Big Wedding, Small Budget


Choosing to do certain things always means choosing not to do others. It means letting go of other ideas, ideas that would probably be great. This is certainly evident in wedding planning.

Having a casual, outdoor weddings means letting go of the black-tie ballroom wedding that I envisioned when I was 19. Marrying someone not Jewish means giving up using the beautiful chuppah that our synagogue has, and it means not getting married by the rabbi who was there at my bat-mitzvah. Wearing a modern, comfortable dress means giving up the huge tulle skirt.

Lest it sound like my wedding is nothing but sacrifices, I would like to point out that having a casual outdoor wedding means a beautiful setting and lots of relaxed fun. Wearing a dress that is me is wonderful. And of course, I get to marry Steve!

These choices were all the right ones, both for me and for us as a couple. I don’t regret any of them, not even a little bit. I’m so excited and happy about what our wedding is turning out to be, and I’m pretty sure it will be awesome. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had any moments of sadness for what I had to let go of.

Every time we choose to go one way, we have to let go of the other way. And that can sometimes entail a bit of mourning. This becomes especially clear when I let go of what my past self envisioned in favor of who my current self is. Having the wedding I wanted when I was a teenager would not be authentic now that I’m 33. I mean, anyone who knows Steve and me should have a hard time picturing me in a princess dress and Steve in a tuxedo, in a ballroom. Come on.

I’ve learned with this wedding that it’s not enough to only focus on the positive aspects of the choices I’m making. That doesn’t tell the whole story, and it doesn’t honor my true feelings. It’s been really important to let myself mourn (just a little) the path not taken. That has helped me recognize the right path, the right choice and to go forward joyfully.

And this is a good lesson for life, isn’t it? When we choose one career path, we give up the others (at least, for now). When we buy a house and settle in one place, we give up on living somewhere else (again, for now). When we choose one partner, we give up dating and all the other potential partners out there. And, in my opinion at least, it is important to recognize the loss. It’s important to understand the emotional value we’ve attached to other options. That’s the only way to move forward with our whole hearts into the life we choose.

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Planning Update – September

OMG, the wedding is only six months away! I can’t believe it! It seems like just yesterday that we got engaged, and certainly just yesterday that I was writing a Negative One post. The break is planning is over, and there is A LOT to do. I’m definitely getting excited again. Here are the main things on my to-do list for this month (or so):

  • Decide on invitation wording and order the digital file: this shouldn’t be too hard, because I have a general idea of what it will say. I just need to make sure it will work with our chosen design.
  • Choose a start time for the wedding: I have been going back and forth on this one between 12:00 and 1:00. I would like to start earlier to give people who need to get home that night a little more time at the wedding. Also, I would really like time to have dinner and then go the afterparty (TBD) without feeling rushed or having the afterparty start too late. But, I am not, I repeat, not a morning person. And with the venue being an hour away from where I will be staying, starting at 12 means waking up pretty darn early. Now, I know you’re probably saying that I’ll wake up early anyway, out of excitement. That’s probably true, but I will be much happier with some time to relax in the morning instead of having to be “on” right away. And I don’t really expect my bridesmaids and our families to wake up early out of excitement (except my Mom), so there’s no reason to make everyone set a super early alarm. So, right now, I’m leaning toward 1, but the final decision has to be made before I can order invitations.
  • Research and order printed invitations: Even though we are getting printable invitations, I have no desire to actually print them myself. Plus, given the number of invites we will be sending out, I’m not sure that it would even be cost-efficient. I need to finish researching online printers and choose which one I’m going with. I know it’s a bit early to order invitations, but I’m afraid that the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s period will be a black hole, both in terms of working with vendors and ordering stuff as well as sending out invites. I don’t want to them to get lost in the mail! Also, our venue requires a final head count much earlier than normal, so the RSVP date will be early and thus, invitations needs to get sent out a little sooner. We have the details pretty much set, so there’s no real reason to wait to order them. (I am decidedly NOT a procrastinor, in case you couldn’t tell.)
  • Decide on wedding insurance: I’m just not sure about this one. The über-planner in me feels like we should have wedding insurance, just in case. The tightwad side of me feels like it is just a racket to spend more money. Our wedding is in March, in Florida, so barring any freak events, neither hurricanes nor blizzards should be an issue. We don’t have that many vendors, so there just aren’t that many deposits to lose. I’m leaning towards no at this point, but a final decision needs to be made so I can either purchase insurance or move on.
  • Start working on the ceremony, beginning with choosing an officiant: I could probably write a whole series of posts on this topic, although right now I’m not sure I want to broadcast such a personal struggle to the internet. Interfaith is hard, y’all. Especially our particular brand of interfaith, where our actual faith (or lack thereof) is the same, but our cultures are very, very different. All I’m sure of right now is that we won’t be using an official officiant, because my rabbis are not allowed to marry us or even attend, and I’m not thrilled about paying money for someone who doesn’t know us. So, I will be writing the ceremony myself, trying to capture our belief system and Steve’s culture in the framework of a fairly traditional (but egalitarian) Jewish ceremony. That will probably be a long process, but for right now, we need to decide whom we would like to ask to officiate the ceremony. Hopefully, they will say yes! The ceremony in general is something I have been procrastinating on, mostly because it is the most difficult part of planning this wedding. So I just need to get started.

Ok, now I’m freaking out a little bit. That really sounds like a lot! I guess the planning is beginning in earnest and it will definitely feel great to check these big things off the list. The final countdown has begun!


Our Ceremony, Unplugged

Ever since I read on Offbeat Bride about an unplugged ceremony, I have wanted to have them. I’ve attended too many weddings where everyone is holding up cameras and cell phones during the ceremony, where the professional photos of the bride walking down the aisle show guests’ smartphones instead of their faces. I want people to really be present at our ceremony, to be part of it.

The reception is a different story. Having guests take pictures there is part of the fun, and we will probably set up a share site for people to upload their photos. With such a big wedding, there is no way our professional photographer can capture absolutely everything that is going on, and I’m excited to see our wedding from our friends’ perspectives.

We’ll probably put something about the unplugged wedding on our website, in the program, and we may have our officiant announce it at the beginning. I hope people won’t feel bossed-around or upset. We’ll be happy to share our professional photos of the ceremony.

Asking people to put down their electronics these days feels a bit subversive and heavy-handed. But I think it’s worth it. For me, the whole point of having a wedding is to get married, to make those promises, in front of our friends and family. Not in front of their IPhones.

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Shana Tova!

I’m taking today off from the blog to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The timing seems pretty poignant right now, as I’m starting to write our ceremony and simultaneously reading Unorthodox. Anyway, Shana Tova to you and yours! I’ll be back on Thursday with more tales from Weddingland!

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Guest Books

I definitely want to have a fun guest book at our wedding. I don’t want just a book where people write their names; I want something we can look over later, something we’ll enjoy looking at and remembering all of the people who came to our wedding. There are lots of creative ideas out there! Here are a few (as always, sources are listed below pictures):

Linda Carol Arts

A wedding sign in board would provide us with something fun and pretty to hang up, and it does give each guest the chance to write a message. But I’m sorry; it just reminds me too much of my bat mitzvah, even without a photo on it.

Must Love Weddings

One of my friends did the Polaroid guest book at her wedding. I think it’s such a fun idea; it’s like getting a bonus photo album of your guests! But with 250 people, I think it would get too expensive and too bulky. Also, I worry that the line to take photos would be too long and people would just give up. Even though our wedding is in Orlando, it isn’t Disneyworld, after all; we’d like to minimize lines.


I love the idea of a photo guest book; it’s a great way to share our lives with those guests that we don’t see or talk to very often. I’ve liked looking through these at other weddings I’ve been too. Also, a photo guest book would be easy to pass around tables, so there would be no waiting in line. And I love making Shutterfly albums, so that would be fun!

TexturedInk on Etsy

A poster-sized map would serve as a great guest book for our wedding. Our guests are coming from near and far, and I think it would be really fun to have guests sign in on the place where they live. But poor New Jersey would fill up really fast! And, so would Florida. So I’m not sure how practical this actually would be. But I think it would look really cool hanging up in our house.

PuzzledOne on Etsy

I am totally in love with this puzzle guest book! It’s available in several different colors, and I just think it’s so pretty! But the bigger ones are pretty expensive. I guess we could ask for one piece per family, but that seems pretty nit-picky and controlling. Also, I’m not sure how we would display it. I guess we could glue it and get it framed, but I think that process might be too expensive as well. It’s worth investigating, though.

Mendocino Weddings

The Jenga guest book is an idea I have seen popping up all over the wedding blogs. Steve and I do love some Jenga (and we love to play it with Emily), so it would be really cool to have the guest sign blocks. I think it would be so much fun to play a game of Jenga and chuckle over our wedding at the same time! Of course, with 250 guests, we’d have a couple of Jenga sets, but who cares? Plus, it would be really affordable, so obviously, I like that.

As with most things wedding, there are so many ideas out there. These are just a few of the guest book ideas I’ve come across. Who knows what else I’ll find?

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Other People’s Weddings, Part Two

Ali and Jeremy’s wedding was the first one I’ve attended since getting engaged (and it will be the only one). So of course, my wedding was there in my mind the whole time. Going to the wedding of a super close friend is always intense. Going the wedding of a couple you are partially responsible for is even more intense. I felt so much joy and so much love standing there under the chuppah. And it wasn’t even my wedding!

The truth is, this felt like a small preview, and it made me so excited for our wedding. For the past couple of months, when people have asked if I’m excited, the answer is no. I mean, we took a long break from planning. And the wedding is still more than six months away. The truth is, I just can’t maintain such a high level of excitement for 15 months. Especially when we’re not doing anything to really get ready for it.

But then, I sat in the hotel suite with Ali and her bridesmaids while we were getting ready. And I saw how everyone was pulling together, laughing and bonding, even though we weren’t all friends before. And I saw how everyone ran around before the wedding making sure that everything was going to be perfect. And I saw how everyone, friends and family, were celebrating together, toasting to the bride and groom.

And suddenly, I could picture being surrounded by my friends and family in the days leading up to and at the wedding. I imagined all of my friends hanging out together. I could envision looking around the room (lawn?) and knowing everyone there, knowing they were there to celebrate us.

I thought about the intensity of emotion I felt while watching two of my closest friends get married to each other. I was so close to the core of this wedding; I was overwhelmed with joy and love and happiness. Realizing that I will feel all that, and even more, at my own wedding, how could I help but be excited?

So, here we go!


Other People’s Weddings

Last weekend, I was the Maid of Honor in my friend Ali’s wedding. Her wedding was as different from mine as could be. She got married in a synagogue. The wedding was black tie invited. It was beautiful, elegant and classic. I even got my hair and makeup done! It was an evening wedding, with a DJ and sit down meal. The bridesmaids all wore matching dresses.

The thing is, her wedding was also exactly the same as mine (at least, what I hope ours will be). She was surrounded by her family and friends. People came from near and far to celebrate with her and her new husband, Jeremy. Everyone had fun. I had a great time hanging out with the other bridesmaids, even though I know most of them only through Ali. The ceremony was emotional and beautiful. Everyone felt the love in the room.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We all get so caught up on the external trappings of a wedding. The photography. The music. The food. The flowers. I mean, that’s what at least half this blog is about. But those things don’t really matter in the end. The wedding is about the internal stuff. It’s about getting married, no matter how you choose to do it.

Ali’s wedding really made me realize what weddings are all about. They’re a celebration, not just of love but of much more than that. People can be in love and have a great relationship without ever getting married, and they usually don’t get a party to celebrate it. I think weddings are really a celebration of partnership. A celebration of a life lived together, of a joining of two people. Weddings are a celebration of the family you come from (both biological and chosen) and the family you are creating.

Throwing your lot in with someone, saying out loud that you’ll stand by them in good times and bad is a really brave thing to do. And so we celebrate that bravery. We cheer the couple on and reflect on the love we have in our own lives, no matter where that love comes from. We hold a little tighter to our friends and family and remember what’s really important. And the truth is, it doesn’t matter if you do that in a tuxedo or a bathing suit. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 guests or 1000. All weddings are, at their core, exactly the same, no matter how different they may look.

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Barbra Resnick, forever.

I am not changing my name after I get married. I have never considered doing it. It was not up for discussion, it was never an option. There was an extremely, and I mean really miniscule, chance that I would hyphenate, but only under very specific circumstances (my future husband would have to hyphenate, too). This was an extremely simple and easy decision to make, and really, it has absolutely nothing to do with Steve. In fact, I had pretty much already decided before we even met.

This may sound somewhat militant to some of you. And truthfully, I’m fine with that. I’m pretty militant about keeping my name. Notice, though, that I’m talking about me keeping my name. If other people want to change theirs, I’m fine with that.

Actually, though, that’s not completely true. I’m fine with women changing their names on an individual level; of course, I believe that everyone should be able to make their own choices about their names. But on a societal level, I’m not ok with name-changing standards at all.

I do appreciate the fact that, these days, women keeping their names is generally culturally acceptable (although not in certain pockets). However, it is still really a choice only for women. I know so many who debated back and forth, not really sure what they wanted to do. I’ve read even more personal accounts on the internet of real, hard, gut-wrenching struggles with this choice. By and large, these accounts are all written by women. The standard is still that women are the ones who will choose whether or not to change their names. I mean, the guy is obviously going to keep his, right? I know there are some circumstances where men hyphenate or even take their wife’s name, but these are few and far between, and, I suspect, only happening in hippie towns (I’m looking at you, Northampton!).

Caitlin Moran’s (go read her book right now) test for whether something is sexist is to ask, “Are men worrying about this?” I think that’s a great question. Until men really struggle with the decision to change their names, things are not equal. I told Steve, who certainly believes in egalitarianism, that I was only really willing to discuss my choice to keep my name if we were going to discuss his choice to keep his. And he couldn’t really think of any discussion that needed to happen regarding keeping his name. I feel the same way.

So, after the wedding, I will not become Barbra Arthurs, or Mrs. Steven Arthurs (I mean, I still will exist as a separate person, right?). Barbra Resnick I will remain, forever.