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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ringing in the New Year and Staying Grounded

Our living Christmas tree

As Matt and I celebrate the holidays by starting new traditions and traveling to see family, I'm re-reminded of all the reasons I wanted to tie my heart to Matt's at our wedding two years ago. This quote from Kelly Rae Roberts resonates with me: "i deeply believe that our hearts marry the hearts of people (friends, husbands, etc) who are meant to heal and nurture us in ways that nobody else can."

Sadly, planning a wedding can somehow manage to pull our attention away from the most important reasons for having that wedding in the first place. While Matt and I cherish our time with family and focus inward so we can set our intentions for the new year, I wanted to leave you with some posts to peruse. I'll be back at the start of the new year to continue the dialogue about how to have a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing our savings or sanity!

Here's to a healthy and happy holiday season and a rejuvenating new year!


REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 2. Register today!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Judged If You Do; Judged If You Don't

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but much of the stress that rears its ugly head during wedding planning also emerges during other pivotal life moments, like having a baby.

I think it has to do with transitions and rites of passages. Committing your life to another person is a big, huge deal. Giving birth to another person is also a big, huge deal. Whenever the stakes are high, emotions tend to run high, too. And these major life events are immensely personal. It's so hard for the people around us to not project their own feelings and experiences onto our transitions.

The kind of stress I'm experiencing now as we head into parenthood has to do with being judged for following our own path (our wedding was good practice for this!). But the ironic part is that we also get judged for not following our own path. For example, when I share over on my personal blog that I'm reading lots of parenting books, I get judged for not following my instincts and for turning to the experts.

Then when I share that we're going to very non-mainstream route of using a Montessori floor bed (to cultivate independence and exploration) instead of a crib, I get judged for not following what others consider to be the safest options for children.

And the exact same thing can happen during wedding planning. If you opt for a tea-length dress, you run the risk of causing a heart-attack among at least one of your family members. On the other hand, if you opt for a traditional veil, you run the risk of being judged by someone in the indie community who thinks you're too conventional and oppressed.

You can't seem to win either way!

The answers are definitely not black and white. If you follow the old adage that you can't please everyone so you might as well please yourself, you run the risk of alienating family members and breaking down connections at a time when you're trying to strengthen them.

On the other hand, if you let other people's values, tastes, and preferences overshadow your own, you run the risk of creating a wedding that feels like it belongs to someone else. You can end up feeling like an actor in someone else's show.

I think the best we can do is seek balance. Easier said than done! How exactly do you balance out your own needs with the needs of others?

Well, I think it starts with introspection and self-awareness. Are we will to compromise on something that's actually really important to us just because we want to avoid conflict or make someone else happy? Are we doing what someone else thinks is best just because we are seeking value, love, and affirmation (which we all crave and deserve!). On the other hand, are we being too stubborn and unwilling to compromise just out of principle?

At the end of the day, we each have to be our own judges. We have to shift the deciding factor from an external place to an internal one. We can certainly seek input from others, but, ultimately, we are the ones who have to live with and be comfortable with our own decisions.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Registration Is Now Open!

I'm very excited to announce that registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy online course, which begins January 2 and runs through February 4. This course will be the last one before our baby arrives (crazy!).

I'm particularly excited about this January course because it's the start of a new year (a new decade, for that matter!), which, for me, always represents a fresh start, an ideal time for introspection, and a renewed opportunity for self-growth.

As I get closer and closer to my due date, I feel even more thankful for the time I spent preparing my mind, body, and life for pregnancy. Although there is so much that is out of our control when it comes to conception, pregnancy, birth (and parenthood, for that matter!), there's a lot we can do to lay a solid foundation and create a nurturing and welcoming environment. Transitioning into parenthood is a big, huge life event that is worthy of intention, thought, and preparation. The average couple spends months and months preparing for a wedding. It makes sense to spend an equal amount of time (or longer!) preparing for children.

Here's some of the positive feedback the past two course have received:

  • "To be honest, I was hesitant at first to spend the money on a class about preparing for conception (rather than saving it towards actually having a baby!). However, both my husband and I have benefited SO much from this; it's been worth EVERY penny and more. Truly. It's been fantastic and I'm so glad I 'splurged.'"
  • "This was an excellent course and a lot of thought, research, hard work, and love went into it - that is obvious. It was comforting to find a community of others who are really taking the time to plan for conception and parenthood, because I don't find that among my local community. Great job, Sara. Really and truly. This course was a big help to me and I will definitely recommend it to others!"
  • "Thanks to all the reflection, guided discussions, and useful advice from this course, [my] worry/fear has pretty much disappeared. My partner and I have figured out what 'ready' means to us, and it's not as hard as we thought it would be to get there. We have a short to-do list with achievable goals. I'm happy to be where I am right now in my life."
  • "I was very ambivalent about having a child before taking this course. I now know that my husband and I are more prepared than I thought we were to have a child. For the areas in which we need some work, I now have concrete action steps to complete...It's wonderful to actually be excited about this next step instead of fearful or unsure."
  • "I have a long way to go, but I want to work on myself before having a baby. This course has helped me identify concrete areas that need work."

The Nitty, Gritty Details

  • An online course and community focused on preparing our minds, bodies, and lives for pregnancy
  • January 2-February 4
  • $99 USD

Here's the more detailed version:

Are you thinking about getting pregnant or are you already actively trying? Welcome to Purposeful Conception! This course is for all of us.

The idea is simple: bringing a baby into the world is both an overwhelming joy and a life-changing commitment. When we approach conception with intention and purpose, we create a welcoming and prepared space for children in our lives.

This online course will help us position our minds, bodies, and lives for pregnancy. Over the course of five weeks, a new lesson will be uploaded each weekday. The lessons will address a whole host 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.

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, so Register Now! The total cost is $99 USD. Happy Conceiving!


Please consider spreading the word by sharing this post via the buttons at the bottom of the post or by reposting the information on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thank you so, so much!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

2000 Dollar Wedding in 2011

When I sent out an S.O.S. for guest posters to help me keep 2000 Dollar Wedding saturated with new content when I go on maternity leave in February and you all responded in droves, I realized that I need to do more to feature your voices and your stories. After all, you're amazing! And you're in the thick of it.

Even though my wedding is said and done and I'm pursuing other passions, this site is still alive and kicking because weddings matter. How we formally start our married lives can establish patterns that influence how the future of our family unfolds. It's big, important, profound stuff. Cheesy, but true.

This site is about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity. Easier said than done!

In that vein, I'm looking for a kindred spirit who loves to scour the internet for eco-friendly, budget-minded, hand-crafted wedding ideas and would like to compile a list to share with all of us each week. I'm thinking 6-10 links would be a good amount each week.

Here are the kinds of links I'm looking for:
  • Interesting DIY projects
  • Eco-friendly wedding ideas
  • Money-saving strategies (used for weddings or elsewhere)
  • Articles about strengthening your relationship
  • Affordable, wedding-related items for sale (from Etsy, etc.)

If you already spend a good chunk of time perusing these sorts of things on the internet, please consider stepping forward and volunteering to compile them for us each week over here at 2000 Dollar Wedding!

Sadly, I can't offer you any monetary compensation (I don't make any money off this blog except some pocket change from Amazon referrals), but imagine the goodwill you will be sharing with the world! This gig would probably also generate lots of traffic back to your own blog if you have one.

If you're interested, please send me an e-mail with a sample of your work (i.e., 6-10 links of interesting things you found around the web this week with a very brief description).

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Happy internetting,


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Q & A: How to Create an Online Wedding RSVP

Reader Question: I know you had a friend create an html code for the RSVP form on your wedding website - would you know where I might find a preset html code for such a site? Or if anyone responded to you with helpful hints on that front? We're trying to do the same and would love some advice.

In fact, we're getting ready to do the same thing for our baby shower! We're going to send out postcard invitations and include a link for an online RSVP. Let me take a second to go get that process started, so I can write step-by-step directions...

Okay, here's how I created an online RSVP form:
  1. Log into Google Docs (or create an account)
  2. In the upper left-hand corner, click on "Create New"-->Form
  3. From there, the process is pretty self-explanatory. First, you create a title and add a description, if you like.
  4. Then, you add each question. You have multiple formats to choose from, including drop-down menus, short text responses, longer paragraph responses, matrices, etc. You can easily rearrange the order of any of the questions by dragging the question to the desired spot.
  5. When you're done, you can click on "More actions"-->Embed to copy the HTML code.
  6. Finally, you paste the code into your website. For my baby shower RSVP, I had to edit the size of the frame. I simply decreased the default width until it fit nicely within my page.
  7. The amazing thing about Google docs forms is that they automatically generate an Excel spreadsheet to track the responses. You can click on "See responses"-->Spreadsheet or "See responses"-->Summary for different views of the information.

I hope that helps! I promise I am not secretly sponsored by Google. I just find their free products so helpful.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blog Worthy Weddings, Nurseries, and First Birthday Parties

I've been spending a lot of time browsing the blog ohdeedoh for inspiration about how to create our baby's nursery. Although I love the creativity, I am slightly disconcerted about the trend toward "blog-worthy" weddings, nurseries, and children's birthday parties.

Whenever we feel pressured to create something and then take pictures of it that are cute enough or creative enough to be posted on a popular blog, we run the risk of losing sight of what really matters. If we spend too much time making the perfect bunting or the perfect party hats, we inevitably take time away from other, potentially more important tasks.

I'm not suggesting that spending any time on pretty details is useless. I have been known to spend hours making Happy Birthday bunting or a holiday countdown calendar (and then I post pictures on my blog!). I just think it's important for us to make informed decisions about why we're spending times on certain details. Do they bring us intrinsic joy or do they simply bring us external affirmation from strangers on the internet?

It's a question worth taking the time to ask!

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Splitting Up the Holidays as a Married Couple

Reader Question: I'm curious - how do you negotiate holiday/family time between you and Matt? I hope that isn't too personal to ask! I'm just wondering - if I chose to spend thanksgiving at home instead of with his family (or if he chose to spend it at home instead of with my family), I think there would be a lot of hurt feelings! I'd love to hear about how you navigate what can be a sticky situation!

Ah, yes, the difficulties that can come from merging your life with another person!

Matt and I live in Texas, while his family lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and mine lives in Tampa, Florida. We've had to negotiate a family visitation plan that meets both of our [often conflicting] needs.

There are a lot of questions to consider when coming up with a family holiday plan that works for both of you.
  • How do you make time to build relationships with each others' families?
  • How do you balance time between extended families and the new little seedling of a family that you are growing with your partner?
  • How do you honor a partner's potential desire to spend holidays with friends and not just family?
  • How do you honor a partner's potential desire to spend time traveling to new places rather than just visiting family?
  • How do you honor a partner's potential desire to visit family frequently throughout the year?

For Matt and me, the answers usually involve lots of conversation and compromise.

I am the partner who loves my family and talks with them on the phone weekly but would rather spend my vacation time traveling with friends to new and exotic locations. Whenever spring break, summer vacation, or Thanksgiving rolls around, I like to hop in the car or jump on a plane and explore somewhere new.

Matt is the partner who wants to spend as much time as possible visiting his family in Indiana.

How do we balance both of our needs? Well, for Christmas, we visit BOTH our families and my best friend. Yes, it's a whirlwind of a trip, and it can be exhausting, but we make it work. Matt's vacation starts at 5:00pm on December 23. We jump in the car (with our dog in tow) and drive halfway to Florida. The next day, we drive the rest of the way and arrive at my family's house in time for Christmas Eve. We spend three nights with my family and then hop on a plane (leaving Hoss with his grandparents and uncles) to spend three nights with Matt's family. When we return to Florida, we drive two hours to spend two nights with my best friend for New Year's.

Since Christmas is the one time of the year that I always visit my family, the Thanksgiving-at-one-family and Christmas-at-the-other-family option doesn't work for us. Additionally, Matt couldn't bear to not see his family at Christmas AND Thanksgiving. Since Christmas and Thanksgiving are so close to each other, he understands that it doesn't make sense to expect me to go with him to Indiana for Thanksgiving. He goes alone, while I spend Thanksgiving doing something interesting with my best friend (although sometimes I multi-task and drag my best friend up to Indiana with me!).

As for the rest of the year, Matt is free to travel to Indiana on weekends whenever he wants to. He usually goes about four times a year (in addition to holidays). I sometimes go with him, if it's for a special event (wedding, funeral, family party, etc.). When his family visits us in Houston, I always spend quality time with them.

I can usually get Matt to travel somewhere new with me for spring break and our two-week summer vacation.

However, all of this has to get constantly renegotiated, depending on new circumstances that arise. Once we have a baby in February, for example, we might have to make adjustments to our plans, depending on what feels right.

Like with all major issues in relationships, finding solutions requires honest conversation, mutual respect, understanding, and compromise. It's never easy, but trying to work through these issues in a healthy way is definitely worth the trouble!

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Collecting & Developing Ideas: Shooting Range Wedding

I received an e-mail from a kindred spirit who is planning a wedding in San Diego. She and her partner are trying to work within a $2,500 budget. Here's what she says about the search for a venue:

We had settled on one place that required little decorating but was $1200 PLUS they required the beverages be professionally catered.

Then the idea came from my fiancee's parents (retired San Diego Police Department) to have the reception at the hall at the shooting range. Yes, the shooting range. The place is at the right price (free), plus we would have no time restrictions, and we can bring our own alcohol. Now I want to make the best of it and come up with creative ideas for decorating the place and incorporate a little bit of the shooting range theme in to it.

And she would like our help coming up with ideas! I'm psyched to help out; this wedding sounds like it will be so meaningful, memorable, and downright fun!

I know from personal experience that trying to find a wedding venue in a popular city can be a NIGHTMARE. There are typically Wedding Industrial Complex predators everywhere, waiting to get signed contracts from their most recent prey. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic because clearly not every wedding venue is evil, but so often the word "wedding" means that everything has to be more expensive. Once a venue starts requiring that you use their alcohol or their catering services, the costs can skyrocket.

And the truth is, there are very few MUSTS associated with planning a wedding. Aside from marrying someone you want to be with for the rest of your life, there really are no rules. You don't have to wear white if you don't want to (or even a dress, for that matter). You don't have to dance. You don't have to wear a garter. You don't have to have flowers (unless, of course, you want to!).

Although you may get a strange look (or two or three) when you try to explain any unconventional choices that you and your partner make for your wedding, going your own way can be absolutely worth it. You can craft an experience that feels more authentic and more fun.

So, without further ado, let me try to brainstorm some ideas for the shooting range theme:
  • First, I think the invitations and wedsite (if you have those things) are an excellent way to introduce the theme early. I think a clever phrase and a cute picture could work together perfectly. Something like, "We're aiming for a lifetime of love and happiness. Please join us as we celebrate our marriage." Or "We're gunning to get married. Please join in the fun!" You could weave shooting references throughout the invitation and wedsite with phrases like, "You only get one shot; we hope you're able to join us for this special day!" I also think it would be fun to play with the theme in the attire section of your wedsite by saying something like, "Bullet-proof vests not required."
  • In terms of decoration, targets come to mind. You could make target place mats for centerpieces by gluing together concentric circles on a circular base of cardstock. Perhaps you could make paper bunting of circular targets and string it all around the room.

Those are my ideas for now, but hopefully more people will take a shot (cheesy pun, intended) at coming up with additional ideas in the comments!

Please share your ideas!

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday Gift Idea: Framed Love Letter

While browsing my favorite antique shop, I came across a yellow frame that really appealed to me. I snatched it up for a couple of bucks and then started thinking about what to do with it. When I realized that the frame is 8.5 x 11, I decided that it would be really sweet to frame letters to our baby.

I've already been writing letters about once a month throughout my pregnancy, and it's something I would like to continue throughout his childhood (kind of like a free-form baby book). I realized I could frame the most current letter in the yellow frame. Whenever I write him a new one, I can take out the old one, add it to his living, growing scrapbook, and then frame the most recent letter. Voila!

Then I realized that this idea could also be applied to your beloved partners. What a nice holiday gift! A framed love letter with the promise of more love letters to come throughout the years....

Ooh, this could also be incorporated into a wedding ceremony. You could read each other framed loved letters and then promise to continue to write new ones throughout your marriage.

Just an idea!

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Postcard from Our Wedding

Matt's dear grandfather recently passed away of cancer, and I was looking through all 2,000 of the photographs our friends and family uploaded from our wedding in an attempt to find the perfect picture to print out for Matt's dad.

While I was sifting through everything (you can read more about how we got so many photos here), I found this photo from our Welcome Picnic. Our Welcome Picnic was such a fun event. As people started to arrive on Friday night (most of our guests were traveling from out of town), they joined us for an evening of sandwiches (we did a make-your-own-sandwich bar), watermelon, chips, pickles, board games, a swing dancing lesson, hot-tubbing, volleyball/Frisbee/football, and just hanging out to chat. It was such a casual way to ease ourselves into our wedding weekend. It also gave us more time to mingle and chat with all of our nearest and dearest.

In this photo, my two cousins and my brother were sitting on the couch together. I randomly decided to lay across their laps, and then Matt came along and added to the pile. So fun!

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Contest Winner

A huge congratulations go out to Catie Ea.! Please e-mail me to claim your prize, Catie.

She won a free spot in the Conscious Weddings E-Course. I've been a big fan of Sheryl's work for a long time, and I was so excited to hear about her new course mentioned at APW. Just a couple weeks ago, I was talking about wedding books at a brunch, and one of the women said that Sheryl's book was the one book that truly helped her stay grounded throughout the wedding planning process.

As a consolation prize, Sheryl is offering a $75 discount to the first 15 people who enroll in the course today. Just enter the code thanks2010 in the coupon box at checkout. Thanks, Sheryl!

Congratulations, , and Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Budgets Help Keep Costs Down

When Matt and I were planning our wedding, we were really strapped for cash. We were trying to save up for a 20% down payment on a new house, I was getting ready to leave my current job and transition into independent educational consulting, and we were about to incur moving costs to trek from Denver to Houston. Plus, we didn't want our wedding to grow bigger than our relationship. We wanted to stay focused on what really mattered and not get carried away in a tidal wave of unnecessary details. We knew that a $2,000 budget would force us to stay away from the Wedding Industrial Complex completely.

That's why we set a really strict budget for ourselves. We managed to come in $38 under budget. More importantly, our budget forced us to prioritize only the most important things. We couldn't get everything we wanted (sorry, photo stamps). Our strict budget also forced us to get creative (hello, plain $15 dress from Target that we can embroider with our life story).

Two and a half years later, as we outfit a nursery for our upcoming baby, I'm realizing that we should have set a budget for ourselves, just like we did for our wedding. Without a budget, I find it so easy to spend a little here and a little there, without realizing how it all adds up, especially since our planning is stretched out over several months. When I want a cute new tape dispenser from Etsy for my desk (which is going to be in the baby's room for a while), I buy it. When I see the perfect mirror to hang above the baby's Montessori floor bed, I buy it (even though it's $80). I justify it by telling myself that it was 20% off! If I were working within a budget, I could easily get more creative by scouring thrift stores for frames and adding Plexiglass. Not only would that alternative be more economical, it would also be better for the environment.

I think it's time to reign myself back in. I might just need to whip out the receipt for the mirror and take a little trip back to World Market...

P.S. Don't forget to enter to win the Conscious Weddings E-Course! Today is the last day to enter.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Conscious Weddings E-Course

I'm delighted to announce today's contest! I've been a huge fan of Sheryl's work for several years. While so many of the wedding planning books out there focus on all the stuff, her book, The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings About Getting Hitched, focuses on the emotional aspects of transitioning from one life stage to another.

And now she has an e-course!
Tired of feeling anxious about getting married? Wishing that you could feel close to your partner again? The Conscious Weddings E-Course is the anti-anxiety medication for your soul. Give yourself this gift today! It’s an instant download of comfort, inspiration, and practical tools for managing your anxiety and realizing your clarity and love.
And here's a list of everything that's included in the course:
  • 11 exclusive videos totaling over 2 hours of information
  • 4 exclusive one hour podcasts from women who were anxiously engaged and are now happily married and 1 podcast from a man married 29 years
  • Three email sessions with two different clients
  • Hundreds of pages of posts from the Conscious Weddings Message Board Archives (which many happily married women credit is the single most influential reason why they didn’t run)
  • 18 articles (9 exclusive articles)
  • Checklists to help you identify the areas of this transition that are most affecting you
  • Notecards for the anxiously engaged with positive, truthful statements that you can print and cut out to keep handy in your bag or pocket
  • Exercises from The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner
  • A Wedding Day Meditation MP3 to help prepare you for your wedding day

And you could enroll for free by winning this contest!

To enter:
  1. Leave your first name and the first two letters of your last name in the comments section.
  2. Enter by Monday, November 29 at 11:59pm EST.
  3. The winner will be announced Tuesday morning!
  4. Only one entry per person, please.

Happy Entering!

I'll be back after Thanksgiving...

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oil Cloth Basket Liners

Image Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Leave it to the folks who work with Martha Stewart to come up with cute and crafty ideas!

I love these baskets lined with oil cloth. Oil cloth is so easy to clean, and it's super-easy to work with because you can cut it into the shape you need and it won't fray. No sewing required!

I had to share this tutorial, in case any of you are inspired to put it to wedding use!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Staying Grounded (Over and Over Again)

As I try to do everything in my power to prepare for the birth of our first child, I worry that my tendency toward Type-A planning will actually hinder my ability to let go and be in the moment when it comes time to deliver.

When Matt and I were interviewing doulas, I asked one of them, "How do I open myself to the process of birth and live in the moment?"

She said, "It's a decision that you make over and over again. With each contraction, you have to decide to open yourself to it."

Her response was such a relief! The idea of deciding to be open to each moment over and over again really resonated with me.

I think the same advice can be applied to weddings. Throughout the process, you have to decide over and over again to stay grounded. It's not something that many of us can simply do at the outset. It's a process that we must work through over and over again. When we face new obstacles or emotional crises, we can re-decide to stay grounded. When we are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless tasks or hurt by something a family member said, we can decide all over again to stay grounded.

And then when the day arrives, we can decide to let go of the stress. We can decide to let the day unfold--mishaps and all--with mindfulness and faith that it will all work out in the end (with full knowledge that any mishaps will make great stories!).

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making Choices That Make Sense for You

Matt and I took a pretty nontraditional route with our wedding rings. First, I didn't want an engagement ring. Even though I got many strange looks when my ringless self audaciously announced that I was engaged, I simply didn't want one. I don't wear much jewlery on a day to day basis, so the thought of wearing two rings after the wedding kind of overwhelmed me.

Secondly, since I didn't really want to wear two rings, I definitely didn't want to spend money on one. We were trying to divert as much money as possible toward a downpayment on our first house.

Third, I personally find it a little odd that women in our society publicly declare their engagements with physical objects but men do not. It's just weird to me in principle (although my feelings about the subject do not lead me to judge other women who do choose to wear engagement rings!).

In addition to our whole engagement ring non-traditionalism, we also took an unconventional route with our actual wedding rings. We asked our friends and family to donate their old gold to an eco-friendly company that would melt it down and craft it into "new" rings. Plus, I opted for a super-small gem (2mm, to be exact) because I didn't want it to get stuck on stuff as I went through my day-to-day business. Further, it was a synthetic, orange sapphire, rather than a diamond.

While we were making these choices for ourselves, I definitely felt insecure. I worried what other people would think about our choices--ranging from our families to our neighbors and colleagues. I worried that I would regret deviating so far from the "normal" path.

Preparing for a major life transition, such as a wedding, can be an emotionally tumultuous time, which can elevate one's anxiety or insecurity. In the end, I'm so glad we made the decisions that felt right to us. That's the best any of us can do!

In fact, to live our authentic lives, that's exactly what we must do.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Once-in-a-Lifetime Delusion

Inspired by the wedding bunting trend that has saturated the internet, I decided to make a "Happy Birthday" banner to hang for the birth of our first child in February.

As I undertook the process of searching for an inspiring idea and selecting the fabric, I realized that I was suffering from a very common wedding planning disorder: The Once-in-a-Lifetime Delusion.

I started to obsess about getting the bunting "just right." I mean, I'm going to hang it for my son's birthday year after year! It has to be perfect! I have to pick the perfect colors! I have to get the dimensions completely perfect!


When we plan our weddings, it can be so easy to bring undue anxiety and stress onto ourselves because we hope that our weddings will be once-in-a-lifetime events (knock on wood). We pressure ourselves to have The Perfect Dress or The Perfect Centerpieces or The Perfect Playlist because it's The Big Day and we only get One Big Day.

Baloney! It's true that our weddings are special, but they aren't our only chance to plan celebrations or bring together a significant number of friends and family or publicly declare our vows for each other or to wear a pretty dress. We can create those opportunities for ourselves over and over again. The more we remember this, the more we can keep our our choices in perspective and keep our stress down!

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Q & A: Finding Inexpensive Wedding Venues

Reader Question: I first want to say that I LOVE your blog. Since first reading it a few weeks ago, it has changed my "I want the most beautiful wedding ever and I want everything The Knot tells me is "in" right now" wedding views and really opted for something practical and that truly represents me and my fiance.

So I wrote
wedding planning vows to myself that I would not covet anything that I could not afford, ask myself questions before making a decision, and to relax and take a break if all of this gets frustrating. I feel that I am doing a good job at steering a way from what the WIC has deemed perfect for weddings and toned a lot of things down to make this process and our wedding simple and about us.

The thing that I am having a problem with is that I live in Philadelphia, a very expensive city, not as much as New York or Los Angeles, but expensive for an adjunct professor and a school psychology intern. Everywhere I turn, the prices are crazy expensive. I have looked at getting married in the park, but Philly charges $500 permits for weddings (for 2 hours) and we still have to rent chairs and port-o-potties (which I am EXTREMELY opposed to!) I have looked at smaller venues that offer beautiful outside spaces or restaurants, but once I say wedding the price gets jacked up.

Are there any suggestions you have for me in your research that could help me find a space that is accommodating and inexpensive? I try not to get stressed out, but I find myself taking breaks from planning about twice a week :) I could really use your help, if you have any at all!

I love the idea of writing wedding planning vows to yourself! What an amazing way to stay grounded!

As for planning a wedding in an expensive city: I feel your pain. We got married near Rocky Mountain National Park, and the town of Estes Park is a major tourist attraction in the summer and in the winter.

To keep costs low, we had to do a couple major things:
  1. Look slightly outside the city: We ended up getting married at a small town outside of Estes Park (called Allenspark). Looking beyond the immediate city limits helped expand our options and helped us significantly reduce our costs. However, the city of Estes Park was still close enough that people could comfortably commute from the city to our wedding. So the people who preferred to spend more money by staying in Estes Park could do so.
  2. Find a place that doesn't typically do weddings: Once a venue starts hosting weddings, it's highly likely that they will get sucked into the vortex of the Wedding Industrial Complex (although there are notable exceptions). Either they've worked with an extremely demanding and difficult couple and have decided that they need to charge more to cover the cost of the stress that can come from helping a couple plan their wedding, or they've realized that it's common practice to jack-up the prices, just because the word wedding is involved. In my opinion, the best option is to find a place that hosts events (which means they are likely to have all the things you need like tables, chairs, etc.) but doesn't typically host weddings. You have to be creative and think outside the box. Also, try thinking about places you already enjoy going to as a couple.
  3. Focus on what's important: The Bed & Breakfast we eventually found wasn't "blog-worthy" in a lot of ways. It looked a lot more like Great Aunt Mary's living room than something you would see featured on the wedding blogs. We had to eat our reception dinner in their parking lot (at least it was under some beautiful trees and it wasn't paved!). My point is, we had to sacrifice some of the more superficial aspects of a "traditional" wedding in order to save money. However, that choice worked out so well for us in the end. The owners of the Bed & Breakfast were so kind and willing to help us out in any way possible.

Your choice of a venue is one of the most important decisions you will make during the wedding planning process. It will determine how formal or casual your event is. (which will affect attire, invitations, the need for decorations, etc.). It can impact your catering and alcohol options. You will likely need to interact with the people at your venue site a lot, so make sure you have a good relationship with them! Definitely choose wisely.

I wish you the very best with your process. Our process was very, very difficult, and I thought we would NEVER find a place. Everything we looked at was too pricey and already booked. It was a nightmare! I shed tears during the stressful process. Even when we found our B&B, I had so many doubts. In the end, however, I wouldn't have done it any differently. Just think about what kind of wedding represents you as a couple (regardless of the kind of wedding you're "supposed to" have), prioritize good relationships with the venue, and remember that there will be a lot of other things to spend your savings on other than a one-day celebration!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Organizing Your Wedding Inspiration

I am in love with the Springpad website!

Last week, I was talking about meal planning on my personal blog, and one of my readers recommended Springpad.

It makes me weak in the knees!

I can find recipes online, add them to my list of recipes, and then create a shopping list, depending on which recipes I want to cook for the week.

But I can also use the site to collect and store ideas. For example, I created a list for "Wrapping Ideas." Every time I see a cleverly wrapped package, I can store a link to it. That way, when I need to wrap a present and am looking for some inspiration, I can simply click through the links in my list.

It seems like it would be a great tool for wedding planning. You could create whatever lists you needed, like rings, attire, decorations, ceremony scripts, etc. and collect everything in separate centralized lists. Hooray for centralized lists!

Yes, it's similar to bookmarking in your internet browser, but in Springpad, you can share your lists with others, and it seems less overwhelming.

And the site is completely free!

Okay, enough with the exclamation marks...(and, by the way, no one is paying me to say this...).

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Establishing a Relationship Vision

Last week during my Purposeful Conception e-course about preparing your mind, body, and life for pregnancy, I worked through an exercise about what I think it means to be a good parent.

The process reminded me that, a long time ago, Matt and I came up with a vision for our relationship. We used to be good about pulling out the vision from time to time and rereading it, but we haven't done it lately. It was really nice to pull it up again and read over our thoughts.

When we first created the vision together, we spent a few minutes of independent reflection going through each category by ourselves and giving our relationship a rating based on how well we thought we were doing according to that particular criterion. When we were finished, we went back to compare our ratings. Any areas of discrepancy provided good fodder for conversation.

Looking over the list again reminds me that we've come a long way in terms of strengthening our relationship, but we still have areas to work on. For example, I recently walked away during one of our fights, which is a major no-no, according to our vision.

I think I need to print this list out and put it in my Life Binder. That way, I'll happen across it more frequently and will keep it closer to the surface of my consciousness.

Our Relationship Vision

We enjoy spending time with each other.

We introduce each other to new ideas.

We create adventures together.

We create together.

We maintain our individual identities.

We lead a lifestyle that is healthy for our bodies and the environment.

Our relationship inspires others to love and live more fully.

We support each other through hard times and we bear each other’s burdens as necessary.

We treat each other the way they want to be treated

We contribute equally (intellectually, emotionally, and physically) to our relationship and the maintenance of our life together.

We touch each other lovingly and frequently

We support each other’s goals and celebrate each other’s successes.

We inspire each other to be better people.

We share all of ourselves with each other.

We speak our minds and resolve issues as soon as possible; we do not walk away.

We solve problems proactively, peacefully and lovingly.

We trust each other without a doubt.

We are reliable.

We are happy to wake up next to each other every day.

We keep our living space clean.

We laugh with each other.

We bring people together.

We are fiscally responsible.

We are socially conscious.

We listen.

We prioritize our life together.

We backwards plan.

We do not assume.

We use a constructive tone in conversation.

We reflect on the extent to which we are living our relationship vision and make adjustments as necessary.

We share.

When decisions affect our life, we will decide together.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Staying Grounded: When It's Time to Close the Computer

Image courtesy of the lovely cakies

Last year, I didn't do anything to festively decorate our home for the holidays or even anything particularly creative to celebrate them. Honestly, with the onslaught and quick succession of Halloween, Matt's birthday, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, I barely did much of anything except pull together a Halloween costume (I was a melting polar ice-cap) and drag my butt to nine holiday parties (or was it 14?).

At the time, I decided that this year I was going to be more prepared. I was going to start everything earlier so I could properly space out my crafting and the demand on my creativity and time. I bookmarked all the cute, crafty holiday ideas I had seen floating around the blogosphere and left it at that.

So when September of this year rolled around, I started working on my Halloween costume. In October, I started working on our holiday decorations. By the end of the month, I had made a fabric bunting banner to hang, a quilted table runner, and an advent calendar. I felt really proud of myself.

And then November rolls around and all the blogs start talking about their crafty responses to the holiday season and their ideas for festivizing, and I start to doubt the choices I've made and the things I've already produced.

Take the leaf garland pictured above, for example. When I saw it, I immediately thought, "I must make that! My bunting looks so dowdy in comparison. Her bunting is much more my style."

And in an instant, the pride I felt around completing my projects early (and thinking they looked pretty good), started to melt away. Instead, I started to feel regret, remorse, and longing for something different and better.

And then my small little sane voice chimed in with: "Sara, you are being CRAZY! Shut your computer this instant."

Oh, how I appreciate that voice! It's the same voice that rescued me countless times during the wedding planning process. It's the voice that realizes there is always something better, different, more creative, more my style, more unique, more interesting--the list goes on and on. It's the voice that appreciates the internet with its countless blogs, tutorials, images, websites, and message boards, but also the voice that acknowledges that the internet can be too much of a good thing. Too many options and too much choice can create a downward spiral of self-doubt and coveting.

It's so counterproductive to spend hours collecting ideas about something, make a decision, implement that decision, and then see new ideas and start doubting your previous decisions (or to start thinking that you have to do more than you originally intended to do, just because another new idea has come up).

When that happens to me, I literally have to rescue myself. I have to throw out a life preserver to the part of myself that is sinking into irrationality, despair, and futility.

I start by closing my computer. And then I usually tell Matt about my silliness. The act of saying it out loud helps me see the full extent of said silliness even more. Then I do something productive like read (a real book) or cuddle with Matt. Finally, I thank my lucky stars that I was able to avert yet another bout of blog-induced insanity (at least for the moment).

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

DIY: Book Wedding Ring Holder

Found via Style Me Pretty, photograph by Tonhya Kae Photography

What a simple and lovely idea for pulling together a DIY wedding ring holder!

For more inspiration about how to incorporate books into your wedding, check out this post about using them as centerpieces...

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Blog Worthy Weddings"

I've been making a concerted effort to make more friends, as I try to bring more connection and a larger support network into my life. One of my newest friends asked me to trek to a new knitting store with her. I've been wanting to make a baby hat with bloodhound ears (to match Hoss, of course), so I was happy to join her.

We inevitably started talking about weddings (not because weddings are a common topic of conversation a couple years after-the-fact, but simply because I was telling her about the things I do for fun, like this blog).

She immediately began sharing the frustration she had with her own wedding planning experience. She confessed that she became obsessed with creating a "blog-worthy" wedding. She even had a specific wedding blog in mind that she wanted to feature all the pretty, pretty details of her wedding.

The process of trying to create a "blog-worthy wedding," however, became tiresome and stressful. She confessed that at several moments throughout the process, she just "wanted the whole thing to be over."

In the end, she was so done with her wedding that she didn't even submit it to the blog!

I think one of the best ways to avoid the spiral into wedding planning exasperation is to set a vision at the very beginning, instead of immediately jumping into the Pool of Wedding Details.

Matt and I wanted a "memorable and meaningful wedding focused on community, connection, and fun." Specifically, these were the goals we established for our wedding during our first planning meeting (over Mexican food):
  1. We want to bring family and friends together to reconnect and form new friendships.
  2. We don’t want the experience to feel overly-orchestrated. It’s a celebration of our love, not a show.
  3. We will fight consumerism by spending only $2,000 max. The Wedding Industrial Complex is conspiring to make us think we have to spend more money. But we want to make the event special with sincerity, not money. Plus, we need to save money for a house, and we certainly don't want to start our life together in debt.
  4. It will be good for the environment and connected to nature.
  5. We want to have real time to spend with guests. We want to be able to spend quality time with our friends and family. We don’t want to follow the traditional pattern of a few wedding “events” where the bride and groom only have time for a “meet and greet”: rehearsal dinner, reception, brunch the following morning. We want more of a family and friends reunion.
  6. We will make all the decisions ourselves so our wedding represents us (hence another reason why we need to pay for it ourselves).
  7. We only want to be surrounded by our closest friends and family.
  8. We want to be relaxed and fully present.

When I started to go C-R-A-Z-Y about how something looked or what color it was, I tried to bring myself back to our vision. It helped me remember that many of the smaller details that drive us mad are actually not as significant as the bigger pieces. By focusing on fewer, but bigger pieces, we can hopefully eliminate some of the stress of the planning process!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Helping Your Helpers Help You

It can take a village to pull off big, life events, and yet, ironically, modern society is becoming more and more nuclear. We're separating off into our smaller and smaller families, living farther away from extended family, and seeking out more virtual community, rather than getting to know our neighbors. (As a side note, if you want to read a great book from my American studies days in college, I highly recommend The Pursuit of Loneliness).

I'm no exception in certain regards. Matt and I live many, many miles from family. We're smack-dab in the middle of Houston, and his family lives in Bloomington, IN, while mine lives in Tampa, FL.

As we prepare for the impending arrival of our first baby in February, however, we're thinking through ways to tap into the generous love and support of our families and friends to help us face the experience with maximized joy, connection, and an ability to keep ourselves grounded in the present moment.

Of course that's exactly what we did for our wedding! We knew that we needed help to pull off a two-day wedding extravaganza in the woods of Colorado. Since we couldn't afford to purchase a lot of extra help and--more importantly--because we wanted our wedding to help build community among our nearest and dearest, we asked for as much help as possible. We delegated more than 30 jobs, which helped us enjoy our DIY wedding more (because we didn't feel responsible for taking care of everything during the Welcome Picnic, ceremony, and reception). It also helped us feel even more connected to our friends and family because we we're making something happen together. Finally, it helped free up our mental space and allowed us to truly immerse ourselves in the experience and enjoy it!

My mom is planning to come take care of Matt, me, Hoss, and the house right after the birth, so that Matt and I can rest, heal, and learn how to take care of the baby. When asking people to help (with the express purpose of trying to take pressure off of yourself and to make your life easier), I've found that it's not enough to just say, "Please help me with _________." While that is enough for those friends and family members who have a lot of vision and initiative, it's often not enough for everybody else. Most people are afraid of doing something wrong because they desperately want to help you in the best way possible. Most people need more specific directions about what it means to "help with ____________."

That's why I'm using the months leading up to the birth to figure out ways to help my mom best support us after the birth. She and I brainstormed a list of everything she might need:
  • a list of vegetarian meals (with recipes) to cook
  • directions to our nearest grocery stores and pharmacies
  • take-out menus from local restaurants
  • descriptions of what goes in our cabinets, so she can help unload the dishwasher
  • directions for running the washing machine (specifically how to use our side-loading machine)
  • routes for walking Hoss
  • Hoss's feeding schedule
  • directions about how to care for the chickens

I keep the list in a centralized place and add to it throughout the week as I come up with more things. I never trust myself to make a comprehensive list the first time through.

Matt and I followed the same process as we figured out what kind of help we needed with our wedding. It took a lot of work during the planning phase to think through all the details and to communicate those details to our helpers (via e-mail and phone), but the upfront investment was totally worth it. During the execution phase of our wedding, our helpers weren't bombarding us with questions about what to do, how to do it, or where to find the supplies they needed. We tried to answer all of those questions for them in advance.

It's not really delegating if you have to hold everyone's hands while they are carrying out their tasks!

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Chime In: How Much Is/Was Your Wedding Budget?

Please share your experience with fellow kindred spirits over here at 2000 Dollar Wedding! You can anonymously share your wedding budget with a simple click in the poll below. Then head over to the comments to explain the process you used to decide what your wedding budget would be.

How Much Is/Was Your Wedding Budget?

Please head over to the comments section to discuss:

How did you decide what your wedding budget would be?

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