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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Contest Winner(s)

Because the response was so excitingly overwhelming to my first-ever e-course (hooray!), I had to pick five winners instead of just one. You all are just awesome. You make me a very happy person.

For those of you who entered but didn't get a congratulatory e-mail from me: I'm so sorry! Of course you're still welcome to register for the course on your own or sign-up to receive an e-mail about future course offerings.

Also, we have another fun contest coming up on Monday.

Happy Friday,


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Thursday, July 29, 2010

DIY: Coloring Books

Here's a step-by-step tutorial about how to turn your photos into coloring books. These would be fun to put together for the kiddos at your wedding. The technique would also be fun to use for Save-the-Dates, invitations, thank-you cards, etc.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good Sources for Rings

I thought it might be helpful if we started a resource guide for good places to get eco-friendly, budget-minded, hand-crafted rings. What do you think?

Here are some of my personal favorites:
  1. Turtle Love Committee
  2. Fabuluster
  3. HelenesDreams
  4. Kate Szabone
  5. McFarland Designs

What are yours?

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

(Mini) Annual Adventure

Matt and I have already been fortunate to take two big trips this year. First, we took a road trip to Big Bend and Marfa for spring break. Then we planned a two-week road trip from L.A. to Canada.

In August, we're both attending an educational conference in Las Vegas. It doesn't start until Monday, so we're going to get there late Friday night and have a few days of fun.

Here's the thing: We are not really Las Vegas people. Gambling? Not so interested. Neon lights? Could do without. Oppressive heat? We get enough of that in Houston. Night life? We usually go to bed around 11 and wake up early. I know; we're pretty boring.

So our plan is to rent a car and get out of Las Vegas for the weekend (since we'll have a week there anyway), but where should we go?

Please, kindred spirits in all of your infinite wisdom, give us advice about where we should go!

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Online Course

I pinky-promise that this blog will remain a wedding-focused blog, despite my personal transition into pregnancy and parenthood (I'll be posting updates about those things over at Feeding the Soil), but I couldn't resist sharing my most recent endeavor with you all, since this blog is also about living the authentic life and pursuing your dreams (through your wedding and into married life!).

I've spent months creating an online course about how to prepare your mind, body, and life for pregnancy. I want to hold a contest to give away one free spot in the Purposeful Conception course.

Over the course of five weeks, a new lesson will be uploaded each weekday. The lessons will address a whole host of topics, such as preparing your body through solid nutrition and exercise, finding balance between what you can and cannot control, making space in your life for pregnancy, deciding whether to track your cycle, building a solid partnership as a foundation for your future family, and much, much more. Participants in the course will receive information, tips, reflection exercises and prompts, access to interviews, and a community of like-minded kindred spirits who are on a journey similar to their own.

To enter:
  • Send an e-mail to saracotner@yahoo.com with the subject line "Contest!" by Wednesday, July 28 at 11:59 EST. The winner will be notified via e-mail by Saturday. (I'm opting for e-mail rather than comment entry this time in order to honor people's privacy.)

If you would like to learn more about the course, you can visit the website, the Course Overview, the About the Author, or the Registration Page.

I would also be eternally grateful if you would click on the share buttons below in order to help me spread the word about this contest and the course. A thousand thanks!

(P.S. For those of you who have already registered for the course, definitely feel free to enter! If you win, I will refund your registration fee via PayPal.)

Best of luck, Everyone!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

News About Sane and Affordable Weddings

Kindred spirit, Maureen, shared a CNN article with me about getting creative and saving money while planning a wedding. I feel honored to be mentioned among the likes of Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding.

It inspired me to create a page to keep track of these little mentions (can you tell it's my summer vacation and I have extra time on my hands?). It's called 2000 Dollar Wedding in the News. I know it seems a bit narcissistic, but it's more of a centralized scrapbook of sorts.

Maureen also shared this awesome outdoor Scrabble project, in case you're interested!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting Photos from Guests

A lot of new services are popping up that try to help you gather your wedding guests' photos. Honestly, Matt and I had a pretty easy time doing it ourselves by working through these specific steps:
  1. We created a centralized Flickr account (using a new e-mail address and password that we were comfortable sharing with our guests). We had to upgrade to a Pro account, in order to avoid any upload restrictions.
  2. We shared this information with our guests on our wedsite in advance, in order to give them a heads-up that we wanted them to bring their digital cameras/phones and snap away!
  3. We sent a mass e-mail after the wedding to remind everyone to upload their photos. Again, we gave them the log-in information and step-by-step directions about how to upload their photos.
  4. We asked a couple of people directly to take photos and upload them to the site. We found the personal request to be much more effective than mass announcements on our wedsite or e-mails.

With this approach, we ended up with more than 2,000 photos!

Any other ideas for getting photos from guests?

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Recommendation from a Reader

Kindred spirit, Paige, e-mailed me to let me know about this great book she read, Love Between Equals: How Peer Marriage Really Works.

Here's what she had to say about it:
It's based on a study done by sociologist Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein. They found that same-sex couples ranked higher in marital happiness and communication styles concerning household chores, division of labor, etc. They were intrigued by this and attributed the discrepancy to the fact that same-sex couples do not have to overcome traditional gender roles in the way that heterosexual couples do and therefore are more able to have egalitarian relationships. Anyways, Pepper Schwartz then decides to interview the heterosexual couples who DID have "peer marriages" that resembled the same communication patterns and equality as the other couples, and that was the basis of this book.

Matt and I work really hard to create equality in our relationship. It doesn't mean that we always contribute the exact same things to our marriage or keep tabs on everything, but we do look at our relationship through the conscious lens of equality, and we talk about it when we feel like things have gotten out of balance.

This book looks fascinating!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

P.S. Matt and I Are Having a Baby!

If you're interested in reading a little more about it, you can head over to my personal blog, Feeding the Soil.


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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Words of Wisdom

My best friend (and wedding officiant) was featured in a Variety article. He addresses why he thinks reality wedding TV shows are popular (he's a reality TV expert). I'd like to think I influenced his thinking about the Wedding Industrial Complex (lord knows I complain about it to him enough!).

In the article, he said, "Weddings, for example, make people insane as they try to live up to an impossible expectation set for them by companies that want to sell them things."

Here's to all of you who are not kowtowing to the expectations set by the Wedding Industrial Complex. Cheers!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Annual Adventure Itinerary

Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions about places to go and things to do on our next Annual Adventure. We are so looking forward to it!

Here's what our final itinerary looks like:
  • Arrive in L.A. in the evening. Pick up rental car and trek to our friend Rachel's house for the night.
  • Head to Big Sur after breakfast. Camp at Andrew Molera State Park
  • Drive from Big Sur to Muir Woods (stopping in Santa Cruz to eat at the Saturn Cafe), staying the night in San Francisco
  • Trek from Muir Woods to Patrick's Point State Park in Northern California for camping
  • Drive from the redwoods to the Oregon coast to stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel (and splurge on the communal dinner!)
  • Trek from the coast to Leavenworth (taking a detour through Portland and eating at the Chat House for lunch); staying with dear friends that night
  • Trek from Leavenworth, WA into British Columbia for four days of wild fun
  • Drive from Vancouver to Seattle and stop at Cafe Flora for dinner
  • Drive from Seattle to Eugene and stay with friends
  • Trek from Eugene to Oakland and stay with friends
  • Drive from Oakland to LA. and stay with friends

It should be a good combination of camping, staying with friends, splurging on hotels, hiking, resting, seeing new sights, and eating good food.

Unfortunately, last night, Matt pointed out that every single one of our camping trips has ended in disaster.

First, there was camping at Enchanted Rock the night it snowed (it rarely snows in Texas!).

Then there was camping in Utah where there was a serious infestation of the hairiest, biggest mosquitoes we had ever seen (despite the most intense wind that kept blowing our tent over). We tried to let Hoss sleep in the car with the windows half down, but in the middle of the night, he started howling because he was getting bitten so badly.

Then we tried to camp in a remote area of Oregon. In the middle of the night, we heard gunshots, decided to pack everything up, and drove until we found a moldy Motel 6 that accepted dogs.

Then we camped in Northern California at a beautiful spot where the redwood forest met the coast. But Hoss peed in our tent.

Then we camped in Big Bend, which was awesome, except the temperature dropped way lower than we expected and we nearly froze ourselves into hypothermia.

But I am not discouraged. I like sleeping outside. I really do. We just need to camp more so that we bring down our statistical disaster average, right?

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Way to Save on Travel

The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa

Hmm...the lovely Kristina over at Lovely Morning mentioned a website that helps you save big bucks on travel, called Jetsetter. I am always on the lookout for ways to save on travel.

I tried to register for an account, but they said I had to be put on a waiting list. Sheesh. Is that just to make me want it more badly?

It's working...

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Monday, July 12, 2010

On Being Less Crazy During Wedding Planning

Now that Matt and I are going through the conception process, I find that there are a lot of parallels to the wedding planning process. For one, it can be full of anxiety. In fact, the more of a control freak you are, the more anxiety-producing the process can be.

Take conception, for example. There is a long window of time during which you may or may not be pregnant, and there's very little you can do to figure it out. So being the obsessive planner slash over-analyzer that I am, I find myself constantly asking, "Could I be pregnant? Is this symptom a sign of pregnancy? Let's see what Google has to say." I ask these questions in my head all the time, and then I subject my best friend and my partner to the same obsessive questioning: "It's now day 35 of my cycle. My last cycle was 33 days, but the cycle before that was 35 days. But my longest cycle in the past year was 43 days. So what do you think? Am I pregnant?"

Holy moly. I am annoying myself just by recounting all this...

So anyway, I am learning a lesson during this process, that might come in handy for you, when you find yourself getting crazy-obsessive or unnecessarily worried: Stop talking about it.

I know, I know. It's easier said than done. But here's the thing: The more I think these thoughts, the more I talk about them with others. The more I talk about them with others, the more I think about them. It's a downward spiral that has got to stop.

I may not be able to reign in my crazy thoughts, but I can control my actions in response to that craziness. I can stop myself from talking about it and dragging others into the craziness. I can prevent myself from taking any crazy actions in response to my crazy thoughts (for example, I can stop myself from incessantly peeing on pregnancy tests).

My theory is that the less I talk about the craziness and the less I act on it, the less it will control my life. Also, when I find myself starting to think obsessive thoughts, "Was that cramp a PMS cramp because my period is coming or was it a uterus expanding cramp because I'm pregnant?," I will give myself a little mental nudge to move onto other thoughts. I have lots of other stuff to think about aside from conception.

Now, I'm not saying that we should repress all of our craziness. It's good to get it out. But there is a very distinct line between getting your craziness out by sharing it with someone else and getting their help to work through it, versus talking about it obsessively and making it worse. Those of you who have the kinds of crazy thoughts that I have know what I'm talking about.

So let's stop talking about it, okay?

(Although I do think it would be perfectly suitable for you to talk about it in the comments section to acknowledge what it is that you are going to stop talking about).

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cheap and Easy Wedding Invitations

It's funny to me (in a sad way) how the most inconsequential of things can cause SO MUCH STRESS during wedding planning.

Like invitations.

I just wanted to take a minute to highlight some generic invitations from Target that you can print on your home printer. Lord knows we see enough handcrafted, letterpressed, Etsy-designed, original invitations around the blogosphere (and I'm being kind of hypocritical because Matt and I did make ours from scratch--but that was primarily to save money and to be more green).

No offense to people who want to invest large amounts of time and energy into the production of their invitations. But for those of you who don't, this post is for you. Your wedding will be no less meaningful or memorable if you take the cheaper and easier route with invitations.

In fact, in my opinion, the best way to make invitations meaningful and memorable is to write an individualized note to each recipient about why you would be ecstatic to see them at your wedding. But again, that's just me.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Postcard #5: The Details that Don't Matter (to Me)

I couldn't resist sharing the most un-blog-worthy wedding photo. Hilarious! Let me explain all the ways it is not a pretty, pretty wedding picture:
  1. The cakes are not coordinated in any way, shape or form. Matt and I opted for several smaller cakes from Whole Foods so we would save money and give our guests lots of options. But you know what? Those cakes were cheap and tasty.
  2. The cakes are not displayed on antique cake stands. They are displayed on cardboard. Thanks, Whole Foods, for at least using gold cardboard with scalloped edges. You really know how to help a bride out.
  3. The cake labels are bright green. Bright green! That just happened to be the paper we had leftover in our craft room probably because it was my second least favorite color in the pack! We used my least favorite color for our name tags.
  4. The tablecloth is one of those plastic kinds you can pick up at the grocery store, and it doesn't coordinate with the other tablecloths in any way, shape, or form. Matt and I did buy lots of vintage sheets to use as tablecloths, but I'm guessing we didn't have enough to cover all the tables, so the innkeepers let us borrow one of theirs. I didn't spend much time stressing about it. I was in the kitchen making guacamole, while Cathy, Cory, and a random assortment of our friends were setting up outside. By that point, I was done stressing about any details. I was just enjoying myself.

The danger of viewing too much pretty, pretty wedding porn is that we start to get skewed perspectives about what really matters to us. That is the most important question: What matters to you as a couple? Why? What do you want to put your time/energy/money into? Will it align to your bigger goals for your wedding and your life together?

Once you answer those questions for yourself, then you have to move forward with courage and conviction. It is so easy to doubt ourselves! We're already in an emotionally vulnerable state as we undertake a major life change. But that's also the perfect time to be true to ourselves and our values.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DIY: Dress Applique

Finally! I've been waiting for an opportunity to attempt something like Kimi's amazing wedding dress ever since I saw it oh-so long ago. For a while, I coveted a J.Crew dress to use as my base, but it was too expensive. First of all, I might botch the entire thing, and therefore don't want to invest too much in this project. Secondly, Kimi's wedding dress only cost $68, so I think it's appropriate to maintain the budget-minded spirit.

Enter, a cheap black dress from Target. Perfect! I'll be going to a gala at the beginning of August, so it will be the perfect place to wear my dress (assuming it works out!).

Here's what Kimi has to say about her process:
I went to fabric stores and in the dusty basement of one found a kind of flocked velvet backed with acrylic. If it had been regular velvet, or any other normal fabric, the edges would have shredded with the thin delicate shapes I was planning. There aren't really any DIY instructions because they would have to say "Be an Artist and Graphic Designer Like Me," which isn't very helpful. I just took a pair of scissors and went at it—but there are tons of patterns on the web that people could trace. I cut out hundreds of leaves and vines and animals until I had shapes that looked good. Then I took the clean dress and laid it out on the floor and began arranging all the pieces until I got a pattern I liked. Then the hot glue gun came out (superglue also works I discovered later, and I was too lazy to even try fabric glue).

So I need to find some velvet backed with acrylic. Hmm...

Also, I think I will need to draw some designs on paper and use those as a pattern for cutting out the fabric. I seriously doubt my ability to freehand such a project...

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Write Your Own Wedding Ceremony Script

Every once in a while, I like to post my ongoing collection of wedding scripts for your reading pleasure! (If you want to share yours, please e-mail me!)

  1. Sara & Matt of 2000 Dollar Wedding
  2. Ariel & Andreas of Offbeat Bride
  3. Kat & Justin of Weddingbee
  4. Jen & Shell
  5. Peonies & The Boy of Peonies and Polaroids
  6. Katie & Paul of A Backyard Wedding
  7. Hope & Ben of hippie dippie bebe
  8. Katie & Katie
And here's a play-by-play of how Matt and I wrote our own ceremony, in case it's helpful.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Registry Recommendation

I don't talk much about the consumer side of weddings, but I couldn't resist sharing a product that is revolutionizing my life (in case you think it might be helpful to you and you want to add it to your registry): a giant cutting board!

For as long as I can remember, I used small cutting boards. And I had to have multiple cutting boards because they were small and couldn't hold much. Then I watched a cooking demonstration and saw how the chef was able to chop multiple items all on one big surface. Revolutionary! When Matt and I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond in search of a plastic tray for making popsicles, we spotted a giant cutting board for $30. He saw me staring at it (I hadn't yet told him about the cooking demonstration and my resolution to buy a bigger cutting board). He blurted out, "We definitely need that." I didn't even have to use any persuasive techniques or cajoling!

It's definitely bulky, hard to move around, and it just barely sits in our sink on the diagonal to clean, but it's still worth it in my book. I should mention that Matt and I are vegetarians, so we don't have to worry about mixing raw bacteria thingamabobs with our other food. If we did cut meat, I would probably get one of those plastic mats with a chicken logo on it that I could easily put into the dishwasher.

The other downside of having a giant cutting board is that I can no longer carry it to the stove and scrape my stuff directly into the pan. I might need to invest in some little scooper things (that's what the fancy chef did). Hmmm....

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