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Our engagement party is less than a month away, and I am relieved to say I’ve gotten (most of) the invitations in the mail. The lesson I took away from the process is: If the rest of the wedding planning is going to be as time-intensive and complicated as simply putting these invites together, I should have given myself two years to plan the actual wedding.

If you had told me getting to this point might give me an aneurysm… I probably still would’ve done it. #bridezilla

I used Postable to harass loved ones for their addresses, which was a lifesaver in staying organized, and a huge timesaver in not having to learn Excel. Every bride should use this site; you create an account, they give you a custom link, you send it to your invite list, they enter their address, and Postable alphabetizes and organizes it into an Excel spreadsheet for you. (The only downside is people who have an allergic reaction to effort, and simply reply to your email with their address instead of clicking the link and doing the exact same thing. So, you might have to enter a few yourself while binge watching The Bachelorette.)

Another major timesaver? Buy a personalized ink stamp with your address on it! 

The invites themselves were where things got complicated. Since Tony and I live in L.A. and work in Hollywood, it was important to us to have the party here; we’re having a destination wedding in Lake Tahoe next summer that not all of our friends will be able to travel to, so we wanted to be able to have a celebration close to home. And we wanted the invitations to reflect the city we love.

I even found these adorable old Hollywood stamps to stay on theme!

So, my mom sent me the cutest vintage Hollywood postcard she found, and our idea was to have a calligrapher write the party details on the back, so we could send the invitation as a postcard. Finding the calligrapher was the easy part; a friend recommended Courtney with Typecast Lettering and not only was she a joy to work with and the kindest human being, she also was willing to go back and forth on designs until we achieved the exact look I’d hoped for, from all my obsessive stalking of Pinterest.

Printing the cards was where we ran into trouble. A stationary company came recommended to us, and the owner quoted us a price that was in our budget. We committed to working with her nearly two months before printing. And, a week before I needed the invites, the day they were to go to press, she sent me a bill for significantly more than she’d quoted. When I responded in a panic, she said she never gave me the initial quote; when I forwarded the quote (that she’d sent us, in writing), she said she’d made a mistake and if I couldn’t pay what it actually cost, I could go elsewhere. I have never worked with someone so unprofessional; from what I can tell, her business tactic seems to quote low, lock someone in, and then when it’s too late for them to go elsewhere, pull the bait-and-switch. I was livid.

This all happened on a Thursday. 4th of July was on Friday, so everywhere else was closed the next business day for a long holiday weekend. My mom had already sent an email (with me bcc’d) to several of her friends, apologizing for my delay in getting the invites out… I needed those cards. Frantic, I started googling and calling any and every print shop in the greater L.A. area and the wedding patron saint was listening, because I found Gold Image Printing. I told them my sob story, my budget and my dream of having gold foil on the invite. And then mentioned I needed the invites in exactly 7 days, including the holiday weekend. And they said yes.

I was literally corresponding with five different people at Gold Image to make it work in time, several of whom worked late that night to make sure all of the images’ sizing and colors were correct. They were texting samples of gold foil, re-sizing the postcard and lettering, and going back and forth with our calligrapher to get it all perfect in time to print on schedule. Courtney again saved the day, re-sizing all of the calligraphy images that night to make our rush order possible.

Seriously. Gold Image sent things like this on a holiday weekend, when I was out of town and couldn’t come in person to see. SO GREAT.

And look how beautiful they turned out! For every vendor who sees weddings as an opportunity to take advantage of people, there are also companies like Gold Image and Typecast Lettering, who not only behave professionally, but also go above and beyond.

Since so many people from different parts of our lives have generously decided to make a trip to L.A. for the party, too, we decided to make a weekend out of it. Several of Tony’s friends and family members are flying in from Washington D.C. and Colorado, my mom’s gang of besties are caravanning down from NorCal, and my grandpa’s best friend, who is pushing 90, is rolling in from the Bay Area with two pals. Half of my bridal party (several of whom have new babies) are coming from all over California. It’s a lot of time and effort to travel, and we want to make it worth their while, with non-stop fun. So, for all of the out-of-town invites, I found some matte gold paper and printed in emerald green ink a list of hotel, activity and restaurant recommendations. And on the Friday night before the party, whoever is in town can come with us to see our wedding band rock out at the House of Blues. Saturday night, we’re all meeting for an early bird dinner and then going to see Tony perform at Groundlings. And Sunday, the big soirée!

Out of town invite with the gold accommodations & activities insert.

Tony and I blocked off an entire weekend to put together the invitations, put on some Motown, and got down to business. I had purchased navy envelopes and a gold calligraphy pen for the addresses and a navy pen for the names on the postcards. Tony sweetly surprised me with a personalized stamp he had made of our address, and he was in charge of stamping the envelopes in gold ink (which he took very seriously – see below).

The measuring was his idea, I swear!

I drank about twelve coffees over the span of two days, and did my best to imitate this calligraphy sample I found on Pinterest:

And, what ours looked like:

Can you tell my mom is paranoid?

We’re hosting the party at one of our favorite restaurants in Hollywood, owned by a friend of a friend who generously is letting us take the place over for the night. I am so excited. The menu is set, signature cocktails selected, massive dessert bar designed, wine purchased. When I proudly (/stupidly) finished running the party plan past my mom, thinking we were all set, her response was: “But, I want something spectacular to happen. I don’t know what. Something that will make it so no one ever forgets this party.”

So, like, no pressure or anything. I thought about it for a while after we hung up, and have come to the conclusion that the only thing that would really achieve this in her brain would be to have a celebrity show up and hang out with her in front of all her friends. So if you know one, hit me up and let’s cut a deal

She called back later to say, while we’re brainstorming all things surprising and spectacular, we should also make homemade party favors. It then occurred to me that my dad’s worst fear had come true; we are, essentially, hosting two weddings. One this summer, cleverly disguised as an engagement party, a test-run for the main event next August 1, 2015.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if there are any YouTube videos on how to make homemade marshmallows for the party favor my mom has dreamed up…