Big Wedding, Small Budget

Perfection

I saw The Five Year Engagement this weekend with some friends. Quick review: the first half was awesome. Then it all fell apart badly.

Anyway, one of the concepts in the movie is that this couple is sort of waiting to iron out all of their problems before they get married. And that started me thinking about how afraid people are of divorce (me included) and the unrealistic expectations we tend to have about relationships and marriage. Let’s unpack this further.

I know for me, and in talking to my friends as we grew up, it felt really important to choose the right person to marry, to be absolutely sure. It’s a lot of pressure, to be honest. I think divorce is much more of a reality for us then for our parents, even those of us who grew up around happy marriages. There’s this almost magical thinking inherent in this concept. Choosing the right person is the best way to ward off divorce. But is it, really? I believe that way of thinking misses so much. I mean, we all grow and change throughout our lives. The person I am now, although maybe the same deep down, is still pretty different than when I was 20. Who knows what I will be like, what I’ll want and need, when I’m 50? I certainly can’t say. And that’s nothing to say of external factors that can easily make a relationship harder, if not ruin it completely.

But that truth is hard to face. It’s really scary to feel that no matter how secure you are in your relationship, things could always change down the road. So I think it’s easier to just believe that if you pick the right person, you’ll be ok. It’s a pretty effective way to ward off the fear.

Ok, let’s set aside this issue of finding The One Right Person (which, for the record, I don’t believe in anyway) for the moment. The other thing that stuck out to me during the movie was the trap of unrealistic expectations that the couple fell into and that I think most of us fall for at one point or another.

The stories we grow up with teach us about Great Romance. They teach us that your soul mate is out there, and when you find them, you will have a beautiful and easy relationship with no bumps in the road, no problems, no moments of not being able to stand the other person. Then we grow up a little bit and graduate to romantic comedies. Sure, there is some conflict, some reason for the couple to have difficulties. But that all ends when they make the decision to be together and get married. Then, it’s happily ever after.

Except it’s not. Except relationships are messy and inconsistent. Except that even when you love someone, sometimes you just don’t see eye-to-eye. This warped view of relationships leads us to search for something that doesn’t actually exist. No two people can get along perfectly all of the time. No two people can just be together all of the time without needing some space. No two people can be in love without having any conflict. People aren’t perfect, and neither are the relationships they get themselves into.

The problems really start when you combine that pressure of having the exact right person for you with the unrealistic expectations of what a good relationship will look like. Then, the moment that things get difficult, the obvious conclusion is that it’s not the right person. So, you break up. Or, you keep dating, putting off marriage until you figure everything out. But then, how can you ever get married?

I think we need to start talking about the hard stuff. We need to be honest with ourselves and with the people we know about our relationships. Now, I’m not suggesting that we share private details with everyone we know. I’m suggesting that we stop pretending that everything is perfect. We stop trying to present a front and make people think we have the perfect relationship. If we can be honest with each other, we can find the support and advice that gets us through the hard times instead of going it alone. And that can only make our relationships better.

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Dessert Options – Wedding Cakes

A word of warning—I’m not sure that we will have a wedding cake. I personally don’t care that much about that particular tradition, and cake is not my favorite dessert. But—I did love to check out the wedding cakes in Little Italy as a little girl. And after going to a few bridal shows and reading more than a few wedding magazines, I’ve learned that there are some really pretty cakes out there. Check these out (I’ve made the pics a little bigger than normal so you can see the detail):

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Yes, that is actually a cake. This is obviously something I would never choose (at least, I hope it’s obvious), but I just had to show it here. It is totally ridiculous. And, once you start cutting into it, a little morbid, right?

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The “uneven” cake is kind of trendy right now, but I’m not a huge fan. I think I like things to be more orderly than that.

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I think hand painted cakes are really pretty, and the work is amazing. I love this one because it reminds me of the Tiffany windows at the Met. But it’s definitely too ornate for our shindig.

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This cake is on the plain side, but it’s moving in the right direction. I think it’s simple and really pretty, and it seems like it would fit in well with our picnic wedding.

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I think this cake is really cute and fun while still being on the simple side. It definitely seems like a party kind of cake, if that makes sense. Plus, I love that it’s colorful.

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I think this cake is so fun! I love that it’s not white, and I just adore the stars. Definitely filing this one away for inspiration.

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This cake is absolutely amazing. I LOVE it . It’s so colorful without being over-the-top, and it’s just beautiful.

Last but not least….there are a lot of Super Mario Bros cakes out there, but this one is my favorite. I had to include it just for fun. The picture is bigger because there is a lot to see…ENJOY!

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Wedding Takeover

When our engagement started, I was determined not to let wedding planning take over. I mean, with such a long engagement, surely there would be plenty of time to get everything done, especially during the summer. What I missed was that it’s not just about the wedding taking over my to-do list; it’s about the wedding hijacking my brain space as well.

It’s really hard not to define everything by the wedding. That pair of shoes I’m coveting? Well, that money could go toward the awesome guest book I want. That trip I’m hoping to take? Well, maybe I should save the miles so we can go on a honeymoon.

Before I called to schedule a haircut this week, I mapped out all of my hair appointments until the wedding to make sure my bangs would be the right length. Seriously. That’s how far gone I am into Wedding World.

The wedding has become a lens through which I see everything. Life events. Family issues. Friends’ happy (and sad) news. And I’m not sure that I’m really comfortable with that. Even though engagement is a fun time, and an important one, I’m not sure I want this to be The Year of Planning my Wedding. The wedding is on March 24, 2013. It lasts for one day, not 14 months. It’s great to have something so big to look forward to, but it’s not the only thing to look forward to.

The WIC tells me, “This is your special time.” According to the WIC, it should be all about me. But I can think of so many other “special times” in my life. The summer before college. The month I spent backpacking around Europe. The last summer of grad school. Life didn’t become all about me for everyone at those points, so why now?

Look, I know getting married is a big deal. I’m not trying to diminish its importance. And I am really excited for the weeding. I know I will be spending a lot of time working on it this year. But I also want to be experiencing my life, my family’s life, my friends’ life not as a Bride, but as me.

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Fruit Centerpieces

I’m continuing my exploration of flower alternatives by looking at centerpieces made of fruit. I’m not sure these would really be any cheaper than flowers, but they seem more economical, since I guess you could eat the fruit (right?). I also love their simplicity, and I love how they still feel natural and organic, especially for outdoor wedding. Fruit is pretty, and smells nice, and tastes good. It makes me happy. So, let’s see what’s out there!

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Why Get Married?

My dress came in last week! I went to the store and tried it on, and now it’s sitting in the closet in our guest bedroom. And all of the sudden, it is all so much more real. I’m getting married. By this time, next year, I will be a married woman.

As you might expect, this brought up some questions and introspection for me. Specifically, why get married? I’ve talked on the blog before about the reasons for having a wedding. But have a wedding and getting married are not the same thing. So, beyond the party, beyond the family and friends witnessing the commitment and celebrating together, why do it at all?

I think people around the globe are starting the ask themselves the same question, as marriage as a standard expectation evolves. Marriage rates are down in huge swaths of the US population, as well as across the UK and Europe. People are entering into serious, long term commitments, living together and having children, without ever getting married. Some are uncomfortable with the privilege of marriage that is not afforded to same-sex couples. Some point to high divorce rates as a sign that marriage is not necessary. Some believe that getting married will actually harm their relationship—why fix what isn’t broken? And some just don’t see the purpose. As the western world becomes more secular, the requirements of being married to, well, be together (wink, wink) have receded. It is possible now to move forward with life and your relationship without getting married at all.

So, what’s the point? And why has getting married been important to me personally?

Steve and I have been together for three and a half years. We’ve lived together for two of those years, in the suburbs, in a house with a pool that Steve owns, with our dog and two cats and Emily, when she is with us. We are settled. We are committed. We have a full, strong domestic life.

It’s not that something is missing. It’s not that our relationship is not official, or not sanctioned. It’s more that getting married will add something that isn’t there yet. Making that commitment, making promises to each other in front of witnesses, making that legal commitment to our baby family will change something. I think it will make us something that we weren’t before.

Look, I can’t comment on anyone else’s relationship. Others may have the same gravitas with or without the marriage vows. But I’ve always valued formal, concrete delineations of relationships and expectations. I like things to be clearly stated. And it doesn’t get more clear than standing next to your partner, promising to be a team, a unit, and a family. Taking a part of each of yourselves and putting them together into something new, making a marriage.

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Wedding Blog Ridiculousness – Hunger Games Edition

There has been a new kind of wedding circulating around the blogosphere. A Hunger Games themed wedding. WTF?!?!

I refuse to link it, because it is too ridiculous. So, let me tell you what is involved. And let me warn you, my true nerd self will be coming out in this post.

Hunger Games weddings apparently include “a gloomy, yet pretty edge.” The bride must have braided hair, and touches of arrows here and there help. Rustic chic is the order of the day. And it never hurts if you can include the mockingjay symbol in your wedding décor.

I have so many problems with this. Cue head exploding! Let’s see if we can unpack this.

First, for those who have not read the books, The Hunger Games is not fun young adult fiction with a rough edge, like the later Harry Potters. It is a vision of a dark, dystopian future in which America has turned into an oppressive dictatorship. Large parts of the country are starving to death, literally. Children (yes, children) are forced by the government to battle each other TO THE DEATH in a yearly reality show. Let me repeat. Children are forced to kill each other while the populace watches and celebrates.

I mean, if that doesn’t bring to mind the perfect wedding, what does? Right? RIGHT?

The first Hunger Games themed wedding shoot I came across was a hypothetical Katniss and Peeta wedding. I won’t spoil the later books, but for those of you who have read all three, you know what the problems are with this.

I hope we can all agree that a Hunger Games themed wedding is ridiculous. But really, there are some deeper problems to unpack.

One thing that struck me was how superficial this is. These blogs encourage choosing a Hunger Games theme for your wedding simply because it is trendy, not because the books spoke to you or have become part of your relationship. The truth is, if that was the case, you would probably not want this kind of wedding for the reasons stated above. The Hunger Games wedding had lots of cutesy details with no meaning, disregarding the fact that the book is about oppressed people and just trying to squeeze pretty details out of it. Let’s ignore the social commentary and people starving to death, and figure out how to make it pretty.

Does that remind you of anyone???? The Capitol, perhaps?

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Jewelry Ideas – Necklaces

I love jewelry. I definitely get way more excited about shopping for necklaces and earrings than I do for clothes. Jewelry is just so pretty! And you can get so much use out of it.

So, of course I have been really excited about buying jewelry for the wedding. This is one area where I am planning on “splurging” (within budget, of course). What should be surprising to no one is that I’m not planning on going with traditional “bridal jewelry.” I’m looking for colorful, interesting, hopefully handmade jewelry, at least for my statement piece (not sure yet if that will be the necklace or earrings). I can rationalize spending extra money when that money goes to artisans and the jewelry will be worn again. I really look forward to wearing my bridal jewelry, enjoying it and remembering the wedding for years to come whenever I put it on.

Let’s start with necklaces. I’ve been looking around and I’ve definitely found some contenders:

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I really like this necklace. It has different shades of blue, which is one of the colors I’m considering for the bridal party. It’s a little industrial looking, which I like. Also, it’s made of tagua, which is my new obsession. Tagua is known as “Amazonian ivory;” it’s a palm seed from the amazon which can be dyed with vegetable dyes and carved. It’s sustainable and helps support local artisans.

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This necklace goes in a totally different direction. Steve loves dragonflies and we have lots of dragonfly stuff in our house, so it has meaning that way. And I just think it’s really pretty. It’s not really bold enough for wedding, though, if I decide to make the necklace my statement piece. But I could pair it with big earrings and it wouldn’t be too much, so it’s a good option for that kind of look.

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I love how this necklace is multicolored. It means I can choose shoes without worrying about matching exactly (you didn’t think I’d be wearing white shoes, did you?). Living in Florida means we’re never too far from the ocean and I like how this necklace connects to that (it’s made of sea glass). But it might be a little too dainty for what I’m looking for. Like the necklace above, it would probably work better with bigger earrings.

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Last but not least (for now), is this unusual necklace. I love this one so much; I might have to buy it even if it’s not for the wedding. This is from an Etsy seller who made another necklace I already own (and get a ton of compliments on). I love how different it is, and I really like the colors. I’m just not sure it’s the right shape for my dress; I might be looking for something wider, more horizontally shaped. But the great thing about Etsy is that I can speak to the artist about creating a custom piece, so that’s always an option.

I don’t know that I’ll end up with any of these specific pieces. But they’ve definitely given me a ton of ideas, and window shopping for jewelry, even on the internet, is super fun. I think, just like the dress, when I find the right piece, I’ll know. For now, it’s just fun to look!

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Creating a Community

I remember when my friend Ilana got married. The cantor talked during the Ketubah signing about how we were all there, witnessing, singing, and creating a community. And her wedding really felt like that, especially since the bridal party stayed at the estate where it was held for the weekend, hanging out with each other and with both families. I remember feeling sad to say goodbye at the end of it, not just to my best friends but to family members that I had never met before.

When my friend Candice got married, she and her husband rented a huge house in Bar Harbor for friends to stay in with them for the week. Even though I had just started a new job and couldn’t join them until the last few days, I was immediately welcomed in by her friend, who drove an hour and a half to pick me up at the airport and promptly took me out for lobster and to get my eyebrows done. I didn’t really know anyone very well at that wedding, but we all hung out together and it also really felt like a community.

This is what I really want for our wedding. We will not have a huge house on property or a beautiful estate for everyone to stay in. People will be spread out since there are no hotels really close by. Guests will be coming from far away; most of the guest list is out of state. But on the day, I hope everyone comes together. I hope everyone joins together for the hora, for lunch, for lawn games. But this is challenging. As I’ve mentioned before, we have a large guest list. So things like introductions or a ring-warming ceremony are not practical. So, how do we create a sense of community?

This actually isn’t something I’m even worried about because it is already happening. This blog is making it happen, which is an unexpected joy. I have gotten such an outpouring of support from the blog posts, not just from people reading, but from people mentioning how much they like it, giving suggestions, helping out. It really makes me feel like we are already supported by a community who is excited for our wedding. It already feels like people are coming together. Living so far away from most of our loved ones has made it difficult to share the wedding with them, but this blog has done it.

One last anecdote: I remember my brother Steven’s bar mitzvah. I looked around the room and realized how many people were there that I loved and who loved my family. It felt like being wrapped up in a warm blanket. Feeling that on my wedding day will add tremendously to the joy of marrying my partner; it wouldn’t be the same without it.

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Searching for a Photographer

As one of my big wedding projects for the spring, I’ve started searching online for wedding photographers. Luckily, there are a lot to choose from. Looking through them all has left me many times with too many tabs open in my browser, too many ideas running through my head, and the feeling of being totally overwhelmed. So I think it’s important to really think about what I’m looking for in a photographer as I’m doing the search. The more I can rule out immediately, the better.

Ok, so what am I looking for in a photographer? These are my priorities:

  • Price—As with everything else in this wedding, we’re working with a pretty strict budget. Before I even look at the galleries, I’m looking for a price. There is no reason to fall in love with a photographer I can’t afford. Now, the only time this really becomes a problem is when prices aren’t listed. Generally, I’ve assumed that those photographers are just too expensive, but there have been a few that I’ve emailed for more information.
  • Type of photos—Although we’ll definitely be doing some formal poses, the pictures I’m most interested in are the candids. I’m not looking for a photographer to document how beautiful I look, or how nice my shoes appear against a background of flowers. I’m looking for someone to capture the feeling of the day, the joy and community that we are hoping to create. I want someone to document the fun, the love. So if a photographer shows nothing but detail pictures on their site, they’re probably not a great fit for me. Also, I’m a little picky in that I don’t like all of the special effects added to pictures. I want simple, beautiful photos that stand on their own.
  • Photography package—We’re not looking for anything fancy in our photography package. We’ll make the albums ourselves, and while prints might be nice, they are not necessary or even preferred. What’s most important is having a photographer for enough time to get everything. I’m also hoping for an assistant or second photographer, since it will be such a big wedding. And one of the most important parts of the package, one of the non-negotiables, is to have the digital, high-res proofs with printing rights. That way, we can print the photos we want, make albums or photo booths, and gift photos to our families. Fortunately, this seems to be pretty standard now.
  • Personality—We’ll be spending all day with our photographer. They will get to know our family and friends. They will be with us while we’re getting ready and when we see each for the first time on that day. They’ll capture intimate and important moments. The photographer’s personality is extremely important. I’ve tried to glean what I can from bios on websites, but this is something we won’t really know until we start meeting with people. But we’ll be looking for that click.

My current plan is do exhaustive research online (luckily, this is one of my skills) and try to narrow down the list to two or three favorites. I’m not interested in spending a great deal of time meeting with people, and I think too many meetings can cloud the picture. I’m hoping that, like so many other things in this wedding planning process, when we find the right one, we’ll just know.

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