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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest Post: Weathering Wedding Storms

By Sarah Gillespie

The story of our wedding has to be told with the story of our courtship. Luckily you can read the recap of the latter (well-written by my new husband) here. Bad weather, mishaps, and stains seemed to run through our relationship fabric. Everything from our first date to our engagement to our wedding was an adventure. The Washington Post even retold our story for the masses here.

This adventure theme was not welcome at first. I had just gotten out of a relationship when I met Adam and could not see myself jumping into another one. The summer we met I planned on being single and just re-centering my life. But there were other plans in store for me. I met Adam, quite randomly, and we had an unexpected summer romance. We hit bumps in the road when I was hesitant to take our relationship to the next level and Adam wasn’t. But we rebounded after much discussion and moved forward together…and I have never been happier since.

Rain was present at our first date and our engagement so it came as no surprise that as our wedding week approached, rain plagued every weatherman’s predictions. This was not just a spring shower but inches of rain and thunderstorms forecasted all day and night.

We had decided to have our ceremony between our house and my parents’ house (2 blocks away) on a small triangle island in the bustling Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC. Until then, the park had been used as a frequent spot for dogs to “do their business”. It was no more than a glorified traffic median in the middle of a street, but it was a park we crossed over constantly to share meals together with family and neighbors. It was also a public place where people would be able to watch us get married from their front porches. I loved the idea of getting married in such an open place where anyone could witness our love and commitment.

Now the stress came with thoughts of the rain deterring our outdoor venue. Thoughts of using our back-up site crept in (it was a small chapel at Historic Congressional Cemetery next to DC’s only prison). I was hesitant to move our wedding but Adam reminded me that we shouldn’t let people stand outside in almost monsoon-like conditions. Addicted to checking the weather multiple times of day on multiple websites I started to panic. This was about the only time that our wedding planning really got me worked up. I wanted a fairy-wedding planner to pop out of the sky and fix everything.

In reality, the forecast improved slightly so that there was only an 80% chance of rain for the morning. Committed to my outside, in-public wedding Adam and I decided to keep the event outside and hope for the best. We were all checking the weather up until it actually began to rain about 30 minutes prior to our ceremony. When it began to rain I surprisingly felt at ease. I was still getting ready at my parents’ house and nothing could have kept me from smiling. We bought about a dozen large IKEA umbrellas and were going to put them to good use.

When I walked down the street, my aisle, I began to see the crowd of people under umbrellas waiting for me at newly renamed “Wedding Island”. I felt the love they radiated as my dad and I approached the front. Also waiting for me was home plate, which was my dad’s well-kept surprise. I always wanted to get married at Fenway Park and Adam and mine’s first date was a baseball game.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind. The ceremony was quick due to the increasing rain and wind. After we had a brunch/lunch reception at a friend’s restaurant, followed by a metro-ride home, photos at the Capitol, and a smashing after-party back at my parents’ house. I was originally worried about not having enough seats for everyone at our reception…and we didn’t AND it didn’t matter. No one danced at the reception, for which Adam had made a killer playlist, but it didn’t matter because a killer dance party broke out at the after-party. It rained and thundered at different times during the day, but it didn’t matter. In fact it made the whole day an adventure, which is exactly what it should be.

So many little details that the wedding industry deems important (wedding colors, seating charts, proper etiquette, etc.) are not. The only thing that matters is that you celebrate each other, your love, your families and friends. Weddings are a joyous occasion that even a little thunderstorm can’t ruin. I hope that everyone has as good an adventure as we did.

Sarah begins her next adventure as a Masters of Divinity student at Andover Newton Theological School. She and Adam will be moving to Boston in September. Sarah dreams of becoming a Unitarian Universalist Chaplain (because the world needs more progressive religious voices). She loves her family (old and new), knitting, reading, baking and singing. She wishes she had more time (and money) to travel and garden.

REMINDER: Only a few days left to register for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Inspiring Blogs: Rising Shining

There were so many helpful 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.

That's why I like to periodically showcase blogs to help you connect with other kindred spirits. The blogger that I want to showcase this time is already married, but that's what makes her blog--RisingShining--so great. It includes the nitty-gritty stuff of relationships, such as organizing bank accounts, making a budget, and planning goals.

On her about page, she writes:

Hi! I'm Kelsey, an Austin gal living in the Arizona desert. This is a picture of my husband, Chris, and me leaping in the air, which does amazing things for my fine hair. Besides jumping into the air for the volumizing hair effects, I love library books, wearing an apron, talking about personal finances, and trying to make my suburban home look less ordinary.

I never would have thought that I would want a blog of my own. I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to have a birthday party because I don't want to be the center of attention. And blogging seemed like a very "look at me!" affair. But over the past few years of following several blogs I feel as if I've met these amazing and creative people who I'd love to be friends with if we lived in the same city. I've even had the opportunity to meet one of those amazing people in real life! And so the blog world started to feel very much less "look at me!" and more like a community in which I'd like to take part.

Being quite the planner myself, I especially appreciate getting some insight into how other Linkyoung couples are navigating married life, careers, following their passions, finances, and thinking about starting a family. So rising/shining is my contribution to the conversation.


If you would like your blog to be considered for a spotlight, 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, August 23, 2011

Guest Post: I Didn't Love My Wedding

by Mindy Wood

I didn’t love my wedding.

I loved having our closest friends and family be a part of our wedding day, I loved marrying my husband, I loved our ceremony, but the reception? Eh.

There were a few details that didn’t go the way I had hoped. I could tell you about them. I could tell you how the glasses I rented spent the night neatly stacked in the kitchen (or on the tables) while my guests were served wine in plastic cups.

I could tell you how our food was set up in a single buffet even though we had planned on having stations. I could tell you that there were white linens spread across tables even though some of my ivory ones were never even taken out of the box or I could tell you that my wedding ended in a music war between the DJ and a group of guests with an ipod.

I could tell you all of those things but I don’t want to because I don’t want you to think I’m one of those brides.

Being the person who said, “Eh, five is a better number than six anyway,” when a dear friend broke an expensive wine glass, I was sure I’d be just as easy going about my wedding.

But the day of the wedding I forgot to print out the directions I had written describing how everything should be set up and decorated (twice actually). I had to start getting ready shortly after helpers and decorations arrived so I needed to hand over the reins and, without any directions, I had to let go and see what happened. Firstly, I want to say how thankful I am for the help of our friends and family in making our wedding happen. Their help was above and beyond and I feel so lucky to have such a great community willing to do anything to help out.

But when I walked into our reception I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I was disappointed that we had put so much work into making our wedding ours; painstakingly analyzing traditions and deciding which ones we would hold onto and which ones we would change.

I was disappointed that the wedding I had envisioned had turned into a hybrid version of what everyone else thought a wedding “should be” complete with formal table settings, a single buffet, 80’s pop music and our sweetheart table front and center (yikes! I felt like we were being stared at all night and could barely wait for dinner to be over!).

When we were planning our wedding we made a lot of sacrifices and changes in the way things were normally done to create a budget friendly wedding without sacrificing all of the charming details. For example I had planned to have the napkins folded in a cute way so that the silverware would slip inside.

The napkins were going to be what defined each place setting instead of a charger or a complete table setting. This was a way to have a classy look without extra dishware (or extra money from the budget!). So when the tables were set with dishware and my guests had to carry their plates to the buffet and drink wine out of plastic cups because all the wine glasses were on the tables, I was embarrassed.

I felt like I had put a lot of effort into figuring out a way to merge class and thrift and now my wedding looked like a less than adequate attempt at a formal wedding.

It wasn’t the disappointment that really bothered me though. It was easy enough to choose to forget about the disappointment (what’s done is done) and focus on the positive feelings, being present and experiencing every moment of our wedding.

But the guilt, that was harder to shake. I felt guilty for not loving all the work that my friends and family (and the staff) had put into our wedding. I felt guilty for not feeling so blissful that I didn’t notice any of those things. And I felt especially guilty that I didn’t see this collective vision of what a wedding should be as a tribute to the great community I had.

I had anticipated having some romantic revelation about my wedding day being perfect in its imperfection, but instead I became soberly aware of the fact that this was just a day, a great day, but still just a day.

It wasn’t until after the honeymoon that I could tell even my husband how I felt disappointed at our wedding because it seemed wrong to feel that way. What lessen was I supposed to take away from this? That the details sometimes do matter? That it’s normal to feel disappointed when your expectations aren’t met? Or, that I shouldn’t have had expectations in the first place? I don’t know. And I don’t know that it matters.

Like any memory though, the bad parts faded away and I started to only remember the good ones, like when my husband’s young cousin said to her mother after our ceremony “did they just kiss? Eww!” Or, that my mom rushed over to help me when my dress got stuck in my chair.

And then there are those wedding day snafus, like that one of the groomsmen ended up in a tux instead of a suit, or that I forgot to put my veil on and didn’t realize it until the next morning or that my dress didn’t quite fit anymore because I accidentally lost some weight (how does that even happen?) that started out as unfavorable but then nestled softly into my memory as some of the most entertaining moments of our wedding day.


Mindy is a writer over at purposefullysimple.wordpress.com. When she's not writing, she's playing outside with her husband, cooking yummy food, or discovering something new to learn about.

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 5. Register today!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

2000 Dollar Wedding in Print

Matt and I were honored to be part of the Plan the Perfect Wedding on a Small Budget book, which featured "couples' weddings on $2,000 to $10,000 budgets." We were elated when our complimentary copy arrived in the mail. It was fun to read through our section and reminisce.

Matt and I have such fond memories of our wedding. And for all of you who are in the throes of pulling together your own love fest, I wish the same thing for you. When it's all said and done, I hope you look back on your wedding and bask in the sweet memories. I hope that you plan the best wedding for you--in whatever shape or form that takes.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wedding Wisdom: Gretchen & Danny

By Gretchen


Danny and I began our adventure in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, love-at-first-sight style. We moved to Alaska, then New Hampshire, then Maine, got engaged, got pregnant, and had our first wedding in our backyard under a willow tree (Danny's dream wedding) in the middle of winter on our two-year anniversary, February 11th, 2010.

It was intimate, simple, and beautiful. We shared breakfast with the three friends who did our ceremony then drove to Quebec City for a three-day Winter Carnival honeymoon. Danny opened a solar energy business in March, we had our baby in April (an Earth Day home birth), and I spent the summer planning and preparing for our second wedding in between being a first time mom and having my in-laws move in with us temporarily for a few months. Whew!

"Love Fest 2010!" was born out of the desire to have a big festive gathering of family and friends, share our vows with our community, share our new baby, Yukon, and to get married by the ocean (my dream wedding), so we did this at Moose Point State Park in Belfast, Maine on August 8th, 2010.

It was 99.9% DIY, entirely family and friend executed, and a total blast! I designed my dress and it was handmade by a friend. Danny's sister did my hair and my sister helped me get ready, no make-up. The flowers were from another friend's farm and put together into bouquets and boutonnieres by friends. I made my own sugar-free cranberry walnut carrot cake with butter frosting, which was insane to do in retrospect, but turned out to be over-the-top delicious and was one of my proudest accomplishments. My mom's friends decorated it with edible wild flowers that morning.

The favors were herb seedlings from a friend's farm that were put together in little pots by friends, herbal lip balms I made from scratch (I'm an herbalist), and "wish rocks" which doubled as table decor. Danny and I (and many other hands) made colorful flags to use at our rehearsal dinner and at the wedding. The music was local, acoustic, and performed by friends.

We wrote our vows and the ceremony, my aunt made us a wedding quilt, we had a kid parade to the alter, a dress-up box, hoola-hoops, Frisbee, and bubbles. Brightly colored lawn signs like "listen," "let go," "smooch," and "inspire" guided guests to the ceremony.

A few of our friends were designated photographers and took awesome spontaneous informal pictures. Our first dance was a waltz which Danny's parents taught us how to do a couple of days beforehand. The big splurge was having the main meal catered with local, organic, fresh, and absolutely yummy food: roasted beets and fresh goat cheese, kale salad, grilled veggies, local organic beef, and seafood. The desserts were all made by friends and unbelievably gorgeously decorated: chocolate dipped strawberries, blueberry, raspberry, and even chocolate avocado pie--crazy good! The entire event was an expression of generosity, real community, and love, and it was really, really fun!

Considering it was four events in total with 150 people--Friday night dinner, Saturday night Talent Show Rehearsal Roast, Sunday wedding, and a Monday brunch--I think we did well to come in under $10,000 for everything, although our initial budget was $6,000 so we did go way over. We had to continually hold the line with family members who wanted to get extra stuff we didn't want or invite guests we didn't want. Anything we did buy was local, organic, eco-friendly, or compostable.

In terms of sharing my wedding wisdom with folks, if I had it to do over again I'd go to bed earlier and not look at quite so many wedding websites. I'd do paper invitations in the mail vs. online invitations because although we did save paper it ended up being way more of a headache than it was worth. People forgot to RSVP on time and we had four different events to get head counts for, etc, etc.

I am so glad that I stuck with our original plan of having our Talent Show Rehearsal Roast in a funky art school basement instead of a fancy rental hall. We had a stage, lights, long tables, candles, and a borrowed vintage popcorn maker. Since we have so many talented friends and family we had over two hours of varied acts from acoustic guitar to stories and jokes, original love songs created just for us, kids karaoke, and martial arts demonstrations! Not only was it a real hoot; it was an awesome way for folks from all different parts of our lives to relax, have a good time, and get to know each other before the wedding.

It was definitely stressful managing the entire production myself leading up to that weekend, with Danny working 24/7 on the new business, and both of us being sleep-deprived with a new baby. When things got rough I centered myself by reading my vows, coming to this site, and collecting "wish rocks." It was also hard to let go and know if it was all going to work out the day of the ceremony but once I did I had a blast and it couldn't have turned out more perfect.

Had I known it would go by so fast (I know that's what everyone says) I would have gone around to talk to every table and thanked everyone for coming (we had a reception line after the ceremony but I still didn't get to talk to quite everyone). My aunt said that at her wedding she spent the whole time talking to people, ended up starving and didn't eat with my uncle until after the ceremony, at McDonald's. So at least I ate, danced, ate cake, and danced again, and that was about it!

Silly as it might sound, I am glad I went with 37 different color table clothes against several people's opinion of "pick only two or three colors" because it was gorgeous, different, super colorful, the same price as plain white would have been, and it was what I really wanted.

Overall, despite the stress, I loved the entire process of planning and executing all the details. I was blown away by people's generosity in helping bring it all together. We got lots of positive feedback about the ceremony, party, and the whole vibe of the weekend. It brought us closer together as a couple, and it united us in front of our families and community in a meaningful and important way that was in line with our values and was a real expression of who we are.

Things I've enjoyed in the wake of "Love Fest:"
  • a friend pulled the "expecting" angel card (set up on our guest book table) and then found out she was pregnant with her second child
  • another friend shared she was inspired by our ceremony to find true love, signed up for "green dating online" and now she's engaged
  • seeing our "love fest lemon balm" in several friends' gardens this summer
  • having two anniversaries to celebrate this year instead of one!

But honestly, the real deal of what I'm left with after thoughtfully preparing for "the biggest day of my life"--yes I do have the pictures, the dress, and the wedding quilt, all very cool, and the memories, wonderful--but the real deal is that when my sweetheart does or says something that makes me want to scream and run away, I have those vows, and we have actually read them out loud to each other at least three times in the last year which has helped to keep alive the spirit of "Love Fest!" and will continue to guide us in the years to come!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Register Now! Purposeful Conception E-Course

Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy!

It's been more than a year since I hunkered down to consolidate everything I read, researched, discussed with experts, and worked through emotionally to prepare myself for conception into an e-course with an accompanying community. It's so rewarding to still be in contact with people from the very first course last August who have now welcomed precious babies into their lives.

And our little Henry is already not-so-little, and he has two teeth. Teeth! Craziness.

For those of you who are thinking about conception or are actively trying, this online course will help you position your mind, body, and life for pregnancy. From September 4 through September 30, a new lesson will be uploaded each weekday. The lessons will address a comprehensive range of topics, such as preparing your body through solid nutrition and exercise, finding balance between what you can and cannot control, making space in your life for pregnancy, deciding whether to track your cycle, building a solid partnership as a foundation for your future family, and much, much more. As a participant in the course, you'll receive information, tips, reflection exercises and prompts, access to interviews, and a community of like-minded kindred spirits who are on a journey similar to your own.

The course doesn't presume that doing x, y, and z will lead to pregnancy. Instead, the idea is to focus on the things we can control in order to create a solid foundation (e.g., nutrition, stress levels, relationships, finances, etc.) and to make peace with the things we cannot control about the process.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Course Overview or About the Author. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis and will be limited to the first 100 participants. The total cost is $99 USD. Register Now! Or e-mail me with more questions. Happy Conceiving!


Please consider spreading the word by sharing this post via the buttons at the bottom of the post (especially the Facebook "like" button) or by reposting the information on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thank you so, so much for your support!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Wedding Dress Giveaway!

Photos courtesy Amanda Borozinski

Yipee! Beth wants to give away her organic, silk strapless wedding gown that she infused with joy during her Memorial Day wedding in Boston.

She says:
My dress has been hanging in the back of my closet since our wedding night, and I've been having a really hard time deciding what to do with it. I don't want to keep it (or rather, feel it's so impractical and wasteful to do so), but also don't just want to sell it. I figured I'd try to find a bride who would put it to good use (and hopefully pass it along too?).

Our wedding was awesome, and we put a ton of thought into how we wanted to kick off our marriage. We were wed at a nonprofit on the banks of the Charles River by my uncle and went totally local with food, drinks, and vendors. We also tried to do all used decor (I collected glass vases and then we bought some flowers from a local farm) and made a gift to the MSPCA's pit-bull adoption program in lieu of favors (we rescued our pitbull, who also walked down the aisle with us).

I would love to give the dress away to someone who's also committed to forgoing the wedding industrial complex in favor of supporting local goods, charities, and sustainability.

It's white natural silk (so in between a bright white and an ivory), draped sweetheart bodice, drop waist (she learned all of those terms while wedding dress shopping...). It also has a short train that she bustled. It was bought as a size 10, but then altered to fit her 4/6 street size, 5'8" inch frame (about 36" hips, 29" waist, 36" bust). The dress was hemmed to 5'10". She wore it with 2.5" shoes. It's yours for the price of shipping!

Enter to win by:
  • Leaving a comment about why you would like this dress. Please include your e-mail address so we can contact you if you are chosen.

We will accept entries until Beth feels like there's a good match. You'll just be responsible for reimbursing Beth for shipping.

Happy Entering!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Q & A: Getting Married Legally Before the Wedding

Reader Question: My fiance is a freelance photographer (he's so creative...one of the many things I love about him) but that work does not provide him with health insurance. I have health insurance through my job, but in order for him to be on my plan, we would need to be married. We have been engaged for four months and our wedding date isn't until September of 2012. My question is, for reasons of practicality, do you think it would cheapen the main wedding event to get married at the courthouse before then to get him on my health insurance plan? I wouldn't change my name or do anything drastic until after the real ceremony with all of our friends and family there, but I am just worried this may make the marriage seem forced out of necessity. I would appreciate any insight or advice. Thank you so much!

If you are absolutely positively sure that you want to spend the rest of your life with your creative freelancer photographer fiance and you're sure you won't want to change your mind before your far, far away wedding, then by all means sign the paperwork and get him on your insurance!

Seriously, a wedding is what you make of it, regardless of what is or is not already on record with the state (which was proven by one of my favorite weddings of all time; Katie and Paul got legally married before their actual wedding for insurance reasons, too).

I actually think it could be very romantic to get legally married in private at the courthouse and have an intimate celebration between the two of you to commemorate your legal binding with your partner. And then when your wedding rolls around, you can craft a meaningful and memorable ceremony that allows you to publicly declare your love and commitment. In my opinion, the public declaration won't be any less sincere or authentic; it will just be the public version of what already happened privately.

In my opinion, the paperwork part of it is the least meaningful and memorable. Matt and I incorporated the signing of our marriage certificate into our wedding ceremony, but we weren't officially married until we got one more witness to sign it and then sent it off to the state for processing. The technicalities and semantics didn't subtract from the sincerity of our ceremony at all.

I hope that helps!

I'd love to hear others' opinions in the comments...

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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Monday, August 8, 2011

The Power of Partnership

Phew! What a whirlwind!

I had a bunch of different waves of work crashing into me at the same time. It was a little rough! First I agreed to read my friend's manuscript for her book about teacher organization. Then I had my own book deadline (which, thankfully, I met!). I had to submit the finalized outline and a sample chapter. It was something like 20,000 words. Egad!

The day after my first deadline to my editor, I had to travel to Austin to deliver two days of professional development about transformative reading instruction. I had to make a PowerPoint that was something like 170 slides, and the handout was 70 pages.

Simultaneously, we were trying to figure out Matt's job situation, since we are moving to Austin to pursue two big goals.

I get re-stressed just thinking about all that stress! It kind of reminds me of planning a wedding, looking for a new job, learning how to buy our first home, searching for a new home in another city, finishing up Montessori teacher certification, and packing up your entire house in Denver and moving to Houston two days later. Not that I would know anything about that.

But through it all, Matt has been the very best partner a girl could ask for. He has taken on extra Henry duty, extra Hoss duty, extra cleaning duty, extra cooking duty--and he's had to put up with Stressed Sara, which is not very much fun.

Also, he had to take two days off of work to come with me to Austin, so that he could watch Henry while I was working. He also had to drive Henry to me a couple times every day, so that I could feed him (the pumping thing never worked out for me).

He even drove us to and from Austin, so that I could work in the car, which totaled more than six hours!

On top of all that, we haven't been sleeping well because Henry's first tooth has been coming in. Craziness!

Okay, I'm going to stop droning on and on about how hard life has been. I'm only sharing all of this because it is evidence that supports the larger theme: Day to day life can be hard, and our marriages are there to support us. Our partnerships are the life preserver that gets cast to you right when you need it.

When you're in the middle of wedding planning, it can be so, so easy to let wedding overshadow your relationship. But at the end of the day, we have to step back and remember, "It's not about finding the perfect shade of ribbon or finding the perfect milk glass vase. It's about forming a partnership; it's about forming a life together."

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