Big Wedding, Small Budget

Spending Diet

As soon as I put all of our guest lists together, I realized that some major saving would have to be done if we were going to pull of this wedding. Now, those of you who know me already know that I am really a tightwad thrifty. I don’t spend a ton of money on extra things, at least not compared to some people. But, of course, I spend more than I absolutely need to.

As far as I could see, there are two main areas where I could cut down my spending. The first: eating out. I love eating out. There is no way I could cut it out altogether. But, we definitely eat out more than we need to, and often, we don’t even really enjoy the food; instead, I’m just too tired or I worked too late to cook dinner. Now, on our wedding spending plan, I’ve cut eating out to no more than twice a week. This may seem like a lot to some of you, but it’s a big sacrifice for me. Especially when I’m aiming to keep at least 90% of our meals to 15 dollars a person. That means no appetizers and no drinks at dinner. And no grabbing a quick lunch while I’m working, because why would I want to waste an eating out opportunity on a smoothie?

The next area to be drastically downsized was buying stuff. And by stuff, I mean books, makeup, clothes, and other frivolous things. But especially books. I have plenty of books in my house and on my Kindle that I haven’t read, not to mention the friends I have that read and could lend me books. On the other hand, sometimes the Kindle Deal of the Day is too good to pass up. So, I’ve decided—no books over $2.99.

Giving up the other stuff is pretty easy. Do I really need another nail polish? Do I need to go to Old Navy just because or should I wait until I really am missing some important article of clothing? Should I buy another eye shadow when I really just wear the same one every day? No, no, and no.

It’s been almost a month now of my spending diet and the effect it’s having is interesting. I feel a little disconnected from normal, capitalistic life, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m not always looking for the next thing to buy. My money is not burning a hole in my pocket. I have fewer errands to run, since I don’t need to go check out what is new at LOFT or Old Navy. And the lack of eating out (and drinking) has been positive, too. I know it’s healthier. I’ve been forced to find some new recipes. And eating out at all, but especially at a restaurant with actual servers, feels more special, more exciting.

Also, I feel like I’m living up to my ideals a little more. I’m being more thoughtful with my resources. I’m not participating in this super-capitalistic, materialist society we have as much, which makes me less hypocritical when I complain about it.

Oh, and lest I sound too noble, I should reveal that I am actually a money hoarder. There is not much that makes me happier than watching the balance of my savings account go up, even without a specific reason to be saving. This spending diet will certainly up the endorphin quotient at the end of the month. So, there’s that.

I’ve been trying to find the balance between increased thriftiness and total self-deprivation, because the latter never works for me. If I try it, I know a future binge is inevitable. Right now, I feel a little uncomfortable, but not angry or resentful, so I think that’s a good sign. I’m stretching myself, and hopefully creating a new pattern that will continue long after the wedding day has come and gone.

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The Great Venue Search

Finding a venue that accommodates 250 people, doesn’t cost a ton, and fits the picnic atmosphere we are hoping for has been difficult. I’ve been researching several different kinds of options.

Hotel: Hotels are attractive because they are more inclusive than other venues. Tables and linens are usually included and sometimes so is catering, lighting, etc. Right now, when I’m looking at doing a lot of DIY, this seems amazing! Also, with so many out of town guests, it would be really convenient to get a block of rooms at the same place as the reception. But. Hotels are way more formal. I mean, it’s hard to have a picnic in a ballroom. I don’t think they would be as flexible with our offbeat wedding as we would like. So, it seems that the hotel idea is out.

Social Halls/Civic Centers: There are a few of these around Orlando that I’ve been looking at. They are way less expensive than hotels, and sometimes, tables and chairs are included. You can usually use whatever caterer you want and there will be a kitchen for the food. Some of them are really nice looking, too. Also, with an indoor reception space, we wouldn’t need a rain plan. The downside? I’m not really interested in decorating very much, which I would need to do at a social hall. Not being crafty AT ALL means that I would probably end up spending quite a lot on decorations. Plus, we don’t really want an indoor reception. I want a breezy, sunny picnic with kids running around everywhere. So, social halls have been moved down the list, although they haven’t been eliminated completely.

Parks: There are a ton of parks around. At first, I thought this was the perfect option! I mean, parks are pretty, so we wouldn’t need lots of decorations. They are super cheap. And what fits a picnic atmosphere better than a park? Done and done. And then, we looked at some parks. A lot of parks. Most don’t have pavilions with picnic tables that can seat so many people. They have a lot of open, empty space. That means we’d really have to do everything from scratch. Rent tables and chairs, set them up, break them down. Do the same with linens, decorations, etc. Find a caterer who can serve food for 250 people without any kind of kitchen. So, no hot food because it will get cold and no cold food because it can’t be refrigerated. And, what would we do if it rained? Hmm. The only park we found that would surmount these obstacles doesn’t seem to allow alcohol. That’s not going to work for us. So, I’m feeling discouraged with the park option right now, although I haven’t given up.

The best of all worlds(?): We went to see a venue that I really had my heart set on. It’s a wedding space on a farm. They do outdoor weddings, all kinds. When we saw it, we both really liked it. It’s beautiful. It has open lawns with lots of trees (shade!) and great landscaping. It’s on the water. It has a house on the property for restrooms and getting ready that was built by the owner’s father. We would have to rent tables, chairs, and linens, but we wouldn’t be responsible for the set up or break down. And if it looks like it will rain (it better not!), we can get an emergency tent. The downside? It is a little rustic, and in the middle of nowhere. It took us an hour to get there, and neither of us had cell service. It’s a little on the expensive side, and we have to use an official caterer, instead of my mom’s friend who does some catering. So that could get expensive. I think we could probably make it work, but we’re not totally committed yet.

Finding a wedding venue is really a lot like buying a house. Nothing will be perfect and you will always be settling for something. The dream venue doesn’t exist. But you can find something you feel good about and make it into your dream venue. I think the right way to do it is to be educated about the options, crunch all the numbers, and then, at the end of the day, go with your gut. After all, I think the key is to find a place that we feel good in. I want to feel at home at our wedding, and I want that for all of our guests, too.

Any other ideas for venues that I might have overlooked?

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Excitement

I went to my first bridal show last week. It was…interesting. The fashion show was super ugly and the dresses were so, so cheesy. One girl came out in a dress so sparkly that my friend Mandy described her as a “disco ball.” A lot of the vendors were out of our price range. Most of them did not match our wedding vision AT ALL. In fact, a couple of the venue representative immediately tried to talk me out of having an outdoor reception when I asked if that was available. I’m sorry, you can’t even respect what I want and I’m supposed to give you money??? What?

That being said, the show was actually really fun! I enjoyed being called “the bride” and wearing my “I am the Bride” sticker, even though it felt awkward at the beginning. We got to taste a bunch of cake samples and there was a chocolate fountain! And, let’s be real, it’s always fun to make fun of ugly, gaudy dresses.

Even more than that, it was fun to be excited about the wedding. I’ve caught myself downplaying it for many reasons. First, there is a ton of outside pressure not to be a bridezilla. I don’t love to have all of the attention on me, so I’m not about the “it’s my day philosophy.” That should surprise no one. Also, I think trying so hard to be thrifty, and to simplify, and to have a, well, a practical wedding has taken some of the joy out of it. I’ve been working too hard to minimize the actual wedding, to remind myself that it’s just one day, that it’s really the marriage that matters.

All of that is true. But you know what else is true about this wedding? It’s a kick ass party. It’s a chance to get our far-flung loved ones all together, in the same place, for probably the only time ever. It’s a celebration of joy and light in life, at a time with too much weighing all of us down. It’s a moment that moves us into the next stage, that cements us as a family. Those things are worth being excited about.

Does it matter what centerpieces are on the table? Nope, not to me anyway. But the people, the emotion, the togetherness? Those things matter a hell of a lot. The wedding matters. Being excited about it doesn’t mean selling out. It doesn’t mean that I am suddenly a bridezilla who is focused on the wrong things. It means I appreciate the chance to have a wedding, to have this wedding. So I’m going to stay excited. About getting married, but also about having a great party to celebrate.

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Bouquet Alternatives – Pinwheels

I’m not sure yet what we’ll do about a wedding party. I will definitely have some sort of bridal posse, but as for who will walk down the aisle, that remains to be seen. I do know that I’m not in love with bouquets. I’ve held some beautiful ones at friends’ wedding, but the truth is that flowers are just not high enough on the priority list to make it worth spending a lot of money. I’ve thought about skipping any kind of bouquet altogether, but then Offbeat Bride featured a wedding where everyone carried pinwheels. Pinwheels! They would be perfect for our vision of a casual picnic wedding, and I think they’re so cute!

I did some digging around on the web and found this picture:

I definitely like the look and size of the pinwheels, but I would want something with all solid colors or a more modern print. Like this:

I loooove this pinwheel! It’s so colorful, and I like the look of the shape better than the pointy ones. I think if I did have bridesmaids walk down the aisle, I would have them choose their own dress in a certain color, so having a rainbow pinwheel would bring everyone together nicely.

Obviously, everything will depend on the venue we choose, but for something like a picnic in the park, I think these pinwheels fit much better than traditional flower bouquets.

** 1st picture from www.hurrahpinwheels.com, 2nd from HD Wallpapers

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Weddings and Feminism

There are so many ways that weddings interact and sometimes contradict with feminism, at least my feminism. Starting with the pre-proposal and going all the way through the reception, weddings can embody traditional gender and family roles so completely that it makes my head spin, and, truth be told, can make me super-ragey.

I was prepared for these issues coming into wedding planning. For god’s sake, I’ve been reading A Practical Wedding for two years now. But I wasn’t prepared for what came up this week, already, in my first month of being engaged.

Steve and I worked hard to come up with an ideal date for the wedding. Originally, we had been thinking about October 2012. That would have given us about a 10-month engagement, which I thought was ideal. Then, I started to think about what this fall already looks like. I am a Maid of Honor (for the first time!!) in a wedding in September. Then, the Jewish High Holy Days, which all take place on weekdays, will be happening. By the time we got to October, I will have taken four of my six personal days off from work. I won’t really be able to take off any time for the wedding, and I’ll be trying to get everything together during one of the busiest times of the year. Plus, having the wedding in October would make it extremely difficulty, and probably impossible, for Steve’s family to come from England.

Starting to despair, I searched around for another possible date. And then, miraculously, I found a Sunday in March where my Spring Break and UK Spring Holidays overlapped. Brilliant! Wonderful weather, time off, and the chance for Steve’s family to make it work made this date look beautiful. Plus, it would give us a few extra months to plan and save. I felt really excited when we committed to this date and started telling our families and friends. It was finally real!

Then, at work this week, I got word that my principal had agreed to send a group of us to the national school social work conference next year. This was great news! I have been wanting to present at a national conference and I was planning to apply to this one. It’s in San Diego, where I’ve never been. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.

You probably see where this is going, right? The conference ends the day before the wedding. On the Saturday. My brain searched frantically to try to find a way to make it work, but it is just not going happen. I am heartbroken. I told myself, “But you’re getting married! That should be enough to make you happy! It’s worth missing the conference!”

The truth is, of course it is worth missing the conference for my wedding. But, the wedding is not enough to make me happy. It will make me happy, obviously, but I’m not just a bride. I’m a person, with other interests and other ambitions. As I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t be upset because, come on, I get to have a wedding, I felt squeamish and uncomfortable. Being totally ok with forgoing everything else for the wedding would for sure betray my feminist beliefs. And luckily, my squeamish-ness reminded me that those beliefs are part of my core.

So, I’m allowing myself to be upset about missing the conference. I’m disappointed. I will probably be disappointed and frustrated when my colleagues fly off to San Diego to present on my program that I’ve worked hard to make a success. Being excited about the wedding won’t change that. And it shouldn’t.

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Welcome!

Welcome to my new blogging effort, Big Wedding, Small Budget. As the title suggests, that’s what I’m trying to do. Throw a wedding for approximately 250 people on a budget that is less than half the average.

Some Q & A to explain what we’re doing here:

Q: Are you crazy?

A: I might just be. I guess we’ll find out as time goes on.

Q: Why a big wedding, then?

A: That’s a good one, especially when most wedding “wisdom” (I use that term loosely) tells you to cut the guest list when you’re trying to cut the budget. But the huge guest list is actually my top priority. I have a huge family, and my fiancé and I have a large circle of friends, and they are spread out literally around the world. The opportunity to share this with them and get everyone in the same place is too good to pass up. So, we’re taking it.

Q: Why a small budget?

A: There are many different reasons, but they all boil down to this: A wedding is one day. A big day, an important day, but still just a day. We don’t think we should spend more on a party than we did on our cars.

Q: How the hell are you going to make it happen?

A: Well, I’m not quite sure yet. We just got engaged and all we’ve planned so far is the date. Our basic strategy is to cut out a lot of the traditional “wedding stuff” that we don’t care about and don’t want to pay for. Look out for further posts on my wedding “vision” and philosophy.

Q: What can I expect from this blog?

A: Just like the wedding, it’s a work in progress. I’m planning to use this space to process my thoughts and feelings around wedding planning and resisting the WIC, while also playing with logistics and ideas. That way, my friends won’t start to send me to voicemail when I call!

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