Wedding 101: The Beginning – Guest Lists

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Your freshly manicured fingers are happily showing off the conflict free diamond, chosen with every ounce of love a human being can hold in their heart after making the jeweler painstakingly show him every one of the 2000 rings in the case. What’s next? The Guest Lists! This is where it all begins (and that conflict free thing is likely to end).

It’s hard to know what to tackle first when it comes to wedding planning, but a big part of many of the decisions you’ll be making has to do with the number of people you want to invite. While many churches will have plenty of seating and room to accommodate most size guest lists, if you plan to have your ceremony in other locations, you may have to consider space limitations. Some locations have unlimited space for an outdoor ceremony, but if inclement weather forces your services indoors, you might have to contend with tight quarters.

You will also need to know how many guests you plan to invite when you consider the type of wedding you’ll have. If you have always dreamed of the fanciest of affairs, a multi-course seated meal, live music, specialty lighting – the whole enchilada – but you are working with a tight budget, you may have to put a strict limit on the number of guests you can invite. When you’ve made your preliminary list and realize you couldn’t possibly cut anyone, you may have to amend the vision of your wedding so that you can afford a larger crowd.

Invitation Flow Chart

Invitation Flow Chart

Whatever plans you make from the time the ring is shimmering in the sunshine as you wave it to passing strangers, you will have to give serious thought to the number of wedding guests you plan to invite.

The first list is your rough draft. Be liberal. Go ahead and put down the name of that kid that sat behind you in third grade and poked you in the back with his R2D2 pencil. It’s better to begin with everyone you can think of so you don’t risk forgetting anyone. You’ll also want to have both sides of the family compile a list. You may think you’ve added everyone you need, then your mother will remind you of her great Aunt Sally who you may not have seen since you spit strained peas on her in infancy. Both the bride’s family and the groom family should be asked to make a list.

Once the preliminary list is made, go back over it with a more careful eye. His ex? Scratched. Paulie Pencil Poker? Outta there. Aunt Sally? She never liked you after that pea incident. She’s gone. You may have family on the list that you HAVE to invite, but you know they likely will be unable to attend. Make a note next to those invitees.


The number of guests will influence almost everything else you plan for your wedding. Start your planning here to help things progress much more smoothly from this point out.

Gay Days at Walt Disney World

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Just like Christmas, Easter, and the day my house is 100% totally clean, an annual event takes place at Walt Disney World.  If you haven’t been to the theme parks the first week in June, you may not have ever heard of this event, and even if you have, you may not have been totally clued in.  The first weekend in June every year for the past 25 years is Gay Days at Disney.  This is not a Disney sponsored event, however, the theme parks welcome thousands of people from the LGBT community, and it may impact your vacation.

There are many events taking place in the Orlando area during Gay Days, so you won’t see all of those tens of thousands of people storming the theme park.  Guests who are with the group visit the parks on specific days – June 4th at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; June 5th at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; June 6th at the Magic Kingdom; and rounding out the weekend fun is a visit to EPCOT on June 7th.  Many guests, especially on Saturday, will don red shirts, and you may notice groups posing for photos and lining Main Street for the parade.

I’ve had many people ask me what they should be prepared for – as if visiting the theme parks the same weekend as Gay Days is the same as hunkering down during hurricane season.  Lines may be a little bit longer, so use FastPass+ when you can.  Restaurants may be a bit busier.  Plan to eat earlier or later than the normal dining times.

And the biggest question I get – How do I explain this to my kids?

Ummm, what?

What is there to explain?  Love comes in all colors and forms – your kids should know that.  Will they see parents holding hands with each other? Yes.  Might they see families having fun?  I hope so.  Are there going to be naked orgies in the castle forecourt?  Seriously, that is a question.

Not all families look like yours – and you might find that out if you are visiting Walt Disney World during Gay Days.  If you aren’t ready for your children to know that, shame on you.

For more information on Gay Days, visit


If People Come in All Sizes, So Should Women’s Shoes

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When Eilis was about seven, as a plus sized kid, she saw some t-shirts and dresses she fell in love with while we were walking through a store.  They were in the size an average seven year old might have been in – size 4 – 6x – but that was too small for Eilis.  The clothes she wanted had Barbie on them, and unfortunately, clothes in sizes that fit her didn’t have Barbies on them.  It was tough enough to find clothes in her size that wouldn’t cut too low on her chest or slit too high on her thigh.  Kids clothes weren’t made for my kid.  I was so sad for her.

Eilis is now 14.  She is also 5’10” tall with size almost 14 in women’s shoes feet.  Except, they don’t make most women’s shoes in a size 14.  I can find shoes when I have to by ordering them from a specialty store (most of which charge an enormous premium – really?  How much more material are you giving me that the shoes are $50 more a pair?).

We’ve been pretty lucky hitting stores like Journeys or Zumiez, where we’ve been able to snag Toms or Vans with a print that’s not too masculine or a solid that could work for a man or a woman.  Today, we hit a brick wall.  All the patterned shoes were definitely “guy” shoes, except one pair that she loved that they don’t make in her size.  We went online to find a pair of Toms or Vans copycats in extended sizes for women, but we didn’t find anything she liked in that search either.  She finally found a pair of shoes that were perfect – pastel background, hibiscus flowers in bright pink – perfect for a girl for summer.  Oh, but wait.  Hiding in the hibiscus flowers was – wait for it – Yoda.  Not what she was expecting.


Please, shoe people of the world, make shoes that fit everyone.  You wouldn’t have to make too many in these extended sizes, because apparently NO ONE else on the planet has this problem, or it would already be addressed.

I am, once again, sad for her.  But more than that, I’m mad.  Once again, our cookie cutter, one size fits all world is leaving my child in the dust.  I hate when that happens.

First Mother’s Day Without A Mom

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I haven’t written specifically about my mom since December 13th – nine days before she died.  It was the day after her surgery for a bowel obstruction, and it was the first time in all the years my mom bounced between being really sick and just sick enough to function that we heard words you never want to hear.  “Grim”.  “Very serious”.  “Brutally honest”.

Dram and Grace POR Christmas Tree

Those are the words that enter my head as I approach the first Mother’s Day I’ll live through without my mom.  No flowers to send that she’ll bitch about because they cost too much.  No potted gardenia that she’ll bitch about because she’ll kill it.  No perfume, no jewelry, no pajamas (which, I think, was the only real gift she ever “let” us give her without complaining about how much it cost or how much she didn’t need them).  No mom.


No mom.  My father referred to himself as an orphan after the last of his two parents died, and it used to hurt my heart to hear him say it – but my heart is hurt.  It was hard enough to lose my dad, but without my mom, I do feel like an orphan – even as a grown woman.  There is no one to call when my kids do something amazing.  Or amazingly awful.  There are no more calls from someone asking me for a recipe for a dish that she taught ME to cook years ago.  When work is tough or life feels hard, things only a mom can make seem better, I have to figure out how to get through it without her.

Grace and Dram

I am celebrating my mom and Mother’s Day by surrounding myself with her favorite people (her grandchildren – she absolutely adored them) and the person who used to refer to himself as her favorite (my husband – she barely tolerated him).  I doubt we’ll talk too much about her, because barely five months after she died, it still makes me cry.  But on Monday, I’ll know that I survived another first without her.  My first Mother’s Day without my Mom.  May they get easier from here on out.

Anna and Mom

Not the Best Life Ever

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I was watching “One Born Every Minute” earlier today, and one of the mother’s, awaiting the birth of her first baby, made the comment, “She’s going to have the best life ever.”

Don’t lie to your children.  It’s not fair to set them up for unrealistic expectations.


You can’t promise your child the best life ever.  Everyone faces loss, sadness, disappointment.  We face obstacles that we have to overcome; rejection we have to rise above; road blocks that cause us to have to come up with Plan B.  Instead of promising your child “the best life ever”, promise things you can deliver.

I promise my children that I will love them, unconditionally, no matter what.  They may do things that I don’t like very much at times, but I will always, without fail, love them.

I promise my girls that they can tell me anything, even if they know I’m not going to like it.  Will I smile and keep my mouth shut?  No.  I will, in every likelihood, express my dislike.  But this will teach them that they won’t find 100% approval anywhere in this world – not even at home.

Day 6 1

My kids will always know that when they hurt, I hurt.  When they suffer, I suffer.  But we will get through whatever we have to get through together.  There is nothing so awful that we can’t find smiling and happy again.  It just may take a while to get there.

The girls will know there is value in a good old ugly cry now and again.  It may not feel like it at the time, but sadness is better shared with the people that love you on the outside than eating you up from the inside.


I will be there for lost teeth and lost loves.  I’ll be with them through broken bones and broken hearts.  New jobs, new boyfriends, new husbands, new babies?  I’m so there.

No.  My kids won’t have “the best life ever”.  Life is hard.  It’s got to be hard so they’ll appreciate the days that are slow, sweet, and easy.  But they will have a life where they are surrounded by love, support, and family.  Always.00004

March 9, 1991

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Anna and Jim at the Bank

Most people remember every minute of their wedding day. I’m one of them.  I remember my Dad being discharged from the hospital one day before, and myself wondering if he’d even make it to walk me down the aisle.  I remember the Lenten banners adorning the front of the church – one begging forgiveness, because we know not what we do.  I remember my head yanking backwards on my way back up the aisle after Mass when my veil got snagged on the door into the gathering space at the back of the church.  I remember my mother-in-law yelling across the dance floor because something wasn’t to her liking.

And I remember the dimples.

Father Forgive Them

For every second of that day that I spent with a concerned thought in my head, when I looked over at Jim, he was smiling a huge smile, highlighting the gorgeous dimples that I knew from our very first date I would be seeing for the rest of my life.  And I knew that no matter what was going wrong in that moment, the big picture would always be all right.

Jim and Anna Bank

24 years later, it’s always all right.  I look over at that handsome face every time I feel worry, or hurt, or despair.  When I don’t see the dimples, I see the man who has seen me through the loss of my sister and both of my parents.  He saw me through five miscarriages and the premature birth of one of my children.  He saw me through moves away from my family and moves back home when most of my friends had moved on and forgotten about me.  He has lifted me up through job losses and encouraged me through job changes.  Every day he makes me feel like I can conquer the world, and every night he makes sure I know that even if I’ve chickened out, I am loved and valued.

bridal party church

When I look at our group wedding picture, as I scan the faces on the steps of the Church with us, a bit of sadness creeps in.  We’ve lost so many of the people we loved the most.  But then I get to that face and those dimples, and I know that through life’s biggest challenges and greatest celebrations, I made the best decision I will ever make on March 9, 1991.

The Bridal Party

Happy Anniversary, Jim.


When the Going Gets Tough, You Cry Your Eyes Out and Move On

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Granuaile called my stepdad yesterday to let him know she wouldn’t be going over there for a sleepover this weekend.  Even though she had the phone to her ear, I could hear it ringing on the other end, and I waited to hear either my stepfather’s voice or the robotic voice of their old answering machine.

But she had called their cell phone.

And my stepdad didn’t hear it to answer it.

And what I heard when the voice clicked in was, “Hi…it’s Anna…”

My mom.

I have several voicemail messages from my mom saved on my phone, and it’s both comforting and painful to listen to them.  But her voice on her cell phone voicemail fools you into thinking she’s there.  She says, “Hi”, like she’s answering a call and knows it’s you.  In reality, she wasn’t sure the thing was working, so there’s a pause after she’s says hi, almost as if expecting the caller to answer her back.

And so I burst into tears in the Target parking lot.  And again watching TV later in the afternoon.  And again after going through Granuaile’s dresser to get rid of clothes.  My mom bought some of those clothes, and it seemed wrong to get rid of them. But they don’t fit. And the only reason to keep the clothes would have been to keep the temporary pain of memories I’ll never create again at bay another day.

I finished the dresser and closet today.  I even went back through the bags of things I brought home from my Mom’s house when Megan and I cleaned out her closets, and I was able to let more of those things go.  They weren’t things I especially liked, but somehow had associated them with my mom.  But they aren’t her, and they’ll never get used, and now through Goodwill, maybe they will.

So a lot of tears were shed, and sadness overwhelmed me for a while, but stuff got done.  And it will keep getting done.  And we’ll keep moving on.

Correct Me If I’m Wrong – Lancome Customer Service Stinks

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Lancome customer service stinks.

For many years (what the hell, I’m old – add another many in there), I have exclusive purchased Lancome cosmetics. Before internet, I’d march into Macy’s, prepared for my husband to hand over our first born or trade in a kidney to cover the cost of the items on my list.  I gleefully bought into every one of those “bonus” offers – where the cosmetics people tell you if you spend a certain amount of money, you can get a cutie makeup bag or a set of swell brushes as their gift to you for being foolish enough to pay their ridiculous prices for mascara you could have purchased at Walgreens for $8.

With the dawn of the internet came a wonderful thing – the ability to shop at any store (Sephora) that carries Lancome cosmetics, and qualify for not only bonus items, but reward points that give you even more bonus items.  And for quite a while, I’ve been ordering most of my makeup through Sephora, because I love their bonus items and their customer service people.

Last night, I went to the Lancome site to see if there was anything new I should check out, and I saw this adorable little cosmetics bag as a bonus that I thought would be great for Eilis.  I started to place my order, and a box popped up telling me if I purchased EVEN MORE Lancome cosmetics, they would send me a second one of these adorable bags with the travel sized cosmetics.  For real? I am so going to order that extra stuff!

Lancome cosmetics bag that's unavailable

The cutie orange bag I won’t be getting :-(


Now, it does say “while supplies last”, however, it just let me customize the first bag, so I know they’re available.

Until I go to place my order.  The first bag is available, but the second one won’t add to my shopping bag. I figure I’ll just order from Sephora after all, so I delete my bag and move on.  But there’s something about that cute orange bag that draws me back. It lets me order the first one again, and I get the notice that I can order a second one if I spend enough, but again, I can’t order the second bag.

No big deal, I figure I’ll place the order and contact customer service to get it straightened out. I send an email, because it’s late, and the email I get back says, essentially, Too bad, so sad, we ran out of the second bag.  What?  You’re still offering the first bag, how can you be out of the second bag, which is the same bag?? I reply with that information to the email, and get an email back that says, yeah, too bad.

Now I call.  And I get the same canned answer – we ran out, and it says right on the site that if we run out, you don’t get one.  But I’m getting the first one.  Just not the one you said I’d get if I spent more money. How do I know I was ever going to get the second bag?  How do I know you’re not just making that promise until I spend the money, then not coming through with the bonus?

And the customer service people were abrupt, matter of fact, and claimed they couldn’t cancel my order because it shipped.  They claim the bonus was gone as of 9 in the morning – then why are you still offering it at 8 at night?  They claim it should have been removed from the website within the hour of it being unavailable.  Then again – why is it still there at 8 PM?  But they’ll give me 10% off of my next order – the one where they promise me another bonus that is no longer available.

And that’s how Lancome customer service sucks.


Publix Premade Shrimp Ring – Blech

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Oh, Publix! You have always been my favorite Florida grocery store –  clean, well stocked, great bakery and wonderful deli.

Your seafood department?  Not so much.

We arrived in Orlando with just hours to spare before Christmas Eve company was due to arrive.  I preordered trays to make entertaining easier, so off we went to Publix to pick them up.  Even on what must have been a busy day, the deli counter was quick to retrieve our order, and in literally minutes, we were on our way through the rest of the store to see what we could find.

Jim saw a refrigerator section of premade shrimp rings, and knowing there was no way we had time to clean and cook shrimp, it seemed like a good alternative.  But I’ve always been leary of those rings. Where did those shrimp come from? Were they turning bad, so they cook them and give you strong cocktail sauce so you can’t taste the botulism or salmonella you’re going to have?

I walked over to the seafood counter and asked the gentleman working there if there was a difference between the already cooked shrimp he had behind the counter and the premade ring.  He told me the ones he had behind the counter were cooked, then frozen, then thawed to sell.  Blech.  The ring shrimp, though, never frozen according to the counter guy.  Fresh as a baby’s behind.  Sounds like the way to go, no?

And then I get back to the hotel. I opened the shrimp ring, and find a frozen shrimp tire – solid, stiff, and in the lovely circular shape it had been packed into before being frozen.  In a bit of a panic, I put the ring under the cold running water, and hope I can get it thawed in the next 20 minutes, before company is due to arrive.  Once it’s feeling like I can serve it, I dry it off, put it on a platter, and bring it over to the dining room table.  I notice it’s looking a bit freezer burned – a little too white on the edges – but I didn’t have time to taste them before guests arrived.

But then I did.  Blech.

Publix premade shrimp ring was so gross.  The shrimp was mealy in parts, rock hard in others.  I’m pretty sure I can taste ptomaine poisoning (and I’m pretty impressed I remembered how to spell ptomaine) when I eat the one shrimp I tried.  The big problem now? How do I inconspicuously remove them from the table?

Publix catering

Yes, it does look a bit like plastic shrimp

I rely on the fact that there was an expiration date on them, and hold fast to the believe that no one will really die from them.  I leave them on the table, and hope if anyone does taste them, they won’t go back for more, and they’ll forgive me for even thinking they would work.

We’ll still rely on Publix for our shopping when we go to Florida, but these shrimp were really unforgivable.  We probably won’t buy Publix seafood for a long time.