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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Need Wedding Help?

Photo by Nick Martinez

I would like to take a moment to shower Anna-Marie (pictured above) with accolades and affection (and maybe cupcakes if we lived in the same city).

Anna-Marie is the sleuth behind the "First Comes Love, Then Comes Links" series on 2000 Dollar Wedding. She is also the author of one of my favorite guest posts of all time: Apology of a Wedding-Obsessed Bride. If you haven't read it yet, grab a Kleenex and then click the link!

Every other week, she scours the internet looking for useful and interesting things to share with kindred spirits over here at 2000 Dollar Wedding. And, sadly, she doesn't get paid a thing! As you probably noticed, 2000 Dollar Wedding is an advertisement-free site. I figure you already get enough of the Wedding Industrial Complex.

I very much appreciate Anna-Marie's regular contributions to this site. Sending virtual smooches your way, Anna-Marie!

Recently, she had the idea that she could scour the internet looking for things you need. For example, I once got a request for "shooting range" ideas for a seriously awesome wedding.

If you are planning a wedding with a particular theme, let Anna-Marie know and she can work her link magic. Or maybe you would like a round-up of DIY photobooth ideas? Or bunting? The sky's the limit!

Anna-Marie is your gal. Put her search skills to the test by sending her a Request for Links!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inspiring Blogs: Submit Yours!

There were so many helpful wedding blogs out there when Matt and I were planning our nuptials (thank you Kristina, Jamie, Katie, and Meg--to name a few). It felt like I was planning my wedding among friends who were going through the same things around the same time.

The thing about blogs, though, is it can take a while for them to cultivate an audience, and it can be difficult to find the people who are in the thick of it at the same time.

I would love to help promote your blogs by featuring one of them every other week. That way, you can connect more easily with kindred spirits who are in the same phase of the [potentially crazy] wedding-planning process.

If you would like your blog to be considered, please:
  1. E-mail me the link
  2. Write a little bit to explain who you are and what your wedding vision is and how you approach the wedding planning process.
  3. OPTIONAL: Attach a relevant photo

I regret that I won't be able to feature every blog that is submitted, but I look forward to browsing every single one of them!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guest Post: Family Fears and the Lessons Learned

This guest post by Carrie Dee brings up so many feelings for me. I'm reminded of the shame I felt (pretty much from childhood until halfway through college) because my family was different from the idealized nuclear families I saw all around me. I never met my biological father because he didn't want to have anything to do with me, and I was also abandoned by a stepfather (I came home from school one day, and all his stuff was gone).

But this isn't a post about my story. It's about Carrie Dee and her courageous journey. I so appreciate her strength and honesty.


By Carrie Dee of committed.

I got married last May. It was a perfectly simple wedding—everything my husband, Paul, and I had hoped for. But in the months leading up to the big day, I was worried sick over the wedding day. Not so much over things like “will the food be good” or “did I choose the right dress.” Like many brides, those fears were present, but for me, my biggest fear was that my husband’s family wouldn’t accept my mom.

I learned a few years ago that my dad is transgendered. I’ll be perfectly honest—I was floored. Some people say they had a feeling all along or knew something was amiss. Not me, I never suspected that this was the cause of her depression. After learning the truth, there were some issues that I needed to resolve. Mostly I needed time to “mourn” the male father I felt I was losing before I could completely welcome an honest and open relationship with her as a maternal figure. It was a hard time for me. I had just lost my biological mom to cancer the year before. There was already a lot of change going on, and this was a big one that I wasn’t prepared for. Even though it took some time to completely understand both my feelings and hers, I never wavered in my support of my mom. She just seemed so happy and finally content with who she was. Eventually, after the emotional bumps in the road were smoothed, we established a better relationship than we had ever had before.

Crazy enough, most of the issues and confusion I had during that time stemmed from traditional wedding ideals. Paul and I were not yet engaged, but we both knew it was on the horizon. Plus, I’d been thinking on and off about my wedding day since I was six when I would wear an old tee-shirt on my head and pretend it was a veil. Now that I didn’t have the “traditional” father, I wondered who would walk me down the aisle. Who would give me away? Who would provide that “fatherly” support? Blogs like this one helped me realize that weddings do not have to follow a traditional path. I learned that I could make the day my own. I finally realized that I never actually wanted to be given away or walk down the aisle anyway, so we just threw those traditions out. Problem solved!

What the wedding blogs didn’t provide much of was support for children of an LGBT person. I commend the blogosphere (well, at least the blogs I read) for being very supportive of LGBT families in general, but there still remains a gap in resources for brides who what to honor their family member, while being fully aware that the spouse’s family may not be welcoming. I struggled with how to tell Paul’s family. We knew his parents would likely be supportive, but we didn’t know how his more conservative, East Coast family would react. I was scared. The last thing I wanted on my wedding day was a scene or for anyone to feel uncomfortable or surprised. Looking back, I realize that much of my worry was for nothing. In the end, everyone was fine and the wedding day went off without any issues (that I am aware of).

In my fear, I ended up making some mistakes. I told Paul's family about Mom with the expectation of blow back. I was so sure there would be negative reactions that I became the one who over-reacted. Nearly everyone’s response was along the lines of “OK, no problem. What time is the wedding, again?” I learned that there is only so much I can control about my own wedding day.

While my particular situation revolved around issues of gender, I think we all have tricky situations when it comes to family relations. I hope the lessons I learned can be helpful to others who, maybe don’t have an LGBT family member, but who still have some uneasiness about bringing two families together for the first time. Here's a few of the significant lessons my family taught me:
  • Don’t project your own fears on to others. I was so sure that there would be a negative reaction that I became overly-defensive. The truth is, most people just didn’t care that much. The feelings I had were caused by the close relationship and history that I have with Mom. Others don’t have that emotional stake and so their reactions are probably going to be more tempered than you realize. It’s a big deal to you, but not necessarily to others.
  • Be open and honest. While you don’t want to tell everyone your personal life story, be honest with them. Be open and available to questions and frank in your responses. This will put everyone involved more at ease.
  • Allow time before the wedding for everyone to meet. Mom was able to spend time with Paul’s parents and close family the week before the wedding. They all got to know each other a little and get comfortable. Sure, there can be tension, but meeting before the wedding day can help diffuse much of it.
  • Just breathe and know that you cannot control the emotions of others. Families are complicated entities in and of themselves, and blending them can be stressful. You cannot control anyone’s reaction but your own. If you remain confident and relaxed, most others will follow.

Weddings are about a lot of things: commitments, statements of your personalities, a party to celebrate your shared love. Ultimately though, they are the building of two entirely new families—the baby family between you and your partner, and the melding of two extended families. This melding can be tricky and stressful, no matter the situation. We must all go through moments where there is concern that our family won’t get along with our partner’s, but in the end have confidence that it will all work out. Who knows, that new extended family you’re building could become just the family you’ve always wanted.


Carrie Dee is enjoying the adventures of the first year of marriage and the first year of graduate school where she is studying Archaeology. She is a science geek and loves to cook, read, and beat her husband in fantasy football. Read more at her blog, http://committedca.blogspot.com

A huge thank you to Carrie Dee for sharing her insights with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please send me an e-mail!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Power of Partnership

If you look closely, you can see the hereditary cowlick

I knew that life with a newborn was going to be hard, but I didn't know it was going to be this hard. Don't get me wrong; I feel incredibly fortunate that Henry arrived safely and I am so thankful for our expanding family. But it took a couple of weeks to mourn the loss of pieces of my former identity and to embrace my new role as mother.

Day in and day out, I watch Matt interact with Henry (or our other son--our bloodhound Hoss), and I am so thankful that we found each other and that we committed to each other on our wedding day in 2008. The stress I felt about whether people would find our used-sheets-as-tablecloths tacky or whether my dress made me look wider than I actually was fades into the background.

In the foreground is our relationship and our partnership. I see Matt doing load after load of laundry so we have plenty of cloth diapers on hand. I see him volunteering to wear Henry in the Ergo carrier for yet another two-hour nap, so I can have some time to myself. I see him standing over me asking if I need a washcloth, as I hunch over the toilet vomiting from food poisoning in between breast feeding sessions with Henry.

Planning a wedding can somehow get your perspective all out of whack. At the end of the day, we have to remember not to let the wedding overshadow our relationships. No matter what goes wrong or who gets upset about how something is being done, what matters is your partnership and the lifetime commitment that you're making. The person standing next to you at the end of the aisle (or, in our case, in front of picnic benches) is the person who's going to stand next to you for everything else, too.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q & A: Do I Have to Invite My Family?

Reader Question: I am emailing because I am estranged from my family. I have come to realize that they are a toxic force in my life and it is better for me to just disengage. I am fortunate that the love of my life's family treats me like their own and I am blessed to have wonderful friends that have proven to be better than family. My question is, do I have invite my family? I fear two things: 1) they will upset me on my special day and 2) they will embarrass me in front of the people who have been my family. Thoughts?

The short and simple answer to your complicated question is: You don't have to invite anyone to your wedding, even your family.

The longer answer, however, is that before you make any final decisions about who's on the list and who's not, you should think through the consequences of your actions. What will be the outcome of your decision in ten minutes? Ten months? Ten years?

Matt and I had to make some tough decisions regarding our guest list because we wanted a smaller and more intimate wedding, we wanted to be able to spend quality time with everyone, and we wanted to save money. That meant that we didn't invite friends of our parents (unless they were legitimately our friends, too), and we didn't invite colleagues unless we still planned to be friends with them once we left our positions. In the short-term, some of those decisions stung a bit. There was definitely awkwardness and a bit of anger at the ten-minute mark. But for us, the awkwardness and anger definitely dissipated by the ten-month mark, and most certainly will be a distant memory by the ten-year mark.

But your immediate family is a different story. I imagine the ramifications of your decision will still be around by the ten-year mark, so you should definitely make your decision carefully (although I still support whatever decision you make!).

There are different ways to deal with the messed-up-ness of our families. First, we can completely separate from them, as you're suggesting. Or, you can make a decision mentally and emotionally that you aren't going to let their "stuff" bother you. You can cultivate duck feathers, if you will, and let all of it just roll right off of you (easier said than done!).

The two reasons you cite for not wanting your family at your wedding sound like things that are in your realm of control. Although you can't control what your family does to upset you, you can control whether or not it actually upsets you. The same goes for the embarrassment issue. You can't control their actions, but you can control your response to their actions. Besides, your guests are going to have lots of other things to think about (like how happy they are for you).

But like I said, the choice is definitely yours to make!

I wish you the very best...

Wondering whether you have to send Save the Dates? Wondering how to build an equitable partnership? Wondering how to handle pressure from your parents? E-mail me your questions, and I'll take a stab at answering them!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Guest Post: A Rose By Any Other Name Will Still Confuse the Social Security Administration

The name-changing dilemma is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. Although I didn't have any problems deciding to keep my last name when I got married, I struggled immensely when we had a baby and had to face the dilemma all over again. I thought I would be okay giving Henry my last name as his middle and giving him Matt's last name, since I am inextricably linked to Henry (by virtue of carrying him inside of me for nine months and then breast feeding) in ways that Matt is not. However, when it came time to officially decide on Henry Cotner Bradford, I couldn't do it. I cried at the thought that he would be Henry Bradford on a daily basis and my name would be relegated to the shadows of Middle Namehood.

In the end, we really had no choice but to hyphenate, but that is definitely not a perfect solution. Just yesterday, I was trying to schedule a doctor's appointment for Henry. The receptionist asked for "the last name." I had to explain, "Well, if you mean my last name, it's Cotner. But the patient's last name is Cotner-Bradford. And our insurance is under my husband's last name, which is Bradford."


I love hearing about how other families make these decisions for themselves. So, with that, I will turn it over to Sanyamakadi to tell her family's story!

By Sanyamakadi
It seems like everyone has the same concerns regarding weddings and marriage, so you end up with a ton of blog posts on the same topic. I love that, and it is so interesting to hear the different perspectives! Here is mine on the classic question, what to do about your name.

Growing up I figured I would not change my name. I like my name; it’s unique (if you googled my family name everyone that came up would actually be related to me), and my generation is all girls so if we all changed our names the family name would not continue. So, no question.

But then I fell madly in love with Socrates and I suddenly felt that it was important that we share the same name to symbolize the shared family we had become. How did that happen?? In addition to the sentimental reasoning, we also had a practical one to consider--my husband has a 6-year old son, Pickle, who has his mom’s last name. Between school and aftercare and playdates it quickly became very tiring to introduce ourselves as a three-person family with three last names between us, not to mention that we felt it made things more confusing than necessary for Pickle.

So what to do about it? I didn’t want to give up my name and neither did Socrates (and one of the reasons I love him is that we were able to discuss that possibility--he never for a second pressured me to give up my name, even though until I broached the subject he had always assumed that is what his wife would do). We valued our names as they were and did not like the idea of combining them to make a brand new name. We did consider losing our middle names and being Socrates and Sanyamakadi HerName HisName, but I didn’t like it because more often than not people see that and drop the “HerName,” just treating it like a new middle name. Neither of us were huge fans of the hyphen (and it made our names pretty long), but in the end it seemed like the best option, so that is what we did. For sound (and to bump the family up to the front of the alphabet), my name went first. To me it could have gone either way but I do acknowledge that it is a big deal that Socrates agreed to have my last name go first, as it means he is the one making the major change to his initials and having to explain it in his professional life.

We were married in California, where either/both parties to the marriage can change their names by listing their new names on the marriage license, and that’s it. This is a Big Deal because in most places a woman can change her name this way, but a man needs to get a court order to do so, which involves another payment, and putting the name change announcement in the newspaper, and waiting for months until the court can hear the case. When we got back home to DC and tried to change our social security cards using the marriage license we discovered that it would not be quite as easy as we thought. I was able to use our (non-certified) marriage license to have my name changed in about 5 minutes--the woman at the counter barely even looked at my application. Then Socrates came up and she said, “Wait a minute, you can’t use this, you have to get a court order.” We showed her the instructions on the license, and she was still skeptical, and went to go talk to her supervisor. And then her supervisor’s supervisor. And then her supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor (seriously).

Finally supervisor cubed came out and we explained the situation again. He said, “I still don’t see where you say it is okay for a man to change his name this way.” We patiently pointed out that the directions indicated, “Any person can change his or her name...” with “person” applying to both men and women. At this he only laughed and said, “Oh, those crazy Californians!” Finally he went to go talk to HIS supervisor (government bureaucracy at work!) and came back to say he had some good news and bad news. The bad news was that the license was not certified (we had to mail it back to CA to be certified within 10 days of the marriage and hoped we would be able to change our IDs before doing that) and so he couldn’t accept it. But the good news was that we had convinced him that CA actually did let men change their names this way, so if we brought back the certified license and spoke with him again he would let Socrates change his name. So at this point the name change rested on us happening to get this guy the next time we waited in line at the Social Security office. As we left I mentioned to him that the original woman had allowed ME to change my name using the non-certified license, so did I now need to give back my new social security card? He just waved his hand and said, “Oh no, you’re fine.”

In the end we admitted a defeat for gender equality, mailed the marriage license back to CA to be certified, and Socrates filled out a court petition to change his name. The funny thing is 3 months later I still have not gotten the official copy of the certified license back, so I cannot change my driver’s license or passport, but Socrates’ court order has come through, so he can now do those things without any problem. All this bureaucracy is frustrating and ridiculous, but six months from now it won’t matter and we will have our new family name...and hopefully have even gotten used to using it.

Sanyamakadi means “eyes blinking in the sky” and is the Malinké word for “lightening”, which was one of the first she learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea. She loves to travel, create adventurous food, and fly kites. She met the love of her life at a swing dancing class and now spends many happy evenings dancing around the living room with him and her new son.

A huge thank you to Sanyamakadi for sharing her insights with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please send me an e-mail!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Reflections on Losing Weight for a "Big Day"

In the last couple weeks of my pregnancy, I received an invitation for a summer wedding in Taos. I couldn't be more excited to see one of my best friends get married, reconnect with many of my old friends, and meet new amazing people.

And then it hit me. I thought, "This wedding is the perfect motivation to get back into shape after nine months of weight gain and skin stretching!"

I started making elaborate plans (think: 6am "Boot Camp" classes).

But then I had to reign myself in. I had to remind myself that achieving a certain weight or a certain level of fitness should never be the goal.

If we work toward the goal of a certain weight, then once we achieve that weight, it's so easy to revert back to the old habits that prevented us from achieving that weight in the first place.

For example, it's easy enough to use our weddings as motivators to get ourselves in shape. Our weddings might inspire us to go to those Boot Camp classes every morning and to limit our portion sizes and snacking.

But what happens when the wedding comes and goes? Will we still be motivated to drag ourselves to Boot Camp classes every day and forgo snacking?

Instead, I think we need to focus on making lifestyle changes that we can sustain and maintain beyond the one-day motivators. Being healthy matters day in and day out, not just at a wedding.

So instead of taking extreme measures to get myself back in shape (Editor's Note: for me, 6am Boot Camp classes constitute "extreme measures"!), I'm going to focus on the kind of lifestyle I want to live day in and day out. I want to cultivate habits that will not only get me in shape but will keep me in shape beyond my friend's wedding.

So let me set a vision for the kind of healthy lifestyle I want to put in place--something that I can sustain beyond my friend's wedding:
  1. I am the kind of person who avoids drinking unnecessary calories. I save caloric drinks for special occasions and instead drink water on a daily basis (and lots of it!).
  2. I avoid processed foods and artificial sweeteners and instead opt for whole foods.
  3. I eat three smaller meals throughout the day and two healthy snacks. When I eat my snacks, I prepare a small serving--I don't eat something straight out of the bag.
  4. I avoid tempting (but disgusting) foods that pop up at work all the time (e.g., grocery store birthday cake, chips, candy, etc.).
  5. I routinely avoid fried foods and instead opt for salads or fruit as my sides when we go out to eat. I limit my intake of unhealthy restaurant food, such as chips and bread before the meal.
  6. I try to eat dessert only once or twice a week, and when I eat it, I eat a very small portion, intentionally savoring each bite.
  7. I take my son and dog for an hour-long walk at least five times a week.
  8. I go on one 3-mile jog and one 6-mile jog by myself every week.
  9. I go to yoga once a week.

So those are my intentions for myself. If I pretty much stick to those guidelines, I really shouldn't have any problem losing and--most importantly--maintaining a healthy body.

Let me know if you think I should add something else to my list!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links: 4/14/11

First off, thank you to everyone for your kind comments on my letter to my wife. You give me a lot of hope for marriage and for marriage equality.

Earth Day’s coming up on April 22, so for this week, a few links green links:

Using Succulents for Your Wedding

This alternative to the traditional bouquet lends a sweet and earth-minded air to the walk down the aisle.

Dirt Cupcakes for Earth Day

The woman I’m married to is essentially a twelve-year-old boy, so she thinks these cupcakes would be the best thing ever for a wedding. For the less adventurous, (that may or may not include me…) make them to honor Earth Day. (If you’ve got a TJ’s in your area, try Joe-Joes for the cookie crumbs.)

The Recycled Garden

A few tips from a professional groundskeeper to give your garden a smaller carbon footprint.

DIY Chalkboard Tutorial

I can’t stand the feel of holding chalk, but for the cute look of chalkboards, I might make an exception. The eco-friendly part: no need for menu cards, and the chalkboards can be reused in your home to add charm to dinner, or for you and your partner to leave each other love notes.

14 Sentences on Goodwill Wedding Dresses

Secondhand dresses are an oft-mentioned way to green your wedding, so in that spirit, here are Diana Heideman’s beautiful thoughts on Goodwill gowns. As a bride who’ll be wearing a thrift-store find, I love the idea of the whole life my dress had before we met.

Eco-Friendly Lingerie

How about an eco-friendly wedding, right down to the wedding night? Green Cheeks brings together lingerie from a handful of designers, in earth-friendly materials like bamboo and organic cotton.


When Anna-Marie isn’t searching the blogs, she’s writing romance stories, cooking for her wife, or freelancing as a cake decorator and floral designer.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Post: Premarital Counseling--A Report from the Field

Guest post by
Kristen Walker

I've always liked the idea of couples counseling ... for other people.

When our relationship hit a rough patch, though, the first thought that went through my head was, Oh God, don't only doomed couples go to counseling???

Our rough patch took the form of me having a melt down after not getting a surprise, fantasy marriage proposal after precisely 3.0 years of couple-dom. For some reason, 3 years was my magic number, and when it didn't happen, I went a little cuckoo (and mind you, I am not someone who ever thought I wanted to get married!) Andy, my beloved partner, was on the 5-year plan, not the 3-year plan, so we decided to get some couples counseling to navigate this new landscape of thinking about marriage (and being on slightly different pages about it).

It took a few sessions, but slowly, things started to get better. Our counselor helped us start airing our fears and grievances about marriage and started opening those oh so important lines of communication. One of the big points that our counselor stressed was that our values are very similar, and that with similar values, you can work through a lot and stay happily together through the years.

The counseling went well – actually, really well – and after 4 months, Andy asked me the big question (woo hoo!). That's when our counseling sessions officially turned into “premarital” counseling sessions, and we made a list of topics we wanted to talk about which included some of these fun favorites:

  • money

  • sex

  • religion

  • friendships

  • kids/parenting styles

We could have done this at home on our bed while eating Chinese take-out, saved some money, and not had to open ourselves up to a third party, but there are some really valuable aspects to going all out and seeing an experienced premarital counselor. Here are a few:

1) You are committing to someone for life, don't you want to know that they'll show up to a counseling session during bumpy times? Premarital counseling is a great practice run. I have a dear friend who just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary, and her advice about how they've been happily married for so long has always been that they “keep doing the work." And that flies right in the face of my below-the-surface beliefs that true love doesn't involve "work", but the trick to marital longevity seems to have something to do with tending the garden of wedded bliss instead of going on auto-pilot. If the weeds are taking over, I want to be with someone who isn't opposed to going to the garden shed, getting out some rakes and hoes with me, and doing the work needed to get things back to a happier state. Going through some premarital counseling sessions is a great way to see if your partner is up for this.

2) Counselors have seen around corners you haven't even thought of yet. Having the benefit of working with many couples whose happily-ever-after-boats have been rocked by differing parenting styles, money troubles, infidelity and in-laws, our counselor was able to take us straight to the hot spots of marital seismic activity and held our hands as we explored.

3) Talking about important things can be easier when guided. Why is it that touchy topics like money and kids can be so tricky to bring up? It seems like it is never a good time – do I ask him how we are planning on handling money as a couple before or after dinner? Should I bring up the kids question on this romantic weekend or wait till we are cleaning out our closets? When you go to a counseling session you both know what you are there for, and having an objective, experienced third party to help guide things productively tends to help the honesty level in the room go up as you navigate some sensitive territory. A third party can also be helpful in pointing out patterns or helping to explain the other person's point of view in a way that is easier to understand, and they can also give you great tips that lead to long term happiness.

I think the biggest reason I was reluctant to go through premarital counseling was that I was afraid we'd dig up some stuff that I'd rather leave hidden safely under the rug, and who wants to dig stuff up when you can throw yourself wholeheartedly into the high of being engaged and planning a wedding? For me personally, I chose to go through premarital counseling because it really is about a lot more than a wedding day – it is about every day that follows the wedding day.

And, as we all know, the stuff hidden under the rug is going to come out eventually ... and the longer it festers, the uglier it tends to be when it shows up.

Do you want to walk down the aisle knowing there are things you haven't really talked about? Or do you want to glow, from head to toe, as you walk towards your partner, knowing you are going to be sharing your life with someone who will really show up for you – in a counselor's office, in a wedding ceremony, and in life?

Kristen Walker is an artist, web surfer, wave surfer, and educational website developer who lives in Santa Barbara with her fiancé Andy, labrador Honey Bear, and striped tiger, Meme. She keeps a blog at kristenwalker.com.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Letter Writing to Process Transitions

I've written a lot of letters lately, as a way to help me process some of the big changes in my life. I started writing letters to Henry when he was in the womb. Then I wrote a letter to Matt that he could pull out as a reminder of my love during the really tough transition into parenthood. Next, I wrote a letter to myself about how I wanted Henry's birth to unfold. Recently, I wrote a letter to my "Former Life" (i.e., my pre-motherhood self).

For me, these letters are a way to process my thoughts and feelings. They are similar to a journal entry, but they allow me to step outside of myself and assume a more objective perspective.

I received an e-mail from Andee, a kindred spirit, who had the awesome idea to write a letter to her single self after she became engaged. I am so thankful that she's willing to share her thoughts will all of you.

Without further ado, here's Andee:

Dear Single Life,

This letter signals the beginning of my transition into married life (I know I still have 177 days, but I want to start preparing now in case this is long process). Once the married life transition has been completed you will be a thing of the past. I thoroughly enjoyed all my time with you; I enjoyed being able to eat what I want when I want it, throw my clothes where I want, go to sleep when I want, watch anything I want, not having to talk to anyone when I come home, not having to talk to anyone in the morning, being able to cry and not explaining it to anyone. Being able to relax in my own space and unwind, go out when I want. Basically I loved not being accountable to anyone and being completely on my own.

What I did not enjoy is coming home when something was broken or when I had a terrible day at work and the house was cold and empty. I didn’t like sleeping alone every night. I don’t like having to call someone if I am lonely. I didn’t like nobody knowing whether I was dead or alive, if I made it home or I was lying in a ditch somewhere. I didn’t like being responsible for everything. I will not miss being a one man band, a solo show.

I will miss all the freedoms and frivolity of being single. I will miss being able to leave anything and everything wherever I want to leave it – but more than I will miss those things, I will appreciate that I am not alone. When I come home I will have a kind, strong, thoughtful man to wrap his arms around me tight. I will know that I have a partner in both crime and responsibility. I will understand that the value of what I am gaining far outweighs the value of what I am giving up. Collin and I will build a life together – something greater than us – built on love, trust and respect. We have something uncommon– we found it and I will embrace it with all the courage, tenacity, and joy I have ever been able to muster. I will embrace the fear and know that it means you are not doing this in a thoughtless and inconsiderate way. I will step bravely and boldly into this next phase of my life.


Engaged Andee

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Monday, April 11, 2011

A Thousand Thank Yous

Wow. What an amazing community of kindred spirits. I want to thank the dozens of smart, insightful, articulate women who volunteered to write guest posts for 2000 Dollar Wedding, so that I could immerse myself in the cocoon of my new family (Henry arrived on February 28).

I spent the whole month of January poring over your words, as I scheduled all of the posts to run during February and March (I didn't know he was going to be two weeks late!). I so enjoyed your diverse insights and experiences.

Thank you for giving me the gift of time with my expanding family and for giving this community the gift of your lessons learned.

I would love to continue showcasing your insights on 2000 Dollar Wedding with one guest post per week. If you have a topic you are interested in writing about, please e-mail me! I'm also willing to re-publish something you posted to your personal blog (please, I am looking for real readers and kindred spirits--not people just trying to promote products).

Looking forward to continuing to showcase your experiences! (And to those of you who submitted posts that haven't run yet: Don't worry! There are still more guest posts on the way!)

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Enter to Win

Henry - The Gambler from Sara Matthew Hoss Hop-sing Clem on Vimeo

My zany Partner in Awesomeness is hosting a Dance/Sing Along Video Contest over on his blog!

[Editor's Note: Please don't ask me what the prize is. It's the same kind of thing Matt gave me for birthday after birthday and Christmas after Christmas until I finally decided that I couldn't stomach a lifetime of said present and I finally had to have the baby-I-love-you-but-you-need-to-get-better-at-picking-out-presents-since-we're-in-this-for-the-long-haul conversation.]

You can view our entry above and head over to his blog to enter!

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Post: Our At-Home Rehearsal Dinner

By Katie Womack

Hosting our rehearsal dinner at our home was an awesome choice for my partner Charles and me and I'm so happy to have the opportunity to share our experience with you all!

Our decision to host our rehearsal dinner - officially known as our welcome party - grew out of several factors. Charles's parents had already contributed significantly to our wedding fund and, since they tend to be traditional in some regards, we did not want them to feel obligated to also pay for the rehearsal dinner (as is traditional for parents of the groom). So, we quickly announced that we would be throwing a welcome party and then decided that it would be a great opportunity to invite all of our out-of-town guests to our home. It worked well for us because many of these guests had either never been to our house, or had not seen it since we'd begun renovating. Several people had told us they hoped they could stop by while in town for our wedding and we wanted them to. We love having people over, but we knew that we would not have enough time (or energy!) to host everyone unless we had them all over at once.

Some friends and family thought we were taking on too much by throwing a party the night before our wedding but, really, I just planned everything well in advance and we asked for help when needed and everything went very smoothly. There was a fair amount of work involved, especially as we were still working on lots of house projects, but opening our home to our friends and family that we don't get to see that often and getting to spend extra time with them was totally worth it. It was also good motivation for getting some house projects finished up sooner than planned!

We wanted our welcome party to be relaxed and, because of our budget, it needed to be inexpensive. The night before our wedding was also Halloween, my favorite holiday, so luckily the house was already decked out with decorations I already owned and it ensured that our out-of-town guests had something fun to do on Halloween night. It also meant we didn't have to miss out on handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters - and neither did our guests, many of whom pitched in if neither of us was immediately available to answer the door! To help convey the casual nature of the party we sent evites and let guests know that they could expect some home cooking and local flavor. I made vegetarian black bean soup (served in mugs), Charles made corn bread, and we brought in some of the local favorite barbeque, along with buns to serve it on. We chose this menu because it could easily be eaten at the dining room table, on the couch, or on the front porch. This was a necessity since we had about 30 people in our little bungalow and having everyone sit down together was just not an option. Tortilla chips, salsa, hummus, and cut up veggies rounded out the meal. I'd been buying beer and wine over the course of a month or two prior to the party to help spread out costs. Dessert was Halloween candy and cookies. We kept everything warm in crock pots and made a buffet on the kitchen counter, with the drink station on the kitchen table.

Getting a good night's sleep the night before the wedding was important to us, so we had the party end at 9PM and we were able to get everything cleaned up before heading to bed. I had never before thrown a party with a set end time, but in this case I am so glad we realized in advance that it would probably be a good idea (for us) to do so. I can be very grumpy if I don't have enough sleep!

It was a simple, fun gathering and a really meaningful way for us to honor the folks who had traveled so far to celebrate our wedding with us. And I can't tell you how great it was to look around at our wedding reception the next night and see guests who had met only the night before hanging out and having a great time together!

Katie is a museum professional and Charles is a painter. They recently moved from the 1924 bungalow they renovated together (also the site of their welcome party) in North Carolina to seek new adventures in Texas. Many BIG DIY projects await them in the Lone Star State!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Guest Post: Apology of a Wedding-Obsessed Bride

Photo by Nick Martinez, the morning after our "wedding."

By Anna

Dear Jo,

It’s me. Your wife of two years, girlfriend of going on seven. And this is my long overdue apology for the wedding-obsessed creature I became in the couple of years before our wedding.

We barely knew each other when you proposed. I took it more as a romantic gesture than an intention; same-sex marriage was not legal, my family did not approve, and I hesitated before using such words as “lesbian” or “queer,” like they were profanities.

Then you bought me a couple of wedding magazines. You probably thought they would make me laugh, or that I’d pin some of the pretty pictures on my wall. How could you have known what havoc a few glossy pages could have wrought?

From then on, instead of letting you bore me with current events or translations of Rilke, I now bored you with the finer distinctions between Alençon and Chantilly lace. I began using foreign words, like “chiavari” and “ruching.” I enlisted your help in weighing the merits of fuchsia versus berry, peacock versus turquoise. Because, dammit, we needed a color scheme. Don’t you realize our color palette will inform every other aspect of our wedding? Stop smiling at me like that, Jo. Just because you live in jeans and white collared shirts and don’t know lilac from lavender. Somebody around here has to care about the details.

On second thought, obsessed isn’t a strong enough word. Make that wedding-possessed. Since we couldn’t be legally married, everything, from peonies to place cards, had to be perfect. If we wouldn’t have a valid marriage license, I’d be damned if the linens didn’t match the altar candles.

We never set a date. My fault as much as yours. You wanted to wait until we lived somewhere with more than a month-to-month lease. And making a public declaration that I loved a woman scared the hell out of me.

Then same-sex marriage became legal in California, if only for a few months. You proposed, again. I didn’t give you an answer. We bought a marriage license at the county courthouse, unsure if we would use it.

You found work as a field organizer with the No on Prop 8 campaign. The eighty-hour weeks meant we barely saw each other. You brought me home a campaign t-shirt, which I folded and put away without wearing; I had not worn crewneck t-shirts since I was eleven, when my mother cleared them from my drawers and made them into a quilt. I grew resentful of how little I saw you, but grateful for how easy it was to hold off answering your question; I realized I had spent months planning pew arrangements for an aisle I would not have had the courage to walk.

One night that fall I woke up to find you sleeping next to me, still in your jeans and No-on-8 shirt, your forearm thrown over your eyes. Faintly yellow moonlight fell in a bar over your back, and showed me the violet-blue cast under your eyes.

I found the shirt you had brought me home and threw it in the washer with every red sock I owned. It came out blush-colored. I cut the sleeves down to caps and the collar off. I picked out a pair of earrings that matched the green on the shirt. I wasn’t ready to say yes, but I was ready to let you talk me into it.

Our pastor married us on Election Day, the last day we could legally marry, and the only day both you and he had fifteen spare minutes. The few witnesses from our church read from the book of Ruth and played “Here Comes the Bride” on kazoos borrowed from the Sunday School room. We both wore jeans and our No-on-8 shirts. My favorite lipstick was tucked into my coin pocket. And in that moment, with you holding my hands in that dim, undecorated sanctuary, I found that this love, stripped of all the lace and satin that had made it less raw and open and threatening to me, was what I wanted.

Forgive me for understanding the difference between cascade and pomander bouquets better than I understood why you were working sixteen-hour days. Forgive me for taking so long to realize that the shirt you brought me home was more beautiful than the Ella Moss I would have chosen, because it means our wedding pictures will tell our children what we stood for. Forgive me for not getting this sooner; I should have, because you are white, and I am Latina, and less than fifty years ago, that would have been another reason we could not marry.

I’m not saying I don’t still want a wedding someday. We both do. You want a wedding cake and to see me in a white dress. I want an excuse to carry around flowers all day and get you in a tux. We both want a big party with our family and friends. But I promise never to value mermaid gowns over marriage equality, or aisle runners over equal rights. I promise not to give up. Our love may not be federally recognized within our lifetime, but I’m not going to bury that bitterness in letterpress and grosgrain ribbon.

I’m thankful you can’t tell a French tulip from a calla lily. I’m thankful you can fix a faucet but don’t give a damn about thermography. And whether or not we have a federal record to show for it, I’m thankful for you.

I’m thankful that we love.

Your wife,


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Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Post: What IS in a Name?

By Lauren of Suburbalicious Living

So. The name change issue.

Whether or not I would change my last name was the biggest argument of our entire engagement, and actually, of our entire relationship. Every time we tried to discuss it, I would cry and Jeff would yell. And we'd be awkward around each other for hours. And we'd still be at a stalemate. It was awful.

I picked up this book right before the wedding, and it finally shed some light on the situation. Gottman, the author, argues that there are two types of marital conflict--solvable problems and unsolvable problems. The former involves who will do the dishes, and the latter involves issues to which each party has attached dreams, desires, and life choices to the outcome, rendering them unsolvable. It doesn't mean that you can't work around them, but it does mean that a compromise is unlikely to be reached.

When I applied this mode of thinking to the name change issue, based on the "discussions" we'd had about it over the year, I realized that we had each attached childhood hopes and dreams to the name question.

Some background seems necessary. My father left my family when I was three, and I've never seen or heard from him. This in itself is not a big deal (Ok, I guess it's a big deal, but it just meant that my family looked a little different, and that I got to grow up with my grandparents. When you never have something, it's not a big deal not to have it. You know?) I started using my mother's last name when I was five, and had it legally changed when I was 12. I got to tell the judge what I wanted my new name to be, and why. The name I was given when I was born is the most common of all last names in the US, and the name I took later is a Polish nightmare with too many consonants that nobody has ever been able to pronounce. And I love it. To me, my last name represents my grandparents and their nine children, especially my mom and her four crazy sisters. And I already changed it once!

Therefore, me not changing my last name was a no-brainer. My hopes and dreams were completely wrapped up in the fact that keeping my own name in a marriage symbolized true partnership and equality--merging my life with someone while keeping my own identity. In addition, Jeff's last name is almost as common as the one I was born with. Boring! And that was a Really. Big. Deal. for me.

Jeff, on the other hand, had deep-seated beliefs about a family, and for him, that meant sharing a name. His name. One name, one identity, one united force against the world. That is what he grew up with and experienced, and that is what he always planned for himself. His hopes and dreams included two people united under the Mr. & Mrs. title. And that was a Really. Big. Deal. for him.

You can see why we got nowhere when we "discussed." The best thing about this whole issue was that by the end of the year, we really learned how to share what was important to us. I learned that I needed to say "Jeff, ever since I was five years old I've identified with this last name because of x, y, and z" and not assume that he would know what I was trying to say when I sobbed "I'M NEVER CHANGING IT." Turns out that doesn't work so well.

It really came down to the night that we went to get our marriage license. Both Party A and Party B have to list their surname after marriage. We were there 10 minutes before it closed. I really wanted to make a decision and have it behind me. So I wrote down "Myname Hisname" with no hyphen. And brought it up to the (incredibly sweet) woman at the counter, who said "you can use any name you want, but the computer only registers the last one on the form, so you can hyphenate?" to which I shook my head no. Then she said "Ok, well then I'm just going to cross this one out..." and hovered her pen over Myname. I turned white as a sheet (according to Jeff) and kind of stared at her like a deer in the headlights. She told me to think about it and come back in a few days.

I didn't change my name legally, but professionally I started using Lauren Hisname Myname. And I felt good about that decision, but not completely, because I felt like I let my husband down in a way too. But it was the right one for me. I think.

Now that we're married, now that we're on the other side, I can see why two people choose to share one name. And I can see that I wouldn't be taking his FAMILY'S name, I'd be taking his. Our extended families have nothing to do with it. And I sometimes wonder if I'd had the space to make this decision without the emotional baggage of everything else that goes into planning a wedding, if I would have made a different choice. It's not an easy topic!

------------------- Lauren writes about marriage, home ownership, turning 30, and striving for more out of life over at her blog, Suburbalicious Living.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Last Chance to Register!

Henry would be very happy if you would register for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy that starts this weekend.

Okay, not really. The things that currently make him happy include breast milk, naps in the Moby wrap, the outdoors, pushing poop out the side of his diaper, and peeing on his parents.

But we have been working on his smile. Do you think he's getting it?

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