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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sending Happy Marriage Wishes Your Way

Two weekends ago, Matt and I went for a run at Memorial Park. We don't run together because he is fast and--let's just say--I am not. However, we go our separate ways and then meet back up after 40 minutes to go eat breakfast at our favorite park in Houston.

As Hoss and I were running* (er, trotting) together, two women passed me. I could hear one of them say, "...was the best thing I've ever done."

Sadly, I didn't get to hear the rest of her thought (she was another one of those fast runners), but the snippet of conversation inspired me to ask myself the same question: "What was the best thing you've ever done?" Before one part of my brain could even finish formulating the question, the other part of my brain blurted out: "Marrying Matt."

And I smiled at that very happy thought.

Enjoy your Monday!


*If you run with a dog, I highly recommend looping the leash around your waist and through the handle, so you can run completely hands-free. It has revolutionized my life. I use a gentle leader because otherwise Hoss would pull too much. The combination works perfectly. If you're thinner than I am and think the leash would slip over your hips/butt and to the ground, you can use a big binder clip to block the leash from slipping down. I've tried that and it works well, too.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Q & A: Wedding Party

Kindred Spirit Question: I wanted to write you about an issue I've stumbled into with a friend's wedding that is influencing our wedding - the whole business of choosing a best man and maid of honor/bridesmaids. I haven't been to too many weddings, but doing this always made me feel like there was a royal court at the wedding. And what a way to say to everyone else "you didn't make the cut". My boyfriend got chosen to be the best man at this wedding, and while he was flattered, it also kind of felt weird because there are so many guys that are part of their circle of friends that he is close to. It was nice to be chosen, but it also feels like you are excluding people you are close to. When I told him that I didn't even know why people did this and I couldn't possibly choose a "special someone" and that I didn't want to do this at our wedding, he practically jumped for joy. I think he was already dreading how he could possibly pick one guy out of all of his guy friends. I told him that we could put something up on our website or say something during the ceremony about how they are all our "best" people and just delegate tasks to those that want to do them. This feels a lot better to us. I wanted to know if you have written about this on your blog and what your feelings about it are. Is there a good way to do it? It there a fun way not to do it and make everyone feel special?

I love that you are asking these questions and figuring out what is best for you all. That's what this whole process is about! It's your wedding and your life. There are times when it makes sense to follow tradition. There are times when it makes sense to modify it. And there are times when it makes sense to reject it all together.

Life is about figuring out when to do what. It requires thoughtful consideration, conversation, multiple perspectives, courage, and an ability to apologize (when we realize we wish we would have done it differently). Planning a wedding is really just more practice for navigating through life.

So, the answer is simultaneously simple and complex: Do what makes sense to you! Talk with your friends. Talk with your families. Brainstorm ideas together. And then decide (and, once you decide, don't waste a whole lot of time, energy, and emotional resources second-guessing yourselves!).

There are so many ways to do it:
  1. You can stand alone during your ceremony (like my friends Loren and Lisa did at one of my favorite weddings of all time) and forgo the idea of a wedding party altogether.
  2. You can invite a whole bunch of people to be part of your "Wedding Team." They can each take on different roles to help make the wedding happen (and you could acknowledge them with fun buttons?).
  3. You can form a wedding party out of family members.
  4. You can ask a bunch of people who are important to you in your life to play different roles throughout the ceremony.

And the list goes on and on!

I think with any decisions like this, the key is to start with the purpose. What is the traditional purpose behind having a wedding party? What does having a wedding party accomplish? Are those goals aligned with your own goals? What are your goals? What modifications, revisions, and decisions most align with your own goals?

If your goals are simply to have your friends help out, feel included, and be acknowledged for the important role they play in your life, there are lots of ways to accomplish those goals. You can toast them at your wedding. You can include a blurb in your wedding ceremony program (if you have one), you can write them thank-you cards to distribute at the wedding, you could include their pictures and bios on your wedsite (again, if you have one).

The choice is yours!

I would love to hear others' ideas on this...

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Free DIY Invitations

Oh whoa. I feel like a delinquent blogger. Seriously.

How have I been blogging about budget-minded, hand-crafted, eco-friendly weddings for more than two years and I'm just getting around to finding out about the website Download & Print (thanks to another amazing website, iDiY)?

Wow. Double wow. Anna Skye is my new creative hero. She designs invitations for babies, weddings, showers, and parties. And then lets you download them for free. And, to top it all off, she gives you step-by-step directions for how to print them (like what kind of paper to use, etc.).

I am aghast. I am ecstatic. I am so appreciative!

I'm often torn about invitations. On the one hand, I think they are a huge waste of time, money, and environmental resources. When I get invitations in the mail, I honestly write down the important information and then toss everything into the recycling. When I get invitations enclosed within envelopes that are enclosed within more envelopes that contain an envelope, I cynically think to myself, "Couldn't you have sent me a dollar instead of wasting all your money on postage?"

On the other hand, I love, love, love good graphic design. I love handwritten letters and pretty things that arrive in the mail.

This site seems to offer the best of both world! Not too much hassle on the invitations, while still producing an amazing result.

Thank you, Anna!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wedding Rain Plan

Once a month Matt and I host a potluck to generate interest in the Houston Heights Time Bank. Last year, we held almost every single one at our house, so this year we tried to vary the routine by hosting different events like Bocce Ball night, a fondue party, etc.

Now that summer is upon us, we've started scheduling the monthly potluck to correspond with the free silent film events at Discovery Green. Basically, we bring blankets and a picnic potluck and hang out for an hour or so before the silent film starts on the large outdoor screen. There's always a band that plays an original score to accompany the movie. Heavenly!

Last week, however, the rain started coming down, right about when we were going to head over to the park. Initially, I was super-disappointed that we weren't going to be able to follow the original plan. Luckily, at the last minute, our friend volunteered to host the event at her house. After a delicious potluck (we somehow had a Mediterranean corner, European corner, and Asian corner without any sort of advance coordination), we split into smaller groups for Rock Band and a game of Snatch It. In the end, an awesome time was had by all.

Matt and I did have a back-up plan for our wedding ceremony in case of rain, but we did not have a back-up plan for our reception. I guess we would have squished everybody inside and scraped the dancing on the flagstone patio, the campfire, the buffet under the trees, etc. I'm sure it would have worked out in the end, and I'm sure it would have brought all sorts of wonderful memories in its own right.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite weddings of all time. It got rained out. And it was still wonderful. Really wonderful.

That's the thing about authentic weddings. The equation is really pretty simple: two people who are good together and are ready to forge a strong commitment + their nearest and dearest = an awesome time. Seriously.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zoo Field Trip

I teach on a team with three other folks, and we each take turns being in charge of planning and executing field trips. Last week, I was in charge of our big trip to the Houston Zoo. Boy, oh, boy!

Taking a group of 88 kids to the zoo is not something one can do alone. Obviously. It takes a village (just like planning and executing a DIY wedding!). I tried to recruit as many parent chaperones as I could for my class of 22 kids.

I ended up with 9 chaperones, which was awesome. However, I had to make sure that each person knew exactly what to do and when. If the people who are supposed to be helping don't know how to help and when to help, then they really can't be much help.

That's where extra planning comes in. The more time I put into the planning process, the less work I have to do during the execution phase.

First, I had to think through what people needed to do and when. I thought I had a clear picture of it in my mind, but once I started to write it down on paper, I realized I had a lot more details to work out. Writing everything out on an info sheet (see above) really helped me clarify what people should do and when.

Then I had to share the information with people ahead of time. The more time they had to process the information, the more they could ask clarifying questions or add suggestions.

Finally, on the actual day of the event, I had to pass out the information again, just in case people didn't remember to bring the information with them.

I applied these same strategies to our wedding planning. We outsourced more than 30 jobs to our friends and family. For the most important jobs, I typed up detailed descriptions of what to do and when and gave it to folks in advance. Once the actual weekend arrived, I could rest assured that people knew what to do and when. I could completely relax into the moment and just enjoy everyone coming together to celebrate our commitment and joy.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Saving, Saving, Saving

I feel like my financial literacy education was woefully lacking during my entire K-12 educational experience (actually, make that K-college). I didn't formally learn anything about using credit cards responsibly, understanding credit scores, or saving money.

Instead, I learned everything I know from my mom and my frugal grandparents. They taught me to save and then spend (meaning I try to pay my credit card bill off in full each month). They taught me that long-term gratification is usually more important than short-term (although I do splurge once in a while). They taught me to start saving for retirement--EARLY.

However, I never really learned that there is a long-line of very important things that I should be saving for in advance. For example, when I was in my 20s, I did not even think about saving for a downpayment on a house. I saved for a car so I could buy it outright. I added a lot to my retirement fund. I invested in high quality items like a $400 bike and a good tent from REI.

And then I suddenly realized that I would want a house someday and that it would take a lot to amass a 20% downpayment. And after that shocking realization, I learned that closing costs are thousands more dollars.

That's partly why Matt and I decided to have a $2,000 wedding. We wanted to funnel all our savings into a house instead.

We scraped by just barely and were able to close on a house two days after our wedding. And then Hurricane Ike happened and we had to spend some of our savings on home repairs. And then interest rates continued to drop and we felt like it would be prudent to refinance (hello closing costs all over again!). And then we had to invest more money in renovating our home. And then our cars were stolen and we had to use some of our savings to supplement the insurance money and get a new car. And then Matt's stolen car was returned but it started getting really old and we had to use our savings to get him a new car. And then we really wanted chickens but we live in an urban area so we felt obligated to buy a super-expensive (yet super-easy coop). Plus, we love to travel, so we keep adding more and more money to our vacation fund.

And so it's gone, for the past two years. We're not really saving as much as we would like to.

And now we're talking about expanding our family and trying to save money for that. Whoa!

And then there's the emergency fund that we never seem to build...

It's a lot, this living like a grown-up thing. It's easy to get overwhelmed.

I just wish I had learned to look ahead a little bit more and save more money for future endeavors.

So I shall start now. I will start looking farther ahead to ensure that our savings and spending patterns reflect our long-term goals.

  1. We need to really amp up our baby fund. Like now.
  2. We will need to start a college fund as soon as the baby is born.
  3. We need to continue saving for a lifetime of travel.
  4. We need to save in order to build an intentional neighborhood.
  5. We need to continue saving for retirement.
  6. We could start saving for the next cars we will need in 10 years.
  7. We need to continue building a reservoir of funds for home maintenance, as well as "nesting" type stuff.
  8. We should set aside money for medical expenses as we age.

Am I missing something? Please tell me now, so I'll be better prepared! I'm going to make sure we have separate accounts set up for each of these things and then set up an automatic transfer each month. That way, we will build these accounts little by little each month.

What's the state of your financial health? What are you proud of? What are the areas you want to work on?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Eco-Friendly Wedding Confetti

Reader Question: My fiance and I went through so many phases in our planning- anger, frustration, happiness, sadness, etc. but now we're finally in a good place. Now that we feel good about our decisions, I've been able to focus more on the "details". I really liked your recent post about clapping during the ceremony and recruiting the help of guests in making that happen. Then I was thinking, how can I take our ceremony to the next level and I thought- Confetti Poppers! Of course, dispensing tons of teeny pieces of paper around a local park is not going to fly with me or anyone, so I was wondering if you had suggestions on eco-friendly confetti or something that is more natural that our guests can throw?

Hmm...the only thing that comes to mind is bird seed (and the packaging above is utterly adorable).Or maybe something from the bulk aisle at Whole Foods? Like millet or barley or something?

Anyone? Anyone?

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cake Comment

Image courtesy of gatos y gateau

I had to pull this comment out of the comments section and feature it inside this here post because it really resonated with me.

In the original post, I said, "Our weddings will be meaningful and memorable regardless of what we do or don't buy, thankyouverymuch" and Ms. Bear Cub responded with this:
omg, sara, I wish it were true. I'm a pretty laid-back wedding graduate. I could care less how xxxx looked at this point (but I personally think everything looked wonderful in my point of view). Unfortunately, a few weeks ago one of my aunts decided to tell me she thought our wedding cake tasted like soap and dirt. WTF? I made the wedding cake. She knows I made the wedding cake. So wtf are laid-back anti-WIC brides supposed to do? Please everyone, so we don't get nasty comments like that after the wedding? Barf.
The nerve of her aunt! I am someone who has been known to provide others with painfully honest feedback from time to time (which has caused me to get into fights with some of my dear friends), but to tell someone that the wedding cake they made tasted like soap and dirt? Seriously? What in the world!

I feel for you, Ms. Bear Cub. I didn't have anyone say anything so nasty to me, but you know what? I am sure someone was thinking something nasty about our $2,000 shoestring wedding. Maybe they were criticizing the Make-Your-Own-Sandwich buffet at the Welcome Picnic ("What? I just spent $400 to fly halfway across the country and I have to make my own sandwich? And they aren't providing alcohol until the wedding reception tomorrow?").

Maybe they were criticizing the invitations ("A postcard? Honestly, they think a postcard does enough to honor the gravity and sanctity of marriage? This isn't summer camp; this is MARRIAGE!").

Or maybe it was my dress ("Huh? She's wearing a $15 sundress? From Target? And her shins are showing? On her wedding day? And she's wearing shoes she already owned?").

Or maybe it was my lack of professional hair and makeup ("That's all the effort she's putting into her appearance? On her WEDDING day? Doesn't she realize this is the most important day of her life? Doesn't she know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity? Or is she planning to get a divorce and do this all over again?")

Or maybe it was our decision to buy several regular small cakes from Whole Foods instead of a bona fide wedding cake ("What were they thinking? I can buy a slice of this cake from the grocery store for crying out loud!")

[Editor's Note: This process of making fun of my own wedding is really, really fun! Maybe I should turn it into a comic strip or something.]

But in all seriousness, there are also guests making fun of non-laid-back, model WIC weddings:
  • "What? They spent how much on a dress that she's going to wear one time? And it doesn't even look comfortable!"
  • "Yeah, the cake sure is pretty but it tastes like it's draped in plastic."
  • "The bridesmaids are probably hating the bride for subjecting them to those dresses."
It's just the way people are. And the truth is, it's usually about them, not us. They make fun of our choices because of issues in their own lives (and vice versa when we're the ones doing the mocking).

I think the best thing we can do is focus on our Circle of Influence. We need to devote our energy to the things we can control and try our very best to stop worrying about the things we can't control.

So, what can we control? We can plan the kinds of weddings that make sense for us. We can be authentic to our tastes and preferences, and we can invite our nearest and dearest to share in the experience with us. We can control the guest list, so that we invite more of "Our People" and fewer naysayers. We can develop duck feathers so that others' criticisms and doubts and negative comments roll right off of us.

In other words, we can continue the process of living authentic lives, of being who we are and who we want to be, regardless of what others expect from us. Our lives are too short and too precious to waste our moments trying to contort ourselves to fit into someone else's mold.

In this way, our weddings are good practice for the rest of our lives. They test our courage and our resilience and our willingness to stand up for the kind of lives we want to cultivate.

In the end, it helps to remember, "Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter."

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Next Book Club Book

For our first book club on this blog, we read a pretty cerebral analysis of marriage. This time, I'm thinking we should do something more practical and hands-on, like a guide to strengthening our relationships. I'd love to read some smart advice with helpful, concrete follow-up exercises/conversations to have with our partners. What do you think?

Any nominations of specific books that you think would be helpful?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How to Get Healthy Teeth for Your Wedding (and, um, the rest of your life)

This is a wedding blog and I am going to talk about taking care of your teeth. But I need to clarify: this post is not about how to have pearly whites so you look all bright and shiny on the "Most Important Day of Your Life."

First of all, our weddings are not the most important days of our lives. They are just one of many awesome days.

Secondly, there are way more important reasons to take care of our teeth other than looking more photogenic on our wedding days. Namely, to have a lifetime of solid dental health!

You may be wondering if I am actually qualified to write said post about proper dental health. No, I don't have any relevant degrees or any relevant work experience. I just happen to be obsessed with dental hygiene because I come from a long line of poor gums (and I have an abnormally high aversion toward getting dental work done).

So, when I went to the dentist for my regular check-up, I seized the opportunity to grill her about how to best take care of my teeth (yes, all my chatter did slow down the cleaning process a bit). In care you're interested, here's what she said:
  1. Be sure to brush at least twice a day for two minutes. CHECK.
  2. Be sure to floss at least once a day. CHECK.
  3. Buy a Sonicare to ensure high quality brushing. She said in her experience this particular brand is superior.
  4. Don't brush your teeth right after eating citrus (it will remove the enamel) but do swish some water around to get the citrus off your teeth.
  5. Don't drink a lot of sugary drinks or chew a lot of sugary gum. CHECK and CHECK.

I'm eager to invest in a fancy toothbrush, based on her recommendation. I'm also going to start brushing the inside of my teeth first, since those areas seem to have more problems. If I start with them first, I will be more likely to concentrate on them.

How does your dental routine measure up? What are you doing well? What do you wish you would do differently? Any other ideas for the rest of us about taking care of our teeth?

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Q & A: Engaging Guests in Your Wedding

Reader Question: In addition to dancing, how do you encourage guests to partake in the other activities you have set up for them, like the board games, etc.?

This question came out of the comments section from last week's post about how to encourage guests to dance at your wedding reception.

Because we rented out an entire B&B for our wedding reception, we were able to take over the whole place. People could soak in the hot-tub, cook S'mores around the campfire, play board games, throw around footballs or Frisbees, or dance on the patio. We found that the best way to encourage guests to partake in the activities was to simply make them aware of what their options were. We did this in a couple ways:
  1. We included specific details about the itinerary and all the options on our wedsite. On the invitation, we directed people to our wedsite. Even though it was a free blog, we kept the information static so people wouldn't have to search too hard to find something.
  2. Since we knew not everyone would look at our wedsite, we also sent an e-mail update a couple times leading up to the wedding. Within those e-mails, we included highlights of agenda items.
  3. We posted a piece of chart paper with the agenda for the weekend in a prominent place. People started to see it as soon as they arrived for the Welcome Picnic (see photo above).
  4. We included more information the wedding ceremony programs and asked our officiant to make announcements as well.
To take it one step further, you could ask close friends or family members to take the lead on certain activities (be sure to let them pick what they actually want to do!). That way, guests will see other people doing the activities, and they will be less intimated.

Those are my two cents. I'd love to hear other ideas!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Postcard #4: Weddings as a Barn-Raising

When I was digging through our flickr account to find a photo for a post earlier in the week, I came across this photo and I desperately wanted to share it with you.

No, this photo is not "wedding art." It wasn't even taken by a paid photographer (we opted to ask a couple close friends to be in charge of photography and asked everyone else to upload their photos to a centralized flickr account).

But this photo makes me smile.

This photo occurred Saturday morning of our wedding weekend. Matt and I awoke around 8am and then headed down for breakfast (I was still in my pajamas). On the flagstone patio of the B&B, approximately 40 of our closest friends enjoyed super-delicious food (which was included in the $25-$35 they spent each night for a place to stay). We did this Friday morning (with a few early arrivers), Saturday morning, and Sunday morning from approximately 8-10am.

After we finished breakfast, a couple of us started hanging white lights in preparation for the reception. The innkeepers, Cathy and Cory, let us borrow boxes and boxes of white lights for free. In this photo, you see my dear friend from college, Marie, helping Matt hang the lights. This photo reminds me of the spirit of our wedding, the barn-raising ethos: "This project is big (a two-day party for 80 people), and it takes a village. We're doing this together. And this process is a metaphor. Life is a big project. It takes a village. We're doing this together." Matt and I are eternally grateful to every single person who helped make our wedding possible.

Going into our wedding, we knew that we wanted a community spirit. Specifically, here was our vision:
  1. To have real time to spend with guests. We didn't want to follow the traditional pattern of a few wedding "events" where the bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom) only have time for a "meet and greet". We wanted more of a family and friends reunion. We also wanted to build community among our guests, since many of them would be meeting for the first time.
  2. To ensure the experience didn't feel overly-orchestrated. We wanted a celebration fo our love, not a show. We wanted our wedding to feel deeply authentic and real.
  3. To conserve money. We didn't want our wedding to grow bigger than our marriage. Although our wedding was important to us, we agreed that it was only a brief celebration and not worth going into debt for. We also figured we could make the event special with sincerity, not money.
  4. To be good for the environment and connected to nature.
  5. To ensure the wedding represents us and our values as a couple.
  6. To be relaxed and fully present.

This picture captures one small moment of how our vision manifested itself.

I hope I don't come across as smug in this post. I don't think every couple should do things the way we did them. Not at all. However, I do think every couple needs to generate their own vision, their unique expression of their relationship and their joint path.

As tricky as it may be to collaborate with our partners and generate a shared vision, it's even trickier figuring out how to make that vision happen, despite potential pressures from family, friends, magazines, blogs, reality TV shows--the list goes on and on.

But it's important. It matters. It's worth it. As Meg pointed out last week, a wedding is "birthing a new family."

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Find Your People

Oh gosh.

My friend Virginia (whom I was lucky enough to meet through this whole blogging thing) wrote a piece about choosing not to ask her dad to walk her down the aisle. The piece got picked up by the AOL main news page, which means that her "alternative" wedding ideas flowed into the Mainstream. As a result, her inbox was flooded with almost "600 hate-filled comments."

She says, "The working theory is that I'm a spoiled feminazi bitch who hates my father, broke his heart and doesn't deserve to be given away because I already 'gave myself away' by shacking up with my boyfriend before marriage. (Oh and Dan has no genitalia and/or is probably already cheating on me. Obviously.) 'Why bothered to get married at all if you're going to do it this way?' is one of the most frequent responses. In fact, the only way people are considering it acceptable for me to have done this is if my dad was a deadbeat or worst who didn't deserve to be involved in my wedding. Actually...my dad is wonderful guy, we have a great relationship, and he was totally cool with my choice. (In fact, he just posted a comment to that effect because that's how much he rocks.)"

Here is just a sampling of one of the comments (I could only bring myself to read six of them. Seriously.)
"It sounds to me like she has no respect for any tradition as it is. The fact the she has two cats and a P-whipped guy makes me wonder if he sould not be wearing the dress. They shacked up for 10 years and now they want to formalize their relationship. Her dad is probably as ashamed of her behavior as she should be and would not want to "give her away". I certainly don't see any sense in that farcical jesture. I have to think that she'll end up being one of those crazy selfish women who wait until they are forty something before trying to have a child. Let's hope these two don't reproduce."
And the message is clear to me: Find Your People. Yes, find those people who understand you and your perspective and immerse yourself in their support. A few of my wedding people are Becca, Ariel, and Meg. Their words remind me on a daily basis that we must reclaim our weddings from the hands of the Wedding Industrial Complex. Their ideas about weddings echo my own.

I'm not suggesting that we just bury our heads in the sand and ignore alternative viewpoints, but we need to treat ourselves with care. There's only so much onslaught and assault a person can take.

I'm on your side, Virginia!

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Finding Balance

This past weekend, Matt asked me to travel to Indiana with him to spend time with his family for his brother's college graduation. The whole family was also signing up to run in a race in Indianapolis. Matt, his mom, and his brother were signing up for a half marathon.

When he asked me to go with him six months ago, I came really, really close to signing up for the half marathon. By "close," I mean that I e-mailed Matt and said, "Sign me up for the half!" Then I found a training program online and even transferred the training schedule to my calendar (in pen, no less!). I was prepared to train for months, doing increasingly long runs (which would have required a lot of time because I am a very slow runner).

A few minutes later, I came to my senses and realized that running a half marathon was not on my list of life goals. I almost committed myself to months and months of training (with really long runs!) in order to pursue something that wasn't authentically aligned with my self.

So I signed up for the 5k instead. And boy was I thankful. Matt's dad, other brother, and I all ran our quick three miles, went back to the hotel, showered, ate a delicious breakfast buffet, and then went to the finish line to watch the rest of the family finish.

I'm still astounded by how close I came to devoting significant time, energy, and dedication to something I wasn't even passionate about. I think it's an easy trap to fall into. Running long races is one of Matt's passions, and I enjoy spending time with him. But that doesn't mean that running races has to be my hobby, too.

On the other hand, it's good to stretch ourselves and introduce ourselves to new hobbies and interests. The 5k was a good compromise. I got to be an active participant in the weekend's festivities, but I didn't have to devote large chunks of my free time to training. Phew!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to Get People to Dance at Your Wedding

A couple comments on last week's iPod playlist post inspired me to write about how to get people to dance at your wedding.


Our strategy was simple: we picked [what we considered to be] a very high energy first song ("Blister in the Sun") and we asked everyone in our wedding party (there were 12 of us all together) to please, please, please dance your hearts out to get the party started.

To be even more strategic, we should have asked a few trusted friends and family members to commit to dancing right away, too. We didn't do this and everything still worked out well, but if I were doing it again, I might take out this little bit of extra insurance.

I've found that friends are more than happy to help in whatever way they can. So much of the mainstream culture pressures us to turn our weddings into shows. They tell us that it's best for our guests to sit back, relax, and enjoy the performance. In my experience, I found that the guests who actively participated (in big ways like cooking the fajitas or small ways like being asked to clap during the ceremony) enjoyed the experience more because they helped bring the experience to fruition.

We also had a help-yourself keg at our wedding, which really fueled the dance party (although I think alcohol-free festivities can be just as raucous). In addition to the dance party, we also had board games going on, hot-tub soaking, and story-telling around the campfire. Some family members congregated in the quieter areas to read the book my best friend made for us.

The other question that came up within the comment section of that post was about how to get people to clap during the ceremony. I really, really wanted people to clap after each speaker in our wedding--not because it's a show but rather to show appreciation for the speakers, so I stealthily asked four friends in the audience and the wedding party to take the clapping/cheering lead.

It worked well! Many people are itching to clap at a ceremony; they just need a catalyst to start the clapping.

Please share any other ideas you all have!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

When You and Your Partner Are at Different Readiness Levels

In the beginning of our relationship, Matt was the little race car in the lead. He was the first one to suggest we move in together. He was ready to get engaged before I was.

Two years after our wedding, my little car is pulling ahead. I'm the one who's ready to start trying to have a baby. I was actually ready to start trying last year because my work schedule was optimal. I was working from home as an independent educational consultant for schools working to close the achievement gap.

However, Matt wasn't ready yet (understandably so). At that point, we decided to wait until the end of this school year (since I went back into the classroom to teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade).

But now that the end of the school year is upon us, Matt reports that he isn't so ready. When I asked him to quantify his readiness level (I'm nerdy like that), he gave it 4 on a scale of 10.

Whoa. Time to slow this little race car of mine down. There's no way I want to jump out of that plane without my tandem partner attached (sorry for the mixed metaphors).

It got me thinking about the nature of partnership and the delicate dance of compromise. There are infinite life decisions that require nearly-matched readiness levels: moving in together, engagement, marriage, buying a home, taking a year off to travel, splurging on an SLR camera.

What do you do inside a partnership when you and your partner are at different readiness levels? (I'm not asking that simply as a rhetorical question...).

I'll take a stab at answering it because I'm the only one here at the moment, but it's something I'm really wondering.

My first response is to talk about it. Like really talk about it. Like ask each other deep questions that get to the root of what the other person is thinking (not just take a breath while you wait for the other person to stop talking so you can jump in to make more of your own points).

But then there comes a point where too much talking can suffocate the person who isn't ready. Then the talking starts to feel like pressure. And too much pressure makes a person want to pop.

There's also the value of turning outward from the relationship and talking to other people. Like beloved family members. And best friends. And sage colleagues. And therapists.

And then there's the slow-down approach where the impatient partner slows the heck down and basks in the present moment.

Matt and I are trying all these approaches as we navigate our different readiness levels.

Some words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated!

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Friday, May 7, 2010

More Stress from the Wedding Industrial Complex

The farther away one gets from one's wedding, the more one starts to wonder, "Why did I care so much about the way _________ looked? I barely even think about that now. And surely my guests have much more significant memories from our wedding." [insert any number of things ranging from the chair covers to the centerpieces to the aisle bouquets to the flower girl dresses--the list goes on and on and on].

A major culprit is the Wedding Industrial Complex, which strives to make us the most anxious and insecure brides they can (grooms, you are thankfully spared large amounts of this). The more anxious and insecure we are, the more we will buy into their rhetoric and the more we are likely to buy whatever it is they are offering to complete our "Perfect Day."

Take this message from a vendor, for example:
"Cupcakes are economical, convenient, creative, and clearly the hip alternative to the wedding cake. The challenge lies in how to display them dramatically, giving them the presence of a traditional wedding cake - making them the focal point of the table."
See? The subtext makes me queasy. In other words, "If you opt for cupcakes because you are part of the 'hip' crowd or because you want to reduce stress on your wedding day or because you want to save money, then you better at least stress about how to display them. You must impress your guests with a dramatic display. This display must be so sensational that it overshadows everything else: your love, your friendships, your connection with family. Everything must pale in comparison to that tower of cupcakes. Oh, and by the way, we have just the thing to help you achieve the dramatic results you're looking for. It costs only $XX.XX. And you should probably thrown in some ____ and some ____ for an extra $XXX.XX if you want to make your day truly memorable."

No, no, no, no, no!

Our weddings will be meaningful and memorable regardless of what we do or don't buy, thankyouverymuch.

Wedding Veterans: Are there things that you stressed about during wedding plan that seem completely irrational and inconsequential now that your weddings are said and done?

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

DIY: When It's Time to Come up with Plan B (or C)

As the DIY movement gets a stronger and stronger foothold in the wedding planning world, I think it's important for each of us to step back and ask ourselves, "How do I personally feel about DIY? Will DIYing aspects of my wedding make me feel more connected to my wedding or will it stress me out? Is our wedding the perfect opportunity to express ourselves creatively or do I simply feel pressured because everyone else is doing it? Will DIYing help us save money or will we end up spending more once we factor in our time and energy?

The answers are different for all of us.

For Matt and me, the hand-crafted route was the one we wanted to take intentionally. In some cases, it allowed us to make our wedding special with sincerity rather than money (like by embroidering our life story along the bottom of my $15 dress). In other ways it helped us save money (like by making our invitation postcards out of supplies we had in our craft closet and making our own ceremony program fans). It also helped us lessen our impact on the environment (like by making Matt's tie out of an old dress of mine). And, at times, it started to drive us insane (like making enough cloth napkins for our Welcome Picnic and our Wedding Reception).

I also noticed that we started to take on more and more unnecessary projects as our engagement stretched on (like sewing flower pins for everyone in the wedding party).

Overall, however, DIYing many aspects of our wedding was an important part of our process. It brought us closer to our wedding. It allowed us to share ourselves with our nearest and dearest.

Even for those of us who find meaning and purpose through the process of making things, there can be a fine line between crafting and losing one's marbles. Whenever I undertake a DIY project, I inevitably progress through the six stages from pure excitement to regret and frustration to sheer pride.

There also comes a moment when I have to calibrate my ambition to the reality of my time/skills/ability.

Take my most recent Picnic Placemat Project, for example.

I had every intention of making eight of these for my friend's birthday. I figured eight was a good set. I tried to buy enough fabric for all eight placemats, but after I was finished cutting, I realized I only had enough for four placemats (since it takes two pieces to make each one). Oh well. I decided to go with Plan B. I figured four would make a sufficient and satisfactory set as well.

But then I actually started sewing them. Although each one didn't take too long, it was Friday night and I was tired. Her party was the next day. That's when I had to come up with Plan C: Make two placemats instead.

And you know what? Two were perfectly fine. Because, at the end of the handmade day, it truly is the thought that counts.

Matt and I had to apply the same "Plan B Philosophy" to our DIY wedding projects, too. When the thought of sewing more than 80 napkins threatened to drown us, we decided to trim the edges with pinking sheers instead. When the prospect of hemming our sheets-as-tablecloths was about to break us, we opted to fold them under.

At the end of the day, we each have to find our own balance between hand-crafting, maintaining our sanity, and saving money. There's no easy answer, but the questions are definitely worth asking.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

DIY: Free Potluck Labels

Hobby Farms has some free downloadable potluck labels! (I promise I won't go into detail again about what a big fan I am of potluck weddings!) These would also be great for wedding showers, post-wedding parties, etc.

Thanks for the heads-up, Andrea!

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Q & A: Wedding Transitions

Reader's Question: Thank you for your site! It has by far been the most helpful resource for our own wedding planning. I have a question: my fiance and I are having a backyard wedding (ceremony and reception) in my mother-in-law to be's backyard. It will be fairly small about 30 - 40 guests and we are having an awesome BBQ for our reception. So obviously this will be very informal, but I'm stumped on how to transfer from the ceremony to the party? After we say our I Do's it kind of just needs to turn into a bbq in the same yard and I don't want it to be like an awkward segue on the evening news y'know? :)

I know exactly what you're talking about! Matt and I had to work around a less-traditional (and therefore potentially more awkward) setup for the start of our wedding. Since our reception was outside by a lake and there was really nothing else around, we couldn't do the traditional aisle-walk thing (since there was nowhere to hide before the big reveal). Plus, I didn't really want that for myself.

We decided that we would just pull up in our car about 15 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start, get out, and start mingling with our guests. To mark the start of the ceremony, we had someone fast-forward to our specific song and turn up the volume. That was the wedding party's cue that it was time to assume our places. (As a sidenote, once we were all standing in our places and the ceremony began, I realized I forgot to grab my bouquet! I had to jump out of place to go grab it. Oh well...more comic relief).

At the end of the ceremony, after everyone cheered, we had our officiant give some announcements to the group. Here's what he said:


· Thank you so much for joining us today.

· Please stay seated where you are so we can take a few photos of the entire group.

· Those of you who have been asked by Katy to stay for pictures, please gather in your groups over in this area after the whole-group photo.

· If you would like to recycle your programs, there’s a box over there.

· After we take the photos, the celebration will continue six miles down the road at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.

· See you there!

You could consider doing something similar. At the end of your ceremony, the officiant (or you and your partner) could close the ceremony and explain to people what they should do next, such as, "Thank you so much for being here to witness this proclamation of love and commitment. Now it's time to celebrate! Please move your chair over to the side and then start helping yourself to drinks and food!" (or whatever it is you actually want your guests to do...)

We found that folks were fine with our non-traditional format, as long as we gave them lots of information about what was going on and when. We started to get them prepared with information on our wedsite. We also sent out e-mail updates leading up to the wedding. At the Welcome Picnic, we had a big sign explaining the weekend's events. We also wrote the information on the ceremony program fans. Finally, we had our officiant review the information. As a result, everything went pretty smoothly!

I'd love to hear what other advice you all have! Please comment away...

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Monday, May 3, 2010

iPod Wedding Playlist: Dancing

Oh, 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding kindred spirits, how I love you. Let me count the ways:

One: Playlist Number One
Two: Playlist Number Two
And, three...this post. Three posts and about 1,200 words.

Matt Bradford here, Sara's lesser half, writing to finally finish up the wedding playlist that barely survived getting wiped off Sara's iPod by the auto-sync feature. Let's see, where did we leave off? Ah, yes, the dance music!

As Sara's best friend, Andy Dehnart, said at the wedding, "Sara and Matt coming together is like guacamole being made: Sara's friends and family are the avocado and cilantro and Matt's friends and family are like the jalapeƱos."

It's true. My friends and family aim to win the party and fueled by the margarita machine, Hoss, and the music below the party was won.

Playlist - Reception - DANCE!!!

Prince - Kiss (for our first dance)
Violent Femmes - Blister in the Sun
Sierra Leone Refugee All Star Band - Akera Ka Abonshor
John Cougar Mellencamp - Jack and Diane
Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
Jackson 5 - I Want you Back
Justin Timberlake - Senorita
Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs - Stay
John Lennon - Oh Yoko
The Faces - Ooh La La
Hank Ballard - The Twist
Phoenix - Too Young
Madonna - Like a Prayer
Tenacious D. - Sexual Healing
No Doubt - Just a Girl
Bon Jovi - Living on a Prayer
Justin Timberlake - Cry Me a River
Cat Stevens - Here Comes My Baby
The Decembrists - The Sporting Life
The Gourds - Gin and Juice
Fruit Bats - When You Love Someone
Outkast - The Way You Move
Al Green - Here I Am
Barry White - Can't Get Enough of Your Love
Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
Otis Day and the Knights - Shout
Them Two - Am I a Good Man
Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
Ace of Base - I Saw the Sign
Culture Club - Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
Men Without Hats - The Safety Dance
Vampire Weekend - M79
Outkast - Hey Ya
Arrested Development - Tennessee
Kenny Loggins - Footloose
Whitney Houston - I Want to Dance With Somebody
Bruce Springsteen - Thunder Road

Readers, I do hope that you have enjoyed the postings and I hope that you can suggest some hits that may not have been on our list.

Have a great week; you're worth it.

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