Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Downright Liberating

I keep saying the invitations are "done." In fact, they still aren't completely ready to be mailed. However, they are painted (on both sides), stamped, almost-addressed, and, now, personalized for each recipient.

In classic holiday card style (well, not really "classic" because I actually write more than a quick, cliched phrase on my cards), I wrote a personal note to each guest.

This past summer I spent the morning at the Goodwill (or some derivation thereof) helping my friend, Chris, shop for "black-tie optional" attire for our friend's wedding. The fellow didn't even own a suit. On his invite, I wrote: "If I told you that you could wear whatever the hell you want, would you be more likely to come?"

On a former boyfriend's card (who happens to be obsessed--god bless him--with minimizing our collective carbon impact), I wrote: "Do I at least get a tiny bit of credit for sending out postcards instead of real invitations? I am, indeed, afraid of Dante's modern level of hell: Carbon Dioxide that hasn't been offset."

Because I only invited people who add real meaning to my life and with whom I share real memories, the process was actually very quick and painless. (Editor's Note: I mean real "quick and painless," not rip-off-a-band-aid or wax-your-legs "quick and painless.")

It's funny how easy this entire process has been. By making a few key decisions upfront, we have simplified the entire planning process:
  1. We're paying for the whole thing ourselves so we get to make all the decisions.
  2. We're only inviting people with whom we are authentically connected.
  3. We are not going to obsess about details that are actually very irrelevant to our guests' enjoyment or the grand scheme of the universe.
  4. We are hosting a casual affair so everyone is more relaxed and more likely to have fun--including us.
  5. We are making the festivities special with sincerity rather than money.
We have, in effect, deescalated the situation from the classic "ordeal" of the modern wedding to one of my new past times. Writing notes to my friends is fun. Embroidering on the bottom of my dress is relaxing. Not stressing about a photographer or a D.J. or a three-layer wedding cake with fake icing is downright liberating.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Boys-This and Girls-That

During our class meeting today--specifically during the "issues" section of the agenda--Michael, a first-grader, raised his hand to say, "When Lerae was playing the Wild Words game she spelled the word 'boy' and then said 'Ewww!' to all her friends. I used an I-statement to tell her I felt sad when she said that."

I stepped upon my soapbox to explain that it's common for little kids to get wrapped up in cooties and boys-this and girls-that but that it doesn't make any sense. I pointed out that my best friend is a boy and that my "bridesmaids" will actually be three males and two females.

Later in the day, when Eridani asked me how long my wedding dress is, I pointed to mid-shin. Olivia said, "Oh, that's short for a wedding dress. They are usually way long." I reminded her that I only paid $15 for my dress and Eridani added, "Yeah, it's different. But it's way better to spend $15 instead of $2000."

It feels good to be able to say to little kids, "There's a different way." Not force-feeding them ideas about what they have to do or what is right. Just letting them know that "normal" isn't the same as "average."

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Made Something Better Together

Matt and I finished the invitations. Hand-painting every invitation (front and back) wasn't as tedious as it sounds. In fact, I hope our life together is kind of like our invitation-making.

We easily agreed that we wanted to send postcards instead of envelopes in order to cut back on costs and our environmental impact. We talked about making a stamp but then agreed to watercolor instead. We took turns developing designs, each of us building on the other's design. Consensus about the final design came easily after we had worked through such a collaborative process.

Then each of us completed the steps that came most easily to us. My meticulous self took on the responsibility of cutting the postcards, tracing the stencil, and gluing on the information card. Matt's more artistic self painted the trees and the birds.

We made something better together than we would have independently. And the process was fun (and environmentally-friendly). I hope the next 60 years in our life together are just like that.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Trying to Paint a Different Picture

Matt and I decided to have a $2000 wedding before we thought about all the things we would actually have to buy. Once we started the Excel sheet, I suggested, "Um, why don't we have a $2500 wedding instead? That would be 10% of the average cost of an American wedding."

In the end, we agreed that $2000 is enough for a big party to reunite our friends and family, celebrate our life/love, and have fun.

However, when we actually allocated money to specific categories, I was convinced that we would be forced to go over our budget (indeed, that's what all the wedding books, shows, and websites suggest will happen). I mean, we only had $250 for a location. $50 for invitations.


However, so far in this process (knock on the proverbial wood), we have come in under budget. Our location: $0 ($250 under budget). The ceremony site is free because we will have a lot of guests staying there. The reception site is also free because our guests are filling up the whole place.

Our invitations: $30 because we used a lot of material we already had at home and didn't splurge for the personalized stamps. $20 under budget.

My outfit: $180 under budget because I went with the $20 clearance sun dress and am wearing shoes, jewelry, and a shawl I already own. We're personalizing the dress with an embroidered story of our lives together (and embroidery floss is only $0.33).

All of this feels very good, especially in light of the current U.S. economy. I read an article in the New York Times the other day about how consumer spending is down. And, in an economy that is based largely on consumer spending, that's a bad sign.

What does it say about us as a nation that our economy is based largely on consumer spending? I imagine that it says we are trying to seek happiness in all the wrong ways. More clothes. Newer technological gadgets. Bigger houses. More luxury cars. More lavish weddings.

We are immersed in an advertising culture that seeks to convince us that all of these things are integral to our contentment. This same culture simultaneously injects us with insecurities. Our hair isn't shiny enough. Our skin isn't clear enough. We should fight the advance of wrinkles.

The American culture of competitiveness only fuels the situation. We compare ourselves to others using consumer goods as our gauge.

And what is this really about? At the core, we all need to feel valued, loved, and appreciated. In our capitalistic society, corporations compete with each other to make products that we can purchase in order to fulfill those needs. We've given these corporations permission to create an advertising culture that has led to the creation of a materialistic and consumeristic society.

Weddings fit right into this warped Salvador Dali picture. So many of us are convinced that we need the best flowers, the best dress, the best invitations...in order to have the best wedding.

Matt and I are trying to paint a different picture. It's about having fun during the planning process. Creating an itinerary and selecting a venue to foster genuine connections with our guests. And making each other, as well our friends and family, feel valued, loved, and appreciated without spending a lot of money to do it.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Wedding Schema

I am proud (and relieved) to say that I have never stepped foot in a bridal gown store. Phew!

The pressure, the salespeople, the orgy of organza--oh my!

Instead, I've opted for Matt and me, in our craft room, designing embellishments for the $15 dress from the Target clearance section. We decided to embroider along the bottom of the simple sun dress.

I had the general idea of "Birds of a Feather," which entails embroidering birds and trees and other natural stuff. We're getting married outside, in Colorado, after all.

Then Matt took the idea to the next level by suggesting that we embroider the story of our life thus far. So, we are now the "Birds of the Feather." For example, our first date involved running through sprinklers at a park at night. Hence, in that section we are depicted as two birds splashing about in a bird fountain.

The process continues to be fun. And it's something that continues to bring us closer. I have brief freak-outs when I worry that the whole casualness of the affair will make our guests uncomfortable (everyone has particular wedding schema that gives them a sense of comfort).

But then I remember that we are ensuring that this wedding is an authentic extension of who we are and how we love each other and that is, after all, exactly what a wedding should be.

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rich Bride, Poor Bride

When Sara and I were at a friend's house over winter break, we caught two episodes of a new television show called "Rich Bride, Poor Bride" on the WE (Women's Entertainment) Network. The show traces the life of a couple as they work with a wedding planner to design their dream wedding on a budget. "Budget" is relative, because even the poor bride and groom spent $25,000.

The show takes you through every step of the wedding and when it came to invitations, the couples-to-be decided to splurge. Their invitations included a series of bows, three different envelopes, and three different cards announcing who the couple was, the dates and times of the wedding, and another for the recipient to RSVP. These invitations cost $8 a piece and the customization was limited to wording and font choice.

Our DIY, (truly) budget wedding has entailed us designing an invitation from scratch, with Sara and I spending a busy Saturday afternoon trading invitation drafts back-and-forth across the couch. We then created a stencil to allow us to manufacture the same design, assembly line-style. We are now in the midst of water coloring each card, and we will then follow-up by adhering a small piece of paper to the hand painted card detailing date, time, and how they can RSVP electronically. A brief message will be written on the back from both Sara and me. We then affix a 26 cent postcard stamp to the back and send it on its way.

Not only are we saving money by producing the card ourselves, using paper that we have found around the house, and asking our guests to reply electronically, but we are sending a personal, thoughtful and endearingly cheerful card to our beloved family and friends.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

How Fun Was That

Matt and I took my dress to a seamstress for alterations yesterday. By "seamstress", I mean a friend of ours who designs her own clothing line for kids: Baby Diggs. We brought over pizza and bread sticks. They provided the salad and the drinks.

Then we went to work trying to figure out the right size for the sash. Once we agreed upon 3-inches and cut the sash fabric, we then cut out the high neck-line in the back and made more of a V-shape. Then the seam was hand-sewn closed to ensure that it matched the other hidden seams on the dress.

How fun was that?

Two nights ago, we reconnected with an old buddy of Matt's who is going to set up his band-quality amplification equipment, so we can implement our budget iPod DJ scheme. We ate Mediterranean food and got a tour of Nick's abode (i.e., a veritable artist commune).

How fun was that?

I'm still passionate about the fact that this wedding planning business should be as fun as possible from start to finish. The planning process is much, much longer than the actual wedding. It's a time to clarify your values (i.e., figure out how to live your life in a way that creates the kind of world you want to live in), communicate those to others (i.e., stand up for what you believe in), and live in a way that's consistent with your values (i.e., go out and make it happen).

Who would've thought you had to be a modern day superhero to plan and implement a budget- and environment-friendly wedding?

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