Big Wedding, Small Budget

Lessons Learned – Ask for what you want

As wedding planning is starting to draw to a close (eek), I’ve started reflecting on some lessons I’ve learned during the process. Obviously, I’m learning a lot about how to plan and throw a big event; I’ll probably go into that more after the wedding actually happens. And I think Steve and I have learned (and are still learning) quite a lot about how we work as a couple and how to play to our strengths while mitigating our weaknesses. But I’ve also learned some personal lessons.

One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to ask for what I want. This has come into play especially while working with vendors. At first, I was afraid to seem too much like a bridezilla (seriously, one day I’ll write a post about this anti-woman bridal stereotype); I was committed to being, or at least seeming like, a laid-back bride. So I figured that meant just going with the flow; I didn’t want to give our vendors too much direction, and I thought I should be happy with however things turned out.

Then I realized that was not the right strategy at all. The thing is, I am a fairly laid-back bride (as far as brides go), but I do have certain idea that I feel strongly about. There’s a lot about which I couldn’t care less, but articulating those important points doesn’t make me high strung or neurotic. Actually, the more neurotic tactic would be not to give any direction, then to be totally unhappy with the final result.

Recently, I was speaking to a potential videographer. When we reviewed the wedding details, he had some questions for me that I ultimately left up to him to decide. But I also had some pretty specific requests and preferences. And I made sure to communicate those to him, even though I felt a little demanding doing it. I mean, I’m paying him, right? We’re both motivated to get the best possible product out of the deal.

This is definitely a lesson that applies to my life outside of wedding planning. Society expects women to stay quiet about our needs and wants, taking whatever we can get from others. Or, we’re supposed to manipulate our partners into doing what we want. But isn’t every couple happier when one partner explains what they need and the other partner can make them happy by giving it to them? And at work—I’m definitely happier when my boss is clear about what she wants from me and I can do it. And she is probably happier with that kind of arrangement as well.

Being clear about what I want helps me as well as those around me. Feeling uncomfortable asserting that is just a hurdle I have to get over. Just like with wedding planning, I need to just ignore the discomfort and do it anyway until it feels natural. And thanks to wedding planning, I should reach that point pretty soon.

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Confession: I like to talk. A lot. This should not be news to anyone who has ever met me. Also, I’m not exactly a private person. I don’t keep things to myself very much, and when something is on my mind, I have to talk about it. I’ve spent more hours than I can count dissecting thoughts, questions, life events, decisions, and really boring minutiae with my very accommodating friends (thanks, guys). And of course, when it comes to wedding planning, I’m no different.

I think I’ve done a good job through most of this engagement to avoid letting the wedding planning take over my life. I’ve avoided becoming a “bride,” for the most part. But that’s pretty much over now. The truth is, with such little time left, the wedding has taken over. There is a ton of stuff to do; unlike a couple of months ago, I have something I could be working on every single day. And I’m at peace with that. I knew things would get busy as the wedding got closer and it’s ok. I’m not super stressed and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m enjoying actually getting things done.

The problem is that this takeover has come with a certain obsessiveness that I’m pretty sure anyone who has gotten married before will recognize. Because I’m always doing stuff for the wedding, I’m now always thinking about the wedding. I’m either pondering a decision, mentally running through my to-do list, or feeling excited about something that I’ve finished. And with me being me, thinking about the wedding all the time means I’m talking about the wedding all the time.

Ugh. I cannot express to you how much I hate this. I’m sure it is even more boring for the people who know me, but seriously, I’m boring even me. I need to remember how to discuss other things, and how to have other things to discuss. I’ve started to challenge myself to not bring up the wedding when I’m having a conversation, but man, it is hard. And that’s just embarrassing.

This weekend, we had a coworker of Steve’s over for dinner. I had never met him before and he didn’t know that we’re getting married. And I managed to go the whole night without mentioning it. Thank god. I found it so liberating, actually. And it was really nice to remind myself that I am a real person, not just a bride.

So, as I go into these last two months, I’m going to work hard to strike a balance. I know I have to spend a lot of time and mental energy on the wedding and it is fun to discuss it with my friends, but I really need to remember that it is not the only thing going on in my life or in others’ lives. I had no problem finding things to talk about before I was planning a wedding. I should have no problems now.

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Two Months Left!

Wow. Two months left! I know I say this every month, but time is really flying by. This engagement has been really long, and mostly slow-moving, but it feels like we’re moving at lightning speed now! Lately, I’ve been expecting to hit the wall I’ve heard about from my friends, that point where I’m so tired of planning and just ready for it to be over. It hasn’t happened yet, so that’s good. There is so much to do, and checking things off of the list feels so good! Here’s what I finished from last month’s list:

  • Finalized dessert: I haven’t signed a contract yet, but we went for the tasting and booked the date. I’m so excited! Plus I get to do another tasting in about a month. Yum!
  • Write the ceremony: Last month, I was hoping to just make some progress with the ceremony. Instead, I finally stopped procrastinating and sat down to write it. It was a ton of hard work, but I’m really happy with the result. And last weekend, I was in Boston, so Ilana and I were able to sit down and go over it as well. It’s not completely finished, but it’s close enough for now. That one is a load off my mind!
  • Get the website ready: Was I really only working on this a month ago? Wow. It’s totally done!
  • Make a final decision on flowers: I’ve finished the research and with the help of my mom, I’ve found a seller. We got a really good price on exactly what I wanted, so yay!
  • Make a final decision on my ring: Done! I’m so glad I found something I really liked. Now I can’t wait to have it on my finger!
  • Stuff envelopes and mail invitations: A couple of hours in front of the TV and this was finished! Luckily, our invitation is only one page so it was pretty easy. Thanks, Mom, for addressing the envelopes!
  • Make a decision about the veil: I’ve decided to use my mom’s veil and I have a plan for how to wear it. When it gets closer, I’ll attach it to a comb and it’ll be sorted.
  • Book hotel room: I’m staying in the hotel from Friday to Sunday night (Steve will join me on Sunday). So that was just one more thing to take off the list.

And just because I was feeling extra motivated, I checked off a few other things, too:

  • Price and decide on centerpiece supplies: I’ve figured out what I want and where to buy it from; I’m just not sure how much, but that depends on the number of people so it has to wait.
  • Decide on tableware/glasses: I’ve done all the research I can on these items; just waiting for some more information from my mom.
  • Choose and buy escort cards: I had a Vistaprint
    Groupon that needed to be used, so I went ahead and order the escort cards. I love them!

I really did get a lot done this month. But there is so much more to do. This is the big push to finalize all of the little details. Here’s what’s on the list:

  • Order guest book: I already know which guest book I want. But I want to wait a little bit longer to order so I have a better idea of the number of guests. The artist I’m using is working from a waiting list though, so I can’t wait too long.
  • Schedule vendor meetings: I need to have final meeting/conferences with our photographer, caterer, DJ, and dessert supplier. I also need to gather up tableware and wine to drop off at the caterer’s when we have our meeting.
  • Have my first dress fitting: Eeek!
  • Decide on table linens: This is one of the wedding things I couldn’t care less about, so I’ll probably just leave this to my mom.
  • Buy bridal party gifts: I have a couple of ideas for gifts, but nothing I’m thrilled about, so I’m going to keep mulling this one over. But it needs to get done soon.
  • Shopping day: Due to my credit card statement timing, I have one day in February when I am planning to buy all of the things I’ve spent the past few months picking out. They are: accessories, his ring, my ring, the Ketubah, the kipot, the chuppah supplies (poles and hooks), and the flowers.
  • Finish planning open house: This is largely my parents’ project, but I still want to make sure everything is planned out so I don’t have to stress about it.
  • Make and print table numbers and programs: The programs are largely done, and the table numbers are planned out. As soon as I know how many tables we need, I can get this done.

It doesn’t really seem like that much when I write it here, but I know it will be super busy, especially since some of these items require meetings and appointments. I’ll also probably start working on next month’s list if I can. We’re really in the home stretch now!

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Book Centerpieces

As I’ve been doing the research for our centerpieces, I’ve come across some really cool ideas. I’m going to indulge my inner nerd with this one, and show you some book centerpieces. This isn’t something we would ever do, mostly because Steve isn’t a huge reader, like I am. But oh my god, these are amazing!

top left, top center, top right

bottom left, bottom center, bottom right

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Blogging Anniversary

This weekend marked one year of blogging. A whole year spent blogging about this wedding. And I thought—what a strange thing. I mean, really, what a strange thing for a feminist, not-princessy, professional, educated woman to do. To spend a whole year of her life writing about her wedding. What does that say about me?

I think what it mostly says about me is that I like to write. And I have a lot of opinions to share. Neither of these should surprise anyone who knows me. And as I’ve written about before, the wedding isn’t the only thing I’ve had going on all year, but it is a big, important thing. Getting married is a huge transition, and a wedding is a huge project to plan, so I think it’s understandable that I have a lot to say about it. Unpacking the wedding-planning process has meant wrestling with feminism, identity, anxiety, consumerism, and of course, flowers. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my decision making process, my ability to compromise, and my ability to trust myself and listen to my inner voice. I’ve been proud of myself for being able to stand up to the WIC and the chorus of voices out there telling me what a wedding should be like (and what I should be like as a bride).

I could have done all of this processing without a blog. I could have done a lot of thinking on my own, talked about it with my closest friends. But it wouldn’t have been the same. Something about the writing process is special, and writing for something public really makes me think about what I want to say, as opposed to the brain dump that happens in my journal. I’ve always wanted to have a blog, but I never really thought I had enough to say. Writing two posts a week about the wedding for a year makes me realize that I could do it. And I’m already thinking about what I’ll do once the wedding is over.

So, what did this year in blogging look like? I’ve got the stats from 2012, which make up most of it. Let’s see:

  • In 2012, I had about 5900 views. As of today, this is already up to 6250!
  • My most popular post ever was about the wedding venue. I never thought so many people would be interested in that! Another top post was about (not) changing my name. That’s something I’m proud of since it’s an issue I’m super-passionate about.
  • Lots of people found my blog while searching for non-diamond engagement rings. I’m so glad to spread the word!
  • I had views from 42 countries! That is really amazing. We have an especially international circle of family and friends, but not that international.

I have been blown away by all the page views and comments (on the blog, Facebook, and in real life) that I’ve received since all this started. It has been really fun, and such a rewarding experience to get back to the practice of writing. I also love that my blog will serve as a pretty thorough record of our engagement.

Not only do I feel proud for being able to keep this up for a year, I feel inspired by the process. I’m so excited to share with you the last two months of wedding planning, and to see what comes next!

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Pre-wedding Photo Sessions

A while back, I came across this post: Pre-wedding session. The blog says,

We are completely obsessed with the idea of a pre-wedding session. Not only do you get do a test run with your hair and makeup, make sure your dress is exactly right, but you also get to have some incredibly gorgeous photos captured of you and your love. All this without the stress of the wedding day.

We recommend bringing items that you want photographed, your invites, wedding shoes, or any keepsake you want captured. We love the idea of having a bouquet made for the session as well, to add that extra pretty element in all your photos.

This post has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and now that the wedding day is starting to take shape, I have been thinking about it even more. I could not disagree with it more. Having a pre-wedding shoot pretty much goes against everything I believe in, at least when it comes to weddings.

I hope that my wedding looks nice. I don’t really care if it is beautiful, perfect stylized or “blog-worthy.” I know Steve will look nice, and I’ll hopefully look pretty (although I’m pretty committed to looking normal, too). When I was looking for a photographer, I didn’t choose one based on her recording our fabulousness. I chose one based on her capturing our wedding. How it looks, but also, how it feels.

Dressing up in our wedding clothes, with a bouquet, with hair and makeup done, on the day before our wedding doesn’t mean anything. Pictures of us at the wedding, feeling the emotions (and hopefully, joy) of the day, connecting with friends and family—that’s what I want to see in our photos. We are not models in everyday life, and I definitely don’t want to be models at our wedding day.

This has come up especially when I’m thinking about first look photos. Steve really hates posing for photos, and I really hate contrived moments. We are not good actors, and we like to just get on with things. We will see each before the ceremony for several reasons (Jewish wedding, pictures beforehand), and I would like pictures of that time, but I just want us to act naturally. I learned from our engagement session that our photographer is really good at capturing those kinds of moment without making it look or feel contrived, so I’m not worried about it all.

I guess what it comes down to is this: for me, a wedding is an experience, not a diorama. Treating a wedding like a photoshoot by taking pictures the day before misses the point of the whole thing. Who cares what we look like? I want to see what we felt like.

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A Shift

I don’t know if you guys have noticed it, but there has been a definite shift of tone on this blog. As the wedding has gotten closer, I’ve been writing less inspiration or philosophy posts, and more hardcore planning posts. There’s a reason for that—most of the thinking and decision making is done. We’re now in the checking things off the list part of planning (thank god). And just like I’ve been interacting differently with my wedding blog, I’ve been interacting differently with the planning as well.

For example, I’ve spent a lot less time on those inspiration-heavy wedding blogs. I still like to look at them, of course, but now, it’s more a case of flipping through them quickly while I’m watching TV. I’m still on Offbeat Bride, of course, mostly because the Tribe provides lots of concrete planning help. The thing is, I don’t need to look at pictures anymore. What I do need is to write the ceremony, but that is a topic for another day.

This all came to a head at the end of last week, when we mailed the invitations. Anyone who has planned a wedding can tell you, this is a big step. First of all, there is so much planning that leads up to the actual mailing. Before we could send invitations out, we had to have the place and time nailed down. The website had to be completely finished, especially important for us because so many of our guests are from out of town and we are using the website for all of the information and RSVP. The wedding weekend events had to planned and included. Also, we had to choose, design, and order the invitations. And my mom had to address them all.

So, just being able to send out the invitations means that a lot of the planning is finished. But besides that, spending all of that time stuffing and stamping the envelopes, putting them in the mailbox, and actually imagining people receiving them made this whole thing so much more real. It felt like a point of no return, for lack of a better phrase. People have already started RSVP’ing, and that means that people are really attending. This wedding is really happening.

It’s thrilling and stressful, exciting and anxiety-producing. Now that it’s 2013, now that invitations have been mailed, it’s finally starting to hit me. The wedding is not just a big project, an event to plan. There is a huge to-do list, but that’s not the half of it. A wedding, a marriage, is a big life step, a colossal transition. Intellectually, I knew this all along, but I’m only starting to feel it now.

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Pictures and Parties

As I mentioned earlier, this has been an exciting week in wedding world. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

First, last Friday, we took our engagement pictures. This was something that had been causing me no small measure of anxiety, mostly because Steve doesn’t really like getting his picture taken. In fact, that was basically the whole reason we had engagement pictures taken in the first place; they were included in our photography package, and I thought it would be a good chance for us to get to know our photographer a little more so that the process would go much more smoothly on our wedding day. Well, I was totally right, and I would recommend to anyone that they do engagement pictures for just that reason. We did them with Emily in downtown Orlando. The session was really fun, and our photographer was wonderful. She came armed with ideas to make everything more fun and natural, spent a lot of time just talking to us, and ended up having dinner with us afterwards. The experience was great, and I cannot wait to see what the photos look like!

Then, the very next day was my bridal shower. To tell the truth, I hadn’t thought that much about it beforehand, mostly because I was doing so much to get ready for the engagement pictures. But the minute those were over, I started getting really excited for the shower. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to sleep the night before! Anyway, the shower was everything I could have hoped for and more. Everything looked so nice and the food was amazing. The gift giving was even fine, something remarkable since I really hate opening presents in front of people. Mostly, I was just so touched that a group of people got together to put it on for me. They put so much work into it and I could really feel the love. To look around that room and realize that all of these people had come there just for me, and some from pretty far away, was incredible. The time went by really quickly as I tried to talk to and spend some time with everyone. I can only imagine that the wedding will feel like that times 100!

We’ve been taking care of some other wedding stuff this week, but mostly we’ve been hanging out with Emily and having lots of fun. It’s been a great winter break generally, and I’ve felt really productive wedding-wise as I’ve been checking more and more things off of my list. Next week, I’m back to work, hopefully, I’ll continue to get just as much stuff done!

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