[Wedding DIY] Say ‘I Do’ to Creatively Customized Invitations

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Plan a wedding, they said – it’ll be fun, they said.  Don’t get me wrong – because this is all sorts of fun; but a kind of detail-oriented, take-charge type of fun where you’re always second guessing yourself because most likely, you’ve never done this before – nor are you planning on ever really doing it again type of fun.  Thankfully, I’ve discovered some clutch resources that have made the initial steps infinitely easier.

Pin + Plan

The initial planning stages always seem the hardest, going from the grandiose, umbrella idea of a fabulous wedding to whittling down nuanced details on color, style and formality. Now that your wedding date is tangible, the reality of your ideas have manifested into a horse of a different color where compromise is key, so at the very least get a grip on your ideas with a solid brainstorm session with your significant other.Hands down, Pinterest has proven to be a great resource for both researching and cataloging ideas, especially now that we can have collaborative Pin Boards.  I’m sure there’s a lot of us whose Wedding (and Engagement, and Bridal Shower…) Pin Boards are older than our relationships, but in our defense – it’s not like we haven’t been dreaming of this day since we were little kids, we’ve just been waiting for the perfect way to organize it.

Capture Your Love Story

If you asked me what I thought of Engagement Photos a year ago, I probably would have laughed at you – not that I don’t think they’re beautiful, I just always found them to be superfluous, ostentatious, pseudo-omnipotent views of love. But then I thought about the idea of love, letting it’s truth wash over me like a light rain and I realized that love is supposed to be larger than life, or at least larger than us as individuals, and it should be opulent in all of it’s hidden riches that hide deep in the heart, so – yes, let’s capture it, let’s capture love in it’s purest form. And the more it truly sunk in that Danny and I were tying the knot, the more I wanted to capture this version of our love in a time capsule that I can hold close to my heart.   So, tl/dr – a thousand times yes, invest in your engagement photos because it’s really a gift to yourself.

When it comes to your photos, my suggestions here are twofold. First -pick a location that resonates at the same frequency as your relationship, pick a special place that the two of you find as beautifully unique as your relationship. For our pictures, we spent a weekend frolicking around the stunning Sequoias hand in hand, kissing around every corner – and it reminded me a thousand times over why I’m over the moon excited to be spend the rest of my forever with him.

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Second, and equally important: find a photographer that you can feel vulnerably yourself with, and in effect ‘naked’ in your love for each other.  If you’re around the Southern California, or East Coast Area – I highly and absolutely recommend Juliana Bernstein, better know around these parts as Get Tiny Photography, for any and all photo duties.  I met Juliana back while I working with The DJ List but it wasn’t until my time with The Confluence that I finally had the pleasure of getting to know this sorceress of creation. Even though we got to know each other under the neon lights and late nights of music festivals, what turned me on to her as our engagement photographer was the way she can capture an effervescent moment in time, full of vibrant colors, depth and shadow play. Beyond being a beautiful soul with a keen eye and a mind sharp as a tack, Juliana is literally the cutest, sweetest thing in the entire world and I’m still trying to figure out how to keep her in my pocket, feed her skittles and take her with my everywhere.

For more of Juliana’s work – check our her website and socials:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | E-mail

Be Inviting

There are a few ways you can go about making your Saves the Date and your Wedding Invitation.  First, you could hire someone to take the reigns and do it for you – which I’m sure is nice, but as someone who gets off on the creative process there’s no way I would just give that up.  So, if you’re trying to DIY the damn thing, there are a few great online resources at your disposal.  The lovely folks at Minted will send you a sample package of their wares so you can get a grip on the types of paper and color combinations at your fingertips, while PaperSource has a whole host of links available for the scatterbrained bride-to-be.

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Customize Your Creation

As beautiful as the invitations are for Minted and Paper Source, the only way to have a truly customized invitation through Paper Source is to have their corporate office approve your design to actually be on their website (which is damn cool), but it was a round about process that left me wanting – thankfully, I stumbled across Basic Invite and all my problems were solved.  After getting a feel for the wedding invitations that were already out there, I realized that I saw everything as a wonderful jumping off point; a rough draft that I wanted to paint in technicolor.  I literally caught myself wanting to customize very well every facet of the Saves the Date, the Wedding Invitation – and even the RSVP card. With Basic Invite, you can upload all of your own images to create completely customized creations – yasssss.

Now, I’m definitely not a pro with Photoshop but I’m not graphically impaired, either – so with some ideas in mind, I took things into my own hands, made everything from the ground up.  The biggest issue I ran into was having a file in a large enough resolution and format to be loaded.  After some trouble, I found that saving my Photoshop Files as .TIFF files, and loading them into a private Flickr album did the trick.

After just a few round of tweaks, I’m pleasantly surprised with how everything turned out, but for the record: let’s just say that every meme you see about Graphic Designers and their clients is very, very true.   Now, I don’t want to spoil the surprise until after the New Year when the invitations are sent out, and trust me – it’s worth the wait 🙂

Pro Tip: Flirt with Free Fonts.  To quote my Fiance – all of the stock fonts in Photoshop look like they’re out of a middle school science fair presentation, so if you’re thinking of going all the way customized – I would think outside of the text box.  Of all the sites I found, I would recommend Brushez and Fonts 101.

Stamp of Approval

Sure, regular stamps are cool – but romantic, whimsical, wedding inspired stamps are invariably so much better. Check out the USPS website, or even take a gander inside one of your local Post Offices (yes, those artifacts of buildings still exist!).  If like Kanye, you’re accustomed to customizing – you can always order out custom stamps on Shutterfly.  It was a fleeting thought, but in a moment of pure serendipity last night, my Aunt-in-law sent me the very stamps were were looking for – and they arrived in the mail at the same time as our final invitation prints!  Suffice it to say, we’re set to send.

So, Now We Have These Pictures?

So, finally – almost three years after we got engaged, two months after we took our engagement photos – we’re ready to ship!  We used maybe 4 or 5 of the 150+ engagement photos for our invitations…and as much as it’s killed me, I’ve basically kept the good ones a secret from almost all of our friends, family – and most importantly, social media.  Not to be a curmudgeon, but I truly feel that the first time someone sees your Saves the Date photo should be when they physically open the envelope; maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, maybe I have a thing for ‘Wow’ factor – but these photos are special, you should really treat them as such. Since we used literally less than 3% of our photos, that means we invariably have a plethora of pictures for other avenues: post them all over your Instagram and feel the love of your love, reuse your photos as Holiday Cards for your friends or framed photos for your family, crop yourself a fancy new LinkedIn profile picture; the options are basically as endless as your romance, so use as you desire!

What are your favorite Wedding Invitation resources?  What creative ways have you reused your engagement photos? Let me know in the comments below!

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[Doing It Right] How To Fight USPS On a Lost Package

“Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness, simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”
Bo Derek

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I’ll be the first to admit it, I love a good bout of e-tail therapy.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as sitting in the comfort of your domain, messy bun toppling to the side while in remnants of last night’s outfit opting for your next purchase.   Whether it’s a snazzy new top, a fantastic read, art supplies or a gadget for the kitchen – I get excited, excited like a five year old on Christmas ready to rip through to their first present.
mermaidBut let’s be real for a second, not every package comes in tact – or at all. I’ve recently discovered just how frustrating it can be trying to reconcile a lost package, and it gives a whole new meaning to going ‘Postal‘.

A few months ago while living the festival life, my girlfriends dubbed themselves the ‘Mermaid Mafia’ – and from that, our Halloween costume has pretty much been etched in stone. We all went our separate ways to procure our wears, and for me that meant heading to ETSY.  Within minutes, I had my sights set on the most perfect pair of shimmery, deep purple, mermaid scale leggings from Roberta Basics; they always have killer gear and I was stoked to finally be purchasing some of it.  But when I finally clicked on that elusive green purchase button, I had no clue the agonizing adventure I had ahead of me.

The last week of August I saw ETSY send out a shipping notice and eagerly counted down the days to arrival; literally ready to pounce on that package like a hungry kitten.  On Monday, August 31st a little notification popped up on my phone and immediately I sprinted down the stairs, smile on my face, flung open the mailbox door…and….nothing.  Not just no package, but no mail, no junk mail, which for a Monday was bizarre.  I looked at my phone again, delivery notification staring me flat in the face, and back into the empty metal box that was begging to be pleasantly full.
dragonsUnsure of what to do, I waited until Tuesday – thinking maybe it’d been misplaced and would arrive with the mail the next day; yet, still – our mailbox remained empty and an uneasy feeling crept into my stomach. I felt like Khalessi in Game of Thrones; where were my fucking dragons?! Finally, Wednesday rolls around – the mailbox has assorted junk in it but nothing of worth, and our regular mail lady let on that on Monday there was a new guy on duty. Instead of just throwing my hands in the air and accepting defeat by mail, I got a bug up my sleeve and decided that wasn’t the way those leggings were going out.

Filing a Complaint with USPS

From the second you notice something is wrong with your mail – you want to do two things: start making a log and then give USPS a call.  The log might seem tedious at the time, but later when you’re attempting to refute a claim it’s completely necessary.  For the record, USPS – or as I’ll refer to them from now on, US-POS has one of the most obnoxious automated phone lines I’ve ever dealt with when trying to follow up on a claim, but setting one up is relatively easy.  The first thing you’ll want to do is call 1-800-275-8777 (1-800-ASK-USPS).

Because you need to talk to a real person and not a computer, don’t wait for their automation  to spit out a lucky number for you to press; instead, hit 0 repeatedly and say either “Complaint” or “Operator”.  Just trust me, you’ll be dealt with a whole lot faster.  Be sure you have your tracking number handy and walk them through your entire log; at least at the end of my call, I had a very nice woman on the phone give me a confirmation number for my problem.  Each confirmation number starts with your state ID followed by a 10 digit ID number (for example, mine is CA124550061). Hold onto this like the holy grail, you’ll need it! You’ll also want to snag the number to the local post office that delivered your mail so you can put in a formal inquiry through them. If you are having trouble finding it, head here. When you talk to your local Post Office branch, be aware that they can track your package’s whereabouts using GPS coordinates, don’t be afraid to ask them to hunt this down!

Filing a Claim against USPS Online

Even though you can file a formal complaint with USPS within days of your grievance, to file a claim online you have to wait 15 days to file a claim and have up to 60 days after your item was shipped to do so. First off, sign up for an account with USPS, don’t worry – it’s a free service. To file a claim, go here and have all your information at the ready: complaint number, tracking number, purchasing information and retail cost. You’ll need to sign up for an account so you can go back and check in on your claim. And don’t be dismayed if your claim is denied – I’ve already been denied twice and am proudly on my second appeal. In future dealings with USPS, make sure you always elect for insurance – you never know the potential headache you’re saving yourself!

Do you have your own personal Post Office horror story?  Or maybe some neat tricks and tips up your sleeve? Let me know in the comments below!

[Life Hacks] Moving On Up

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There are thousands of reasons to move, but only one important one: you. It sounds selfish, but who else is going to make your adult life their priority?  Whether it’s a new job, a new development in your relationship or your lease is expiring and you have the itch to jump neighborhoods, a move is (or should be) 110% about what’s good for you as an individual; I know mine is.After I graduated from UCSB in ’08, I had an executive decision to make: apply to grad school and pursue a career based on my field of study, or listen to that voice in my head that’s never stopped dreaming.  So I packed up my troubles and followed my heart to LA, which led to an incredibly hectic, and admittedly not very well thought out, move to my first apartment in Koreatown by myself.  And please believe – I say that not to harp on myself, but because I should have had more of a plan. Between my lack of income and unfamiliarity with the city, it might not have been the best choice – but it did a beautiful job of reminding me to define my intentions and embrace the reasons why I live my life. Every damn day, I wake up blessed that I listened to that small tinge of inspiration that I’ve always held onto, because it’s brought me exactly where I am today and I couldn’t be any happier.

As I prepare for fourth move in five years I have a snazzy mental inventory that I can refer to –  I know what I love having around (people, amenities like bars, markets and a gym within walking distance, and last but definitely not least freeways) what I’m willing to deal with (like volume, messiness and a general level of respect), what I’d like to avoid and what I really consider a priority (my relationships, my profession, etc) – 

 Work Life: Even though I do most of my work from home, one of the perks to my move is the decreased travel time to the office.  Because it’s Los Angeles, it doesn’t make sense to give you the mileage so just know that currently – the drive time ranges from 30-50 minutes depending on traffic, and the second I move that’ll drop down to a mere 15 minutes. Oh, yes!

Social Circle: The majority of my social circle resides out of Southern California and is mostly scattered up the Western Coast of the United States; but for the friends that I do still have in Los Angeles, most of them are living pretty on the East Side of town and I cannot wait to join them!

Love Life:  First things first, I’ve never lived with a significant other; this is the first time my love life has evolved to the point that it simply makes sense to live together.  We spend pretty much every waking moment together, and lately we’ve both felt like we just have a really well furnished storage unit on the other side of town.  Don’t get me wrong, it was all fun an games until we factored in travel time and traffic.  Los Angeles is one of the few places where you can actually be in a long distance relationship with someone who lives in the same city as you, and I can’t wait til we start a new chapter in the relationship.

Moving is like an earthquake: you can prepare, prepare and prepare for it but there’s simply nothing as chaotic or physically draining as an actual move.  So here are a few tips to help =)

(1) Before things start getting crazy, review your lease and get your “30 Days Notice” to your landlord ASAP to ensure a seamless exit

(2) If possible, try and get a small overlap of time where you have both places; moving out and moving in are a lot less stressful if they don’t happen simultaneously

(3) Consider the pets – are you combining furry, four legged families? If so, get a strategy together for how the animals will get acquainted.  Another idea to consider is shampooing or deep cleaning the carpets to get any layers of pet hair out before you bring more in.

(4) Submit your change of address form to USPS to get the mail moving to your new abode

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(5) Color code your furniture so you know what’s moving, what’s getting stored and what you can toss; personally, I’m a huge fan of the Stoplight method

(6) Give your closet a heavy dose of reality and finally get rid of those capris/bellbottoms/high-waisted shorts/crop-top that you one time could have worn to that strange party but you never did so now it’s just staring at you with an ostentatious look, taking up precious closet space.   Limit the nostalgia items to five or fewer and get into the groove of getting rid of things – it’s good for the soul, I swear!  I love donating mine to friends, because at least I can still get some vicarious enjoyment out of the object, but if you’re feeling adventurous – try your hand posting your duds on Tradsey for some serious cash.

(7) Whether you’re moving with friends, or in with a significant other, take a few moments to make the new place your own.  Maybe that means hanging up brightly colored tapestries, or covering the fridge with drawings from friends – either way, make sure you put your mark on your spot, both early and boldly.

(8) Last, but certainly not least, get lost.  Maybe not literally, but take some time out of your day and explore the neighborhood – find a new bar, some yummy hole in the wall food, an art gallery or a park fit for a picnic; you never know what’s just around the corner!

My New Hood
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Our fridge is an ode to our creative friends; I love it.