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

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I can't believe I'm actually writing a post about McDonald's. I am vehemently anti-McDonald's (for all of the reasons delineated in Supersize Me), but I actually think it's cool that the McDonald's in Hong Kong are now offering weddings.

Well, let me take that back. It's actually kind of sad that McDonald's has jumped on the Wedding Industrial Complex bandwagon because it means they will start charging more than they otherwise would, but reading the article reminded me that one of the most effective ways to cut costs during wedding planning is to steer clear of the well-worn wedding path when selecting a venue.

For example, Matt and I rented out an entire B&B that is more commonly used for scrapbooking retreats. We scored the whole thing for $750 bucks a night (which we reclaimed by collecting $25-35/night from our friends who stayed on site). We were able to use their kitchen, white lights, tables, chairs, coolers, grills, board games, hot tub, fire pit, tablecloths, utensils, serving bowls--the list goes on and on.

I've also seen people rent out restaurants and bowling alleys--the possibilities are endless!

The one caveat is that you have to think through what you'll be doing at the venue and whether it's equipped to meet your needs. For example, if you score a cheap venue but then need to rent absolutely everything to fill it up, you can end up spending more in the end.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Using Excel to Track Your Budget

As Matt and I figure out how I'm going to take off 12 weeks of unpaid(!) maternity leave, I'm reminded of our go-to strategy for sticking to our draconian $2,000 wedding budget: Our Excel Tracking Sheet.

Excel tracking sheets don't play. They are like that honest person who tells you that you have cilantro between your two front teeth. You want to hear it but you don't.

At the very beginning of our wedding planning process, we listed out all the traditional wedding planning categories into Excel, inputted some preliminary numbers, and set an "Auto Sum" to tally it all up. We adjusted these "Initial" numbers until it balanced out at $2,000.

As our wedding planning process unfolded, we adjusted the numbers to reflect our actual spending. For example, when we spent way less than we initially budgeted for my wedding dress, we were then able to add some more money to the catering and the alcohol budget. When we overspent in another category, it meant that we had to cut somewhere else.

Throughout the whole process, our Excel sheet kept us honest. It reminded us over and over that sticking to a budget is a zero-sum game. If you save money in one area, you can splurge in another. If you overspend somewhere else, it's time to cut something.

Of course, budgeting for a wedding doesn't have to be so rigid. I know lots of people who just spend what they can afford as they go along. One of the benefits of taking months and months to plan a wedding is that the costs get diffused over many paychecks.

For Matt and me, however, we were trying to save every last penny for a down payment. We literally scraped our entire bank account clean when we wrote the check at our closing. As we prepare to drop down to one salary for three months, we're finding ourselves in the same situation!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hijacked Wedding

This e-mail from a kindred spirit is about the underbelly of wedding planning and how the whole thing can get hijacked and derailed by family.

The same thing happened to friends of ours. By the time their wedding rolled around, they explained, "We just want the whole thing to be over so we can go on the honeymoon."

Here are some excerpts from the message:

You guys had the wedding WE wanted! I so wish I had read your blog before I got married in 2008...

Instead, we had a 10,000 dollar marathon stress-fest that was my Mother-in-Law's wedding, not ours.

It was such a downer, we actually secretly went to the courthouse and got married a few months before the "wedding," just so we could have something that was ours.

i appreciated that my in-laws wanted to help us financially with the wedding, but I knew EXACTLY what would happen and it DID.

The pictures are beautiful, but that's not what we cared about. We had wanted a beautiful experience.

I so respect and admire that you guys had a vision and stood firm in it. We were so afraid of seeming ungrateful or disappointing someone that we kept caving until we were just props at an event for everyone else!

Thank you for sharing your experience so honestly! Planning a wedding is clearly about so much more than chair covers and catering. It's about how to balance your needs as an individual with your needs as a couple with the needs of your family with the needs of your community. It's about having courage, as well as being able to compromise. It's about forging your path together as a new family, within the context of your families' histories.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

DIY: Quilted Table Runner

I'm all about DIY wedding projects that have longevity. By that, I mean I love the idea of hand-making things for our weddings that we will continue to use in our families for years to come.

This DIY quilted table runner, for example, would be an awesome family heirloom. I made it as a holiday decoration (which you can read more about on my personal blog, Feeding the Soil, if you're interested). It would be great decoration for a cake table or the "head table" and then could be used year after year for dinner parties, holidays, daily use, etc.

It was pretty simple to make. Here's what I did:
  1. Cut strips of fabric. I intentionally didn't make them straight (I hate being confined by the precision of traditional quilting!).
  2. I placed the fat end of one piece alongside the skinny end of another piece and sewed them together, right side to right side (see image with sewing machine).
  3. Once I had a nice long top piece, I ironed it flat.
  4. I used a cutting mat, a rotary cutter, and a ruler to trim my piece into a nice rectangle.
  5. I put the top piece right side to right side with the bottom piece and trimmed them to make them identical in size.
  6. I sewed the top and the bottom piece together on three sides (right side to right side), flipped it inside out, and sewed the trim around the edges. I didn't even feel the need to use batting or interface. The two pieces of fabric together felt thick enough.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Run-In with the Wedding Industrial Complex

I get a lot of e-mails in my inbox promoting the Wedding Industrial Complex, but this one particularly irked me:
With all eyes on the bride, it's no wonder she wants a glowing complexion on the most gazed upon day of her life. Some experts say that the secret to getting your skin into shape for your big day is to start working on it right after the engagement. "This is the perfect time to create new skincare habits," says Dr. XXXXX XXXXXXX, MD, Facial Plastic Surgeon. "To begin, ask a facial plastic surgeon for an assessment - your surgeon is armed with treatments to control the signs of aging and improve skin's clarity."

The e-mail goes on to recommend a series of plastic surgery procedures that one can undergo as she prepares for her Big Day, including SmartLift, Laser Resurfacing, lip-plumping, etcetera, etcetera. There's even a time line, so you know how to plan out your procedures perfectly.

Now, I do not have naturally beautiful skin--by any stretch of the imagination! I suffered through high school and college acne (all while peeling off my skin with Retin-A). But I had way more important things to worry about while planning our wedding than buying into the hype that I need to undergo procedures in order to get my face prepared for my wedding.

The truth is, there is some stress and pressure to look good on your wedding day. After all, you're often seeing many friends and family that you haven't seen in a long time. But honestly, those friends and family would rather have you spend your wedding planning process figuring out how to spend quality time with them while they're in town--not worrying about your skin imperfections.

I decided to forgo professional hair and make-up for our wedding for a couple reasons. First, it simply wasn't in the budget. Second, I didn't want to spend a significant portion of my wedding day getting ready (that's just me; lots of people find that kind of all-day process to be fun). Third, I wanted to be surrounded by my friends while I was getting ready.

Even though this approach was aligned with my own values and what I wanted from my wedding, there were many times throughout the wedding planning process when I questioned that decision. I felt insecure about not caring more about my hair and makeup (clearly, the Wedding Industrial Complex was telling me I should worry about it, as were many bridal message boards).

Ariel's advice in Offbeat Bride was so helpful for keeping me grounded. Her "Smidge Above Rule" says, "Bridal beauty preparations should, at the most, be only a smidge more than your typical beauty routine." (You can read more on page 43 of the newest edition.) She gave me permission to do what felt right: a friend to twist my hair up and a self-application of mascara and eyeshadow. Done and done.

It's sad that I needed permission to do what felt right, but that's what can happen when the Wedding Industrial Complex permeates all aspects of our culture and tries to feed us crazy messages about what we have to do in order to be real brides.


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dealing with Imbalance in the Planning Process

I am a self-proclaimed Planner. I love planning. I love the list-making and the information gathering and the book reading. I love turning my lists into Excel documents and printing out checklists. Therefore, planning a wedding was right up my alley.

Matt, on the other hand, is more of a go-with-the-flow kind of kind. At times, it was difficult to find common ground during our collaborative wedding planning process. I was so urgent about everything; I found myself carrying the bulk of the to-do items simply because I knew what had to get done.

Now that Matt and I are planning for a baby, we're in a very similar situation. I find myself undertaking the majority of the tasks because I'm the one who generates them. I'm re-realizing that this kind of imbalance is not good, particularly because it results in different levels of investment. The more I worked on our wedding, the more invested I became. Similarly, the more I plan for our baby, the more invested I become.

I've been talking with Matt about how we can better balance out the preparation. I think that's step one in making things more balanced: Talk About the Issue.

I think another helpful strategy is to Divide and Conquer. When Matt and I were planning our wedding, for example, he was in charge of creating our iPod playlist. We agreed upon a date by which he would have the draft done. That way, he was free to work at his own pace without being micromanaged by me. With our baby preparation, he has things on his to-do list like, "Find and schedule an infant CPR class" or "Clean out the utility closet." It doesn't matter when or how he gets those done.

Another idea is to Set a Specific Time to Chat about the planning process. The more urgent planning partner may want to talk about wedding planning ALL-THE-TIME, which can really start to annoy the less-urgent partner. However, the more urgent partner can simply keep a list of all the issues that need to be discussed and then bring them up at the designated time (like Sunday over dinner). This kind of set-up can satisfy both partners' needs and ensure that stuff gets done.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cake Inspiration

Image courtesy of Snippet & Ink (taken by Evan Miller)

When you're in the midst of wedding planning, the smallest wedding details can suddenly feel like The-Biggest-Deal-in-the-Whole-Entire-World.

It doesn't help when you visit blog, after blog of pretty details. Don't get me wrong: I love pretty details. I recently spent several hours making a fabric banner to hang in our house during the month of December, for crying out loud.

I just think we have to be careful not to let the pretty details overshadow the more significant and lasting aspects of the process, like proactively strengthening our relationships for the years of commitment that lay ahead, learning to navigate and negotiate two (or more) families, combining finances, etc.

When I saw this lovely picture of a very simple cake over at Snippet & Ink, I thought to myself, "What an amazing marriage between pretty and simplicity!"

So this here post is a little toast to the marriage between pretty and simplicity.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Chime In: How Long Is/Was Your Engagement?

When I sent out a request for guest posts, you all flooded my inbox with your ideas and insights! It made me realize that I need to figure out ways to capture more of your voice on this site.

Hence this post, called "Chime In." The idea is simple. I'll pose a question, include a quick poll, and then open the comments to further explanation.

So, without further ado, here's the poll:

How Long Is/Was Your Engagement?

And the question to discuss in the comments section:

Would you prefer to have a longer or a shorter engagement? Why?

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wedding Day Fire

This Portland couple knows the true meaning of wedding day stress. Their apartment burned down, hours before their wedding.

They were planning on catering their own wedding that afternoon, and John was in the middle of making their cake when the fire in their apartment building started. They lost several handmade musical instruments they were going to use in the ceremony, as well countless other possessions.

They celebrated their wedding, despite the impact of the fire.

Duska and John: I'm so inspired by your resilience and your love! I wish you the very best with your marriage.

Please let us know if there's anything we can do to help with your post-fire recovery!

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Postcard from Our Wedding

I love this picture of my grandparents watching our wedding ceremony.

I'm reminded, though, that it wasn't always smooth sailing when we were in the throes of wedding planning.

For example, when I asked my grandfather to speak during our ceremony, he responded with, "I don't think so."

My grandfather is the orator of our family. He leads us in prayer at every holiday meal, and he loves to tell stories of his travels to Africa, Europe, etc. When he said he didn't want to speak at our wedding, my heart twisted and I cried. I asked him why he didn't want to speak in our ceremony, and he said, "I wouldn't have anything to say."

It was a rejection on so many levels.

I still don't understand why my grandfather didn't want to speak in our ceremony. Was it because he was disappointed that we were having a secular rather than a religious ceremony? Was it because he didn't think I should be marrying Matt? Was it because he was afraid he would get too emotional and didn't want to embarrass himself?

I regret that I never pushed our communication about the topic further, but I was honestly scared of which answer it was.

Wedding planning can be complicated. It can be full of emotion and misunderstandings and misconceptions and different perspectives. But family is what it is. You have to take the good with the bad and make the best of it.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DIY: Wedding Banners

Image courtesy of 100 Layer Cake (via Thoughtful Day)

Oh my. You have have probably already seen this wedding over at 100 Layer Cake, but I just had to comment on this couple's brilliant(!) idea to send giant pieces of canvasses to their friends, with specifications about what to paint on them and what color palette to draw from.

So meaningful and memorable!

We had our nearest and dearest mail us pieces of fabric to incorporate into our wedding quilt, but how else could friends and family contribute to the decorations? They could paint on small, square canvasses that could be hung like a "quilt" on the wall. They could paint on flower pots that could serve as centerpieces.

Any other ideas?

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Monday, October 11, 2010

DIY: Wedding Bunting

Last week, I was exploring all my options for making bunting for my baby's zero birthday (coming up in February). This weekend, I decided to get started on my handmade holiday decorations. Some bunting was in definitely in order!

I ordered this pattern from an Etsy seller. Even though bunting is very straightforward and there are lots of free tutorials, I really wanted to learn how to do the clean fabric ribbon at the top. Plus, the pattern only cost $6.99, so I decided to splurge.

I had the worst time wallowing in indecision at the fabric store. Since I was making holiday decorations, I wanted to use "holiday" colors, but I couldn't bring myself to use the standard red and green Christmas colors. Also, I needed seven fabrics that coordinated with one another. Me, oh, my!

I finally decided to go with a gray, white, black, and yellow scheme (although I fretted about the fact that it would not coordinate with the warm oranges and teals of our house decor). Then I had to spend way too long finding a fabric for the letters. With uncertainty, I selected a red fabric with yellow and white polka dots. I worried that it would be way too busy, but I also felt like the yellows of the polka dot fabric connected the red to the other fabric.

I don't know. I went with it.

In the end, I had a lot of fun making it. The best part about the DIY process was thinking about how I was creating something that our family will use year, after year, after year. It reminded me of a NOEL Christmas decoration my mom always hangs. I called her to ask if it was made by my great-grandmother. It turns out that it was. I got a little misty-eyed thinking about how I am carrying on the crafting traditions of my family.

Hooray for handmade goodness!

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kindred Spirit Encounters

Our weekend outing to IKEA

I had another kindred spirit encounter this weekend, where I run into one of you in normal, non-internet life. People are usually a little hesitant to approach me, for fear of seeming "stalkerish."

I just want to state for the record that I absolutely love meeting you in person (although I will warn you that I might be moved to hug you, unless there is a counter separating us). Just saying...

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Call for Guest Posts

When Matt and I were planning our wedding, I tried to think of ways to help alleviate the inevitable stress that comes from planning a major, meaningful life event. We did things like delegated more than 30 jobs, planned a relaxed schedule for ourselves throughout the wedding weekend, and restricted the guest list to our nearest and dearest.

As we prepare to enter into parenthood (in February), I'm thinking ahead to figure out ways to alleviate the inevitable stress of giving birth and having an infant. During my maternity leave, I definitely want to keep 2000 Dollar Wedding updated with new content, but at the same time, I know I'll need to take a little break (just a little one, I promise).

I'm wondering if any of you would be willing to write a guest post in my absence. Pretty please? With sugar on top? For those of you who have your own blogs, I'm definitely open to reposting something you've already written for your own site (with links back to your site, of course).

Here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
  1. Did you have a long or short engagement? Was it the right amount of time for you or do you wish you would have done it differently?
  2. Strategies for sticking to your wedding budget (no matter what that budget is)
  3. Calling off your engagement
  4. DIY tutorial (invitations, programs, favors, hairpiece, centerpieces, etc.)
  5. A unique way to have fun at a wedding
  6. A discussion of a challenge you faced during wedding planning and how you overcame it
  7. Planning a same-sex wedding in a heterosexist world
  8. A story about how you experienced the Wedding Industrial Complex and how you coped with it
  9. Ideas for unique reception venues
  10. What you learned at pre-marital counseling
  11. A case for a one-ring engagement and wedding
  12. How you dealt with the last-name changing dilemma
  13. [Insert your own ideas here!]

I wouldn't need the post until January, so hopefully there's plenty of time to pull something together! If you're interested, just e-mail me to let me know what you would like to write about.

Thank you so much!

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dress Giveaway Recipient

Image courtesy Whimsy Baby Designs

Hooray! Erica has picked a lovely kindred spirit to bestow her wedding dress upon. You all are like fairy godmothers.

So, without further ado, the lovely trumpet-style dress will be going to Tasha!

Here's how Tasha described her eco-friendly wedding:

We are getting married 04.16.2011. Our whole wedding is DIY and eco friendly. It's really amazing what you can find now a days for eco friendly ways. I am having a blast planning this wedding. i am growing all the flowers. i found a great site that has eco friendly candles and wedding favors.

my family is making all of our food which is all seasonal and local! YUMMY!! i am hoping to get a reused dress or an eco friendly one. i am using seeded paper for invitations. we are renting all of our dishes, tablecloths, & napkins so we don't use resusable ones. we are offsetting our wedding due to many of the family memeber are flying in. our wedding reg will be for arbordayfoundation & for two other charities we are yet to name. and i could go on FOREVER! i lala love this dress!!!! = ) big smiles!! thanks for the consideration! Much love & peace!

Tasha, please e-mail me so I can put you in touch with Erica!

Also, if you have a lovely dress you would like to pass along to a kindred spirit, please let me know! Unfortunately, I can't feature every dress that comes my way, since I like to space them out, but definitely be in touch!

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Monday, October 4, 2010

DIY: Honoring Life Events with Quilts

Image courtesy of ohdeedoh

Matt and I DIYed a lot of our wedding (the Mexican food, my dress, his tie, Hoss's bandanna, our wedding program fans, the iPod playlist, fabric pins for the wedding party, our seed packet wedding favors, the invitations, our ring pillow, my bouquet, my hair/makeup, our photography, etc.).

However, our most significant and lasting DIY wedding project was probably our wedding quilt. We had such a fun experience making it. First, we asked our friends and family to send us scraps of meaningful fabric. It was so fun checking the mailbox on a daily basis! We received a piece from The Gates Project in Central Park, a piece of an African robe, fabric from the set of Trading Spaces, etc.

Then Matt and I started making the quilt. We were inspired by the Gee's Bend exhibition. Despite our complete inexperience with quilting, we decided to just go for it. We free-formed squares and then sewed them together. I'm still surprised that it worked out so well.

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


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

Whenever I pass by the quilt, I reconnect to our wedding day.

As Matt and I prepare to welcome a baby into our lives in February, I'm inspired to make another quilt. I'm eager to put my time and energy into a project that honors another significant event in our lives.

Of course I'm scouring the internet for inspiration.

Here's what I've come up with so far:
  1. A simple patchwork quilt like the one Amanda made for her son, Ezra
  2. Then there's this more rectangular patchwork quilt from Etsy
  3. Ooh, I love this simple design from ohdeedoh (see image above)
  4. I like the alternating color squares in this quilt
  5. Amy Butler offers this free quilt pattern

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