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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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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Happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone is celebrating with loved ones. I’m in New Jersey with Steve and my extended family on our annual pilgrimage. I’ll be back with more wedding content next week!

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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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Leave of Absence

Hi everyone. Wow, it’s been a while. When I started this blog, I committed (to myself) to posting twice a week, on a somewhat regular schedule. And I kept it up for a long time. Then, summer happened. And now it’s been a few weeks since I’ve last posted. So, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Steve’s daughter spent the summer with us. Or, most of it anyway. We had a great time, and writing blog posts just didn’t hold a candle to hanging out with the coolest 10 year old I know. We had so much fun, and tried to soak it all up, especially during the last few weeks of her visit.
  • I got the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for PS3 for my birthday from Emily and Steve. Wow, that game is amazing. It has sucked up all, and I mean all, of my down time since I started playing. I’m a little bit worried about the effect it will have on my wedding planning, or life in general, now that I’m getting back into the school year. But it’s worth it.
  • Emily and I (and sometimes Steve) gave up two weeks of our lives to watching hours upon hours of the Olympics. Anyone else out there an Olympics junkie?

So, as you can see, we had a whole lot of nothing going on this summer. It was great to spend so much time just relaxing and having fun without thinking too much about the to do list. Notice how there is nothing about the wedding up there? Exactly. As I wrote here, having a long engagement has led to some lulls in planning. I know now, as the wedding starts to get closer (7 months!), I’ll actually need to start planning again soon.

I’m starting by getting back into planning. Regular posting will resume here as of now. I’ve missed it, and you!

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Yesterday was my birthday. And it was great! I had a nice, lazy morning, lunch with my parents. Then I picked up Emily from camp and introduced her to the fun that is Center Stage. At night, Steve and Emily took me out to a fancy dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. It was an embarrassment of riches, to say the least. And the celebrating isn’t over yet!

I went to bed thinking about what my life would be like at my next birthday. I’ll be married (mutter superstitious phrases under your breath here). I’ll be a wife. I’ll be a stepmother. Sometimes, it seems like my life will be totally different. Other times, it seems like it will be just the same. I’ll still be me, right? I mean, I did get a video game for my birthday last night.

I’m really looking forward to my 34th year. I’ll be a Maid of Honor for the first time. I’ll welcome friends’ and cousins’ new babies into our lives. I’ll be presenting at a conference for work again (and hopefully more than one). I’ll be taking on new responsibilities and challenges in my career. I’ll finish planning this wedding, my largest project to date. And then, I’ll get married!

It’s a lot for one year. There’s a lot of doing to do, and a lot of growing to do. But I’m up for the challenge, and ready to get started!


Weddings and Feminism

There are so many ways that weddings interact and sometimes contradict with feminism, at least my feminism. Starting with the pre-proposal and going all the way through the reception, weddings can embody traditional gender and family roles so completely that it makes my head spin, and, truth be told, can make me super-ragey.

I was prepared for these issues coming into wedding planning. For god’s sake, I’ve been reading A Practical Wedding for two years now. But I wasn’t prepared for what came up this week, already, in my first month of being engaged.

Steve and I worked hard to come up with an ideal date for the wedding. Originally, we had been thinking about October 2012. That would have given us about a 10-month engagement, which I thought was ideal. Then, I started to think about what this fall already looks like. I am a Maid of Honor (for the first time!!) in a wedding in September. Then, the Jewish High Holy Days, which all take place on weekdays, will be happening. By the time we got to October, I will have taken four of my six personal days off from work. I won’t really be able to take off any time for the wedding, and I’ll be trying to get everything together during one of the busiest times of the year. Plus, having the wedding in October would make it extremely difficulty, and probably impossible, for Steve’s family to come from England.

Starting to despair, I searched around for another possible date. And then, miraculously, I found a Sunday in March where my Spring Break and UK Spring Holidays overlapped. Brilliant! Wonderful weather, time off, and the chance for Steve’s family to make it work made this date look beautiful. Plus, it would give us a few extra months to plan and save. I felt really excited when we committed to this date and started telling our families and friends. It was finally real!

Then, at work this week, I got word that my principal had agreed to send a group of us to the national school social work conference next year. This was great news! I have been wanting to present at a national conference and I was planning to apply to this one. It’s in San Diego, where I’ve never been. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.

You probably see where this is going, right? The conference ends the day before the wedding. On the Saturday. My brain searched frantically to try to find a way to make it work, but it is just not going happen. I am heartbroken. I told myself, “But you’re getting married! That should be enough to make you happy! It’s worth missing the conference!”

The truth is, of course it is worth missing the conference for my wedding. But, the wedding is not enough to make me happy. It will make me happy, obviously, but I’m not just a bride. I’m a person, with other interests and other ambitions. As I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t be upset because, come on, I get to have a wedding, I felt squeamish and uncomfortable. Being totally ok with forgoing everything else for the wedding would for sure betray my feminist beliefs. And luckily, my squeamish-ness reminded me that those beliefs are part of my core.

So, I’m allowing myself to be upset about missing the conference. I’m disappointed. I will probably be disappointed and frustrated when my colleagues fly off to San Diego to present on my program that I’ve worked hard to make a success. Being excited about the wedding won’t change that. And it shouldn’t.