Monday, July 6, 2009

Two vegans, two years, one wedding: The Saga, part 2.

This is the second installment of an as of yet unknown quantity of posts about my wedding nonsense, to be posted monthly.

When we last left our nuptial heroes, they were in quite a quandary. How to have a wedding which is affordable, ethical, and simultaneously representative of the very people that we are? A tall order, to be sure.

After the New York Wedding Plan had fizzled, we really didn't know what to do. I had to put a stop on the invitations that I'd already ordered - talk about heartbreak. We got back (most of) the deposit we'd put down on The Foundry. And for a while, out of emotional necessity, we put aside our Great Vegan Wedding and thought of other things. Like moving.

But, you know, once you've put something like "we're getting married" out into the world, it doesn't really stay quiet - either within your own head, or within your mother's. By the springtime, when all things are reborn, the concept of the wedding was back on the table. After all, we by then had less than a year to plan, if we were to keep the original date. And that's when it hit us.

New Orleans! An idea that we'd previously discarded suddenly didn't seem like such a bad one anymore. My family is there - a blessing and a curse, no doubt, but when you're planning something as difficult and complicated as a wedding, you can't turn down any blessings at all, no matter how mixed. His family was going to be traveling either way, and they would have come to New York and would have been thrilled for us on our big day regardless of location. But being from the mountains of Virginia they will be much, much happier in New Orleans than they ever are in New York City (just picture that old salsa ad campaign and you'll see what I'm saying).

And so, like a phoenix from the ashes was born the New Orleans Wedding Plan. There are still a good number of details to be worked out - like how the heck we're going to feed people vegan food in the land of shrimp and sausage. I've mentioned on this blog and elsewhere that the Big Easy isn't necessarily the most vegan-friendly kid on the block. But it is a city, full fledged, which means that not only can it be done, but we probably don't even have to do it all ourselves. (As we vegans know, a vegan feast can happen anywhere that has a grocery store. However, whether we want to cook a meal for fifty people ourselves the week of our wedding is a different question.) When you know your way around, you can actually eat really well as a vegan in New Orleans. Especially now that they finally, and really I should say once again, have their very own all-vegetarian restaurant! It's called Cafe Bamboo, and when we're down in August we plan to eat there at least four times.

Now. As I mentioned in the first installment, there are two main areas of a wedding where veganity must be considered. The first, clearly, is food. The second, which is not always considered by non-vegans, is clothes! You should see the looks I get when I explain that I don't want a silk wedding gown. It's as if I've said that I'll be getting married in a space suit and/or a burlap sack. As if the only fine and beautiful cloth that has ever been made came from worms - forget linen, or bamboo, or polished cotton, or even ordinary man made satin apparently. What makes it slightly easier is that I won't be wearing white. (You should see the looks when I tell them that, too.) But then, of course, try finding a "wedding dress" that's not white, ivory, cream, or champagne. The answer is simple: I won't be wearing a "wedding dress".

When looking for a vegan and/or alternative kind of big pretty dress to wear on your wedding day, there are a lot of alternatives to pursue. The first and most obvious choice is bridesmaids dresses. These are dresses of the same materials and of the same quality - though satin is almost always a choice,unlike in "real" wedding dresses where silk is status quo. Many of them are of similar styles as wedding dresses, with full length ball gowns and the like, but at about a tenth of the cost. Knee and tea lengths also come into the pictures, for the gals who don't dig covering up the ankles. And they come in COLOR! Glorious shining rainbows of technicolor splendor, every shade you can think of from puce to chartreuse, cerulean to crimson. Of course, if you do want a white or ivory dress, they can usually be ordered in that too. And if you want to be mostly traditional but add just a little bit of flare, many styles come with a waist sash or empire ribbon where you can insert a splash.

You can also look into Quinceanera dresses, if you're interested in something more elaborate. In case you don't know, the Quinceanera is a coming-of-age celebration in Hispanic/Latino culture that occurs on a girl's 15th birthday - it's sort of a combo of the Catholic Confirmation (that is, if the celebrants choose to include a religious element) and the debutant's "sweet sixteen". First there's a fairly elaborate ceremony, and then there's an enormous ceremony, and extra fancy amazing brightly saturated dresses are the order of the day. Where there's a big dress, there's a big market, and where there's a big market, there's a website or ten. Have some fun - google it.

The next stop for non-traditional wedding dresses is good old prom dresses. Yup, seriously. After all, they are formal evening dresses, and they're more or less designed for full grown women. The best website I've found for these is NextEve, which has a wide range of slightly gaudy, brightly hued, very fun ballgowns - and many other styles as well, but I'm a bit obsessed with the ballgown thing at the moment. What's particularly cool about this website is that a) they give pretty good details about what fabric a dress is made of, which not all websites do, and b) you have a choice to either purchase a normal pre-set size, or to fill in your exact measurements and have a dress made to order. For the prices, that's pretty exceptional.

I've been looking at dresses for, I dunno, a year and a half now probably, and my favorite company by far is Aria. They have a nice range of styles, almost all of their dresses come in a choice knee or full length, column cut or a-line, and the price for each choice of each dress is right there on the website. All can be ordered in their (entirely man made) satin fabric choices and many of them also come in an adorable cotton eyelet. they do, of course, also offer everything in a wide variety of silks. And yes, that bothers me. But it's quite hard to find a dressmaker that does not offer any silk or other animal fibers. Even the uber-hippy designers Threadhead Creations offer "peace silk" - silk harvested only after the silk worms have hatched from their cocoons, and "hemp silk" - hemp fibers blended with various percentages of traditionally harvested silk, wherein the worms are killed in their cocoons lest they break the silk strands as they hatch. Neither of these strike me as good choices. (They of course also offer other fibers such as hempcel and cotton.)

So Aria it is for me - and... they just introduced several ballgown styles! Yeah, I'm excited. Another of their pros is that they don't work through bridal showrooms - places of the devil, I tell you - they only sell through their own boutiques. Granted, this makes it slightly difficult for those of us who don't live on one of the coasts. Even I, who live in big bad New York City, have to do a bit of traveling (down to DC) to visit and do a real try-on session. But they do have a try-on-at-home program to make up for that. And honestly, who wouldn't rather try on a dress in the comfort of her own home, rather than in a terrible, cramped, poorly lit dressing room with some pushy saleswoman on the other side of the door? Seriously, I recommend avoiding bridal showrooms at almost any cost.

Obviously I haven't chosen my dress yet. Hopefully my trip to Aria in mid-July will shed some light on the subject, but I do still have some time. And there are still about a hundred details to work out for the New Orleans Wedding Plan. 1) Caterer. 2) Cake. 3) My inlaws to be are apparently just dying to have a rehearsal dinner for us... where the heck are we gonna do that? Maybe Cafe Bamboo, though I don't know that it can seat a party of about 24, which is what we'll end up being - Miss Judy wants to invite the out-of-towners as well as the wedding party. Maybe Mona's, my very favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in the world, that has vegan offerings galore? 4) Explaining to my mother why she can't invite 25 of her cousins...

Luckily I still have eight months to accomplish the various tasks on my to-do list. We will, however, spend one week in August running around the crescent city like a couple of maniacs, trying to make the most of the short time we have in the nuptial city... hilarity will ensue!

Ah yes, so so much to do - but we'll talk about that in August, when I regale you with tales of accessory choices, gift basket woes, and everybody's favorite game: "guess what my mother said this time"!

Until next Monday,

Melissa Bastian.


Vegan Mama said...

hooray! Sounds like now all you have to do is follow the yellow brick road :0)

melissa bastian. said...

Oh! That reminds me! We haven't even talked about flowers. (Sorry - slight tangent - any reference to Oz makes me immediately think of poppies... poppies to make you sleep...)

michelle said...

Good luck Melissa! I recommend keeping things as simple as possible so you don't drive yourself bananas!