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The Perfect Wedding

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Gee and Dan Get Married

Click to see large picture!I guess the planning for the wedding started back in October of 1999. Gee and I hadn't told anyone beyond Woo and Brad that we were engaged. We were waiting until Thanksgiving to do that— we didn't want our families to think we were being rash— after all, it had only been a little over two months from when we met.

After I got back to Northern Virginia, we started to look for reception halls. I spoke to J.P. Hong, the minister at my church, about having our wedding there. We had already picked November 2000 for the wedding. This was partially dictated by how busy things were with the reception halls, caterers, photographers and the church— 2000 was a very popular year for getting married.

We looked at a lot of places via the internet and narrowed our selection to a dozen or so places. The first place that Gee and I looked at, was a place that we visited on her trip in October. Meadowlark Gardens is very pretty... but it was finally ruled out as being too small. It would have been fine, given what weather we actually had for our wedding day, but we weren't couldn't be sure that Mother Nature was going to cooperate.

Gee flew back to Seattle, before she decided against Meadowlark Gardens. She had picked her second choice, which was a slightly larger facility, and a good deal easier to get to from the church. She asked that I take Michele to visit it, since she couldn't go herself.

The A Grand Atrium building is located right on Gallows Road, about a mile south of Tysons Corner. It ended up being the place we used for our wedding reception. The building itself is a generic looking brick building from the outside— the inside is a different story. The two-level facility has the dining area on the second floor, and the section above the dance floor is open, with skylights on the roof above to give the dance floor some truly amazing light on overcast days. The first floor has a bar, a dj’s booth, and a lounge area for coffee— all surrounding the dance floor.

The package we got included the facility, a dj, and the catering. That really simplified our planning. As we already had the church reserved, the only major issue left was a photographer. Fortunately, I worked with some photographers, and my friend, Barbara Kinney, suggested a friend of hers for the job. She said that he was one of the best, and she'd make sure he took good care of us. When I got home that evening, I told Gee that I had the name of a good photographer— Paul, but I had to look up his last name. She said, "Well, if his last name is Fetters, we've got an appointment with him on Saturday." Well, I looked it up and sure enough, his last name was Fetters. So I asked Gee, "When did you make the appointment with Paul?" She said, "Around nine this morning." Weird, that was when I had been talking with Barbara about Paul.

Well, Saturday rolled around, and we went over to meet Paul, at his house. When we showed up, he was standing there photographing some work he was having done to the house. We went inside and he showed us his portfolio. To describe it in a word— fabulous. I had already looked at some of his work on his website, and I had already decided— if he turned out to be someone we could work with— that I'd like him to photograph our wedding. After looking at his portfolio, my feelings were even stronger. Paul said to us, "Do you have any questions?" We said, "No, not really. We'd like you to photograph our wedding." He then said, "I have a question... Do you like me? After all, if you want me to shoot your wedding, I'm going to be at your wedding— if you don't like me—  don't hire me." Neither Gee or I had looked at it from that perspective— once he said it... it made a lot of sense.

Well, as it turned out, Paul’s a great guy, and now someone I consider a friend. So Gee and I asked him if he would take the job. He told us that he had already turned down two other couples for that day, and that he had his twenty weddings for the year—but that Barbara had told him to take care of us, so he would shoot our wedding. Weddings aren't the only thing he does... I think that he does weddings for the pleasure of doing them— he’s also done work for Operation Smile— as I said he’s a good guy.

Well, I'm not going to get into the minutiae of planning a wedding... if you want to know what it involves... get married. I'm going to skip to the happiest day of my life— and one of the most amazing days of all. I'm both amazed and happy to say that I still get compliments about that day... not that any of the credit really belongs to me.

November 4, 2000.

The morning was about 58 degrees, and the forecast said mid-60’s with a light overcast most of the day. I woke up about 0530, I was too excited to sleep. We had a pretty full house— Heather, Brad, Dave and Melissa Cowles were all staying with Michele, Gee and me. Heather and Michele were bridesmaids, Brad was the best man, and Dave was a groomsman. Woo, the maid-of-honor was staying with her little sister a few miles away, and Brian, the last member of the wedding party lived in the next town over.

Around 0630, Gee wakes up. I love to watch her sleeping— she looks so content and happy. She says she has to start getting ready... fortunately, I've already showered and am just waiting for the day to begin. I ask Gee, "Do me a favor, get on the scale and tell me what it says." She does, and she looks at me with a huge smile and says, "108 pounds, that’s what it says." I kiss her and say, "Everything will be perfect today... just like I promised. Just remember it’s your day... " Gee says, "I love you. Now get out of here so I can get ready." "I'll see you at the church," I say on my way out the bedroom.

Around 0700, the rest of the house begins to awake. I'm beginning to think three bathrooms might not be enough. At the same time, I hear a knock on the door... the parents are here— Gee’s parents and mine have just gotten here from the hotel. I let them in and tell them to grab a seat in the dining room...

About 0730, the doorbell rings. I go to the door and open it. There’s a woman standing on our doorstep, looking like Keanu Reeves in the final gunfight sequence from the Matrix— she’s got two huge duffel bags. She’s Gee’s makeup and hair stylist— so I lead her to the bedroom, where Gee is starting to get ready.

About 0800, the doorbell rings again. It’s Paul. I open the door and greet him. He and I both say that the light is perfect— that "I didn't think there could be two days like this in a row." The light overcast weather is acting like a giant softbox... ideal conditions for the outdoor formal photographs that will be taken later this morning. He has come to start documenting our wedding day. I've been told that our wedding album looks like the wedding photo essays you see in People magazine— photos of the bride and groom getting ready, the families waiting around, the formal photos of the families, the wedding ceremony and then the reception. I'd have to agree— after all, Paul is trained as a photojournalist... and his ability to capture the mood and feeling of a wedding celebration was one of the strongest reasons I wanted him there.

About 0830, Dave Cowles walks up to me and says, "I was in the bathroom shaving and some guy walked in and took my picture." I said, "Well, that'd probably be Paul, and that’s what he is supposed to be doing today."

(more to come in a few days....photos too...)

Notes from a Groom

All in all the day went amazingly well. Here are some things I'd like to point out about wedding days.

One: Make sure that someone... I don't really care who, but someone has brought a hotel emergency sewing kit, safety pins, and bobby pins. No matter what, those are necessities. We didn't but one of my ushers was an Eagle Scout... and it showed.

Click to see large picture!Two: Table cameras. One of my favorite photographs is from a table camera. Buy a bunch of the disposable kind with flash, and leave them out. Make sure you collect them all too... my cousin ended up mailing one back from San Francisco. Don't make the wedding photographer do table photos... he’s better off doing what he does best and the guests can handle the table photos.

Click to see large picture!Three: While I'm on the subject of photos... I'd also recommend getting some black-and-white photos... they're very dramatic... and the photos will last a lot longer than the color ones... color photos tend to fade after about 50 years or so with the current technology... but silver-based black-and-white photographs will be around for your great-great-great-grandchildren if you take care of them.

Four: Relax... don't sweat the small stuff... We ended up misplacing the actual wedding license... but I just ran down to the county building a few days later and got a copy for the minister to fill out. At Brad’s wedding, we actually misplaced the bride and groom for a bit... but it all worked out in the end.

Five: Breathe. Remember to breathe... Breathing is very important... To the groom and groomsmen... get a tuxedo that fits... it makes the breathing bit easier... To the bride and bridesmaids... get a gown that fits— and try to get something that isn't ridiculous in price or appearance... I've seen some really ugly bridesmaids' gowns.

Six: Silk flowers rock. They look great, no one is allergic to them, they're about the same price as real ones and they last a lot longer. We did silk flowers because of Gee, but in the end, they were awesome. Brad wore the silk boutonniere we gave him for our wedding at his own wedding.

Seven: Remember, it is your wedding. Don't let other people control it... do it right... If you want a small wedding— you can have one... If you really don't like someone... why are you inviting them? Our wedding was about 120 people. I think if you have too many people... I was at one that had about 450 people... things get out of hand. The receiving line gets to be ridiculous if there’s too many people, and be honest... how can you spend any quality time with people sharing this special day with you if there are a million people to see.

Eight: Remember to delegate stuff to your bridesmaids, groomsmen and ushers. After all, if you've asked them to act in one of these roles... I think you should be able to trust them to do things right. One of my best decisions was to let my friend, Brian Green— who was my head usher— deal with a lot of things, so I could concentrate on the things I couldn't delegate.