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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Planning Ahead

Last year's Scrabble costume

It's interesting to me that a lot of us take several months to plan our weddings and yet we still rush at the very last minute to accomplish a whole range of tasks.

I think the problem stems from the difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it.

For example, Matt and I spent a lot of time talking about the alcohol plan for our wedding. We started months in advance. But it wasn't until the final month when we actually made a decision and then took the necessary next steps to finalize the decision.

Don't get me wrong; there's definitely a time and place for talking and thinking through all the options before making a decision. But at some point, there has to be a cut off. You have to switch from planning to execution mode in order to prevent yourself from drowning in undone tasks right before your wedding.

I'm facing this dilemma with Halloween as we speak. I've been planning my Halloween costume for an entire year now. Ever since a woman showed up at my Halloween party dressed as a volcano last year, I've been thinking about making a "Melting Polar Ice Caps" costume. The idea is to make a dress out of white felt with various layers that are attached to each other with velcro. Each layer is labeled with iron-on numbers that indicate a different year. As the night progresses, I peel off another layer and slowly reveal a blue body suit that has polar bears swimming around on it.

But it's time to actually do something rather than just think about it. It's almost October. If I don't get started on this now, I'll end up stressed and totally unhappy the night before Halloween and then sleep-deprived on the actual day.

Enough already!

What are you all going to be for Halloween this year?

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Challenging the Wedding Formula

I'm working on finalizing my book proposal to send to another agent, which means I've been sifting through all the wonderful ideas you shared with me on the survey I posted a while back.

2000dollarwedding kindred spirit, Colleen, reminds me that we have the freedom to craft whatever kind of weddings we want for ourselves. We can sift through all the traditions and "traditions" and decide what to keep, modify, throw out, or invent.

She wrote:
I guess the biggest thing we're changing is the order of the day. We're having dinner first, then having the ceremony. It's going to be more of a "hey, come for the BBQ, stay for the wedding" kind of thing, so no hide-the-bride or anything like that.
I never thought of the idea of switching the reception and the ceremony. I mean, why not? Matt and I chose to follow the tradition of ceremony and then reception, but it's so liberating to remind ourselves that we really don't have to follow any formulas other than the ones we want to.

Dearest kindred spirits: What aspects of the formula are you keeping? Modifying? Throwing out? Inventing?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Support Relationship Research

I just received a request from a PhD student at the University of Virginia and thought I would pass it along. It sounds like a great project. Hooray for more research into relationships and marriage!

Engaged volunteers needed!

I am looking for volunteers for a study of attitudes towards marriage and parenthood among engaged couples. The study consists of a 25-30 minute online survey. To qualify for the study, you must be 20-35 years old, live in the U.S., and plan to marry or have a commitment ceremony within the next 365 days. You and your romantic partner must not have children, and this must be the first marriage for both of you.

You can:

-Help a doctoral candidate;

-Increase the pool of scientific knowledge;

-Support research on marriage and families; and

-Spend some time thinking about your relationship!

I am working with Dr. Charlotte J. Patterson, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. This study has been approved by the University of Virginia Institutional Review Board #2009025800.

If you and/or your romantic partner are interested in participating or want further information, please email me at surveycouples@gmail.com. I will send you a link that you can use to access the study.


Cristina Reitz-Krueger

Doctoral Student

University of Virginia

(434) 243-8558


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Budget Schtuff

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, Matt and I have put ourselves back on a strict budget. We're on a tight budget because we have ambitious saving plans in the works. We want to save up money to buy Matt's next car with cash. We also want to vacation in British Columbia this summer (and Belize--for me--this Thanksgiving). We would like to start putting away some money for our future pregnancy (I imagine midwives can be pricey?). And there's always retirement. And the list goes on...

When we first combined finances, we created a complicated web of accounts. We had separate accounts for our personal allowances ($70/month each) and our joint allowance (which includes groceries, entertainment, dinner out, etc.). We set up automatic transfers, which meant that the exact amount of money automatically transferred each month, and we would use different cards for different things.

The system was complicated in the sense that we had to remember which card to use when. We also had to go online to check our account balances. So this month we've been paying for everything out of a centralized account, but we've been using an index card in my wallet to track our spending from the different account areas.

This system has been working really well for us. If I don't have my wallet with me when we spend something, I just wait until we get home to record it. I subtract the amount we paid from the total, so we're always left with an exact number of how much we have left to spend.

A few days ago, we thought we were doing pretty well, until I had to pick up 6-months worth of heart worm and flea medication for Hoss. One hundred fifty bucks! Then our neighbor offered to sell us her KitchenAid for a mere $50. We actually went $29 into "debt" in order to buy it.

Fortunately, Matt and I are both savers. We want to hold ourselves to our budget so we can achieve our long-range goals. At the same time, we said something like, "I guess we won't be grocery shopping at Whole Foods this week."

At that point, we had to start dipping into our personal allowances. Luckily, I hadn't spent any of mine. Also, a friend of ours from Austin stayed with us over the weekend, so he paid for one of our meals. Then we got invited to go out to eat with the parents of another friend, so they covered the meal. Score!

It looks like we're actually going to make it this month.

Here are some of the strategies we used to stick to our budget:
  1. We paid close attention to frivolous spending and tried to find a comparable alternative. For example, Matt is kind of addicted to Chai Tea Lattes from Starbucks (even though we are staunch supporters of our local coffee shops). Instead of dropping $3 a day, he now buys a chai tea mix from Whole Foods and adds his own milk. It saves a small chunk of change.
  2. We used retailmenot to locate coupon codes. I had to order Aveda Be Curly shampoo and conditioner. I used retailmenot to find a promo code that gave me free shipping. Woo-hoo!
  3. We spent an extra minute thinking of creative solutions. Matt called to say he was going to stop by Home Depot to buy a paint tray so he could touch up the side of our house. I reminded him that we had $0 left in our home improvement budget (since we spent it all on our fence at the beginning of the month). We thought for a second and then realized that he could use one of our big yogurt containers and a paint brush we already had. I did the same thing a few weeks later. I was going to buy some rope from Target for a lesson about the distance between planets. I realized, however, that I could simply use some ugly yarn I already had lying around the craft closet.
  4. Shop in your pantry before heading to the store. When we got down to the crumbs of our monthly allotment, we decided to dig through our pantry and build meals around things we already had. We had leftover tortillas, so instead of throwing them away, we made goat cheese and roasted corn quesadillas. We had a whole bag of black-eyed peas, so we're going to make this salad. We were able to cut our bill from our normal $125 to just $56 with this strategy (and by shopping at Fiesta rather than Whole Foods).
I was a little depressed when I realized our new budget strategy was actually making me count down the days until the end of the month ("We just have to make it to October 1 and then our numbers reset!"). But I'm also happy that we're finally applying enough pressure to our bank account to stop the hemorrhaging that we've let happen since the beginning of the year. I think the trick is moderation. You can't focus too much on the long-term that you let life pass you by, just as you can't focus too much on the short-term and never build something bigger and better.

It's all about balance.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Organic Fabric

Need fabric for something wedding-related? Napkins? Table runners?

I have a new crush on Harmony Art. They offer organic fabric and are "committed to keeping oatmeal and granola where it belongs..."

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Losing Yourself in Stress

Okay, I'll spare you more details about how stressful the beginning of the school year is, and I'll instead focus on strategies for overcoming stress.

I know, I know. I've talked a lot about this issue here and here (and some other places that I can't locate right now).

I'm talking about it again because it's not something you can simply achieve and then move on. De-stressing yourself is a constant process and commitment.

Fortunately, I have been doing an excellent job of de-stressing through running (four times a week for 30 minutes!) and yoga (5-15 minutes about three times a week). I've also been consciously trying to increase my water intake (it's hard to go to the bathroom when you teach 21 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders!). Matt and I have also been getting about 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Finally, I enrolled in a Spanish class to feed my need to learn new things.

But now I need to resume my hobbies. I am seriously working all the time. I wake up at 5:30am and am ready by 6:00. I work on my computer until 6:45. Then I go to school and work for another 45 minutes before the kids arrive. School is over at 3:30, but I usually don't get home until 5pm. Then I try to do yoga and study Spanish. When Matt gets home, we cook or eat out. From 8:00-9:30, I work some more before it's time for bed.

No time for hobbies!

So, my de-stressing goal for the week is to pursue one of my hobbies: Sewing!

I think I'm going to try and make this shirt.

Wish me luck!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Q & A

Reader Question: Hey Sara! I've read your blog for a little while now and instead of renting dishes (which is so not in our budget), I found a resource for biodegradable plates made out of sugarcane (I didn't want to use corn products. We use waaaay too much corn!). Here's my problem: My town/city is SO behind on the green movement. The closest recycling center is about 40 miles away and they don't do neighborhood pickup. So, my partner and I made the decision to get biodegradable plates. So...what do we do with them after? Hopefully, our families will put them in the designated bins to begin with, but how do we dispose of these plates? We don't have our own yard to compost in, so I'm at a loss at what to do with this earth friendly plates, despite the fact I've been googling for hours!
I hear you. Ugh!

Matt and I faced the same dilemma for a couple of days. Fortunately, the innkeepers of the B&B where we were having the reception volunteered to take it upon themselves to solve the problem for us. Phew! (What a testament to finding a wedding venue with an amazing staff!). They located a facility that would compost our table ware, set up the bins, and took care of transporting everything.

If I were in your place, here are some strategies I would try:
  1. Recruit an eco-conscious friend to help you tackle this problem. Perhaps that friend would be willing to drive everything to the nearest facility (assuming the carbon footprint associated with driving 80 miles is worth it...). You have a lot on your plate right now (pun intended); see if you can find a passionate soul to help you!
  2. Put an add on craigslist or other neighborhood websites to see if you can find someone who has any useful information. You might be able to find someone who has a giant backyard composting facility or who has some other ideas. It's worth a shot!
  3. I hate to say it, but if none of your strategies pan out, I would suggest you just throw the stuff away. Every decision we make lies at the intersection of several different values. On the one hand, you care about the environment (hooray!). On the other hand, you probably care about your sanity. I say put your best effort forward to solve the problem, and then let it go. At the very least, your money is going toward products that are more eco-friendly. Your purchase helped create more demand for such products. At least it's a step in the right direction.
Brilliant 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits: Any other ideas or thoughts?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thoughts About Hosting

On Friday night, Matt and I hosted another Heights Time Bank potluck. I made a homemade cake, heated up some tamales from Whole Foods, and provided a bottle of pomegranate soda.

I had a grand time! I met new people, and forged a stronger relationship with a new member who I met the week before. One of her Time Bank services is to call the cable company and [actually, I better not completely incriminate myself and my new friend so publicly]. Anyway, I went over to her house for the aforementioned censored service last week, ate a delicious homecooked meal, and watched TV with her and her sister.

At the Time Bank potluck, we chatted, ate yummy food, and played Apples to Apples. As I cleaned up at the end of the night, I noticed that the ice bucket was completely empty. I laughed and thought to myself, "I'm a terrible hostess!"

And then I started wondering. What if being a terrible hostess is what helps me enjoy myself so much? What if not giving a darn about the ice bucket helped me stay fully present and focused on having fun? Am I on to something? Is this a potential piece of advice for people who are getting ready to host their own weddings?

I'm perpetually wondering about ways to help people completely immerse themselves in their own weddings and experience the moment deeply and authentically. I am saddened when I hear people say that their weddings just "flew by" and they were forced to live them through the photographs after the fact.

One thing came to mind: Don't try to be The World's Best Hostess. In my mind, The World's Best Hostess always puts other people's needs first. She is constantly monitoring the situation to make sure people are enjoying themselves and that the chip bowl is full. Even when things are going right, she tries to anticipate what could possibly go wrong so that she can help avert disaster. She's never fully in the moment because she's assessing and orchestrating the moment.

If you bring this mindset to your wedding (which is natural, since you've most likely been planning the party for months and months!), you're potentially less likely to fully experience the profoundness of the moment.

Matt and I tried to put systems in place to keep ourselves from having to be the hosts at our own wedding. We didn't have the money (or the desire) for a "day of" coordinator, so we decided to divvy up a bunch of different jobs to our friends and family. Because each job was so small and we spent time typing up specific directions, people didn't have to bother us with questions while they were trying to do their jobs.

We also put detailed information on our wedsite about what was happening and when. That way, everyone was the keeper of the agenda, not just us. We recreated the agenda on a giant piece of chart paper and posted it in a centralized location, so everyone could reference it as necessary.

Finally, we hired the innkeepers for six hours during the reception. They set everything up, heated up all the food, and cleaned up mostly everything. We also communicated a very detailed agenda to them, so they were very clear about what to do and when.

I think our strategies helped us more fully experience our wedding. Don't get me wrong: there were certainly times when I decided to refill the chip bowl and snuck down into the basement for refills, but it's really because I wanted a moment to sink into the silence and think to myself, "This is really happening!"

What are your thoughts about the paradox of hosting and ways to fully experience your wedding?

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Whitney + Craig

Matt and I had a fun trek to the Texas Hill Country this weekend to attend our dear friends' wedding. Even though we got disturbing reports from our pet-sitter via text message ("Hoss is now humping the cat and his lipstick is coming out"), we were delighted to have a weekend away.

Since I can't help but look at weddings through a wedding blogger lens, I thought I would take a moment to share some wedding wisdom I garnered from Craig and Whitney's wedding:
  1. Recorded Music: While we were waiting for the ceremony to start and during the processional, they used a PA system to play some of their favorite music. It was lovely! Honestly, it sounded like live music to me. It was way cheaper than live music, and it worked out perfectly.
  2. Make sure people can hear the ceremony: They used the same PA system to set up a microphone for the ceremony. I very much appreciated being able to hear every word.
  3. Meaningful Readings: They chose a variety of readings, ranging from Darwin to Buddhism. The more unique readings really made me think about the nature of love and challenged me to think through aspects of my relationship with Matt. I promise to share the exact titles and links once I get them!
  4. Bridesmaids dresses: Whitney let her bridesmaids pick any style black dress. The effect was still aesthetically coherent (for those of you who are going for that effect), and yet it was kinder on the bridesmaids, since they got to select dresses that flattered their body type, fit their budget, or perhaps came straight out of their closest.
  5. Lots of different cakes and pies: Yum! I very much appreciated being able to taste different cakes and pies. This approach is becoming increasingly popular. It's potentially more budget-friendly, and it provides more variety for the guests.
  6. Skip the traditions that don't mean anything to you and embrace the ones that do: Whitney had "something borrowed, something blue," as well as a hay penny in her shoe, but she and Craig skipped the wedding hoopla that didn't have meaning for them. No garter or bouquet toss. No first dance (although Whitney and her dad danced when he walked her down the aisle during the ceremony and they got to the end of the path). It was a nice reminder that there are no "must-do's" or "can't-do's" involved with planning a wedding.
  7. Maintain a sense of humor: Whitney and Craig seemed to be fully present and enjoy the wedding as their authentic selves. Whitney laughed when she got a bug caught in her dress, and Craig maintained his good nature as he fielded questions about what he was wearing under his kilt.
It was nice to step out of wedding blog land and attend an actual wedding! Thanks for inviting us, Whitney!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Managing a Household

Early in the week, I made a list of all the things that have to get done to manage a household. One of the items that I should have included on that list: coordinating home-improvement projects.

When my Matt and I moved back to Houston last July, we intentionally bought a house that didn't need a lot of renovation. We knew we didn't have the patience for such an endeavor (but kudos to all of you who do!).

However, our house did need a fence to close off the backyard. Simple enough, right? Somehow it's taken us 14 months to undertake and complete one measly fence.

Even though we had every intention of prioritizing the fence for our beloved bloodhound, life seemed to get in the way. First, Hurricane Ike gave us some other problems to deal with. Then, our cars were stolen and we had to scrounge together some money to cover our deductibles and purchase new ones (blah, blah, blah).

Plus, we just had some general indecision about it. Initially, we thought we wanted a wood and wire fence. We got two quotes for the type of fence we wanted, but we were skeptical about how stable that type of fence would be for the ten-foot gate that needed to stretch across our driveway. Additionally, I worried that our bloodhound--who happens to be obsessed with little dogs who pass by our house--would annoy the entire neighborhood with his deep baying. It seemed better to block his view. We were back to square one.

We did what we always do when we want to change or add something to our house: We drove around the neighborhood with a camera to get some ideas from other bungalow owners. That's how we got the idea that we might like a horizontal fence.

We got two quotes on horizontal fencing and quickly learned that it's not recommended by official fence builders. They argue that it's just not as effective as a vertical fence, especially in the case of a gate. We decided to prioritize aesthetics over function in this case, since we don't need to open our gate very often.

We asked a company to build an iron frame for us. After they finished the iron frame, we lived with a gate that looked more like a sculpture for several months (classic dragging-our-feet-on-this-project). Finally, we found a carpenter to add the wood slats. The slats are a quarter of an inch apart, so there is a good balance between privacy and openness.

In the end, we are very happy with our fence.

Front View

Back View

It prompted me to share this List of Advice for Undertaking Home Improvement Projects (which includes things we did and did not do):
  1. Ride around the neighborhood with a camera to get ideas. Sure, it looks sketchy, but it's worth it. There are a lot of design-savvy homeowners in the neighborhood. Borrow their ideas and apply them to your own house! If necessary, knock on the door to ask clarifying questions or leave a note.
  2. Ask neighbors for recommendations. A lot of neighbors helped us think through this decision. Some of them had thought through similar decisions, so they were able to provide the pros and cons of different options. Other neighbors had worked with different companies and were able to give us specific recommendations. That's how we found a carpenter to put on the wood slats for only $270 bucks!
  3. Turn a big project into smaller action steps. If I just write "get a fence" on my action plan, I'm likely to ignore it because it's too daunting. Instead, I have to break it down into smaller action steps: 1) drive around the neighborhood to get ideas 2) call three companies for estimates, etc. Also, it helps to assign specific deadlines for each action step. Our fence would have been finished a lot earlier if I had done just that...
  4. Keep a prioritized list of home-improvement projects. The number of projects that we should and want to do to our house can be overwhelming. It helps to keep a centralized list of our ideas and to constantly prioritize and reprioritize the list as new ideas get added.
Any other advice for undertaking home improvement projects?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weddings from a Guest's Perspective

I'm so excited to attend my friends' upcoming wedding. Wheeeee!

As a guest, it's not the centerpieces, bouquets, bride's dress/shoes/hair/makeup, favors, etc. that have got me excited. It's the following:
  1. I get to take a trip to the hill country with Matt. I'm looking forward to a mini-vacation.
  2. The groom is going to wear a kilt, which seems to indicate that that couple isn't afraid to let their authentic selves shine. Should be fun!
  3. The food sounds yummy: barbecue (with vegetarian options) and beer.
  4. The dress code specifically recommends that we wear our dancing shoes. Hooray!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DIY: Handmade Wedding Invitations--It's More Fun with a Village

Photo courtesy of betsy and iya

The ratio between the amount of time it takes to plan a wedding versus the actual time of the wedding is pretty insane. I can't even begin to estimate how many hours it takes to plan a wedding.

That's why it's important to make wedding planning fun as often as possible. As Annie Dillard says, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

I recently got an e-mail message from a 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit. Betsy and her partner are planning a wedding in a public park with picnicking and game-playing to follow. The "rehearsal dinner" will be an open-invitation talent show (with the theme of love). She says, "Just about all of our friends and family are putting their working hands into this, and we couldn't be more grateful." Yes! I love it!

She wrote an awesome post about inviting friends over to help make the handcrafted invitations. I'm so inspired by the vision of friends and family "putting their working hands" into the wedding.

It's definitely more fun with a village.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Q & A: Judgy People

Reader Question: Although my fiancé and I are not going to be having a $2000 wedding (so awesome!) we are definitely trying to cut costs as well as keep things meaningful to us. After my sister (Maid of honour extraordinaire!) sent me some information, I decided to try to find a dress at The Bride's Project. I love the idea of all of that dress money going towards a good cause, and am also planning to re-donate the dress after I buy it. My issue is that most people I have mentioned buying a used dress to end up looking like they smelled limburger cheese! I know I am doing the right thing for me but I can't help feeling upset and self-conscious when people react this way. What is so disgusting about buying a dress that was worn once? Or for that matter, more than once? I know you went a non-traditional route with many things. How did you get over the reactions of other people?

And this is why I continue to write about weddings, even though I got married over a year ago. They are such a microcosm for the rest of our lives. All the problems, joys, complexities, and possibilities wrapped up in weddings are the same things we face in life.

How do we make choices that align with our authentic selves and have the courage to follow those choices, despite judgment from other people?

I think the first question to tackle is why we care. Why does it make us "upset and self-conscious" when people respond negatively to decisions we've made, even when we know we've done "the right thing" for us?

I'm guessing it's because we're social beings. We thrive within communities. We want to be valued, loved, and appreciated by those around us. That's why it hurts so much when we receive criticism rather than support. It's natural. It's okay.

However, we ultimately have no good choice but to live the life that is most aligned with our deepest, most authentic selves. If we don't, we risk living someone else's ideal life, which is likely to leave us feeling empty and unsatisfied. Also, it's impossible to please everyone. There are so many diverse opinions out there. We'll end up running around like chickens with their [you know the rest].

I always get my deepest joy from following what feels most right for me, regardless with what others say. It doesn't stop me from feeling hurt or despondent when someone judges me, but it helps give me the courage I need to forge my own path.

It also helps to find a community of like-minded folks who do support your alternative decisions.

Spending less money on a dress you'll wear once in a way that is better for the environment (less production) and the world (money goes toward a good cause and then you re-donate it) is awesome. Hands-down. There are a whole lot of us out there who not only support your decision but celebrate it!

Best wishes to you for an authentic wedding and an authentic life!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Marriage Checklist

I've seen enough Wedding Checklists in my life. Although my modus operandi is list-making, I can't help but get a little overwhelmed when I look at such lists. They are so extensive and detailed! They remind me of something NASA must have created when they were trying to figure out how to put a man on the moon.

My intention is not to add yet another overwhelming list to the internet ethos. However, I do want to take a few minutes to shift the focus away from the details of party-planning and instead highlight the stuff that helps us prepare for the marriage.

Of course this isn't a you-must-do-this list. There's no such thing. Rather, these are a few ideas of ways to prioritize our relationships alongside our weddings:
  1. Figure out how to fight in constructive rather than destructive ways: Disagreeing is inevitable, and reaching compromise and shared understanding takes work. When we fight, though, we have to do it in ways that build our relationships rather than tear them down. After a fight, we should have new insight into our partners that will prevent a fight later on. Or we should have a new strategy for dealing with conflict. Or we should be able to look at each other and say, "That was really cathartic. I feel a lot better. I love you." We should fight in ways that don't leave us bitter or festering or armed with ammunition that we will use against our partners later on down the road.
  2. Create a shared budget: Money is a huge source of tension in a lot of relationships. It's important to figure out what your individual spending styles are and decide how to mesh them. Also, it's good to come up with an action plan for paying off debt.
  3. Discuss how to share tasks equitably: A lot of work goes into running a household (doing dishes, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, cleaning the toilet, calling the repairperson when something breaks, paying bills, mowing the lawn, finding fun things to do on Friday nights, sending holiday and thank you cards, etc.). Figuring how to share these tasks equitably can help lay a foundation for equality and mutual respect.
  4. Delineate your needs and wants: It takes a lot of self-work to bring healthy selves into a relationship. An important piece of introspection is figuring out what we each need and want and to share those needs and wants with our partners. Sometimes we have needs that aren't being met while we're dating but we think they will magically start being met after we're married.
  5. Reach agreement about the state-of-our-home: Different partners tolerate and crave different levels of cleanliness and order. It's important to discuss these differences and find ways to deal with them.
  6. Agree on a sketch of your life together: I'm not suggesting you set your life path in stone, but I do think it's wise to talk about the big rocks: how many kids you think you might want to have, what kind of place you want to live in, how you want to spend your vacation time, how you want to balance work/family/hobbies/friends/exercise.
What other suggestions do you have for each other about ways to prepare for marriage?

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Q & A: How to Be a Good Officiant

Reader Question: A friend of mine just asked me to officiate at her wedding in June, and I thought this might be a good question for your blog and your readers. I want to be the best possible officiant. Of course I will ask my friends how I can do that, but for readers who've already gotten married, what advice do you and your readers have for the officiant? I'm glad I have until June to compile readings, suggestions, ideas, etc. And glad I still have connections in the wedding-blogging world to whom I can direct these questions! :)

Yes! Let's talk about officiants! I would love to contribute to the sparse dialogue about this meaningful aspect of wedding planning...

My Advice for How to Be a Good Officiant:
  1. Generate a List of Planning Questions: Planning a wedding can be a stressful undertaking (is that an understatement?), and it can help if the officiant takes a proactive role in guiding the planning and execution of the ceremony. If I were officiating a friend's wedding, I would generate a list of questions such as: What is your vision for your wedding ceremony? Do you want to revise a pre-existing script or write an original one? What kind of tone do you want me to set as an officiant? What is your ideal deadline for finalizing the ceremony? How often and when should we meet to work on it? What kind of clothes do you want me to wear? Do you want me to coordinate the rehearsal? How else can I help? If you anticipate that your friend may be unsure or indecisive about any of these questions, it might be extremely helpful to come up with a few options to present to the couple.
  2. Start Meeting with the Couple: Ceremony planning should be a priority. The earlier you can start meeting with the couple, the better. Bring your list of questions, but let the couple decide the ultimate direction of the meeting. Then, just listen and take notes!
  3. Remember Your Role Is to Serve: As an officiant, it is your role to help the couple execute whatever wedding they feel represents them. Even though the traditional wedding ceremony places the officiant in the center, ultimately, the officiant is more of a facilitator.
My Advice for How to Pick a Good Officiant:
  1. Pick Someone Who Knows You: The most meaningful and sincere wedding ceremonies I've seen usually have an officiant who truly knows the couple (or at least one partner).
  2. Decide What Kind of Ceremony You Want: Start with a vision for what kind of wedding you want to have and then pick an officiant who can help you reach that vision. And don't be afraid to pick an officiant who truly embodies the kind of ceremony you want, regardless of what disapproving family members may say.
  3. Start Early: It's easy to put off the planning of the wedding ceremony because it's hard. It's a lot easier to dwell on flowers or shoes. But don't let yourself procrastinate too much! The ceremony is the heart of your wedding. It's the proclamation and cementation of your marriage.
2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what other advice do you have?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pre-Marital Activities

Before we got into the heavy stuff during our pre-marital class, the instructors had us do a good activity related to keeping fun alive in our relationship.

We brainstormed a list of things to do in various categories:
  1. Under One Minute
  2. 1-10 Minutes
  3. 10-60 Minutes
  4. 1-4 Hours
  5. A Full Day
  6. Multiple Days
Within each category, we pushed ourselves to come up with options that fell in various price ranges from free to a couple hundred dollars.

Your "List O' Fun" can serve as inspiration for maintaining the fun in your relationship. The instructors also emphasized the importance of setting aside time to have fun as a couple (without letting work, sports, TV, children, etc. interfere), as well as the importance of committing not to engage in conflict during dates.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Revisiting the Budget

The long weekend gave me a chance to take care of some overdue tasks, like revisiting our budget.

It was time to revisit our budget for a couple reasons:
  1. I have a new job, so my salary has changed. Therefore, the budget has to change.
  2. Matt and I were not sticking to our previous budget. In fact, we were hemorrhaging money.
We were doing really well with funneling our income into different saving areas until our cars were stolen in January. We consolidated a lot of savings accounts in order to buy a new car without taking out a loan. Then we had to scramble to rebuild our vacation fund in order to go on our honeymoon in July. And then we had to fork over more than a thousand dollars to build a fence.

We had to put our automated saving plans on hold in order to deal with these various demands. Once we weren't stashing away our money into savings accounts, we had a bigger "general fund" that gave us the illusion of having a lot of money to spend (that's where the "hemorrhaging money" part came in). We started spending our money more loosely than we otherwise would.

Long story, short: We are back on a budget. I put an index card in my wallet to keep track of our spending. For example, we have $1,060 a month to spend on groceries, eating out, entertainment, and our dog's needs. I wrote $1,060 at the top and I subtract from it each time we spend money. Since the start of September, we've already spent $20 buying supplies from CVS for a sick friend, $25 on Thai food, $15 at Little Bigs, $23 at Mama Ninfa's, $8 on frozen yogurt and something else I can think of, and $20 on pure maple syrup, yogurt, bananas, and chocolate chips for a pancake breakfast. Keeping a running tally of our spending will help keep our budget more tangible.

I think we might be eating rice and beans by the end of the month...

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Year in Review

When you're swimming in the sea of bridal shoes, centerpieces, favors, white dresses, bridesmaid dresses, up-dos, and cake toppers, it can be easy to lose sight of the shore. In fact, you sometimes lose all control and get swept away in the current.

I feel for you. Wedding planning can be a very stressful and taxing time. There's a big party to plan, family complexities to cope with, friendships to maintain, pressure from the Wedding Industrial Complex to dodge, a relationship with your partner to build, and real life to keep up with (just to name a few stressors).

It can help to step back and remember that the wedding is the start of our marriage, not the grand finale.

While Matt and I were planning our wedding, we were also looking for new jobs, buying our first house (over a thousand miles away), coordinating a move, considering a new dog, and balancing our Montessori certification courses with full-time teaching.

After our wedding, things didn't get any less stressful. Soon after we moved into our new home in Houston, Hurricane Ike hit, damaged our home, and left us without power for 14 days. Then our dog got out of his collar, ran across a busy street, got hit by a car, and went missing for nine hours. A few months later, both of our cars were stolen.

In light of these life events (which were mild compared to more tragic things that could have occurred), our wedding didn't seem like such a big deal after all. Sure it's a meaningful and memorable shining star in our memories, but it's now a memory. What's left is our commitment to each other to be the best partners we can be, day in and day out, regardless of the challenges we face.

The wedding is like the icing on the cake*. It gets licked off. Therefore, we have to focus on the cake of our relationships--the substance--because that's what will be left when the icing is gone.

(*Please excuse the imperfect metaphor. The cake gets eaten, too. I was trying to think of something surface that comes off and then leaves something substantial behind, but I'm drawing a blank!)

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Reason #5,892 I Love My Husband

I opened my container of Thai takeout at school on Friday and found this delightful message.

I adore my partner.

Every day I work hard to be the kind of partner he deserves.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

DIY: Make Your Own Wedding Stamp

I love craft classes. I really do. They attract the friendliest, most interesting people.

Here's what I learned at a recent class: How to make your own rubber stamp.

The first step was to rub pencil all over the back of our black-and-white image. Then the instructor gave us a piece of white, soft rubber. We placed the pencil-side down on the stamp, and taped down the image. We then traced over the lines of our black-and-white image, which transferred the image to the rubber. Next, we used a tool to carefully carve the rubber away from our lines. When we thought we had carved out enough, we tested our stamps using an ink pad. We could easily see where we had to carve more.

When our hand-carved stamps were complete, we rolled a water-based block printing ink onto a piece of glass (which the instructor got from a Dollar Store picture frame--brilliant!) with a roller. Then we stamped our stamp into the ink and pressed it to the fabric (and held it for approximately five seconds). We repeated the stamping across our entire fabric.


I quickly realized that a piece of fabric stamped with bloodhounds is pretty much only good for one thing: a bandanna for my bloodhound.

On a side note: Sorry to be so dog-obsessed. I can only imagine what will happen when Matt and I add a non-furry child to our family.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Weekend Recap

My new job started last Monday (teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at a public Montessori school). It's great but exhausting. I usually spend about ten hours at school, and then I come home and pretty much work for a few more hours until I fall fast asleep around 9:30 or 10:00.

My schedule won't be so physically demanding indefinitely; I'm just trying to accomplish a pretty extensive list of start-up tasks.

Thankfully this past weekend, a lovely colleague of Matt's offered to let us use her condo in Galveston. Score!

We stayed home Friday night so Matt could attend the karaoke outing he had planned (I was home, um, sleeping). On Saturday, we swung by my school to make an appearance at the ice-cream social. Then we high-tailed it out of Houston and headed for the shore.

It was most certainly a low-key evening. We ordered pizza by the pool and then spent approximately five hours watching reality TV. Since we don't have a TV in our house (just a screen and player for DVDs), it was a novel (and addicting) experience.

On Sunday, I ran Hoss on the beach (I'm responsible for exercising him on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays) and then Matt and I swam in the pool. We drove to a convenience store to pick up breakfast (a can of cinnamon rolls) and lunch (another pizza). We worked and read and looked out over the ocean.

It's sheer loveliness to spend time with the loves of your life. I am so thankful for every day I spend with Matt. I am grateful for our health, mobility, and sense of adventure. I want to take full advantage of these gifts while we have them.

On the horizon:
  1. Belize (although I'm going with my best friend rather than my husband)
  2. Florida + Indiana for Christmas
  3. Big Bend + Marfa for spring break
  4. Banff + British Columbia next summer

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Q & A: Thank You Postcards

Reader Question: The reason for my e-mail is that I would love to do the thank you postcards myself but have a few questions. I have visited the Snapfish website and have looked at the prints section. I have been unable to find the option to do a collage. Any clue where I might find this? Also, can you have them printed on a cardstock - better for writing? I imagine you did not get regular prints. Otherwise they'd be curved and not good for writing or for putting stamps on. Any clarification you can give me would be greatly appreciated. :)

The link for making a collage photo on Snapfish is here! Matt and I had a great time making the photo collage for our thank you cards. The major downside is that we had to wait until after the wedding to make them. It would have been ideal to purchase and address our thank you cards before the wedding.

Matt and I actually wrote directly on the prints (with a fine-point Sharpie) and sent them without envelopes. They were slightly curved, but not annoyingly so. The stamps went on without a problem. Many people are surprised to realize that you can slap a photo on a postcard and dump it in the mail.

Just the other day, I filled a plastic tupperware container with a present, wrapped it securely with packing tape, and took it to the post office to mail. The truth is, you can pretty much mail anything that you can stick a stamp on. Apparently, even a coconut.

Also, if any of you are looking for letterpress invitations or thank you cards that don't obliterate your wallet, check out Target! (P.S. They look much better in person...)

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ways to Have Fun at a Wedding

It's easy to get a wee-bit obsessed during the wedding planning process. And even though my wedding has come and gone, I am still a tad bit obsessed with how to make weddings f-u-n.

No, making your wedding fun is not the single most important thing. First and foremost, your wedding should be profoundly focused on your love and the commitment you are about to make. That's the main thing.

But beyond that, I love thinking about how to create a meaningful and memorable party for one's nearest and dearest. That's why I'm thrilled with this e-mail from 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit, Kim:
We pulled out a basket full of fun hats and disguises when people were feeling "limber" on the dance floor, and that really got everyone going even more. Also, we rented a segway for the reception. I was skeptical (semi-embarassed) about this one, but it turned out to be an AMAZING part. It was even ridden in for a "grand entrance" down a soul train. Anyway, just thought you might want to add "segway rental" to the list of fun things to do at a wedding. It certainly stole the show.
Take a look at more pictures!

I certainly will have to add that to the list of How to Have Fun at a Wedding. What a creative idea! I would have been the first in line to try it!

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