A PSA About The Color Conspiracy

My husband accuses me of making things up at least twice a week. It usually goes something like:

Me: While you’re out, can you pick up a bouquet of peonies? Preferably in coral.. melon or blush would be all right too.. but I like coral best.

Graham: What are you talking about? None of those are colors!

Me: Orange then. Just find the closest you can to ORANGE.

Things got ridiculous when we went over paint colors for the house. I’d hold up a paint swatch against the wall to ask his opinion for comparison.

Me: Ultra Pure White.

Graham: Ok.

Me: Bit of Sugar.

Graham: Ok..

Me: Nightblooming Jasmine

Graham: Ok

Me: Bakery Box.

Graham: You do realize these are all white?I’m sure you’ve been there before with someone… when they can see the differences between shades, tints, and tones, but don’t see the point in descriptive differentiation. Graham’s given me a hard time about this over the years we’ve been together. However, the other night, I managed to get him to see color from my point of view.

Disclaimer: This logic usually works best with programmers.

I waited one night about five minutes after Graham fell asleep and then promptly woke him up (when he’s too tired to debate me).

Me: Hey!

Graham: Silence.

Me: Hey!

Graham: What?

Me: You know how you think it’s stupid that some of us like to differentiate between small differences in color?

Graham: Yeah.

Me: Well, what the hell do you think is the point of hex notation for colors?!??

Graham: (long silence)

Me: Well?!?

Graham: Go to sleep.*

He no longer complains. In fact, while picking out dining room chairs, I hovered over “orange” as a choice. He replied, “Okay.. as long as it isn’t traffic cone orange.”

We went with “White”.. as in #FFFFFF.


* My editor insisted that I change this from “Shut up” because he insists what actually was said was “Go to sleep.”**

** My editor is Graham so take it with a grain of salt.



Surprise Wedding – What To Expect When You’re Planning The Unexpected

WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-770When Graham and I were mapping out our surprise wedding last year, there were only a limited number of articles and blog posts about what goes into planning one. It’s changed a bit since then as more and more couples are opting to go this route, but we wanted to share our own experiences to help others out there know what to expect.

Your families might not understand. Mothers often imagine what their daughter’s wedding will be like from the day they’re born. My mother though, knew me well enough to know that the only thing traditional about a wedding I’d want would be that it would fall into the tradition of me doing the exact opposite of what she wanted. She’s often referred to me as “the disobedient frog,” a character in a Korean folktale. We didn’t receive much pushback from her. I think a small part of the lack of resistance also had something to do with the fact that she was grateful that I FINALLY wanted to be married (She’s always been a traditionalist for the most part), and a large part also came from the fact that she was going to be traveling to Korea for 2 months during the wedding planning that she was pre-occupied with so many things that I was able to stealthily slide in wedding details that got lost in chaos. Of course, when she got back and had a chance to process exactly what was going on, it was too late =DWideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-38Seeing how happy Graham and I were that day, though, in spite her initial misgivings, my mother was glad she suppressed her opposition. In fact, almost a year later, she still gushes over how much fun she had.

It’s difficult to keep from letting the secret slip. Both Graham’s mom and mine are people-persons. Being states away, my mother had the advantage of not having to bear the burden of keeping our plans under wraps. I commend my mother-in-law; the lady deserves a medal for not only successfully carrying confidentiality through to the very end, but for also enduring our constant “Are you SURE you haven’t told ANYONE? Not even Aunt Flossie?” questions at least 3 times a week.

Double-check yourself as well. Are there any posts about “surprise weddings” on that Pinterest board? Have you been over-posting handmade wedding decor on Instagram?WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-6You’re also going to start questioning every look and comment in interactions with friends and family members who aren’t supposed to know. It’s a lot like being in junior high and over-analyzing every pause and word choice in a 4 second exchange you might have had with your crush. Just remember that if a few people do figure it out, it’s not the end of the world.

Choosing a good cover and making sure your guests arrive on time. We oscillated between ideas and thought an engagement party made the most sense. It was 4 months after our engagement, and also provided an excuse for us to have our photographers there (“We just finished up our engagement shoot and wanted them to get a bit of the party”). As mentioned in the previous post, we told everyone that we were including a “traditional Korean wine engagement ceremony” (there’s actually no such thing, so it was convenient that most of our guests were unfamiliar with Korean culture) which was to start a half hour after cocktails. This way, we could do our best to make sure everyone would be present when we made our announcement.WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-213Help with the wedding might be limited. If you don’t have a wedding planner at your disposal, then you really have to rely on the small number of individuals who may be in on the secret. We did all the decorating, program printing, ceremony details, a part of the catering, gardening, etc ourselves (our immediate families). Most of it was done the day before the wedding.. only one day after our families had met! While my sister Rosemary and future brother-in-law Warren and I were untangling garlands of origami cranes, she made the comment. “There’s no better way to get to know the in-laws than through a handmade wedding boot camp!” The most important lesson we learned from our wedding is to ask for help when you need it, and TAKE IT when it’s offered. Seriously, Warren and Rose kept the rest of us sane by taking the lead when everyone’s anxiety radiated in multiple directions.My younger sister was both my rock of sanity during the wedding and matron of honor. Photo by Ashley LaBonde of Wide Eyed StudiosHire outside help where you can. Graham’s mother is THE BEST hostess when it comes to parties. So wonderful that we knew she couldn’t be trusted to not attempt ensuring the comfort of our guests at the expense of her own. During the wedding and reception, we wanted to make sure our families (and ourselves for that matter), could relax a bit and not have to worry about running more appetizers from the kitchen or playing bartender. We hired a few servers, a cost we hadn’t factored into our original budget, but it was well worth it to minimize distractions. The wedding isn’t just for you, but your friends and family as well.

You might not get a bridal shower and/or bachelor/bachelorette party. Okay, so this was more of a pro for myself since I didn’t feel the need to have a singles rumspringa to say goodbye to pre-married life or a night/day of girlie bonding since the majority of those I’m closest to were either family members or friends living out of state. But, if you’re into the pre-wedding parties, it might be difficult to orchestrate while keeping your surprise wedding a secret.

You might not get to register for wedding gifts. You could let your guests know where you’re registered after the wedding, but Graham and I chose not to do it at all. Weddings can be financially stressful, not just on the bride(s)/groom(s) and their families, but also on the wedding party and guests. It sounds cheesy, but the gift we wanted most was for our guests to be there without having to deal with the pressure of registry etiquette. We were surprised that a number of guests brought engagement gifts, and we were also amazed that after the wedding, a lot of our friends and family sent wedding gifts anyway whether they had attended or not. Both were unexpected gestures, and we were extremely touched.

Have enough for your guests to do between the announcement and the ceremony. We kept the booze flowing freely throughout, so that helped! My mother-in-law set up various lawn games like bocce ball and a cornhole bean bag toss along with toys for guests who brought little ones. We also had a basket of water guns and created a Scavenger Hunt that also worked as an icebreaker. WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-201Not everyone will be there. We knew this was a risk we were taking. We let anyone who would have to come in from out-of-state know in advance of the “official” invitations so they could make travel plans. Still, we did have a few people unable to make it for various reasons.. both out-of-state and in town.. which brings me to the next section..WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-843You risk hurting feelings. Those who end up not attending, may feel hurt they weren’t told in advance that they would be missing our wedding if they weren’t there. We did have 1 or 2 who responded as such, and the only answer we could give them was that the surprise was what we had wanted.. that telling people in advance would have ruined the purpose.. that it wouldn’t have been fair for the other guests who chose to be there that day to support us or fair to us to let the secret out. Other responses from people who missed our wedding was a lot more positive than we expected, “Oh my god! I can’t believe I missed it! I wish I had been there! Congratulations!” without the “you should have told me,” or “if I had known, I would have been there.” We did have a few guests who said they’d wished they had been in on the secret, but once we explained we’d only told our immediate family and out-of-towners, they didn’t seem to mind much, and were really just happy to be a part of the day.WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-881Last words. I think this goes for any wedding, surprise or not.. things will go off-script. In the moment, you might feel like it’s a make/break moment. It won’t be. I know it won’t seem like it at the time, but trust me, if you focus on all the little things that go wrong, you won’t appreciate all the things that are right. A few people might figure out the secret, it might rain, your intended may misplace their wedding vows (the last one actually happened, but Graham found them at the last moment!).. Just accept everything with a laugh. You have to. The photographer will be capturing EVERY SECOND. Actually, one of my favorite moments from the day involved a flub in the ceremony..WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-598WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-595The wine (bourbon) ceremony had been forgotten altogether, and the recessional began playing. “Nooooo! We’re not done yet!” I whispered loudly like a 3rd grader onstage in an elementary school play berating a castmate for forgetting a line. The music stopped, and we had to backtrack. We were so jumbled – Warren shrugged a melodramatic “Oops!”, a confused Graham (as depicted by the photo above) intensely searched his brain for what had been missed – that I lost it with laughter.. which is how we still react to the memory today.WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-682Have fun!


If you have questions or would like to share about your own experience with surprise weddings whether as a guest or the planner(s), leave a comment; I’d love to hear about it!

All images in this post are by Wide Eyed Studios.

Surprise Wedding – The Why and How We Unveiled Our Wedding

Photo by Ashley LaBonde of Wide Eyed StudiosI’m not a wedding person. I always assumed that if I ever got married, there would be an elopement or a small excursion to city hall.. and really, when your city hall is as gorgeous as Philadelphia’s, the latter is extremely enticing. picking your flowers, wedding party, dress, cake-tasting (oh, who am I kidding, I have a sweet tooth.. that’s probably one of the best parts of planning your wedding), etc. seemed way too stressful for a one day production number.. not to mention the bridal shower / rehearsal dinner / bachelor(ette) parties that lead up to it. Of course, I never really thought deciding how to get married would ever be something I’d have to face. for the longest time, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to be married.After coming back from our DC / Blue Ridge Mountains / Baltimore road trip, I can’t say I was surprised being engaged to Graham. All doubts I ever had about marriage had long since vanished during the year and a half we’d been together However, I’m sure as those of you who have been on the “Just Engaged!” train know, the wedding interrogations began.

Have you picked (fill in the blank with any of the below)?

  • a date
  • your colors
  • a venue
  • your photographer
  • your dress
  • your maid of honor / bridesmaids
  • a theme

The same questions.. from friends, family, acquaintances (I was even cornered by one of the ladies who works at our favorite banh mi shop).. in that cliche good cop / bad cop fashion.. it started to feel as though the pressure of questions were being pummeled at us to secure that “Aha!” moment when people could ensnare an opportunity to give their 2 cents. I’m sounding cynical. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of everyone who had been curious enough to ask about our plans (or lack thereof). To be fair, I did take some advice to heart.. like opting to find a photographer rather than go without (this insight came from one of my hair stylists.. I told you EVERYONE had advice).. but I had definitely been sweltering underneath the intense interrogation lamps.

I was looking forward to marriage.. but every passing opinion/advice filled day made a wedding seem less like a celebration of a union and more like a chore, to eventually, the 13th labor of Hercules or a punishment devised for an inner circle of Dante’s “Inferno.” Unfortunately, the prospect of an elopement was looking less likely as we agonized over the thought of hurting the feelings of our friends and families. Our wedding day and marriage would be about us.. but ‘us’ included our families with whom we had extremely strong ties and the friends who had supported us as singles.. as individuals in other relationships.. and finally as “us” in a happy twosome. A lot of wedding articles advise that this day should be about “you” (the couple), and to do what you want. Honestly, I couldn’t handle the pressure of opinions to just easily ignore other people’s expectations. Friends and family just before the ceremony. Photo by Ashley LaBonde of Wide Eyed StudiosOne evening, about a month after being engaged, Graham and I were sitting on the stoop of our home in Graduate Hospital, people-watching the playground across the street when I asked him about whether he remembered a certain indie flick I’d dragged him to the summer before. I won’t let on the title to keep the film spoiler-free, but it featured two characters who tied the knot with a surprise wedding under the guise of an engagement party. After seeing the film, we’d joked about how great it would be to pull off something like it, but never really talked about it again. That night, I asked him if he thought he’d be open to the idea.. he didn’t even hesitate, “Let’s do it!”WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-127Right away, as we turned a wedding with a party into a party that just happened to include a wedding, excitement ensued. There was still a certain amount of stress involved, but it was.. “stressfully entertaining” as we set about figuring out the best venue, logistics, and disguise for the wedding to keep things hush-hush.

We DID get some pushback from my future mother-in-law who initially thought Graham and I were nuts. “I don’t understand all this. Why wouldn’t you want to tell people?” I was worried we’d disappointed her. The days following our announcement to her left me apprehensive, but Graham reassured me she would eventually come around once the idea had some time to marinate. Hah! In a week or so, that little time to marinate burst into a full enthusiasm flambe on her side. I couldn’t have been more relieved or grateful for her open-mindedness and thoughtfulness as she began combing my Pinterest page to figure out ways to help. With my own mother continents away, she provided me a lot of the support and insight I needed at critical times.My two moms. Photo by Wide Eyed StudiosWe had about 3 months to plan. A lot of engaged couples have done it in less than that.. and honestly, I’m convinced they’re super-humans. During those 3 months, we still got the frenzy of typical wedding questions, but whenever anyone would ask, we used the excuse that my mother was still visiting Korea so we wouldn’t be able to make any real decisions until she returned… especially finalizing the wedding date. We no longer had expectations to meet except our own.

We sent out invitations for our “engagement party” (which became the guise for our wedding) in June, 2 months before the big day. We kept it relatively small with about 70 people, and the majority of them RSVPed “Yes.” To keep things inconspicuous, we had it in the backyard of Graham’s family home rather than anywhere else that would require a booking. Besides, having our wedding there had personal meaning for us since not only did Graham grow up there, but his parents had built the house.

MIL had the foresight to rent a tent in case of rain or too much shine. Photo by Wide Eyed Studios

Two of my beloved Seattle crew who flew in specially. Photo by Wide Eyed Studios

WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-276Once everyone had arrived and had had a few cocktails, we nervously took our place in front of our guests, giving them the impression that we wanted to extend a formal greeting.WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-302We thanked everyone for coming, and Graham added that we had FINALLY picked a wedding date. “WHEN?!” came the syncopated question from our friends and family. “In half an hour!” replied Graham.

Let me just say.. THESE were our favorite photos from the day!WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-296WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-297WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-294Seriously, we loved the reactions! When our photographer Ashley from Wide Eyed Studios sent us the full resolution images, Graham and I had an awesome time zooming in everyone’s faces – shocks of electric happiness!

The whirlwind of costume change, ceremony prepping, makeup refreshing, and a “First Look” shoot took some time (oh, and in spite of my best attempts, I did go a bit neurotic bridezilla – sorry to our families behind the scenes!), but our guests were thankfully busy with their cocktails, appetizers, and interrogating EACH OTHER about who knew about the surprise. WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-523WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-564Before Graham and I had made the decision to have a surprise wedding, we struggled over cherry-picking traditions and also adding our own personal touches that might have seemed out of place to some people. We didn’t want people walking away with a confused, “What the heck kind of a wedding was that?” We wanted them walking away thinking, “That was a heck of a wedding!” By upsetting the applecart of expectations from the very beginning, the tone was set from the start – “Anything goes!” whether that meant a water gun fight (a shoutout to our engagement shoot), a ridiculous “Wig In A Box” dance, doing bourbon shots during the ceremony (our own take on the traditional Korean wedding ceremony), or pummeling a Nyan Cat pinata at the end of the night. WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-823WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-869WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-882Admittedly, in the days leading up to the event, there were moments when I had misgivings about not eloping.. but that night.. neither Graham nor I had regrets with choosing to have a wedding. It might not have been traditional to most people, but in a way, we stuck with the playful silliness and sentiments of affection that had become our relationship’s own traditions.

It’s funny… now, whenever people ask us about our wedding, Graham and I both smile as we reminisce about the details, and instead of criticism, we hear, “WHAT?! Sounds like it was fun!” Maybe it’s because once the deed is done, there’s not much anyone can say after the fact but give positive feedback.. even so, we finally felt the way we should have from the beginning, it shouldn’t have mattered whether people thought we were doing the “right” thing.. but we knew it was “right” for us.WideEyedStudiosStacyGrahamWFinalHigh-632With the exception of the Shenandoah Valley waterfall pic, all photos are courtesy of Wide Eyed Studios.


PS. For anyone planning to go a similar route, I’ll be adding a follow-up post about what to expect and some advice from our own experiences.. because y’know.. now that we’ve crossed that threshold, we get to put in our own two cents to the engaged.