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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Inspirational Weddings: Shannon + Ruben

Matt and I tried to think of our wedding as a "Friends and Family Reunion," as a way to release ourselves from the pressure to create a "Once-in-a-Lifetime" wedding. I mean, who cares what the chairs look like at a family reunion, right?

But Shannon and Ruben's wedding takes the concept way more literally. They actually got married at their yearly family reunion. So cool!


I would love to share my story with you and your readers, and to continue to encourage couples to stay true to their genuine selves and make their event special, with out the need of feeding the wedding industry. :) Overall, my husband and I feel that our wedding was the best wedding that we have ever attended! (We may be partial, but it was so much fun!)

My husband and I currently live in Chicago, I grew up in Texas, and every year we travel to Kerrville, TX, for my family reunion during the 4th of July weekend. Last summer when Ruben and I shared with my Grandfather our plan for getting married, he suggested we have the wedding there at the hotel where my family has met every year for the past 33 years. We instantly loved the idea. I have been at that hotel almost every summer of my life and had shared many memories there. Also, Ruben's family didn't live to far away, and it wouldn't be too difficult to travel.

So, it was decided that on July 3, 2010 we would get married at my Jenson Family Reunion. Our event turned out so much more amazing than I ever imagined. I was encouraged by you to stay true to myself, I would repeat your wedding mantra, and remember that it was about celebration and memories, and not about "stuff" that we couldn't afford. A DIY wedding to the core, I made made all the wedding invites, and my mother in law made fabric flowers as decorations, as well as other Puerto Rican wedding traditions like lace capias, and my mother made my wedding veil as well! :)

Ruben and I decided that everything else we needed for our wedding we could found at thriftstores, and we had a great time traveling around the city to find lace doily table runners, and milk glass vases, as well as candles, and other items. We also saved glass jars that we used throughout the year, to use for candle votives. With the help of my aunts, my cousins, and the hotel maintenance men, all the decorations went up. It was awesome, I provided all the decorating materials, created basic design ideas, and then they took the ball and ran with it. Having their input was such a gift; it was as special for them as it was for me. Plus we took a room that wasn't so cute and made it our own. The room where we got married was a board room suite (that had never been used for anything other than board meetings, especially not a wedding.) In the room were 17 large painting of Indians and cowboys riding horses. Not exactly our style, and since we couldn't take them down, we decided we would cover most of them up with paper and place pictures of our lives together in Chicago. Our guests loved it, it was so us! I had two great friends, who are sisters, act as florist and wedding day coordinators. My longest friend and her mother took care of making sure the food was out and beverages were served.
The ceremony was officiated by my childhood pastor who has known me since I was 9 years old, and has been apart of my life for many major events. He is still in Fort Stockton, TX where I grew up, and so we did our pre-marital counseling via video on Skype! It was so special to have him there! My husband (who is a professional orchestral bass player) played a bass & cello duet with a dear friend from college, the moment right before I walked down the aisle. He sounded amazing, and it was incredible to hear my future husband play so well, knowing that his bass was very much a part of our marriage. :)

We decided that we would serve the foods that we grew up on. Ruben's family made Puerto Rican food including; rice and gandules, grilled pork tenderloin (that the groom grilled himself the day of the wedding,) fried plantains, and baked beans. My side of the family made savory finger foods as well as homemade desserts, and we catered sandwiches from the local grocery deli.

Ruben created the playlist and acted as DJ throughout one part of the evening. My maid of honor had made a special playlist of all the great group dance tunes, and then by the end of the evening, everyone brought out their mp3 players and played their favorite tunes. Meanwhile I danced and danced with my family, my new family and our closest friends.

Of course, I could go on and on! We didn't pay for a professional photographer, but got amazing pictures from family and friends with amazing photography skills. Some of my favorite photos were taken by Ruben's 15 year old niece with his Nikon.

The biggest lesson that I learned is that a wedding is much more than the bride and groom's special day. It's a special day for the whole family involved, and we had an amazing time! What was great was that there was no post wedding blues (that I had heard about.) Once the wedding was over, we still had reunion time, playing games and hanging out with family. None of the wedding left overs were wasted and eaten by Rubens family as they traveled home, and by my family as we hung out through the rest of the reunion.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DIY Bunting Inspiration

Image courtesy of myfavouritedress

Image courtesy of meringuedesigns

Image courtesy of SparklePower

Some friends of ours (remember the post about making your own engagement ring?) just had a baby. Pat gave Meghan a "pushing present," which was a new bike.

Matt asked me if I needed a pushing present when I give birth in February. At first I said no, but then I thought about it a little more. I realized exactly what I want: two cupcakes from my favorite cupcake store in Houston. I'm eager for cupcakes, since I've only eaten refined sugar twice in the past two months. When I entered into the second trimester of my pregnancy, I started trying to reduce my sugar intake, based on the recommendation of my midwife.

Once I got the cupcakes in my head, I realized that on the day of our baby boy's birth, we will actually be celebrating his first ever birthday. That inspired me to make some bunting to hang for the birth and make some birthday hats for the occasion.

While I was collecting bunting tutorials for myself, I thought I would share them with you!

DIY Bunting Inspiration:

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Amazon Registry Recommendation

Thanks to your comments/recommendations on a post I wrote a while ago about wedding registries, I decided to use Amazon for our baby registry.

It's so simple to use! There's an option to install an "Add to Registry" button on your browser toolbar, which means you can add things to your registry from any website (not just Amazon.com). For example, I've added things from Etsy, as well as my friend's shop: Speckled Little Frog.

I've had a great time adding things for "Coconut." I highly recommend it!

As Matt and I add things to our registry, we're not just restricting ourselves to traditional things you would put on a baby registry. Similarly, when we got married, we put all sorts of things on our wedding registry, such as a dog backpack and a subscription to Angie's List. Many of our friends enjoyed buying us more unconventional gifts. I'm still trying to figure out a way to add services to our registry. For example, I would love to have an option for people to sign up to buy us some housekeeping, post-birth. Maybe I could add gift certificates from a housekeeping agency?

P.S. There are 5 days left to secure your spot in the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy! Based on feedback from the last course, it seems like it's better to enroll earlier rather than later in the pre-conception process. Let me know if you have any questions!

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Amazing Dress Share

Anna had a brilliant idea after hosting a giveaway of her dress two weeks ago. Why give it to one person when everyone could use it?

Anna is working out a plan to share the dress among all the entrants who are interested. So cool!

As for Jennie, she decided to give her dress to Michelle who said:
I would like to be considered to win this beautiful dress because I am in need of a wedding dress that will fit into my wheel chair. When I first got engaged I bought a big huge pouffy dress. I never got to wear it because my leukemia relapsed months before our wedding. I am left with a lot of nerve damage that has resulted in me being wheel chair bound. I need a new dress with a slimmer body and your dress is perfect. Thank you for your consideration!

Michelle, please e-mail me so I can put you in touch with Jennie!

Thanks again, Jennie and Anna, for hosting a giveaway, and thanks to everyone else for being such an awesome community! And don't forget there's still time to enter to win Erica's dress...

P.S. There are 6 days left to secure your spot in the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy! Based on feedback from the last course, it seems like it's better to enroll earlier rather than later in the pre-conception process. Let me know if you have any questions!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Etsy Goodness

I'm so jealous of all of you who are still shopping for wedding rings. Actually, I hated the pressure of trying to find a once-in-a-lifetime ring (Matt and I skipped the engagement ring and just got wedding rings). But now that I have one, I get jealous every time I come across new cool options on Etsy.

Like this seller. So unique! (Although, I am nervous about that very pointy spire...)

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another Dress Giveaway!

I'm trying hard not to turn this site into one big "Dress Giveaway," but I love this dress that Erica so generously wants to give away!

She's looking for someone who is trying to plan an eco-friendly wedding. She said, "It's very important to me that this bride is doing everything within budget to have a 'green' wedding and minimize waste."

You just pay for shipping. So simple!

You can read all about the dress here.

If you want to enter to win, please explain why you want this dress in the comments section and leave your e-mail address so we can contact you if you are the lucky recipient!

Also, if you have a lovely dress you would like to pass along to a kindred spirit, please let me know! Unfortunately, I can't feature every dress that comes my way, since I like to space them out, but definitely be in touch!

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Personalized Invitations

Matt and I are busy working on our birth announcements. I know it's early (since I'm not due until mid-February), but working this far ahead helps me feel more relaxed. I mean, it has to get done, so why not do it months early so I feel absolutely no stress?

As we were working on the announcement, I was reminded of a very important lesson we learned during wedding planning: We can make up our own rules.

I remember feeling pressure to conform to what people expected an invitation to be when we were brainstorming ideas for our wedding invitations. It was so liberating when we realized that we didn't need to include multiple envelopes with fancy linings and calligraphy if we didn't want to. So we decided to send a postcard with an online RSVP instead! We opted for postcards so we could save money on postage, produce less waste, and set a more casual, family-reunion kind of feel for the event.

Of course my point isn't that everyone should send postcards. My point is that all of us should feel free to deviate from "tradition" in whatever ways suit us. For example, Matt and I also decided to write personalized messages to each one of our guests right on the postcard invitation.

As we started working on our birth announcements, I had the same liberating realization that we could do whatever we wanted to do. We decided to use the collage feature in Snapfish to create a collage of photos from the pregnancy. (Right now, the photos are more like place holders.) We'll replace those photos with more interesting ones as the pregnancy progresses. Also, after the baby is born, we will include one bigger photo of the baby.

We'll be able to print each 4 X 6 photograph for a mere $0.09 (and we might even be able to find a coupon!). We're making labels to stick on the back of them that will include a quirky message (again, we don't have to follow the "traditional" wording if we don't want to), as well as a mail merge of everyone's addresses (that we get from our Google doc). We'll stick on a postcard stamp and simply mail it. No envelope required!

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Monday, September 20, 2010

iPod Wedding Playlist

Oh, how I wish I were invited to all of your weddings! You really are such a fun bunch.

Bridget e-mailed me to tell me all about her DIY, Quaker, photobooth, yardgame wedding in Barre, MA on a little farm named Hartman's Herb Farm.

Aside from four vendors, they did everything else themselves: flowers, decorations, invitations, cupcakes, photographs, music, hair, makeup, etc. She described her wedding in a way we all hope to describe our weddings, "It was the best, pretty much."

While planning her wedding, she looked all over the internet for a pre-made, awesome dance party list. She never found one, so they assembled their own. She wanted to share the list with all of you who are looking for inspiration! (She even eliminated the "party killers" that they didn't know were party killers at the time...)

Without further ado...here's The List!

My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson (first dance!)
Thriller by MJ
Jump Around by House of Pain
Stayin Alive by the BeeGees
Superfreak by Rick James
Are you Gonna Be My Girl by Jett
Love Shack by the B-52s
Saw her Standing There by The Beatles
Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
Burnin Love by Elvis
Beat It by MJ
Power of Love Huey Lewis
Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus
I've Got a Feeling by Black Eyed Peas
The Way You Look Tonight (we did the Kris Allen version)
You Can't Hurry Love by Diana Ross
I Want You Back by Jackson 5
Signed Sealed Delivered by Stevie Wonder
Get Down Tonight
Love Song by Taylor Swift
What I Like About You by the Romantics
Good Vibrations by GLEE
Brick House by the Comodores
Georgia by Ray Charles
Don't Stop Til You Get Enough by MJ
Girls Just Wanna Have fun by Cindy Lauper
Aint No Other Man by Christina Aguilera
Just Dance by Gaga
California Girls by Katy Perry
Dynamite by Tao Cruz
Shake It by Metro Station
Let's Get it On by Marvin Gaye
Twist and Shout by the Beatles
Shoutby the Islay Brothers
Walk Like an Egyptian by Bangles
Sway by Michael Buble
Rehab GLEE
Don't Stop Believing GLEE
Get Jiggy With It by Will Smith
Can't Touch This by MC Hammer
C’est La Vie
Call On Me by Eric Pryz
Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake
Time Bomb by The Format
Since You've Been Gone by Kelly
Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron and Wine (best Twilight song ever!)
Yeah! By Usher
Tik Tok by Kesha
Beating Hearts Baby by Head Autamatica
Empire State of Mind by Jay Z
Single Ladies by Beyonce
Evacuate by Cascada
Saturday by the Rocket Summer
Better Together by Jack Johnson
Rollercoaster of Love by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Fire Burning by Shawn
Low (Apple bottom jeans)
Summer Wind by Michael Buble
Aint No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye
You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall and Oates
Sk8er Boi by Avril Leveine
Womanizer by Britney
Always Be My Baby by Mariah Carey
The Way you make me feel by MJ
Do You Love Me by the Contours
My Girl by Temptations
Come Clean by Hillary duff
Ours from Eclipse Soundtrack
I Do Not Hook Up by Kelly
Take You Anywhere by Teaghan & Sara (could be a party killer)
4 minutes by Madonna and JT
Love Is My Drug by Kesha
Proud Mary Glee
Halo Sunshine Mashup GLEE
You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift
My Life Would Suck Without You GLEE

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Google Docs for Collaborative Project Planning

Our wedding thank you cards: the inspiration for our birth announcements

I know Google Docs is nothing new to write home about, but it continues to be such a useful tool whenever I undertake collaborative projects (like wedding planning, baby planning, etc.). I had to sing its praises.

On this month's project plan, I need to figure out how we're going to do our birth announcements (I'm not due until February, but I imagine I won't want to worry much about them as the time gets closer...).

I wanted to give my mom and my "bonus mom" (i.e., my mother-in-law) a chance to upload addresses of people they would like us to send tangible announcements to, as well as people they would like to receive an e-mail. I created a shared Excel document and e-mailed them the link so they could add away!

Also, a friend of mine recently shared her baby project plan. She had columns for "tasks," "due date," "doer," and "status." That way, she and her partner could work on their respective tasks but have a centralized place for agreed upon due dates. Also, they could monitor each other's and and their collective progress with the status column.

So helpful!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ideas for Overcoming Sexual Frequency Issues

After I wrote a post describing the major problem that Matt and I are having in our relationship, I got a lovely e-mail from one of my longtime blog acquaintances, known as Ms. Loaf. I immediately asked if I could share her wisdom with all of you...

Congrats on your pregnancy. I love getting to follow along and read about the choices you and Matt are making for your family!

I started typing a comment on your latest $2000 wedding blog about the sex issue, but decided I'd feel more comfortable talking about this more privately with you. This issue was one of the major reasons (aside from eventual infidelity) that caused my ex and me to break up.

Anyway, we went to couples' counseling for awhile (with a lesbian therapist who specialized in helping couples with sex problems) and I thought I could maybe offer some advice or at least an ear to listen or even just a "I've been there" sort of thing.

Here is what we did/what our therapist told us to do:

  1. have a date night every week where sex is mandatory. Unless you're sick or something, don't reschedule or beg out of the sex, just know that every Wednesday night (or whenever), you're going to get it on with your partner. This taks the pressure off both partners that they must either ask for it or feel guilty about refusing. When you know you're definitely going to get it on once a week, you don't stress about it (or at least not nearly as much).
  2. For one month, try to have sex whenever the partner who wants it more wants to. What ends up happening is that at first, you have sex all the time. Then you realize that you don't have sex as often as you'd think, and that your libido levels aren't actually as different as you think.
  3. Women tend to get more turned on after they start having sex, even if they didn't think they were in the mood beforehand, so sometimes you just have to go with it and you'll end up being glad you did.
  4. We read a book on lesbian couplehood that had some really great points in it, and it talked a lot about women's sexual desire (as one might imagine it would) that might be helpful to you: "The high desire/low desire phenomenon is inevitable in relationships. While it is particularly noticeable in the sexual arena, he notes that it also exists in other areas as well. For example, one partner may be high-desire about saving money, having children, or taking vacations. This desire discrepancy is built in to the structure of relationships and ... we can't avoid it. These desire differences are part of how relationships invite--and even require--us to grow."
However, these disparities can also polarize us and bring our relationship to the brink of disaster. ... Here are some suggestions about what to do:
  • "Get clear about who you are and what you want; For example, how often do you want sex, and how do you like to be touched?
  • Communicate w/your partner. Even early in your relationship you will likely find some differences between you which you can explore. You can use the high-desire/low-desire partner concept to help understand the role each of you falls into. For example, the high-desire partner, by virtue of being in that role, will tend to feel like she is more demanding, exposed, and deprived. The low-desire partner will feel more resentful of being demanded of, inadequate (because in our sex-saturated culture, low desire is, by definition, defective), and guilty abut depriving her partner. These feelings are perfectly predictable given the nature of the roles. The intensity of feeling may vary depending, in part, upon how discrepant the desires are, how long the couple has been struggling with the issue, and how much emotional baggage has collected. But the basic feelings depend on the role. If the low-desire partner was in another relationship where she was the high-desire partner, she would have the feelings associated with the high-desire role.
  • Hold on to yourself--to your knowledge about yourself, your feelings, and your own personal integrity--as you negotiate with your partner about how to address your respective wants and needs. This clarity about who you are, along with the capacity to calm and soothe yourself (instead of expecting your partner to take responsibility for your feelings), is the hallmark of differentiation, which is essential to intimacy. You both need to be able to be separate people in order to truly meet.
  • Recognize that differentiation is a lifelong process of taking your own "shape"--of becoming more uniquely yourself by maintaining yourself in relation to those you love. It can be the key to expanding your sexual relationship and rekindling desire and passion. ... "A key point in this discussion of frequency--and a critical way that sexual desire and frequency concerns intersect--is the fact that the low-desire partner always controls the frequency of sex. No matter what the high-desire partner does, she cannot make her partner have sex--or want to have sex. This can lead to a sexual pattern that doesn't really work for either partner: The high desire partner learns to initiate sex more often than she really wanted it because she anticipates that she will get refused a lot. The low-desire partner is encouraged to remain passive because she can have all the sex she wants without ever taking the lead. In addition, the low-desire partner usually does not want her lover to lose interest in sex completely and at the same time feels guilty about thwarting her high-desire partner's sexual desire. In fact, the low-desire partner is training her high-desire lover to badger her for sex. She sends the message that the only factors that motivate her to have sex are her guilt about frustrating her high-desire partner or her fear that her high-desire partner will stop wanting her." -from "Lesbian Couples: A guide to Crating Healthy Relationships" by D. Merilee Clunis and G. Dorsey Green

My other big piece of advice is to take a cue from queers. Not to make an assumption, but most heterosexual couples consider sex to be only penile/vaginal sex. That's not the way queer people think about it at all. It's still sex if it's just hand jobs or oral sex, or really deeply making out. Being physically intimate with one another is more important than what goes in where and who has an orgasm, yknow? (Maybe you already know this, but I've had a lot of straight friends who didn't think about this, so I figured I'd pass it along).

There are tons of lists out there of how to spice up your sex life, so I won't type that up too, because I fear I've already either overwhelmed you or overstepped or something, BUT I did find homework helpful. Our therapist gave us specific sexual exercises to try at home--our homework for the next session--and it was very helpful. Once it was about switching roles--if one of you is usually more dominant in sex, have him/her be the more submissive one, etc. But one more cerebral exercise is a variation of something you and Matt already do--write each other sexy love letters. Tell each other what you love about the other's body, how much you like it when they do x,y, or z to you. Describe your favorite memory of lovemaking, thank them for being attentive to this that or the other thing when you're in bed. I know one of the scariest things for the high-desire person can be feeling unattractive to their partner, and so being told how sexy you are, how much your partner loves making love with you can be really emotionally fulfilling.

Okay....I hope that is kind of helpful or at least interesting. This can be such a tough issue to deal with, so I totally understand why it stresses you out, especially when you're pregnant and facing down parenthood, (which will make those date nights even more important!). Maybe those pregnancy hormones will help y'all out?

Anyway, just wanted to write because I've been there and I feel like so many couples face this problem, but it's not talked about.
Good luck!

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dress Giveaway

Yippee! I am honored to host another dress giveaway. Anna would like to bestow her dress upon a 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit "who needs it (or just wants it in the right ways)." I met Anna over a year ago via this blog, so I am giddy to watch everything come full circle. Thanks, Anna!

Here are the logistics:
  1. It's made in the USA
  2. Doesn't have any sort of train (Anna is 5'5 and wore it with flat sandals)
  3. Very comfortable
  4. White, strapless, and has some faint embroidery and a few beads along the top and waist.
  5. Dress is a size Medium, but it's probably about a regular size 8.
  6. You just pay for shipping!

To enter this fabulous giveaway, just leave a comment explaining why you need (or want!) the dress. If you're comfortable doing so, it would also be great for you to leave an e-mail address so we can contact you more easily.

We're still waiting to hear from the winner of our last dress giveaway. Russell Jill, you have one week to e-mail me to claim your awesome dress from Jennie! To everyone else, definitely head over and enter to win Jennie's dress, too, since she might have to pick a new winner next week.

If you have a lovely dress you would like to pass along to a kindred spirit, please let me know! Unfortunately, I can't feature every dress that comes my way, since I like to space them out, but definitely be in touch!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

How Fun It Is to Help

Tapping into the generous help of friends and family was one of the most significant ways Matt and I were able to stay within our wedding budget. For example, here are some of the jobs we delegated:
  1. Photographers
  2. Officiant and Ring Keeper
  3. Set up sound and iPod at ceremony and reception
  4. Marinate meat, chop vegetables, and cook fajitas
  5. Salsa chef
  6. Bean & Corn salad chef
  7. 7-Layer Dip Chef
  8. Sous-Chefs
  9. Hair
  10. Paymaster
  11. Florist, Sign Manager (including wedding favors)
  12. Pick Up Cakes
  13. Traffic Director at Ceremony
  14. Traffic Director at Reception
  15. Ushers
  16. Pick up and set-up kegs
  17. Pick up Friday Food
  18. Pick up Margarita Machine
  19. Wash Cloth Napkins
  20. Smores Director
  21. Lemonade and Iced-Tea on Friday
  22. Group Photo Director
  23. Program Manager
  24. Drink Manager
  25. Campfire Manager
  26. Videotaper

I know it's a lot! That's what happens when you're trying to put together a party for 80 people without the use of many professional vendors...

We tried to keep it reasonable and manageable by only giving one job to each person. That way, people didn't feel like they were doing chores all weekend.

Another reason the plan worked out so well was that we gave everyone very specific, written directions about how to do their jobs. The process of typing out directions about all the when-and-where-and-how details really helped us clarify our vision and forced up to strengthen our plan in the process.

We e-mailed the directions in advance, so people had time to ask questions. It would be a complete nightmare to delegate jobs to more than 30 people and then have them asking you questions all day/weekend long. Luckily, we gave people a chance to ask questions in advance (and many questions were avoided, thanks to the specific directions).

A couple weekends ago, I accompanied Matt to the wedding of some of his best friends. Since Matt was in the wedding party, we got to stay at the rental house with the bride and groom. Such close proximity to the action gave me a chance to volunteer to help. For example, the night before the wedding, I helped make boutonnieres (see above), bouquets, a ring pillow (see above), and floral centerpieces. I was nervous about messing things up, but the flowers were surprisingly easy to work with, and the bride-to-be had a very laid-back and fun attitude about the whole thing.

The next morning, I volunteered to join the wedding party at the reception site to help decorate. We assembled the centerpieces, filled vases, covered chairs, etc. It was so fun to be part of the "village effort."

Sometimes, we're hesitant to ask our friends and family to take on tasks associated with our weddings because we're afraid that they'll consider these assignments to be insulting or "tacky" or "budget." Of course there are some people who think that way, but there are many, many of us who want to help. There are a lot of us who will feel more connected to the experience if we get to dig our hands in and help.

So don't be afraid to ask!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mexican Fiesta

When Matt and I were planning our wedding, my best friend, Andy, said something along the lines of: "Why can't people plan weddings more like they plan birthday parties?"

Matt and I tried to take that advice to heart by striving to plan a meaningful and memorable celebration that was also fun. As a result, we found ourselves holding lots of wedding "traditions" under the microscope and asking ourselves, "Do we want to keep, modify, or toss out this tradition?" It was both liberating and scary-as-anything to realize that the choice really was ours.

Now that our wedding is under our belt, we are focusing on birthday parties. Matt's is coming up in November, and he started with a single idea: he wanted to get a pinata made of himself (kooky, I know). I suggested we throw some sort of Mexican fiesta, and now the idea has evolved into a bouncy house and a taco truck. I'm ecstatic! Of course we'll have to price everything out and see what we can make work. We'll probably end up DIYing the pinata and the taco truck (somehow). I'll keep you updated!

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Couples' Counseling Update

Last week, I went to my first session of couples' counseling, although it wasn't exactly "couples'" counseling yet because the counselor wanted us to attend our first sessions separately.

I had had a stressful day leading up to the session, and as I drove there, I started crying. I was crying about the fact that I would probably start crying in the session (I cry very easily when I feel any sort of anxiousness at various types of doctors' offices). I was also crying because of the day I had had. I was crying because I was nervous. I was crying because I was afraid that therapy would unpack something deeply "wrong" with me. And I was crying because I was afraid of something being wrong with me (I would much rather embrace than fear such self-discovery).

I was a mess.

I stopped crying before I introduced myself to the counselor but then pretty much started crying right away. She validated my need to cry and talked about how cathartic crying is. She explained that the kind of counseling she practices believes that the wounds we experienced in childhood are at the root of our current problems. She asked me to try and connect the feeling I'm having in my relationship with Matt (i.e., not being able to give him what he wants/needs) with a similar feeling from my childhood.

I've done a lot of processing of my childhood because I never knew my father. He didn't want to have anything to do with me or my pregnant mother. I've thought a lot about how that feeling of abandonment has affected my attraction toward men (i.e., I used to go after the men who were emotionally unavailable and uninterested in me because I wanted to convince them to love me). I've also thought about how not being loved by my father has led me to develop a pattern of over-achievement and perfectionism. I am always vying for external love and affirmation to fill the void that my very own father left.

However, I hadn't thought a lot about what it was like to grow up in a single-parent household for many years and how that affected the amount of attention I received. I also hadn't thought much about how hard it was for me to share that attention with the various stepfathers who came in and out of my life. Inevitably, there must have been tension between wanting my mom to be happy but also wanting her all to myself (and not feeling like I was able to give her everything she needed to be happy).

It was an extremely difficult conversation to have, and I clearly need to do lots more thinking and processing of the wounded self I still carry around. It's also not clear to me how helpful it will be to have sessions with Matt, since it seems like the issue in our relationship might be connected to our individual issues.

But, nonetheless, it's an awesome process to be going through. We can't really afford the $85 per session, once a week, but it's an investment in our life together.

I'll keep you updated!

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Registration Is Now Open!

I'm very excited to announce that registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy online course, which begins October 3 and runs through November 5. This course will be the last one of the year.

Here's some of the positive feedback from the last course:

"This was an excellent course and a lot of thought, research, hard work, and love went into it - that is obvious. It was comforting to find a community of others who are really taking the time to plan for conception and parenthood, because I don't find that among my local community. Great job, Sara. Really and truly. This course was a big help to me and I will definitely recommend it to others!"

"I think that this course really shines in the lessons that require self-reflection. You brought up several issues that I hadn't really considered."

"Thanks to all the reflection, guided discussions, and useful advice from this course, [my] worry/fear has pretty much disappeared. My partner and I have figured out what 'ready' means to us, and it's not as hard as we thought it would be to get there. We have a short to-do list with achievable goals. I'm happy to be where I am right now in my life."

"Thanks for taking the time to put all of this information together and for sharing so much of yourself with us. I enjoyed the course."

"After working through the course I feel much more comfortable with the idea of having a child and much more prepared to expand my family."

"I was very ambivalent about having a child before taking this course. I now know that my husband and I are more prepared than I thought we were to have a child. For the areas in which we need some work, I now have concrete action steps to complete...It's wonderful to actually be excited about this next step instead of fearful or unsure."

"I have a long way to go, but I want to work on myself before having a baby. This course has helped me identify concrete areas that need work."

The Nitty, Gritty Details

  • An online course and community focused on preparing our minds, bodies, and lives for pregnancy
  • October 3-November 5
  • $99 USD

Here's the more detailed version:

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

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

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

Interested in learning more? Visit the Course Overview or About the Author. Already prepared to join the community? Register now! Spaces will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and will be limited to the first 100 participants. The total cost is $99 USD, and the course will begin on October 3, 2010. Happy Conceiving!


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

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sunset Magazine

When I heard the news that Sunset Magazine is back on the news stand, I headed straight to Amazon and almost clicked purchase. After all, a year-long subscription is only $16.00. But then my Jiminy Cricket voice kicked in. It reminded me that we're trying to save money for my 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave in February.

That's the thing with trying to stick to a budget. It's hard. Whether it's a wedding budget or a baby budget or a general life budget, it can be so tempting to spend money on anything that catches your eye. The subscription is only $16! Big deal, right? But then there's the fabric I want to buy and the calendar I've been yearning for....the list goes on and on, and it adds up quickly.

When I'm trying to stick to a budget, I make myself consider each purchase very, very carefully. As far as the magazine goes, I decided to add it to my Christmas list. My family always wants to know what to get me for Christmas, and I'm often at a loss for ideas. This way, I save money and have something to tell them!

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Real Wedding: Sarah + Chris

I'm so glad Sarah shared her wedding with me. The relaxed, authentic, fun celebration makes me breathe deep, happy breaths all the way to my belly. (And I'm a sucker for non-white, practical wedding dresses!)

Without further ado, here's Sarah to share how she and Chris brought it all together....


So we got married on May 29, 2010!

Chris and I had been dating for over seven years, and had been through a variety of trials and tribulations (initial parental disapproval, a truck accident, study abroad, cancer, long-distance grad school)… so once we finally got through all that, we decided to move in together, and soon after that, decided to get married. I keep telling folks that it seemed more like a formality, since we’ve been through a lot, and had already lived together and bought a house together, so maybe that’s where we were coming from with not wanting something terribly traditional. I love that there are so many different wedding websites and blogs to glean inspiration and ideas from, and they were a HUGE help in planning a wedding from scratch.

We co-opted Sara and Matt’s idea of a postcard invite with essential details, guiding folks toward a website for more information and to RSVP. We decided to go the Vistaprint route, and opted for the 100% recycled postcard option, which was more expensive, but we felt it was a good decision. Plus, it was still cheaper than regular invitations. (A word of caution—count the number of invitations you will need—i.e. a family of five will only need one invite! We forgot about this and ordered enough invites for each guest, and didn’t realize that was too many until we sat down to address them. Live and learn!) Chris drew the whimsical invite, and arranged the drawings and words around in Photoshop. We got a lot of compliments on our invites, and most folks knew Chris drew them the instant they saw them.

Our venue, a really nice local community center, effectively limited our guest list to 100 guests, or more ideally, 80 (since 80 would fit in one room). We had to make some cuts, but I think most people understood. We generally used the “the venue will only allow 80 people!” logic, and that seemed to work. We got a discount on the venue because we’re residents, and because it’s a nonprofit, it was very inexpensive. They had staff there during the entire event if we needed anything and were very helpful.

We did an online RSVP form through Google Docs, and it worked like a charm. Nearly 80 percent of our guests filled out the online RSVP form. For those that didn’t RSVP online, we simply followed up with a phone call asking if they were planning on coming. (Most of the people who didn’t RSVP were family who we knew were coming anyhow.) The RSVPs populated a spreadsheet, and we were able to keep track of who was coming and who wasn’t.

We got amazing catering through a local Indian restaurant that provided tandoori chicken, chana masala (a chickpea dish), dal saag (a spinach lentil dish), naan (bread), basmati rice pilaf, and raita (a yogurt-type chutney) for under $10 per person. We got SO many compliments on the food, and while I was a little worried about everyone liking Indian food, the vast majority of folks were licking their plates clean. Plus, we had leftovers which were delicious. The restaurant delivered and set everything up; it was just a self-serve buffet.

One of Chris’s coworkers made our wedding cake. She makes cakes for fun, and she offered to make our cake for the cost of materials. (I should say that she had to miss our wedding last minute because her grandfather fell ill, and she flew out to visit him. She dropped off the cake at another coworkers’ house on her way to the airport, which is just absolutely jawdropping to me.) The cake was designed after our invitations and was a hit. We built an erector set crane to put on top, and I made the papier-mâché heart. The cake itself was amazing—a brownie-like chocolate cake. We also bought two sheetcakes from Costco which we really didn’t need in the end, but they were very good as well. (Side note—we forgot the Costco cakes! My aunts were gracious enough to run to Costco after the ceremony was over to get them.)

We had two kegs of beer (one was Resurrection, a local beer from Baltimore that was a wedding gift from a friend who has an owner’s stake in the brewpub, the other was Yuengling) and cases of a cheap but delicious California chardonnay. I asked my siblings if they had any friends who wanted to earn some cash working the bar, and we got a recent college graduate who was super friendly and did a fantastic job.

I bought my dress from Target. I was in the process of making one when I came across a dark purple Grecian-looking maxi dress that I really liked, so I got that instead. It cost about $30. The dress came with a small rope belt, but I didn’t like it so much, so I made the cream sash which worked well. C got his vest and pants and shirt from JCPenney’s for under $100, and he’ll be wearing it again to the three other weddings we have this summer.

Our officiant was a friend who got ordained online (which is legal in the state of Maryland). We had a meeting over Chinese food where she edited our vows, we edited her officiating, and that was that. She’s a good friend of ours, and my husband officiated her wedding in June. She worked out perfectly, as we’ve all known each other for a while now. The ceremony was about 10 minutes long, very short, but long enough for us to express what we wanted to tell each other. No aisle, no wedding parties, we just said our vows in the middle of everyone on the patio out back. It was amazing—I thought our vows were great; they were funny, they were honest, and we told each other we wanted to live like this forever. It didn’t come across to me as particularly… touching? But my sisters all came up at the end of the ceremony, with tears in their eyes, telling us how beautiful the whole thing was.

One thing I did was make the ring pillow. My late great-grandmother used to embroider handkerchiefs, and we have a whole box of them. I took one and made a ring pillow out of it. My mom’s family all loved the idea, and it’s been declared a requirement for all weddings from here-on-out.

We had a mishmash of centerpieces that all worked well. We had picked up vases from an outlet (8 for $1!), added a simple brown paper bag and ribbon decoration and and filled them up with Hershey’s kisses. Chris’s mom also had a bunch of battery-operated candles, so we put them in little plates with jelly beans. For table numbers, we printed the number out very large, and had Transformers hold them; Chris collects Transformers, and we just used the ones we already had.

We had dancing, but most of my friends don’t like dancing. Everyone ended up just chatting outside, which worked perfectly, because we could all talk to people without feeling like we had to do the receiving line. (We did make the table rounds earlier in the evening, but this was more relaxed). We also had Mario Kart going all evening long:

Another idea stolen from Sara and Matt was the “everybody as photographers” idea. We set up a pro-Flickr account and spread the login information. Chris works in video production, and photography is so very close to that. Many of his coworkers and friends already have high-end digital SLRs, and even if we had hired a photographer, they would have been there with their equipment anyhow. We ended up with over 1000 photos, and many truly fantastic ones are in there. Another coworker who DJs on the side did our sound.

All in all, we were very excited at how everything went. We got a lot of comments on how gorgeous the ceremony was, how very “us” everything was, which was nice because we didn’t spend a lot of money or even thought on how to personalize everything—it ended up personalized on its own because we and our friends did so much.

I know it’s not all about money, but since this is 2000 Dollar Wedding, I’ll throw this out there. We estimated we spent about $4000 total. We didn’t keep a tally or anything, but we were able to pay for everything out of pocket. It would have cost a LOT more if we had to spend more on the cake and the sound and the photography, etc, etc, etc, so I have to say we got by with a LOT of help from our friends and fam.

And now we’re married! Hooray!

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