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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Collecting & Developing Ideas

  • For any of you who have striving, achieving, perfectionistic tendencies (like, um, me), I recommend the 1/26/10 post from Superhero Journal here.
  • This manifesto from Slow Family Living easily applies to the pressure we feel from the Wedding Industrial Complex to buy more, plan more, obsess more.
Happy Friday! I've got a lovely craft date planned with one of my friends, and I want to turn an old window into a chalkboard. I also need to catch up on some work. Other than that, I want to s-l-e-e-p!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Post: "Bridesmaids" Gift Idea

by Maureen

I wanted to pass along this thought. We did not have "bridesmaids" or "groomsmen" in our wedding, but I did have a special few girlfriends whisk me away to a cabin by a river for a pre-wedding hen party. At the time I felt like I should get them something to show my appreciation, love and friendship. At that point, weeks before the wedding I was pretty DIY'd out. But I really hated the idea of buying "things" for them, and a lot of the the ideas I found online seemed to suggest that ugly, cheap, matchy matchy jewlery was the way to go. Ugh, no thanks.

But I received a gift from one of those dear friends recently that occurred to me would be the perfect token to give someone who had taken some extra time to help with your wedding. It's a small book called The Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones. The book ranks products from A-F in categories like coffee, cosmetics, gasoline, dairy products, seafood, meat alternatives, etc. It sort of complies everything into a small purse-sized guide for the socially conscious consumer. It retails for $9.95, so it's not a huge hit to the wallet.


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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Q & A: Commitment or Codependence?

Reader Question: Hi Sara, I could use your advice. My problem is not wedding-related, but it is a relationship question.

My boyfriend and I have been together 6 years, living together just over 4 years. I am about to start the third semester of earning my master's degree. I just found out I have been offered an internship for the summer, which seems to be prestigious and resume-enhancing. Only problem is, the internship is in Kentucky (we live in the Boston area). I am really struggling with whether or not I can/should go three months apart from my partner.

This sounds crazy to even say, because I have always been pretty independent. I worked in France for eight months at the beginning of our relationship without hesitation. Now, though, we have built a life together and I would feel guilty to leave him for a summer. We have not lived in the area long, and he has not been able to cultivate many deep friendships, nor does he get fulfillment from his everyday job. Is it codependent to feel responsible for fulfilling some of these needs? Or is this being committed to my relationship? Sometimes it is such a fine line.

We have only talked about this briefly, but his official position is, "if it would help your career, you should do it, but I would miss you." I know if I want to take the internship, he will support me 100%.

I am really looking forward to hearing your take on this. My friends are mostly fiercely independent (which is awesome), but I feel like they would tell me to do it just out of principle, rather than what is really best for me and my relationship.

What do you think, and what factors would you consider when making a decision like this one? What would I do by myself for three months in KENTUCKY?

Thanks so much.

Hooray! A relationship-related question!

There seem to be two different parts to the question. Let's separate them from each other, analyze them, and then put them back together.

First, there is the question of the internship. It's not clear how you feel about it, aside from your concerns about sustaining yourself for three months in a new location and your mention of the internship's "prestige" and "resume-enhancing" potential. Here are some suggested questions to ask yourself:
  1. What are the benefits of accepting the internship? Aside from the external benefits of prestige and resume enhancement, are there other arguments for accepting the internship? Will it challenge you intellectually? Will it introduce you to new and interesting people? Will it expose you to a different part of the country? Will it help you grow into a better person (for yourself and your partner)?
  2. What are the drawbacks of accepting the internship (separate from the relationship-related ones)?
  3. How are you going to spend your three months if you don't accept the internship?
  4. Is this internship a necessary stepping stone for goals you want to accomplish in the future? Will it help you have the kind of life you want for yourself?
As far as your relationship goes, here are some questions to consider:
  1. Why is your partner having trouble making deep connections with friends? If you stay in town for three months, will your presence help or hinder that process?
  2. Why does your partner find his everyday work unfulfilling? Are there ways to help him find more meaningful and purpose-driven work?
  3. If your roles were reversed, would you want your partner to accept the internship or not?
Now putting them back together:
  1. What are your goals in life? What is your vision? Which choice better aligns with that vision?
  2. Pick one of the decisions and ask yourself, "What are the consequences of this decision in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years?" Now switch your decision and answer the same questions.
You're the only one who can make the decision that's right for you, and I wish you the very best!

2000DollarWedding Kindred Spirits, do you have any other advice?

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Photo Booth Software

I'm super-excited to host this contest to win free photo booth software, created by John Wu.

Here's what John has to say:
The inspiration for Spark Booth stemmed directly from necessity. My fiance and I were interested in renting a photo booth for our wedding reception until we realized the cost was astronomical! Not to mention we didn't need yet another delivery item to plan around. Instead, I created Spark Booth to turn any computer with a webcam into a photo booth kiosk. The user simply downloads the software and sets up a computer, a light, and a chair. At our reception, we set up Spark Booth in a corner and let guests use it themselves. The inexpensive software is designed to run unattended, requiring only that a guest press the spacebar to activate the camera.

Spark Booth was an instant hit - before we knew it, crowds were gathered around that corner. The great thing about Spark Booth is not only the instant gratification of seeing the photos as you take them, but the fun really begins online. Spark Booth saves pictures to disk, and uploads photos for guests to view on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. After the party, we printed our favorite shots of friends on glossy 4 x 6 photo paper which was a handy insert for our thank you cards! There is also an option to send the photos to a printer at the end of each session.
To enter this contest to win a free download of the full software:
  1. Leave your first name and the first two initials of your last name (one entry per person, please).
  2. Enter by Tuesday, February 2 at 11:59pm EST.
Happy Entering!

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Valentine's Presents (or "Favors" If You're Planning a Wedding)

I did a terrible job with holiday cards and presents for friends and colleagues this year. By "terrible," I mean that I basically skipped them all together.

But better late than never, right? I figure Valentine's Day is the perfect day to shower my friends and colleagues with love.

The best sources for ideas are most certainly wedding blogs and the posts that focus on wedding favors.

Let me digress for a moment to talk about my love/hate relationship with wedding favors. On the one hand, making little presents for your guests can be a wonderful way to pour your love into something tangible. They can be sweet tokens of appreciation. Matt and I certainly had fun making our cilantro seed packets. Matt designed the stamp and printed all the cards. I sewed the seeds into the packet. On the front, we included directions about how to grow your own cilantro seeds, and on the back we included our personal recipe for guacamole (which we served at the reception).

The "hate" part comes into the equation when I see wedding magazines, blogs, or books talk about favors as a "must-do," "must-have," or "must-buy" in order to have a "Once-in-a-Lifetime Perfect Day."


From that perspective, wedding favors can quickly become a burden. Another thing on the endless wedding checklist. Another line in the budget. Another thing to obsess and worry about.

Although we enjoyed making our favors, they ended up being pretty useless. Not everyone even took theirs. We made only enough for each person to have one, and we ended up with lots left over.

And when I think back to the countless weddings I've been to, I can only remember a handful of items that were provided as favors.

So, when I write a whole post about how I'm going to make Valentine's gifts for my friends and colleagues and share some ideas you might want to use for wedding favors, my intent is not to pressure you (overtly or subliminally) to worry about wedding favors (or lack thereof) for your wedding. If you want them, fine. If not, more power to you!

Okay, with that preface under my belt, I am going to return to waxing DIY.

Valentine's presents. Hmm...

First and foremost, I have to make and write cards. I think there is nothing more powerful than sincere words of affirmation (maybe that's because my Language of Love is "words of affirmation?"). And I'll definitely have to use materials I have on hand. No sense in buying more stuff when I have a closet full of crafting materials.

Maybe I'll use the security envelopes I've been stashing away for a special occasion?

Maybe I'll make a stamp.

As for the gift, here are some ideas I have:
Maybe Matt and I could make something together to give to our friends and colleagues. It would be a cool Valentine's tradition to spend time together figuring out how to dole out love to other people.

Still thinking...

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pound Cake Present

I'm going to visit a friend I haven't seen in a while, and we had some leftover pound cake from dinner last night (which, by the way, I highly recommend you bake! It's pretty easy to make a delicious-tasting cake from this recipe).

Wax paper + ribbon + sticky note = instant present


Happy Saturday to all of you...

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Collecting & Developing Ideas

Here are snippets from my internet meandering this week. Happy Friday!
  • This post called "Dreamers into Doers" is a reminder that we are more than just brides (or grooms). Our lives stretch out ahead of us (and behind us), and we need to put our creativity and hard work into carving out those lives, not just planning weddings.
  • Thinking about DIYing a dessert bar or a wedding cake? This post from Project Wedding is super-helpful (and makes me want to make someone a wedding cake!).
  • I love the idea of electronic save-the-dates (e-mails, videos, etc.). In case you haven't seen this Epic Save-the-Date video featured on Offbeat Bride, go check it out! Wow. Double wow.
  • Thinking about adding a shower curtain to the registry (like the one featured above)? It makes me happy.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Postcard #1: The Embroidered Wedding Dress

I know our wedding is gone and done, and I don't mean to run it into the ground by talking about it too much. However, a lot of folks are new to the site, and I thought a little postcard series might be a fun way to revisit some aspects of our wedding (with new details, I promise).

This first postcard features a small portion of my wedding dress. The $15 dress came from Target online and arrived at our house in a very small box.

It wasn't my ideal dress. It made my body look bigger than it is, and it came from a mass-market box store. But for $15, I didn't think I would be able to find something better. And, frankly, I was tired of shopping for a dress. I know there are plenty of people who enjoy scouring ebay and vintage stores and sewing patterns and Etsy. I like doing those things, too; it's just that I can only take a couple weeks of it before I am ready to move onto something else.

Also, my wedding dress shopping phase came before I truly started to feel pressure from the cool, DIY-to-the-max, I-took-a-letterpresss-class-to-make-my-invitations weddings in the alternative blogosphere. If I had been addicted to a lot of wedding blogs at that time (like I am now), I would have felt even more pressure to find The Perfect Dress that would make readers ooh and ahh.

As it was, we had a lot of things on our wedding to-do list. I was eager to get the dress crossed off.

The dress had several bad reviews online ("This dress looks like a sack draped on my body."), but I figured I could make it work. The price tag increased my optimism. I had several ideas to spruce up the dress:
  1. Make a sash to reign in some of the extra fabric. Since I wanted to keep the cost as low as possible and minimize our environmental impact, I decided to use fabric from an old dress that I no longer wore. The dress had special meaning because I got it during my trip to India, which took place right after I met Matt for the first time. We never decided on "wedding colors"; they just sort of emerged from that old dress. That's when I got the idea that I could make a tie for Matt out of the same fabric as a metaphor for unity (and, later, when our wedding planning stretched on too long and I had some spare time on my hands, I decided to make Hoss a matching bandanna and make flower pins for the wedding party with the last remaining scraps (and then put the tiniest remnants into our wedding quilt). I didn't feel pressured to undertake these projects; I wanted to.
  2. Embroider along the bottom. I figured we had to do something to make the $15 dress quasi-special. At times, I did feel some pressure to make our wedding special with heart and sincerity, since we weren't doing it with money. That's when we came up with the idea to embroider our life story together along the bottom. I have fond memories of sketching out the design with Matt in our tiny craft room in Denver. Then I spent hours embroidering the design, usually while talking with friends on the phone. It was a calming and grounding experience, and it made me feel like I was putting myself into our wedding. Plus, I learned a new skill.
  3. Ask a seamstress friend to modify the back to make it more attractive. We brought pizza to her house and spent the evening hanging out with her family while she worked on my dress. It was our first communal wedding planning experience, and it felt good.
I had a lot of doubts about the dress going into the wedding. Mainly, I was afraid I wouldn't feel beautiful and confident on my wedding day. I was already nervous about being the total center of attention for such an extended amount of time.

I never did get a lot of compliments on the dress. That was hard at first, but I forced myself to come to terms with it and realize that it wasn't about others' opinions. I do have very fond memories of explaining the sequence and the meaning behind each image to a handful of friends and family. And I remember having full-range of motion all night long. (My dress did start to cut into my armpits toward the end of the night, and that sucked.)

If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have the courage to ditch the concept of a white wedding dress and instead go for something that I would wear again and again (for a lifetime of parties). Since our wedding was offbeat in many ways, I think I clung to a few traditional things in order to prevent total discombobulation.

I would definitely prioritize comfort. I think being able to walk and dance without constant adjustment or fear of toppling over is a must in my book. But that's just me and my priorities.

I would also try not to stress about it so much. Looking back on it now, the dress really doesn't deserve as much attention as it gets. After time, the details fade.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Contest Winner

And the winner is...

Sarah Ti.! Sarah, please e-mail me to claim your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

As a consolation prize, everyone can head over to Turtle Love Committee with this promo code in hand for 20% off your total order: 2000DW.

(Maybe I'll take advantage of the discount code and place an order for this ring to serve as a fancier version of my very practical wedding ring when the need arises. I'm smitten!)

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wedding Planning Books that Won't Drive You Mad

I hate to confess this little secret, since I am generally a very big supporter of the book industry. However, when you're planning a wedding (and a Welcome Picnic open to all 80 guests) on a $2,000 budget, your number one budget priority is not purchasing wedding planning books.

That's why Matt and I resorted to the following tactics to satiate our thirst for book-knowledge related to all-things-wedding:
  1. The library
  2. The bookstore (where we would not actually purchase any books; instead, we would spend a couple hours reading entire sections of relevant books)
And, yes, we even resorted to returning books for store credit that had been given to us as gifts (after we read them from cover to cover without breaking the spines). A little pathetic, I know.

However, despite our suspect methods for getting our hands on books, we did find a couple books super-helpful, and I wanted to list them here for anyone else who is floundering in sea of wedding planning:
  1. Offbeat Bride by Ariel Meadow Stallings, of course. It's a seminal text in the movement to plan the wedding of your dreams (not anyone else's). Plus, she's coming out with a new edition this spring. Woo-hoo.
  2. The DIY Wedding by Kelly Bare. It provided a lot of sensible advice and options about various aspects of wedding planning.
  3. One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead. This book should be required reading on all college campuses. It's that enlightening. It explains the Wedding Industrial Complex from a historical perspective and can help ground anyone who's caught up in the hubbub of wedding planning.
So, please spill the beans! Which wedding planning books helped (rather than hindered) your wedding planning process?

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Q & A: Cheap Wedding Reception Catering Ideas

Reader Question: Okay, so maybe you've already answered this but I haven't been reading your blog for long or been planning my wedding for long either, but I've begun to start planning our wedding (even if it is far away) and the thing that I'm worried about getting into the budget is the food. What is the best way to do food for cheap and still have it taste good? Thank you so much for your help!

Ah, yes. Catering a big party for your nearest and dearest. I remember the stress.

Here's what I don't understand. How is it that Matt and I can go to a restaurant and get two delicious meals for under $30 total and yet $15/person is practically unheard of in the catering world? Yes, I realize that catering usually involves set-up and clean-up and service, but it's food in bulk! It's a few items mass produced! Ugh.

Here are a few ideas for saving money:
  1. Plan to avoid major meal times: This suggestion is the standard recommendation for brides on a budget. There are a couple variations on this theme, including having a brunch wedding or doing something like champagne and cake instead of a full-blown meal.
  2. Host a potluck and let your community cater the the meal: I've talked ad nauseum about this option, so I won't say much more. I just couldn't bear to leave it off the list, since it really is a great way to save money (and foster community and connection).
  3. Self-cater: Matt and I went this route because we wanted to save money and we wanted to involve our community in the creation of our wedding. Although this route worked nearly perfectly for us, it's not something to be taken lightly. It takes a lot of planning and can create a ton of stress.
  4. Partially self-cater: If a handful of your nearest and dearest like to cook, why not tap into their culinary skills for all the sides and hire a catering company to provide the main dishes?
  5. Go for novelty: Renting a portable wood burning oven + pizza crew or hiring an entire taco truck might be cheaper options (and will certainly go a long way towards making the day memorable).
  6. Stray far, far away from the beaten path: It's hard to find a good deal on the well-worn wedding path (thanks, Wedding Industrial Complex). However, there are deals waiting to be scored in the dives and family-run businesses of our towns. Think of your favorite restaurant (that doesn't have a pre-printed catering menu) and talk to them about the possibilities. Or what about finding an up-and-coming caterer who is looking to build his/her portfolio? Or what about friends of friends of friend? You can always use craigslist or younger siblings' friends to hire some additional serving/cleaning/setting up help.
Just remember, expensive does not necessarily equal good. I have been to plenty of expensive weddings at expensive venues that essentially served conference food. Meh.

The moral of the story is: be creative. So often, we get stuck inside the pre-planned wedding formula. We're pressured into conforming to everyone else's vision of what a wedding is. The truth is, the Once-in-a-Lifetime perfect white wedding is really just a societal construct that you can choose to follow, modify, or throw out entirely. Your wedding is your chance for you and your partner to share your lives with your nearest and dearest. If you want to have a Saturday afternoon ceremony, evening reception, white dress, garter, bouquet toss, cake cutting, first dance [insert countless other "essential" details], that's your choice. If you don't want any of it (or want some of it), the choice is also yours.

I'm eager to hear your ideas about cheap wedding catering options that still taste scrumptious! Please share!

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Collecting and Developing Ideas

Image courtesy of vol25

There's so much inspiration in the blogosphere.

I thought I would share a few of my favorite finds this week (although some of them are a little old):
  1. Turning a regular old canvas into a chalkboard canvas. The possibilities are endless!
  2. This family makes matching pajamas to celebrate Winter Solstice. Matching pajama pants would be an awesome way to thank your wedding party or other people who are near and dear to your heart.
  3. Yes, you really can elope if you want to.
  4. If you're thinking about making gift baskets for any reason, consider going the semi-DIY route.
  5. Need a wall-sized calendar to map out your wedding planning (and the rest of your non-wedding planning life)? Try chalkboard paint squares.
  6. Consider this organic bedding for your registry (or a birthday/Hanukkah/Christmas present).
  7. Commemorate your love with this poster.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Putting the Stress of Wedding Planning in Perspective

This first-hand report from an NPR correspondent in Haiti.

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Guest Post: Wedding Time Capsule

By Stephanie

I wanted to share something we did at our wedding that was super cheap, fun and focused on the future of our relationship rather than the wedding DAY: We had a time capsule. We gave each guest a piece of paper that read, "Write a message to Kevin and Stephanie to be read on September 5, 2019, their 10 year wedding anniversary." We also had a part at the bottom where people could make predictions about what our lives will be like in ten years: how many kids we will have, where we will be living, and how many skydives we will have done. (We are both avid skydivers). We didn't peek and we will get to read all of our family and friends messages for the first time on our ten year wedding anniversary!
Your turn: Do you have something you want to share with 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits? Maybe you want to write a post about how to DIY your wedding invitations or you want to share a profound realization that helped you approach wedding planning a little more sanely. Maybe you want to write about the name-changing dilemma or a creative idea for making your wedding more eco-friendly. If so, e-mail me your idea. for inspiration, check out other guest posts. We're looking forward to hearing from you!

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

iPod Wedding Playlist... Finally!

Dear 2000 Dollar Wedding Readers,

This is Matt Bradford again. To remind you, I'm the #4 of our family behind Hoss, Sara and the chickens.

On our LONG trip back to Houston from Sara's parents in Florida, on New Year's Day I rediscovered our wedding playlists on Sara's iPod (it hadn't been updated in a year and a half).

Now, this may not seem like something that's post-worthy, but let me walk you through my surprise:
  1. I'm the official iPod updater in our family. Not that Sara doesn't have music tastes or interests of her own, simply that she is the type of person perfectly happy listening to and fast-forwarding through the same songs for more than a year-and-a-half.
  2. I had created several playlists for our wedding day that were the product of many, many hours of downloading and research that I will be posting over the next three weeks:
    1. Ceremony - Pre
    2. Ceremony - Post
    3. Reception - Dinner
    4. Reception - Dancing
  3. We had these playlists on my iPod for all the wedding festivities but, in the case that my iPod failed, we had them backed-up on Sara's iPod.
  4. Because of my oft-rotated mp3s and playlists, somewhere in the past year-and-a-half I had lost/deleted (or thought that I had) the playlists forever.
In my excitement I've asked Sara if I could write three posts. I'm well-aware that this is a wedding playlist post that should have been published long ago, so it may all feel a little anti-climactic to you. But the purpose of this post is two-fold: 1) make sure that this important piece of our wedding has been given its proper place on the blog; and 2) to ensure that the list is stored somewhere on the internet, because my computer is clearly not a safe place for it.

Today's playlists will be the "Ceremony - Pre", i.e. the music played as guests were arriving and we were getting setup, and "Ceremony - Post", i.e. concluding, picture time and driving away. Most of the songs can be found by searching http://www.hypem.com/, some can be found at http://www.daytrotter.com/, and my dear friend Galia has a MySpace page as well as other places to buy/download her awesome music.

Ceremony - Pre
  1. Ben Gibbard - You Remind Me of Home
  2. Amos Lee - Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight
  3. Dave Matthew's Band - #34
  4. The Decembrists - Red Right Ankle
  5. Devotchka - You Love Me
  6. Beirut - The Winner Is
  7. Feist - The Park
  8. Feist and the Constantines - Islands in the Stream
  9. Galia Arad - Don't Go
  10. Guillemots - My Chosen One
  11. Laura Gibson - Hands in Pockets
  12. The Waterboys - Sweet Thing
Ceremony - Post
  1. Jens Lekman - Your Arms Around Me
  2. Cat Stevens - Here Comes My Baby
  3. Devotchka - 'Til the End of Time
  4. Edith Frost - Easy to Love
  5. Guillemots - Made-up Lovesong #13

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Eco- and Budget-Friendly Jewelry

How often does the word "wedding" get paired with the phrase "social change"? That's why I am always happy to host contests from Turtle Love Committee (plus I love giving away free stuff).

They say, "Our mission is to foster social change by focusing people on love and commitment and away from a culture of consumerism. That includes caring for the people and resources around us."


Today they are offering some fine jewelry that would be lovely on your wedding day or would make a great gift for an important friend or family member.

The Birch Harbor Earrings

The Orland Necklace

The Aurora Pendant

The Southwest Harbor Earrings

To win one of these items (including shipping + handling):
  1. Leave your first name and the first two initials of your last name (one entry per person, please).
  2. Enter by Tuesday, January 19 at 11:59pm EST.
Happy Entering!

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Q & A: Wedding Potluck Logistics

Potluck wedding via Recipes and Ruminations

Reader Question: Hello! I thought I might send over a question or two to get some advice from you and the rest of your readers. My fiance and I are having a potluck dinner after our wedding. The meat will be provided by us--beef from his uncle's small farm, and maybe venison (we're looking into the legality of that one, considering we don't want said uncle to get his hunting license revoked or jail time). The sides will be on our registry in categories like "veggie main dish," "pies," "rolls/cornbread," "fruit plate," etc. for people to register for as their gift to us. We're asking them to bring a card with their name, the name of the dish, and any common allergens or designations (peanuts, gluten-free, soy, vegan, etc.), as well as a recipe card for us to include in a wedding cookbook. As for the organization of it all, we're asking his three incredibly capable sisters to handle it (the ones who were asking, "Why aren't we more involved in the wedding?? What can we do??"), and we're getting married at a summer camp, so the camp's kitchen staff will set up the food, replenish it, remove empty dishes, etc. So, my questions are these: What have we overlooked? What potential snags should we watch out for? How did it go for couples who have done this before? Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks!

Yeeeesssss! A potluck wedding! Don't get me wrong; I appreciate all kinds of catering options (even this pig roast wedding sounded awesome to my vegetarian ears), but I have a special place in heart for potluck weddings (see my previous post: A Case for Potluck Weddings here).

First, I love potlucks. I love the variety of foods to choose from and the fact that people contribute a little piece of themselves to the gathering through their offering.

Second, I think wedding potlucks are the best potlucks ever. (I say that more from an inferential point of view, since I've never actually been to a potluck wedding.) I can only imagine how wonderful the food will be when it is cooked by your nearest and dearest in order to celebrate your commitment, community, and love. Wow!

Third, potlucks are a huge money-saver. Catering costs can be astronomical. I think potlucks are a magnificent way to seriously scale back a wedding budget AND provide guests with a delicious meal.

Fourth, potlucks--in my mind--are the quintessential expression of community. They are a metaphor for what it looks like when each person contributes their small part to the greater good. The outcome is better than the sum of its parts.

Fifth, a potluck wedding will be truly memorable. Like I've said, I've never been to a potluck wedding, and they aren't featured very much in the wedding blogosphere. I imagine your guests will truly enjoy the unique experience (and appreciate the opportunity to put their heart and intention into a present, instead of just their cash).

Okay, enough gushing. Can you tell I'm really excited for you and your partner?

It seems like you've got everything thoroughly planned! I love the idea of the info cards (and the wedding recipe cookbook--what an item to cherish forever!).

One thing that comes to mind is serving utensils. Whenever I host potlucks, there are always a handful of people who don't bring serving utensils, so just be sure to have some extras on hand.

Also, extension cords. People might show up with crockpots full of goodness and need a place to plug in.

My last thought is about sharing all the recipes with all your guests. Perhaps you could start a free blog (or use a wedding wedsite?) to scan in the recipes and upload them as photos. I've done this for several recipes, and I think it's pretty easy to read them if folks click on the photos.

Ooh! You could even use TasteBook to turn it into a bound cookbook that you give as gifts to people whom you really want to thank.

(Matt's sitting next to me and he recommended that you make a one-page menu to share with guests beforehand to highlight all the yumminess they will get to experience.)

Hmm, I think that's all we've got.

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, please help us out! Anything else she should anticipate/consider/plan/do?

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Yes, They Can (Pun Intended)

This couple is collecting and recycling enough aluminum cans to finance their $4,000 wedding. So cool!

I thought about doing something similar to raise money for our honeymoon the year after our wedding, but I never got past the brainstorming stage. I love that they are melding their environmental passions with their wedding planning.

You can read more about the project or how to help on their website or follow their progress on their blog.

Pete and Andrea, I'm wishing you the best with your can collection, wedding planning, and marriage! (and please report back to us about how it goes!)

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DIY: Cutting Your Losses (and Celebrating What You Did Accomplish)

I still have DIY on the brain after this holiday season. I realized that I'm often overly optimistic about what I can accomplish in a given amount of time and then disappointed with myself when I don't get everything done. No fair!

I see the same phenomenon in the DIY wedding blogosphere. We make really long lists of everything that has to get done and then fret if we can't accomplish everything.

I'm all for setting ambitious goals, but we have to be fair to ourselves by focusing more on what we were able to accomplish, as opposed to flagellating ourselves for what we weren't able to cross off.

In that vein, here is a list of what I'm celebrating from this holiday season:
  1. I made reusable, fabric bags for most of the gifts I gave.
  2. I made laminated gift tags to use over and over again.
  3. I made a few really personal and fun gifts for people, like an appliqued sweatshirt for my cousin.
  4. I organized our house before we left for vacation.
  5. I'm on track for accomplishing several big projects in the new year.
  6. I didn't lose my sanity and was able to bask in the moment.
  7. I set aside time to reflect on the past year and orientate myself to the new year.
Here are all the things that I didn't cross off (and I'm not even going to worry about):
  1. Handmade gifts for everyone
  2. An advent calendar
  3. Gifts for my colleagues
  4. Gifts for my students
For that matter, it can really help to prevent certain things from getting on your list in the first place. As far as the holidays go, I didn't even think about doing cards this year. Nope. I knew I wasn't up for it. I also knew I didn't have the time/money/motivation to worry about decorating our house.

So tell me, 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what are you crossing off your wedding planning to-do list? What are you leaving off the list entirely? What have you gotten done that's worth celebrating?

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cultivating and Maintaining Your Self in Marriage

Matt and I tried to cram ten parties into the span of 2.5 weeks right before the holidays. Needless to say, but the 7th one (which was on a school night at like 9pm), I was a little less than enthusiastic.

But then something happened. I went to the party and had some really good conversations. The kind of conversations that make you realize things and say smart things and make you laugh. The kind of conversations that better illuminate your life trajectory.

I came home (around 11:30pm) totally inspired. I started looking through my old journals (which reading and writing workshop teachers call "Writer's Notebooks") and realized that I have started to lose cherished pieces of my identity.

I remember reading once this idea that marriage is like fitting two pieces together. In order for those pieces to fit, each piece ends up getting losing a little of its original shape. As they rub against each other, the corners get rounded and the edges change. I feel a little like that.

There are so many ways that I am a more awesome person because of my marriage. Matt and I have created an amazingly satisfying life together. But there are also ways I am losing snippets of myself that matter to me. Snippets of my self that I do not want to lose.

I think the trick is to identify those aspects of self that I want to maintain--to hold them in my hand and separate the lint from the treasures in my pocket. Then I need to put the treasures back in my pocket and reach for them often.

For one thing, I need to go back to maintaining a Writer's Notebook. I still have a notebook, but it's more like an uninspired collection of to-do lists and grocery lists. I need to get a Moleskine Notebook (and then use Modge Podge to put some really cool stuff on the outside of it) and dig out my colorful Sharpies.

I also need to cultivate new friendships. It's so easy to go back to Matt as my default because we enjoy each other's company so much. But that's a little like overdosing on Clementines. Too much of a good thing is really not a good thing.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Honeymoon #3 (or Annual Adventure #3)

Image courtesy of Thunderbird in Marfa

Matt and I technically didn't go on a honeymoon right after our wedding (unless you count packing and hauling your crap across the country and buying a house two days after your wedding a honeymoon).

However, we did take our First Annual Adventure (as an officially married couple) the following year to Paris and Greece (for a sailing trip with 7 other people). Now we have two more adventures on the horizon:
  1. Big Bend National Park and Marfa for spring break
  2. British Columbia for two weeks in the summer
I'm trying to convince Matt to take an extra two weeks off from work (it's worth the forfeited salary, in my opinion!), so we can take a month-long road trip to Alaska.

I'm not exactly sure that we could make it from Houston to Alaska in a month (I have visions of driving home via the California coast), but a girl can dream, can't she?

I feel the itch to travel far and wide before we expand our family (our dog and chickens already constitute a family, for sure). Two of my friends saved up a bunch of money and then traveled the world for seven months before getting pregnant. I don't think it would make financial sense for us to do such a long, income-free trip, but a month of traveling would be really cool. Then again, maybe we could postpone the baby plans and add more trips to the docket.

As much as I want to make a "Things to Do Before We Get Pregnant" List, I also want to make a "Things to Keep Doing After We Have a Baby." Most definitely.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

DIY Shortcuts

When it comes to DIY projects, my aspirations are usually bigger than my patience.

Right before the holiday, I tried to make as many Christmas presents as possible from stuff I already had in our house. For example, I took a free sweatshirt with a National Geographic logo (it was American Apparel!) and transformed it into something a bit more trendy with the help of a little applique. I also found some blank cards and used a stamp to transform them into a card set (I even wrote the recipient's address on each of the envelopes in the sender spot and also added a stamp).

Then I got particularly ambitious and decided to make reusable gift bags out of fabric and gift tags out of the pretty patterns inside security envelopes.

After reading about making fabric bags on another blog, I decided to make my seams as clean as possible by double folding them. And that's when my impatience started to creep in. I quickly realized that double folding every seam would take about three times as long. My little voice of rationality spoke up and said, "Um, no need to live up to someone else's unnecessarily high standards. Just use your pinking shears and call it a day!" So, I used my pinking shears to cut out the fabric, which meant that my seams were cleaner than they would be otherwise but not as clean as they would have been if I had double-folded every one of them. For some of the gifts, I simply wrapped them in a piece of cut fabric and tied it at the top. Voila!

When it came time to start the gift tags, the thought of painstakingly cutting out tiny flags and gluing them to a tag made me want to poke my eyeballs out. Then I remembered that I had picked up some free gift tags several years ago from the checkout counter at Urban Outfitters. I retrieved those suckers (thanks to a recently-organized craft closet), wrote some names on them, laminated them so I can use them year after year, and then called it a day.

Undertaking DIY projects can be an amazing way to immerse yourself in your wedding, wrest your celebration from the hands of the Wedding Industrial Complex, and save money. But it can also drive you mad. Whenever possible, look for shortcuts (and don't beat yourself up about it!).

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Hip, Hip Hooray for 2010!

It feels like it's been forever. I've missed you all!

I guess traveling through six states in two weeks can make a short vacation feel longer than it is.

This season was our second holiday as a married couple. We're still trying to figure out how to navigate two families who are 981 miles apart (and 1,000 miles away from our house in Houston) without stressing ourselves out (and still make time for friends).

We had a good plan this year: drive from Houston to my family in Tampa (with our bloodhound, Hoss), stay for 2.5 days, fly to Bloomington to see Matt's family, stay for 2.5 days, fly back to Florida, drive to Naples to hang out with our friends at a birthday party/New Year's Party (with bowling!), and drive back to Houston (with enough time to do laundry and go grocery shopping before the work week started).

However, an unexpected medical emergency affected our plans (but ended up reminding me what marriage is all about). When Matt and I were about an hour outside of Tampa on the first leg of our journey, we got a phone call letting us know that Matt's grandfather was back in the hospital and was gravely ill. I told Matt he should change his flight and fly to Indiana early. He wasn't sure what to do. I urged him to be with his family in their time of need, despite the fact that we wouldn't be together on Christmas.

Once he rebooked his flight, we decided to have a "Car Christmas" by exchanging gifts. I gave him a living, growing scrapbook of our past four years together, as well as a coupon for a wood-working class. Matt gave me a book about growing plants in shade (since we have a shady backyard), a coupon for two massages, and a collection of vintage postcards. It turns out he's been sneaking into the back room of the antique shop we go to on Saturdays, and he's been squirreling away postcards from locations that have meaning to us.

Fortunately, Matt's grandfather recovered, and we enjoyed our time in Bloomington. Afterwards, we trekked to our friends' birthday party/New Year's shindig. We completed our yearly reflection forms and made our collages to visually represent our goals for the new year.

As always, I feel like I take on too many projects. This year, I'm going to be extra cautious of what I say yes to. I'm going to prioritize building a garden at our home, maintaining the time bank, updating my education blog more frequently, fully settling into our home, cultivating the ability to relax during stressful situations, nurturing my creativity through crafty projects, forging more friendships, saving money, starting a non-profit to promote the proliferation of public Montessori schools, maintaining my personal blog, strengthening our marriage, learning to love, love, love, and preparing my body/mind/soul for pregnancy.

I'm super-excited to continue updating 2000 Dollar Wedding at least five times a week. We have a lot of new features in the queue, and we have two contests coming up this month.

I hope to continue providing a forum to share ideas about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity! Of course I can't do it without you. There are lots of ways to contribute to 2000 Dollar Wedding:
  1. Send me a question about wedding planning. I'll take a shot at providing advice and then lots of really helpful people will chime in with their perspectives.
  2. Share your wedding with us!
  3. Write a guest post about some aspect of wedding planning.
  4. Become a Facebook fan to receive more frequent updates from Chez 2000dollarwedding or follow us on Twitter.
  5. Leave a comment (anonymously if you want!). Your insights bring a smile to my face on a daily basis. Thank you!
Raising my glass (of calcium-fortified orange juice) to toast the new year and you!

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