Mandy Boyle

NEPA-er with Moxie. Writer. Sometimes Actor. Nerdy Girl.

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Photo By: petuliadanner

The Wedding Vendor Dance

Photo By: petuliadanner


It starts off slow.

You scan for friendly faces, those who can be perfect partners.

You make a mental note of their names. What you like about them. What you think they can bring to the floor.

You take a deep breath. You approach and you ask.

A positive response! How exciting! You smile. It’s all falling into place.

You ask for more. Details. Details. Details.

Then it begins. One step forward, two steps back.

Now one to the side. And back the other way.

A spin, a twirl, and the sting of disappointment.

Then the burst of happiness when you’re perfectly in step.

Dancing through the wedding planning process sounds easy, right? What they didn’t tell you growing up or what you haven’t seen on Pinterest boards of all of your friends is the daunting task of choosing vendors. Above all, the negotiation. OH MY THE NEGOTIATION.

It’s overwhelming enough to be planning a wedding with so many choices, but when you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of vendors that you think you want to work with, it becomes a part-time job to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

From my own experience, I’m an exhaustive researcher. I look at everything from a hundred different angles before I make the decision. I have spreadsheets on my Google Drive that list all of the vendors I’ve looked at, those I’d consider working with, and those who I’m on the fence about. I read reviews. I dig for dirt. I check Facebook pages and Yelp pages and everything in between. I’m the bride who fixates on knowing every possible outcome, every possibility, before I make a decision.

It can be crippling.

Then there’s the sense of going back and forth between:

Yes, let’s be practical. Let’s just pick something and focus on what’s really important.


Wait – do I really want this? Is this going to be right? What if it’s not right? TELL ME IT’S GOING TO BE RIGHT.

Sweet Jesus. I’ve never had trouble selecting flavors of ice cream, but when it comes to choosing wedding vendors, suddenly I’m pouring over countless cells of data in a frenzy. It’s like I’m a female-version, less moody, and cutting-cheekbone-less Sherlock.

I got engaged in May. It’s now November and I’ve finally picked a venue and a date (after much poking and prodding).

The date was the easy part – Brent and I went back and forth between May and October, but something about October felt right. Serendipity and subconscious sentimentality led me to October 10. I didn’t consciously select the date ahead of time – I looked at a calendar, saw 10 and said, “Yes, this is perfect.” My cousin’s 21st birthday and my recently passed on grandparents’ anniversary. Being the scatterbrain that I can sometimes be (I’m horrible with dates and birthdays), I forgot about both, so it was a happy and heartwarming surprise to find those out. It’s going to be a great day.

The venue journey I’ll save for another post. I promise it’s a good thing, but I did have my share of anxiety.

Ah, yes, anxiety. Which leads me into vendor negotiation. The dance that I started this post with. I’ve gotten my first few tastes and I can say that it’s definitely my least favorite part of wedding planning so far. The waiting, the back and forth, the lack of follow up or response that causes you to throw your hands in the air and say, “F*ck it. I’m eloping.”

Here are some things that have helped:

  • Studying up on some articles for helpful advice.
  • Having a firm idea of your budget and a rough idea of your guest list.
  • Asking for recommendations for vendors who have a reputation for being good to work with
  • Thinking rationally. Seriously – you have to keep yourself in check and remember to approach it from a logical point of view. Yes, it’s emotional – but you can’t make your decisions solely based on that.
  • Taking a breather before responding to emails.
  • Being patient.
  • Remembering that the peak of wedding season isn’t going to yield the fastest response times
  • Recognizing that you have time and this is not a fire drill
  • Being gracious and direct.
  • Knowing what you want before you start talking.

It gets better. No, really, it does. Once you get past the initial communication hurdles (I can write books on this, I swear), it gets easier. But if you want to be successful in the negotiation, you have to be prepared to negotiate. Don’t accept everything at face value. Come in with a plan. Compare and contrast. Be firm and decisive. It’s okay to ask questions – and don’t be afraid to. If you’re not happy with something or aren’t satisfied, voice that concern – it’s not going to help you to stay quiet. Be polite, but also don’t be a pushover. Remember – you and your vendor stand to have a mutually beneficial relationship. You can be emotional – but don’t let your emotions steer you toward a decision you’re not happy with.

What I’m trying to say with this one is that I need to remember to not fixate and obsess (and if any of you readers are brides, this one is for you too!). I’m in flux between sweating small stuff and throwing tradition to the wind in favor of practicality. It’s a dizzying mix, but it’s one that I know will get easier with time. I just have to remember my footing and keep repeating my mantras. It’s going to be okay.

And hey, spazzing happens. It does. If you’re by nature a worrier, it’s going to happen. And if not, congrats! You probably have a much longer lifespan than the rest of us!

Just stay cool, don’t obsess over details, and don’t feel the need to throw hours upon hours into vendor research. Having done it, I can say that I did waste time because I knew going in what I didn’t want in a wedding. I didn’t want a hotel reception. I didn’t want something ornate. I didn’t want something rigid and overly traditional. I also knew my budget. But, I still looked at those venues and vendors anyway because there was a sense that I had to – how could I not know ALL the options?

Knowing all the options doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be easier.

Forgive yourself for not knowing all the options – and go with your instincts from the start.

Stand your ground when you negotiate. Go in with a budget, a rough guest list, and an idea of what you want. Stick to it.

No matter what happens, the outcome is the same: you’re ending up married to someone wonderful and that’s what matters.

The 102 Things I Love

Gini Dietrich posted this on Spin Sucks earlier this week and I was intrigued. I love the idea of taking a few moments to be grateful for all of the things you enjoy, so, I’m going to give it a try.

This post is based on Judy Dunn’s “Can You Name 99 Things You Love in 10 Minutes“?

Setting my timer for 10 minutes – and….go!

  1. Brent, my Mister-to-Be!
  2. Annie
  3. My loving parents – my rocks. 
  4. My sister, Brianna, who is just a firecracker
  5. A job I enjoy
  6. The opportunity to teach
  7. NEPA BlogCon and the Fearsome Foursome
  8. Serving on The Vintage Board
  9. Cooking
  10. Getting the chance to act again as part of The Vintage
  11. Writing
  12. Citrus fruit
  13. Warm blankets
  14. A fantastic group of cousins who are like my brothers and sisters
  15. Being able to turn big ideas into reality with the help of some great people in our community, like TecBridge
  16. Toasted rolls for breakfast
  17. Air conditioning
  18. Wrinkle-free, clean clothes
  19. Green juice
  20. My cast iron dutch oven
  21. Getting letters or surprises in the mail
  22. My aunts and uncles
  23. Having had 25 years with my grandparents and 17 years with my great-grandparents
  24. My Samsung Galaxy SIII
  25. My iPad
  26. My laptop
  27. Our wall of art in our living room
  28. IKEA
  29. Target
  30. my running shoes
  31. Movies
  32. Reading
  33. Libraries
  34. Cafes
  35. The Office
  36. Parks and Recreation
  37. Mad Men
  38. 30 Rock
  39. Tina Fey
  40. Amy Poehler
  41. Reading the work of inspired people
  42. Malcolm Gladwell’s books
  43. Chocolate
  44. Popcorn
  45. Warm beverages
  46. Hard cider
  47. My face moisturizer that I use every day
  48. Fanciful Fox Soaps
  49. Little sample size bottles of fragrance
  50. Autumn leaves
  51. Pumpkin everything during the fall
  52. Macintosh apples
  53. Bacon
  54. Taking hot showers
  55. Waking up and feeling energized
  56. Massages
  57. Yoga
  58. Yoga pants
  59. Warm sweaters
  60. Boots
  61. My American Eagle jeans
  62. YouTube
  63. Sea salt
  64. A clean house
  65. Cuddling
  66. The Neverending Thread
  67. Social media
  68. Going to theater performances
  69. Music
  70. The sound of church bells
  71. Spotify
  72. Twitter
  73. Facebook
  74. Really good software or apps that make life easier
  76. Pinterest
  77. Thrift stores and flea markets
  78. Alexandra Franzen’s blog
  79. New notebooks that haven’t been written in
  80. Typewriters
  81. Old books
  82. Performing random acts of kindness
  83. Going to Wegman’s
  84. Trying new foods
  85. Candles
  86. Cardigans
  87. Really nicely scented rooms
  88. Cinnamon
  89. Jacket weather
  90. My leather jacket
  91. Comfortable shoes
  92. Making people happy
  93. Shopping local
  94. Our favorite restaurants
  95. The chance to make every day an adventure
  96. Having a support network of people I don’t know how I’d do without
  97. Old family photos
  98. Playing games during the holidays
  99. Belly laughs
  100. Mint
  101. Getting my hair washed when I get it cut
  102. Diner conversations

Whew! That was harder than I thought, but a lot of fun – there’s so much to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Only Good Parts About Sick Days

The only good parts about sick days are the sleeping and reading time.

I’ve spent the past two days snuggled up in a blanket with Theraflu and a nasty cold. It’s given me plenty of downtime. I’ve rested, I’ve worked a bit, but mostly, I’ve done a mixture of sleeping and reading. It’s a good combination. I’m not a physician, but I highly recommend it, at least for your mental well-being. I’m ready to return to the real world now, Doc!

I’m through two and a half books so far on this plagued sojourn. Thank goodness I stopped at the library over the weekend – I was itching to start a new book but walked out with three, not knowing that Monday morning I’d wake up sounding like Emperor Palpatine.

The first one was Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. Having seen the movie, I’ve always been curious about the book. It was a light read. A few moments were quite funny. Nothing too serious. I don’t really like Bridget as a character – her obsession over her weight and her constant non-battles with her vices sort of annoy me and DAMN she needs to work on her self-esteem – but overall, I was lightly entertained by her journal of a year’s worth of worry, chocolate, change, and men. Normally, I’m a non-fiction kind of girl, but I like a light read in between so that I’m not totally bogged down in information.

Next up was I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron. Personally, I like her style of writing. I also enjoy her movies – When Harry Met Sally is in my top 10. She had a keen grasp on what women really do think about and I have to say, I enjoyed her takes on aging, food, and New York real estate in this quick page turner, which I plowed through in just an evening. It’s a quick read that will leave you feeling uplifted and slightly humored. I did, however, find myself touching my neck while reading that particular chapter. I can only hope that I’ll age gracefully – or at least with a good sense of humor.

Now, I’m about halfway through The White Album, a collection of essays by Joan Didion. I chose this book because I read that it was one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites. I love his persona and style of writing, so I figured if he likes it, it has to be good. So far, I’m intrigued. She definitely is unique – the way she describes things is truly an art form. She also has a knack for shocking you or sending a shiver down your spine just when you think you know what’s going on. The way this reads reflects a lot about the subject matter, which in this case, is about the turbulent times of the 60s and 70s in California. We’ve covered everything from the Manson family to a Black Panther Party press conference – and I’m interested to see what’s up next. Will probably finish this in the next day or two.

Afterwards, I’m returning to Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment. Unfortunately, I only got about 6 pages in before stopping about a week ago (my phone rang, the book was set down, and then a domino effect occurred) and wasn’t enchanted enough at that point to return, but I’m hopeful. I like a lot of his ideas and he’s a really cool guy.

So, read any good books lately?

Consider Yourself: At Home, While Stressed, and in those Cringe-worthy Moments

We all have those days where we want to sit down on the floor and cry because everything in the world just feels wrong.

I had one of those days recently, and as unpleasant as they may be, they’re good reminders. They help you distinguish good from bad, stress from serenity.

But sometimes, after those days, you get stuck with a case of the blues, the mean reds, or another shade of mood. I’m stuck there today, so it got me thinking about those places we go and those things we do to try to pull ourselves out of a funk.

When we give ourselves time to deal and we take care of ourselves, it can really make everything better – and I’m not just talking about feeling-wise. There are countless studies that talk about all of the negative effects of stress. When we try to reduce it, we extend our lifespans and improve our entire well-being. Coping with stress is something I’m always interested in learning about, so I’m curious to hear what you do when you get stressed.

Practicing self-care in particular is something I love to read about. Gala Darling talks about it all the time, and there are countless other bloggers out there that share ways they bring their lives back into balance – or at least take care of themselves when they know they need it. You’ve gotta take care of your self, darling. You just have to.

I have a few things/places of peace I turn to when things are rough:

One is food. Not so much eating, but cooking. Tonight, that was my chosen method of therapy. I came home in a foul state, feeling defeated and drained – but on the way home, I decided to take control of my bad mood and treat myself to something hot and comforting. I stopped for a hot chocolate with cinnamon. It put a small dent in my grouchiness – it was a start.

After coming home and letting the Mister know that I wasn’t in a good state (communication does wonders for stress, by the way), I took to my cutting board and didn’t turn back. Some time later, I had French onion soup with melted Swiss, fresh grapefruit juice in mason jars for tomorrow morning, and Meyer lemon lemonade.  Citrus – that’s another thing that lifts my spirits, both in taste and in scent. Cooking gives me a sense of calm and control – I enjoy it, no matter what the dish. Tomorrow, I’m making salsa and over the weekend, I’ll be roasting a harvest of squashes given to us by friends. And I’ll feel better for it.

Another is cleaning. When everything feels out of order, sometimes it helps to just bring the environment around me back into balance. I tend to clean in binges, usually on weekends, or whenever I get a nesting urge. After dinner, I did some chores and things felt even better. Granted, it was just cleaning the bathroom and straightening up the kitchen, but it made a difference.

Then, I decided to practice some self-care and take a bath with some lavender. The warm water helped me relax my muscles and get rid of the tension. Plus, the scent helped to wind me down after the straightening up spree. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of aromatherapy. I find that it works for me, so I try to incorporate it into my daily life to cut down on stress in those tiny moments where you don’t notice things piling up, but there they are. Adding to the weight, gram by gram, until something breaks.

When it happens, I usually cry. Crying is a natural, healthy thing. And when you’re done, you feel better. So, when you’re stressed, don’t feel guilty about crying. It just happens – and it’s totally okay. In tonight’s case, my tears only came from the cutting of onions – but still, it’s a small release.

Sometimes we like to talk things out. I spill the beans to those closest to me when I feel the pressure rise. It helps too, because then they know why you’re acting the way that you are and they can help you get through it.

Other times, we just need to be alone. Tonight, I’m in a state of needing some alone time. So I asked for it. Brent was incredibly understanding in the way that he always is, and I’ve gotten to work through some of my mess undisturbed. Don’t be afraid to ask for space. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re not in a good place and need a moment to breathe, think, and decompress.

Most of all, take care of yourself. You have to take care of you before you can take care of anything else. I’m trying to do that right now, so that tomorrow, I can wake up and shake my moody shade. So, I’ll leave you with some of my strategies for bringing things back into balance before I go off to two more places I find peace: watching a movie cuddled up with the cat and a good night’s sleep.


It’s BlogCon Week + How I Stay Organized

Woo hoo! It’s finally arrived!

NEPA BlogCon is this week and I’m super excited for what promises to be the best year yet. We have an incredible speaker line up, an improv group performing, sweet SWAG, and opportunities to help Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge even more. This day has been a year in the making, so, if you want to be part of it, get your ticket right now (we stop selling October 3). I hope to see you there!

As you know, the fall is a busy time for me. I’ve got BlogCon, The Vintage Board, an upcoming theater production (you really, really need to be there), some writing projects, plus all of those other wonderful things that go along with the season, like carving pumpkins and taking walks through the changing leaves.

One of the most commonly asked questions I get from friends, family, and even complete strangers is:  How to you keep your life organized with so much on your plate?

Well, the best way I can describe it is really organized chaos. I’m only so-so at personal organization. Just look at my car and you’ll see what I mean (it’s a holy friggin’ disaster). My closet is appalling most of the time. I’m awful at keeping up with household chores. This entire section of my life should be a different post. 

I keep a busy schedule, and there are some things that I do use to keep me on top of everything on my to do list, which actually segues perfectly into my first tool for organization:

Lists. I make lots of them. I make them on scraps of paper and in notebooks, which I carry three of in my purse. Lists serve as my reminders, as well as a sort of guideline. I write down projects I need to complete and mix in specific tasks that I can cross off easily, so I feel like I’m accomplishing something.

Google Calendar. For planning NEPA BlogCon and coordinating other meetings, Google Calendar is awesome. I get pop reminders in my Gmail, plus, I have it synced with my phone so that I get an alarm/reminder when something is approaching.

Gmail. I’m notorious for opening up a draft email and writing down random thoughts, to dos, and giving myself links of resources to read later. It’s sort of my catch all place and mobile swipe file. If you don’t know what a swipe file is, I highly recommend.

Pinterest. This is where I hoard things I want to try, resources I find valuable, and how-tos that I plan on using for my wedding. It’s been a huge, huge help with wedding planning because there are just so many resources there to look through.

Google Drive. I use this on the daily for updating spreadsheets (which I’m using for wedding planning), and for my activities with NEPA BlogCon and The Vintage Theater Board. This is where I do a lot of collaboration and as you can see above, Google tools are certainly a trend for me!

Task Widget. On my smartphone, I have a task widget on one of my screens that gives a to do list that syncs with my calendar. It’s wonderful. It’s my “hey! don’t for get this!” list.

Outlook Calendar. This is actually something I use in my 9 to 5, but it’s still a great tool. Because of the nature of my job, I often have a lot of meetings and phone calls throughout the day, so getting things done can be a bit tricky. I block off sections of time in a day or in a week to complete my other to-dos so that it doesn’t get scheduled over. I’ve found this really helps to keep me on track and on task, no matter how crazy work gets (and it’s always crazy in a good way!)

But beyond these tools, I also do something that I highly recommend for everyone to manage their busy schedules: know when to say “no”.

I’m not always the greatest at saying no, but in recent months, I’ve been more assertive about protecting my time so that I’m not overextending myself. Granted, it’s a balancing act and something that I always work on, but I’m much more conscious of how I spend my time after reading something that said:

how you spend your time should align with what you value. 

This really spoke to me, and since then, I’ve made more time for my fiance, my family, and my friends, instead of letting work or outside projects overwhelm me and take up all of my time. I’ve also trimmed away things that weren’t as important to me and started focusing my energies on things that I love, are good for me, are healthy, and make me feel happy. Because life is entirely too short not to be.

When I feel passionate about something, I usually over-commit because I feel so strongly about helping and having that thing succeed, whatever it may be. But, I’m trying to be better because ultimately, when I’m balanced, my projects are balanced too and they get the right amount of my attention.

What tools do you use for organization? I love to hear about them!



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