Big Wedding, Small Budget

Planning Update – October

Only five months to go! I did really well with my September to-do list. I’ve ordered the digital invitations, chosen an online printer for the paper version, and decided on a start time for the wedding. I ruled out wedding insurance and nailed down our officiant. As the plans are starting to come together, I’m getting more and more excited. I’m on the wedding train, and boy, is it moving quickly!

Here’s what is on the agenda for the next month:

  • Finish collecting and verifying address for the invitations.
  • Finish the invitation customization process and order the printed invitations.
  • Figure out what I want to do about return addresses (stamp vs. labels vs. handwritten) and make it happen.
  • Make a decision about, research, and book dessert.
  • Actually start writing the ceremony instead of just thinking about it.

That doesn’t actually feel like too much to do, so I think the challenge for me this month will be really following my incredibly detailed master checklist, and not working on other details until they come up. Controlling my over-planning tendencies has been a big part of keeping the stress level down, and it’s something I plan to really stick to.

Five months left, lots done, and lots left to do!

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Vendor Review – e.m. papers

This is my very first vendor review. And that can mean only one thing—we got our invitation!

Well, sort of. We now have the digital file; I haven’t actually ordered it from the printer yet. But oh my god, the pdf is gorgeous!

Eleanor from e.m. papers was amazing to work with. She does printable invitations, where you order a digital file and can then print them at home, at a copy shop, or with an online printer. Because I needed some customized options (cutting invitations on my own is too DIY for me), I filled out a form on her website with the exact changes I wanted. I did that last night, and this morning, I received the invitation! It was so fast!

Although the design itself was set in the file, I was able to change all of the pertinent information and the wording. I played around with a couple versions, finally settling on one we really like. It really made me feel like this invitation was our own.

Not only was the e.m. papers process super easy and fast, the designs are AMAZING. Not just my own, I promise. But ours is so beautiful! I’ve been looking at it all day. Besides my engagement ring, this is the first tangible evidence I’ve had that the wedding is happening, and I’ve spent the whole day so excited. I’m so glad Eleanor made this process so easy and fun!

**This is not a paid post. I just want to pass on the experiences I’ve had with vendors, good and bad (although I hope it will be mostly good).

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Supporting Marriage Equality

I’ve written before here about marriage equality. It’s something that’s always on my mind, but even more so now that I’m planning a wedding. As an ally, I think it’s important not just to vote in a way that supports everyone’s right to get married (not that there is much opportunity to do that in Florida), but to also let people know where my beliefs lie. And that one is tricky. I want to use the privilege that I have in being able to legally marry Steve to support others who can’t. But how to do that? The thought of making a statement in our wedding doesn’t really resonate with me. I do talk about marriage equality quite a bit, but it doesn’t seem like enough.

One way to further the cause of equal rights is to support businesses that are LGBT friendly. Not only does it help those vendors do more business, it also sends a message that non-discrimination is good for the bottom line. Also, it helps normalize same-sex marriages, making them part of the ordinary American landscape instead of an anomaly.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of research about ordering my invitations. As I’ve explained before, we’re planning on buying a printable invitation from an independent designer, then using an online printer for the actual paper invitations. One of the printers I have been looking at is Vistaprint. I’ve used them for my business cards before, and they always have amazing deals (and Groupons!), so they were definitely a contender.

Vistaprint offers a free Bridal Sample Kit, where they send you samples of all the different options for wedding invitations. That way, you can check out the various size and paper options before actually ordering. This is really helpful since ordering online means I would have had no idea what the paper looked or felt like. When I received the kit in the mail, I was, well, not over-excited by the paper choices. They were fine. Just not wonderful.

Then I looked a little closer and realized that one of the sample invitations was for two grooms. That’s inclusivity for you. The same-sex wedding was not included in a special LGBT wedding kit. It was in the normal wedding kit that goes out to everyone, just like any other wedding. And just like that, my mind was made up. We’d be supporting Vistaprint’s inclusivity by buying our invitations from them.

Companies, especially wedding companies, need to realize that when they market to LGBT couples, they are also marketing to their allies. I am more likely to support businesses that I know support marriage equality. There are a lot of us out there. And with this kind of inclusivity becoming more and more common, our numbers can only continue to grow.

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Crafting our Ceremony

Now that we have an officiant for the wedding, it’s time to start working on the ceremony. This is anything but simple. Being an atheist, inter-cultural couple comes with its challenges, and creating a ceremony that incorporates all of that should be a special challenge indeed. But I think this will probably be one of the most rewarding parts of planning the wedding, and I know it will make the actual ceremony even more meaningful, knowing all of the thought and emotion that went into it.

I probably won’t go into too much detail about the ceremony on the blog, since I don’t want to divulge too much. But here is a general framework of what I’m thinking:

I’m planning to structure the ceremony around the traditional Jewish wedding. We’ll sign a Ketubah before the ceremony begins. We’ll be walked in by our parents, we’ll have a chuppah. I’m not sure if we’ll have the circling or not, but I’m considering it. We’ll have a ring exchange, the sheva brachot will be recited, we’ll drink some wine, and Steve will break a glass. My absolute favorite part of every wedding is when the groom stomps on the glass and everyone erupts into shouts of “Mazel Tov!” So, that will definitely be happening.

Within that traditional structure, I’ll be adding, subtracting, and changing in order to make this a ceremony that really works for us. First, everything will be egalitarian. We’ll each be giving each other a ring. We’ll both drink the wine. If we include circling, that will have to be egalitarian as well. Second, the Hebrew (and English) wording will be altered to reflect our secular beliefs (or non-beliefs, depending on how you look at it). I’ve found some good Humanistic Jewish resources to use as a guide. We both feel strongly about having the wording of the ceremony match up with our particular set of values; neither of us wants to be simply repeating words that have no meaning for us whatsoever. Third, I’d really like to add some vows in English to the ceremony. Most of our guests will not speak Hebrew, and a large number of them will be completely unfamiliar with a Jewish wedding. Also, neither Steve nor I speak Hebrew, so I like the idea of us doing some vows in English. These will not be personal vows; both of us are fairly private people when it comes to declaring our feelings in public. Instead, I’ll probably use some version of traditional English wedding vows. We’ll change those to make them secular, too. And we’ll have to decide how much of the antiquated language we want to use. Thee instead of you? Probably not. But the part about “I plight thee my troth?” Delightful.

Of course, our officiant may want to add things in as well, so I have a feeling this will be a work in progress for quite some time. For now, I’m just glad to have an idea of where it’s going.

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A couple of months ago, I created our wedding website. I knew I wanted to have it done before the save-the-dates when out so we could provide the address to our guests. With so many people coming from out of town a wedsite is important to us for many reasons. Here is some of the information we’re including:

  • Wedding information: This way, if someone forgets the invitation and doesn’t know where they’re going, everything they need is right there.
  • Wedding weekend events: Once we have them planned, that is. 😉 We’ll put all of the information right there on the website so people won’t have to wait for their invitation to begin making plans for the weekend.
  • Accommodations: We have a hotel block and the information is right there. Additionally, we’ve recommended some other places for those guests that would like to stay closer to the wedding venue.
  • Things to do and Places to Eat: I’ve compiled a list of great non-theme park activities as well as our favorite restaurants. Since people who stay at our hotel will be pretty far away from the typical tourist corridor, we wanted to give them some guidance on what to do while they’re here. We hope people will be able to have fun and make this a mini-vacation of sorts, not just a chance to come to the wedding.
  • Registry information: I’ll probably be writing about the registry later (preview: I didn’t expect it to be such a loaded part of wedding planning). The website is a great way to list our registries, for those who want to buy gifts, as well as a way to encourage our guests to give donations to the local SPCA instead of buying wedding gifts.
  • RSVP: Once the invitations go out, we’ll be doing electronic RSVP’s via the wedsite. It’s a great way to direct people there so they can get all of the other information. It’s also more eco-friendly, and I love the instant gratification factor.

Besides these examples of concrete information, the wedsite serves another factor. With guests coming from all different places and all different backgrounds, chances are that something in our wedding will be new and different for everyone. Maybe they have never been to a Jewish wedding. Maybe they’re not sure of the dress code. Maybe they have never been to a casual, picnic wedding before. The wedsite helps us give guests a preview and set expectation. It will hopefully prevent shocked reactions to some of our more untraditional choices. As someone who loves checking out a restaurant’s menu before I go to eat there, I obviously love being prepared and knowing exactly what to expect. Having an informative wedding website lets us provide that to our guests are more like me.

Another benefit to having a pretty detailed wedsite is that we don’t have to include so much information in the invitation. We will be able to send out just one page, which will cut down on postage costs and be more environmentally friendly. Pretty much everyone on our guest list has internet, and we can just give the information to anyone who has difficulty accessing it.

And, people have actually been visiting it! I can track how many visits we’ve had, and we’ve been getting one every couple of days. It makes me feel like I’m interacting with our future guests, even though I don’t know who has visited. I’m so glad people have been looking at it, and I expect it to get a lot more traffic once everything is up there.

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Trusting Myself

I’ve always been a decisive person. Once I make a choice, I stick with it. I do take a long time to make a decision, though. I like to explore all of the options and think about the advantages and disadvantages of each. I try to imagine how each choice would work out in the long run, and how each would make me feel. I think about issues again and again, moving slowly toward a decision. And when I’m finally finished, I relish the accomplishment of moving forward, of making a choice. I don’t look back.

For some reason, I thought planning a wedding would be a little different. I read posts from so many women online second guessing their decisions, especially after getting negative feedback from other people. I’ve heard about so many people completely scrapping their wedding plans after changing their mind.

So yeah, I thought wedding planning would involve a lot of self doubt, second guessing, and questioning myself. Luckily, I was wrong. Each decision I’ve made has left me feeling good, feeling resolute, and feeling ready to move forward.

Yesterday was the first time, though, that I made a really emotional decision for the wedding. I asked a friend to be our officiant. And this was a difficult decision. I always imagined getting married by one of our Rabbis (not an option now because Steve isn’t Jewish). I really had to examine whether or not I wanted to hire a rabbi who would be willing to officiate our wedding. And I had to do some research into what Jewish law requires (not that our interfaith marriage is recognized, but I am nothing if not contradictory).

It turns out that I didn’t love the idea of paying someone to marry us that we didn’t know. And Jewish law only requires that someone educated and literate in Judaism perform the ceremony; clergy is not required, since the couple actually marries each other rather than having someone else marry them. So, slowly, after imagining how it would feel to get married by a friend, we made our decision.

And then, I waited a couple of weeks to ask her. I expected to feel uncomfortable with such an untraditional choice, to regret it, to feel the loss of the wedding ceremony I had expected to have. I didn’t want to ask until I was sure.

But the truth was, I was really sure all along. So yesterday, I asked. And she said yes. And afterwards, I felt absolutely no regret, no sadness. I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt nothing but immense excitement and joy.

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Resisting the Stereotypes

When people talk to me about the wedding planning, the same conversations seem to come up over and over again. Inevitable, some comment is made about how Steve’s job is to feign interest, agree to everything I want, and simply show up. I mean, the wedding is all about the bride, really, isn’t it?

I know what you’re probably thinking right now. Barbra is such a feminist; she really values equality in relationships and stands up to those silly kinds of traditions. Surely, she and Steve are equal partners in planning this wedding.

Well, I wish I could say you’re right. Since I do usually rail against gendered cultural expectations, there is no way I would be living the stereotype of the bride who is planning the wedding on her own. There’s no way I would be having the kind of wedding where my groom is not involved at all. Right?

Um, wrong. Actually, in this case, we totally fulfill the stereotype. The truth is, I’m the one doing the planning for this wedding. There have been a couple of time where I’ve gotten Steve’s input, but for the most part, I do the research, look at the options, and make a decision on my own. Sometimes he wants to see what I’ve chosen, but usually he doesn’t.

This is not because I’m a controlling bride (although I do have control freak tendencies, they’re not usually about having things my way). It’s not because I think it’s a bride’s job to plan everything. And it’s certainly not because I have a vision of my perfect wedding in my head and am not going to let Steve ruin it. After all, I think we’ve established that I am not a “typical” bride (whatever that is).

This way of planning works for us. I am a planner. I love organizing, I love doing research, and I love worrying about mundane details and tedious tasks. I’m good at it. I can work efficiently and make firm decisions. I’m definitely not wishy-washy and I don’t often second guess myself. I’ve really enjoyed wedding planning so far, and I hope to keep it that way.

Steven, on the other hand, is way more spontaneous. He doesn’t really like thinking things out before he does not. He doesn’t plan ahead for much, unless it involves plane tickets (and even then…). He would really not enjoy having to think about and decide things like the menu, or research about bulk alcohol prices. He is way less detail oriented (when it comes to non-work things) than I am.

We could choose to fight against gender stereotypes by forcing equality in the wedding planning. But why should we, when this works for us?

The problem is, I’m not quite pedantic enough to give this long explanation every time someone assumes that Steve is not involved. I can’t tell them they’re wrong, but I don’t want to admit they’re right either. So for now, I just smile and nod, and assume people know us well enough to figure it out. I need to remember that make the occasional non-feminist choice doesn’t mean I’m betraying the cause. There is still so much to fight for, this is just one particular fight that I’m sitting out.

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An Untraditional Traditional Wedding

Everyone who reads my blog knows that I am obsessed with Offbeat Bride. I belong to the Tribe, where I read and post regularly. I devour the blog posts and pictures of hippie wedding, steampunk weddings, and cosplay weddings. I will be having none of these weddings. In fact, in that community, our wedding is considering to be “offbeat-lite,” or more traditional than most.

When I’m talking to people in person about our wedding, I generally describe it as completely untraditional. I think there will be a large proportion of guests at our wedding that have never been to a wedding like ours. I do try to prepare people for how different our wedding will be.

So, how is it possible that our wedding is traditional and untraditional at the same time? Let’s look at the facts (or undeveloped ideas, as it were):

Things you’ve see before (traditions we will be following):

  • We will be sending out paper invitations.
  • I will be wearing a white dress, clearly a wedding dress, from a wedding dress store.
  • I’ll have (somewhat) fancy hair, have my nails done, and have someone else (a friend) do my makeup.
  • I will probably be wearing a veil.
  • We’ll be getting married under a chuppah with Jewish traditions guiding the ceremony.
  • We’ll have a hora.
  • We’re serving a full meal at the reception.
  • We’ll be having a DJ and hopefully, there will be lots of dancing.

The path not usually taken (untraditional aspects of our wedding):

  • We sent out email save the dates.
  • The RSVP will be via our wedding website.
  • I will mostly likely be wearing sandals, or maybe going barefoot (still wrapping my head around this one).
  • I’ll have my hair down.
  • The men will not be wearing suits or ties and no one (except, I guess, me) will be very dressed up.
  • There will be no matching wedding parties.
  • Our ceremony will be true to our humanist and atheist beliefs (or non-beliefs). The Jewish traditions will be modified as necessary.
  • We will probably not have flowers.
  • We will probably not have a cake.
  • We’ll have other fun activities besides dancing.

As you can see, our wedding will incorporate both traditional and non-traditional aspects. And truthfully, this is a perfect reflection of my sensibilities and of us as a couple. I mean, we live in the suburbs in a house, we shop at regular stores for our clothes, and we look pretty normal on the surface. But our beliefs and values are pretty radical (mine especially).

Steve hit the nail on the head this week when he described me as someone who is an incredible rule follower when it comes to small details of life, but a rule breaker when it comes to societal expectations and traditions. That’s totally true. I would never walk somewhere that had yellow tape blocking it off, but I have absolutely no problem throwing away cultural expectations or traditions when they don’t speak to me.

So, that’s the kind of wedding we’re having. An in-between wedding for in-between people. Sounds perfect to me!

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Wedding Cakes, Again

This post may be misleading. I am still not super-into having a wedding cake. I really want to have a different dessert. But I have come across some really awesome cakes recently, so I thought I should share them on the blog. Hope this doesn’t make you crave desserts!

Colette’s Cakes

This cake is beautiful! I love the different shades of blue. It’s definitely not boring.

Colette’s Cakes via Wedding Bee

This cake is sort of steampunk. I love how textured it is.

The Sugar Syndicate via Perfect Wedding Day

This wedding cake really looks like wood! Perfect for a rustic wedding.

Wedding Bee

Wow. Just wow.

Clair Kemp Cake Studio

This cake is so modern and clean looking. I love it. I just wish fondant tasted better!

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