Big Wedding, Small Budget

You’re should-ing all over yourself.

One thing I’ve noticed about the WIC is all of the “should’s.” Having the wedding that you want to have is not quite enough; it’s more important to have the wedding you should have. If you don’t, people will be scandalized, you will offend your guests, you will have big regrets, and worst of all, your wedding will not be The. Best. Day. Ever. What could that lead to but an unhappy, unfulfilling life with your poor, unsuspecting husband?

I’d like to unpack this a little.

I came across an article on the Kn*t called “10 Wedding Questions You Didn’t Know To Ask.” First of all, if I didn’t know to ask it, then it’s probably not that important, right? Wrong. According to this article (and other advice I’ve found), it is extremely important to

  1. Take your veil off at the right time during the reception. Funny, I thought the right time would be whenever you want. Or maybe don’t wear a veil? Or maybe wear it all day. Who cares?
  2. Kiss in the “appropriate” manner at the end of the ceremony. Look—I don’t personally want to see anyone necking up at the chuppah. But I also don’t want to worry about what’s appropriate when I’ve just married the man I love. I’d like to just be present and in the moment. If the kiss is not exactly perfect, oh well. A note—apparently, doing the “dip” is NOT allowed.
  3. Have favors. If you don’t have favors, your guests will definitely think you’re cheap. Also, they will not feel that you’re showing them the appropriate gratitude for showing up to your wedding. Because my guests definitely will be coming to the wedding looking for little photo frames or etched shot glasses. I mean, favors can be fun, if they make you happy. But if not? Skip it. My guests will definitely feel welcome and loved no matter what.
  4. Have a wedding theme. I’ve learned that is it essential to have a theme for your wedding. Everything you do must fit into this theme, including your guest book, colors, stationery, and food. It’s not only the WIC that is guilty of this “should;” I’ve seen it plenty in indie blog-land as well.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes it seems like the whole job of the wedding planning industry is to scare brides into doing something wrong. And I guess it is, because fear is a really good way to convince people to buy stuff. After all, we don’t want to have any regrets, right?

I’m going to disagree with that one. Personally, I don’t think regret is the worst thing in the world. I know we’re all supposed to live without any regrets, but to me that just feels like pressure. The truth is, I have regrets from every stage of my life. There are always things that didn’t work out perfectly, things I would like to have done differently. But that’s life. I’m not perfect. I can accept this regret and move forward without letting it take over my life.

And I’m sure I will regret things about my wedding. Or at least, I would if I was trying to have the perfect day. But I’m not. I’m trying to have a day that reflects us and our life together, which is sometimes messy, complicated, and very rarely perfect. I refuse to be scared of doing things “wrong.” Our wedding will be unique because it will be the only time the two of us will be marrying each other. So why should we be trying to measure it by some external yardstick?

It would be a very bad thing for me to be plagued at the wedding with worries about things being “right” or “perfect.” It would be even worse to spend the next year of planning trying to live up to something I’m not. Instead of worrying about wedding mistakes or wedding do’s and don’ts, I think we should all be focused on being ourselves and planning our own wedding, no matter what that looks like.


Bouquet Alternatives – Paper Flowers

I have been coming across lots of pictures of paper flowers in weddings lately, and some of them have really caught my eye. I probably won’t end up using these, for two reasons: 1) I am maybe the least crafty person alive and 2) Paper flowers probably wouldn’t end up being much cheaper, if at all, if I pay someone to do them. But they’re definitely pretty to look at, and a great idea for a twist on the traditional!


top left, top center, top right, bottom right, bottom center, bottom left


The Guest List

Choosing the venue this weekend definitely made it real. As we took a tour, I could almost picture the wedding actually happening. And one thing that brought up was not just the breadth, but also the depth of our guest list.

I’ve talked before about how this will be a big wedding, in terms of the numbers. I have an enormous family, one where we keep in touch with everyone. Even though we have a relatively small budget, I always knew it was super important to celebrate with our families and friends. That’s just how we do things.

But. In all of the budget talk, and spending diets, and obsessive number crunching, it is easy to lament the big family, the long guest list, the complications that comes with it. With so many people, everything is more expensive. There have been a lot less venues that we could choose from. Wedding weekend events are way harder to figure out (I’m not even tackling that one for a while). And all of those cute DIY ideas? When you multiply them by 250, they just seem like an impossible amount of work.

Then, I wandered around our beautiful venue, picturing all of the people from our guest list there. And, wow. In that moment, I realized how complex and rich our lives are, and how our wedding will reflect that.

We’ll be inviting people from the US, UK, Germany, and Hungary. Our invitations will be traveling as far domestically as Washington, Oregon, Texas, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Chicago. We’ll be inviting friends we have had for decades, as well as some we’ve only known for a couple of years. Our families will (hopefully) be celebrating with us, helping us move into this next phase of our lives. And our community here in Florida will also be there.

This is what a wedding is about, for us. We are so lucky to have such a wide, deep network of connections all around the world. The thought of them all coming together to the same place makes my heart sing. So the wedding will not just be about celebrating where we are going, it will be about celebrating where we have been as well.


Hair Inspiration

I am planning on wearing my hair down at the wedding. The only time I ever wear my hair up in real life is at the gym or when I am too lazy to blow dry it, and I want to look like myself on my wedding day. I know this is another thing that goes against more traditional wedding style, but there it is. If it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, it’s good enough for me!

That said, I think it would be fun to wear a headband of some sort to dress it up a little (and anchor the veil, if I wear one). My hair is super fine and slippery, so I need a real, structured headband, not one of those fabric/ribbon things. Also, the “typical” bridal headbands don’t really appeal to me (big surprise). So, let’s see what’s out there…


I like this headband, although it is probably a little too bridal for me. I do think it’s around the right size, though.


I think this headband takes the “normal” bridal style and plays with it a bit. I’m afraid the metal would be too slippery or uncomfortable, though.


This is my favorite one so far. I love the idea of wearing color; my jewelry will probably be colorful, too. I’m just not sure I can accept the embellishment on the side of my head. It feels too much like all the headbands I wore in the 80s.


I love this, although the color of the metal is wrong. Is it too big? I guess it depends on the dress and the jewelry.

So far, I haven’t found anything that is just right, although this is a start. I know I won’t be picking anything out until I find my dress and my jewelry, but of course, it’s always fun to look!


The Venue Search is over!

Yes, you heard right. We officially have a venue! I took my parents out to see the top contender this past weekend, and once they agreed that it was a great place, I knew it was time to pay the deposit and sign the contract. Whew! I felt excited and anxious all at the same time. It was a little overwhelming, to tell you the truth.

We ultimately picked the place I had talked about on the blog before. It is a little pricey for our budget but the pros ultimately outweighed the cons. To recap:


  • The venue is in the middle of nowhere. It’s a full hour from our house. There is no (or hardly any) cell phone reception, at least on Sprint or T-Mobile. And I’m not sure if there are any hotels anywhere nearby.
  • As I mentioned above, it’s pricey.
  • It’s a mostly-service venue. In that, this will really be a DIY wedding. We’ll be renting the tables and chairs through them, and everything else will be done on our own. So, a little more to coordinate/actually do ourselves.


  • It is absolutely beautiful. Big grassy lawns, gorgeous landscaping, on the water. It will make for great pictures and atmosphere, but more importantly, I won’t have to worry about decorating.
  • There is a ton of space and we have total control over it. The venue will set up tables wherever we want, and we have our choice of ceremony location. There is no shortage of space for lawn games/wandering around. The kids will have plenty of room to play.
  • It comes with a built in sound system equipped for an mp3 player/laptop. One more thing to check off the list.
  • With two days’ notice, we can order an emergency tent. Hopefully, we won’t need to. Fingers crossed!
  • It is an independent family owned (for three generations!) business, and it has character.
  • It 100% fits the atmosphere and vision we have for the wedding. It is perfect for a laid-back, casual picnic.

So! The wedding is actually happening! Wow.

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Making Wedding Spending Meaningful

I’ve talked about money and budget a lot on the blog recently. Or maybe not…maybe I just think about a lot. Anyway, that is reflective of where we are in wedding planning right now. We’re almost ready to book the venue and caterer (stay tuned!), and to look for a photographer. I crunch the wedding budget numbers All. The. Time (more later on how I’m beating that back!).

Recently, there was a post on the Offbeat Bride Tribe regarding feeling conflicted about wedding spending. I stopped reading the thread when I realized that most of the writers have much smaller budgets than we do. Now, I know that this blog is all about throwing a wedding on a budget. And we are. But a large guest list is a large guest list; there’s just no way around that.

Even with our aimed-for budget being considerably lower than the national average (and our guest list higher), we are spending what feels like a lot of money. More money than I’ve ever spent all at once on just one thing. So I totally understand why the tribe members had conflicted feelings. I do to.

What could I do with the money we are spending on this wedding? I could pay off my car with less. I could take my dream trip to Africa for less. Oh wait—I could do both of those things with our wedding budget. I could be extremely charitable and help people who have actual needs, like food and shelter, rather than my want of throwing a big party.

But. Weddings are important. It’s really important to me to have the people I love in one place, celebrating. So, spend the money we shall. But not blindly.

Meg pointed out this truth over on APW: your wedding is probably the only chance you will ever have to put so much money into the local economy, and to dictate how it is spent. The money we spend on our wedding will not be just thrown away on “one day.” It will provide us with a really great day, an important day, a day to remember. But more than that, we are choosing to spend our money (for the most part) on local businesses that we believe in.

So, my engagement ring? Found on That expensive venue I’ve talked about? It’s a farm built by the current owner’s grandfather. Our caterer? The owner of a small, local Italian restaurant where we had our first date (True story: the next night, my parents ate there and got the total scoop from the servers!). Our invitations? Hopefully designed by an independent artist.

When I remind myself of the way that our spending reflects our values, I feel better. When I remind myself that we are using the wedding to support independent, smaller businesses, I feel great. The truth is, in this economy, even our small wedding budget can mean something.

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Bridal Boundaries

People told me that planning a wedding was like having a second job. Not me, I thought. First of all, I already have a second job. Secondly, we’re planning a simple, laid-back wedding. Shouldn’t that mean simple, laid-back planning?

In a word, no. In the past month or so, I have learned that planning a wedding, especially a big wedding, especially a budget wedding, is a complicated business. There are so many pieces of the puzzle to fit together, so many things to juggle, and so many decisions to make.

And there are also so many things to look at. So many pretty, sparkly things! So many centerpieces! So many venues! So many dresses! And then, even more dresses!

It’s been really easy to spend all of my time wedding planning. Some of it legitimately needs to be done, like researching venues and caterers. Those decisions need to be made soon. But do I really need to spend hours upon hours looking at wedding dresses online? I hope not. And do I really need to crunch the numbers over and over again? Not when I find myself running those same numbers while I am trying to fall asleep at night.

Instead of my normal time wasters like playing Zelda, I am endlessly thinking about wedding plans, looking at different options, and creating (and re-creating) to do lists. It is so easy to get sucked in, because there is just so much out there. The problem is that otherwise I would be playing video games, or reading, or taking walks. Those activities are actually productive. They help relax me. Diving into the wedding world (even when it is the indie wedding world) just stresses me out in the long run. It gives me decision fatigue before I even start making decisions.

Pretty things are fun to look at, and it is fun to think about what the wedding day will be like. But before long, all of the different options run together and I start to feel like I don’t really love anything, like no option is the right one for me. So, I need to start setting some wedding-planning boundaries. No more looking at dresses until I have secured the venue and caterer (hopefully soon!). I will have to choose some days where I just don’t look at anything for the wedding. And once I get over this initial hump (venue, caterer, hotel block, save the dates, photographer), I plan to take a wedding-planning vacation.

What will I do with myself? I don’t know, but what I do know is my brain could use a rest.

How do you draw boundaries for yourself when you’re engaged in total planning obsession?

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The fun, festive world of bridal magazines.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with women’s magazines. Makeup? Fun. Trashy celebrity stories? Sign me up. The eternal focus on pleasing men? Ummmm…what? The never-ending efforts to make you feel like you must fit into the same, bland box as everyone else? No thanks. So maybe more hate than love, then. I’ll stick with my Mother Jones and Rolling Stone.

Bridal magazines are sort of a different story, though. They’ve always appealed to that “bride” side of me. The part that loved thinking about weddings, even when I was single. I loved looking through those magazines with my engaged friends, but I would never let myself buy them. Not until I was actually engaged.

So, it felt like a victory of sorts when I could actually buy them! I am finally engaged! Someone actually wants to me marry me! And now, I get to telegraph it to the world by going up to the cash register with actual BRIDAL magazines. Maybe they’ll even ask me if I’m getting married! Yes!

Side story: the victory was short lived when, at the cash register with my fianci-daughter Emily* buying them for the first time, the cashier assumed that we were picking them up so Emily could plan her future wedding. What?? She’s only nine. Kill me now.

Anyway, the truth is that when it comes to Modern Bride, and Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides Florida (the list goes on and on), I have much more love than hate. For some reason, it’s a lot easier to laugh at the ridiculous expectations and gender stereotypes of the WIC than of society in general (a fine line, I know, but stay with me here). Maybe it’s because I’m more confident in offbeat choices for my wedding than offbeat choices for my life. Maybe it’s because, at least online, there is a lot more support for planning a wedding outside the lines than planning a similar life (but thank you, Reclaiming Wife, Offbeat Home, and Offbeat Mama!).

With all that said, there is still plenty to hate in the world of bridal magazines. I present to you some examples**. Feel free to laugh, shake your head, get all ragey, read a feminist blog, or have whatever reaction you deem appropriate.

From The Knot:

“For the past few seasons, it’s been all about bright nails, from classic reds to purples and even greens, which we’ve loved—just not for weddings. (Green doesn’t exactly scream “bridal,” if you know what we mean.)” –Because there is definitely just one way to look “bridal” and that is with pale pink or nude nail polish. I love pink nail polish as much as anyone, but on my wedding day, I can tell you I will probably be matching my nails to whatever colorful necklace I’m wearing. Or maybe I’ll just be too lazy to do them at all (the horror!).

“The knot destination wedding guide” Phuket Thailand. “Wed at Amanpuri on the beach or in one of the luxe villas (they can pull of a Buddhist ceremony if you want that local flair.)” –Cultural appropriation for the win! Don’t have a Buddhist ceremony because you are a Buddhist. Why have a ceremony that reflects your beliefs at all when you can just make it part of your wedding theme?

From Brides:

“Rate your MOH: rock star or reject?” –Let’s all judge our best friends against each other! And, if we want to complain about the most special people in our lives, let’s do it in a national print magazine! Fun!

“5 awesome engagement moments: 1) Telling your family. 2) Hearing him introduce you as his fiancée. 3) Trying on your first gown. 4) Asking your BFF to be your MOH. 5) Realizing that right now, is really is all about you.” –Let me state for the record: Numbers 1 and 2 were pretty effing awesome, I have to say. And I expect number 3 to be, hopefully, fun. As for number 4–I don’t plan on having a maid of honor but I did enjoy getting asked to be one, so I can get behind that. But then I got to number 5. Oh, Brides, you were so close. But is it really all about me? For the next 14 months? Wow. I mean, it’s not like there is another person participating in this wedding or anything. And oh yeah—it’s not like I actually have a life to live outside of planning my nuptials. Right. Sorry, I forgot. I’m not a person, just a bride.

So, commenters! Friends and family! I am the bride, a magical, mystical creature and the center of the universe! Share your adoration of me!

On second thought, please don’t. That would be really, really awkward.

*In case it’s not clear, Emily is my future stepdaughter. We both though it was just a lot more fun to use this phrase.

**Don’t worry—there are always more! Look for them in a future post when I’m feeling snarky.