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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cooking with Friends

Matt and I have an informal resolution to invite friends over at least once a month for dinner. It's "informal" because I like to set quantifiable goals that guide all aspects of my life, while Matt prefers to handle things like dinner parties more organically.

Claire and Jorge came over at six, and the four of us (plus Hoss) descended upon the kitchen and started making dinner: Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew + Fudge Brownies with Walnuts (from scratch).

Claire and Jorge gave Matt the recipes for his birthday back in November, and we've been trying to get together ever since (hence the reason we made a "winter squash" in spring).

Even though our kitchen is relatively small, we each managed to find a working space and got started.

Here's what we made:

Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew
  • 1-3 medium leeks, white parts only (we used a white onion instead)
  • 2 T. roasted peanut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced
  • 1 T. finely chopped ginger
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 3 T. mushroom soy sauce
  • 1 15 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1.5 lb. butternut squash (we found this in the frozen section)
  • Salt
  • 1 10 oz. package silken tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/2 c. chopped peanuts
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  1. Heat the oil in a wide soup pot.
  2. Add the leeks/onions and cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently until partially softened (about 3 min.).
  3. Add the garlic, most of the chiles (less, depending on your spice preference), and ginger, cook 1 min. more.
  4. Add the curry, sugar, and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to medium, scrape the pan, and cook for a few more minutes.
  5. Add 3 C. water, the coconut milk, squash, and 1 t. salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 15 min.
  6. Add the tofu, fried or raw, to the stew once the squash is almost tender. Then simmer until it's done.
  7. Taste for salt and add the lime juice.
  8. Garnish with lime, cilantro, and peanuts.
While Claire and I attacked the soup, the boys worked on the homemade brownies:
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 5 oz. + 3 oz. bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 C. (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 C. chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 C. (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray 9x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
  3. Stir 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, butter, and unsweetened chocolate in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Whist sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt in large bowl until fluffy.
  6. Stir in melted chocolate mixture.
  7. Mix in flour, then nuts and chips; spread in pan.
  8. Bake until tested inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached (about 35 minutes).
  9. Top with vanilla ice-cream. Yum!
Usually when we invite friends over, Matt and I do all the cooking before the guests arrive. It was a fun change to cook with everyone in the kitchen (even though Hoss made it difficult by taking up tons of precious floor space with his massive bloodhound body).

Here's a picture of our compost (we keep it in a tupperware cupcake holder in the refrigerator until it's full and we move it outside). Plus, you can see the cool dishtowel Claire knitted for us for my birthday.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Letter from a Reader

Letter from a 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit:

I recently joined the ranks of the engaged, the ranks of which I thought I would never join. I never wanted a wedding or a marriage or a husband...but funny enough, things changed when my boyfriend/soulmate/love-of-my-life/father to our cat with whom I have lived for 3 years surprised me with a ring and a question. So here I am, trolling the Internet trying to navigate this whole wedding thing. The best post I've ever read online about weddings is one from
So, first of all, congratulations to my good friends who got married last weekend. Congratulations, “mazel tov,” good luck. It was great and I hope you guys are happy forever. That said, I couldn’t help but look around at your wedding and think, “Wow. I don’t want any of this.” But don’t think that your wedding specifically turned me off to weddings. No, we are all now in our late twenties and wedding invitations appear in the mail with almost the same frequency that delivery guys slip take-out menus under my door. And now, having attended and been in a few weddings, I can’t help but think “I don’t want any of it.” I don’t want a country club or a church. I don’t want a hotel ballroom or a big white tent. I don’t want a priest or a rabbi. I don’t want 200 people there who I don’t even know. I don’t want numbered tables. I don’t want to put all of my random “single” friends at one table in the corner of the room, making them feel even more alienated than they already are at a stereotypically “coupled” event. I don’t want bridesmaid drama. I don’t want all of my bridesmaids wearing the same ugly color and the same ugly dress and hating their shoes so much that they curse me behind my back. I don’t think I even want bridesmaids. I don’t want anyone to sign a guestbook where they have to come up with some spontaneous wisdom about love and happiness. I don’t want cute little party favors with the bride’s and groom’s names scripted in gold, proclaiming “our special day.” I don’t want people to figure out their seating arrangements by picking up their party favors, which are also wrapped in pink chiffon. I don’t want a big white dress. I don’t want to have to ask friends and cousins whom I see maybe once a year if their 5-year-old son/daughter whom I don’t even really like can be my ring bearer/flower girl. I don’t want guys in blue shirts and khaki pants measuring each others’ dicks with the phrase, “So, what do you do?” I don’t want bored out of their mind cater waiters and bartenders, who hate weddings in a way that even I will never understand. I don’t want “cocktail hour” and passed hors d’oeuvres and most people only caring about getting buzzed before the open bar ends. I don't want to mail out then sort through 300 invitations to find out who wants steak and who wants salmon. I don’t want to be registered at Crate&Barrel. I don’t want my friends finding that all the cheaper items on my registry are gone and that, like, five of them have to go in on a set of overpriced knives. I don’t think I want a registry at all. I don’t want to have to kiss all of my mother’s friends on the cheek, or, even worse, all of my future mother-in-law’s friends. I don’t want a color “scheme.” I don’t want a creepy DJ or a weird band that does a cover of YMCA. And I don’t want the place turning the lights up at 10:30 telling us it’s time to leave. But I do want cake.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Craft Classes

Photo courtesy of Oh Happy Day!

Jordan of Oh Happy Day! just took a paper flower-making class. Swoon!

I need to sign up for more craft classes. Luckily, we have lots of options in Houston, like Sew Crafty in my neighborhood, as well as Leisure Learning.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Q & A: Dealing with Rude People

Reader Question: We are only spending $4,000 on our wedding and much of it will be DIY. I got an interesting comment the other day: "Maybe you should cancel all of your plans and wait a little bit longer so that you can spend more money on your wedding."

Did you ever get any of this? How did you deal with it?

Usually I am not an advocate of rude responses to rude questions. But seriously? Cancel your wedding until you can save more money to spend on it? I would just say, "We've chosen to make our wedding meaningful and memorable with sincerity and heart, not money. Too bad you won't be there to experience it."

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Q & A: Renting Out an Entire B&B for a Wedding

Reader Question: I can't figure out how you paid for the venue, was it paid for by the guests/not part of the $200? ie they paid for their own rooms and therefore you got to use the common spaces? Did you pay for the whole place at the time of the reservation, and then the guests paid you for their rooms? Thanks for your candor.

Great question! Our venue situation was at the heart of how we were able to pull off a $2,000 wedding, so I would love to talk about it more.

Basically, in the early stages of planning, I figured that if we rented out an entire place, we might be able to use their facilities (e.g., gathering rooms, kitchen, etc.) for free. This was true at some places and not others.

We decided to go with a Bed & Breakfast that would let us do this.

When Matt and I sent out a Save-the-Date e-mail, we included a link to an online survey that asked guests the likelihood that they would be able to attend, as well as their preferences for sleeping accommodations. We learned that Matt's family wanted to stay at a fancier place, my family was fine staying anywhere, and most of our friends wanted to stay with us on site.

The cost to rent the entire B&B was $750/night (keep in mind it's a family-run place with simple accommodations--nothing fancy). The place holds 40 people total. We decided to charge $35 for a bed in one of the cabins and $25 for a bunk bed in one of the group rooms.

We decided on those numbers because they seemed very inexpensive for a night of lodging. But at the same time, it gave us extra money in case a) we didn't fill up all 40 slots and b) someone didn't pay.

We paid the deposit and then the full cost for the two nights. We asked one of my good friends, Amy, to be the Paymaster. We gave her a binder with a complete list of who owed what. Then, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, she collected money from everyone. She said she loved the job because it gave her an excuse to meet everyone.

Because we did end up filling every bed, we used the extra money to pay the innkeepers to help out at the reception. We made the food in advance, but we hired them to heat it up, set it out, refill it, and clean up. We also used the extra money to pay for people's rooms if they had really arduous jobs (like picking up and returning the kegs).

In the end, every single person paid (even though two people mailed checks after the wedding), and we had $160 left that went into our general wedding budget.

The system took a lot of work on the front end (e.g., assigning groups of friends to share cabins, communicating with people about where they were staying, etc.), but it was very smooth in the execution.

Definitely let me know if you have more questions!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Injecting Humor into a Wedding

I love when couples start with who they are and make a wedding from there.

I just received an invite in the mail that included the following response card:

__ Gladly attend
__ Regretfully decline
__ Regretfully attend
__ Enthusiastically decline
__ Will decline to respond but ultimately attend
__ Think you are just trying to wrest a gift out of me
__ Other__________________________

Matt and I shared a good laugh. Hoss just looked at us and wondered what was so funny.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A $5 Wedding Dress (Seriously!)

This bride-to-be scored this fantastic dress at a second-hand shop that sells clothes by the pound. You can read the full story here. (Thanks for sharing, Vilija!)

I love that it's eco- and budget-friendly. Wow! Double wow.

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Q & A: Wedding Tradition of "Giving Away" the Bride

Reader Question: I have a topic that I would love to get your insight on. My dad has asked if he could walk me down the aisle and give me away. For starters, my fiancĂ© and I weren’t planning to have an aisle and secondly and more importantly, I find the tradition of “giving someone away” archaic. However, my dad would really like to have a part in the wedding. Any thoughts on how we could incorporate my father (and possibly mother, father-in-law, and mother-in-law) into the beginning of our ceremony? We are not religious. Also, we don’t think he’d like to give a long speech. Any thoughts?

Sometimes I get questions and I immediately want to punt them to our brilliant readers. This question is really hard!

I actually think the best way to solve this problem is to sit down with your family and chat about it. I think you should share your vision for your wedding (e.g., no aisle and no archaic traditions), as well as your desire to honor and involve them in some way. Then you can break out the chart paper, tape it to the wall, and record everyone's ideas. There's nothing like a good old fashioned brainstorm to get people involved and let their voices be heard! Seriously, this kind of collaboration generates some great ideas.

If you want a few ideas to bring to the discussion with your family, here's what I've got:
  1. In our own ceremony, I said, "We would like to thank our families who have nurtured our independence..." and Matt finished the sentence with, "and put up with our quirkiness." We then walked into the audience and hugged our moms and dads (you could also give them a flower or some other token of appreciation). Then Matt said, "We would also like to thank each other's families for welcoming us so kindly..." and I finished the sentence with, "and for putting up with our quirkiness." We again walked into the audience, this time hugging our in-laws. You can read the whole ceremony here.
  2. If you change your mind about the aisle idea, you could have both parents walk you down, and your fiance could have his/her parents walk him/her down.
  3. You could invite them to do a reading or play some other integral role in the ceremony (like bringing forth the rings if you choose to do a ring exchange).
Hmm...I think my brainstorm is quickly becoming a light sprinkle....it's time to open it up to other ideas!

I will say, however, that I love the idea of creating our ceremonies and our weddings on our own terms. We don't have to follow the same script that we have all seen played out in weddings so many times (although we can if we want to!). That's the whole point. We can choose to adhere to traditions, we can modify them, we can throw them out, or we can create new ones. And we can do a combination of all four things!

I will also say that sometimes it makes sense to compromise and do something you might not want to do, in order to honor a family member. You have to be careful going down this path because it can snowball and your wedding can quickly become someone else's, but compromise can be good.

Insightful and smart readers, what are your ideas?

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tacky? Nope. Just us.

I love this comment from Mary Lorraine on this post. I had to give it the attention it deserves:
We're having an $8/person burger buffet at our partially-covered outdoor reception on a public golf course. I'm totally excited about it! Burgers are delicious! We'll have 2 or 3 vegetarians invited and will likely have some veggie burgers or something of the sort set aside for them. If anyone feels it's tacky, that's their right, but I'm personally deleting that word from my vocabulary for our wedding. I'm looking forward to displaying my tattoo, feeding each other wedding pecan pie, and carrying a wheat bouquet I'll make months in advance for about $8. Tacky? Nope. Just us.
I especially love that last line: "Tacky? Nope. Just us."

That's exactly what we should strive for (in my opinion) when planning our weddings: Just us. And we should surround ourselves with guests who get that and appreciate it.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Changing Your Habits Rather Than Dieting

My weight is a very accurate reflection of my food intake. When I eat Amy's ice-cream three nights a week (plus black bean nachos at the Hobbit and creamy jalapeno sauce from Chuy's and vegetable korma from Madras Pavilion and salsa verde deep dish from Star Pizza), I gain weight.

And why would I eat like that?
  1. It tastes really good (like, really, really good).
  2. I am an emotional eater. I eat when I'm stressed or bored or generally seeking to feed some psychological hunger.
January, February, and March have proven to be rather stressful months. And, as a result, my clothes are getting tighter, my runs are getting jigglier, and my chin is doubling. I personally feel unhealthy.

But I am not a big fan of diets. Maybe it's because my mom tries diet after diet to deal with her obesity. She sets up really restrictive parameters for herself, does a good job of reigning herself in for a week or so, and then starts to stray.

Instead, I believe in lifestyle changes. I believe we should lose weight gradually by changing our habits, so we have a better chance of keeping off the weight. Losing weight isn't a goal you can work toward, achieve, and be done with. You have to maintain that weight loss on a daily basis.

And I definitely need to change my habits. Don't get me wrong; I'm not being completely self-deprecating. I have plenty of healthy habits (e.g., like drinking primarily water, avoiding heavily processed foods, and generally staying away from fast food, unless I am on a road trip and I am lured in by Burger King's veggie burger).

But I have fallen prey to some bad habits these past few months: eating out too frequently (and eating too much), eating Amy's ice-cream more than once a week, and not exercising consistently.

I've read that one should eat healthily about 85% of the time. If I eat three meals a day, seven days a week, for a total of 21 meals, then three of those meals don't have to be healthy (that's about 14%). Technically, I could eat black bean nachos, quesadillas, and vegetable korma and still be okay as long as I eat well for every other meal (which means no unhealthy leftovers for lunch!). I also need to limit my ice-cream intake to once per week. Plus, I need to commit to consistent exercise.

Of course it's easier said than done. It takes more time and thought for me to be healthy, but it's worth it.

Here's what's on the docket this week:
  1. Sushi (avocado + cucumber + carrot). It is surprisingly easy to make. I just follow the tutorials on the internet (although I don't even use a bamboo mat).
  2. Homemade black bean nachos with homemade quacamole and salsa (inspired by Sara's recipe over at Transitory Enchanted Moment). We had these a couple weeks ago and they were divine.
  3. Pizza (with ready-made dough from the pizza counter at Whole Foods).
  4. Falafel + hummus (the falafel recipe is from the Student's Vegetarian Cookbook and the hummus recipe is from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food)
Breakfast = vanilla yogurt + banana + ice blended into a smoothie (with homemade yogurt in the crock pot from this recipe). I'm excited!

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

DIY: Wedding Shrug Inspiration

From Etsy!

Holly makes it look so easy. It's like watching Olympic gymnastics...

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Planning an Extended Wedding Weekend

I recently came across some photos that my friend, Brent, took the day after Matt and I got married.

Because nearly all of our guests were from out of town, most of them packed up and took off after our communal breakfast (provided by the B&B) on Sunday morning. However, Brent and Amy had a later flight. After breakfast, we rummaged through the leftover reception food and packed a lunch for ourselves.

While Matt spent some time with his family, Brent, Amy, and I headed to the Rocky Mountain National Forest for a hike. It was lovely. We hiked and talked and laughed and picnicked and just breathed in the mountain air. We also took silly pictures of ourselves.

This picture brings back so many memories from our wedding weekend in July. We intentionally planned an extended wedding weekend so we could spend as much time as possible with our family and friends. On Wednesday we hiked with my family and spent Wednesday night with Matt's mom.

On Thursday, I went horseback riding with my family, while Matt went to Estes Park with his mom. That afternoon, we lunched with my family and then went our separate ways to spend time with our friends who arrived early. I played board games with my friends, while Matt went romping through the woods with his.

On Friday we ate a leisurely breakfast with our friends and then started our preparations for the Friday Welcome Picnic. Most everyone arrived by Friday night and we played games, had a swing dancing lesson, talked, tossed a football, soaked in the hot tub, cooked S'mores, and more.

On Saturday, we ate a communal breakfast, rehearsed our dance for the reception, ate lunch with close family, cooked our reception food, got married, and then spent the evening in myriad ways again, this time with the addition of raucous dancing on the patio.

It was exactly how Matt and I like to spend our time. It's true that a wedding can be whatever you want it to be. There are no set rules (except the few paperwork rules that the state mandates). The possibilities are as endless as the Colorado mountains.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Bridesmaid Days

It's fun to get Facebook messages that say, "You've been tagged in a photo!"

Maybe it's just my friends, but the photos always seem to be from events that happened many months ago, so it's a chance to reminisce.

My friend, Camella, just tagged me in this photo of all her bridesmaids. For her April wedding in Houston last year, she asked us to buy white dresses and send them to Lorna Leedy of Fancy Pony Land fame to do a little applique. I asked Camella if she would be okay if I did my own applique, since I was trying to save money for our own wedding and our house.

Camella got married at The Orange Show. She had a woman from a permaculture center do all her flowers, so most of them were in pots. After the wedding, they planted everything in their front and backyards.

You'll have to excuse my very cheesy expression in response to the photographer's very cheesy request!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

DIY: Making Your Own Tie

Reader Question: I think I remember you saying you made your husband's tie for the ceremony. Can you tell me how you did this? I would LOVE to make the ties for my honey and the other guys in the ceremony, but I am a beginner sewer who needs some instruction. Did you follow a pattern? Also, I read you made napkins from sheets! Was this just a project that you came up with yourself or were you following a pattern or instructions somehow? Anything to help jump from "I want to do this" to "I can do this"?

I love that DIYing and crafting and sewing are becoming increasingly popular. I think the move toward the mechanized outsourcing of our products has hurt us in so many ways. Oh, I better not digress on that tirade right now!

But I will say: Good for you! Yes! You can sew! Google will be your friend.

I had never made a tie before I decided to make one for the wedding. I thought it would be more meaningful and memorable (I used the same fabric that I made my dress sash from--fabric that I bought while traveling through India right after I met Matt). I also knew it would be less expensive and more eco-friendly. What a great combination!

You can read about my experience here: http://2000dollarwedding.com/2008/04/quasi-real-tie.html

In the meantime, I will say that I recently made another tie for my friend's birthday present. He collects ties, and he's been wanting a Teach For America tie for a long time. To my knowledge, such things do not exist, so I decided to make one for him out of an old canvas bag with the TFA logo on it.

It was even easier the second time around. I just used a seam ripper to carefully pull apart one of Matt's old ties. I ironed the old tie until the fabric was as flat as possible. I then laid the fabric on top of my new fabric, pinned it down, and cut it out. I then worked on the ends of the tie (following the pattern of the old tie). Finally, I folded the new fabric around the old wool from the previous tie, pinned it, and started sewing it by hand. The trick is to pay attention to how the old tie was constructed as you pull it apart.

As far as napkins go, I had to make 80 of them for the wedding, so I didn't actually sew them (although I originally planned to). Instead, I just cut them out using pinking shears to prevent them from fraying.

For my recent Retro Prom birthday party, I did sew 15 of them. It felt like it took forever! I used the directions that I mention in this post.

In general, I find that crafting is 80% confidence/determination and 20% researching skills. There are so many wonderful tutorials and directions out there. Have fun with it!

Send your questions to saracotner@yahoo.com

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Contest Winner

Oh! So cool! The Mighty Random Number Generator actually picked #1. Congratulations, Sarah H.! You will soon be the proud new owner of a limited edition fat quarter from the good folks over at Sew Bettie.

Please e-mail me so I can put you in touch with Cara.

Thank you to everyone else who entered! I'll let you know about our next contest soon.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Momzilla Rears Her Ugly Head

I don't mean to be the Debbie Downer of wedding planning blogs. It's just that I'm compelled to share sad stories with you in case they resonate and give you insight about how to make your own life choices.

Before Matt and I even got engaged, we witnessed many of our friends struggling with their families over wedding decisions.

For example, one of our friend's mothers is extremely loving and supportive. She was immensely helpful in the planning process (both financially and logistically), but she also pushed her daughter to do a few things her way--like hire a religious officiant. Originally, my friend asked me to be the officiant (since she and her partner are not religious). But her religious mom wasn't having any of that. They ended up compromising on a "spiritual" officiant. It worked out in the end (it was a huge relief that I didn't have the stress of running the whole ceremony!) but it did feel a little out of place to bow our heads frequently throughout the ceremony, even though the couple wasn't the bowing type.

Another one of our friends ended up hating the wedding planning process and dreading her own wedding because of her mom's involvement. She would show up at our house with red, puffy eyes and we would know that she had had another fight with her mom. In the weeks leading up to her wedding, she confessed, "I just want the wedding to be over so we can go on the honeymoon."

Matt and I love our families. We really do. My mom is the kind of person who says, "Oh, you want to take a year off and travel to India, an intentional community, and Folk Art School? Go for it. You should do it."

Matt's mom is the kind of person who started buying me birthday presents when Matt and I were dating. Amazing ones! Matt's dad is on the other end of e-mail whenever we have a question about refinancing or getting a loan. They always insist on paying for our dinner (because that's what their parents did).

We are lucky. We really are.

But we still wanted to retain financial control over our wedding (despite generous offers from Matt's parents). We definitely wanted to turn to our families for input and advice (which we did frequently throughout the process), but ultimately, we wanted the wedding to truly represent us. Our parents already had their chance to plan a wedding that represents them.

It's not that we thought anything awful would happen; we just didn't want to take any chances. As an American studies major in college, I learned all about the ways in which money equals power.

Of course there are tons of examples of people accepting financial support from their families and truly enjoying the process. Meg over at A Practical Wedding is one of them. A friend of mine who is busy planning her October wedding is another example.

As with any decision, it's something that couples have to decide for themselves. There's not just one way to have a wedding. We all have to figure out what makes sense of us, given our values and our situations.

It's a decision, however, that shouldn't be made lightly. Just as the most sane and rational person can take on moments of bridezilla-ness (for me it was about photo stamps), sane and rationale parents (usually mothers) can morph into momzillas.

See this cautionary tale from a 2000dollar kindred spirit:
My fiance asked me to marry him last May...Before I knew it my mother had a choke hold on my wedding day.

It started out with her lovely and seemingly innocent offer to help pay for 1/3 of the wedding. My father and my fiance's father would be taking the other 2/3. It seemed innocent enough but then after a few months passed she began using sentences like: "Well, I'm paying for___ and so it needs to be a certain way!", "What do you mean you want to make your own bouquet!? No! I'm not having that!"

There were a lot of statements about how I needed to sacrifice certain things for her or for the greater good of my guests and before I knew it, my colors were changed, my favor ideas were being shot down, I couldn't have certain guests at the reception, I wasn't allowed to have the cake flavor (carrot) that I wanted, and she even tried to change my date!

Currently, I still have the date I wanted and luckily the dress I picked out and the invitations and favors. Everything else? Well, she's choosen it or manipulated me into picking it.

I wish I would have found your blog sooner because maybe I wouldn't be in this situation. I don't want to paint my mother out to be some horrible woman but honestly, I feel like this day is more about her than my finance and I. I am grateful that my parents and my fiance's father are paying for all the expenses because we are young, 22, and going to grad school this summer. We couldn't afford a wedding like the one they are giving us but even then I think I would have still been happy with a small ceremony in the backyard with 30 or so people. Instead I'm having a ceremony with 60+ people in a church (I always dreamed of an outside wedding) and my reception with 60 guests in a lake house. Where did my dreams go? The one where I had cake and champange? I dunno.

The more and more things are being finalized for this May wedding, the more I wish I could start over.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Contest: Last Chance to Win

Don't forget to swing by this post to sign up to win a limited fat quarter of fabric. Mark and Cara are just so cool and crafty. I'll even go out on a limb and say I bet their fabric is imbued with good karma. Please enter by Thursday, March 19 at 11:59 EST (or are we in EDT now?) by heading over to this post. Also, for this contest, US addresses only, pretty please.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's Time to Honor Love

Image courtesy of the Courage Campaign

I am someone who thinks about weddings nearly every day of my life, and I believe in the fundamental right of all humans to choose love for themselves.

That's what weddings are really about, right?

Choosing and proclaiming love.

That's why it pisses me off when we let the tyranny of the majority decide that the State is only going to honor and recognize the love of some individuals (i.e., people who are biologically attracted to people of the opposite sex) but not other individuals (i.e., people who are biologically attracted to people of the same sex).

It's discrimination, plainly and simply. It's fundamentally wrong for those who have power to deny the basic, fundamental rights of equality and justice for all people.

If you're interested in letting your voice be heard in the fight to honor love, consider signing this letter to the President from the Courage Campaign:

Dear President Barack Obama,

Your historic election to the presidency shows that any barrier to equality in America can be overcome. We were especially pleased that you demonstrated a clear commitment to ending discrimination by speaking out in support of "extending (full) equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples under both state and federal law."

Unfortunately, your predecessors did not share this commitment, as they discriminated against gay and lesbian federal employees by denying them the same benefits that partners and spouses of their heterosexual colleagues receive. Now, you have an opportunity to provide a fresh start and make good on your campaign commitment to equality.

We, the undersigned, call upon you to allow the federal government to provide the same health benefits to same-sex spouses and partners of federal employees that other federal employee spouses receive. We promise to support you in this effort, especially in the likely event that right-wing opponents attack you for implementing equal rights for all federal employees.


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Wedding Photography: Getting Your Guests' Photos

The other day I had an interview for a possible educational consulting gig, and we got to talking about my side projects, including 2000 Dollar Wedding. I mentioned the Wedding Industrial Complex and how Matt and I set an arbitrarily low budget in an attempt to steer clear of the WIC entirely (and to save money for a down payment on a house and to retain all of the decision-making control and to help us stay focused on the non-material aspects of a wedding, etc.).

He immediately recognized the idea of the Wedding Industrial Complex from his own stint as a groom. He said he and his wife originally tried to go their own way and enact their own vision, but in the end, the whole thing got taken over by forces bigger than themselves. He commented that the professional photography was the biggest waste of money in his mind because his friends and family captured pictures that were way better than the photographer's.

Even for people who are choosing professional photography, I think it's still helpful to put systems in place for capturing the photos taken by friends and family.

Matt and I set up a Pro Flickr account for $25 and asked our friends to upload their photos to a centralized account. We included the information on our wedding website to give them the heads-up before the wedding, and then we sent out an e-mail message after the wedding reminding them of the username and password. This system worked pretty well for us, and we ended up with more than 2,000 photos from our friends and family (which was plenty!).

Intimate Weddings has an article about setting up a photo downloading station, so guests upload their photos from their SD cards to a centralized computer before they leave. It's very helpful!

Friends of mine who are getting married in April purchased a Polaroid PoGo printer, so their guests can connect their cell phones or their digital cameras and immediately print a sticker picture. They are using this for their guest book.

Any other ideas out there?

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Monday, March 16, 2009

When Planning a Wedding Is Really, Really Hard

I love getting e-mails from 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits. Sometimes people apologize for sending random messages, but honestly, there is no need to apologize! I love dwelling in possibility--as Emily Dickinson said--and opening my inbox to see messages from new people always makes me smile.

I wanted to share a recent e-mail with all of you because you may be facing a similar struggle. I know I can certainly relate to the sentiment she expresses. Here's what she had to say:
I am spending a lot of money on my wedding.....and it makes me want to vomit every time I think about it. I truly wish I wasn't so easily influenced by what is expected of me. Many times I want to fire my florist, diy my own flowers, cancel the over-priced venue and book a spot in the park and have a potluck and say screw it to the DJ, the etiquette..I am so fearful that either way I will have regrets. I will regret not having all the lovelies and regret the whispers behind my back that will say, "Oh, poor them, they must be so broke they had to make their own flowers and have a bbq." I am 32 and still easily influenced by EVERYONE. I raise my glass to you for being quite the individual and having the balls to show it!!
It continues to break my heart every time I hear about people who are going through heart- and gut-wrenching wedding planning processes. Planning a wedding can be so, so difficult.

A wedding is at the intersection of so many different influences. Family dynamics can be hard. Sometimes families have struggles with control or parents have their own regrets that they want to rectify through their children's choices or parents have their own insecurities and want to use their child's wedding to represent themselves well.

And then we have friends whom we want to value, love, and appreciate us. Sometimes their ideas about what a wedding should be conflict with our own and we feel the tension.

And then there's the Wedding Industrial Complex--the alliance of vendors, magazines, and other cultural entities--who are out to make as much money as they can and therefore capitalize on the emotional tumult of many brides-to-be. They tell us that we need to buy x, y, and z (and then a, b, and c) in order to ensure that our once-in-a-lifetime day is perfect.

And then there's the stress of planning such an important event, while still trying to maintain our responsibilities in Real Life. One partner may be more excited about planning, which creates disequilibrium in the relationship. Additionally, the stress of a seemingly endless to-do list can lead one to stop making time for other things that help ward off stress: date nights, exercise, cleaning up around the house, _____ (insert your own strategies for coping with stress...).

So, dear Reader, my heart goes out to you. I leave you with these quotes, which I just came across in one of my old journals:

"There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot."--Plato

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."--Plato

"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries of life disappear and life stands explained."--Mark Twain

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

DIY: Make Your Own Butter

Oh wow. The newest item on my to-do list: Make butter. Plus I still need to make my own yogurt using the crock pot.

I just need to find me some motivation first. It's been a rough week. I just haven't wanted to do any of my work. Blah.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Letter to the President: Liberty and Justice for All

Dear President Obama,

So many of us wept tears of joy and relief when you took office, ending an eight-year Reign of Madness that did more harm to the world than good.

You are Our Change, Our Hope.

Your journey has been a long one. You stand on the shoulders of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. and innumerable other courageous Americans who have fought to help our nation fulfill its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Now it is your turn to help our nation fulfill its promise. You have the chance to bestow equal rights on all Americans, regardless of their differences. Right now, you have the opportunity to ensure that the government provides health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Please do not stand on the backs of gay people. You know what it's like to experience discrimination and hatred for being different from the dominant group. Do not be part of the pattern of people attaining power and then using it to keep others down.

Be our hope. Be the change. Be the president who truly brings liberty and justice for all to the United States of America.

We're counting on you.

With respect,

Sara Cotner
Houston, TX

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Friday, March 13, 2009

When The Knot Makes You Feel Insecure About Your Wedding

My Real Wedding from The Knot and The Nest.

I still get e-mail messages from The Knot, and they continue to crack me up.

The most recent message was: "Think you had the best wedding of 2008?"

First of all, there is no such thing. A wedding is not a horse running around a track trying to beat other horses. A wedding is not a scantily clad beauty queen competing for a first-place sash.

I decided to do a little investigation to see what this is all about (I'm procrastinating, really, from two PowerPoints and two handouts I need to create for a college course at the end of the month). The site lets you upload seven pictures from your wedding, enter a brief description of each photo, and then categorize each picture as one of the following details (in this order):
  1. Stationery
  2. Flowers
  3. Cakes
  4. Fashion
  5. Bridal Party
  6. Ceremony
  7. Reception
  8. Family
Seriously? Stationery is at the top? With flowers as a close second?

I decided to upload our wedding as a counter-example to the dominant narrative that tells us weddings are primarily about pretty flowers, big cakes, and invitations.

As I started uploading my pictures, however, I started to feel insecure. We didn't have gorgeous stationery or flowers or a traditional wedding cake. What if The Knot's readers only gave our wedding one or two stars?

It's the same insecurity I felt when Matt and I were planning our wedding. Blog after blog would highlight professional photographs focused on the aesthetic details of beautiful weddings. My immediate reaction was jealousy. I would then have to remind myself that we were choosing not to spend time/energy/money on those things. We decided to spend our time/energy/money on creating the best possible wedding for us, not the best possible wedding for The Knot.

And that's what everyone should aim for: The Best Possible Wedding for You. That may mean beautiful stationery, pretty flowers, and a big cake. Or not. It's up to us. We should use our own visions and our own goals to drive our decisions, not visions and goals bestowed upon us by the Wedding Industrial Complex.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Contest: Enter to Win Limited Edition Fabric

I have a soft spot in my heart for crafty couples with dogs.

Cara, Mark, and Bettie (the dog) of Sew Bettie are definitely in that soft spot. From their website:
Sew Bettie was born in Chicago in the summer of 2007 when Mark and Cara adopted Miss Bettie Lou Sweet Waters. Bettie is a very special dog. As chief executive officer, Bettie’s cuteness inspires all of Mark and Cara’s urban whimsy designs.

Mark is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a practicing oil painter and multi-faceted designer. You can see his paintings here. Cara went to Swarthmore College where she studied history. She also studied fine arts at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy. Now she is a medical student at Northwestern University. Mark does all of the graphic design and Cara does all of the sewing and pattern construction.

Mark, Cara, and Bettie hope that the Sew Bettie collection of sewing patterns, crafty kits, and limited edition fabric inspires the crafty soul in you. We are constantly designing new fabrics and update our website at least once a month, so please come visit again!

Enter to win a limited edition fat quarter from their website! Here are a couple of the many fabrics they offer:

And couple of the things you can make from a fat quarter:

Check out other ideas at Sew, Mama, Sew!

Leave your first name and last initial in the comments (along with other ideas you have for what to create with a fat quarter). For this contest, US addresses only, pretty please.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Disturbing Wedding Advice #8

From a 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit:

I am also sick of ridiculous proclamations by the WIC. For example, just today I received an e-mail from the Knot with the top "worst" pieces of wedding advice. One of the pieces of advice that was considered "worst" was only spending $9 per person for food. The Knot informed me that wedding catering should be 40% of my budget and that "skimping" on food is tacky. Personally, I'm having Mexican food catered from a local restaurant. It is going to cost about $10 per person. It is perfect for our wedding because all of my friends and family know how much my fiance (especially) and I love Mexican food. Also, our guests just aren't stuffy people that want fancy food. Who is The Knot to tell me that I can't have delicious, inexpensive food at my wedding that all of my guests will love?!
Hear, hear, Emily!

Planning meaningful and memorable (not to mention fabulous!) weddings does not require us to lose our sanity and our savings. It's too stressful to feel pressured by the Wedding Industrial Complex to spend more money in order to have the wedding of our dreams. We can have the weddings of our dreams, on our own terms.

Mexican food from a local restaurant sounds amazing!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tip #12: Ideas for Building Successful Relationships

Don't get angry about the small stuff. And realize most of it is small stuff.

In general, Matt wakes up earlier than I do each morning.

This morning, I heard him in the kitchen, putting away the dishes (how sweet is that?). Even though we try to divide our chores evenly, we still occasionally do the other person's chores for them.

Then I heard a dainty dish break. And I thought, "Oh no. It's our china! We've only had my grandmother's china for a month and we've already broken a dish! She had that for more than 40 years and she only broke one obscure piece!" We used our china for the Retro Prom on Saturday night, as well as the Time Bank orientation on Sunday, so it was all over our kitchen.

And then I remembered a story I read during tutoring yesterday (on Mondays and Wednesdays I tutor three 5th graders in reading for an hour): Martina the Beautiful Cockroach.

When Martina is 21 days old, it is time for her to marry. Her grandmother pulls her aside and teaches her how to use the "coffee test" to discern whether or not someone is a worthwhile suitor.

When a suitor arrives, Martina offers him coffee. As she serves it, she intentionally spills it on his shoes to test his temper. The angrier he reacts, the more ill-suited he is to be a good husband.

I won't spoil the good ending for you!

As I lay in bed, I forced myself to acknowledge that china is china. It's just a dish. I reminded myself that Matt didn't break it on purpose. He was actually being incredibly generous with his time by doing one of my chores! I reminded myself that at least we were actually using our china. It's better to use it and accidentally break it than to leave it in the cupboard perfectly preserved.

I reminded myself that a broken dish (even an heirloom) is insignificant in the grand scheme of the world's problems. I resolved not to get angry.

(In the end of this story, I learn that he didn't actually break any of the dishes. I also learn that I can hypothetically control my temper by not getting bothered by the small stuff.)

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Contest Winner

Marian S. of White Dress Mania!

Congratulations, Marian! (Please e-mail me your address so I can forward it to Kumi.)

And thank you to everyone else for entering. I'm sorry you didn't win. At least Kumi's stuff is genuinely affordable (like this brooch below for $15).

And thank you to Kumi! She was a wonderful person to coordinate a contest with.

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Disturbing Wedding Advice #7

Dear David's Bridal,

For a large number of people, planning a wedding is not easy. Of course there is excitement and eager anticipation, but there is also a lot of anxiety.

Some of us are anxious about how to plan ideal weddings that fit within our budgets. Some of us worry that even though we have modest budgets we're still spending too much on one-day celebrations. Some of us have anxiety about how to reconcile the kind of wedding we want with the kind of wedding our partners want with the kind of wedding our parents want with the kind of wedding our partners' parents want with the kind of wedding magazines tell us we ought to have with the kind of wedding blogs show us we should have. Some of us worry whether our guests will enjoy themselves. Some of us worry about hurting other peoples' feelings (What do we tell our friends who aren't in the wedding party? What do we tell colleagues and second cousins who aren't invited to the wedding?). Some of us wonder why our partners aren't into the planning process as much as we are. Some of us wonder why it is that we find ourselves thinking about our weddings ALL THE DAMN TIME even though we are perfectly rationale beings with many, many passions beyond the scope of our weddings.

As you can see, the wedding planning community has enough pressure as it is. David's Bridal, we do not need to hear subtle statements from you that serve to increase our anxiety, such as this statement from a recent press release: "Amidst troubling economic times, a wedding is still the most important day in a couple's life."

Yes, a wedding is a great day in a couple's life. It is meaningful and memorable.

But it is not--by any stretch of the corporate imagination--the Be-All-End-All of our lives. A wedding
is a wonderful opportunity to proclaim and celebrate our love and commitment, but it commemorates an official beginning, not an end. We have many opportunities ahead of us for "important" days in our lives as a couple.

Yes, we can put time/energy/money into creating the kinds of weddings we want, but we need to remember that this isn't our one chance to have our most important day.

Stepping down from my soap box,


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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Contest: Last Chance to Win

Photos courtesy of Kumi

Remember to enter your name to win one of Kumi's lovely, eco-friendly, budget-minded handmade flowers! Contest ends tomorrow at 11:59pm EST.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Final Stages of Party Planning

I've been in a very blah mood the past couple days and have had trouble mustering the energy or motivation to finish planning my Retro Prom birthday party. But since the party is tomorrow, I haven't had much choice but to go ahead and get shit done.

Here's a list of what I've been able to force myself to accomplish:
  1. Decided on the appetizers: spinach & artichoke dip in a bread bowl, homemade guacamole, and chocolate fondue with pineapple, bananas, strawberries, and pretzels (yes, I realize fondue is a dessert and I'm talking about appetizers but does it really matter?).
  2. Decided on the cocktail: I'm setting up vodka, three different juices (pineapple, cranberry, and orange), and limes, and posting four different drink recipes that can be made from the aforementioned ingredients.
  3. Sewed napkins: Matt and I use cloth napkins for dinner every night, but we don't have enough for 16 guests. I went ahead and used one of my vintage sheets (Option #2) to make 15 new napkins. It was a pain, but I'm glad I did it. We'll be able to use them for future dinner parties, as well.
  4. Decided on decorations: I couldn't resist the Martha Stewart poof balls. They're cheap and easy and they scream "Party time!"
  5. Rented a Party Bus and then canceled it: Seriously, I rented a 15-passenger van for $122 but quickly realized that it wasn't worth that much money for an 8-mile ride. Still, it would've been fun and more ecologically friendly for everyone to carpool together.
  6. Dealt with the awfulness that is my new crinoline: My new crinoline is broken china waiting to happen. Seriously, it's so poofy I can't walk anywhere without knocking something over. I've cut an entire layer off, which definitely helps.
Sorry to sound like such a party pooper. I really am looking forward to the actual event, and I've enjoyed the vast majority of the planning process so far. I've just got other stuff that needs my attention, like the Houston Heights Time Bank (by the way, if you know anyone who lives in the Heights neighborhood in Houston, please direct them to http://heightstimebank.org).

Cross your fingers that my birthday party is a good time!

Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

DIY: Candle Holders

Photo courtesy C(oi)n:purse

C(oi)n:purse had an amazingly eco-friendly, budget-minded, handcrafted idea for making tealight centerpieces out of thread (yes, thread!). I love that this project involves cardboard and plastic straight out of the recycling bin! The directions are so clear and easy to follow!

And while we're on the topic of reducing, reusing, and recycling, here are some tips for reducing your garbage production from Green by Design:
  1. Bulk Stores rule! No wrapping, no packaging, no frills – just about anything you may need sits in large bins, ready to scoop. From pasta to peanut butter (self-ground) and anything in between. Just go easy on those chocolate chips.
  2. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag). Bring a cool-looking tote to take your groceries away in, and forgo those plastic carrier bags that stay around for the next few millennia.
  3. Recycle. Most cities and towns have a recycling program in place for paper, glass, tin, even kitchen waste. Garages will take your old car batteries and tires. Many hardware stores will take your old paint, batteries and old CFLs.
  4. Compost your kitchen scraps. Your flower beds will be happy
  5. Lug Your Mug for take-out coffee; many places will even give you a discount for it.
  6. Avoid take-out food. I know, that can be a challenge on a Friday night. But all those plastic and foam take-out boxes produce a big stream of toxic garbage.
  7. Eat home-cooked meals. Okay, another potential mine field here, but let’s face it: all those plastic and aluminum trays that those frozen dinners and prepackaged meals come in don’t really compensate for their overload of sodium, saturated fats and missing vitamins.
  8. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. Evian and Perrier are no longer cool.
  9. Repair, don’t throw out. Need I say more?
  10. Buy durable. Sure, it may be a little bit more to get the better quality product, but it will last much longer and always pays for itself in the long run.
When buying things from bulk bins, you can avoid using those plastic bags by bringing your own tupperware. Customer service will weigh them for you before you fill them and the cashiers will subtract that weight from the total weight before charging you.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Q & A: Staying Grounded While Wedding Planning

Reader Question: Here's my issue: No matter how much I change my mind, switch things up, re-budget the plan, it all still ends up costing a fortune!!! (Fortune for me being around 7k, which I know is still about HALF of what a lot of budget brides spend.)

I just find that there's always someone who says you CAN'T do it like that or you HAVE to do it this way. I'm tired of saying I don't have to do anything any way you want and &^%%#&&%$#!!!! I'm literally starting to scare myself with how worked up this wedding has gotten me. And I'm the kind of person who can throw a dinner party in two days.

I want it to be great, wonderful, everything I've ever imagined. But I cannot justify spending all my hard earned--and my parents'--money on one damn day. How did you manage to always keep yourself grounded? How did you decide what factors were most important, and most of all, where did you get so many thrifty ideas?

Wow! There is a lot going on in your message! I'll try to make sure I respond to the different components.

It all still ends up costing a fortune: Yeah, planning a big event is tricky. Anyone who plans events for a living knows that things add up. It's always bothered me, though, when we end up paying more to host a wedding than we do other big events. Weddings are important in that they commemorate a lifetime commitment. But why does that mean they have to cost more money? Why is money the default way to make something meaningful and memorable?

I wonder if you can revisit your budget and cut out things entirely. There may be things in your budget that are there because other people think they should be or because you think that other people think they should be or because you've just always thought that's what a wedding included. I can't predict what those things might be for you, since each of us has different priorities.

For example, my friend, Camella, cut out ceremony programs entirely. Another friend, Maia, said she wished she would have cut out programs (which would have saved her about $400) because, in the end, she didn't think they contributed much to the experience.

Matt and I didn't want to cut out programs, but we were comfortable cutting out other things: professional photography (which we assigned to three different friends and asked everyone else to upload their photos to flickr), flowers (a friend of mine made a bouquet for me from wild flowers since I really wanted something to hold during the ceremony since I always feel awkward during public speaking), centerpieces, cake toppers, new jewelry/shoes, professional hair/makeup stylist, Save the Dates (we sent an e-mail or called), a single big fancy cake, a day-of coordinator, and a DJ.

Cutting out all of these things was necessary for Matt and me because we had such a stringent budget. For the most part, we didn't mind making the cuts because--for us--none of those things was connected to making the event meaningful or memorable.

Because every couple has different budgets and priorities, the decision to cut out or cut back will look different. I'm wondering, however, if you might be able to take yet another look at your budget through the lens of what you can cut out or cut back.

There's always someone who says you CAN'T do it like that or you HAVE to do it this way. Yes, unfortunately. And to those people I say, "Go plan your own wedding" or "You already had your chance to plan a wedding." I didn't actually say it that way, but that was definitely my attitude. In frustrates me when everyone and their mothers think that planning your wedding is a team sport that's open to everyone. You and your fiance decide whose input matters. It's your wedding, and your family and friends should respect your desire to craft a wedding that represents you and your fiance, not them.

How did you manage to always keep yourself grounded? I didn't--just for the record--always keep myself grounded. Matt and I had a lot of stressful things going on in our life during our wedding planning process (buying a home, moving a thousand miles to a new city, finding new jobs, getting a dog) and it was tough. We got into plenty of disagreements. I would also find myself staring longingly at other people's wedding porn and wishing we had more money for centerpieces or photo stamps or vintage salt-and-paper shaker caketoppers. I just had to put mechanisms in place for helping me re-ground myself as necessary (namely shutting my damn computer and reminding myself that we could have the wedding of our dreams for a mere $2,000 and that regardless of what happened we would be happily married in the end and that even if our self-catering experiment completely flopped we would at least have time to authentically connect with all of our friends and family). You can find a few other ideas for nurturing your relationship while wedding planning here.

How did you decide what factors were most important? From the beginning, we knew that we wanted our wedding to feel more like a family/friends reunion than a traditional wedding. We wanted it to focus on community, connection, commitment, and fun. Every time we had to make a budget decision, we would ask ourselves whether the particular item in question would honestly make the wedding more focused on community, connection, commitment, or fun.

Where did you get so many thrifty ideas? The internet! There are so many wonderful, crafty, ingenious people out there sharing their ideas. Reading other peoples' ideas inspired me to modify them and generate my own ideas.

I wish you the best during your wedding planning process! The planning period is much longer than the actual wedding (in most cases), so I think we should try to enjoy it as much as possible!

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

DIY: Wedding Quilt

When it gets extra cold in Houston (I know, I know: terms like "cold" are completely relative), I pull out our wedding quilt for an extra layer on our bed.

I love running my fingers over the fabric scraps that our friends and family mailed to us before our wedding (we asked for them on our wedding website and via e-mail). It includes pieces from: The Gates installation in Central Park, the set of Trading Spaces, my grandfather's Chief robe that was given to him when he worked in Africa, a t-shirt that was worn by my baby cousins and my brother twenty years ago, a tie our good friend wore his first year of teaching--just to name a few.

I love the symbolism of the weaving together of our friends and family to provide comfort and nurturing for a lifetime.

It reminds me of the Quilt Wrapping we did during our ceremony. Wrapped in the quilt, Matt and I signed our marriage into being.

It also reminds me of the many hours and days we spent making the squares together. And I loved checking the mail every day!

We had never made a quilt before, but we just decided to go for it. The quilts of Gee's Bend were a huge inspiration. They gave us permission to break free from all the stuffy rules and precision of traditional quilting.

Here's what we did:
  1. Decided how big to make the quilt (this was easy since we were actually making a duvet cover for a twin-sized down comforter we had at our house).
  2. Cut squares from muslin.
  3. To make each square, we started by sewing a small square to the center of the muslin. The color of the thread did not matter since it would be covered in the end.
  4. Next, we cut another piece that was the same length as the square in the center. We placed right side to right side and sewed across the edge (again to the muslin). Then we unfolded the fabric and ironed it flat.
  5. Then we cut a piece that was the length of the first piece and the second piece put together. Again, we placed right side to right side and sewed across the edge. Again we unfolded the fabric and ironed it flat.
  6. We continued until the entire square was full. We never used rulers to measure anything. We would just line it up and cut.
  7. We then sewed strips of denim to the squares to make the quilt top.
  8. To finish the project, we sewed a thrift store sheet to the back and added some buttons to close it at the bottom. Voila! In all, we only spent $8 (we bought the denim and muslin on sale).

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Contest: Enter to Win a Handmade Flower Pin

Photo courtesy of Kumi

I have a confession to make: Up until a week ago, I had never bought anything from Etsy.

Don't get me wrong; I love Etsy! I browse through Etsy quite a bit. But I'm on a tight budget. Matt and I try to limit our fun spending to $70 each per month. So I usually browse Etsy and then get inspired to make my own stuff (or at least attempt it).

But when I stumbled upon Kumi's corsages, I bought one right away. They are made from vintage kimonos (sometimes those that she has inherited from her family). She says:
I am committed to reducing the amount of waste in general and I am very careful when I produce my work. I am a strong believer of "art for everyone" hence the reasonable prices and the promotion of "handmade/crafted" products.
For a mere $13, there's no way I could have produced such loveliness myself. The best part: Kumi is giving away one of her stunning creations to a 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit.

All you have to do is leave your first name and last initial in the comments section by Monday, March 9 by 11:59 EST. If your name is randomly selected, I'll follow-up to find out your mailing address and your corsage preference.

Enter away! (and check out her Etsy shop)

OPTION #1: Orange Flower

OPTION #2: Purple Flower

OPTION #3: Green Flower

OPTION #4, #5, and #6: Pale Pink, Pale Yellow, and Pale Blue Flowers

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Small, Spontaneous Gifts

I think one of the reasons I have a hard time getting revved up about Valentine's Day is that I prefer to do smaller, spontaneous things for people throughout the year. Of course those things aren't mutually exclusive; you could certainly do both! I just find it easier to do things on my own schedule.

Example #1: A stack of chocolate bars from Whole Foods to thank a friend for his hospitality (I was at a charter school conference in Austin earlier in the week and stayed at his house). I used a real leaf for the tag. I simply used a hole punch to create a whole in the string, and I used a Sharpie to write directly on it. I tried to write: "Thanks for your hospitality!" but I kind of ran out of room and it ended up looking like "Thanks for your hospital." Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?

Example #2: Ice-cream from Jason's Deli for Matt. I've been eating a lot of crap lately (even fast food, which I abhor!). I decided to get a healthy Spinach Veggie Wrap with fruit for dinner and then got a cup of their free ice-cream and decided to save it for Matt (which took a lot of will power because I love the milky ice cream they serve--it reminds me of college!).

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