Big Wedding, Small Budget

Elegance is Overrated

Common wedding planning advice says that you should try to think of a couple of words that describe the wedding you would like to have, as a sort of guide going forward. Typical words I’ve heard brides say are “elegant,” “classic,” or “timeless.” And that makes sense right? I mean, that definitely describes that pictures you see in bridal magazines or on blogs. That’s what we all should be aiming for, right?

Screw that. The truth is, Steve and I are not especially elegant or classic people. And if we tried to have an elegant wedding, that would just be buying into the aspirational crap that surrounds wedding planning (and marriage and family) in general. I’ve talked before on this blog about wanting to have an honest wedding. I want a wedding that feels like a party we would throw, just maybe more special. And I don’t care at all about it being timeless. Who has not had a great time looking at a making fun of their parents’ wedding pictures? (Sorry mom and dad, but the 70s was, well, the 70s after all.) If I look at the pictures in 50 years and laugh about how weird we all looked in 2012, that would be great!

I want my wedding to be fun, comfortable, relaxed, informal. Those are the words that we’re using as a guiding vision in planning. Coincidentally enough (or maybe not), they are the same words I use to describe our home. When people come over and tell us we have a beautiful house, that’s a nice compliment. But when someone says that it’s a warm, friendly, cozy house, I think, “That’s it!” That’s exactly what we were going for. In the same way, I hope people leave our wedding saying it was warm, friendly, and fun. Not just beautiful.

And I’ll tell you what, I can almost guarantee that no one will walk away talking about how elegant it was. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Honeymoon Dreams

Now that the save-the-dates have gone out, I’m in a little bit of a planning lull. There is nothing really big that needs to get done right now, and I’m waiting for Emily to get here to do some of the smaller things. I know I should enjoy this time because later on, things will be totally crazy. But of course, I can’t get the wedding completely out of my mind. Now that I’m on summer break, I find myself thinking more and more about honeymoons.

Just like our wedding, our honeymoon will not be, exactly, normal. Having a budget wedding means having a budget honeymoon, too, and I’m not really sure what our financial situation will be like at that point. Also, our honeymoon won’t be taking place right after we get married; Steve’s family will be in town, and the first Seder is literally the day after our wedding. Most likely, if we do take a honeymoon, it won’t be until the summer when I’m not working.

Steve and I haven’t even really begun to talk about what we want for a honeymoon. There are just some of the ideas rolling around in my head (especially on rainy days like this one):

  • Tulum, Mexico: I visited the ruins in Tulum on a cruise many years ago and they were beautiful. I know the town is starting to become a popular place for tourists to stay, not just to visit on a day trip. It’s definitely quieter and more off the beaten path than Cancun or Cozumel, which I like, and I think it’s pretty affordable.
  • Costa Rica: I know a bunch of people who have gone to Costa Rica and everyone loves it. I know it’s not too expensive, although I think the prices are rising with the popularity. I like the mix of adventure-y things and relaxing; I think that would be a good fit for us.
  • Nicaragua: This is more off the beaten path than Costa Rica right now, although it is just starting to become popular with American tourists. It has much of the same attraction as Costa Rica, but I think it would be even cheaper since it’s less developed and more of a new destination. I’ve heard the beaches are beautiful, and I’ve read online about people renting some pretty excellent vacation villas, which would be fun.
  • Spain: Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Spain. When I’m thinking about trips we could combine with visiting Steve’s family, this is the first one that pops us. It would be amazing to show Steve where I studied abroad and all of my favorite places. Galicia would be an especially romantic destination, I think. But I really want to honeymoon someplace that neither of us has ever been before.
  • Ireland: Ireland would be pretty easy to combine with a trip to England. And neither of us has been before. I think it would be really beautiful, and a nice break from the heat in summer.

So, those are the places I’m thinking about right now. Like I said, who knows if any of them will actually happen? There is so much to plan before we even get to the honeymoon. But it’s always nice to daydream, and travel is always my daydream of choice.

Any other recommendations?

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The other night, I got a call from the University of Texas (where I got my Masters) asking me to donate money for scholarships for social work students. While I was figuring out how to say no in a nice way, as I usually do, I surprised myself and said yes instead. After I hung up I realized that since getting engaged, I have been much more willing to donate when asked (and even when not asked).

This seemed counterintuitive at first. I mean, I’ve been pinching pennies since January in order to help pay for the wedding. I’ve cut out a huge portion of my more frivolous spending. I’ve bought new clothes exactly once. I haven’t bought a full-price book in six months (a minor miracle, for those who know me). I’ve been way more of a tightwad than normal, and that’s really saying something. So why am I, all of the sudden, so much more willing to give away money?

I think it stems from an awareness of just how much money we are spending on this wedding. Obviously, as you can see from the title of this blog, we’re trying to keep costs low. But we’re not normally big spenders, so even our modest budget feels big. I’ve been able to rationalize it, at least partially, by spending our wedding budget in a responsible, constructive way. But that awareness remains, in the back of my head, especially when I’m asked to give money to a good cause. My first instinct is always to remind myself that I’m saving everything I can for the wedding. But then, another voice pipes up. That voice reminds me that if I can afford to spend so much on a wedding, then surely I can afford to give a little bit away.

It’s not guilt, exactly. It’s more like a realization of how privileged I am to be able to spend money on a wedding, invite whomever I want, agonize over it, and give up buying clothes in order to pay for it. First world problems, much?

The thing is, I’m not any more privileged than usual. I didn’t take on an extra job for more money, I’m just redistributing money I pretty much always have. The money I’ll be spending on the wedding would just be spent on something else if I wasn’t getting married. And if I can afford to spend that amount of money on clothes, books, and eating out, then surely I can afford to give some of it away.

Being a social worker means that I have always been hyper-aware of my status in the world, of my privilege, and of the extras I am lucky enough to have. I’ve always felt fortunate, but that hasn’t always translated into being as generous as I should be. It has taken this wedding to flip that particular switch, but it is a lesson I plan to carry with me for all of the years to come.

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Plugging Away

Things have gotten done! Wedding planning is moving forward! Here’s what we’ve accomplished since the last update:

  • The guest list has been finalized! And is totally out of control! But I love it, and I’m so excited for all (or hopefully, most) of those people to celebrate with us.
  • The hotel has been chosen and the block discount has been set up. And I definitely feel good about our choice, even after the internal conflicts.
  • The website is finished, for now. More information will definitely be added once it gets closer to the wedding.
  • Save-the-dates are out! At least, the first round. I’ll have to follow up with some people who have not opened theirs yet, and a few need them snail-mailed, but for the most part, they’re done.

There are some things I’m super excited about doing but holding off for a little bit (mostly to wait until Emily is here):

  • Registry: I started a small one but have to go back to the store to finish it. Even though I have some mixed feelings about registering, actually doing it combines two of my favorite things: window shopping and list making. What could be better? I really don’t need any wedding presents (just having people come is more than enough), but just making the registry will be fun.
  • Veil: I’m planning to figure out the veil this summer, possibly using my mom’s, or possibly making my own (gasp). It could end up being my one crafty project for the wedding. I definitely want to include Emily, so I’m waiting until she is here in just a few short weeks(!).

So, after a long time with nothing happening, it’s been a productive and action-packed month. Of course there is a lot more to do this summer, but why bother listing the things I’m not excited about? I plan to focus as much as I can on the fun stuff to make this process as enjoyable as possible.

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Flower Bouquets

As I’ve said before, I’m not planning on doing flowers. They’re not really my thing, so I’m loathe to fit them into my budget. The truth is, though, flowers are pretty. And of course, you can’t spend as much as I have perusing wedding stuff on the web without coming across some really beautiful bouquets. So, for your viewing pleasure…

Top left, top center, top right

Bottom left, bottom center, bottom right


School Year Wrap Up

Well, another school year has ended and I am on my much longed-for summer vacation. Of course, I have a long to-do list for the wedding (including those ever-elusive save the dates). But don’t worry—I’m planning lots of fun stuff too.

I’ve been thinking lately about bridal “identity” and about how getting married is really seen as an accomplishment for women in our culture. There is a message that’s sent, I think, that says if you have snagged a man and gotten him to propose, then you have checked off the most important thing on a young woman’s to-do list. I mean, that’s what our twenties are supposed to be all about, right?

To tell you the truth, I haven’t really struggled with this very much. I think I just so don’t buy into it all that it’s easy to dismiss. Also, it helps that I have had a really successful school year. In reality, when I look back at my successes over the past ten months, I think more about presenting at a conference for the first time, being a commencement speaker, and winning my first professional award. Those are successes. Getting engaged is something great that happened, sure, but it’s not an accomplishment.

This was driven home while I was talking to one of my coworkers at an end of the year lunch. Without knowing I was engaged, she asked if I was getting married this summer (umm…what?). When I responded that no, I was getting married next March, she actually said, “Good job!” and high-fived me. Look, it’s nice that she is happy for me, but it’s also important to note that she wasn’t as enthusiastic (nor was anyone at work) when the principal announced at a different staff meeting that I was commencement speaker. This is not a family member or a friend. This is someone at my job, where I actually did have success this year.

I’m glad that I was raised to value myself as a total human being, not just as a girlfriend, wife, or fiancée. Even if I hadn’t gotten engaged, even if I was still single, this would have been an incredibly successful year. Focusing only on my relationship would discount the hard work I put in to my career and the things I’ve gained from it this year. Believe me; I’ll turn all the focus onto my relationship on the wedding day. But the other 364 days of the year belong to my life as a whole, and to me as a whole person living it.


Hotel Room Blocks, or How to Learn to Treat your Guests like Adults

Over the past week, my mom and I (well, mostly my mom) have been working on securing the blocks for hotels rooms for our out of town guests. This is an important step, because most of our guest list is from out of town and I don’t want to send save-the-dates until the blocks have been secured. Like everything else with the wedding, the process has been more complicated than I expected.

Here’s the thing. Our wedding, as I’ve mentioned before, is at a venue that is about an hour away from us. The fact that we’re getting married on a farm in a National Forest means we will have a lovely, organic setting. It also means that there are no hotels close by. None. The nearest hotels are about 25 minutes away, but that makes them pretty far from our house/neighborhood, where any other wedding events (TBD) will be taking place, and even further away from the theme parks, for those guests who want to visit them. Also, the two hotels near the venue are nothing to write home about, trust me.

So, we moved on to looking for hotels in Altamonte Springs, where we live. These are close to our house, and about halfway between the venue and the theme parks. We narrowed it down to two, and then found out that one (the one I liked best) was just charging more than we were comfortable with. We thought about getting two blocks, one at the more upscale choice, and one at a more mid-range hotel. But I don’t want two blocks; it’s too complicated and I like the idea of everyone staying in the same place. So, it looks like we will be going for the less-upscale (but still very nice) hotel.

And I’ve been second guessing myself. What if people want a nicer hotel than the one we are offering (Again, the hotel we picked is very nice)? What if they don’t want to make the long drive to the venue after flying/driving all the way into Orlando for the wedding?

Then, I remembered some great advice from A Practical Wedding. Wedding guests are grown-ups. Or if they’re not (many of ours are not), they are at least attached to grown-ups. They can make their own decisions. If they want to stay somewhere else, they are welcome to use a different hotel. Our block is just offered as an option. If they would like to stay closer to the venue, they can do that. If the wedding is too far away, or too hard to get to, or too inconvenient, they don’t have to come. I’m at peace with that (although, we’ll see if I still feel that way when RSVPs start coming in).

We’re trying to make things as easy for our guests as possible, because we do appreciate that they will be coming from far and wide to celebrate with us. But I’ve traveled far and wide for weddings before, and I’ve never regretted it. I’ve only regretted it when the wedding really was too far and wide (and too much the day before Passover) to attend. In hindsight, I wish I’d gone. Celebrating someone I love starting a new family of their own is definitely worth the inconvenience. And I’m going to respect our guests enough to realize that they can make this decision on their own.

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Everyone on Facebook has been watching and talking about the video of this proposal. It’s really cute and sweet; you should watch it too! The article talks about the man going on the Today show, discussing how his now-viral proposal has set the bar high for everyone else.

Um, no. I actually find this really disturbing, and I think it perfectly mirrors the aspirational aspect of wedding porn. The article states that both participants are actors, and that “they used to elaborate stunts.” So yes, this proposal is really great. It’s fun to watch and a lot of effort was put in. But at its core, it’s great because it matches the couple. It reflects who they are.

I also had a cute and sweet proposal. It was private, in a place that is special to us, and Steve’s daughter Emily was very involved. It was quiet and low-key, like us. It will never be on YouTube (nor would I want it to). It was perfect.

We need to stop putting pressure on men* to come up with these amazing, heart-stopping, over-the-top proposals. If you’re the right person, and the proposal is right for you and your partner, then it will be amazing and heart-stopping. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the Jumbotron at a baseball game or on your couch.

*I recognize that I am being hetero-normative and a bit chauvinistic with this statement, but for the majority of couples, the guy is still the one who proposes. If you’re in a lesbian relationship, or if you’re the woman in a straight relationship proposing, more power to you! But the pressure is still on the guys more than anyone else.

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