Weddings are weird.

This entire post promises to be at least a little bit painful for me to even admit, much less dig into, but if I’ve learned nothing else in life, it’s that I fare much better when I dump all my proverbial junk out on the carpet, inspect it, figure it out, and move along with a newfound understanding of self. So with that caveat emptor…

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’d never been one to sit around and daydream about the day I got married. The only thing I’d decided at some point was that I’d wear a red wedding dress, but other than that, I had no clue about any of it. At some point, I even gave up that it might ever happen, and I was okay with that. Couldn’t picture it, didn’t matter.

But then real love happened, and with it, a desire to spend the rest of my life with him. Yay! And this is important, because it’s the ultimate desirable outcome of this whole thing. Right? The goal isn’t to see how big, fancy, elaborate, or whatever of a wedding you can throw, although to some it might be, and otherwise it may come a close second. But ideally, the goal is for two people who love each other to get/be married. That’s it.

One weird part is that marriage is a government-managed process. (Other weird parts: all of the traditions involved, and I get that it’s a cultural thing, but questioning WHY certain things are considered integral to a wedding has led me down some strange paths… but I digress.) Somehow, we’ve found ourselves in a place… or shall I say we PUT ourselves in a place where the US Government gets to decide which unions are legal/valid and which aren’t. Don’t even get me started about separation of church and state, which is what it SHOULD come down to, but I digress. Anyway, government with a side of religion, if you’re into that sort of thing; these are what mandate an official marriage in the US.

Seems simple enough. You sign papers, you say some words, you invite friends and family and maybe the church into your union, and off you go. Right?

ENTER EXPECTATIONS, DAYDREAMS, ADVERTISING, AND THE WEDDING INDUSTRY.

Did you know that the average Nashville wedding costs $40,000? FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. That’s what I make in a year. Spending $40K for one day out of your life is just completely unreasonable for someone in my financial bracket (can you really call it a bracket? It’s more like a puddle, or a smear or something.). Why in the hell are people okay with spending that much money for a few hours of their life, when the outcome is what matters most? It’s also really, really easy to do, apparently:

VENUES
I started looking at venues around town for a wedding and reception. I kinda wanted something rustic (oh god, there’s that buzz word that these days means EXPENSIVE, which is the complete opposite of actual rustic). Or something dark and dramatic. Or something with amazing nightscape views. I wanted exposed brick, wood beams, hardwood or concrete floors, flowing sheers, candle light ceremony… seems simple enough, right? Something like one of these (or any of these: http://www.brideswithoutborders.com/inspiration/2014-destination-wedding-trend-4-lanterns-lights):

candlelight candlelight2 candlelight3 unionhill unionhill2

DRESSES
And I started looking at dresses. I found a few pretty good options that were kind of close to what I wanted, although not 100%:

reddress1 reddress2

I did eventually find this one, which is damn near exactly what I was after, except 1) it’s not available anymore, and 2) when it was available, it was $15,000 (thanks a lot, Marchesa). I won’t even pretend that it’s viable, but it sure is pretty. *sigh* So I landed on the idea that I might commission a dress from someone somewhere to get as close to it as possible. Maybe start with one of the above and alter it accordingly to resemble the one below.

reddress3

FOOD and DRINK
And then I started thinking about food. I love food. A LOT. And while I’m a huge fan of things like tacos, BBQ, or other “less expensive” foods, I want fancy foods and drinks. If the day is supposed to be memorable, I want the details to include things that are important to me/us. Right? Quality food is one of those things. I mean things like Korean short ribs, charcuterie plates, lovely wines and champagnes and beer and cocktails… The most extravagant dinner you’ve ever had, with unparalleled wine pairings and perfect confections: I wanted THAT.

GUESTS
I wanted everyone I care about, anyone I’ve ever been close to, to attend. I wanted a huge party filled with laughter, love, dancing, and celebration. The invite list would have easily been over 300 people, and even if just 100 of them came, it would be worth it. Our love is worthy of celebration with everyone we know; we’d revel for hours on end, and everyone would feel like they were part of the greatest love story they’ve ever known.

ET CETERAS
And then there’s all the rest. Photographer. Hair. Makeup. Decorations. Flowers. Music/entertainment. A personalized website, replete with awesome photos and skilled web design. I daydreamed about our first dance and all the music I’d want as a backdrop. I wanted sheers and candles and fire and bare trees and incense. I’d want oversized floral decorations everywhere, the smell intoxicating to anyone within a 50 foot radius. I wanted a movie short to commemorate the event and our adventures. I imagined me in my red dress, C in his suit, doing a dramatic and dark styled photo shoot somewhere on the Oregon coast for our wedding photos. Made up like Dovima, 3 sizes smaller and in the best shape of my life, I’d be the Little Red Riding Hood to his Big Bad Wolf, and the images would be AMAZING…

ENTER: Reality.

And with it… shame, guilt, confusion, insecurity, and a whole host of other weird feelings that have absolutely nothing to do with getting married to your favorite person in the whole world. 

When we had the very important and necessary conversation about budget and what we can reasonably afford, it essentially meant I could choose one of the above options, if I went full boar with it the way I’d envisioned. Otherwise, some things were going to have to adjust or give, and we’d need to determine what it is that truly matters and warrants spending the money.

So I started thinking about it. Who should I invite? Whose feelings would be hurt if I didn’t invite them? Who, in other words, is expendable on this important day? Who should I ask to be in the wedding party? Should I even have a wedding party? Isn’t it too stressful for people to do that, and who would I ask between my good friends and my family?  And that turned into: who would actually want to come in the first place? How good of a friend have I been to anyone, much less these folks? I mean, my family is obligated to show up, but what friends would want to be there? Maybe we should just elope, but then, I want the people I care about to be there, so we should probably have it local. Certainly if I ask people to travel, then I have to make it worth their while, so the venue HAS to be cool, and the food HAS to be good, and there HAS to be plenty of entertainment other than the primary purpose. The photos have to be good, the honeymoon has to be memorable, and I have to lose weight and get in shape so I can be as pretty as I imagine myself to be on my wedding day.

And all of THAT turned into me feeling like a failure because I don’t make enough money to have all the things I want. I can’t afford a top quality photographer ($1,000 with photos) or a makeup artist and hair designer (another $1,000), I can’t afford a venue that costs $5,000 just to rent before you start thinking about food and beverages and decor and entertainment (add another $5-10K), and I can’t afford the dream honeymoon trip. I don’t make enough money to be able to just throw money at the “problem” of getting the wedding and reception I want without having to expend a ton of my own effort (which I’m also not super keen on because I want it to be stress-free for anyone and everyone who isn’t getting paid to stress it), and I’m not willing to put us in debt for it, either. I resent that things cost as much as they do when a wedding is involved, I hate that I got sucked into the belief that any of this needs to happen for me to be happy or enjoy the day, and, most importantly, I hate that I have such weird money issues, wanting things that I can’t afford and feeling some kind of weird entitlement to them, so much so that I get bummed when I can’t have them.

The big thing here, and what appears to be the bottom line, is that for some reason I feel like I’m not ENOUGH. Not good enough without losing weight, not important enough to make people want to travel to attend a huge event in my life without bribing them with the promise of a good time, not a good enough friend to anyone to feel safe that an invite would be accepted, not a good enough partner and not confident enough with my place in C’s life to not feel threatened by the ghosts of his marriage past… this shit is complicated.

At least, I let it get that way.

The truth is, it’s incredibly simple. There is nothing wrong with wanting the experience to be memorable, and I need to quit judging myself for wanting that. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel special; I just need to readjust my expectations around where that feeling legitimately comes from. It doesn’t come from people loving the food, or thinking the space is neat and the decorations are lovely. What really matters is bringing together the people who matter to me/us, all of us celebrating the fact that two pretty great humans found each other and have a love as big and bright as the sun.

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Table for One: Americano

After my trip back to Portland last year, I realized just how important good food is to me, and just how much I desperately miss living out there because of it (among other things, but I’ll save that for another time). As a result, one of my (many) resolutions for 2016 was to dive back into my current hometown and give it a chance, food-wise.

Twenty years ago, Nashville didn’t HAVE a food scene (edited to clarify: no food scene of which I was aware at the time!), but now that it’s enjoying an extended reputation as a hot destination to visit (and to move, as evidenced by all the overpriced apartment and condo buildings going up everywhere, ahem), we have a more than respectable burgeoning food scene, with new restaurants cropping up all the time and all over the place. Even more exciting is that they’re not all trying to duplicate the hot chicken/shrimp and grits/fried everything fare that has permeated the city’s menus for so long.

I don’t know many people who get as excited about food as I do, nor do I know many here in town who have any interest in trying out all the restaurants I want to try. Between that and my status as a single lady without a whole lot of free time flexibility, I decided I’d take it upon myself to just start eating my way through Nashville’s restaurants, flying solo (unless someone opts to join me along the way).

Enter the Table for One series. My goal is to average 2-3 restaurants a month, if at all possible. The photos may not always do the food justice, but I’m hoping my enthusiasm will!
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Last week was Restaurant Week, courtesy of Nashville Originals, a local organization designed to highlight and promote locally-owned/run restaurants here in town. They do this twice a year, I believe, and participating restaurants put together a special menu for the occasion, allowing diners to try out a selection of dishes at a reduced price. I love this idea, because it can get people out of their dining comfort zone, and also opens the door for people to go places they may not otherwise because of cost.

I’d already decided to check out Americano, primarily because I know someone who works there; he also happens to be a mutual friend of one of my new co-workers who’d been raving about the food. Small world + great food = perfect reason to go in, I figured. It helped that they were participating in Restaurant Week, and I figured I would just load up on tapas – trying everything I wanted to try, which would have been a pretty valiant effort on my part (have you seen the menu??).

From what I hear, the line is often out the door and reservations are recommended, if not necessary, to get in there. It worked out for me that we’d had snow that day, so I think a lot of people just stayed home; the restaurant was comfortably full, but with plenty of room for me and my plans to eat. A lot. I had every intention of ordering off the menu and being able to recount and recommend whatever I’d tried and liked, but as it turned out, it pays to know people, and I wound up being served off-menu for the evening. And since I had three glasses of wine to go with it, my memory of what all I ate is a bit… fuzzy.

I do know that I started off with Crispy Brussel Sprouts, and it was close to the menu selection (which comes HIGHLY recommended, btw) but not exactly the same, because while there was pork belly in there, there was also kimchi. And it was glorious.

brussel sprouts

Along with that were steamed bao buns with seared duck. Also fantastic.

seared duck buns

And then there were these… well, I hesitate to call them chicken nuggets, but lacking the proper verbiage, I’ll just say it’s that best part of the chicken you find, that one little piece under each leg, I believe, and these had a sweet sesame sauce.

chicken somethings

Next up, completely switching flavor gears: a mini-paella. No saffron, but there WAS oxtail that had been braised for a long, lovely time.

mini paella

And, finally, a beautiful French-style dessert of poached pears and cake, with crème anglaise.

dessert

Also, Prosecco and St. Germain, because I am nothing if not predictable.

cocktail1

I have to say, it was a fine way to dive into this endeavor, and I’m really looking forward to going back. Even if I’m never permitted to order from the menu, I feel pretty certain I would always leave well-fed and sated. ❤