愛-Vey! Haute Cocoa's Wedding Lookbook

Remember my alter bee-go, Haute Cocoa? She for whom the only thing worse than not wearing something fabulous is paying full price for it?

I thought I'd show you the results of my her luxe-for-less obsession in one mega wedding fashion post, linking back to the original post(s) on each item as a reminder of how all of these looks came together.

Look 1: Welcome Dinner Outfit

Photos by Hottest Sister Cocoa

For our first wedding-weekend event, I wore a cream Badgley Mischka tulle empire waist dress. I'd lost a little more weight than expected before the wedding, so the dress ended up being about a size too big. But I was still totally gaga over it -- not just because it was a frothy little confection of a dress, but because it was my savviest wedding-related purchase. The dress was already a bargain on Gilt Groupe* at $198, but after using the $150 referral credit I had saved up, this saucy number was mine for $48 plus shipping!

See my triumphant post on this find here: http://www.weddingbee.com/2008/08/27/you-cant-get-away-from-me-this-time-badgley-mischka/

* Want an invitation to join Gilt Groupe? Just click on the link.

Look 2: Tea Ceremony and Reception Outfit

For our Chinese tea ceremony, I wore a traditional qua, which was hand-embroidered and custom-made at Koon Nam Wah in Hong Kong. At a non-negotiable price of HK$10,000 (just over US$1250), this was a total bargain hunting fail. To compensate, I wore the qua twice -- both at the tea ceremony in the afternoon and as my second reception outfit. I'm contemplating wearing it to the supermarket, dry cleaner's, and while out shoveling snow too . . . gotta recoup the costs!

For the answers to your burning questions -- such as "What sexy underthings does one wear under that embroidered potato sack?" and "What do little old Chinese tailors think of the size of Ms. HC's American-sized ass?" -- see my original post: http://www.weddingbee.com/2008/12/30/chinese-wedding-dress/

I paired the qua with these surprisingly comfortable Delman "Siana" peeptoes, which I got for $140 at Bluefly. If you're in the market for gold heels, they are on clearance now for $99.99!

Look 3: Ceremony Dress

I sashayed down the aisle in "Mona Lisa," an oh-so-very-lovely Monique Lhuillier sample dress, purchased off the internet from Dream Bridal LA for $1700! I'm not a love-at-first-sight kind of gal, but with her delicate capped sleeves, vintagey beading and embroidery, and sassy fit-and-flare silhouette, Mona had me at hello. And at a fraction of the retail price, I could afford to take her home to meet the fam.

Sigh. To this day, she makes my heart go pitter patter.

Mona's the ultimate realization of my luxe-for-less vision. Every time that snooty consultant Carmel on SYTTD scoffs at a bride with a less than $2000 budget, I scream obscenities at the screen and fantasize about showing her Mona and yelling "How do you like dem apples?"!

For those of you eager to stick it to Carmel with a designer dress bargain of your own, some of my early posts might come in handy: before I found Mona, I contemplated purchasing a dress from China, scoured the racks at the Melissa Sweet and Kleinfeld sample sales, visited sample sale boutiques like New York's Bridal Garden and Boston's Vows (aka Bridepower), and obsessed over the stock at about twenty websites. My best finds were at Dream Bridal LA and popular Ebay seller My Dream Dress; my review of both is here.

To give Mona the spotlight she deserved, I went with a simple chapel-length drop veil. At $125, it was more than I wanted to spend on a piece of tulle, but I had a store credit I had to use at Vows, so I didn't have much of a choice. Seamstress extraordinaire Anahit cut the veil down a bit in the front, so that it wouldn't completely overwhelm my teapot frame (i.e., short and stout).

Choice, however, was not the problem with shoes. Budget was. My most insane wedding splurge was this pair of Manolo Blahnik "Sederaby" d'orsays. That iridescent purple silk shantung was so very very gorgeous that I couldn't take my grubby little hands off these shoes once I saw them at Nordstrom. They were $700, and after using a $200 gift certificate and getting a 5% rebate on my purchase via Ebates.com (my new favorite $$-saving site), I ended up spending a little under $500 for them. I've already worn them a few times after the wedding, but the bargainista side of me still feels guilty for having gotten them.

Here's my original post on these beauties: http://www.weddingbee.com/2008/11/25/manolo-blahnik-wedding-shoes/

Look 4: Reception Dress

For the end of the reception, I rocked a modern qi pao, which I had made in Shenzhen, China, for around US$85. It had a pinkish-mauve satin underlay and delicate silver lace on top. And while the top was cut in a fairly traditional Chinese pattern, the bottom was slightly fit-and-flare to accommodate my generously sized badonkadonk.

Photo by Lo

Accessorized with the feather fascinator I purchased from Etsy seller Lo Boheme, the whole outfit felt very Shanghai twenties chic. ;-)

Speaking of qipaos, a few readers have asked about Hot Mama Cocoa's. Both her tea ceremony and evening dresses were made in Shenzhen, for under US$100. Unfortunately, neither of us recall which tailors we used, but both were in Lo Wu Commercial Center, located right across the border from Hong Kong. There are hundreds of tailors there, so if you're in the market for a cheongsam, you can just wander around until you find one whose designs, fabric choices, workmanship, and price you like.

Look 5: Farewell Brunch Outfit

Photo by Hottest Sister Cocoa

For the farewell brunch, I rolled out of bed and threw on a Cynthia Vincent mini dress, which I found while shopping in my closet. I think I bought the dress a year ago in the middle of a snow storm while hallucinating about warm sun and sandy beaches. It was an overpriced $130 from Gilt Groupe. I like its slightly Grecian/architectural bodice, though I'm less enamored with how the gauzy material is almost sheer, thus leaving me feeling very exposed the whole time. Trust me, no one's ready for this jelly.

That's it. Five outfits. Three days. One accessorize-everything-with-a-ridiculous-smile bride.

When it comes to wedding fashion, are you a fashionista, bargainista, or a little of both?

Photos, unless otherwise credited, by Leigh Miller Photography, Luna Photography, and Della Chen Photography.


愛-Vey! All in the Details

Now that you've seen documentation of our ginormous challah and crazy hora, how about a few details that are less "holy crap" and (hopefully) a little more "ooh la la"?

Remember the papercut table numbers we commissioned from Etsy seller papercutdiecut? They stood out beautifully in the $1 acrylic frames I purchased from the Christmas Tree Store.

I loved the shadows cast by the pinspots and the votives. The latter were ordered from Candles4less.com for $4.91 a dozen. And on the left is a close-up of our gocco'd menus. I'm happy I decided at the last minute to bling them up with a gem; it added a little somethin' somethin', you know?

The menus were tucked into napkins and garnished with orchids. The purple pouches contained our his-and-her keychain favors. The tags, which say "thanks" in English, Chinese, and Hebrew, were printed on my home printer.

Here's the guest's eye view of the place settings. As you can see, we decided to forego fancy chivaris and use the hotel's regular ballroom chairs. Angel recommended our getting pinspotting on all of the tables and amber and purple uplights. I loved the romantic and warm glow they cast over the room.

Kate Baker created some seriously gorgeous tall centerpieces for the three long family tables. The glass hurricane vases were filled with miniature plums and pears. "Capping" each urn was a collar of the chinoiserie fabric I got in China and some pink hydrangeas, which served as a base for a generous spray of cherry blossoms.

I told Kate that I wanted each of the tables to look lavish, but a bit wild . . . sort of like a lazy afternoon garden luncheon in a crumbling Italian villa, where the lady of the house has gambled away most of the family fortune and is forced to make do with tarnished antiques and fallen fruits found on the grounds. She did a spectacular job translating my whimsical musings into reality by creating table vignettes with trailing vines, miniature fruits, and loose blooms.

For an extra dash of whimsy, she also embedded lilacs into the hurricanes and attached amethyst and clear crystals to the cherry blossom sprays.

The rest of the tables featured short centerpieces in bronze urns. Kate created loose, organic arrangements in bronze urns of varying shapes, for an Anthropologie-esque "found object" look.

To tie the short centerpieces together with the tall ones, Kate created similar vignettes with vines and miniature fruits on all the round tables.

If you're like me, flowers are nice but food is better! Since I'm all about choice, we opted to have a dessert buffet and cupcakes in lieu of a plated dessert or wedding cake.

The buffet included cheesecakes on skewers (those ugly but oh-so-delicious purple discs on sticks!), s'mores shooters, mango with sticky rice, lemon meringue tarts, purple macarons, and miniature bread puddings. [I'm sorry, I just drooled on my keyboard.]

Our cupcakes were from Vanilla Bake Shop, and they came in an array of delectable favors, including red velvet and meyer lemon raspberry. I thought they were awesome at the tasting, and I can only imagine how delicious they would have been at our wedding . . . . Alas, Mr. HC and I were so busy toasting and dancing and schmoozing that we didn't get to the dessert table in time for the cupcakes. We fed each other lemon meringue tarts for our "cake cutting photo" instead!

** Tip: Chinese ladies love to pile dozens of desserts on huge plates "for the table." At the end of the night, after the dessert buffet was depleted, the tables with our Chinese friends and family still had platters full of dessert. If you're ever in a buffet situation with little Asian ladies, run, jostle, elbow . . . do what you gotta do to get to the buffet table in front of them or else your little tummy will be very empty and very sad!

This was such a fun post to write, since I got to pull together creations I had discussed in previous posts and show you how they turned out! Sadly, this also means that my recaps are almost over. I'll discuss fashion details in my next post, but after that I might be d.o.n.e. Sniffles.

Photos by Leigh Miller Photography, Luna Photography, and Della Chen Photography.


愛-Vey! Getting Toasty

After surviving our neverending hora, our guests deserved to be fed. But first we asked Mr. HC's two uncles to perform the blessing over the wine (kiddush) and bread (hamotze).

When we asked for a challah for 200, we weren't quite expecting a five-foot-long monstrosity. But there it was. In its full, phallic glory. Seriously, this thing could have had top-billing in its own x-rated video.

As you can probably tell from the face I'm making, the challah tasted like burnt cardboard.

Over the salad course, there was a warm welcome speech from my grandfather and a beautiful toast from FIL HC. We were so touched by both of their toasts that we forgot to eat, which was probably a mistake, since right afterward I was spirited off for my first wardrobe change.

Chinese brides often change several times during the course of a wedding banquet. Sounds fun in theory -- three dresses! -- but unless you've got the ability to presto chango at the push of a button (or earring, a la Jem), the custom is actually less truly truly outrageous than truly truly exhausting. Ever see the backstage sequences at a fashion show, where dresses and shoes are flying, models are running and changing at the same time, handlers are putting on new accessories with one hand and taking old ones off with the other? Sort of like that.

We then participated in yet another Chinese wedding tradition: toasting all the tables. My family was very insistent that this happen early on in the evening, as it's considered impolite in Chinese culture to allow guests to leave without a proper thank you. My grandfather, who I'm sure was a sprinter in a past life, took this task very seriously, speed-toasting from one table to the next like his shoes were on fire. Angel, wedding planner extraordinaire, guided us from table to table, making sure that we hit each one.

SIL HC then gave the most touching toast, in which she talked about how, growing up with Mr. HC as twins, she always thought that they were going to be married . . . because they wanted to be living together forever, just like mom and dad.

Hottest Sister Cocoa then sent us into tears of laughter when she brought out the AP Chemistry review book that Mr. HC got me for our one month dating anniversary (as compensation for the fact that our four-hour-long conversations every night were seriously tanking my performance in chem)! She brought down the house by reading the dorky inscription inside: "Best of luck to you with the remainder of class, and happy four week anniversary!"

Sigh. Nerd love is so embarrassing!

The love and joy were so abundant! Mr. HC's best man, a poet, touched us with his eloquent, heart-felt toast.

One last outfit change and ten more tables to toast later, I was ready to shed my bridal obligations and spend the rest of night enjoying the party. Thank the open bar that our friends were a bit toasty themselves and ready to make fools of themselves on the dance floor.

Here are my college friends spontaneously busting out into the Princeton Locomotive (a ridiculous cheer that gets ever more hilarious when one is a) at reunions, b) drunk, and c) wearing orange). I think they (and by "they," I might mean me) might have also sang a rousing chorus of "Old Nassau," the Princeton college song.

And somewhere, in between the dancing with wild abandon and making fools of ourselves, my husband and I managed to fit in some dessert . . .

and dancing.

It was an amazing night. A there's-no-place-I'd-rather-be, no-moment-has-brought-me-more-joy kind of night.

A please-don't-let-this-end, but-if-it-must-at-least-I-get-to-go-home-with-my-new-husband-(yay!) kind of night.


My Take on PWC

Quite a few bees have had PWCs (post-wedding chops). But since short hair makes me look like a muppet, I went for a post-wedding curl instead.

That's right. I did what I said I'd never do again after a hairtastrophe that I shall call the "poodle perm incident of 1988." (No offense to Mrs. Poodle, who has a lovely hairstyle.)

"Don't cry. I'm not a poodle, I'm your new big sister!"

I got a perm. A digital perm.

Inspiration photos scanned from Japanese hairstyling magazines

Turns out perm technology has advanced significantly since I was in sixth grade. I found out about the digital perm from Angel Swanson, wedding planner extraordinaire. Instead of the tight, uniform curls of 1988, the digiperm can give you relaxed, sexy waves, like the inspiration photos above. But after my middle school humiliation, I was pretty freaked out about submitting my hair to the vagaries of chemicals. Plus at almost $250, the digital perm was a very expensive experiment.

I was so tired of the straight, shapeless hairstyle (above left) that I've had in the last few years, though, that I decided to risk it. Not that I'm out to escape humiliation entirely, since I'm showing you evidence of how totally insane I looked with the digital perm device hooked up to my head!

I got my digiperm at the Mie Higashimoto Salon on Newbury St. in Boston, with Fumiko, my regular stylist. She and her assistant were really comfortable with the equipment. My hair was washed, then cut, then prepped and rebonded with the first round of chemicals and washed again. Then they put curlers in, which were connected with leads (picture a cyborg Medusa) to the digiperm machine. When they first took the curlers out, I looked like a Hassidic rabbi, with tight coils. Horrifying. But then they applied a another round of chemicals, and after a quick wash, the curls relaxed into soft waves. The whole process took a little over three hours.

Fumiko used a combination of medium and large rollers to create a natural effect, and she started the curls above my cheekbones, so that the perm wouldn't look sad while it was growing out.

With the digital perm, if you're in a hurry, you can scrunch in a bit of mousse and just air dry; the results will be loose waves. For relaxed curls, my stylist taught me how to blow dry while twirling small sections of hair with my fingers.

In the photo on the left, I just sprayed a bit of Frederic Fekkai wave spray and then blow dried the hair while twirling it. To get big, neat curls, like those on the photo on the right (and the curls in the top left inspiration photo), I still have to supplement with a curling iron. But whereas my curls would usually fall out after a few hours, with the digital perm, the curls last until I wash my hair again.

Although it's not the wash-and-go hair that I was hoping to get out of the process -- I have to blowdry and hand style or else my hair gets frizzy -- I definitely like the fact that my hair finally has style and lots of volume. Plus I think it's shinier and healthier-looking because of the rebonding!

If you're considering a digital perm, here are some sites I found particularly helpful in my research:
  • Digital Perm thread on Purse Forum
  • Angel Swanson's blog
  • I am Style-ish blog (posts 1, 2, 3)
  • Pinkfish Pie blog
Are you considering a style change for your hair?


Executive Inspiration

Now that we're married, I know I should stop seeing "wedding" everywhere. But I saw these gorgeous photos from the White House State dinner, and my inspiration radar just went up.

The emerald and fuchsia! The gold and amethyst! The stunning chandeliers, chic menus, and elegant chargers.


And while we're at it, let's just appreciate the gloriousness that is Michelle's dress. I'd wear that as a wedding gown. In a heartbeat.

On this Thanksgiving, like a little magpie, I am thankful for beautiful things!

Are you finding wedding inspiration in the Obamas' style?


愛-Vey! This Is the Hora that Never Ends

Being a bride and groom is a bit like being a cute baby: people applaud you for doing completely banal things, like entering a room. After garnering huge applause for managing to get onto the dance floor without falling on our faces, Mr. HC and I snuggled up for our first dance.

We did the sixth-grade sway to Springsteen's "Drive All Night," which we selected as a romantic allusion to our fourteen years of long-distance dating.

Since we knew our awkward nerd moves would not be particularly entertaining, we asked our band leader to invite the rest of the wedding party and all the other guests onto the dance floor after a minute. But to our embarassment, one minute became two, two became what seemed like an hour. Mr. HC looks like he is smiling adoringly at me in that photo, but I'm pretty sure he was muttering under his breath, "When is this going to end?" And I was whispering back, "I wish we had some moves! We need moves!"

Finally, after what felt like days, our wedding party came to save us from humiliation. And soon enough our dance floor was packed with couples far more graceful than the two of us.

As soon as the last notes of Springsteen faded away . . .

the familiar, joyful sound of the hora began. And what an unbelievably fun, ecstatic, and loooooooong hora it was!

I was a bit nervous about whether our horah was going to be off-putting to some of our guests. So many of our Chinese guests had never been to a Jewish wedding. Would there be a split in the room, with half our guests feeling left out, alienated, or confused?

To our great joy and amusement, almost all of our guests joined in! Jewish bubbies, adorable Chinese grandpas, boys and girls of all ages . . . everyone piled right on the dance floor and started madly circling like a drunk Yiddish dance troupe. And, judging from the photos, all seemed to have as much fun as we did!

It was a supremely awesome Chewish moment.

Seriously, it was beyond fantastic. And I can objectively say that it was the horah to end all horahs. Not only because it rocked -- which it did -- but because it lasted for more than 20 minutes.

You see, the hora is Mr. HC's favorite aspect of a Jewish wedding. And when he requested a thirty-minute hora from our band leader, I thought he was just exaggerating out of exuberance.

But he was serious. And so was our band leader.

About a third of the way through the insanity that was our hora, we got put on chairs -- chairs with no arms! -- and lifted up.

I nearly peed in my pants.

I think my mouth was open in that ridiculous expression of horror and laughter the whole time.

And then they wanted me to let go and hold onto the damn napkin? Do I look like I have a death wish?

Apparently, yes. (By the way, how hilarious is the look exchanged between groomsman E -- of the purple yarmulke -- and friend J -- of the black yarmulke? They appear to be cursing us for consuming a whole platter of hors d'oeuvres before being lifted up.)

Finally, they set us down, and a very kind soul brought me some water and brought Mr. HC a napkin to mop up his copious schweatiness. But just when we thought it was over . . .

a very familiar looking purple flag appeared! It was the flag that Mr. HC had used at his election as Junior State Governor fifteen years ago. (Some of you might remember that we met through the Junior State, an organization for high school politics geeks.) One of his best friends had secretly gone to Mr. HC's parents' house, dug through the garage, and unearthed this archeological artifact!
The flag was part of the "schtick" that Mr. HC's groomspersons had planned for us. At traditional Jewish weddings, the groom's party would perform a funny routine to entertain the bride and groom. As you can tell, Mr. HC's friends were very entertaining indeed.
They even staged a "horah-off" between our groups of friends -- the MD/MBAs (representing Mr. HC) and the JD/Ph.D.s (representing me).

Eventually, I think one of my dear friends-of-honor, seeing that we were about to collapse from hora-induced exhaustion, signaled the band leader.

Alas, even the hora that never ends, had to end. But wow was it amazing while it lasted!


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