Saturday, July 30, 2011

"The Proposal" & Green Card Marriages

The Proposal is a romantic comedy in which bossy book editor Margaret (Sandra Bullock) discovers that her visa is being revoked, and therefore must leave her job in the U.S. So she blackmails her assistant, Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), into marry her so that she can receive a Green Card. In order to prove to federal investigators that their upcoming marriage is legitimate, the pair vacations to Alaska to meet Andrew’s family, which includes Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, and the fabulous Betty White.

I’ll admit: I will watch anything with Sandra Bullock in it. This particular film is very enjoyable, with very funny one-liners throughout the film delivered by the entire cast. I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for an entertaining chick flick.

Bride - 6/10

For this wedding movie review, and others in the future, I will also have Brandon watch them with me in order to get a guy’s perspective so brides will know if it’s groom-safe or not.

Groom - 4/10 – “I liked it, but I wouldn’t watch it again.”

Each future review will also include a post dedicated to some wedding/marriage related aspect of the film.  Since The Proposal is about Green Card Marriages, here is all you ever wanted (hopefully not needed) to know about the controversial topic:

A Green Card is also known as a Permanent Resident Card, which allows a non-US citizen to be able to live and work in the United States permanently. Green Cards can be obtained many different ways, but the most common form of getting one is marrying a United States citizen[1]. A Green Card is obtained following marriage by the spouse with U.S. citizenship. The U.S. Immigration Department states, “the majority of Green Card Marriage applications are real, but a small percentage are based on fake/sham marriages” [2]. These “fake/sham marriages”, otherwise called "marriages of convenience", are not only the basis for films like The Proposal, but are also a cause for alarm by many couples attempting to receive a Green Card due to the rigorous interview process that newlyweds are sometimes forced to take in order to prove the legitimacy of their union.

Fraud interviews are conducted when there is reasonable doubt the legality of the marriage. This doubt could arise based on the citizenship situation, like that in “The Proposal”, but could also be based on a language barrier between husband and wife, a large age gap, or if the spouses live at different residences. Questions asked during the interview include the following categories and some examples[3]:
·      Development of Your Relationship
o   When and where did you meet for the first time?
o   When did your relationship turn romantic?
·      You and Your Spouse
o   What is your spouse’s phone number at work?
o   Which holidays do you celebrate together?
·      Wedding
o   Who were your bridesmaids/groomsmen?
o   Did the bride change clothes for the reception?
·      Relatives
o   Have you met each other’s parents?
o   Do you buy gifts for your in-laws on important holidays? Do they buy gifts for you?
·      Children
o   Who prepares and packs the lunch for your children?
o   What are their least favorite foods?
·      House
o   Do you write checks for paying the bills or online billing?
o   How many sinks, toilets, and showers are there in your house/apartment in total?
·      Technology
o   Do you watch TV shows together, or separately?
o   How many remote controls are there in your house?
·      Kitchen
o   Who goes grocery shopping? Where? How often? How do you get there?
o   How many times a week on average do you eat out?
·      Bedroom
o   Do you have lamps next to your bed?
o   What color are your spouse’s pajamas?
·      Just Before the Interview (Last 24 hours)
o   At what time did you go to bed?
o   Did you have breakfast? Where and what did you eat?
The spouses are interviewed separately, and their answers are compared. The depth, breadth, and intricacy of the questions make it very difficult for fraudulent couples to prove their legitimacy.

Due to the fact that Green Cards give permanent residence in the United States, and many marriages are not permanent, spouses that engage in a false marriage for the purpose of gaining a Green Card are able to divorce after a short period of time. Once the recipient of a Green Card has had that card for five years, he or she may divorce his or her spouse without the risk of having the card revoked.  

Bottom Line: The Proposal is an entertaining and enjoyable rom-com that makes light of a serious offense in the U.S. The process of obtaining a Green Card can be very useful for true newlywed couples attempting to keep a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen in the states. However, due to films like The Proposal, Green Card, and shows like Parks and Recreation, scam marriages have become a popular topic in the media, which has pushed the U.S. Dept. of Immigration to carrying out rigid interviews to be sure that a marriage is legitimate. The whole Green Card topic is very serious, but The Proposal is much more fun.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Honeymoon Pt. 1: Where Should We Go?

One of the most exciting parts of getting married is the following vacation with your new spouse, otherwise known as the honeymoon. The honeymoon is not only an opportunity to relax and spend time with your new husband or wife, but it is also a great chance to take an undoubtedly much-needed vacation and explore an area of the world where you would like to visit. So one of the first things that you should ask yourself and your fiancé is: Where should we go?

There are a couple of things to consider when deciding on where to honeymoon. These include: your budget, your favorite hobbies and activities, the amount of time that you can spend away, and where you and your soon-to-be spouse would like to visit.

Honeymoon expenses include hotels, airfare/travel, food, activities (tours, snorkeling, renting equipment, etc.), and shopping. Before settling on a honeymoon location, consider if you might be spending half of your budget on plane fare alone. The amount of money you have to spend on a honeymoon may influence your destination, but does not have to effect the enjoyment or luxury of your vacation. There are many ways of getting around on a budget, which will be detailed in a future “I Do” Guru post (coming soon!).

So what do you like to do? If you and your fiancé are beach bums, then you should consider somewhere with nice beaches to lounge by the sea all day. If you enjoy adventure and physical activities, it may suit you to choose a place with great hiking, biking, kayaking, etc. If you want to tour museums and enjoy another culture’s history, then you may like to visit a metropolis instead of an island or getaway location. You may have always fantasized about lying on the beach on a remote island, but could you do it everyday for a week?

For newlyweds who have to take time off of work to honeymoon, or who have kids at home, the amount of time for travel may be limited due to at-home responsibilities. If you can only take a long 4-day weekend off of work, then you may want to consider a closer location (within your country of residence or nearby). This will save time on travel, giving you extra time to enjoy yourselves. If you plan on taking a longer honeymoon, for a couple of weeks or more than a month, then make sure that there are enough available activities to enjoy over that timespan.

Not only is a honeymoon a chance for you to spend some time with your new spouse, but it’s a vacation! You are expected to take time off, so why not use it to your advantage and visit a place where you’ve always wanted to go? Have you dreamed of walking to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef? Here’s your chance! Take your husband or wife on your dream vacation, and let them be there to experience your travel fantasy.

Bottom Line: There are many variables that come into play when deciding on where to travel for your honeymoon. Every couple will get something different out of every location. Talk to your fiancé and figure out how much time and money you have to spend, and what locations sound appealing to you. Because you are expected to take time off together, it is a great opportunity to visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Regardless of budget or time available, you are guaranteed to have a good time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ribbons & Babies: Bridal Shower Games

Although I identify myself as a Seattlite, as I have lived in the Northwestern metropolis since I was 18, I was raised in Southwest Virginia outside of the small city of Roanoke. And yes, that means I used to pronounce the words “I” and “like” with almost an “aah” sound. In my first couple of years in Seattle, the southerner in me used to whine about walking everywhere and not being able to find authentic fried chicken. However, once I moved to the heart of Capitol Hill, a liberal artsy community that is always active and welcomes all, I acclimated to the Seattle lifestyle quickly (i.e. began composting). However, a part of my heart still remains in Virginia and longs for sweet iced tea on hot, sunny days.
For the first of my two bridal showers, my aunts threw me an all-ladies shower in Virginia, for which I flew across the U.S. to attend. Of course we had the southeast essentials (fried chicken, sweet tea, and humidity), but my aunts also brought with them two great bridal shower traditions, which I had never been exposed to: ribbons & babies.
The first tradition seems to be more well-known and practiced among western cultures. It involves removing the bows and ribbons from the presents that the bride receives and fashioning them (on a paper plate or other sturdy surface) into a hand-crafted ribbon bouquet. This is what the bride, typically, carries during the wedding rehearsal in lieu of a flower arrangement.
The second tradition is a little less orthodox and little more… umm… well, I’ll just explain. According to this (presumably southern) custom, every ribbon that the bride breaks while opening her gifts at the shower equals one baby that the bride and groom will have during their marriage. With the exception of ribbons tied with extra effort to ensure breaking, this game is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the bride intends on having many kids, she can be as indelicate as she likes, breaking many ribbons. However, if a bride is not interested in having many children, if any, then she can unwrap the gifts like she’s in the Hurt Locker. Of course the game is based on a wives-tale, but the game is fun and entertaining for both the bride and guests.
Bottom Line: These two activities from my own bridal shower are just examples of the many bridal shower games celebrated in western culture. Games can also include trivia, mad libs, raffles, and other fun festivities. Games that are well-planned keep the mood of the shower upbeat, keep guests entertained, and can bring the group of people closer together through discussing and learning about the engaged couple.
And in case you’re wondering: yes, I still whine about not being able to find authentic fried chicken in Seattle. It’s just too good.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gifts for the Wedding Party

A $225 dress. A shoulder to cry on. A trip to Vegas. Overcoming a fear of public speaking to make a toast. A large bachelor party beer tab. Not only are your bridesmaids and groomsmen responsible for preparation and wedding-day duties, but they also shell out a lot of cash for the many purchases that come with being in a wedding party. Therefore, it is customary to give the members of your wedding party a gift in return for their efforts, support, and financial costs.

When it comes to picking out a gift for your bridesmaids or groomsmen, there is no default or expected gift. This means that you have both the large range of ideas to choose from, as well as the difficult task of picking an appropriate and desired gift. The goal in choosing a gift for members of your wedding party is to pick a gift that fits your budget and means something to you, and also pleases your attendant in a way that they feel appreciated and rewarded.

So, what’s your budget? Of course many bridesmaids would adore a piece of jewelry from Tiffany’s or a plane ticket to the Caribbean, but it is easy to assume that most of us could not afford to dote on our chosen friends and family members with such lavish gifts. Typically, the gift that you give to your bridesmaids will correspond with 1) the budget of your wedding, and 2) the cost of wedding expenses that your wedding party was responsible for. If you have an extremely low-budget wedding, and your wedding party members wore an outfit they already owned, or bought their ensembles from a discount retailer, then they will probably not expect an expensive gift. However, wedding party members may feel disappointed if their participation in your Plaza wedding is rewarded with a cheap, poorly thought out present. Keep in mind that the gift they receive is thanks for the work they put in, and should be chosen after careful consideration of the occasion, the wedding party members, and the costs involved.

Like any other holiday that involves gift giving (Christmas, birthdays, the occasional Flag Day...), giving a gift for a wedding should involve considering the receiver, and if they’ll even like it. In other words, it is not required that you get all of your bridesmaids/groomsmen the same gift. Inside jokes, charm bracelet additions, or hobbies and passions can all be honored.  On the other hand, if you find a gift that each member of your wedding party would adore, buy in bulk!

A gift for a member of the wedding party does not always have to come in a gift-wrapped package. A nice spa day, a boys’ night out on your dime, or something homemade can all be great gifts. As well as that, gifts can often be practical if helping out a friend with wedding expenses. Instead of excluding a bridesmaid because she won’t be able to afford the expensive dress you had in mind, you can chip in to help her pay for the dress as a present. Although her help will support you on your wedding day, being in a wedding party is a huge event for anyone and a great honor. Assistance in paying for expensive wedding items allows him or her to be included, without drying up funds.

Bottom Line: Above all, gifts for the wedding party need to be carefully considered before purchase. Even if all of your bridesmaids or groomsmen are dressed alike, it is not mandatory that they receive the same gift. They were likely chosen based on their unique personalities and the relationships that you share, and so the gifts they receive as thanks should reflect their individuality. Even if you get the same gift for each member of the wedding party, make sure the consistent gifts given are applicable to all. Your wedding party is here for you, so show them how much their support and love means to you on your wedding day.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What to Wear to a Wedding

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, the bride is most often seen in a white dress on the day of her wedding. But what about the rest of us? Choosing what to wear to someone else’s wedding can sometimes be confusing, due to the fact that fashion choices are based on time of day, time of year, location, theme, and other potential factors. Hopefully this posting will help weed through your wardrobe and find something suitable for any sort of wedding.

If you’re the type of person who plans ahead (lucky you), then you can find out what to wear from the bride and groom, or close family and friends. The engaged couple, as well as the parents of the bride and groom and members of the wedding party, will most likely have some idea of the type of dress appropriate for the wedding.

When attending a wedding, there are five primary things to keep in mind in order to decide what to wear:
1.    What time of day does the wedding take place?
2.    What season of the year is it?
3.    How formal/casual is the wedding?
4.    Will the wedding be inside or outside, and will there be heating (in the winter) or air conditioning (in the summer)?
5.    Is the wedding on a beach? In a backyard? In a church?

The time of day can have an effect on the colors you wear, and the formality of your outfit. Daytime weddings usually call for sundresses or short dresses on women, and blazers or suits on men. Daytime weddings welcome all sorts of colors, and suggest that the color black be worn a minimum amount. Evening weddings (beginning after 6pm) call for (short for casual/warm weather & long for formal/cold weather) dresses on women and suits on men.  Black is more welcomed than day weddings, but colors are also a great option.

The season of the year should influence the material of your outfit and the colors you choose to wear. For a spring or summer wedding, both men and women should feel free to wear bright colors, such as yellow, pink, blue, etc., and lighter materials, including cotton and light-weight wool. For a fall or winter wedding, guests should gravitate towards darker colors, such as red, purple, royal blue, etc., and thicker fabrics, such as wool.

The formality of a wedding can usually be determined based on the invitation style (was it an elegant invitation complete with hand-written calligraphy, a hand-made invitation, or an e-vite). An informal wedding allows a wider variety of dress styles. For women, short dresses, sundresses, or even suits are welcome. For men, dress shirts and khakis, sport coats, and suits are appropriate. Formal weddings require a nicer dress code: this means cocktail dresses or long gowns on ladies, and suits or tuxedos on men. Some weddings are white tie, meaning formal dress on ladies with accessory additions (fine jewelry, fur [hopefully faux], gloves, hat) and white tie dress on men.

Some weddings will have weather conditions that will influence not the appropriateness of your outfit, but the practicality. Summer weddings in a church or reception hall will most likely have air conditioning, meaning that the weather will not have an influence on many outfits. However, outdoor ceremonies, garden receptions, and other outside events will make guests vulnerable to high temperatures. In that case, lightweight fabrics, like cotton, should be worn above wools or other thick fabrics. If men decide to wear a suit or sport coat, they should consider their look both with and without the jacket, so that they have the option of removing the coat if it’s too hot. For winter weddings held outside (think Phoebe’s wedding in Friends), guests should be sure dress warmly. Women can wear suits to informal weddings or long gowns to formal, and possibly carry a (faux) fur coat. Men should wear wool suits as they would to an indoor winter ceremony and reception.

The location of the ceremony or reception can also play a large role in what you should wear, again referring to the practicality of your outfit. A beach wedding is expected to be more casual (unless there’s an ironic theme involved), and so heels that may get stuck in the sand, dresses that will dirty around the hems, or thick, dark suits are all unwise. For a beach wedding, light fabrics, flats or sandals, and bright colors are all welcomed, and will keep you cooler in the sun. A garden or backyard wedding follows in the same vein: there will be dirt, grass, and mud that may dirty clothes that fall all the way to the ground.
         If the wedding takes place in a church, or another house of worship, remember to be respectful of the customs and dress codes appropriate for the location, even if you are not religious. If you’re unfamiliar with the appropriate garb for the place of worship, ask someone in the wedding party or even google “what to wear”. For a church wedding, be sure to wear respectable clothes – an outfit you could also wear to a club is probably inappropriate. For a Jewish wedding in a synagogue, men should wear yarmulke/kippah (a traditional cap customary to wear whenever inside a synagogue). For an Islamic wedding that takes place in a mosque, women should wear looser-fitting dresses and a headscarf, if necessary. Although guests who do not practice the religious customs in a place of worship may feel it constrictive to have to follow practices they do not support, it is not worth causing a scene or offending the bride and groom. Remember, it’s their day, and out of love and support you should follow their requests.

Bottom Line: Trust your judgment when it comes to picking out an outfit for a wedding. Common sense will tell you not to wear minx and stilettos to a beach wedding. When in doubt, ladies should refer to a brightly-colored short dress for daytime or LBD for evening, and men a light suit for day or a classic suit after 6pm.  Or, you could always ask the bride, groom, or a member of the wedding party for advice.

And, of course, when it comes to the primary color of your outfit: Do. Not. Wear. White. (unless otherwise told)

Guys: Need more help? Check out this video from Be Better Guys, found on MonkeySee: