Big Wedding, Small Budget

Planning Update—One Month Left!

Oh my god, you guys. Yesterday was one month exactly until the wedding. I really can’t believe it! It’s hard to believe that exactly one month from today, it will all be over. I can really feel now how the wedding is just one fleeting day that flies by. Whew.

We’ve now reached the point in the do-it-yourself wedding with all the doing. All of those little details on my to-do list are now due, or overdue, as the case may be. Always the listmaker, I now not only have the checklist on The Knot, I also have another, more detailed list on Word. And, to top it all off, I’ve started keeping a daily checklist on my phone of wedding stuff that needs to get done. This is crazy, guys.

Anyway, this is my last monthly planning update. So, it will be the longest and most complicated. Here’s what I’ve gotten done (more or less) since the last one:

  • Order guest book: This is done! Just waiting for it to come in the mail.
  • Schedule vendor meetings: I’ve now met with the videographer and venue. I have a meeting scheduled for this week with the DJ. All that is left is to meet with the caterer and fill out the info sheet for the photographer.
  • Have my first dress fitting: The second fitting is this week!
  • Buy bridal party gifts: They are sitting in wedding storage, AKA our spare room, as we speak. I love them!
  • Shopping day: This was extremely satisfying, even though it didn’t happen all at once like I had planned.
  • Finish planning open house: I haven’t finished planning so much as turned it over completely to my parents. It felt great to let go of it.
  • Make table numbers: I’ve created them all; they just need to be printed. I’ve got to find a place where I can print 5×7 cards.

There is probably too much still left to do to list here, but I’ll try my best to condense it down. Here’s most of what has to get done before the wedding:

  • Buy stuff: Tablecloths, plates, cups, drinks, centerpiece supplies, table number holders, and probably some other things I’m not thinking of right now.
  • Finalize details with vendors: Go over the small details with the caterer and day of coordinator and create a ceremony guide for the photographer and videographer.
  • Make a floor plan and assign seating: Also, the escort cards need to be filled out.
  • Print the programs and table numbers.
  • Get the welcome bags ready: I have to buy the supplies and bags and create and print the inserts.
  • Order the flowers: And buy bouquet-making supplies.
  • Get the marriage license: While we’re at the county clerk’s office, make sure that everything is set for Ilana to officiate.
  • Make a day-of schedule.
  • Wedding Beauty: Finalize makeup, get my hair cut, make a waxing appointment, and figure out details for nails that weekend.
  • Every other small detail that is too tedious to list here.

I’m confident I can do this. Of course, I still need to pay bills, go grocery shopping, make dinner, and not suck at my job in the meantime. Plus, I have to take some continuing ed classes for my social work license renewal before the wedding. Procrastination will always come back to bite you later, kids. Take it from me.

No doubt, I will be busy this month. But that is actually probably a good thing because it will make the time fly by. Before we know it, the day will be here, and I’ll be someone’s wife. Now, to go take some deep breaths before I hyperventilate…

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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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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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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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Four Months to Go!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I spent it up north with my family in New Jersey. There was lots of talk about weddings, since one of my best friends and my cousin are both getting married next year also. It’s so interesting to hear what everyone is doing, especially when they are planning completely different weddings from mine.

While I was away, we hit the four month mark. Now, the planning lull is definitely over. I need to get these wheels in motion so we can start getting stuff done. When I think about all the different tasks on my to-do list, it’s pretty overwhelming, but I’m trying hard to stick to my schedule in order to keep everything manageable. I didn’t get everything from my October checklist done, so I really need to work harder to stay on top of things. I did get some exciting tasks completed, though! I ordered the invitations and they are sitting in a box in my house right now! I made most of the decision on dessert (see below for more). Also, as a bonus, I bought half of the wine for the wedding! We’re getting our red wine from a local winery that was having a special at their fall festival, so I scored a sweet deal. We just have to remember not to drink it before March 24!

Here’s what’s on the list for this month. As you can see, there are some leftovers from my last planning update:

  • Finish collecting and verifying addresses for the invitations: I did not even start doing this last month. And since we sent save-the-dates by email, I have quite a few addresses to collect. I really need to start gathering those and have Steve get his this week. There’s really no reason to put this off, and I’d like to check it off of my list, even though we’re not mailing invitations for more than another month.
  • Figure out and order/print return addresses: I’ve ruled out using a stamp (since I can never do it neatly) or printed envelopes (not worth the money). I still need to decide if we’re going to write the return addresses by hand, order labels, or print them ourselves. My mom will be addressing the envelopes, so it’s really up to her. Hopefully, in the next week, we’ll be starting to experiment and we can make a decision then.
  • Finish deciding and booking dessert: We’ve decided on a dessert. And I’m not revealing it here, but it will not be cake. I’ve already been in contact with the vendor we’re going to use, so I need to finalize that booking. And we also need to decide if we’re going to do a cake cutting with a small cake for tradition’s sake. Feedback?
  • Start writing the ceremony: I can’t believe I haven’t started this yet! I think it’s kind of like writing a paper; it’s hard to start, but once I do, it will go quickly. Even though we have plenty of time before the wedding, this is not something I want to be working on at the last minute. Plus, I’m assuming we will go through several drafts before it’s finished.
  • Plan wedding weekend events: We are planning on having an open house at our home the day before the wedding, and also having a no-host afterparty at a local bar after the reception. I need to start (and finalize) the details and add the events to our website. I want to have them on there before invitations go out, so this has got to get done this month.
  • Decide on flower (or not) for the wedding party and research prices: Right now, I’m actually starting to lean toward flowers for the wedding party (more on this next week), mostly for convenience’s sake. I think I know what I want to do, but I need to make a final decision, research online prices, and figure out the logistics of how this is going to work, whether we go with flowers or something else.

Wow; that is a lot! I really need to get on this stuff. Luckily, I will be in town for this whole month, hopefully without too much going on. Holidays eat up a lot of time, and we have Emily coming for winter break (plus some exciting wedding related stuff!), so I need to finish this list by December 24. By then, we’ll be in the double digit countdown, which is incredibly hard to believe!

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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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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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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!


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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