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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Vintage Wedding China

Matt and I didn't register for wedding china. Honestly, we're content with just one set of plates, bowls, etc.

But when my grandparents mentioned that they would be willing to give us their china because they are downsizing, I jumped at the opportunity. My family has been eating Thanksgiving and Christmas meals on that china for more than 40 or 50 years.

Matt and I are now the very proud--and privileged owners--of a full set of china. It includes all sizes of plates and bowls and tea cups and serving things.

I just hope we can overcome our clumsiness and keep the whole set in tact for the next 40 or 50 years!

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Wedding Centerpieces that Make the World Better

Photo courtesy Offbeat Bride

Yes! I've been toying around with the idea of using books as centerpieces for a while. A huge thanks to Arial over at Offbeat Bride for showcasing a "nerdtastic" wedding with book centerpieces.

Two thoughts come to mind:
  1. You could go the super-budget, super eco-friendly route by using your own books. This would give your guests more of a glimpse into your personalities and lives.
  2. You could go the good-for-the-world route by picking up used books at garage or library sales and then donating them to Books for Africa. You could include a little tag on the centerpiece to explain what the organization is and what you're doing with the books.
And while I'm on the topic of centerpieces (I'm not sure why I keep talking about them if my own wedding didn't have them): here's another budget- and eco-friendly option: organic clementines in a garage sale vase (courtesy mi casa). Both options are low enough so that they don't hinder conversation.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Request

A while back, I sent out a request for generous folks who would be willing to offer up their time to provide feedback on chapters of the 2000 Dollar Wedding book I'm working on. And some of you kindly responded.

Since I diligently try to keep my inbox clean--per the suggestion of David Allen and co.--I promptly added your e-mail addresses to a list in my action plan and deleted the messages.

And then a few days later my computer restarted itself without my consent (what's with Vista?) and didn't autosave my action plan.


So here I am again, humbly asking you to send me another message letting me know you're interested in providing feedback on a chapter or two of the book.

Thank you!

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Pre-Marital Classes

One of the things I regret about our wedding planning process is that we didn't go to pre-marital counseling. It just didn't occur to us. We were so wrapped up in planning our wedding, completing all our DIY projects, looking for new jobs, buying a house, and coordinating a move from Denver to Houston.

Now that we're settled, it's time to go. I agree with the cheesy (yet true!) idea that love is verb more than a noun. Relationships take work. They require skills and strategies. We're always looking for ways to improve our conflict resolution and communication.

Reader Roxanne let me know about an amazing program in good ol' Houston, TX (as part of the larger network of programs called Twogether in Texas). Couples can sign up for a secular course for free (with lunch provided!). At the end of the day, they receive a voucher for $60 off their marriage license. Very cool. Thanks, Texas!

We're going to try and sign up for the March 14 class. I'll let you know what we learn.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Marry a Guy in 10 Days

This reader planned and executed her wedding in a mere ten days. I so admire the simplicity and the sincerity! Here's what she had to say about it:
I wore a white gauzy sundress that I bought at a hippie store, and let my bridesmaids pick out sundresses that they promised they would wear again. I even let them pick the color (they both got red dresses, and the groomsmen decided to follow suit and wear red ties).

The wedding was at a tiny outdoor chapel that is also the start of a hiking trail. We both love backpacking so it felt fitting. The only music that we played was a simple acoustic version of the traditional walk-down-the-isle music.

The ceremony was short and sweet, and we didn't do any speeches (we didn't want to bore anyone to death, and it didn't feel necessary).

Afterwords we had a potluck/brunch at the park. Everyone seemed to have a nice time chatting, and we got cool pictures of the groomsmen and groom played frisbee in their suits.
Congratulations on pulling together a meaningful and memorable wedding! (And thanks for reminding us all that weddings don't have to be crazy, stress-inducing productions.)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Q&A: Fabric Wedding Pins for the Wedding Party

Reader Question: I just had a quick question...do you have the website that had the tutorial for making the fabric flower pins? I can't seem to find it.

Sure! I found the tutorial on Maize in Montana. And for those of you who have no idea what the reader's asking about, these are the fabric pins I made for the folks in our wedding party--both men and women.

They were a last ditch attempt to give our wedding party some sense of unity. We asked people to attempt to wear something that coordinated with the colors in the flower.

It also served as a little thank you (they did, after all, have to memorize an entire dance). They were completely free because I used fabric that we already had at the house. It's from a dress that I bought in India but really never wore (it's the same fabric I used to make Matt's tie, my dress sash, and Hoss's bandana).

Honestly, they were a totally unnecessary detail that was just a fun diversion from my other work!

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Q & A: Postcard Invitations and Wedding Websites

Reader Questions: For your invites, you mentioned that you put a personal note on them, but I'm not sure how that worked out because the addresses had to be on the back to mail the postcards. Where did you add your note, on top, below, etc? Did you have any problems with random people visiting your site or anything like that?

On one side of the postcard, we painted a tree with two birds. We also pasted a little piece of paper with our wedding information. There wasn't a lot of text because we put most of it on our wedding website.

On the other side, we wrote the address, placed the stamp, and wrote a personal message. We didn't have any problems with random people visiting our site.

Question #2: I need to set up a website with an online RSVP as well (I don't want paper ones either), but I want my own domain name to keep (not a Knot.com, Wedding channel.com, etc). How did you set yours up, and do you pay a yearly fee? Any advice you have about this would be much appreciated. I'm pretty good with computers, but domain and website building has not been something I've played around with.

I'll punt this one to readers: Has anyone found a free wedding website service that actually lets you use your own domain name? (i.e., www.mattandsara.com, not www.mattandsara.knot.com)

We couldn't find one when we were trying to put our site together. That's why we had to go with a free blog from www.wordpress.com and a $7/year domain name from www.1and1.com. We tried to make it look like a wedding website rather than a blog by only having one long post on the front page (see http://ofafeather.us for an example). My web-savvy best friend helped us create the online RSVP.

Find other posts on this topic

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Monday, January 26, 2009

DIY Invitations

Instead of doing my chores this weekend, I started working on the invitations for my birthday party.

In an effort to be budget-friendly and eco-friendly, I'm trying not to buy anything new. That means I had to resort to the paper we already have in our paper basket (which is what we did for our wedding--hence the reason we had fluorescent orange name tags at the Welcome Picnic!).

I originally wanted to print an image in color, but we only have a black-and-white printer. Again, my options were limited.

Fortunately, it's a retro theme, so I figured a black-and-white image would be perfect. To add a little color, I went back to our paper basket and pulled out some red pieces for a background.

I used our paper cutter to cut out the images and the red squares. I also cut some of our leftover cardstock in half to serve as the base of the card.

Then I put a dab of glue stick on the red paper to glue it to the card and then the image to glue it to the red piece.

Next, I sewed everything together on my machine (I experimented with different stitches).

For the envelope, I tore out pages from an old children's dictionary I cleaned out of my classroom a few years ago. I sewed on a red scrap so I could clearly address each envelope. Then I sewed up the two edges of the card (I just plan to tape the flap down, once the cards are in the envelopes).

As I worked on this DIY project, I was reminded of the Six DIY Stages.

However, I also had a few new realizations:
  1. It's important to create a prototype. I know it sounds obvious, but I don't always do a good job of creating a completely finished product before I start working on the rest of the bunch. However, this piece is critical!
  2. As you make your prototypes (or prototypes if you want to experiment with different versions!), try really hard to figure out the most efficient way to do something. Sometimes I'll make ten of something before I tune in, pay close attention, and realize a more efficient way to do something.
  3. Process things in batches. On these invitations, for example, I cut all the cardstock first. Then I cut all the images. Then I folded all the cards. Then I glued on all the pieces. Then I sewed all the cards. In other words, doing step one for all the cards and then moving onto step two, step three, etc., is usually more efficient than finishing the whole card and then starting the next. I find that doing the same step over and over allows you to work more efficiently.
It will feel good to get these babies in the mail.

As always, let me know if you have any questions!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Recycled Metal Wedding Rings

I have a growing list of rings-that-never-were. In other words, rings that I would want if I needed another wedding ring.

I love this ring from mcfarland DESIGNS on Etsy. It's made from recycled metal (and it's vegan). And it's only $148.50.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eco- and Budget-Friendly Centerpieces

I was so inspired by one of John's holiday gifts to Sherry over at This Young House (a vase with the promise to fill it 12 times a year) that I committed to buying myself fresh flowers on a weekly basis.

I did it the first week (and they actually lasted two weeks!). But then I started worrying that I was bringing unnecessary pesticides into our house. I don't mean to be a spoil-sport; I just worry about the proliferation of chemicals in our lives. Two of my family members have battled cancer, and it scares me.

Plus, since my car was stolen, I've needed to save even more money to buy another one.

Ugh, what a depressing post so far!

Anyway, I decided to go outside, snip a few pieces off a plant that needed to be trimmed anyway, and stuck them in a vase. Voila! Instant centerpiece. It could totally work at a wedding.

Photo via This Young House: John's gift to Sherry

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Enlarging a Vintage Dress

So I've started undertaking the task of enlarging my vintage dress. Now that I'm putting this much work into it, I'm starting to wonder if I should wear it to my Retro Prom Birthday Party. It would save me the hassle of trying to sew a dress.

I really only need one new dress this season. I can wear it to my birthday party, our friends' wedding in April, our other friends' wedding in May, our other friends' wedding in July, and our other friends' wedding in September. They are all very separate groups of friends, so there will be little to no guest overlap. I can totally get away with wearing the same dress. Plus, the shoes I wore to my wedding will coordinate perfectly.

Wow. Do I sound like a Depression-era individual or what?

I also need to find a crinoline/petticoat. I'm not sure what the difference is. What do you think about the one pictured here? Is it similar to the one under the yellow dress?

(Editor's Note: I am officially obsessed with that dress! Someone help me...)

Enlarging it is a little more difficult than I imagined. I keep going at it with my seam ripper. The fabric loves to fray. I try it on every few minutes, hoping that I've done something to make it big enough to fit. No luck yet!

I've even started detaching the skirt from the bodice. I hope I don't go too far out on a limb...I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it back together (that Humpty Dumpty song is coming to mind).

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saving Money on Alcohol

One of the ways we cut back on the alcohol costs for our wedding was to forgo an open bar. As much as I like to give people options, it just wasn't financially feasible.

Instead, we decided to serve two beer options, two wine options, and a "signature drink." Since we served Mexican food at our reception, our drink of choice was frozen margaritas.

I'm planning something similar for my birthday party. The party starts at my house with cocktails and photographs. In an effort to save money, I'd like to serve a signature drink rather than a bunch of different types of alcohol. However, it's difficult to attempt to pick one thing that will appeal to different people.

One of my friends suggested frozen pomegranate margaritas or apple martinis.

Another friend suggested offering vodka with three different juice options: cranberry, orange, and grapefruit. That way, we'd get three different drink options for the price of one.

I was thinking sangria.

Any other ideas?

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Monday, January 19, 2009

My Newest Vintage Dress Acquisition

My neighbor sent me a text message at 10:30pm asking me if I wanted to go to an estate sale with her in the morning.

Since I was particularly dreading my work for the day, I jumped at the chance (that's a major benefit of working from home).

A little background: my neighbor is a serious estate-sale goer. She's the person who shows up at midnight the night before opening day to be the first person to sign the list. Seriously.

I am completely new to estate sales. Who knew you actually had to sign up to attend?

My neighbor was number one on the list. Her mom was number two. And I was number three!

We arrived at 8:50am and waited for the rent-a-cop to open the door. I have to admit I was a little nervous. I'm not a competitive shopper. I never go out on Black Friday (is that what it's called?). In fact, I hope to be done with my Christmas shopping in November this year. I don't like elbowing or being elbowed.

My neighbor told me we had to split up. She said it didn't make any sense to go in the same rooms together. We had to divide and conquer. Eek!

She assigned me to the bedroom. Luckily, it was a small house and she quickly found ourselves in the same room together. She barked at me (nicely, of course) to grab dresses left and right. There was no time to look at them or even size them up. We had to grab them and stuff them into our bags. We were both looking for dresses for my Retro Prom birthday party.

I ended up with four dresses in my hand, $20 each. My $70 allowance per month didn't exactly allow for such a big splurge.

Although none of them were Retro Prom material, they were beautiful sun dresses. My neighbor and I stood off to the side and looked more closely at the dresses. A vintage shop owner was on the prowl, encouraging us to let her know if we were going to give up any of the dresses.

My neighbor encouraged me to try them on. Oi vey. Vintage dresses are SMALL! Even with the zipper fully open, I had a hard time getting the waist over my breasts. It doesn't leave much hope for actually zipping the damn thing.

I eliminated two of the dresses and decided that I could maybe spend $40 to get the remaining two.

As we stood in line, though, I challenged myself to bring it down to one dress. One new dress is enough for one day. I ended up putting back my favorite dress, probably because it was the tighter of the two.

I thought the other one fit better--until I got it home. I thought it would fit better without all my clothes on underneath.

Um, no.

Well, it's a see-through sheath (without any other layers underneath it), so I'm going to have to make it big enough to fit on my body with another layer underneath.

It looks like there's a little extra fabric around the zipper. Maybe I can reclaim some of that.

Plus there are some darts in the back that aren't completely necessary.

Crossing my fingers...

Maybe I should start searching for maternity vintage clothes so I have a chance of fitting into them without major alteration?

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Used Items: Better for the Budget, the Environment, and the Soul

Photo courtesy of Lovely Morning

Kristina of Lovely Morning fame was talking about her fabulous succulent centerpieces again.

I love that she patiently amassed an amazing collection of vintage pottery in order to make her vision a reality.

I find that my sense of satisfaction is so much deeper and sincere when I procure things patiently.

First there was the crock pot that I insisted on buying used (since it's one of those things that people use once--or get as a gift and never use--and then want to get rid of).

Recently, there was the Bocce Ball set. I had been scouring craigslist to no avail. Finally, I did a national search (even though I didn't really want to increase my carbon footprint by having something shipped).

It turned out that someone was selling a Bocce Ball set in Dallas. Coincidentally, I was traveling to Dallas a week later. I quickly e-mailed the sellers and convinced them to hold it for me.

Score! I ended up with a $50 Bocce Ball set for a mere $20. They never even used it (it was a wedding gift).

My patience was better for my budget and the environment.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dress Difficulties

So, I'm excited about attempting to sew my own dress for my Retro Prom birthday party. There's just once hitch: rumor has it that chiffon is incredibly difficult to sew with.


I read about the difficulties on the internet (how did we ever live without Google? Seriously.). Then I ran into my neighbor and her mom at a vintage shop. Her mom also warned me not to use chiffon.


I really, really like chiffon because it's so fluffy and bouncy. (Yes, I sound pathetic, even to myself.). It just seems to lend itself so well to the type of dress I want to create. Maybe it's because I'm stuck on that yellow dress. I'm having trouble moving beyond it and imaging a different fabric.

Any tricks for sewing with chiffon? Or recommendations about another type of fabric that would work well?

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Wedding Planning Worries

I hate going to the dentist.

I mean I really, really hate it. Maybe it's because I used to lie to my parents. "Yes, I brushed my teeth," I used to say.

Then they took me to the dentist. Six cavities later, everyone realized I hadn't really been brushing my teeth.

(In fact, I need to go to the dentist. If any of you Houstonites know a really, really good one, please let me know!)

Despite my aversion to the dentist, I do make myself go every 6-12 months. And I hate it.

But I get through it by challenging myself to project myself into the future. While I'm in the middle of the visit, I try to envision myself after the visit is over.

Seriously, as my teeth are getting scraped and prodded and poked, I think about how much better I will feel once I'm walking out of the office.

The truth is, my dentist visits aren't bad anymore because I actually do brush my teeth now (I even floss religiously). But, in the moment, I'm still overcome with anxiety and dread. To help myself get through it, I have to think about how differently I'll feel once it's all over.

Bear with me as I connect dental dread to wedding planning...I really do have a point coming up.

You see, there are all sorts of things that I felt anxiety about while planning my wedding. Silly things. Things that seemed to matter so much at the time, but in retrospect, they really weren't a big deal.

Like photo stamps. I really, really wanted photo stamps for our invitations. But they weren't in the budget, so we resisted. And you know what? I couldn't give a hoot about those photo stamps now that the wedding is over. (Don't get me wrong, they would have been a nice touch, but they weren't anything worth stressing about.)

There are other things, too. Like the food at our Welcome Picnic. I wanted to have the event professionally catered by a deli. It was the first official event of our wedding, and I wanted to give people a nice welcome. But again, it was out of our budget. A friend suggested that we do a make-your-own-sandwich bar instead. I wasn't too happy with that option, but we didn't have much choice.

And again--now that the wedding is over--I realize it didn't make or break the wedding. It was fine! People were so excited to reunite with each other and meet new people. It really didn't matter.

Regardless of what your budget is, you'll probably have to make some compromises. And before you let yourself get too worried or disappointed about those compromises, just project yourself into the future and ask yourself: How will I feel about this when I'm happily married to the love of my life?

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Q&A: Self-Catering a Wedding Reception

Reader Question: We are in the middle of planning a wedding in Michigan in late May and are thinking of doing the catering ourselves to cut costs and eliminate vendors we don't need. I know you spent a few hours cooking on the day of your wedding and had many friends help out. Can you explain the way you set your food up, kept it hold/cold if need be, and had your guests get the food? Any details, hints, or strategies that worked would be helpful. Things that didn't work would also be helpful!

Great question!

When Matt and I were planning our wedding, we brainstormed our favorite kinds of food to eat together. Top three: Indian, Mexican, and Thai.

We decided to go with Mexican because it seemed like the easiest and most casual. When we mentioned our choice to Cathy and Cory, the innkeepers at our reception B&B, they volunteered to cater the event for $15 a head. They mentioned making a Mexican casserole and some other things.

Although that was an amazing price (relative to other catering prices), it wasn't in our tight budget. I started wondering if we could just cater the whole things ourselves.

We liked the idea of self-catering for a couple reasons:
  1. Matt and I like to cook, and we like to host parties for our friends. The thought of spending a couple hours cooking with our friends on our wedding day seemed fun. We were also convinced that if people contributed their time and energy into making the wedding happen, they would feel more connected to it and would enjoy the experience more.
  2. Self-catering can be significantly less expensive than professional catering.
  3. Like you, we wanted to minimize the number of vendors. We wanted to surround ourselves with our nearest and dearest.
However, self-catering is not for the faint of heart. My step-dad doubted the plan. My best friend doubted the plan. At times, Matt and I doubted it, too.

Our primary concerns were:
  1. How can we make sure that people can enjoy our wedding rather than work through it?
  2. How do we estimate the right quantities?
  3. How do we ensure the food tastes good?
We sat down and developed a simple menu:

Main Courses:
  • Chicken/steak/vegetable fajitas (only the meat/vegetables have to be cooked and the tortillas have to be warmed; other than that, people add their own cold toppings)
  • Mexican casserole: It was in the original plan, but our trial run didn't work out so well. We opted for tamales instead since they are pre-made and you just have to steam them.
  • Make-your-own quesadilla: We have a quesadilla maker that we set up on a table with directions about how to use it (in retrospect, I don't think we needed a third entree option)
  • Black bean and corn salad (it's served cold, which is great!)
  • Nachos: Canned cheese kept warm in a crock pot (disgusting, but it was a huge hit!)
  • Homemade salsa and guacamole with chips
  • Seven-layer dip
  • Multiple cakes from Whole Foods
We created a schedule for when things had to be done. The fajita meat had to be marinaded the night before. Everything else could be made within the two hours we set aside to cook on our wedding day.

We bought yummy pre-packaged tamales (after taste-testing a few different options for dinner). We assigned head chefs for each of the following: salsa, guacamole, seven-layer dip, black bean and corn salad, and fajitas. I asked these people to commit to being in charge of their particular thing. It completely released Matt and me from experiencing any stress on the actual day. We trusted our friends. We knew they would make it work. I also asked a few people to be sous-chefs and do whatever needed to be done for each of the captains.

I communicated with people well in advance about what recipe we would like them to follow. I also asked them to help us figure out what quantities of ingredients we should purchase.

Also, the piece that made this plan actually work was hiring Cathy and Cory--the innkeepers--to heat up the food (i.e., tamales and nacho cheese), set out everything, refill it as necessary, and clean up afterwards. We paid them $50 an hour for six hours.

This piece was crucial because I wanted my friends to fully enjoy themselves during the wedding.

The one exception was the fajita maker. He had to grill the meat and vegetables at the start of the reception. However, we intentionally set up multiple grills (borrowed from Cathy and Cory) right next to the dining area and serving table so our Fajita Manager, Brent, wouldn't be isolated. Plus, we asked one of his good friends to help him so he would have company (in the end, more people went over to help him, so he wasn't lonely at all).

In terms of serving the food, Cathy and Cory set up a row of big, long tables and people were asked to serve themselves. We had a guest list of 80, and the line didn't seem slow at all.

Some advice:
  1. Plan, plan, plan. Find a menu that will work for you--be realistic! Think about what can be made in advance and still taste good. Think about how the timing will work for everything. Think about how much preparation is honestly required. Also, think through all the quantities and decide how much of each ingredient you need before you go to the store.
  2. Test, test, test. Before your wedding, practice making items for dinner. Yum!
  3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Our friends really seem to enjoy being involved in the creation of our wedding. It really did build community, connection, and fun. With that said, it was imperative for us to communicate with them well in advance. I typed up directions and recipes and passed them out in advance. I didn't want to be asked a gazillion questions on my wedding day; I wanted people to know what to do and be empowered to do it.
A Couple Disappointments:
  • The fajita maker had to commit too much time to the endeavor. I think part of the problem was that our juicer broke, so he had to juice all the limes for the marinade by hand. Matt and I should have committed to juicing the limes and chopping the vegetables on Friday, before Brent even arrived. Matt and I definitely would have had time to do it, and it would have lifted some of the burden off Brent.
  • We had to shlep so much food to the reception site that Matt and I had to drive separate cars! At first I was really bummed. In the end, the 1.5 hours of solitude were actually good for me. They gave me time to reflect and center myself. Also, having two cars made it possible for us to do different things with our friends over the course of our wedding week.
  • Shopping for all that food was stressful. We spent one day going to three different stores (i.e., Sam's Club, Kroger's, and Whole Foods). I think it would have been better to split the shopping into two different trips: 1) buy the non-perishables a couple weeks in advance and 2) buy the perishable stuff the week of. Also, it would have been better if we had decided on the amounts ahead of time. It took us a long time at the stores because we were trying to figure out how much we needed.
Like I said, self-catering is not for the faint of heart! It takes a lot of planning and work. It's similar to making your own wedding dress: it's difficult and frustrating and scary and it requires the help of multiple people. In the end, however, it's all worth it because you feel so proud of what you were able to accomplish.

And we did save money. We spent $1,270 on food (for both the wedding reception and the Welcome Picnic + cakes) for 80 people, which comes out to $7.94 per person, per meal. Although such a "cheap" meal may seem like an inappropriate way to honor and thank our guests for making the trip, I have to remember that preparing the same meal in bulk should be cheaper! It never made sense to me that I could walk into a nice restaurant and pay $25 for a really nice meal and yet a catered meal is way more expensive than that.

Here are some other posts about our process:
  1. Q&A: Wedding Reception Food Logistics
  2. The Self-Catered Reception
Also, here are some other places that address self-catering:
  1. Lorna Leedy says, in retrospect, that she would have hired a caterer for her Pioneer Wedding.
  2. A Backyard Wedding self-catered the appetizers and sides and hired someone for the main dish.
  3. I rememer reading about lots of cooking at Peonies and Polaroids, too.
Best of luck as you make decisions that make sense for you!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Contest: Win a $1,500 Credit

Josie of PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com e-mailed me to let me know about their free giveaway of a $1,500 credit.

The contest will run from From January 1st 2009 - February 28th, 2009 (with the winner selected on March 2nd).

The winner can select any wedding dress available for sale on PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com valued at up to $1500 USD. (If it is over $1500, the winner will be responsible for the remaining payment).

They currently have almost 1200 (1170 to be exact) dresses priced at $1500 or less. And over 1600 gowns from over 110 different designers in total. Pages and pages of dresses!

I love sites like these that promote the reducing, reusing, and recycling, as well as budget-friendlier alternatives. I also like the idea of connecting with a stranger through a piece of shared clothing.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tip #11: Ideas for Building Successful Relationships

Be good to each other, even in the most stressful, demanding moments.

2009 is off to a rough start for Matt and me. First we had both our cars stolen from our driveway in the middle of the night. We had to cancel all our credit/bank cards because Matt's wallet was in his car (don't ask me why). Then Matt's car was recovered later that day (with about $500 worth of damage). Fortunately, his wallet was still there!

Five days later, Matt had his wallet and his rental car keys stolen at a gas station. Basically, he left them in a bathroom stall, realized it 15 seconds later, went back to the bathroom, asked the guy who was coming out, went back into the stall to look, and followed the guy out of the gas station to ask for his stuff again. The guy yelled that he didn't have Matt's stuff.

Well, the guy did have Matt's stuff, so we had to pay $225 to get another key for the rental car. We also had to cancel all our credit cards (again!), since we had already been sent replacements.

Yesterday, on my way home from Dallas to Houston, I ran out of gas just one mile away from the gas station (I'm totally accepting responsibility for that one!). We had to pay $61 for roadside assistance.

Egad! It's definitely causing stress on our relationship. We fall into arguments really easily when we're stressed/tired/frustrated with life.

On the bright side, it's good practice for the roller coaster that is existence. We aren't always going to be able to control the ups and downs (although we could prevent some of them by being a little more careful!). However, we can control our reactions to those downs. In those anxiety-ridden moments, we can stop and say, "At least we have each other."

When the world around us is unsettled, we need to do our best to keep the center stable. Fighting or getting frustrated with each other only makes the situation worse.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

And the Winner Is...


And to everyone else, thanks for entering our little contest to win The DIY Wedding Book. As a consolation prize, you can check out DCKate's blog, (sub)urbanity. She's having a save-the-date dilemma with which you might be able to help.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Staying Motivated

The first full week of the new year is coming to a close. I thought it would be nice to share a little inspiration to keep you motivated. After all, real change isn't about one defining day. It's about the day-to-day.

1) This note is from Dianne, the bride who combined her wedding with the Light the Night Walk to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as featured on A Practical Wedding:
I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your New Year reflection form! My new husband and I personalized it a bit for our own reflection and we had the most wonderful New Year. As our Christmas gift to each other, Chuck and I spent New Year's in San Diego (about 2 hours from our SoCal home). We had a great Mexican dinner, sipped champagne in the hot tub and went to bed early so we could be up at 5:00 and on the beach at Coronado to welcome the first day of the new year by watching the sunrise on the beach (and as a bonus we got to see 3 dolphins frolicking in the waves!). Over the course of the two wonderful days, Chuck and I worked through the entire form and created our vision and intent for the year to come. Since we have the areas of work and family time pretty well covered, much of our mutual goals focus on physical health (continued remission for me and increased fitness and nutrition for us both), fiscal health and service to others. I created an electronic collage inspiration board and I thought I would share it with you. This will be on our fridge for the next 12 months (although Chuck suggested that for maximum contemplation time we should post it in the bathroom!). :-)
Thanks for sharing, Dianne!

2) Here's an interesting article about being your best self now.

3) Follow these tips about how to stick to your resolutions from The Psychology of New Year's Resolutions:

To be successful with your own resolutions:

  • Have a strong initial commitment to make a change.
  • Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.
  • Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.

Ingredients for setting yourself up for resolution failure include:

  • Not thinking about making resolutions until the last minute.
  • Reacting on New Year’s Eve and making your resolutions based on what’s bothering you or is on your mind at that time.
  • Framing your resolutions as absolutes by saying, “I will never do X again.”
4) Try tracking your progress through www.thecarrot.com. It looks really cool.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

To Love, Honor, and Cherish from This Day Forward

According to an article in The Telegraph, a couple celebrated their wedding anniversary by renewing their vows for the 60th time. Margaret and John Beauvoisin married in 1948 and have renewed their vows every year since 1950.

Mrs. Beauvoisin, 81, of Waterlooville, said, "It reinforces our promise to love and care for one another."

It certainly makes me pause and wonder what Matt and I should do for our wedding anniversaries. We should definitely pull out the vows and say them to each other again. Maybe every five years we can have a big party and do it publicly. Or maybe we can alternate years and plan a surprise vow renewal for each other.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Date #4: A Bit of a Debacle

I forgot to write about our recent date night. It involved eating at a quaint Italian restaurant in our neighborhood and playing Boccee Ball on their court.

The whole experience sort of derailed because we ended up trying to be good Samaritans by helping a cab driver get a really, really intoxicated woman home (she didn't know her address). The whole incident escalated into three police officers, two paramedics, the manager of the bar down the road where the woman got drunk, and the livid owner of the restaurant where we were eating.

Anyway! I was reminded of our last date night by this article at The Nest: 20 Dates Under $20.

It's worth a looksie. I also highly recommend playing Bocce Ball. It's so fun!

Enjoy your weekend...

See other date ideas here

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A Couple Who Runs to the Beat of Their Own Drum

I love to see couples defying expectations and limitations (their own, their families', society's) and having a wedding their own way.

This couple got married on a training run:
Yvonne and I met at an Incline Club workout so it was only logical (to us anyway :-) that we get married at an Incline Club workout. So during an otherwise normal Sunday long run we took a break at the first scenic overlook in Waldo Canyon. 59 people and 8 dogs ran 4 to 9 miles depending on which way they went to get to the overlook. Parents and more friends opted to drive to the trailhead and take a shorter 1/2 mile hike bringing the total to 96 bipeds and 10 quadrupeds.
When I think back to the criticism we got while planning our wedding ("What? You're self-catering? Are you crazy?" or "Only $2,000? That's a nice goal but I doubt it can be done." or "You're not doing a traditional cake-cutting ceremony? Seriously?"), I can only imagine the kind of criticism this couple got.

It can be hard to go your own way when planning a wedding. I'm still a firm believer in the idea that our weddings should be our weddings, not anyone else's. Yes, I wanted our families to enjoy themselves and be comfortable (and Matt and I tried to make some decisions in that vein). But at the end of the day, our preferences and quirkiness got to outweigh anyone else's.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Other Side of Wedding Photography

Sometimes wedding photography bugs me. The more photos I see of the bouquets or the centerpieces or the table settings or the bride's shoes, the more I start to focus on these things and the more important they seem.

But a wedding is not in the constructed details. A wedding is in the emotion, the action, the passion, the laughter, the excitement, the connection, the fun.

Thanks to reader Rachel for sharing this link to Divine Caroline's collection of memorable wedding photos. Although some of them are downright scary (a gun at a wedding?), a lot of them are really intimate and fun.

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To Sew My Own Dress or Not to Sew My Own Dress

I am having the hardest time finding a dress for my Retro Prom birthday party.

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions for finding vintage dresses online. They were awesome!

However, I am running up against two problems:
  1. Expense
  2. Waist size
I've found some lovely, swishy, magical '50s dresses, but they are hundreds of dollars. Ugh.

And, to make matters worse, I am having a hard time finding any a waist that fits a real person. A lot of them are only 23". Seriously?!

I curse corsets.

My friend Camella and I even hit the town on Sunday in search of good dresses. Houston has a lot of great vintage shops. But no luck (mainly because of issue #2).

I'm starting to think I might have to attempt to sew my own (which a couple of you suggested). One reader even offered to loan me a vintage pattern (thanks, This Girl Asia!).

Unfortunately, I have a terrible time following patterns. As a result, I think I may have to go out on a limb and just sew the damn thing the best I can.

I found a dress from Posh Girl Vintage that looks pretty easy to make. Perhaps I'm being crazily optimistic, but at least I've got the gumption to try it. The dress looks easier to sew than most because the sash takes up so much of the bodice.

I'm thinking...

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Write a Meaningful and Memorable Ceremony

Reader Question: I'm wondering about your opinion (and others) on making the wedding/ceremony unique, and if there is such a thing. I was reading through a book on vows earlier today, and one of the brides was talking about how she wanted her ceremony to be personal. Needless to say, it looked like something right out of a template. I'm not saying that to be critical, but we've found it very difficult to come up with unique ideas for our ceremony--in part because we have not been to a lot of weddings to gather ideas. My partner believes that to take someone else's idea makes it no longer unique. I, on the other hand, see it as having our perspective attached to it, which makes it unique (I also have this tendency to consult a lot of different sources in order to figure out what I think). Can you make a ceremony unique by seeking out ideas? What advice would you give to couples who haven't attended many weddings (the ones we have attended were mostly Christian--we are not committed to a religion), and want something unique, but haven't the slightest idea where to start?

Great question(s)! I love chatting about ceremonies.

Creating a meaningful and memorable ceremony is challenging. Really challenging. And yet--in my opinion--it's one of the most important aspects of wedding planning (and one of the least-talked about components in the wedding planning community).

Whenever I write anything, I start by thinking about my purpose and goal. I ask myself, "What do I want to make readers think, feel, and do?"

From there, I work backwards to draft the introduction, body, and conclusion--all of which I attempt to align to my stated purpose/goal.

Matt and I applied the same process to the creation of our ceremony. When we sat down to brainstorm, we started with the end in mind. We knew that we wanted our ceremony to focus on community, commitment, connection, and fun.

We freed ourselves from any standard ceremony templates, and just tried to think about things we could do that would represent our four values.

For the introduction, we wanted to focus on our families and friends. I found a quote through a google search about friendship and wrote the introduction around that quote. We had our officiant (my best friend and Matt's best friend) say:
  • Welcome and thank you for joining us as we celebrate Matt and Sara’s commitment to one another.
  • As French writer Marcel Proust said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
  • You are the people who make the souls of Sara and Matt blossom. We want to acknowledge and thank all of you for your support and participation today.

We tried to figure out a way to acknowledge and thank them as personally as possible without spending too much time on it. We didn't want our ceremony to last longer than 30 minutes. We thought about writing each person a person note to let them know how much they meant to us and then asking them to open it and read it during the ceremony. We decided against the idea because we had already written them personal notes on the invitations (and we knew we would also be writing personal notes on the thank you cards). So here's how we balanced personalization with the need for efficiency. Andy said:
  • We have family members from both sides: Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Connecticut and California.
  • We have Matt’s friends: college, camp, KIPP, childhood and Denver.
  • Sara’s friends: college, Teach For America, KIPP, and Denison Montessori.

While I was searching for quotes on friendship, I came across another one I really liked. Matt and I couldn't decide between the Proust one and this one, so we included them both. Andy continued:
  • These friends, a famous writer once wrote, represent “a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
  • Each of you has been invited to participate in this commitment ceremony because you have, in some way, brought about a new world in Sara or Matt.

While I was researching other people's ceremonies online (I'm like you--I like to look around before making up my own mind!), I came across the idea of giving out a flower to the moms on each side. We decided, instead, to give out hugs. Here's what we said:


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Sara to speak]
  • We would especially like to thank our families who have nurtured our independence …


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Matt to speak]
  • …and have put up with our quirkiness.
  • [Sara and Matt walk into the audiences to hug their families]


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Matt to speak]
  • And we would also like to thank each other’s family for welcoming us so kindly…


  • [Andy holds up microphone for Sara to speak]
  • …and for putting up with our quirkiness.
  • [Sara and Matt walk into the audience to hug the other’s family]

We also knew that we at least had to acknowledge the injustice around same-sex marriage bans. At first, Matt was hesitant about including this piece (even though he wholeheartedly supports same-sex marriage) because he didn't want to upset some of his Irish-Catholic family members. Andy intervened by suggesting that we rephrase our comments to make them more positive rather than negative. Here's what we ended up with:


  • As we gather here to solidify our commitment to each other, we would also like to celebrate the fact that California just joined the ranks of Massachusetts by finally starting to extend the rights and privileges of marriage to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.


  • It moves us one step closer to fulfilling our nation’s promise to provide liberty and justice for all.

We intentionally tried to split up the talking between all three of us so that one person's voice didn't dominate the entire ceremony.

For the next part, we decided on a hybrid between a Quaker ceremony and the reception toasts.

At a Quaker ceremony, guests speak when they feel moved to say something. We loved the idea of different people saying different things, but we wanted the speeches to be more prepared, and we wanted a little more control over the situation (e.g., we wanted the speakers to be balanced between my friends/family and his). We also knew that we didn't want to be the center of attention all night long at our reception, so we didn't want to have toasts. Since we like toasts, we decided to move them into the ceremony.

We decided to have five of our friends/family prepare two-minute speeches. We left it fairly open. We said they could read poems or do a toast or share a memory, etc. Each person's speech was so personal and authentic. They all spoke with such sincerity. Matt and I just held each other and listened to each speaker.

Then we did our tree planting ceremony. I can't remember how we thought of that idea. Maybe we read about people planting trees in their backyards when they have a baby or something. Maybe we got the idea from our friend Camella's wedding. At one point she said they were going to get married next to a potted tree and then plant it in their backyard.

Regardless, we decided to plant a sappling during the ceremony. I did a bunch of research on trees and what type of tree to get and what different trees symbolize. Here's what I came up with:
  • Now Matt and Sara are going to plant a Live Oak sapling from the backyard of Sara’s family to symbolically represent the growth of their love.
  • In early America, live oaks were widely used to build planks in ships because of their remarkable resilience. The live oak of the USS Constitution repelled the shot of enemy gunfire so effectively that one of the sailors was heard to shout, "Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!" The ship was given the nickname, Old Ironsides.
  • Like the planks on ships, marriage, too, must be resilient. It must weather the challenges of daily life and the passage of time. And just like the tree that they are planting, marriage requires constant nurturing and nourishment. As they provide the sun, soil, and water for this tree, they will provide the encouragement, trust, and love needed on a daily basis to consciously nurture their connection to each other.

For the vows section, I read a lot of other people's vows. We knew we wanted them to be sincere and fun. We decided to write our own vows following the same stem: "I love you because..." Then we wrote joint vows folloing this stem: "Because I love you, I promise to..."

Here's what we ended up saying:


  • Matt, I love you because you make me laugh out loud on a daily basis, like when you come up with alternate names for our dog, Hoss, such as Hoss-tage, Hoss of Pain, or Hoss-car Myer Weiner.
  • I love you because you challenge me to be a better person, like when you made me promise to tell the Penske truck people that we scraped the moving van.
  • I love you because we create adventures together, like Halloween scavenger hunts or road trips out West.
  • I love you because you care so much for other people that you inspire all of us to be more caring. You do things like put toothpaste on my toothbrush and leave it out for me, or come home on the worst day of winter with slippers and a Chia pet herb garden.
  • I love you because I smile every time I wake up to you and when I come home to you. We play together, brainstorm together, create together, read together. Your hand always feels comfortable in mine.
  • Matt, because I love you, I promise to treat you the way you want to be treated and with the respect you deserve. I promise to build trust with my words and actions. I will be your cheerleader, your nurse, your editor, your therapist, your teacher, your student, and your partner in adventure. I will deeply appreciate all of your positive qualities and not let the passage of time dull that appreciation. When life challenges us, I promise to focus on the resiliency of our love. And if I stumble and fail to live up to my promises, I will look you in the eyes, hold your hands, and apologize with sincerity. I will be my best for you.
  • [Sara will hand the microphone and the binder to Matt to speak.]


  • Sara, I love you because you are always working to make yourself and the world better; sending birthday cards to friends and reading self-help books.
  • I love you because you never settle for one opinion; you ask friends family, and consult articles and books.
  • I love you because you stand-up for what you believe in; like when you spoke-up to your assistant principal about what was working, what was not and the ways that you could work to change it.
  • I love you because you create documents, documents, documents to better your life and the lives of others; like when we copied over 90,000 documents from your old computer.
  • I love you because you make up songs about our dog, your butt and my smells, and they sound good.
  • Sara, because I love you, I promise to treat you the way you want to be treated and with the respect you deserve. I promise to build trust with my words and actions. I will be your cheerleader, your nurse, your editor, your therapist, your teacher, your student, and your partner in adventure. I will deeply appreciate all of your positive qualities and not let the passage of time dull that appreciation. When life challenges us, I promise to focus on the resiliency of our love. And if I stumble and fail to live up to my promises, I will look you in the eyes, hold your hands, and apologize with sincerity. I will be my best for you.
  • [Matt will hand the microphone and the binder to Andy to speak]

On our wedding website, we had put the following quote: "Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." We decided to say vows to the world, in addition to our vows to each other. Here's what we came up with:


  • In Swahili, the word “ubuntu” means, “My humanity is bound up with yours.” From their vows to each other, it is very clear that Sara and Matt’s humanities are bound up with each other. But they both recognize that their humanity is also bound up with that of the world. As the author of The Little Prince says, "Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction."
  • Now they will make vows to the world.
  • [Andy will hand the microphone and the binder to Matt to hold]


  • We will develop in ourselves and inspire in others environmental consciousness…


  • …honest and nurturing interpersonal connections…


  • …and an active commitment to make the world more just for all.

Then it was time to exchange rings. I did some more research about the symbolism of rings and incorporated it into the ceremony:


  • Now Matt and Sara will exchange rings to embody the commitments they have made to each other and the world.
  • Just as circles contain no end and no beginning, these rings are linked to the past and the future. They are connected to the headpiece that Matt’s grandmother wore during her wedding 54 years ago, and they are made from the recycled metal of old jewelry from friends and family. They are worn on the third finger because of an ancient Greek belief that a vein from that finger goes directly to the heart.


  • [Chong-Hao walks to the front and Matt and Sara remove each other’s rings.]
  • [Andy holds the microphone in front of Matt; Sara puts Matt’s ring on his finger]
  • I will wear this ring as a celebration of our commitments to each other and the world.


  • [Andy holds the microphone in front of Sara; Matt puts Sara’s ring on her finger]
  • I will wear this ring as a celebration of our commitments to each other and the world.

Finally, we decided to symbolize unity through a quilt-wrapping. Through my research, I had read about Jewish huppahs that had been quilted from the fabric of friends and family. I also read about Lorna Leedy's wedding where she and her partner were wrapped in a blanket. We put the two ideas together in this way:


  • In the Jewish tradition, marriages take place under a huppah, which can be constructed from the fabric of friends and family. In some Native American traditions, couples are wrapped in a blanket to signify their coming together and their new life together.
  • [Brent and Mike will take the quilt out of the basket and hold it up for everyone to see.]
  • In this symbolic gesture signifying unification, Matt and Sara will be wrapped in a quilt made from fabric from all of you, their family and friends.
  • [Brent and Mike will wrap Sara and Matt in the quilt.]
  • This quilt signifies the warmth and support of family and friends that are needed to sustain a healthy relationship.
  • It signifies the bond between Matt and Sara and the closeness that will continue to develop day after day.
  • It signifies the comfort and beauty they bring to each other and will continue to bring to each other.
  • Together within this blanket, they will sign their marriage into being.
  • [Andy will set up the contract to be signed on the binder. He will hand a pen to Sara, Sara will sign, she will hand the pen to Matt to sign.]
  • [Mike and Brent will remove the quilt.]
  • Now they will embrace and kiss to celebrate that they are now officially united.

Voila! We ended up with a meaningful and memorable wedding ceremony that represented us. Even though it wasn't necessarily the same ceremony that our religious families would have written, it was perfect for us. They ended up appreciating it because they love us and they loved that the ceremony that captured us so well.

As you can see from the process, I definitely believe it's possible to research other people's ideas and morph them into something unique.

A few more pieces of advice:
  1. Start carrying something that allows you to capture your ideas at any time. I carry a Moleskin notebook absolutely everywhere. I never know when inspairation is going to hit. I had a page in there where I collected all my ideas for the wedding ceremony as they came up.
  2. Also remember that half of writing is revising. Our draft went through many different versions, so be sure to give yourself many weeks to work on it.
  3. Talk with your officiant. At first we thought we were going to give Andy bullet points and let him improvise. In the end, we handed him a full script in a small binder. We passed the binder between all of us as we said our lines.
  4. Divide and conquer. Figure out who should write what pieces. Matt and I brainstormed our ideas together, and then I went off and drafted the whole thing. Then I gave it to him for revision and we talked through it together.

And even though it's important, don't stress about it too much. You'll be married in the end, and the day-to-day is way more important than The Day.

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