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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Planning a "Commitment Reunion" instead of a "Wedding"

As I prepare to head to Louisiana for my ten-year reunion with Teach For America, I'm once again reflecting on the similarities and differences between reunions and weddings.

As we planned the reunion, we were thinking first and foremost about the people and how to schedule our time together so that we would prioritize community, connection, and fun. We put in lots of "chill and hang out" time, like the Fiesta at someone's house on Friday night, the crawfish boil on Saturday, and the brunch on Sunday. We also incorporated a few of our favorite activities, like a game of Ultimate and a trip to a music festival.

Once those big rocks were in place, we started pouring in the sand. We decided to make a commemorative CD of everyone's favorite songs, and we started planning the details of what we would eat and drink. We did not even once stress about what the food would be served on or what people would sit on. I did plan to sew a special dress for the occasion, but when I completely botched it, I decided to pull out a regular skirt from my closet (one that I got ten years ago in Louisiana).

Of course there are real differences between reunions and weddings that haven't been illuminated yet. For example, a wedding is an important life event that formalizes the commitment between two people.

However, it's not clear in my mind how that significant difference ends up manifesting itself in so many insignificant ways. Why does wedding planning have to involve large amounts of stress around details as insignificant as stamps (which is one of my personal examples of stress!)?

I wonder if it's because we are eager to put ourselves wholeheartedly into our marriages. Maybe we want to "get off on the right foot." Maybe we want to honor the significance of what we are about the undertake but our consumer culture gives us so many misguided outlets for expressing that significance?

I wonder if the "reunion mentality" could help re-ground us in the big rocks of wedding planning? Yes, there will still be countless details to coordinate, but those details should take a backseat to the more significant details of who will be there and what we'll be doing together.

It would be like planning a "Commitment Reunion." You would be bringing together your nearest and dearest to celebrate your commitment (with the emphasis on the "commitment," which is why it's first in the phrase).

Hmmm....just a thought.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Family Drama

Matt and I faced our fair share of family drama while planning our nuptials. Over the years, I've seen different couples handle it differently. Some put their feet down and proclaim, "This is our wedding! You already had a chance to plan your wedding."

I've seen other couples say, "It's not worth the fight. At least we get to plan the honeymoon."

And still other couples take more of a middle-ground approach and try to balance their tastes, preferences, and desires with those of their families since--the argument goes--a wedding is also about the community.

I used to naively think that the family drama that comes up during the wedding planning process is the worst it gets. I used to think that whichever route you pick for yourself doesn't matter too much because regardless of how much family drama there is during the planning process, you'll likely be happily married in the end. And, once the wedding is said and done, it's a lot easier to see a wedding as one important day in a long line of many.

However, as Matt and I start to discuss birthing options (no, I'm not pregnant; I'm just a planner), I'm beginning to realize that there are potentially lots of ways in which family can contribute to (or interfere with--depending on your perspective) important life decisions. As I entertain the idea of giving birth at home or in a birthing center (if I get pregnant, that is), for example, I worry that all sides of the family will consider the decision unsafe and irresponsible. I anticipate very stressful conversations.

It just made me realize that how we choose to negotiate our weddings with our families can set important precedents. Of course you can renegotiate your family's influence on your life at any point, but it's worth thinking about the long-term implications of our initial decisions.

What route are you (or did you) take with your family? How did it work out for you?

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Contest Winner

And the winner is...

Jennifer Whi.

Please e-mail me so I can put you in touch with the right people!

To everyone else, thank you for entering! I always love seeing all your comments and links.

By the way, if you really want to get your hands on this cookbook, it's retailing for about $15.

Happy Wednesday!


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Setting Up a Special Savings Account

A sketch of my big goal

I'm in the process of dreaming big (which is inspired by the Mondo Beyondo course I enrolled in), and I'm going to need to start raising money to make one of my dreams happen (see photo above).

First, I'm going to start a savings account. One of the most effective ways to save money for something (like a wedding!) is to set up an automatic monthly transfer into a special savings account. Matt and I do that to save money for vacations, a baby, our yearly property taxes, home improvement, etc. We use an online bank, which makes it super-easy to set up automatic transfers. I find that it's easy to spend whatever I have. Therefore, if I can funnel money into separate savings accounts as soon as it gets directly deposited from our employers, we don't really miss it at all.

However, we don't have extra money to divert toward the new savings account right now. I'm still setting up the account (it's free and easy through ING Direct--if you decide to open an account through them, please e-mail me so I can earn $20 and you can get $25!). I figure I might as well be optimistic by setting up the account before I actually have money to deposit in it...

I'm currently brainstorming extra ways to make money (without completely stressing myself out or over-committing to too many projects). I'm thinking about teaching some workshops about using Montessori strategies at home to cultivate independence in young children. If I end up publishing a book about planning a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity, I will definitely direct any proceeds into The Dream savings account. Maybe I could also start selling our chicken eggs...

What other strategies do you use for beefing up your savings accounts?

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Q & A: Deceiving Wedding Vendors?

Reader Question: I know one of the pieces of advice going around the blogosphere (and maybe in regular WIC media, I can't recall) is to tell potential vendors that you're planning a family function when asking for a price quote. Theory (and often, practice) being that by uttering the wedding word the price automatically jumps up.

In contacting a caterer, I used the family function line and they came back with a very reasonable quote. When we met in person to discuss the event I revealed that this family function would actually be our wedding reception. Nothing else changed. Same menu. Same modest venue (church fellowship hall). Same number of people (almost all of whom are family). The next day the caterer e-mailed me saying that because of my deception they did not want to work with me.

Now I'm feeling rather befuddled. Was I really being dishonest? Is it disrespectful to vendors to not specify that a family function is a family wedding? Or were they just upset at the idea of doing a wedding for a lesser price than they might normally charge? (By the way, before I told them it was for a wedding they said multiple times how they were basically going to treat the "family function" like a wedding.) So, am I too close to the situation to see that I've become morally compromised? Or is it something else that I totally can't think of at the moment?

Yikes. What a dreadful situation! You clearly caught this particular caterer in the infamous Wedding-Switcharoo (i.e., the prices get multiplied by ten if you put the word "wedding" in front of your request). This phenomenon is well-documented throughout the "World Wide Wed" (phrase coined by Meg, which I love).

I experienced this situation myself at one of the wedding reception venues we considered. We could rent out their meeting room and deck (including tables and folding chairs) for an entire day for a mere $350. If, however, we were throwing a wedding instead of a reunion, the exact same space for the exact same number of people would cost $1,800. For only five hours! Any additional hours were an extra $300. So, in essence, the same space for the same amount of time would be $350 for the reunion and $7,500 for the wedding. To be fair, the wedding price also included "banquet" chairs (instead of regular folding chairs), cake/gift/guest book tables, tableware, tablecloths, napkins, and a dance floor. But for $7,500, I think you could probably get a lot more than that.

To me, it sounds like the caterer you talked to was flustered about being caught in their own web of deception. With that said, I'm not sure that the most strategic thing to do is to respond to deception with deception.

I think that one of the things that made our wedding truly meaningful and memorable was building really strong relationships with our vendors. Our vendors went out of their way to help us. They became like family to us (professional family with lots of skills and resources!). If we had tried to deceive them in order to secure a lower price, we wouldn't have had the same high quality relationship. Our experience would have been built on a rocky foundation.

Now that I'm thinking about it, this is why I named my personal blog Feeding the Soil. The idea is that if you want a beautiful plant to grow, you have to start by enriching the soil. In other words, if you want your wedding to exude community, connection, and joy, then you've got to cultivate those things with the people involved in bringing your wedding to fruition.

Don't get me wrong. I think what your caterer did was completely ridiculous and awful. However, you're probably better off not working with those people. I think the trick to being honest with caterers AND getting a fair price is to travel off the well-worn wedding path. The more a vendor has produced weddings, the more likely they are to function as a cog in the Wedding Industrial Complex machine. For example, if you go with a local restaurant that has experience catering for groups but doesn't often do weddings, you're more likely going to get a fair price and be able to be honest about the fact that your event is a wedding.

The other thing to do is to be honest that it's a wedding when you first get a quote. After you get the quote, you can ask, "Is this the same price you would charge for a non-wedding?" Then you can have a conversation about the difference. If they try to explain that "extra" wedding things cost "extra" money, then kindly reject those extra wedding things to bring the cost back down.

Those are just my two cents. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on the situation!

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Whiteboard Planning

Planning the average wedding is no small feat. First, it takes serious planning skills. There's the vision piece, and then there's actually following-through with the vision and implementing all the necessary details (in a systematic and time-savvy way).

Then there's all the societal pressure and cultural noise around what makes a "real wedding." And then our families and friends chime in with their versions of what makes a real wedding. Plus, there are tons of other issues related to major life transitions (for you, as well as the aforementioned friends and family who are undergoing their own transitions related to your transition).

There's also the fact that the stress of it all may illuminate new areas for growth within your relationship (which can cause more stress). And you've probably got a gazillion other things going on in your own life (yes, we do other things with our selves besides plan weddings, such as work to improve the world, support ourselves financially, be the best friend/sister/brother/daughter/son/partner/pet owners we can be, cope with tragedy and illness, and try to sleep). And the sleep part can start to get stretched thin which means our patience and general positivity can wane, which means dealing with EVERYTHING ELSE is so much more difficult.

But this is not a post about all of that. This post is about one small strategy that might make one small part of wedding planning easier: divvying up tasks and holding each other accountable.

Collaborating with anyone on any project can be difficult, and a centralized whiteboard can really help. When you're sitting down and chatting about who needs to do what and by when, it can be super-useful to record that information in a centralized location (enter the whiteboard, which is more eco-friendly than paper).

I've been coveting a centrally-located whiteboard ever since I saw this post from Joe. It would have made collaborating with Matt about our wedding easier. When Matt and I divvied up tasks and agreed on dates, we wrote them in our separate places (or not at all), and then we would later have misunderstandings about who was supposed to do what and when. It would have been so nice to record the next steps, the person responsible for them, and the due date beside every action item. Then whenever we would have passed by it, we would have had a reminder of what we were supposed to do and by when.

Of course Matt and I had a terrible time trying to find a mutually-agreed upon place in our house for a whiteboard (we often have disagreements about home decor issues). Finally, we found a place we were both amenable to: the outside of the bathroom door. Woo-hoo!

If you want specific directions about how we installed it and how much it cost, you can check out Feeding the Soil.

Although our wedding responsibilities have passed, we'll definitely use it to record to-do things that affect both of us, as well as the next steps related to our life goals (and hopefully love notes). I'm excited!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

DIY: Make Your Own Ketubah

From the Planets Align Ketubah, available from New Ketubah

I have a special place in my heart for Portland artist Tsilli Pines. She helped me with a project over a year ago, and I have adored her ever since.

I was poking around her New Ketubah site to see what new stuff was there, and I came across a DIY tutorial about how to make your own Ketubah. I love when talented artists share their insights into producing truly beautiful work! She has a post about using rubber stamps, as well as a post about simply using pretty paper (and stuff about framing--the list goes on...). So generous!

Thank you, Tsilli, for helping the rest of us to produce meaningful and memorable artifacts from our wedding. You're awesome!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Strategies for Planning Big Events

A couple of my friends and I are in the throes of planning our ten-year (gasp!) Teach For America reunion. Ten years ago, we trekked to South Louisiana to teach the most amazing children.

As we plan the three-day event, we've been using some event-planning strategies that I wanted to share with you.
  1. Make a detailed agenda: Even the most relaxed, casual affairs can benefit from having a detailed agenda. Once we have a clear picture of what is happening when, we can better prepare for each of the components. For our reunion, for example, we decided that Allison will pick up Amy at the airport and they will go shopping to procure everything we need for the weekend. Then they will return to Allison's house to start cooking for Friday night. At 6pm, they will travel to Terri's house to start setting up. At 7pm, guests will start to arrive. On Saturday, everyone will indulge in the free breakfast at La Quinta and then meet at the middle school at 9am for the community service project.
  2. Keep an ongoing "to-do" list: When we know what's happening when, we can talk through each component and brainstorm what we need to do in the days leading up to the event, during the event, and after the event.
  3. Keep an ongoing "to-bring" list: As we talk about each component on the agenda, a list begins to emerge of what we need to bring. It will be easier to create a comprehensive list if you keep track of it in one place and return to it over and over again. For example, as we were talking through our community service project, we realized we would need to provide drinks and snacks (which we added to the grocery list) and that we would need to bring coolers and that we would need to tell people to wear clothes that they are comfortable painting in.
  4. Talk through everything multiple times and visualize it happening: For me, this step is the most important. No matter how detailed or comprehensive everything feels, it can't hurt to go through it one more time. For example, as we talked through the agenda again and I visualized us at the crawfish boil, I realized that we needed to remind people to bring bathing suits (and I just remembered towels!) if they want to swim. For those of you who are visual people, creating a mental movie in your head can really help you anticipate things that you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.
I hope this post doesn't sound condescending or like it's a restatement of the obvious. I just thought of these things as we were planning our reunion, and I wondered if they might be useful to those of you who are planning your weddings!

Wishing you well...

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Cookbook

One of the ways that Matt and I spend quality time together and reconnect with each other after coming home from work is to cook! We cook together approximately three or four times a week. We keep a binder of all of our "go to" recipes, but at least once a week we like to experiment with a new recipe and see whether we want to add it to our binder.

That's why I'm eager to share this contest with you:

Enter to win The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together. It has "83 recipes that gradually increase in complexity and ultimately serve as building blocks for beginning cooks." I love the idea of scaffolded practice! I can't wait to get my sample copy, so I can start testing it out.

To enter:
  1. Leave your first name and first three letters of your last name in the comments section.
  2. Enter to win by Tuesday, April 27 at 11:59 EST (one entry per person, please--although you can get your partner to enter, too!).
  3. Cross your fingers!
Happy Entering...

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Annual Adventure

We finally decided what we're doing for our two-week summer vacation: We're flying to California, renting a car, and driving up the coast all the way to British Columbia.

We are ecstatic!

Unfortunately, flights are astronomical in July, but we've set up some e-mail tracking alerts to let us know when they go down. We're also pretty flexible about which Californian city we fly into. We're currently thinking San Francisco, but we're open.

I'm excited that we'll get to take a road trip without driving all the way through Texas (bigger is not always better!). The plan is to make a few reservations at awesome B&Bs along the way but to otherwise stay with friends or camp and to pretty much give ourselves a chance to spontaneously explore.

Any suggestions about:
  1. Things to do
  2. Vegetarian-friendly places to eat
  3. Places to stay
  4. Trails to hike
  5. Random places to go
between, say, Los Angeles and British Columbia?

Please comment to your heart's content!

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Postcard #3: Dog in the Wedding (or When Things Don't Go as Planned)

As my Myers-Briggs personality type can attest to, I love to plan. For the most part, I enjoyed thinking through and planning the myriad details that culminated in our wedding.

However, no matter how much I planned or how much I tried to control the outcome, at some point, I had to let go. I had to be okay with the fact that some things didn't go according to plan.

Take, for example, our dog's role in the wedding. The original idea was that he would stand next to Matt's brother, John, and look cute in his matching bandanna (which coordinated with my sash, flower pins for the wedding party, and Matt's tie). He would be there to reflect our broader commitment to our growing family and he would be part of our effort to share our life with our friends and family.

However, things did not go according to plan. Right when the wedding started and everyone assumed their places, Hoss started throwing up. Yes, vomiting rather visibly and audibly. Maybe it was stage fright? Maybe it was eating too much grass while we mingled before the ceremony?

Instead of freaking out or considering it some kind of omen for a doomed marriage, I simply laughed. And I laughed hard. And Matt laughed and our wedding party laughed and our nearest and dearest in the audience laughed. And then I wasn't nervous anymore. It was the best comic relief-ice-breaker that could have happened to us.

And I'm reminded of my friend Amanda's wedding where the maid of honor dropped the ring during the ceremony and we could all hear it hit the ground. And then there was my friend Allison's wedding where the power went out and her former students started singing a cappella.

Most of the pictures we see on websites and magazines make everything look "perfect." It can be so easy to unconsciously internalize messages about how a wedding is a "Once-in-a-Lifetime" opportunity. It's easy to feel pressured to get everything just right. We can do our best to make it the best possible wedding for us, but then we have to let go of the reins and just let it be what it is. For better or for worse.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guest Post: Two Weddings

By Liz

I wanted to share with you how my husband and I managed to have our wedding be Ours instead of Someone Else's.

We had two weddings! The first was everything we wanted--a great party with all our closest friends and family, just 40 people, with homemade food, a weekend long party, and in our backyard. The second was eight months later (last weekend, in fact), at my mother-in-law's house, with all our family members who either couldn't travel to the first wedding or who we didn't want to invite because we were looking for more of a party atmosphere than a family reunion.

Our parents planned most of the second wedding, and because we had already planned the wedding exactly how we wanted it, we were fine letting other people's priorities take over on the second one. We invited another 40 relatives, and asked them all to bring food to share. We wore our wedding attire (two weddings is also a great excuse to wear your wedding dress again!), and restated our vows, and the relatives were really glad to be involved.

Liz is finishing up her last semester of law school and Mike is completing his first year of teaching middle & high school band & choir. They bought a house two years ago and live with four roomies, like a little family. They're figuring out how to garden and grow veggies, as well as manage their hectic lives and still remember to say hi to each other once in a while!

They met working on an island conference center in New Hampshire, and started dating five years later when Liz moved to California. She proposed to him on top of an abandoned castle in the Tuscan countryside, and they got married (the first time!) this August in their backyard! She wore a dress her mom and she designed and she sewed, and Mike wore a suit from Goodwill and went barefoot. They made all the food, with the help of many friends, played bocce ball during the reception, had a huge dance party, and had a blast.
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, April 14, 2010

Love Notes

Here's a cute note Matt left for me on the dining room table. Feel free to download the image, print it, and use it for your own purposes (although Matt admits the rendering of the heart and ewe may or may not be anatomically accurate)...

Happy Wednesday!


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Contest Winner

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who entered our contest! And a special congratulations to the winner:

Steffany Far.

Please e-mail me so I can put you in touch with the right people!

To everyone else, thank you for entering! As always, I love reading your comments. And in case you weren't aware, Ariel's book is retailing for about $12!

Be well,


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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tip #20: Ideas for Building Successful Relationships

Consider your emotional bank account.

Several years ago, I went ga-ga over The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In all honesty, I didn't actually make it through the entire book, but I took copious notes on the first few chapters and those key principles revolutionized my life.

Start with the end in mind and plan the smaller steps that align with the end vision. Yes! (Applies to lesson planning, wedding planning, and deciding what to do with your "one wild and precious life").

Be proactive. Stop complaining about the things you can't change and get busy changing the stuff you can. Amen.

And a third principle: think about relationships in terms of an emotional bank account. Your positive actions toward other people serve as deposits in the account. Your negative actions function as withdrawals.

It can be so easy to take Matt for granted because we're in a stable, committed, relationship for life (knock on wood). It can be easy to snap at him when I'm tired or be petty when I'm immature. I have to remember, however, that those actions do work like withdrawals from our emotional bank account.

On the flip side, it's easy to make deposits. Frequently saying thank you, giving little massages, smiling, verbalizing compliments that might otherwise go unspoken, leaving notes, performing an act of kindness, etc. all help build up the relationship. Also, apologizing can do wonders for trying to make up for a withdrawal.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

The Power of Two

Photo by Photos for Life

I've been taking the Mondo Beyondo online course about dreaming big, and I met a delightful kindred spirit, Krista. She and her partner, Steve, are buying a Volkswagen Westfalia and driving across the U.S. and Canada for three months. They leave this May.

How is that for the Power of Two? I can't wait to read their travel blog: Dandelion Express.

While I've been taking the course, I've been pushing Matt to dream big with me, since I wholeheartedly believe that shared dreams can be more powerful than individual dreams. It's been hard because he perceives it as an attack against our current life together. I try to explain that for me, planning the future is not an indictment against the present.

We finally had a breakthrough this past weekend at a small Mexican restaurant in Austin over a breakfast burrito and migas. I'll be writing more about it over at Feeding the Soil later this week if you're interested.

What shared dreams do you and your partner have?

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Savoring Each Stage

As I mentioned in previous posts, Matt and I are going to start trying to get pregnant this summer (despite the fact that I don't think I ovulate regularly and may have problems getting pregnant).

Although I'm a perpetual planner and love looking forward to things, I'm pushing myself to savor the stage we're in. We've been married for almost two years, and our time together is so fun. Once we have a child, we'll never again experience the same freedom or lightness we have right now (of course the baby will introduce new wonderful things into our lives). Even after the kid(s) go to college (or follow the other life path of their choice), we still won't be as unburdened as we are now.

Matt and I have already been through several stages together: Dating, Not-Dating, Engagement, and Newly Married. Each stage has its benefits and its drawbacks. Instead of always looking ahead to what's next, I want to cultivate the habit of appreciating what's right here.

So, here's a toast to celebrating the stage you're in (whatever stage that may be)!

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

DIY: Wedding Pinwheels--Wheeeeee!

Matt and I skipped clever DIY decorations altogether (like origami cranes and bunting), but if you're looking for a new idea, consider pinwheels!

I got the idea from Jordan over at Oh Happy Day! (who got the idea from Kate Spade).

My students made pinwheels earlier this year as part of the Pinwheels for Peace celebration. You can download a pinwheel template on their site (plus they have a picture of a really pretty pinwheel made with colorful thumbprints).

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Write Your Own Wedding Ceremony Script

Every once in a while, I like to post my ongoing collection of wedding scripts for your reading pleasure! (If you want to share yours, please e-mail me!)

  1. Sara & Matt of 2000 Dollar Wedding
  2. Ariel & Andreas of Offbeat Bride
  3. Kat & Justin of Weddingbee
  4. Jen & Shell
  5. Peonies & The Boy of Peonies and Polaroids
  6. Katie & Paul of A Backyard Wedding
  7. Hope & Ben of hippie dippie bebe
  8. Katie & Katie
And here's a play-by-play of how Matt and I wrote our own ceremony, in case it's helpful.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Offbeat Bride Book

I'm squealing with delight about hosting this contest to give away a copy of Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides!

I consider Ariel of Offbeat Bride fame to be the pioneer in the movement to reclaim our weddings from the Wedding Industrial Complex. For years she has been dispensing advice and inspiration (via her blog and the first edition of her book) about how each of us needs to forge a path that makes sense for us as a couple. She is so sane, grounded, articulate, and inspiring. She definitely gave Matt and me the courage to plan the wedding of our dreams (instead of someone else's).

Okay, enough gushing. I do have to disclose that I, too, am winning a free copy of this book by hosting this contest. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Hurry and enter already!
  1. Leave your first name and first three letters of your last name in the comments section.
  2. Enter to win by Tuesday, April 13 at 11:59 EST.
  3. Cross your fingers!
Happy Entering...

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Q & A: Wedding Indecision

Reader Question: I have been reading your wedding blog for 10 months now. I was never one of those people who dreamed about my wedding when I was a little girl. At one point, when I was 10, I remember wanting to dress up like an 80's Barbie--jeans, a white silk (extra flowy) blouse and white Barbie-ish pumps, but that was the extent of my wedding fantasizing. So when my boyfriend proposed last May I went to Google and typed in "budget weddings" and your blog popped up. I absolutely loved reading about your own $2000 wedding.

The point of my email though is that we're having a lot of trouble just deciding what kind of wedding we actually want. I am cursed with indecision about all aspects of my life and my fiance is pretty indecisive too. I love reading your suggestions. How exactly did you even know what you wanted in a wedding? I'm totally lost about all of this (to be honest I've never even been to a wedding) and to make matters worse we've "decided" at least 2 billion times (more or less) about what we actually want to do with this wedding only to change our minds a few days later.

Do you have any suggestions about how to actually figure out what you want in the first place? Big, small, destination, court house, elopement, etc. etc?

P.S. I'm only assuming that you get a lot of emails like this. I could be wrong, but do you ever feel like Dear Abby?

Thank you for the laugh! I loved the mental movie of the extra flowy white blouse (although I'm laughing at the context--I totally support the idea if you decide to run with it!). As for the P.S., I love getting questions from kindred spirits. It makes me feel more connected--I just hope my advice is useful and I hope everyone else enjoys reading it (I should do a survey sometime...).

As for the indecision, I hear you. I experience indecision in nearly every aspect of my life. Should we decorate our house with mid-century modern or farmhouse rustic? Should we have one dog or two? One kid or two? An eco-friendly car or a roomier, more family-friendly car? Where should we go for our summer vacation? What do I want to do with my one, precious life? What city should we settle in? What should I be for Halloween? What restaurant should we go to tonight?

Egad. I'm getting knots in my stomach just thinking about it.

I have a few suggestions for dealing with indecision:
  1. Collect ideas and dwell in possibility. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by how many options are out there, celebrate it. I suggest finding a centralized location to start collecting and developing ideas. I use a notebook. By "collecting" ideas, I simply mean making a list of anything that comes to mind. During the brainstorming stage, everything is fair game. Don't censor yourself or your partner. Even an asinine idea might lead to the most wonderful idea of all. Be crazy. Be inventive. Be bold. Truly dwell in possibility!
  2. Develop ideas. The more ideas you collect, the more you'll hopefully start to notice one or two of them tugging at you. Ideally, you and your partner will get tugged on by at least one common idea. Start with that one. Pull it out from the list and start brainstorming all aspects of that one idea (either in a list form or as a web, for example). Ask and answer as many questions as you can. If that idea doesn't seem to work, then pull another one off the list and try the same thing over again.
  3. Remember you have a lifetime of parties ahead of you. Yes, it's true you only have one wedding (knock on wood), but you have lots and lots of parties/vacations/weekend getaways/get-togethers ahead of you. If more than one idea resonates with you, save your list and go back to it for an anniversary or a vow renewal or a birthday party. (Or throw two weddings for yourself if you feel like it!)
  4. Once you've made the decision, don't covet other people's choices. Oh, the wedding porn. On the one hand, it inspires and guides you. On the other hand, it makes you insecure, uncertain, and unstable. Be very, very careful with it.
P.S. The fact that you've never been to a wedding gives you a huge leg-up! It can be very, very difficult to deviate from the "wedding formula." Definitely talk to folks to see which aspects of the formula resonate with you, but have the courage to go your own way!

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, do you have experience with this conundrum? Any other thoughts to add?

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Post: A Grassroots Wedding

I get lovely e-mail messages from lots of kindred spirits from around the world (thank you!). Recently, Ivy e-mailed me to tell me about a brunch with her closest friends "to talk about ideas they had, how they imagined being a part of our wedding while not being overwhelmed the day-of, and what they would hope to get out of our wedding (we're community organizers...difficult to discuss something without thinking of the people being effected by our decisions!)."

What a brilliant idea! A community organizing approach to wedding planning.

Without further ado, here's Ivy to tell us more about it:
My partner and I met through a year-long fellowship focused on community organizing. His job is to shift his union's model from a more service-y model to one based more on relationships between the organizers and the members. I am a community organizer focused on empowering low income communities. It seemed only natural for us to apply our organizing and popular education practices to our own lives--and to start our planning by asking those being affected by the decisions we made what they wanted. We had some conversations beforehand of our goal to have our wedding continue to be in line with our values, and to share our resources, but value dearly the input of our community.

We decided to call our closest friends in the area to have a "Holy crap, we're engaged. Now what?" brunch. We provided the breakfast, and friends surprised us with mimosas to celebrate. We sat outside around a table, and just started asking our friends questions:
  • What weddings have you been to that had a particular impact on you? What about them was so memorable?
  • What experiences have you had that you would try to shy away from at your own wedding--and why?
  • We are trying hard to stay in line with our values while having a ton of fun doing it (and not being preachy). What ideas do you have that could help us?
  • We want a wedding that celebrates us--but also celebrates the community that brought us here. How can you see that playing out?
  • What practical ideas do you have for saving money?
It was informal, fun, and not so rapid-fire questiony as it sounds here. Friends laughed at the first question, knowing that my partner and I both start all meetings we facilitate with a reflection on past experiences. And we got some fabulous input, ideas, and even commitments before asking anyone (though we had brainstormed before what skills each of our friends has that could contribute to this...but didn't tell them!).
  1. Friends offered to go with us to a wholesale florist shop and arrange the flowers if we wanted that.
  2. One friend offered to research venues near our area based on what we were looking for and actually make a spreadsheet of costs, contacts, reviews, etc.
  3. Three people offered to host several cooking parties a few weeks before the wedding to cook and freeze everything so we can save on food while building community (and all get to taste-test the food, of course!).
  4. One offered to knit hundreds of small hearts to use for decorations and favors.
  5. Another friend offered to knit our chuppah (traditional Jewish canopy) or sew one together out of fabric.
  6. One offered to host an invitation putting-together party at his house, complete with drinks, pizza, music, and dance breaks.
  7. We've got professional photographer friends who are excited about doing engagement and wedding photo shoots in exchange for them using the pictures in their portfolio.
And the list goes on...from just a few people and the wedding a year and a half away. We didn't specifically ask for anything other than their experiences and ideas, and suddenly we've got a great jumping off point, and affirmation that our friends really are even more fabulous than we imagined. More than anything, we got encouragement that things can be done our own way (and that they expect parts of the wedding to be ridiculous, and it wouldn't be us if it weren't)--and that right off the bat, we've got a team of people just jumping at the opportunity to be a part of this--after all, we want to celebrate them too!

So, I'm learning to shut off the voice of my mom's aunt's husband, and go with where my skills shine and my heart is. And beyond all that, we're putting together a joke wedding plan to send to said mom's aunt's husband...just to show him we've thought of him too (read: pirates versus ninjas theme, 1812 Overture as our first dance, etc).

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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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Feminist Blog Carnival--Hooray!

One of my new favorite blogs, Beauty Schooled, is hosting a Feminist Blog Carnival, and I was lucky enough to be one of the participants (thanks, Virginia!). There's lots of awesome stuff about the intersection of Feminism and Beauty, such as accepting your body, LGBT beauty, advertising, consumerism, and weddings (that's where Meg and I come in!).

Definitely meander over there and stroll through the streets of brilliant ideas and insights!

Happy Thursday,


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Matrimonial Metacognition

I teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at a public Montessori school, and I often talk to my children about metacognition (well, I don't use that word very often--I instead talk about "thinking about what your brain is thinking"). When we read, for example, it helps to realize when we're confused, so we can use "fix-it" strategies like rereading or reading ahead for clarification.

It seems to me that the concept of thinking about our thinking might also be a useful strategy during wedding planning. During our seven months of planning, for example, I found myself thinking less than level-headed thoughts: "We simply must get customized photo stamps. Our invitations won't be the same without them!" or "I have to wear a white dress. If I don't wear a white dress, people won't think it's a real wedding."

In those moments, it can help to step outside of ourselves--to examine our own thinking from a perspective outside of those thoughts. I imagine it would go a little something like this, "Oh, self, what is this really about? It's probably not about something as small as stamps or clothing. What are the underlying issues? What's really bothering you?"

When we step back from ourselves to ask those kinds of questions, we can uncover answers that can help us deal with the anxiety. The response might go a little like this: "I guess I'm feeling insecure about our wedding because we are only spending $2,000. I worry that we are taking out so many aspects of mainstream weddings that it won't feel like a 'real' wedding to our friends and family. I'm also insecure about meeting many of Matt's relatives for the first time. I want them to like me. I don't want them to judge me for being 'weird.'"

When the real answers come to the surface, we can then help ourselves deal with them. To continue with the personification of my inner dialogue, I suppose it could go something like this: "That makes sense. You and Matt are doing something very brave by planning a wedding according to your values, tastes, and preferences and not someone else's. It can be scary to be different. You have to trust that you are doing the right thing for yourselves. When you make authentic choices that align with your purest self, the outcomes are almost always better."

This type of self-therapy really helps me process my reactions and feelings. I can't control my immediate reactions and feelings, but I can unpack them and attempt to figure out what's going on. Once I'm self-aware about what the underlying issues are likely to be, then I can control my actions in response to the situations. Making space between my feelings and my actions for a little reflection usually helps me make more grounded choices (for example, we decided not to splurge on the stamps, although I did decide to go with a white dress).

I feel a little silly divulging my version of self-therapy for fear that one of you might actually be trained in psychology or psychiatry and diagnose me with some kind of official neurosis, but I couldn't resist. It might be helpful to one of you!

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