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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Should Definitely Spark Some Meaningful Conversations

One of our main goals for the wedding was to give our friends and family an authentic opportunity to get to know each other. It's a hard task, especially when small talk is the norm among strangers.

To combat the small talk conundrum, we fashioned name tags for our guests to wear Friday night at the casual hang out dinner. Instead of "Hello, my name is..." the tags read "Ask me about:" Each guest has three or four quirky things on their tags.

The tag of my friend, Camella, for example, says: "Ask me about: Ashtonga yoga, raising chickens, DJing a radio show, and why should shouldn't buy corn."

It was quite a bit of work (aren't most DIY projects?). First we had to come up with three things for every person. Luckily, we've pretty much only invited our closest friends and family, so it wasn't very hard. For the few dates we don't know, we simply e-mailed the original invitee and asked them to provide some talking points.

Then we had to do a mail merge from Excel into Word. Then there was the formatting and the editing. And the printing. And the meticulous chopping with the paper cutter. Then the laminating. And now we're in the process of using an exacto knife to slice a little slit for the clip to slide through.

But I think it will be worth it in the end (aren't most DIY projects?). They should definitely spark some meaningful conversations. I can't wait.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's Now Ready for the Rings

Matt's grandma gave us the hat she wore in her wedding 54 years ago.

Although I was sincerely touched, I wasn't sure what to do with it (given the fact that wearing a hat wasn't in my wedding future).

After a few moments of thought, we decided it could function as our "ring pillow." So, a couple pieces of ribbon and two buttons later, it's now ready for the rings!

Let's just hope the rings arrive on time...

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Entering into the Marriage Consensually

Colorado must be the easiest state in which to obtain a marriage license.

Matt and I walked into the DMV. Yes, the DMV. The nearest one was a mere 1.2 miles away.

We took a number.

We waited approximately eight minutes.

We gave her our names, our parents' names, the cities of our birth, our social security numbers, and our address. We confirmed that we are entering into the marriage consensually and that we are not related by blood (even though first cousins are allowed to marry). Then we paid $10 and walked out with our marriage license.

On our wedding day, we simply sign it. (In Colorado, the bride and groom can solemnize their own marriage.) Then we mail it back to city.


Now, if only Colorado would legalize same sex marriages...

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

We'll Test It Out and See How It Goes

I'm not usually one to be swindled by info-mercials. And yet today I bought something for our wedding that looks like it's straight out of one: it's a portable, wireless PA system. It's good for football games, church functions, BINGO--you name it!

Since we're getting married outside, we need something that doesn't need a plug. Even though the ceremony will be intimate and close, I want to make sure all the speakers' voices are heard. There's nothing worse than going to a wedding where you can't actually hear what is being said. Argh!

Apparently there's a "courteous" money-back guarantee if we're not satisfied. It only cost $99 (and I ordered an extra cord so we can plug an iPod into it). As soon as it arrives, we'll test it out in the backyard and see how it goes.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Wavy Fan Handles

Wedding ceremony program production has begun.

Since it's an outdoor wedding, we're turning them into fans. At first, I searched JoAnn's Fabrics and Michael's for tongue depressors, but they didn't seem quite long enough. I thought about trying to beg Home Depot or Lowe's for paint stirrers, but the thought of panhandling + spray painting just didn't seem worth it.

Luckily, a quick Google search (oh, bless you, god of convenience) for "wooden fan handles" led me to multiple sites that sell "wavy fan handles." And they're cheap, too!

One site (the one from which the picture came) even gave me a cool tutorial on how to make a fan with cardstock and the wavy fan handles.

Fortunately, we already have tons of cardstock left over from our teaching days and we're printing them at home. That just leaves the wavy fan handles (I love saying that phrase), which cost $19 ($10 of which was shipping and handling).

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Many Scary Points Along the Way

The quilt is finished! Our house has been in such disarray since the project started (i.e., fabric scraps, an ironing board, sewing machine, etc.). I put in extra hours last night just to get it finished.

In the end, we decided to make it a duvet cover because we figured we would get more use out of it. I simply sewed an old sheet from the thrift store to the underside of the quilt and added some buttons along the bottom. I also sewed a bit of ribbon to the inside edges of the duvet cover and the outside edges of the down comforter to prevent it from slipping.

Honestly, I can't believe this quilt thing worked out. Three weeks ago, I learned how to quilt a pillow, but I still can't get over the fact that I was able to translate that meager knowledge into a finished project as big as a whole quilt.

There were many scary points along the way. For example, we nearly ran out of denim fabric, the fabric wasn't long enough, I couldn't get the squares to line up. Yada. Yada. In the end, it really came together. I'm still not exactly sure how, and, at this point, I'm not up for trying it again.

However, it's been such a fun process: receiving fabric in the mail from friends and family, building squares with Matt, piecing it together. We feel really proud of the finished product and it will have meaning to us for years to come. Hooray!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wedding Favors Are a Detail

I'm violating one of my own wedding recommendations: Don't obsess about the details.

Wedding favors are a detail. As a guest, I've definitely enjoyed favors, and I've also found them utterly useless and wasteful.

When they aren't there, I don't even notice.

However, I had an idea for favors that is actually really cheap to implement (and it's good for the environment), so we are going to make favors.

Since we're serving homemade guacamole at our reception, our favors are going to be handmade seed packets with directions for growing cilantro on the front (which is a main ingredient in our guacamole) and our guacamole recipe on the back.

We ordered bulk organic cilantro seeds and will use cardstock we already have. We're going to simply fold up the bottom portion of the cardstock, put the seeds in, and sew it up.

The seeds cost $21, so that's about 40 cents per favor.

It's still an unnecessary detail, but at least it's a cheap detail.

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Other Major Purchases

The average cost of an American wedding is pushing $30,000. Where do people come up with that kind of cash?

Matt and I are tying the knot in T-minus 25 days. We're trying to close on a house in T-minus 29 days. Egad!

The house we're looking at is listed at $240,000. That's a lot of money for not a lot of house (2 bedroom, 1 bath). But it's in a convenient location (hooray for trying to decrease our carbon footprint), and it's a historical bungalow (circa 1930).

Let's say we get the price down to $230,000. If we bring 20% for a down payment (so we can avoid taking out a second loan and also avoid paying PMI), then that's a shocking $46,000. Next, to add insult to injury, we have to pay all sorts of things at the same time: inspections, an appraisal, mortgage lending company fees, insurance, many months of taxes, etc. So, we need to show up at the closing with $53,549.53.


How in the world (or should I ask, "Why in the world?" do people spend so much on weddings when there are other major purchases to make (that last longer than one day)?

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Needed to Wash It Again

I decided to wash my wedding dress. In the washing machine. It made it through once already. I washed it when it first came out of its little plastic casing. Once the embroidery was done, I decided I needed to wash it again to get all the oils from my hands off of it.

But washing a dress that took hours upon hours to complete? We're talking 100+ inches of fabric on the bottom that needed to be embellished.


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The Top Ten Myths of Wedding Planning

Because I'm in wedding planning mode, every wedding I attend becomes fodder and research for my own.

Tonight I accompanied my fiance to the wedding of one of his childhood friends. It was the most sincere, authentic wedding I have ever been to, and yet it didn't follow much of the traditional components that are ingrained in our cultural consciousness as "must-haves" at a wedding.

The Knot would have been exasperated by many of their choices, and yet it was precisely those choices that made it the best wedding I've been to so far. It inspired me to write this list of The Top Ten Myths of Wedding Planning.

The point is: You don't have to follow anybody's rules! Not your parents', The Knot's, or anyone else's! It's your wedding, and it should reflect who you are as a couple.

10. You have to pick a venue based on its physical beauty. Pick it based on how fun it is. Seriously. People will enjoy having a good time more than they will enjoy looking at a stunning vista. Tonight's wedding was at a children's science museum. They rented out the whole place, and we were free to romp around like kids (if only I had worn shorts under my dress!). We played in the bubble room, climbed on the vertical maze, and talked in the whisper phone.

9. You have to wear an uncomfortable dress.
The more comfortable you are, the more beautiful you will look. You need to be able to walk and move and dance around your wedding. The bride at tonight's wedding wore a random sun dress with colored stripes. Was it cute? Yes. Was it spectacular? Not particularly. Did she look spectacular anyway? Absolutely. She was radiant (not because of some mineral make-up). She was deeply content. The dress, hair, and make-up were irrelevant.

8. You have to put fondant on your wedding cake.

Admit it. It's disgusting. It has the texture (and taste) of plastic. And what the cake tastes like is more important than what it looks like. At tonight's wedding they had several real cakes. Real ones. They were absolutely delicious. I was forced to eat two pieces.

7. Someone else's voice has to dominate your ceremony.
It's your wedding. It's about you and your future partner and the coming together of your lives. Why should someone else talk all about it? At tonight's wedding, the bride and groom walked out together. The bride's sister did a brief introduction and then left the bride and groom alone up there. They talked about each other and then to each other. It lasted only about seven minutes, but it was the most sincere and touching ceremony I have ever witnessed. Tears streamed down my cheeks (and that never happens to me at weddings!).

6. You have to hire an obnoxious photographer.
The experience is more important than pictures of the experience (and you'll have plenty of pictures anyway if you just ask your friends and family to share their photos). At receptions, I honestly avoid dancing next to the bride or groom because the photographer is always right there with an interrogation bulb flashing in your face. Argh! At tonight's wedding, in the absence of such a photographer, it occurred to me just how annoying they really are!

5. You have to hire a DJ.

You don't really need one. Either have a live band or hook up an iPod. You just need good, danceable music. Well, if you do hire a DJ, just use him/her to monitor the mood of the crowd and select the most appropriate song. Whatever you do, don't let them speak. They really don't contribute anything to the experience. At tonight's wedding, we just danced to some classic dance tunes coming from an iPod.

4. You have to serve a sit-down dinner.
Sit-down dinners are long, stuffy, and contrived. People have to be assigned to tables. If they aren't interested in the people or the conversation at their table, they have to suffer through it. It's just not necessary. At tonight's wedding, we just served ourselves buffet style. We could eat when we were hungry, we could go back for leftovers, and we could sit next to whomever we wanted.

3. You have to spend an insane amount of money on the alcohol.
Beer and wine are fine. Seriously. People can still get their drink on with those classics. The addition of a signature drink (they did Grandma's Punch) is definitely cool, but you don't need to blow your savings on something that hinders people's ability to remember the event.

2. You have to invite people who aren't close to you.

The more random family friends you invite, the more uncomfortable you're going to feel. Don't feel obligated to invite anyone you don't want to. Invite people you're close to and leave it at that. At tonight's wedding, it was very clear that only the most important people were invited. And the atmosphere felt a lot more intimate and comfortable because of it.

1. You have to obsess about details.

Wedding colors don't really matter. Flowers don't matter all that much. Napkins don't matter. Remember that a wedding is a public declaration and celebration of your mutual love and commitment amidst a community of support. Focus on those things. Write your own vows. Make yourself and everyone else as comfortable as possible so you can really celebrate. And only invite a community of support.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Very Close to Being Free

Due to the overwhelmingly generous donations from friends and family, our rings are very close to being free. The cool thing is that they didn't donate money; they donated their old gold, which greenKarat will melt into our new rings.

So not only are the rings good on the budget; they are also good on the environment. What a rare combination!

My ring is $575 and Matt's is $550. We also paid a $250 administrative fee, for a total of $1375.

So far, we are at $1,118.25. Woo-hoo!

If you have any useless gold lying around and you want to donate it, please go to our registry at greenKarat.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


One month to go!

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Neither of Us Has Any Experience with Quilting

We're making serious progress on the quilt. [Skip to paragraph four if you already know what the quilt is and why we're making it.]

For those of you new to our little diary o' wedding planning, we asked all of our friends and family to send us small pieces of fabric. Our goal is to quilt them together, so we can include a Quilt Wrapping tradition in our ceremony. It's a mix between the Jewish tradition of getting married under a huppah (which can be constructed from the fabric of friends and family) and a Native American tradition of being wrapped in a blanket.

Neither of us has any experience with quilting. Zilch. But we are liberating ourselves from all rules, regulations, and rulers.

I did two squares last night. Matt has already done one this afternoon and he's in the process of finishing a second one. We need twelve altogether. The goal is to finish the bulk of wedding preparation within the next two weeks, so the following two weeks can be devoted to packing and preparing for a move.

New pet, wedding, a move, new jobs. Aren't those like four of the ten major stressors in life? Let me see if I can find a list.

Oops. It turns out it could be a lot worse.

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A More Casual Quilt Genre

The wedding quilt process has started. Matt and I swung by the fabric store and purchased some muslin (I'm going to do foundation quilting), and we decided on a dark denim for the background of the quilt. Luckily, the denim was 60% off. Hooray for sewing store random sales!

The plan is to create 12 squares (with nine different pieces of fabric within each square). Then we will nestle these squares within a denim background. For those of you who know anything about quilts: the design for each square will be the log cabin style.

The whole thing is based loosely on one of the quilts we saw at the Gee's Bend exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art. I love that my first experience with quilting is based on a more casual quilt genre. I couldn't imagine pulling off anything Puritanical. No measuring for me. No precision, really. I just make sure I can sew the pieces together, I place them right sides in, and then I sew. Oh, and I iron a lot. It makes everything look better.

I'm building each square on a piece of muslin. I learned this type of foundational quilting at a pillow-making class a few weekends ago. Since it's the only quilting-esque thing I know how to do, I went for it.

It seems to be working out okay so far. I'll attach pictures of the pillow I made in class.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Helping Guests Feel Involved

The Knot, one of the front-runners in the Wedding Industrial Complex's race to steal all your money and make you feel guilty that you're not doing more to ensure "The Perfect Day," cracks me up.

Sometimes their advice is so sage. Here's a quip from today's e-mail reminder that I need to constantly focus on my wedding: "The more guests feel involved with your wedding, the more likely they will have a great time."

My sentiments exactly!

It's something I've learned as a teacher (the more kids are involved in planning or executing something, the more they enjoy it). It's something I've learned as a birthday-party and dinner-party thrower (the more friends are involved in the planning or executing of something, the more they enjoy it).

Our strategy for helping "guests feel involved with" the wedding is to give them jobs. The other equally important reason to give them jobs is that it helps us stay within a reasonable budget.

We have to be careful, though, that our guests don't feel like they are being used or like they are doing chores. The goal is to give lots of people one small piece.

If they have a very small piece, it should be very easy to explain to them what needs to be done (before the wedding weekend). Then they should be able to execute it independently with little stress.

Once the wedding weekend comes, all the smaller pieces should just fit together automatically and seamlessly and I shouldn't have to worry about much at all.

I guess that's the goal of a $3,000+ wedding planner. But the drawback to those people is that they often run around the wedding completely stressed out, which ends up stressing me out as a guest (I suffer from hyper-empathy).

So here is a list of all the jobs we are parceling out (the bigger jobs have 2-3 people attached to them so they aren't overwhelming):
  1. Photographers
  2. Officiant and Ring Keeper
  3. Set up sound and iPod at ceremony and reception
  4. Marinate meat, chop vegetables, and cook fajitas
  5. Salsa chef
  6. Bean & Corn salad chef
  7. 7-Layer Dip Chef
  8. Sous-Chefs
  9. Hair
  10. Paymaster
  11. Decorator, Florist, Sign Manager (including wedding favors)
  12. Pick Up Cakes
  13. Traffic Director at Ceremony
  14. Traffic Director at Reception
  15. Ushers
  16. Pick up and set-up kegs
  17. Pick up Friday Food
  18. Pick up Margarita Machine
  19. Wash Cloth Napkins
  20. Smores Director
  21. Lemonade and Iced-Tea on Friday
  22. Group Photo Director
  23. Program Manager
  24. Drink Manager
  25. Campfire
  26. Videotaper
We are also hiring the bed and breakfast owners to help out a lot during the reception. They are heating up the food we prepare, setting it out, refilling it, and cleaning it up. That way, everyone can pretty much enjoy the event.

So, what is The Knot's strategy for helping "guests feel involved with" the wedding?

Wedding programs. Yep, wedding programs.

"Wedding programs are a wonderful way for them to follow the ceremony, understand tradtions, and take home as a keepsake."

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Video of Photographs

Matt and I (well, mainly Matt) finished our video of photographs that will play in the background during the reception. It was definitely fun to work on. It's fun to encapsulate life through photos.

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Wedding Bandanna

I finished Hoss's wedding bandanna and took him out for a brief photo shoot. He got progressively tired during the 3-minute stint and went from standing to sitting to lying down.

The color is very flattering on him, although the excessive rolls of skin around his neck (we're talking fistfulls) make it difficult for the bandanna to lay nicely. Oh well.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fabric Flowers

The bandanna for the dog, Hoss, is coming along. Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out how to unify the wedding party, since they are all allowed to wear whatever the heck they want.

Because Hoss gets to wear a piece of our signature (I guess you could call it that) fabric, I figured the wedding party could wear it, too (although we don't have much left).

Since both sides of the wedding party include males and females, and we don't really want to distinguish between Matt's side and mine anyway, we decided the ask the whole gang to wear fabric flowers.

Turning to my mentor, Google, I did a quick search and found a great tutorial.

Thirty minutes later, I had my first flower. This stuff is really fun.

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Work in Progress

Matt's mom is in charge of deciding which group photographs need to be taken formally.

One if the items on the list was: "Bride and Groom and their dog, Hoss."

It got me thinking. What is Hoss going to wear?

And then it hit me: he can wear a bandanna made out of the same material that my sash and Matt's tie are made of. It's from an old dress I bought on a trip to India.

The photo shows the work in progress.

I think the project proves the idea that wedding planning will fill up however much time is allotted to it. Surely, my dog does not need to match the bride and groom. But if I have the time, why not?

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our American Addiction to Convenience

Unfortunately, there's a direct relationship between how good for the environment something is and how much it costs.

For example, if we bought disposable napkins, we would spend a couple of bucks for hundreds of them.

Instead, we're going with cloth napkins. Actually, we're splurging on cloth napkins. We didn't splurge on the photograph stamps I wanted for the invitations or my dress (only $15!) or anything else (except the compostable dinnerware).

But we decided to buy four yards of fabric (bird fabric, since we've got a "Birds of a Feather" theme going on). Our plan is to make 8"x8" napkins. If I've done the calculations correctly, we'll get nearly a hundred out of our four yards. But each yard was close to $10. With shipping, we spent around $50 total.

For napkins!

Oh well. It's worth it. Using cloth napkins (and cloth towels, rags, etc.) is a huge step in the right direction for the environment. Our American addiction to convenience wreaks havoc on the environment. In my mind, paper towels and napkins are completely unnecessary. At home, we use dish towels to dry our hands and old rags to clean up messes (even really gross doggie messes). I haven't had a paper towel or paper napkin in my house for years.

And I'm an extreme case. I don't use paper towels in public restrooms either. I've been letting my hands drip dry for seven years. It really isn't a big deal.

So maybe the cloth wedding napkins will inspire people to start using them at home? Maybe we should give them away at the end of the weekend? (We've already assigned one of our friends to laundry duty.)

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

So Entrenched in the Process

We are in the final stretch: 1 month and 8 days to go. Matt and I have taken a break from wedding planning for the past two weeks to close out the school year (we both teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades at public Montessori schools) and take a road trip.

We traveled from Denver to Utah to Idaho to Oregon to California and home again. Our trip was full of unforeseen obstacles (like a veritable wall of fuzzy mosquitoes at our campsite in Utah and gunshots in the middle of the night at our campsite in rural Oregon). I almost forget there was also the time our dog peed in the tent.

But, like life and our impending marriage, what you choose to focus on will determine your general impressions and ultimate happiness. So, instead, I choose to remember watching our dog overcome his fear of water in the Great Salt Lake in Utah, shopping at the Farmers' Market in Bend, Oregon, picnicking at a private campsite with towering trees, swimming in a clear lake off the Californian highway, watching Matt walk to the edge of a bluff and see the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

Refreshed from the trip, we now need to kick it into high gear. We need to move from wedding planning to wedding execution.

In the last hour of our ride home yesterday, Matt and I talked through the project plan and translated it into our last action items.
  1. Talk to Kim about Friday
  2. C2=agenda, not Wed. night, flowers
  3. Figure out jobs
  4. Finalize Mr. Margarita
  5. Figure out bunk situation
  6. Make signs
  7. Favors/gifts
  8. Finish dress
  9. Finish sash
  10. Fix necklace
  11. Work on quilt
  12. E-mail Katy about photos
  13. Solidify agenda with Andy
  14. Make Andy’s binder
  15. Finish vows
  16. Make napkins
  17. Make tablecloths
  18. Make favors
  19. Make one-pagers
  20. Finish “to bring” list
  21. Make programs
  22. E-mail people who have not RSVPed
  23. E-mail people where they are staying
  24. Buy flickr storage
  25. Order kegs
  26. Order tamales
  27. Order cakes
  28. Make Amy’s $ sheet
  29. Print up final schedules and checklists for everyone
Luckily, this kind of stuff is fun. Phew! It feels really great to be so entrenched in the process.

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