Six months on…

Wow, six months already… we still need to write a testimonial for Gabriella. The more I look back the more I see just how vital she was and how lovely it was to have her in our corner.

On October 30th my parents threw us a reception. Lots of fun. Hard to recall much of it because I was floating from one person to the next, greeting everyone, catching up (however briefly) with friends and family I haven’t seen in years, all the while smiling so much my face got stuck. It was fun to see the different groups of people interact. It was actually the first time Joe met several members of my family. My niece, Nichola, ran up to me at one point and gave me a hug around my knees. My thought process went something like, “Aww, hi honeeeeeee Noooooooo! Chocolate!” So I now have a smear of chocolate on my dress. Inevitable (I’m amazed I didn’t spill anything on it in Venice, actually) and funny. Stains from hugs are good.

People keep asking me, “How does it feel to be married?” Since Joe and I had already been living together for almost two years I have to answer, “Not all that different from unmarried life.” (I don’t think people like that answer.) Honestly the differences between married and unmarried for me are slight occasional glows. I’ll look at Joe and think, “Damn, that’s my husband!” When we hold hands, I’ll become aware of the rings. Thoughts about the future are more concretely about “us” and not “I.” It surprises me how easily it is to slip into familiarity with the thought of being married but there are also times I need to be reminded that I’m somewhat pluralized now. The changes are very subtle and interesting to me, but not really things that can be summarized in a pat answer to a different form of “How are you?”

The pictures I absolutely cherish. It’s just so luxurious to look through them and realize it was real. That was us. We were there. Since we had only two witnesses, I get to go over the photos with other people and relive that day over and over again. Funny how for all the crazy paperwork and the strain over keeping it a secret we weren’t that worked up about the wedding day. There was little stressing about making it a special day because it just was.

How could it not be?

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After the fact…

It’s been quite a month.

All the waiting and secret keeping ended up being well worth it. Reactions have been positive. My parents are thrilled; they basically said, “We don’t have to worry about the ceremony and can go straight to the party!” My parents rock. The “reception” will probably be in mid to late October. I’m looking forward to it, partly for the silly reason that I’ll get to wear the dress again.

I now find myself switching between wanting to talk about it nonstop to still feeling like I have to keep quiet about it. I’m not sure how to drop this little bit of news into conversation, so sometimes I just don’t say anything. I need to get over that.

After a few days of being frustrated over how tight they were, I’ve gotten used to wearing the rings. I’ve never been much of a ring person; the last one I wore regularly was my high school ring. These are pretty form fitting and are a bit difficult to get off (which is a good thing), but I’ve noticed that my finger seems to be changing shape to accommodate this new hardware.

According to the stats of this blog, some people have found it by searching for information on Hefez and Sons. I’m happy to give them the advertising because they really were wonderful to work with. Other people were searching for pictures of the Kate Hudson dress.

I should mention a few books that we looked to for advice about this event.

Let’s Elope — Good for etiquette questions and has a good description of options beyond a Justice of the Peace.

Beyond Vegas — Very good descriptions of fun alternatives. It’s very frank about the difficulties involved.

The Everything Elopement Book — Eh. I got the impression that this book was written in an attempt to convince the author’s mother that it was okay. It sounded whiny and a bit adolescent.

The Hard Questions — Some of our friends have had high praise for Catholic pre-Cana, where couples are asked questions about themselves and the future that might not have come up during courtship. This book is a good stand in for that. We would just open the book and think about whatever question was on the page. A good guide and an interesting exercise.

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Even More Photos


I’ve just added another small gallery of wedding photos, these ones taken by our friends/witnesses Jacy and Victoria. We got them developed at Ferranti-Dege in Harvard Square, because they offer higher-resolution scanning than most places (3592 x 2048 from APS film) when developing, and they’re nearby. Unfortunately, it looks like the film suffered some x-ray damage during the trip, as the resulting scans and prints came back looking very grainy and low-contrast. I was able to recover a decent amount of quality using Photoshop and Noise Ninja, but I’ve disabled print ordering on this gallery since the results probably wouldn’t be worthwhile. Anyway, enjoy the photos–Jacy and Victoria managed to get some great “behind the scenes” shots and caught some things that our photographer wasn’t around for.

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More wedding photos and improved gallery

We’ve gone through all of the wedding-related photos that we have on hand and assembled a gallery of our favorites for your viewing pleasure. I’ve also updated the photo system so that you can now browse the photos more easily, get full-resolution versions, and order prints (or refrigerator magnets!) of your favorites, courtesy of smugmug.

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Trip photos added

I just posted a bunch of pictures from our travels in Florence, Siena, and Venice to the photo section. We’ll add more wedding pictures soon, once we’ve had a chance to pick out our favorites.

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First Photos

We’ve just gotten home from Italy, so we haven’t had a chance to thoroughly go through the pictures, but I’ve posted a few that jumped out at me in the wedding album. I expect to add a bunch more in the next few days, so check back soon!

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Huzzah!

We did it! In spite of all our worries about paperwork, timing, etc., we are now Joe Hughes and Justina Kochansky, young married couple. The wedding went off without a hitch, unless you count our friend and witness Jacy being dive-bombed by a pigeon (he took one for the cause). The photos are sitting on CDs right next to us, but we probably won’t be able to upload any of them until we get back home to a decent internet connection in a couple days. Ciao!

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Announcement

Announcement

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Twitterpated

Leaving for Italy this afternoon. Joe and I are bouncing with excitement.

We’d better get to the airport soon so we can be bored for a few hours.

Passport, tickets, money, papers, dress, rings… oy. Here we go!

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Gearing up for the finish…

One more snafu to report that could have been avoided with a bit more effort.

I’d called to cancel this dress on June 2nd, after they recommended that I do so. But a couple days ago I got an e-mail from the company informing me that it would be shipped within the next day or so. I finally found their number (which had been removed from their website sometime since early June) and called them several times in addition to sending an e-mail explaining the situation. Fortunately, I got an e-mail later that evening which confirmed the cancelation.

The moral of this mistake? When canceling an order placed online, call twice and e-mail as backup should you not actually talk to a person.

On another note… in reading through these posts of mine, I realized I’ve never answered the question that I think many people will be wondering about.

Namely… Why?

Why keep this a secret?

I’ve never been one for ceremony and I hate being the center of attention. That automatically makes me less of a candidate for a “traditional” wedding (at least, the modern version of it). In addition, both Joe and I are rather private people… with a flair for the dramatic. It feels right for us to elope in Italy. If this doesn’t end up working out, we’ll figure out something else, most likely also in private. In the end, the commitment is between the two of us and we wanted something equally special and personal to go along with that.

However, once we get back, we hope to celebrate with our family and friends. The wedding won’t be complete until we can share our joy with everyone.

(I’m hoping, hoping, hoping, that my parents will be content with my actions. I’ve had several conversation with them in which they’ve implied if not outright said that they wouldn’t mind if I eloped, just so long as they can throw a party afterwards. I’m delighted with that prospect. I just hope that the reality of my actions doesn’t make them unhappy.)

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On a silly, inconsequential note before I continue with the saga of the paperwork…

Joe’s ring fits around mine perfectly.

:) It was meant to be.

Or it’s just coincidence. :)

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Dress been gotten

In spite of my leaning towards white, the dress is lilac.
In spite of my wanting tea length, it is floor length.
In spite of my not wanting a train, it has one.
In spite of my intending to find something modest, it has a low back.
In spite of my not wanting to spend more than $300, it’s closer to $400.

I love this dress.
I didn’t want to take it off.

The only drawback to the dress is that it is apparently based on the dress worn by Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (can’t find decent pictures of it… the best one is actually the movie poster). I’m enough of a snob to have almost not gotten it because of that. The lady at L’élite mentioned it, and I thought, “Well, then I guess I won’t be getting this one…” Then I looked in the mirror again.

I may not end up looking like a “bride” but I will be happy.

This morning we got news that Joe’s paperwork that we’d sent to Milan has been completed. This wedding just might end with a hitch!

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Musical chairs, dress wise

So it looks as if I will not be wearing this dress after all. I got a phone call this afternoon from Metrofashion informing me that they were having difficulties with their distributor for that dress and couldn’t guarantee delivery in time. She recommended that I look for an alternative dress.

Arr… just when I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with shopping… especially shopping in a bridal “salon.” *shudder* I haven’t really looked in any stores because I dread this sort of thing. However, now I have to because I have less than… six weeks… (oy!) til Joe and I leave for Italy.

I did a bit more looking online and after getting some pointers from links in Indiebride, I found this rather nice dress. Hopefully, Watters & Watters will live up to the claims of being inexpensive. Seeing as how a) I don’t think I have time to order online, and b) I’m not sure I actually can order online, I will have to go to the local stores that carry this line.

I’m going to L’élite tomorrow morning to see if they have the equivalent dress. With luck they’ll be helpful and I won’t have to brave… Priscilla of Boston.

If they try to get me into a meringue, I’m leaving. If they try to talk me into a dress that costs more than $300, I’m leaving. If they look down on me… I’ll vent about it.

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Paperwork

Finally got my Atto Notorio from the local Italian consulate. Our two witnesses, Joe, and I went in this morning to sign it. Halfway through the process I was told I needed to get another apostille for the translation of my birth certificate. Fortunately I needed to get it from the Massachusetts Secretary of State… which was right across the Boston Common. Everything was finished within an hour. And we got to bum around the city hall, the location of all the marriage excitement this week. Note for future international paperwork: always, always bring your passport. Even if they say you won’t need it.

When I think about it, this paperwork shouldn’t be so stressful, but the world doesn’t work like it does in my head. I sent the certified copy I had of my birth certificate back to Maryland to get an apostille. At the same time, I ordered another two copies so I could have them on hand for Joe’s paperwork. Both came in on the same day within a week of being ordered/sent out. I looked into translation services in this area, because according to the Italian Consulate website they didn’t offer translation services. I found a place that could translate one into Italian and another into French: Linguistic Systems, Inc. Expensive, but fairly quick and close by, which is important since I no longer have a car.

I called the Italian Consulate to schedule an appointment for the Atto Notorio. The woman who answered told me I had the process all wrong and that I shouldn’t have followed the instructions on the website. Great. Now you tell me. She e-mailed me the information which told me to mail copies of the documents to the Consulate, then wait for a phone call, after which I could schedule an appointment. Since I live a short T ride away, I figured I would save some time and postage and just take it there myself.

Last Tuesday, I had everything except the translation for the Italian Consulate. When I went to pick it up the woman who worked on it for me seemed to be having a bad day. She kept saying, “If there’s anything wrong with this, I’ll kill myself.” Fortunately, there was nothing wrong with the translation… at least as far as dates are concerned. I can’t vouch for the rest of it. :) She kept forgetting I was in the office, and would leave me alone for excessive periods of time, only to come back and say, “Oh! I’ll be right with you.” So what should have taken 10 minutes took half an hour. I’d gotten a late start, but thought I could still make it to the Consulate before 12:30, which was when the website said it closed. I made it there by 12:10… only to find that the website lied. The hours are not 8:30 to 12:30. They are 9 to 12. The doorman told me that several people have been confused about that because of the website.

So I was stressed and frustrated. If I’d had this much trouble getting the papers actually delivered, then who knows just how long the processing will take? I declared that I would be at the Consulate by 9 on Wednesday morning.

I woke up at 9:40 on Wednesday morning. (Well, I actually woke up at 7 and was far too groggy to do much more than reset the alarm for 7:30 and stumble back to bed. I don’t remember turning off the alarm at 7:30. I’ve been known to do it in my sleep, even though the alarm clock is on the other side of the room.) After some rushing, I made it to the Consulate and delivered the papers.

(Joe had gone to the French Consulate as well, so we decided to drop by Hefez & Sons Jewelers to see if the rings were finished. They were and they turned out better than I expected. We decided to get them engraved, which would take another week. *Sigh* My lab-created sapphire forget-me-not ring will be ready soon…)

Writing about paperwork should be broken up into several entries… or maybe I just don’t want to think about it anymore tonight.

Update: July 11, 2004

Boy, I really didn’t want to talk about paperwork, did I?

Anyway, just a few days after dropping off the papers, I got a call from the Consulate saying that they didn’t have all they needed, blah blah blah. This didn’t sound right, but I got all twitterpated and couldn’t figure out where the misunderstanding was. Another few calls later, it was all worked out. The whole French citizen thing had them confused, but now everything was settled so we and our witnesses headed down to sign our names. After the little drama mentioned earlier, all was ready.

Since it’s been awhile I don’t remember the dates of this part of the saga, but this part of the adventure makes me cringe. However, posterity must be served, so here’s my biggest blunder of this whole thing. Joe’s papers were completed, so we had to send them along with some of my information to the French Consulate in Milan, Italy. The woman coaching us through the paperwork, Gabriella, told us to send it to them via DHL. In her e-mail, she wrote the address on one line and then gave her address in multiple lines with instructions for them to forward the package to her once it was complete. (This probably isn’t making much sense… oh well) When the DHL guy came to pick up the documents from us I got confused and thought we were sending them to Gabriella rather than the Consulate, even thought I dutifully wrote down the correct address. The confusion was over payment for shipping. I thought we could just have it shipped COD, since the guy picking up the package didn’t have a credit card reader with him and we don’t have an account with the company.

It wasn’t until he was pulling away that I realized what a huge mistake I’d made. The consulate would not be happy to pay for something they didn’t request and it might end up getting sent back or trashed which could mean this whole thing would be kaput. I hurriedly called DHL and asked if I could pay for it over the phone. At first, the woman said no, that they couldn’t change the payment method because that would have to be taken care of at the shipping off point. I explained what had happened and how important it was and she transfered me to the station in question. I explained again how this mistake had occurred and how much I needed to pay for the package rather than have the recipients pay. Perhaps it was my desperation showing through my voice, but the woman took my credit card info and assured me that there would be no problems or confusion about payment when the package was delivered. After stammering out my relieved thanks, I got off the phone and shook with tears for about half an hour.

I fully accept being an airhead. I just wish it didn’t get in the way so much.

That was the worst of the paperwork complications, thus far. There’s more to be done once we get to Florence. I’m a bit nervous.

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Translations

While I’m waiting for my tea kettle to boil, I’ll vent a little about international paperwork.

Geh.

It’s about as much fun as you’d expect it to be.

I need to get my birth certificate translated into Italian and French since Joe is getting married as a French citizen (means the city fees will be about €1000 cheaper). Since bureaucracy operates on its own standard time (usually about twice as long as the rest of the world) we’re kinda anxious to get everything done asap. I’ve gotten an apostille for my birth certificate, as required for the Italian paperwork. (Note: apostille is pronounced AH-pah-steel, not a-PAH-stle. The contract Joe and I are entering into isn’t THAT sacrosanct. :) But now I may need to get another one for Joe’s records. Or maybe I just need to get it translated into French… oy.

I’m going to try to get the translations started today before work, which causes its own set of problems. I get stressed out about paperwork so I’ve been arriving at work in a frantic mood but I can’t say why. I’m sure my co-workers know something is up, but I think I’ve been clever enough at keeping it a secret.

Boy has that been hard. My parents came for a visit this weekend. I had to do a sweep of all incriminating evidence/paperwork before they arrived. It’s funny to have an event take up so much of your attention, only to be unable to share it with anyone. My parents ask me what I’ve been up to and I can only reply with, “Oh you know, the usual.” I’m usually very open with them about my activities.

Anyway, back to the paperwork.

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The Actual Date and more blather

July 20th at 11:30 am… Venice time.

We’ve signed up with Wedding in Rome and have started down the road which involves money, specifically nonrefundable money, so it’s real now. Somehow getting the rings doesn’t quite have the impact as beginning payment for the actual event.

I’ve bought the dress as well. On line. The part of me that’s heavily influenced by my mother feels that this is somehow wrong, but I really liked this one. After a bit of online shopping, I decided that most dresses looked exactly the same and were not what I wanted. This one surprised me. I never expected to want a white dress, but hey… I guess I’ve been programed. Hell, I wasn’t even expecting to get a new dress. Had you asked me at the beginning of this process what I’d be wearing I’d have said, “Oh probably one of the dresses I already have.” And yet…

The issue of cost has come up with me alot through this whole process. Another reason I didn’t want a diamond was the cost. After deciding on a new gown for the ceremony, I insisted I didn’t want to spend more than $300 on the dress and yet I went over that. Joe keeps reminding me that this is our wedding and that I needn’t be quite so penny pinching, especially if it means I deny myself things that will make me happy.

As difficult as it’s been to keep all this a secret, it’s so much fun going through my days with this in the back of my mind. One of my co-workers got engaged this week and I feel a kindred delight for her. I’m looking forward to announcing our marriage after the fact. It’s so lovely this secret between Joe and I; it’s really about us and what we want. As it should be.

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The actual event… *twitch*

So we will be getting married in July. In Italy. Venice specifically.

Right now, we’re leaning towards going with this group for organizational and planning purposes. Getting married in another country requires a bit of paperwork.

Is this really happening?!

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Jewelers

Here are some reviews of local jewelers that we went to in our search for wedding rings.

Freedman Jewelers: Really didn’t like these guys. They were pushy and didn’t seem to listen. When I said I wanted sapphires instead of diamonds the lady helping us told me that it would look boring and that I needed diamonds. End of argument. We actually signed up for their mailing list because we were so blind-sided by their pushiness that we couldn’t form the word no. Their selection wasn’t anything unusual. Funny how so many jewelers seem to have the exact same stock.

DePrisco: A little better. They had some beautiful rings that were quite distinctive. I got the impression that the woman helping us wasn’t taking us seriously; perhaps we didn’t seem “money” enough. In the middle of our looking at rings she left to go chat with another customer, leading one of the other employees to apologize profusely for her behavior.

Serge’s: Nice people. A small, unassuming store (especially after the gilt wood and marble of DePrisco’s). They had one ring that just blew my mind; it was a lovely sapphire and diamond “stackable” ring that was actually interesting looking. That was the ring that made me think I could be okay with having diamonds. I’ve had that ring in the back of my mind ever since and haven’t seen anything else like it.

Baak Gallery: A shop I stopped into because they sold Canadia diamonds (annoying music on index page). The woman who owns the gallery was a war photographer and won’t sell any other kind of diamond. They had lovely jewelry and there was a room where you could drink tea and browse through catalogues of rings.

By this point in the search, I was getting rather tired of the whole process. So, I decided to go back to…

Hefez & Sons Jewelers. (They don’t have a website, as far as I know, but you can find some reviews and ads here.)

Hefez & Sons was actually the first store we walked into, and it was purely by chance. We’d decided to go to the top floor and work our way down. Regardless of how we found them, they were the sweetest and most helpful of people we encountered. Daniele listened to what we wanted and took the time to talk with us and explain options, benefits to certain designs, drawbacks to others, etc. She was also the only person to actually measure our ring sizes. No other store did that simple and basic step.

While we were there a woman came in to look at diamond bands to go with her engagement ring. Rather than trying to milk her for as much cash as possible, they recommended that she get a ring with smaller diamonds because “it shouldn’t detract from the diamond you have.” That struck me as being quite professional of them.

I went back a second time, after more research, and they welcomed me back, offered me some tea and listened to my concerns. Rather than scoffing at my not wanting diamonds, they immediately began showing me sapphires and suggested lab created ones, which they also showed me. We’ll be going in tomorrow to put a down payment on the rings.

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Rings and Things

I’m a liberal girl. I also have a healthy dose of white guilt. There’s no way for me as an American to be completely sure that I’ve removed all sources of cruelty to others, short of going completely off the grid and becoming mountain man self sufficient. But I do what I can.

I’ve known for several years that I didn’t want a diamond. The whole industry just strikes me as too shadowy to be trusted (*cough*DeBeers*cough*) Add this this the whole issue of blood diamonds and the decision was final.

But… when the issue of rings came up, I found that my determination wavered. Where initially I insisted that I only wanted the simplest of wedding bands, I found myself being drawn to the idea of an eternity band. Then when I realized that wearing precious gems everyday might not be a good idea, especially considering how I use my hands, I now found myself wanting two rings (wedding band and something sparkly).

So I began to do some research.

I spent way too much time reading Diamond Talk forums, which almost lulled me into thinking that I could have a diamond without guilt*. After all, it’s only about 4-5% of the diamond supply that is actually from war zones. But even so, I just couldn’t condone it.

I suggested to my fiance that we get a synthetic diamond or a look-a-like, thinking the lower cost and simplicity of the suggestion would be appealing. But he said no. He had a variety of arguments that I’m not going to paraphrase, but basically it came out to his belief that I’m worth much more than cubic zirconia. Aww… :)

I began investigating Canadian diamonds (warning: annoying music with index page). Cruelty-free, environmentally conscious mining techniques, sparkly stones… sounds great! But… more expensive.

The whole “two month’s salary” idea is absolute bunk. I refuse to have that much spent on me. So there went the idea of Canadian diamonds. Having ideals is great, but only if you can afford them.

So I thought about sapphires. Less cruelty, but by now I was thoroughly disenchanted with the whole gem mining industry; even at its best it can be distasteful.

At the end of all this fretting, I’ve decided on lab-created sapphires. They’re made in a lab, not pulled from the earth by underpaid laborers; that’s the only difference between lab-made and “natural” sapphires. A compromise both I and my fiance can live with.

As for the rest of the ring… I’m not even going to begin researching platinum. A girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere.

*If you have a diamond ring, more power to you. I often wonder if all this fretting has done me any good whatsoever, especially considering how many other ways I could be doing more to help those in need. It’s also been argued that if people stopped buying diamonds the economies in several African countries would collapse, leading to strife seen in other countries. It’s one of those situations with no easy answer. I did my research and am now happy with the result. You can do your own research and decide for yourself. I just hope more people will think about diamonds beyond the advertising.

You could start with these books.

Some other websites:

On DeBeers
Wired article on man-made diamonds
National Geographic on diamonds
Common Dreams on conflict diamonds

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Greetings world

My boyfriend and I are eloping.

We are trying to keep this a secret, but since it requires such preparation and I’ll want to remember this time in the future I’m starting this “secret” journal.

“Why not just keep a diary?”
Because I think our friends will want to know what went on after the news is out.

Also, since we’re trying something unusual what we learn might be useful for others.

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