Scenarios Abound

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
question mark made out of lavender, heart-shaped crystals

image via stock.xchng | photography by Cieleke

Where you’re staring down the barrel of a 2 year (or more!) engagement, it’s tough to make any absolute plans at the beginning. Not that that stops any of us from looking for inspiration, right? And as much as I love to fill in all those Who, What, When, and Where questions*, the big one is How.

The Who is easy: Bride & Groom. An officiant. Everyone else is technically optional, but we know it’s more than that; having an idea of the size of your guest list is a good idea right now, but the details aren’t absolutely necessary just yet.

The What? Simply put, a wedding. Another blank filled in. (Though if you have a theme or something, this would be a good place to put it.)

The When? With a long engagement, you almost have your pick of dates unless you’re in a major metro area where venues book up to 2 years in advance anyway. Still, have a goal date in mind and your first and second pick for time of day. When = done.

The Where could be broad–a city or country preference–or specific to a location. What I keep finding though, is that the where has a lot to do with the How.

I, at times, can be the most optimistic person on the planet. We all have those rather Pollyanna moments, I think, looking at a situation and thinking, ‘hmmm, I could make this work, it could fabulous!’ even if it’s not what I was really looking for.

Turns out, doing this with men is not such a great idea. Doing it with venues? Could be, indeed, fabulous!

Especially in the early stages of planning, it’s great to keep an open mind on the details but have some priorities. For instance, our priorities looked like this:

  1. Great food and drinks
  2. Pretty location that can do ceremony and reception
  3. Just the people we really want there

With those 3 things in mind, each location presented various opportunities.

A semi-local (within 30 minutes for most of us) event hall would give us plenty of space to have an outdoor ceremony with a seated supper complete with centerpieces and seating cards and twinkle-lights aplenty.

On the other hand, a set of lake houses we considered renting for the long weekend could become an extended, low-key affair where we could host our out of town guests for a couple of days and have more of a house-party style cocktail reception that lasts until the last one drops.

Finally, a local garden spot would give us an opportunity to do a whole-group processional and recessional, 2nd line-style, as we traveled from the pre-ceremony mix and mingle to the ceremony site and back for the swanky reception.

And each of these scenarios had a certain charm. Sure, there would be concessions made for one location over another, but looking at the day through rose-colored glasses meant I could envision the best possible outcome for each.

After checking out 4 locations, we still hadn’t decided on a where, which meant my How was still very much up in the air, too! And, oh, the possibilities are still swirling around my head.

Some things, however, are non-negotiable, no matter how tinted the glasses or bubbly the libation in your toasting flute. These stark realities include:

  • Capacity: If you’re preliminary guest list is 300, why are you even looking at a courtyard that will barely hold 50? On the other hand, a hall for 500 would feel very empty if you’re having an intimate wedding of 20.
  • Facilities: Renting or borrowing a house to have your way with makes for a lovely venue, but if you’ve only got 1 bathroom for 100 people, you’ll need to add the dreaded port-o-lets to avoid trouble. Not to mention what kind of kitchen facilities there might be and, oh yes, parking.
  • Budget: Yes, yes, I know it’s not a fun thought but if the venue you’re perusing is 90% of your budget, why torture yourself? Posted rates are not always carved in stone but there’s haggling for a discount and haggling for a hand-out. Let’s keep our dignity, here, shall we?

We went round and round but eventually settled on Honey Lake Plantation for all of the reasons in our original ‘pro’ column. For a while it and the Garden Center were running neck and neck, but when I started searching for caterers I found that it blew our budget all to hell over going with an all-in-one location. It also meant giving up my initial dream of a sunset ceremony followed by a tantalizing tapas reception in favor of a late-morning  ceremony followed by brunch. But we’re just as fond of breakfast any time of the day as we are of sampling lots of different foods, so it wasn’t too hard to get used to the idea.

After all, breakfast means bacon, right?

(*of course, the why is the simplest of all: because you love each other)

What came first for you, the where or the how?

Robbing Florals to Pay Rings

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Wedding rings on top of cash

aka Figuring out just how your going to pay for what you want

Research weddings for any amount of time and you’ll get more than you ever wanted to know about where the budget should be spent. I despise the word “should.” Should implies that I have to do something because that’s how other people did it. And while I’m not one to have a problem with authority, I do take umbrage with those who pretend to know what I want more than me.

But having something like this sample budget allotment does give us a good place to start, so I’m not going to throw the budget out with the bathwater.

Here’s the basic breakdown for our $5K Wedding, as suggested by The Knot and Real Simple:

Reception $2425-2500
(including venue, rentals, food and beverage)

Attire $500
(bride and groom clothes and accessories)

(if it doesn’t come with the site, it goes here)

Music $400-500
(dj or band or your ipod and some speakers)

Photos & Videos $500-600
(includes the prints, too)

Favors & Gifts $150
(for guests, attendants and each other)

Ceremony $100-130
(site and officiant fees)

Stationery $150
(anything paper that gets mailed or handed-out)

Rings $100

Transportation $50-150
(limos, valets and any hotel rooms for the bride and groom)

The biggest difference between the two suggested allotments were between music and photos: The Knot prefers photos to music and Real Simple considered them equal contenders.

Now, some of those amounts are absolutely laughable: $100 for 2 wedding bands?! Sure, I could find them like that online from some warehouse but we might have to monkey things around just a bit. Like maybe going the iPod route instead of a dj and freeing up those funds for other uses, and having the ceremony and reception at the same venue so as to avoid car rentals, 2 location fees and who knows what else.

We do agree that the reception taking up half the budget makes sense as one of our priorities is good food and drinks. Meanwhile flowers will probably get nixed altogether in favor of less-perishable, more economical options made by moi, as will pretty much all the stationery needs. That doesn’t mean we get to totally zero out those ledger lines, there will still be expenses involved (like stamps!), but they will be much less than these estimates with the rest made up in “sweat equity.”

And while there’s still the possibility of adding more to the budget (funds, not expenditures) by the time it’s all said and done, I don’t really have a problem being a couple with more time than money to pull off this wedding.

Pretty Book and Flower Icon

Does your proposed budget make you shudder? 
Or are you, like us, determined to make it work? 

That’s All That Matters…

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
Leaving a message on a mirror with lipstick

image via stock.xchng | photography by melodi2

If you read any number of wedding blogs, wedding magazines, wedding books or anything else bridal, I’m sure you’ve come across something like the following: Don’t worry about Uncle Bob’s bad dancing/the boutonnieres being wrong/the fight with your bridesmaids/etc. because, at the end of the day, as long as you end up married, that’s all that matters.

Yes and no.

If all I wanted was a signed legal document proclaiming our lives contractually linked, I could have gone down to the courthouse and had that in about 15 minutes (Florida’s 3-day wait after getting the certificate excluded).

But that’s not all that matters.

Getting married is one thing, having a wedding is a whole ‘nother thing entirely. A wedding is a tiny bit ceremony and a huge bit celebration. As the bride (and together with the groom), I’m hosting one hell of a party. And when it comes to parties? Details matter.

Uncle Bob’s bad dancing notwithstanding, those little details that you’re supposed to just blow off because they’re not important? Gee, thanks for telling me that the 6 months I spend hand-making paper flowers for bouquets, bouts and centerpieces doesn’t matter. That the menu I worked diligently on with the caterer doesn’t matter. That the friendships that have flourished or floundered over this 2 year period don’t matter.

Now, I know good and well that there comes a point in every party where you decide that certain things are good enough or other things just aren’t going to get done. And you’re okay with that because enough items on the list did get accomplished and most people aren’t going to know or notice.

In my circle we call this pressing the Fuqit! button.

But those details? They matter! Otherwise they would have been taken off the massive to-do list well before the week or day of the wedding. The end result may be the same–you and your mister are hitched–but those details make the difference between your guests merely witnessing the signing of a contract between two people and celebrating the union of two lives with all their passions and quirkiness.

So don’t dismiss your desires quite so quickly, brides and grooms of the 21st century. Know what’s important, yes. Know what’s worth fighting for (figuratively, at least). And know what’s worth letting go if it really comes down to it.

But don’t say it doesn’t matter.

 Have your say: What oft-repeated wedding phrases get under your skin?