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Last-minute lesson: Ask stupid questions

Our wedding is weeks away, which means Seth and I occasionally look at one another and say things like "We're getting married next month!" And then we beam for a while. It's revolting, so it's good that we do it when no one else is around.

We're all wedding all the time now, partially because there's so much left to be done, and partially because we're surrounded by physical reminders of our impending nuptials every second of every day. We had been putting off unpacking the wedding gifts that have been arriving daily, but it got to the point that the kitchen of our condo could physically hold no more boxes, and we had to get rid of some of the cardboard. Our china cabinet, which we inherited from his mother and have previously only used to hold books, now contains actual china.

Here's something couples in most other states probably don't worry about: Earthquake-proofing their wedding china. Last weekend Seth, who I don't recall ever expressing any concerns about earthquakes, suddenly started talking about investing in a lower, more stable piece of furniture in which to store our growing collection of fine tableware. This is a man who, when I met him, had been using the same mismatched sheets since undergrad. Turns out weddings are chock full of miracles.

Meanwhile, I'm resisting the urge to wear my wedding ring, which arrived nestled next to Seth's in a pretty little wooden box from George Walton's Gold & Diamond Co. earlier this week. I'm torn between wanting to hide them somewhere so I'm not tempted to put mine on and walk around the house (I have the rest of my life to wear it; I can wait a few more weeks, especially since it hasn't actually been given to me yet) and wanting to keep them in plain sight so we know exactly where they are at all times.

I'm also distracted enough that I just typed "plane site" and went right on writing as though nothing had happened. I thought long and hard before going back to fix it.

We're really in the do-or-die time of wedding planning now, and I remind myself daily that whatever we get done now is exactly what we will have at our wedding, and whatever we don't get done is something we can live without.

Some random, but important, craft-related lessons

-- The fingers can withstand a fair amount of contact with hot glue, and that amount is probably greater than you think, but there is a limit to their resistance. When you accidentally squirt a big glob directly on your index finger, you should act quickly to scrape it off.

-- Related: You can actually burn the skin under your fingernail by sticking hot glue (or presumably another burning material) to the nail surface. You will spend the rest of the afternoon working one-handed while resting the other hand in a bag of freezerburned edamame.

-- The "bone folder" that comes with the Martha Stewart Crafts Scoring Board is not actually made of bone. It is plastic. You will make this discovery halfway through scoring your escort cards, some of which are now ragged across the tops due to having been scored with a cheap plastic "bone" folder that has started to sharpen itself on the ridges of the scoring board.

-- Styrofoam is expensive. Find something else.

The good news: there's not much to actually stress me out. I have my moments, of course. Like last weekend when I learned that one party of guests, good friends, had never received their invitation, and they assumed we hadn't invited them. I sat down after that and sent a flurry of panicked e-mails to a lot of people who hadn't yet RSVPed, and of course all of them had received their invitations (thank you, U.S. Postal Service), and then they apologized for missing the response deadline, and then I felt bad for making them feel bad... but for the most part, I'm feeling pretty good. Sure, I'm waking up at 5 a.m. every day worried I'm forgetting something, but I do that a lot when I'm not planning my wedding, too.

Firing a vendor: Bloodless and painless

I fired one of our wedding vendors a couple weeks ago. Even though "fired" is technically correct, the whole thing was fairly amicable, and I think we both feel like I made the right decision.

I'd booked a makeup artist based on a friend's recommendation. This makeup artist told me when we first talked that, because our wedding falls on a holiday weekend, she'd charge an additional $100 fee. That made her services a little more expensive (well, actually, a lot more expensive) than anticipated, but I went ahead and booked her anyway.

That was in April. About a month later (in mid-May), I e-mailed her about setting up a trial appointment. When she replied, she mentioned that she would only be available until 1 p.m. on the day of my wedding, meaning she'd have to start my makeup at about 11 a.m. and I'd have to wear it all day before the evening of my wedding.

I was understandably not wild about this idea. I was particularly not wild about the fact that, although I'd made the booking more than a month prior, this was the first I'd heard about any sort of time constraint. I'm not an expert at this by any means, but it seems to me that's the sort of thing that ought to be mentioned up front. We talked about it, and she convinced me that everything was going to be OK, so we went ahead and set up a trial run.

That night I called my matron of honor to see what she thought, and she had the same reaction I did: Seven hours before the wedding is way too early to have my makeup done. Particularly if I'm paying a $100 holiday weekend surcharge, presumably because I'm inconveniencing the vendor by making her work on a holiday, even though I'm being asked to work around her schedule.

The next day I called a different company and booked another makeup artist. I asked the woman who set up the appointment if the artist I was booking would be able to work with my schedule. We were on the phone, but I could hear her give me a strange look.

"Of course," she said. Of course! Because if you're paying someone to do your wedding makeup, why wouldn't they be available when you needed them?

When I called up and canceled the original makeup artist, she sounded legitimately happy that I'd found someone with a more compatible schedule, which was great. But if I hadn't been able to book a replacement (and six weeks out from a holiday weekend, I almost wasn't able to -- I was fortunate the company I contacted had even one person available), I would have been out of luck -- and pretty upset with the original vendor for not telling me right away that she wasn't available when I needed her.

The Lesson

Lesson learned: When booking wedding vendors, don't assume anything. Ask stupid questions. Like "On the day I'm paying you to provide this service, will you be available to provide the service at a time that's actually helpful to me?" You might feel like a moron at the time, but it could avoid last-minute scrambling.

Maia Nolan is an Anchorage writer who is seriously considering a new career as a wedding coordinator.

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