Venue Hunting

Our venue hunting process began a couple weeks ago, but we will be touring our first venue tomorrow. The Nittany Lion Inn, one of two hotels owned and operated by Penn State, is the venue. We have high hopes for the possibilities associated with having a Penn State wedding, so we are crossing our fingers with this one. Sezzy used to work as a banquet server at the NLI so she knows a bit about the place already (she met James Earl Jones there, too). They nice facilities and an extensive menu.

Hopefully we can pair up some of what the NLI offers with what the Penn Stater, Penn State's other hotel, has to offer. The Penn Stater has a package that lets you host your rehearsal dinner in a private suite at Beaver Stadium! How cool is that?? They even put your name on the scoreboard (kinda cheezy but still awesome at the same time). I'll post how the tour went post-weekend.

Website: http://www.pshs.psu.edu/


What now?

Ok, so you're engaged. What now? I've never been engaged before so I don't know how this works as a guy. Of course, my fiancee immediately went into planning overdrive . If you're like me, you probably thought that you didn't have much to do or even have much say in how things are going to play out. However, for me at least, this isn't the case. There are some things that the groom is responsible, albeit not nearly as much as the bride and her family is responsible for.

First thing's first. You need a wedding party. But before you determine who is in your wedding party, you have to determine how many people you want to be in your wedding party. This is a decision you need to make with your bride-to-be. We are planning on having 5 people in each of our wedding parties, including the best man and maid of honor. The hard part is deciding who is important enough to be in your wedding party, of course, but more on that in a future post.

Ok, so you have your wedding party, now what? Time to relax a little, right? Not if you're me. Sezzy started looking at venues about two days after the engagment, which is good I guess. Her parents are going to be paying for a good portion of the wedding, so we have to find a place that meets our needs and their budget. This can be very tricky and as the groom, it puts you in kind of a tough position. You know what you want, but if it doesn't fall within the budget, you can't really argue too much because you're not the one footing the bill. Anyway, Sezzy and I are looking at places in State College, PA because we met at Penn State and both graduated there and it still holds a special place in both our hearts. Plus, they have some very cool packages up there. There are two Penn State hotels: The Nittany Lion Inn and The Penn Stater. Both places look nice, but if you want an outdoor ceremony, it looks like you have to do The Penn Stater. One of the packages (I can't remember which right now) lets you rent out a suite in Beaver Stadium for the rehearsal dinner, which is AWESOME!! You get your name on the scoreboard and everything. We also looked at a few places locally (head on over to Sezzy's blog to see pictures) and there are some nice places but most are expensive and some have venue fees associated. It's crazy how expensive weddings are.

Now, in order to pick a venue, you need to have a date. While we still haven't set a concrete date, we know within a few weeks when we want to do it. Our original date we had considered was June 19, 2010. It's a nice date because our dating anniversary fell on the 19th of the month as well. Also, it's soon after Sezzy is done teaching for the year, but it only gives her about 1-2 weeks once school is out to finalize any last-minute details. Well, this date was shot down because her aunt and Godmother won't be able to make it that day because of graduation parties (her son is graduating from high school in '10). Ok, how about the following weekend? Well, I wasn't crazy with that weekend because the 26th, which is the following Saturday, is the exact day I started dating my high school girlfriend. Don't ask me why or how I still know that, but I do and it bothers me. The weekend after that is July 3-4, which is no good. Or is it? Think about it. Sure, it's a holiday. But it's a holiday that's generally associated with partying and having a good time. What if we had our ceremony on the 3rd? Everyone who wants to make separate plans for the 4th could still keep those plans, and if anyone wanted to stay around I'm sure we could find fireworks wherever we held the wedding. And the best part is that everyone will likely have off work on the 5th. We filed that away and we are taking it into consideration. The following weekends would also be fine, the 10-11th, 17-18th, etc. but the weather starts getting stifling hot around that time. Thus, we are still deciding.

How about a guest list? This has been tough. We wanted to hash out a preliminary guest list just to get a rough idea of how many people we were going to have to account for. We got to 200 almost effortlessly. We want to keep it around 200 and not much higher, but you have to draw lines somewhere in order to keep your guest list a decent size. You have to ask yourself lots of tough questions like: whose children should we invite? and for whom should we include "and guest"? Our general rule is that if the person in question is living on their own (i.e. not in college or living with their parents anymore), it's courteous to invite a guest (unless it's immediate family). Generally, inviting children is a must for close family and friends. We had to cut out guests and children for some people on our lists or else it would have swelled to over 250.

What's next? How about deciding what to wear? Are you going to wear a tux or suits? How about your groomsmen and ushers (if applicable)? Yes, this is your responsibility. While your fiancee may have her own thoughts on what colors she would like, you have a say in that and once the colors are decided, you have to pick out the attire for your side of the wedding party. Personally, I like the idea of myself and my groomsmen wearing tuxes, but the ushers will wear suits.

Ok, now we're on a roll. Details about the big day are starting to fall in place. But there is still so much to do. You need to figure out what to do with out-of-town guests. In some cases, everyone is an out-of-town guest. For instance, if we have the wedding in State College, everyone will be out of town. We will probably reserve a block of rooms in whatever hotel we have the wedding in, in this case. Transportation also has to be arranged. In some cases, the hotel may be far away from where the ceremony is held, or the reception may not be in the same place as the ceremony. One thing to consider is that some venues charge for parking. Will you cover the parking yourself or will you make your guests pay to park?

More men's duties:
- Obtain marriage license (very important)
- Purchase gift for the bride (also very important)
- Purchase groomsmen gifts (again, very important)
- Plan the rehearsal dinner (can be done with bride-to-be, but generally this is paid for my the groom's family)
- Prepare a toast for the rehearsal and a speech for the reception
- Plan the honeymoon (can be done with bride-to-be, but generally this is in the hands of the groom)

The marriage license is obviously very important (you can't get married without it) and finding someone to officiate can often be tricky. I am going to try to have my brother officiate the ceremony, so that should alleviate a lot of headaches. Also, the groom is responsible for the officiant's fee. You must purchase a gift for the bride. This is usually a piece of jewelry, a bracelet or watch, etc. Purchasing gifts for the groomsmen is very important as well. They put a lot of time and effort into the wedding planning and it's a nice gesture to get them all something that suits their personality. My friend got custom cufflinks for the groomsmen in his wedding and they were awesome. The cufflinks came in the form of dice, CD's, and stormtrooper helmets, among other things. The rehearsal dinner can be planned by both bride and groom, but the groom and his family are responsible for paying for it. The groom has to have a toast for the rehearsal and, generally, a speech for the reception. And of course, the honeymoon. You want to make sure to book a romantic getaway for your new bride.

So that's it. More than you thought, huh? Yeah, me too. And as of today, 23 days after we became engaged, we have none of these things done. Of course, we still have 17 months left, but it's always good to get a jump on things so you don't end up on one of those Bridezilla shows. Guess we better get moving.


The Bling

Ok, enough of the schmaltzy stuff. This whole engagement thing has changed me somehow and I get spurts of emotional outpouring like that. Time to get down to business.

This post is all about the bling. The process that I went through is probably a little different than what most people go through, but the picking of the ring was the pretty much the same. My fiancee's family has a longtime friend that does jewelry on the side. He used to run a jewelry store with some friends, but had to close it and now just does it on the side. He has made rings for Girl's parents before and he gets them at huge discounts. That is the part of my process that was different. However, picking out the ring itself is the part that is pretty much always the same.

I knew that I wanted to propose shortly after our friends got married on Labor Day. I started casually looking at rings toward late September-early October. I started seriously looking toward the end of October. I had a few criteria to work with:

1) She likes round-cut better than princess
2) She likes the 3-stone settings with accents
3) I can only get a solitaire if it's Tiffany

Well, ok. Personally, I like the look of the round-cut diamonds better too and the 3-stone settings are nice. Solitaires are too plain (she really only said the bit about Tiffany because she didn't want a solitaire). She also said she wanted it to be over 1 carat T.W. but that she didn't want it to be too big because she has small hands. It's actually a valid concern. If a girl with small hands has a giant rock on her finger, it doesn't look right. I was happy when she said this because size=money (that's what she said, literally).

So what I was targeting was a round-cut, 3-stone ring with accents, with total weight being between 1.5-2 carats. I found the perfect ring on a popular jewelers' website (withholding name):
This was it. This was the ring I wanted to get for her. It was perfect. Plus, this particular one was on sale. So I went to our family friend with this picture and said I wanted something like this. It was 1.5-carat T.W., white gold, had side stones and accents, the whole nine yards.

While he couldn't match the price, he was able to upgrade the quality of the stones considerably. He actually went to the store and looked at the ring and said "yep, the quality of the stones I have is much better than what is in this ring." He explained to me the whole process of obtaining stones and to make a long story short, the jewelry stores generally don't ask specifically to see each stone before picking them because it costs them extra. They will tell the diamond broker that they want a bunch of G color stones and they dump them out on the table for them. This increases the chances of getting a stone with a large flaw in it. The rating system also doesn't always take into account the flaws when rating the clarity. All 4 of the stones he showed me were the same clarity, despite the one having a giant flaw that spread throughout the entire stone.

Anyway, so I went over to his house to look at settings and loose stones. This is the part of the experience that you won't get by going to a chain jewelry store. He showed me about 5 settings altogether, two of which I liked. Then he showed me 4 different stones of varying size and color. The sizes were .5, .6, .7, and .84-carat. He showed me the stones in 10x magnification to show me the imperfections in each stone. The .5 and .7 stones were nearly flawless. The .6-carat, the size I liked the most, had a huge flaw in it and he said he would never recommend selling that stone to anyone. The .84 stone was a K color and looked yellow compared to the other stones when he did his color test for me.

Then the mountings. The two that I liked were both 3-stone settings with accents. The first was small, with total weight around .61. The second was much bigger, with total weight at .94 carats. The second one was dazzling even with no center stone in it. I liked it, but it was much more expensive. Well, I wanted a .6-carat center stone to make the whole thing around 1.5 carats. The .7 was too expensive and the .5 was too small. I said to him, "is there any way you can try to find another .6 that doesn't have a huge flaw in it?" Keep in mind, this is a week before I'm set to pop the question. He said he would see what he could do. He called me the next day and said he found a .6 stone that was nearly flawless, came in at E color (D is the best, colorless) and he could put it in the ring right away if I gave him the go-ahead. I did. And the ring turned out awesome. Here it is:

My advice: follow your fiancee's requirements as best you can because it's her ring and not yours. Make sure you set your budget so that there is some wiggle room (I went up about $800 from my original budget). In the end, you may need to make a judgment call. Oh, and it's nice to have friends that can give you a beautiful ring for almost half price.


I'm engaged!

Hello. I'm not sure how much interest this blog will generate, but I figured that some people might find it interesting to hear about the wedding planning process from the groom, rather than only hearing it from the bride. The name of the blog is a little lame, I know, but it's an off-shoot of my fiancee's wedding blog, which can be found here. Her tag on her blog is sezzy, and she always refers to me as simply "Boy", hence the name "Sezzy's Boy."

Ok, enough of the intro stuff. Time to get right down to it. Well, my fiancee and I recently got engaged, on New Year's Eve actually. It was a momentous occasion and a monumental achievement for me, and for our relationship. And all of our friends were there to witness it. We had people over for New Year's Eve and to watch Penn State get blown out in the Rose Bowl the next day. We had lots of food, lots of drink, and lots of fun.

Fast forward to around 11:30 pm: I had been downstairs playing Rock Band with some friends and I came upstairs to see what was going on with everyone else. Sezzy seemed a little down but she wouldn't admit to being upset. She gave me some lame excuse that I don't even remember anymore, and I knew that it was time. She had been waiting for long enough. We hit our 4-year anniversary back in November and we have been living together for over 2 years now. She was expecting it to happen on every special day for the last year, and especially since our friends Nick and Crystal's wedding back in August when I told her that I "think I might want to do this with her some time." She was disappointed on our anniversary and on Christmas, even though she kept egging me on, saying she knew I wouldn't do it on Christmas.

The truth is, my intention was always New Year's Eve. It's her favorite holiday, higher on her list even than Christmas. But I wanted to keep her in suspense. I wanted her to think that I wasn't going to do it so that it would be a complete surprise. And it was. She went downstairs after I talked to her and I went up. The time was about 11:45, 15 minutes before the ball dropped, signaling that yet another year had come and gone. I got the ring, which I had just obtained earlier in the day, out of my top dresser drawer and took a deep breath. Then, when I heard her come back into the kitchen, I called for her to come upstairs, cool and collected. I stood at the foot of our new bed as she walked in and then I got down on one knee and asked the magic question. The look on her face was a rare mix of joy, relief, adoration, and a touch of anger for making her wait so damn long, raw emotion. Then she started crying and somewhere in there said "yes". After a couple of minutes of admiring her rather impressive ring and catching her breath and composing herself, she asked me if I was ready.

Of course I was. Her sister and Maid of Honor, Becky, was the first to know. She called her to the landing when we were halfway downstairs to show her the sparkle on her left ring finger. The next to know was our good friend Crystal and after that, everyone gathered 'round. There were hugs and handshakes a-plenty after that, but hey--it's almost 2009. Let's pour the champagne. We toasted and watched 2008 expire and continued our night for hours more. The phone calls to ecstatic friends and family members started soon after midnight. My first call was to my mom's cell, but there was no answer. I called my two younger brothers: one was at a party, the other hanging at home. The latter said mom was asleep but he would try to rouse her. In the meantime I called my older brother.

He was out west for the night, at the UNC-UNLV game in Reno, Nevada (it wasn't yet midnight out there yet). I told him the good news and he congratulated me. Then I asked him a very important question: would you officiate our wedding? My brother is very active in his church and has considered leaving his job to pursue formal training in religious studies. He has gone on mission trips to India and Africa, and is planning another one in New Orleans in February. We just figured, who better to officiate our wedding than someone who is so close to us? He was honored and said he would check with his church when he got home from his trip. When I hung up, I still hadn't heard from my mom. So I thought I would try to call her again. And my brother was right: she was out cold. Barely audible and barely coherent (just because she had gone to bed at 10 and had a cold, not from drinking), I told her the good news. She didn't seem enthused, but she was barely awake. I told her I would call her tomorrow.

I was a little upset over the conversation with my mom, but it was understandable since she was woken out of a deep slumber. I needed to get my spirits up so I called my best man and best friend Kyle. New Year's Eve happens to also be his birthday, so he was out celebrating in Philly and already had a load on. But he was hilarious. He was maybe more excited than I was. After telling Sezzy that she was the second luckiest girl in the world (the luckiest, of course, was the girl that eventually marries him), I wrapped it up with him and went back downstairs.

The rest of the night kind of blends together, but I remember lots of picture-taking, some shots, and lots of congratulations. We finally caught our breath the next day and despite Penn State looking awful in the Rose Bowl, our good mood couldn't be spoiled. We were engaged. It seemed so strange to say at first and it still kind of does. But it also feels good. And I accomplished my goal: she was totally surprised.