, and then come back to it before you send. 

An extra 5-10 of care when sending a form letter by email will save you more than embarrassment. It will show that you respect yourself and those who are on the receiving end of your communication, ensuring that your name rises to the top of the proverbial list. If your first introduction to someone is over e-mail, do it right the first time! 

Until next Monday.... I am also happy to take suggestions on hot topics regarding manners! Please leave comments if there's a topic that's in desperate need of addressing!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I interrupt this happy, fluffy blog for a serious PSA

I'm not a very "political" person, but I have recently been outraged by the new TSA security measures being implemented at airports across the nation. I'm not going to go on and on about it here, but I will just say that this wrong. Mechanical scanning of person to revel an image of the person's naked body is one thing. You have no connection with the person operating the scanner, and no one is touching you. It's a pretty borderline procedure, but I am willing to submit to that. But I will not submit to have a stranger, a questionably trained individual who claims to be a professional, touch me in inappropriate places in the name of security. What I am even more horrified by are pieces like this LA Times article, that equate submitting to these new policies with, essentially posing for Playboy. Hey geniuses: 1) Option A is voluntary, the person on the other side of the camera isn't fondling your breasts (unless you want them to), and generally, you are in control of or are able to consent to where and in front of whose eyes those boudoir snapshots end up; 2) Option B is mandatory, this random person's hands are all in your business and you can't tell them to stop, and you have to trust that your naked body scan is going to be jettisoned appropriately and not end up the object of some government sicko's wet dream. Sorry, buying a plane ticket isn't giving consent to be potentially sexually assaulted, or exploited. Folks, be warned and be vocal. Don't let a TSA agent take advantage of you. You have rights. Don't be fooled into thinking there is a good reason to sacrifice them!

Back on Monday with a new Monday column inspired by ongoing conversations I've been having with friends about interpersonal relationships in the 21st century!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A financial strategy for weddings that is underrated

So I wanted to focus today's post on paying for weddings. While my mom will be contributing a generous amount to cover our wedding costs (a little more than 1/2), my FH & I will still be left with some hefty bills, including paying for our honeymoon. Enter: Wedding giveaways! Unconventional, yes. But generally speaking, the odds are in your favor, and if you could end up winning lots of things large and small that will save you money. And all the better if you win items or monetary amounts for things that you can only use for the wedding. Better to invest your money in things that you will use again anyway, no?

Also, the internet (Twitter, Facebook) is your friend! Since we are not having a super traditional wedding, I have been trolling the internet for ideas and inspiration. I've found at least 10 wedding blogs that are utterly amazing resources, but the really beautiful thing is that most of these blogs have relationships with vendors, and that means giveaways! I've probably entered about 30 giveaways thus far, and have won 3 of them!

Our biggest win to date is our wedding photography! Huge coup, right? We are getting married in the Hudson Valley, and in my research for photographers from/familiar with the area in last spring, I happened upon the blog of J.Castro Photography and started reading through some archived posts. I took note that last year he offered a contest, and as soon as he announced the 2011 contest, I was in it to win it. And we did! We still paid a deposit, but as the winners, we get that money back in album/print credits! So our wedding photography in the end is costing us between 1/3 and 1/4 of what it would have been.

Another awesome win: invitation design by little birdie studio! I was going to ask one of my graphic designer pals to help on this one, but I won it instead! It will probably preserve our friendship in the end anyway, and despite said designer being on the up & coming side, I couldn't be happier with the results so far! She was supposed to design just the invites but even offered to do our Save the Dates! Sweet!

Lastly, I won a $100 shopping spree to a fantastic etsy shop, Bead Flora Jewels, for fun accessories. I chose to get a custom made, awesome beaded hair piece and an ivory clutch! I may even splurge and buy some shoe clips for the big day too :)

So ladies & germs, the lesson here is just try it out! It's always free to put your name in the hat for these things, and the amount of entries varies greatly so chances are you'll enter something with not too much competition and victory will be yours! But wait? Where might one find out about these giveaways? Here's a short list of some cool giveaways going on now that are just super cool:

A great site that posts all kinds of wedding giveaways, no signing up necessary:

A wonderful lady who has a weekly giveaway on her blog:

A great. ECO-FRIENDLY multi-item giveaway with lots of really useful stuff! And as a bonus, you can buy and sell all kinds of wedding stuff, saving yourself lots of Benjamins :)

A $25 certificate to BonitaJ jewelry's shop, posted on Nutritionist Reviews' blog:

I could go on, but Google is your friend!

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh, and by the way

In case anyone hasn't been following the NY governor's race, this guy is A-MAZING! Speaking of wealth, we need more folks like this in NYC, advocating for the city to stop forcing its residents to waste their hard-earning money on sub-standard housing. Enjoy!

The rent is too damn high!

It's been awile... I know

Wow! It's November already. Sigh. I know I've been MIA for a loooong time, but remember all that free time I was complaining about not having? Well life set sail on a slow moving ship after late May, and I have been devoting my life to planning the wedding and sticking to our budget! I'm in the midst of so many things right now and I'm just bursting with excitement!

On the wedding front, we've managed to book all but one of our major vendors (and the last will happen w/in the next few weeks or so) - awesome. The not so awesome part? How 'bout our budget being eaten up rather quickly? Between mid-June when we booked our *fantastic* venue and now, I've bought my dress, and we've made deposits on our ceremony musicians, a band for the reception, and paid for our engagement photo session. The florist is our last item to tick off booking for 2010. We were doing well until I decided to buy my dress at Kleinfeld's and we caved in and booked a live band. My mom offered to pay the difference of what I had budgeted for my dress and the final cost of the dress which was great, but I still have to pay for alterations - boo. And the band really only was $600 above our budget, but it means I'll need to finagle some other things I had been dreaming up (or not do them at all) so we can afford everything else we actually still have to pay for. I'm socking away lots of money, and the fiance is too, but I'm still a little nervous about where we'll be financially when we really have to start paying for stuff! But some things that have helped out immensely: we won a photography contest and now have (nearly) free wedding photography; I won a giveaway that paid for some cute bridal accessories; and I won free invitation design! I've been stalking lots of wedding blogs like a hawk, and hopefully my winning streak will continue and I'll win more awesome stuff!

This year on my job scene had been going well I think. My 2 yr anniversary was in late September, and I have yet to have a review scheduled, which is frustrating. I am really hoping for another raise this year, but I won't necessarily be disappointed if it doesn't happen. But I do have a wedding & honeymoon to pay for so some extra dough would be really really awesome :)

I can't believe the holidays are here already! I am trying to think of some unique, crafty items to get my friends/family and I'm coming up empty! I can't afford much in the way of gifts this year, so I need to find some good alternatives! Open to suggestions though.

I always seem to end up writing these right before I need to go to bed. Oh well! Until next time!