Big Wedding, Small Budget

One Year Ago

One year ago, on New Year’s Eve, we got engaged. It was a great day. We started out at the dog park, with Emily giving hints that something big was happening. Then we got dressed up and went out to dinner at the same restaurant where we had our second date. Afterwards, Steve and Emily took me to a special spot, and Steve proposed. We got frozen yogurt and went home to celebrate the new year while I made some very excited phone calls.

Of course, there is no way this New Year’s Eve could live up. But it’s been a really exciting few days in wedding world (I’ll be summing that up later this week), a great way to say goodbye to a year like no other. Never again in my life will I have a year like 2012, where we began by getting engaged and then spent the year planning our wedding.

2012 had a lot of ups and down, just like any other year. You can’t feel the joy if it’s never tempered with hard times, right? But we had great visits with family and friends, celebrated engagements and babies and weddings and more. We both made strides in our careers, and we worked hard to build our baby family. Being engaged was not the only thing that happened in 2012; it might not even be the most important thing. But it’s provided a frame of reference for all that has happened this year.

Hopefully, 2013 will be even better for us and all of you. Let’s hope for a kinder, gentler world for all of us. Wishing you lots of love and light in the new year!

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The Next Few Days

The next few days are going to be really exciting around here! Emily came in yesterday, so of course we’re thrilled. On Friday, we’ll be taking our engagement pictures. In preparation, I have gotten in touch with my inner girl. Fancy makeup, manicure, brows, getting my hair done…wow. It’s a lot! But it should a really fun afternoon. We’ll be headed to downtown Orlando, starting out in the same spot where we got engaged last year. It will give us a chance to get used to having our pictures taken and to build rapport with our photographer. So, it serves more of a purpose than just pretty pictures (although that would be great on its own).

Then on Saturday is my shower. This is the first big pre-wedding event. My first time as a bride, publicly, anyway. Sometimes I do get nervous about it; I don’t always like being the center of attention. But I know it’s going to be great, and I have absolute faith in those who have been planning it, so that has alleviated any anxiety. I’m so glad Emily will be here for it, and I just think it will be so much fun!

People have been calling me a bride for almost a year now, since we got engaged. But I haven’t really felt like a bride; I’ve just felt like me, but me as I’m planning a huge event. But the wedding is coming up in conversation a lot more now that it’s getting so close. And with the engagement pictures and the shower this week, well, I’m anticipating some kind of switch over to that bride feeling. What that feeling is, exactly, I don’t know. But I’m sure I’ll be working it out here. For now, I’m just excited to be able to enjoy the fun stops along the road to March 24th.

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90 Days!!

I can’t believe we are down to the point where I’m counting days instead of months. We’re really getting excited now, and of course the to-do list is amped up. There is so much wedding stuff going on during winter break; don’t worry you’ll hear all about it here!

To help me avoid getting stressed about all there is to do, I think it’s really important to keep track of what I’ve already gotten accomplished. I’ve had a really productive month; here’s what I’ve done from last month’s list:

  • Figure out return addresses: My wonderful mother very generously offered to address all of our envelopes, and this process has already started! So that’s taken care of; at least my part of it is.
  • Finish deciding on dessert: Dessert is decided and I’ve been working with our vendor. I’ve already received the proposal and we’re just trying to set a meeting to do a tasting (!) and iron out details of the contract.
  • Start writing the ceremony: I have made slow progress on this one, but I have made some progress. I’ve written an outline and I’ve done a lot of thinking. Now I just need to start hammering it out.
  • Plan wedding weekend events: I’ve made decisions about the time and place for the Saturday open house and the afterparty. I’ve written the summaries and just need to post it to the website.
  • Decide on flowers and research prices: This was the big one this month. After a lot of back-and-forth, I’ve decided to have flowers. My mom and I did a practice run, and making the bouquets was super easy and quick. I’ve researched prices but I have two more leads to check out before I make a final decision about where to order them.

That’s quite a lot. But I’ve gotten some bonus things accomplished, too!

  • Choose the Ketubah: We’ve picked out our wording and the design of our Ketubah. There will be a big ordering day in February when I actually buy most of the items for the wedding, but the decision has been made.
  • Choose rings: Steve picked out his ring, and I am down to my top two, both from the same Etsy seller. I’m leaning towards one right now, so that decision will be made shortly, even though I’m not ordering the rings quite yet.
  • Research and decide on kipot: I’ve done the research and chosen the style of kipot as well as the seller. I’ll need to pick a color, but I will probably do that right when we order.
  • Choose a guest book: I did some extra research, and I’ve made a final decision on the guest book. I need to get on the waiting list for the artist.

So, what do I have on my plate this month?

  • Finalize the dessert contract and pay deposit.
  • Make significant progress with the ceremony.
  • Get the website ready for invitations to be mailed: I need to update it with wedding weekend events and RSVPs before the invitations go out.
  • Finish researching flowers and make a final decision on the seller.
  • Make a final decision on my ring.
  • Order the guest book.
  • Finish collecting addresses: As of now, we only need seven more. We’re almost there!
  • Stuff envelopes and mail invitations!
  • Make a decision about a veil and get it ready: I need to decide whether or not I’m using my mom’s veil. If I’m not, I need to purchase a new one. If I do decide to use it, I need to attach it to a headpiece.
  • Book hotel room: We’ll be staying in the same hotel as all of the guests the night after the wedding. I’ll also be staying there on Friday and Saturday night. I may as well book it now to have it out of the way. While I do that, I can also check on the hotel block to make sure people are using it and that there are still rooms available.

The end is finally in sight, but I have a feeling these to-do lists will keep getting longer. It’s hard to believe I only have two more to write. Everyone said that this year would go by fast, but I didn’t believe it. But here we are; things are starting to come together. The train is moving fast now!

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Getting Started

It’s really time to start writing the ceremony. Even though we have more than three months until the wedding, I want to have enough time to really be thoughtful while I’m working on it, go over it with Steve and make changes, go over it with Ilana (our officiant) and make more changes, and then review it finally and finish it. The ceremony is not something I want to be writing at the last minute.

But, man, it is so much more difficult than I expected! Or at least, it’s more difficult to get started than I expected. I think part of the problem is the freedom. Even though we’re using a basic Jewish ceremony structure, we are really starting almost from scratch. In a lot of ways, I think it would be easier if we just had a proscribed ceremony to use. But we don’t.

I realized the other day that this process reminds me of writing a paper in college vs. writing a paper in grad school. In college, I took a ton of literature and sociology classes (and by a ton, I mean I could have majored in the “writing intensive” course qualifier). The papers I wrote for those classes came with very few guidelines. The assignment was basically to make an argument based on what we had read and spend 10-15 pages (or more) supporting that argument. We had so much freedom; we really had to start from scratch. In contrast, the papers I wrote in grad school came with a topic, an assignment with specific questions to cover, and a rubric to sue when grading to make sure we covered everything. Much more laid out, and almost always easier to write.

The thing is, I enjoyed writing papers in undergrad way more. I relished the chance to write about something meaningful to me, to craft my argument however I wanted. And this is the same. So, I’ve decided to attach writing the ceremony just as I attacked paper writing in college. Start with an outline, think about it incessantly, and finally, just start getting something down on the page. The rest will come. The important thing for me to remember is that getting started was always the hardest part.

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Wedding Programs

This past week, I broke my rule of sticking to my to-do list timeline and started working on our wedding programs. I mean, when inspiration hits, you’ve got to stop what you’re doing and follow it, right? So that’s what I did. It’s actually been a lot of fun playing with font, design, and layout. DIY on the computer is my favorite kind of DIY, apparently, and it makes me excited for some of the other projects I have planned to do for the wedding.

In the big picture, programs are pretty minor, I think, but in our wedding, they’re actually fairly important. Since we’re having an intercultural wedding, there will be many guests who have not attended a Jewish wedding before and are totally unfamiliar with the traditions. I don’t really want our officiant to have to introduce every step of the ceremony (that would take forever), so it’s easier and more helpful to just put it all in the program. It’s also a way to introduce our non-traditional wedding party, since the bridesmaids and ushers won’t be walking down the aisle or standing up front (just our families will be doing that). And finally, we’re having a lot of (hopefully) unique touches at the reception, and the layout isn’t traditional. So, I want to make sure that the guests find and sign the guestbook, know that we have lawn games, and sample the dessert. None of those elements will be happening in the traditional way, so the program serves as a kind of “guide” to the reception as well.

Putting together the program has also amped up the excitement level exponentially. For the first time, I saw our whole wedding laid out, written down on paper. Every step, every special element was there. Things are coming together, and the program highlighted all of the decisions and plans that have already been made. It was so much to fun to picture all of the things I was writing about!

Although I already have the design for our program done, I wanted to highlight some of the fun ideas I have seen out on the interwebs. Sources listed below the pictures, as always!

Remember those folded paper fortune tellers we used as kids? It would be so fun to have them as a wedding program! From Alchemy Hour Designs on Etsy.

Having an outdoor wedding and worried about it being hot? Combine your program and giving some comfort to your guests. From A Cool Breeze.

This might be my favorite wedding program ever. It’s the Daily Prophet! This is Offbeat Bride; if you click the link, you can actually see the context and text of the program.

I think the scroll programs are classy, but still a little unique. From

This may not look like much, but in the Offbeat Bride world, it’s considered to be the mother of all wedding programs. It’s worth clicking the link to read the content; it’s hilarious.

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Wedding Consumerism

Wedding budgets are ridiculous. There is just so much to pay for! Food, venue, rentals, photographer, and more. There is also a lot of stuff to buy: guestbook, kipot, flowers, dress, ring, shoes, jewelry, underthings….wait, what? Why am I buying all this stuff, anyway?

Some of it is necessary. Once I decided to wear a wedding dress, I needed to buy one. We don’t already have wedding rings, so we have to buy those. I guess I could make a guestbook, but that doesn’t sound fun to me at all, nor is it a realistic project for someone this un-crafty. I’ve picked out a necklace I love, and I’ve been looking around for earrings…and that’s where I stopped.

The WIC says you must buy everything new. Everything must be purchased just for your wedding. The indie blog world isn’t that different, although they do talk about family heirlooms a little more, I guess. But why does everything really need to be new?

When you delve a little deeper, the wedding industry is selling not just items, but special-ness. Weddings are marketed as a once-in-a-lifetime event. And that’s fine; I mean, I hope to have only one wedding in my lifetime. But just the fact that’s it’s a wedding makes it special. Just the fact that it’s happening once makes it once-in-a-lifetime. Spending a ton of money on a bridal-looking necklace that I can never wear again doesn’t make my wedding any more special.

I tried to mitigate this at first by making a rule for myself about accessories and beauty products. I would only buy things I would use/wear again. So my necklace doesn’t look bridal, but it is awesome! And I can think of a couple other outfits to pair it with. I’ve been looking for shoes that I can wear all spring and summer (And fall and winter; who are we kidding here? I live in Florida) long. But that wasn’t enough. The consumerism started to get to me; the shopping and buying felt almost compulsive.

I knew it had gone too far when I found myself looking for shoes, unable to find anything affordable that I liked. Suddenly, I happened upon a perfectly good pair of off-white sandals, pretty much exactly what I was looking for. In my own closet. And I’ve been trying to convince myself that it’s ok to wear them, even though they’re not new. Then, I got into an in-depth conversation with a friend about what kind of eyeliner I should buy. Until I realized that I already have an eyeliner I love.

So, my buying will become more thoughtful from now on. If I have something already that works for the weddings (like my earrings from India that I adore), I will be using it. If I need something new, I will buy it, but not because it makes my wedding more special. That comes from the day itself, from the vows, from the celebration with friends and family. What does it say about my life if I look for that special feeling from a pair of shoes, anyway?

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Letting Go of the Budget

Obviously, the budget is a huge part of this wedding. I mean, it’s part of the name of this blog, right? We’ve had to make many of our wedding choices based on budget, both for financial and more philosophical reasons. And anyone who knows me in real life knows what a tightwad I am. I’m the one who agonizes over a five dollar eye shadow purchase at Walgreens. I’m the one who comparison shops for everything online before buying. I’m the one who gets such a rush from saving money that I have a separate spreadsheet in Excel for wedding savings, with a chart that actually fills up as I save money.

So it may surprise you to learn, then, that I haven’t been tracking my wedding expenses and expenditures. I haven’t been adding up the totals, and I haven’t been counting the nickels and dimes (and more!) that have gone into the wedding so far. In fact, I’ve pretty much let go of thinking about the budget. And that might just be my best wedding-related decision so far.

When we first got engaged, I pored over sample wedding budgets online. I plugged in and adjusted numbers into The Knot’s budget calculator. I looked through wedding blogs looking for the budgets of real weddings, trying to figure out how much this thing was going to cost us. I made pie charts, graphs, and fancy budget spreadsheets with all of our potential totals.

This was really helpful at first. By doing all that math at the start, I was able to budget for the venue, catering, dress, and photographer, the biggest expenses. I knew I had to fit those into the budget I had set. And I did, pretty much (after a serious reality check). But when it comes to the smaller things, like invitations, a Ketubah, kipot, shoes, accessories, and more, I have just been trying to spend as little as possible to get what I want. I’ve been trying not to sacrifice too much quality, but I’ve been sticking to financially responsible decisions and remembering that more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.

All of those little purchases add up. So it’s been important for me to keep thinking of this as a budget wedding (which it definitely is) and to try to keep expenses down. But constantly adding up the numbers doesn’t accomplish anything except stressing me out. I realized early on that if I kept looking at the money spent total on the spreadsheet, it was going to be an anxious 15 months of wedding planning.

So, I made a command decision to trust myself with wedding spending. My everyday life doesn’t include a budget. I’m such a low spender that I almost always have money left over at the end of the month. I’ve trusted myself to keep spending in check every day of my adult life so far, so why shouldn’t I trust myself when it comes to wedding spending? (Hint: consumerist pressure on brides is ridiculous. Look for another post about that.) When I do, both myself and my savings account are a lot happier.

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Stress and Excitement

Well, the time has finally arrived. I’m starting to get really excited about the wedding. Celebrations start this month, with my shower and the engagement photo sessions, plus I’ll be taking Emily to shop for her dress while she’s here for winter break.

I’ve written before about the lull in planning and my inability to sustain excitement over our long engagement. Once I reached the four-month mark, my to-list got seriously longer and more involved. It is now time to actually start making decisions about details, ordering things, and making concrete plans. I’m trying hard not to think about the big checklist; instead, I’m focusing month by month on what exactly needs to get done, and everything else can wait. I will say, though, that is getting harder to do.

A side effect of the stress that I didn’t anticipate, though, is the excitement. Making decisions about smaller details means that I am thinking about those details, envisioning them in the wedding. Finally making myself sit down and start hashing out the ceremony means that I’m spending time picturing the getting married part of the wedding. Planning the wedding weekend events means that I can imagine hanging out with our very spread out friends and family.

The stress and excitement have become completely wrapped up with each other. So I’ll work on reducing my stress (putting back burner items on the back burner), and then I’ll get excited about something, and then I’ll be stressed again. It’s a cycle, but I guess in the end, it’s a good thing. I’m not really that stressed, and I can’t feel anxious without also feeling excited. As determined as I’ve been to have a good time planning the wedding, this is a new dimension, a new wrinkle in the process.

The wedding is coming closer and closer. Soon, my countdown will be in the double digits. I relish the fact that there is so much to do, because it will make these three and a half months go by really quickly. And it will keep the excitement of the wedding on my mind. For me, the anticipation is half the fun.

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Single Flower Bouquets

Well folks, things have changed. I know that I’ve been saying that I am not planning on having flowers at the wedding. I’ve explored some alternatives to traditional flower bouquets, but none of them feels quite right. Handmade bouquet alternatives are a little too crafty for me, and although pinwheels are cute, there is just something about way it looks to hold such a skinny base that I find unappealing in pictures. The truth is, I really like the pictures of the bride and bridesmaids when they’re holding flowers, especially the more modern pictures where the bouquets are being held more casually (see here and here for examples).

So, I am officially leaning toward having the bridal party carry flowers. Since that means quite a few bouquets, and of course, we’re trying to keep costs low, using a florist is not really an option. Luckily, there are a ton of DIY bouquet instructions on the internet and many options for purchasing bulk flowers online quite affordably.

Since I am not artistic or crafty in any way, I think the simplest plan would be to make single flower bouquets. That way, rather than mixing colors and textures, we basically just have to bunch flowers together and tie them up. Pretty easy, right? Here’s some inspiration (sources below):

top to bottom, left to right: tulip, sunflower, rose, ranunculus, hydrangea, peony, baby’s breath, gerbera daisy