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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Have a Crush on This Couple

I loved their Beyonce song, too.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Collecting & Developing Ideas

Photo courtesy of the purl bee

Is the weekend already here? Seriously? And so is the next month? Sheer craziness.

I don't have much planned for the weekend aside from some work that's been piling up. I guess that's what happens when the weeks and months fly by!

For a little weekend inspiration:
  1. Realizing that you can throw a lifetime of parties rather than put all your eggs in the wedding basket is very liberating. You don't have to pick THE invitation or THE dress or THE centerpieces. In that vein, how about an Oscar party with these free invitations and tin foil confetti from Twig & Thistle? Yes, please!
  2. Need ideas for DIY gifts? How about this Japanese embroidery kit from the purl bee? So cute!
Happy Friday!


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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Q & A: Two Weddings

Reader's Question: My fiance and I have many of the same goals that you had for your wedding and don't want to fall prey to the Wedding Industrial Complex. We are also both teachers in urban schools and not exactly making big bucks, so we want to keep the costs down.

That being said, we have decided that we are actually going to have two weddings. While he is not very religious, his family is Indian Muslim and therefore he wants to get married at the family's masjid so that it is official in their culture. His family and friends are in the Chicago area. I am from a Presbyterian family in Philadelphia, and while I don't care to be in a church I would like to be married by my step-grandmother who is a Presbyterian minister, somewhere in the Philly area.

We would like both of our families and close friends to attend both weddings. Is it too much to ask people to give us two of their weekends? Should we think of one wedding as the "primary" wedding? Also, his family is very religious and do not drink, so the wedding in Chicago will have to be dry. We are worried that this will turn some people off and that the Chicago wedding will end up being without many friends. I'm having trouble getting excited about the details of our wedding because these big logistical things are hard for me to wrap my head around. Any advice?

How fun! (and slightly stressful...)

Honestly, I think multiple wedding events (in this case: two weddings) can help solve a host of issues. For example, if people have really controlling families, they can let their family plan a separate reception and stop interfering with the actual wedding.

However, I do think it's pushing it to expect people to attend both weddings. In addition to transportation time and costs, there's also the issue of lodging and meals not associated with the wedding (and, for some people, the cost of two new outfits).

With that said, I wouldn't necessarily consider one wedding to be the "primary" one; I would just look at them as what they are likely to be: different experiences. They are both likely to meaningful and memorable in different ways.

You might consider sending out a single invitation for both events (with additional information on an accompanying website) with a corresponding RSVP form (in paper or electronic form) that let's people indicate whether they can attend one, both, or neither of the events. I think letting guests self-select the event that works well for them (in terms of date/time/location/style) is the best way to ensure that both events are the best they can be.

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what are your two cents?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Postcard #3: Breaking "The Rules"

When I was a Women & Gender Studies minor in college, I learned about a whole host of societal rules that I wanted to break.

That's why I was completely and utterly shocked when I found myself in the midst of wedding planning, trying to follow all sorts of rules as closely as possible.

For example, I was desperately trying to figure out how to follow the "Thou shalt walk down the aisle" rule. Every wedding I had ever been to, ever watched on television, ever seen featured in a magazine, or ever dreamed about involved an aisle. And the formal music was supposed to play while everyone else stood up and I smiled blithely and walked toward my husband-to-be.

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to manifest the vision. We got married outside, by a lake, while our guests were supposed to sit at picnic tables. There was no aisle through the picnic tables. Period.

I fretted about what I was supposed to do. I tried desperately to rent one of the cabins near the ceremony spot so I could hide in there until the big reveal. I thought about hiding behind a car. I thought about making everyone sit sideways on the benches so I could walk between them.

In other words, I spent an inordinate amount of time worried about how to conform to the way-a-wedding-is-supposed-to-be.

When I finally reached a proverbial wall, I realized, "Wait a second. I don't even want to walk down an aisle!"

Light bulb!

Of course lots of people want to walk down the aisle for various reasons, but I truly did not. I didn't want to be the sole center of attention. I didn't want to feel like everyone was attuned to every detail of my hair, dress, makeup. That's just me.

I finally came to my senses and realized, "I don't have to follow anyone else's rules. This is our wedding. Our celebration. Our commitment. We can do it our way (even if people get a little freaked out)."

So, we did the only thing that made sense for us as couple: We pulled up to the ceremony site in my Toyota Scion xA (I was driving) and got out. We walked toward the crowd that had started to gather and simply started talking to people. Easy peasy.

I immediately saw one of my long-time friends who had not been able to arrive in time for the Welcome Picnic the day before. When I saw him, I was ecstatic. That hug felt so good. I also chatted more with my family members, explained my dress to folks who asked, and even engaged in a heartfelt conversation with one of my grandfathers about the importance of the jewelry he had donated to the creation of our rings.

If I had been inside, waiting for everyone to arrive and settle in, I probably would have been a ball of nerves. I would have been dreading that walk down the aisle. Instead, I was just hanging out with my friends, laughing, talking, hugging.

When it was time to start, we pressed play on our iPod, and everyone in the wedding party made their way to the front. When we were there, someone stopped the music and the ceremony started.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not criticizing those of you who are going to walk down the aisle (or have already done so). I imagine there are all sorts of reasons why it's a desirable option. I imagine that it can provide an intense moment of quiet intention. It can be reflective. It can be incredibly meaningful for you and your family members.

It just wasn't what I wanted, and yet I was so concerned with what others thought I ought to have at my wedding that it took me a while to realize it. In fact, I may never have let myself realize it if our venue had had a veritable aisle.

My reason for writing this post is to challenge all of us to examine the rules that subtly govern every aspect of our lives. There are rules about how to talk and dress and show emotion and plan our weddings and raise children and the list keeps going.

Sometimes we choose to embrace the rules (I wanted a white dress, for example) and sometimes we have to intentionally step away from the rules to realize they don't make sense for us. And when we choose to step away, we should feel proud and courageous rather than insecure.

So here's to a proud and courageous life! (Whatever that looks like for you...)

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Couples Counseling

One of the things I regret most about our wedding planning process is the fact that we didn't prioritize or seek out couples' counseling. We have since attended a really helpful one-day class for couples-to-be (we were the only married couple there), which gave us good strategies for dealing with conflict, maintaining the fun in our marriage, and watching out for hidden issues.

But we both want to be even more proactive about building a solid foundation for our relationship. Here are some of the things we're working on:
  1. Equally distributing household responsibilities: Because we both work full-time, we pretty much divide chores evenly. We made a list of everything that has to get done on a weekly basis and split it into two lists. One week someone will clean the kitchen, take out the compost, wipe down all the table surfaces, and clean slobber off our windows. The other person will clean the entire bathroom, shake out the rugs, and vacuum. The next week, we swap tasks. Then we each have our list of weekly chores that remain constant. I empty the dishwasher, do the laundry, coordinate our finances, and run Hoss four times a week. Matt does the yard work, runs Hoss two times a week, checks on the chickens daily, and cleans out the coop once a week. Once a month, someone will wipe off the baseboards, dust the office and bedroom, and wipe out the fridge. The other person will wash the rugs, dust the living and dining room, and sweep the front porch. The next month we switch. This kind of system works really well for us because neither of us gets resentful or bitter about the fact that the other person is doing more.
  2. Fighting in constructive rather than destructive ways: Matt and I fight about a variety of things, but we use different strategies to attempt to turn our fights into problem-solving conversations rather than assaults. If we're both tired, for example, we try to stop the fight and say, "Let's come back to this when we're not so emotional." We will also occasionally repeat back what the other person is saying to ensure that we are really listening and understanding.
  3. Agreeing on an approach to money: Matt and I combined our finances a few months before we got married. Then we sat down together and created a monthly savings plan. We asked ourselves: How much can we set aside each month for: a mortgage? a baby? retirement? a car? home repairs? eating out? groceries? vacation? Then we set up automatic transfers each month, so our savings accumulate without much thought. We try to keep ourselves on a very specific budget for expenses related to joint entertainment, eating out, groceries, and dog care. We also give ourselves $70 each every month to spend however we want. Of course we still get in disagreements occasionally about what should be considered a joint expense versus an individual expense (mainly because I'm stingy and Matt is generous), but our system works pretty well for us.
  4. Making time for each other. With my penchant for taking on more projects than I can handle and Matt's addiction to running, it can be hard to find time for each other sometimes. We try to be home to cook dinner together or eat out by 6:30 every night, and we try to plan fun things on the weekends.
  5. Figuring out an intimacy frequency that works for both of us: Matt wants sex more than I do, so we constantly talk about how to help him feel satiated without making me feel obligated. It's definitely something we're still working on.
  6. Making time to cultivate our selves outside of our marriage: We try to encourage each other to spend time with friends and colleagues without being joined at the hip.
  7. Showing appreciation. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of taking each other for granted. Matt and I try to verbalize our appreciation for each other (for both big and small things) on a daily basis.
We really want to continue to strengthen our relationship, and I'm not sure about the best way to do it. Couples counseling is not included in our insurance (why is preventative stuff so disregarded in our culture? Argh!). Perhaps we could find more classes, or we could work through books like Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.

It shouldn't be this hard to find proactive opportunities to strengthen one's marriage. Hmph!

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Honeymoon #3

Matt and I are still trying to plan our Annual Adventure (or the Threequel to our two previous summers of "honeymoon" travel).

When we were planning our honeymoon last year (one year after our wedding), we initially thought we would go to Kauai to hike one of the world's most beautiful trails (and then sit around and do nothing on the beach). We ultimately decided, however, to go to Paris and then head down to Greece for a sailboat adventure around the islands on a 50-foot yacht with seven other people through a GAP Adventures tour.

Now we are planning our next summer trip. We had already settled on British Columbia, but once we started reading this guide book about it, the planning felt more and more daunting. Do we fly there and then rent a car? Do we take a road trip from Texas so we can bring our dog? If we make it all the way to Canada, should we just go ahead and trek to Alaska? Where exactly is a good place to hike amid thousands of miles of hiking trails?

So we're once again thinking about going to Kauai or signing up for another GAP adventure.

Some options include:
  1. Ten days in Borneo
  2. Some bicycling in Northern Italy
  3. Paddling and biking around Patagonia
In other words, I am in desperate need of some travel inspiration. Any ideas?

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Collecting & Developing Ideas

Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Happy Friday to All!

I don't have too many big plans this weekend, although I am excited about our monthly Time Bank get-together. We're going out for pizza and bowling. Hooray for old-school fun! I also have to take an ESL certification test tomorrow (so sad I can't sleep in!), and I'm looking forward to attending a stress management course on Sunday. One of my big goals for the year is to learn how to better manage stress. As the Indigo Girls say, "It's only life after all."

Here's a list of some of my inspiration from the week. Enjoy!
  1. I love how DIY wedding projects can turn into an opportunity to spend time with friends. This description on cakies of making bunting flag invitations (you know I have a thing for bunting!) made me smile. It's a reminder not to undertake DIY projects alone! In fact, while you're there, you might as well read all of her most recent posts. They include lots of beautiful and ingenious ways to show your love for someone (think a sewn love letter and different types of kisses).
  2. This post about rules from A Practical Wedding is a must-read. Even if you've already read it, it's worth reading again. So liberating!
  3. Progressive Pioneer featured an artist who lives in a mountain homestead with her partner and baby. It reminds me of the "Power of Two" that the Indigo Girls sang about. When you put two people with big dreams together, you can dream even bigger. Hooray for partnership!
  4. Apartment Therapy listed ideas about how to make a centerpiece out of anything (see photo above). It might provide a little out-of-the-box inspiration.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

iPod Wedding Playlist: Part Deux

Dear all y'all fantastic 2000 Dollar Wedding readers,
Matt B. (Sara's partner) here again and I've got a couple things to get off my chest before I begin:
  1. Thank you for the wonderful comments on my previous post. Sara forwarded all of them my way. I should have responded and will make an effort to respond this time!
  2. If you remember, and were harmed in any way, by my not writing three playlists in the three weeks that I originally set-out to, I apologize. My Sara didn't schedule me into her busy post schedule until now.
So, without further adieu, here is the wedding iPod playlist from our reception dinner. There are some of my favorites of all time in there, but it can most-definitely be improved on. So, take it, improve upon it, and share it out!

P.S. - There are a number of YouTube links below, if you're interested in taking the audio out of them... not that you would be... I've heard there are websites that can do it for you like http://www.listentoyoutube.com/ or http://www.vidtomp3.com/

Note to self: As I read back over what was played, I regret the serious lack of theme beyond "it's fairly up-tempo and I like it". In fact, the reception list reads more like a break-up mix, e.g. "So Sorry", "Forks and Knives", "What Makes you Think You're the One". I need to fix this in time for my next wedding.

Iron and Wine - Faded from Winter
Bob Dylan - I Shall Be Released
Be Good Tanyas - The Littlest Birds
Feist - The Park
Frank Sinatra - Summer Wind
Galia Arad - Gypsy Boy (my dear friend; super-talented; adorable)
Be Good Tanyas - Dogsong
Amos Lee - Seen it All Before (big shout-out to my dearest of friends Austin Wright)
Cat Stevens - The Wind
Eliete Negreiros - Meu Mundo e Hoje
Dave Matthews - #41
Death Cab for Cutie - A Movie Script Ending (From Daytrotter.com (FREE amazing MP3s))
Les Nubians - Immortel Cheikh Anta Diop
Chad and Jeremy - A Summer Song
Jens Lekman - You Can Call me Al
David Gray - Babylon II
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
Feist - So Sorry
Jack Johnson - Gone
Beirut - Forks and Knives
Carla Bruni - L'Excessive
Smashing Pumpkins - Lilly
Ben Gibbard - Carolina
Handsome Boy Modeling School - Breakdown
Death Cab for Cutie - Soul Meets Body
Fleetwood Mac - What Makes you Think You're the One
Pickin' On Series - World At Large (Bluegrass Tribute to Modest Mouse)
Alison Krauss - I'll Fly Away
Guillemots - Trains to Brazil
Bob Marley and the Wailers - Corner Stone (From the album "Jungle Dub")
Weezer - Say it Ain't So
Sarah Harmer - Uniform Grey
Same Cooke - Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen
The Feelies - Let's Go
Chromeo - Momma's Boy
Eagle Eye Cherry - Save Tonight

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Contest Winner

And the winner of a $75 gift certificate to Doloris Petunia is...

Kara Jo.!

Congratulations! Please e-mail me to claim your prize.

As a consolation price for everyone else, mention 2000dollarwedding to receive free shipping on anything in the Doloris Petunia store for the rest of February 2010. Hooray!

Thank you to everyone who entered and thank you to Doloris Petunia for sponsoring such a lovely contest!

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blog Book Club

Interested in joining us for a conversation about marriage?

Read the book Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert and plan to leave your thoughts in the comment section one month from now, on Tuesday, March 16.

I haven't actually read the book yet, so I can't exactly recommend it. However, the description sounds good, and you all would be the perfect book club buddies!

If you're interested, please sign up using the form below so I can get a sense of how many folks are participating.

Happy Reading!

Book Description:
At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who’d been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. (Both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Enough said.) But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which—after unexpectedly detaining Felipe at an American border crossing—gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by delving into this topic completely, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is. Told with Gilbert’s trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, Committed attempts to “turn on all the lights” when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert’s memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Love Letter Tradition

Folk Art Birds Note Cards from Peter Pauper Press

Matt and I have never been the couple who goes all out for each other on Valentine's Day. Maybe it's because my birthday is so close to Valentine's Day, which seems very close to Christmas, which seems very close to Matt's birthday. We're kind of out of inspired ideas for each other by the time the official Holiday o' Love finally rolls around.

So in place of gifts, I think we are going to implement a new tradition:
  • Writing each other a love note: We're going to do this as part of our Valentine's evening, so there's no pressure to make time to write a letter before Valentine's Day. We'll have a quiet evening with take-out and time to record some sweet thoughts for each other, in each other's presence. I'm looking forward to it!
Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what do you have planned for Love Day 2010?

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Q & A: Turning Away +1 Guests

Reader Question: My soon-to-be husband and I made the decision that if a guest is not already married or in a long term relationship, we are not including a "plus one" on their invite. We also have chosen not to have children at the wedding either. We had to draw the line somewhere so the guest list wouldn't get completely out of control.

We'd rather have a full guest list of people we love and know well than to have to cut our list to accommodate those who want to bring people we're not familiar with. We'd love to have children there but, you know, we don't have very much money so sacrifices needed to be made. It was difficult but we both felt like we made the right decision for ourselves and our wallets.

We haven't sent out our invites yet, just our Save the Dates, but I recently had to have a very difficult and uncomfortable conversation with a single relative who expected to bring a guest. I could tell my relative was upset and I felt bad so I said your guest is more than welcome to come to the ceremony and/or the reception after dinner. I explained that our budget limits who we can invite, particularly with catering. My relative has since informed me that they will then both not attend dinner and just find a restaurant in the vicinity.

Although that makes me feel uncomfortable I think I need to respect my relative's decision. I do, however, wonder how I can ensure that our other guests will respect our decision to not include plus ones. Is there any way we can politely address the issue when the invitations go out? We plan to specify "adult only reception" but how do you handle plus ones? I thought of including a "FAQ" page on our website for issues such as this, but then what if some people never visit the site?

Sorry such a long e-mail, and thank you in advance for your help!

Yes, the dreaded plus-one situation. I have been in your shoes. It is quite the dilemma.

Matt and I felt the same way you do. We wanted only our nearest and dearest at our wedding, but denying people the opportunity to bring a date can be awkward and rude.

First, we tried to proactively address the situation by inviting people in clusters. For example, we intentionally tried to make sure that everyone who was invited had friends that they could hang out with. I sent out an e-mail to each group of friends saying something like, "Hey all, I just wanted to let you know that you are the folks we invited from Stetson University, in case you want to room together, carpool, etc." That way, everyone knew right away that they would know other people at the wedding (without having to ask all of their old college friends if they were invited, too).

But even then we had to respond reactively. People would ask us directly if they could bring a date. We responded as honestly and tactfully as possible by saying, "We're really sorry, but we're intentionally having a small wedding and limiting it to the people who are close to us. We invited you because we consider you a really good friend, and we hope that this doesn't discourage you from coming."

In the end, we made a couple exceptions. One of Matt's friends invited someone without asking us. The friend bought her plane ticket before we even found out. Also, Matt invited only one of his colleagues. We let him bring along his girlfriend, so he would know someone. She ended up being completely awesome, and I loved meeting her.

Definitely don't stress about it if a few people slip through the cracks. On the other hand, don't be afraid to stick to your policy! There is something really powerful about populating your guest list with people who are truly connected to you.

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what are your thoughts on this situation? What have you done the same or differently?

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Q & A: Funding the Rehearsal Dinner

Reader Question: Hi Sara! So I wish I was writing to you, to check up on the book, see how life was going, and all of that. Instead I am writing you an email because I am not sure what to do at this point in my life, with the relationships I have with my parents, and my future mother-in-law.

To give you a back story that will take all of three seconds to read (I am assuming you read fast): my parents are divorced, mom is re-married, and Ma-in-law is a new widow. Husband died while working on his dream car before we were engaged. (You might remember this because you already helped me make a big decision about the wedding ring. Which we are taking care of this weekend, with a friend connection jeweler! =) )

Back to the matter at hand....I thought we had all of the loose ends tied in. The wedding is planned. Ready to go, and I THOUGHT we got through it with only minor emotional scrapes......

I forgot that parents have these ideas about what our wedding would be like.

My Mom pictured me as a pretty-pretty-princess on a perfect day.
His Mom kind of felt like my mom; except it was Handsome prince instead of princess.
My Dad thought we should elope. But since we aren't, he thinks there should be homemade beer (I'm cool with that)

We just want to get married and have a good time afterward.

So now that I laid all of the priorities on the table I will tell you the issue. The issue at hand here is where the dollar signs lie. I hate to say that but it is the case. My fiance's Ma makes pretty good money. Plus she has a retirement fund from her recently deceased husband. My dad also makes a pretty good penny. My Mom makes absolutely nothing, and what she does make goes towards her fiance's divorce settlement (I do not blame new hubby for this, his ex is Satan incarnate). I do NOT care about all of that. This is what I DO care about.

I understand parents play a role in the wedding planning, and they want to contribute. I felt I already did my compromising with the women folk by making tissue paper flowers (so that there would be flowers at the wedding. According to the two mothers it isn't a wedding without flowers). What I have a problem with is the unspoken competition that my mom is creating without realizing. She is equating her value to me in a dollar sign. AND she is trying to prove it by INSISTING on paying for a fancy rehearsal dinner with her EX husband (who just wants to have a camp out). Ma-in-law was really looking forward to having a BBQ at her house on her. Dad is wanting to get everyone drunk on his homemade beer. Now all of a sudden it's going to be a dinner that puts Mom and new hubby in the poor house?! And I am apparently not allowed a say?! Oh HEAALLL no. Think not. But how do I take the reigns back without breaking her heart? She was just sobbing at me for 45 minutes?? I know you don't have all the answers, but you definitely have the sass plus heart that I need to do this eloquently. I tend to be a little blunt and manly when it gets to matters of the heart....


You've already pinpointed the issue! Your mom wants to contribute in a meaningful and memorable way to your wedding in order to show you how much she loves you. And I agree that it doesn't make any sense for her to stretch herself financially thin in order to host a fancy rehearsal dinner when a) that's not what you really want and b) it makes more sense for your mother-in-law to host and pay for it.

The trick is going to be figuring out how she can contribute in a meaningful and memorable way that doesn't break the bank. So much in our society equates money with love (look at the engagement ring industry, for crying out loud!). I can understand why your mom feels like she has to do something big that involves a lot of money in order to prove to you and everyone else how much she loves you and what a good mother she is.

I'm also imagining that part of her emotion stems from making "absolutely nothing" and putting what she does make toward someone else's divorce settlement. She's also going through a major life transition as she prepares to share her daughter with another family. I say this because it can be helpful to remember that people's responses to situations are not always about us but also about other issues that they bring to the situation.

If I were in your shoes, I would first do everything I could to make my mom feel valued and appreciated. A random heartfelt card in the mail? More frequent phone calls? A surprise visit? She's going through a rough time right now, and the more secure she feels about your love for her, the less insistent she's likely to be.

Then I would brainstorm all the ways that your mom could contribute in a significant way to the wedding. For example, she and your mother-in-law could co-host the rehearsal dinner. Does she like to cook? She could cater some sides or desserts to serve at the rehearsal dinner. She could help with the set-up and clean-up. She could make decorations, etc.

Then I would have an earnest conversation with her. I would explain how much I love her and how much I do want her to be an integral part of the wedding but how I don't want her to waste her money on something that can be taken care of in another way that makes more sense. I would explain that money does not equal love and that she doesn't need to spend a lot of money to prove anything to anyone. Then I would share some of my ideas about how she could be more involved and let her add to the list.

My heart goes out to you! Planning a wedding can be an emotionally taxing time for many, many reasons. It sounds like you're handling well, and I wish you the very best!

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what advice do you have?

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Handmade Accessories

I am delighted to host this contest from Doloris Petunia.

Courtney is offering a $75 gift certificate to her Etsy shop (which, I just found out, has graced the pages of Harper's Bazaar and Cosmo and graced the red carpet at the Emmy's!).

Here's what Courtney has to say about her shop:
I am a custom accessory designer for my own company, Doloris Petunia. All of my pieces are one of a kind, affordable, and made from vintage and antique recycled jewelry. I create custom statement pieces for brides to wear to their weddings (or to dress their bridesmaids and be the special gift as well). I sometimes even will work in pieces that are significant to them (like their grandmothers brooch) or just come up with a design that is fresh, new and always loved.
With a $75 gift certificate, you could score items like the ones featured in these photographs (although these particular items might be sold by the time this contest ends in a week). She is constantly updating her shop with new and exquisite items.

To enter to win a $75 gift certificate plus free shipping:
  1. Leave your first name and the first two initials of your last name (one entry per person, please).
  2. Enter by Tuesday, February 16 at 11:59pm EST.
Happy Entering!

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Q & A: Family Drama

It's going to be a marathon week of wedding Q&A. I have so many great questions that are backing up, and I really want to get them out to you! (Although we also have a contest coming up!) Without further ado...

Reader's Question:
I love your practical advice for wedding stuff--was hoping you could help me with my own little issue. I did not envision any real drama at my wedding as my large
extended family gets along fairly well, and I couldn't foresee anything popping up. Then something did, that puts me right in the middle of my divorced parents.

My parents met and married out of high school, and divorced about 20 years ago. My mum, about 10 years later, had a fling with one of my dad's
best friends from high school (who had been a mutual friend back in the day) that was short-lived and the guy was not super cool (bit sleazy). But my dad seemed unfazed and continued to be his friend. Right after the affair, my mum met the man who is now her fiance and most solidly her life partner. But he knew about the affair, and as a lovely but slightly insecure guy, prefers to not even hear his name (I mentioned the man's recent wedding to my mom last year, and he left the room. Ugh.)

Anyhoo, my wedding venue has a limited capacity, as does our budget. We are lucky because all our parents are helping out. However my dad got some advice from friends at work that because he is pitching-in, he is entitled to invite some of his own friends. It means some of my people can't come, but I suppose that is the price for accepting money and that's fine. But guess who he insists on inviting? This old friend (and his wife). Don't like the guy, he treated my mom poorly and my stepdad-figure will be possibly upset on the day (for better or worse). I have mentioned to my father this fact (he and the stepdad get along just fine) that there could be problems on the day, and he basically said that he doesn't care and he wants his friend there. Had to tell my mum, she is not happy, and their up-to-now civilized relationship seems shaky. I don't want the guy there, because I don't want to be looking over my shoulder on the day making sure that all my parent figures are getting along.
Do I have the right to put my foot down? I have expressed my opinion only to be rebuffed. Can I use an excuse such as numbers? I have to compile my invite list soon...ugh. Thanks so much!

I try not to think in such a black-and-white way if I can help it, but in this situation, I honestly see only one right answer: the "sleazy" dude is not invited to the wedding. Period. Case closed.

You're right when you say your dad "is pitching in" and so is therefore "entitled to invite some of his own friends." You hit the nail on the head when you say "that is the price for accepting money."

But seriously, it is not okay for your dad to play the money card by inviting someone who literally makes you and other family members uncomfortable. Even though he is his contributing financially, it is still your wedding. It's your opportunity to share your love and commitment with your nearest and dearest. If your dad wants to spend quality time with his friend, he can invite him out for dinner 364 other days of the year. If he wants to share your wedding with his friend, he can bring along the photos.

I don't mean to sound so negative. I am just a wee-bit outraged that your family members are putting you through this. It's stressful enough to coordinate a big party and maintain your other life priorities and battle the Wedding Industrial Complex and placate a zillion people with a zillion different opinions--without having to fight with your father about something so asinine.

I say, stick to your guns. You know your dad better than I do, so I don't know the best way to communicate your resolution to him. Maybe you need to be more aggressive and resolute? Maybe you need to cry and let him see how much this situation is hurting you? Maybe you need to beg him to change his mind?

(P.S. If it ends up not working and the guy gets invited, don't fret about it. Seriously. I know I just ranted about how the battle is worth fighting (and I hope you win). But if, for some reason, it doesn't work out and the guy gets invited, do not worry about it. I repeat: Do not worry about it. Let it go. You are not responsible for the discomfort that your step-dad and/or mom might feel. You are not responsible for diffusing the tension on your wedding day. Your job is to do your best to create a good situation and then let it all go and actually enjoy the day. Immerse yourself in it. Bask in it. Do not let family baggage take any piece of the pleasure away from you.)

Okay, I am officially stepping off my soapbox. Please, 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, chime in. Your insight into the last Q&A was so delightful. You all are so, so smart and helpful!

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Collecting & Developing Ideas

Beautiful photo courtesy of cakies

I don't have much planned for the weekend except a really fun fundraiser for the public Montessori school where I teach. It's a free pancake breakfast. We raise money through donations and a silent auction. My class is making a quilt with all their photographs and a scrapbook. I'm also auctioning off a Saturday morning at my house with a sewing lesson, a cooking lesson (make your own pizza, french fries, and ice-cream!), and some play time with Hoss and the chickens. Can't wait! (I'm crossing my fingers we finish the quilt in time...)

Here are some links that might give you some ideas of things to do:
  1. Make your own calendar with this overview from Young House Love (they will be posting the template soon.
  2. Kristina over at Lovely Morning recommends a parenting book called Nurture Shock. I just logged into the Houston Public Library and put a hold request on it. It will be delivered to my nearby branch. Hooray!
  3. Make your own love garland for Valentine's Day (or your, um, wedding!) with directions from Rubyellen via cakies.
  4. Download these free tags from Twig & Thistle and attach them to your beloved's toothbrush to convey your love. So cute.
Enjoy your Friday and your weekend!

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Postcard #2: Leisurely Breakfasts on the Patio

There are a lot of in-between moments associated with a wedding. There are moments that don't fall into the buckets of "ceremony," "reception," "rehearsal dinner."

Take this moment, for example. We were on the back patio of the B&B where we stayed with most of our friends, which also happened to be the location of the welcome picnic and reception. There are tables that aren't shown in the photo. This one happens to contain my best friend (the one with only the back of his head showing), some of my closest friends from college, and one of my Montessori teaching colleagues. My ex-boyfriend, Jeff, is wearing a tutu because of a bet he lost with our other friend, Paul (something about an LSAT score). My former college roommate, Marsha, is taking the picture. I'm wearing my most comfortable ensemble: pajama pants, flip-flops, and sunglasses.

This is how we spent every morning of the entire weekend. On Friday, there were only a handful of friends who had arrived the evening before and were able to join us for breakfast. On Saturday and Sunday, the group swelled. On Monday, it was down to just two of my good friends.

Each morning, we would congregate on the patio and indulge in a delicious breakfast cooked by the innkeepers, Cathy and Cory. Matt and I intentionally planned to spend the first two hours of the day this way for our entire wedding weekend. We wanted to chill, eat good food, and chat with our friends.

It's the in-between moments that craft a wedding as much as the other "events." It's these moments that create the spirit of your celebration. Thinking about what you want from the in-between moments can be just as important as planning the major events.

Matt and I had to be "Type-A" and plan a schedule for ourselves that included downtime, in order to not be Type-A during our actual wedding weekend. In other words, we had to plan ahead specific time to relax in order to ensure we had the space we needed to relax and immerse ourselves in the moment. If we had not carved out that kind of space for ourselves, we could have easily found ourselves running here and there and being shuttled from one thing to another.

Interestingly, we wouldn't have had these moments, if we had prioritized other things during our venue selection. For example, we were debating between Sunshine Mountain Lodge and another similar place. The other place had more aesthetically pleasing cabins and land. It was tempting to pick it for those reasons alone. However, I am so, so glad we prioritized more important things, like a relationship with the innkeepers. Sure our venue had moose paraphernalia everywhere, and we essentially had our reception in a parking lot (at least it wasn't paved). But we also got delicious, wholesome breakfasts prepared by two amazing individuals who went out of their way to make our event special in myriad ways.

Different couples should obviously plan the kind of in-between moments that work for them. Some people want to spend hours at a spa getting pampered with their closest friends. Others want to be surrounded by family. Still, other couples might prefer to be entirely alone, hiking or doing another one of their favorite activities together.

The choice is yours!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Contest Winner

And the winner of a free download of is...

Jessi Ed.

Congratulations! Please e-mail me to claim your prize.

To all of you who entered by didn't win, go download a free trial as a consolation prize!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It Pays to Discover

Reprinted from my personal blog

Okay, I can't believe I just used a capitalistic, consumeristic tagline as my title.

But seriously, friends, it makes so much sense to use a Discover credit card for as many monthly purchases as possible and then earn money back.

Disclaimer: Only use credit cards if you can pay off the entire balance each month! I am not advocating that you start racking up credit card debt. On the contrary! Credit cards can be super-dangerous because they can deceive you into thinking you have more money than you do. And honestly, it's stupid to pay money for money (which is what we do if we carry credit card debt) unless we absolutely have to (e.g., student loans, car loans, mortgages, emergencies, etc.).

I don't mean to pontificate from my soapbox. It's your life. I'm just saying that Matt and I received $571.90 from Discover because we put everything on our Discover credit card and it helped us accumulate a serious cashback bonus after a significant amount of time.

I have no idea how long we've been accumulating that bonus, but I do know it's completely free. We don't even pay for the cost of a stamp to send in our bill each month. Instead, we send an electronic check from our ING Direct account. Voila!

I know some people like using debit cards or cash in their wallets because there's a finite amount of money and they can see the supply getting depleted each time they buy something. I like that feeling, too, which is why I keep an index card in my wallet and keep track of how much I'm spending. I start with our month allowance for groceries, joint entertainment (including dinner out), dog bills, medicines, hygiene, etc. (which is $1,060, in case you're curious) and subtract the cost of whatever we spend. That way, I get the feeling of a finite amount, but I can still use my Discover card. I even try to pay some of our bills on our Discover card.

The only hitch is that Discover isn't accepted everywhere (like our favorite ice-cream store), but we just carry a backup Visa card and use it whenever necessary.

Discover isn't the only company that offers cashback bonuses. Julia from Color Me Green mentioned that you can visit www.bankrate.com to compare options.

Hooray for free money!

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Q & A: Wedding Planning Family Tension

Reader Question: I got engaged about two months ago and have been scouting around my area for venues. The other day I got a call from my mom saying that she thinks having the wedding where I live is going to be unaffordable for her family. I should tell you that I live in Wisconsin, and my mom's family lives in New York. Everyone is going to have to travel no matter what because we are so spread out around the country. My fiance has family in Georgia and Missouri. I am suddenly majorly stressing about this. We are so excited about getting married in Madison and showing people what our life is like. It would also be much cheaper to get married here than in New York, so much so that I think a New York wedding would be cost prohibitive. I was wondering if you faced any objections about having your wedding in Colorado since your family had to travel, and how you handled it. I'd like to do what you did and rent out a cabin so people can stay on the cheap and be together and/or request no presents if it's a choice between coming to the wedding and staying home. I am close to my family and want them all there, but I don't want to feel forced to distance myself from the planning aspect, budget-friendliness, and fun of having it in my current city. Some of your inspiration and advice would be very much appreciated.

Yes, venue stress. I've been there, done that! I erupted into tears at the airport over venue stress.

Keep in mind that different people will give you different advice related to this dilemma. It's so close to our situation that I can't help but share what worked for us.
  1. We considered multiple locations. I lived half my life in California and half in Florida. Matt's family is in Indiana. Our friends are scattered. We lived in Denver at the time. We considered each location as a potential option. We even considered random "in-between" locations like Tennessee.
  2. We didn't want the wedding to be dominated by one side. We ultimately realized that if we had the wedding in Matt's hometown or mine, then the attendance would be skewed. If we had had it in Indiana, for example, more of Matt's family and friends would have been able to come. That situation didn't seem fair to either of us or our families.
  3. We chose to plan the wedding near where we lived. We also realized that trying to plan a wedding from afar might be a nightmare. We needed to visit our venue a couple times to get everything planned. If those venue visits had involved plane rides, our budget would have been blown very quickly.
  4. We lamented the impact our choice would have on our friends'/families' budgets and the environment. We acknowledged that forcing everyone to travel would increase the overall costs associated with our wedding (when we factored how much people would have to spend on airfare, car rental, etc.), but we realized that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.
Our choices helped us achieve the ideal wedding (for us!) for the following reasons:
  • We weeded out the people who weren't really close to us. The people who were willing to make the financial sacrifice to attend our wedding did it because they really, really wanted to celebrate with us.
  • We made our planning much, much easier.
  • As you say, we got to share our city with our friends and family.
  • It created a vacation-like atmosphere and a friends and family reunion.
Here's what I would say to your mom:

"I hear what you're saying about how attending our wedding will be potentially unaffordable for some of your family members. I know these are truly difficult times for people financially, and I want to respect that. However, it really only makes sense for us to have our wedding in Madison. It's more fair to both families, it will be easier and less expensive for us to plan, and it will give us a chance to share our lives with our friends and family. I know it will be difficult for people, which is why we will do everything we can to lessen the financial burden. We will tell people how to set up airline tracking alerts, so they can be on the lookout for cheap tickets. We will provide a very inexpensive place to stay and help people set up carpooling to and from the airport. We will assure people that their "presence" at our wedding is "presents" enough. We will give people enough advance notice so they can start saving.

This decision was truly difficult for us to make because we want your family to celebrate with us, and we don't want to inconvenience anyone. I love you very much and want you to be happy. I hope you can understand how hard this is for us and that we ultimately have to make the decision that makes the most sense for everyone involved."

Or something like that. You get the gist.

I personally wouldn't use the argument that it will be more expensive to host a wedding in New York because I think your mom could counter with, "Don't worry; I'll help you find an inexpensive venue, bakery, etc." Although I understand the concept of differences in regional pricing, I also believe that you can have a wallet-friendly wedding in any city if you trek off the beaten wedding path.

I hope those thoughts help!

Now I'll open it up to others to share their two cents:

So, 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits: How would you approach this dilemma?

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