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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Name Changing Dilemma

When Matt and I were getting married, we faced the name-changing dilemma: I didn't want to change mine, and he didn't want to change his.

I didn't want to change my name for several reasons, namely:
  1. By the time I got married, I had already been Sara Cotner for 30 years. I've made so many contacts throughout those years; I didn't want to make it difficult for people from my past (primarily former students) to find me. Plus, my name is a huge part of my identity.

  2. I'm not a huge fan of hyphenation. I find it cumbersome. I totally support people who choose that route for themselves because I think it's a good compromise and I like the philosophy behind it. I just don't personally like it for practical reasons.

  3. I don't like the patriarchal tradition of women giving up their last names when they get married.

  4. I like my last name. If I didn't like it, I would most likely have ignored my previous three reasons and just changed my name to Matt's (which is Bradford).

In the past 2.5 years since we've been married and maintaining our separate names, I can only recall two problems we've had: one time I had a hard time picking up a UPS package because our last names didn't match (but they ended up giving it to me anyway) and, just the other day, I had to repeat to the receptionist at the doctor's office: "We're married, we just have different last names" (it was an insurance card issue).

And the truth is, there have been a couple times when it's been helpful to have different last names. For example, I was trying to sneak Matt into a free event for educators at the museum, and it helped that he looked like my colleague rather than my husband (Editor's Note: I didn't compromise my integrity too much. Matt is technically in education; he's just not in the classroom anymore.)

But now that we're on the verge of welcoming the newest member into our family (in two weeks!), we're facing the dilemma all over again. As I see it, these are our options:

  1. I could change my last name to Bradford and all of us could have the same last name. Again, I don't like this option for all the reasons listed above.
  2. Matt could change his last name to Cotner and all of us could have the same last name. Again, Matt wouldn't want to do this.
  3. We could hyphenate the baby's name and he could be Cotner-Bradford. I like the way it sounds, but, again, I think hyphenation is cumbersome. I don't even know how to alphabetize hyphenated names! And think about how long it would take him to bubble in his last name on standardized tests. Plus, when/if he gets married, he would face this same dilemma all over again, so we would only really be solving the problem temporarily.
  4. We could give the baby one of our last names as a middle name and use the other name as a last name. I kind of like this option because it honors both of our last names, but one of our last names would be relegated to the middle name spot, which isn't used very often. I'm thinking we would put my maiden name in the middle because I think Cotner Bradford sounds better than Bradford Cotner. Also, I think I have an inextricable link to the baby already by virtue of the fact that he and I have shared a body for nine months. It might be nice to create a different kind of bond for Matt by giving the baby his last name.
  5. We could make up a new last name (perhaps by blending our names together) and then all share it. Although I like the theory behind this idea, it seems like a shame to lose our real last names entirely.

Oh, the decisions! I really don't know what to do (and our decision-making window is coming to a close!).

Please chime in if you have some sage advice!

Share |

Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links: 1/27/11

Photo from a backyard wedding

Anna-Marie, here, with your weekly links. A great wedding vendor can be worth every penny, particularly if you think DIY should be a four-letter word (I’m great in the kitchen, but hand me a glue gun and I’m a little lost). That said, this week we’re looking at a few things traditionally left to pros, but that a few brides are enjoying trying with the help of family and friends:

Bow Bracelets for Your Bridesmaids

If you’d love to give your partners in peau de soie a handmade accessory, these snap-on bracelets are cute, classic, and can be made in any color you like.

DIY Wedding Bouquet

More on DIY flowers in a future post, but if the idea seems overwhelming, this is a great place to start. The blush peonies and pink ranunculus are just gorgeous together, but you can also use any flowers in your favorite colors.

The Leaping Bunny

Doing your own wedding make-up is best for the bride who’s already comfy with cosmetics, or can enlist a friend who is. A great perk: you can pick the lipstick and blush, and know what’s in them (if you’re allergic) and that they’re not tested on animals. The Leaping Bunny is a shopping guide for cruelty-free products, with a section devoted to cosmetics. Look for brands you know and love (Hard Candy, The Body Shop), or find a new favorite.

Gathering Dishes

For an at-home wedding, this bride had a blast finding dishware at yard sales and thrift shops instead of renting them. Here’s her recap from start to finish.

Being Your Own Wedding Planner

A wedding planner can be a great asset to the process of pulling together the big day. But if one’s not in the cards (or budget), here are a few tips from an event professional.


When Anna isn’t searching the blogs, she’s writing romance stories, cooking for her wife, or freelancing as a cake decorator and floral designer.

Share |

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Putting the Marriage Before the Wedding

During the wedding planning process, it can be so easy to let the wedding part overshadow the marriage part. Most of the wedding books on the market, the TV shows, and the wedding magazines don't help the situation!

I'm excited about this book recommendation from 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirit, Jodi. The book is Before You Plan Your Plan Your Wedding...Plan Your Marriage.

Here's the description:

Authors Greg and Erin Smalley open their hearts and share their lives in Before You Plan Your Wedding...Plan Your Marriage so that you can know not only how to build a marriage that will last, but also how to have the kind of marriage where you and your spouse feel safe and honored and valued. When you feel safe, your heart will be open -- and open hearts make for fulfilling, powerful relationships.

Find out about the "fear dance" and how to stop dancing it. Discover the two biggest issues that threaten every marriage and how to stop them before they start. Learn what's more important than finding your soul mate and the significance of happiness in your union.

As wonderful as a wedding is, it lasts only for a brief time -- yet marriage is meant to last a lifetime. This important book will show you how to plan your marriage before you plan your wedding.

I'm always look for good books that can help Matt and me strengthen our relationship. Has anyone read this book? If so, do you recommend it?

Share |

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guest Post: $104 Bridal Outfit

I love this post by Hollie "Jet" Black-Ramsey of Broke Creative Bride. She proves that you don't have to spend a lot of money to look like a million bucks on your wedding day.

Figuring out your wedding outfit can be tricky. On the one hand, you want to feel confident and beautiful and radiant as you celebrate this major rite of passage and reconnect with your nearest and dearest. On the other hand, it's only one day! I'm so impressed by her vision and her creative approach.

By Jet Black-Ramsey of Broke Creative Bride

Read this magic.

I ordered my dress from this site for $88. In the picture of the dress from the site, you can plainly see that it’s nothing to shout about. Pretty but a little too limp for my taste. Of course it’s purple in the photo and I couldn’t view the dress in any other color on the site but I imagined that it would be stunning in ivory and will do well over a full petticoat.
Dress: $88

I scoured the internet for a tea length petticoat. The only ones that I could find that were full enough for the desired effect were too costly. I went into every bridal store in town and asked if they had any… I was answered with *confused expression* ‘Tea length?’

These people had never heard of or seen a tea length petticoat.

‘You know, for a dress that comes to here’, I said pointing at mid-calf on myself.

I was still faced with even more confused looks. I racked my mind to think of who might have a shorter petticoat and could think of no one. I visited my dad’s house one day and had a brilliant idea. I found my ex-stepmother’s petticoat still in the closet where she left it. It was a very full floor-length petticoat but my dad was more than happy to get rid of it. ‘Here, take the gown too while you’re at it,’ he said. I respectfully refused his gift of a 50 lb, puff-sleeved, beaded mess. Alls I need is this here petticoat.

I cut off the waist material from the petticoat, removed the extra material that lengthens it, cut off the draw string and re-attached it to the the new shorter waist. Viola! Instant tea length petticoat!!

Petticoat: $0

The plunging neckline of the dress however was a problem. I'm a pretty busty gal and boy was I busting out of that dress. I need coverage! What am I going to do?! Once I calmed down I realized that this too was easy to fix. I went to Hobby Lobby and found some beautiful ivory lace trimming and plain ivory satin. I purchased all of this for about $2. My mother sewed the lace to the satin so that my cleavage wouldn’t show through and then she sewed all of that into the dress. Instant cleavage coverage!
Dress alteration: $2

Customizing the dress even more was a breeze. As you can see in the photo, there was a brooch on the dress under the bust line. Not my style… so I took it off. The end.
Dress customization: $0

TIP: What comes on the dress doesn’t have to stay on the dress. What’s not on the dress can always be added.

Going to the salon to get my hurr did on my wedding day was absolutely out of the question. Number one, I didn’t trust any of the stylists in my town and number two I forgot to include hair styling in the budget :ahem:. So I just explored and practiced with how to get my hair the way I wanted it several weeks before the wedding. Miraculously on my wedding day, it came out way better that I expected. I ordered my hair piece from ChantalEveleen on Etsy for $7.
Hair styling: $0
Hair piece: $7

TIP: To really save money, skip the salon and have a trusted friend do your hair or your groom’s hair.

Shoes. Oh, boy shoes. Long story short, I couldn’t find any inexpensive non-boring shoes to go with my dress. I was being pretty picky. I didn’t what blah bridal shoes and colored shoes just didn’t look right. All I wanted were closed toe ivory pumps with ankle straps. I would see them all the time but now that I needed a pair, they had all disappeared! Two weeks before the wedding, I found one pair of shoes that would make do at Shoe Depot for $29.99. I paid for them with a gift card from my bridal shower… so holla! They was freeeeee.
Shoes: $0

Make up? I wore what I already had. I’m a compulsive makeup buyer, so I didn’t have anything to worry about. However I did want some truly kiss-proof lipstick. I bought some Covergirl lipstick stuff for like $5. The stuff just doesn’t come off... that’s all I have to say. A little scary but highly recommended for your wedding day. I just wish I can remember what the heck that stuff is called.
Makeup: $5

Aaaaand jewelry. Jewelry’s just not that important to me. I love it and I love to look at it- I just don’t care to wear it so let’s keep this short and sweet:
Earrings… Wal-Mart… $2. There ya go.
Jewelry: $2

Total spent on bride:


If you would like to write a guest post to share your perspective with fellow kindred spirits, please e-mail me your topic idea!

Share |

Monday, January 24, 2011

Q & A: Why Get Married?

Reader Question: Besides the completely obvious legal reasons behind "marriage," I am curious why you made your relationship official with a "wedding?" As far as we are concerned, my Hunny and I were "married" over 8 years ago, with the mental transition about 5 years ago--as I suspect you and your husband were. My Hunny and I are just "going through the motions" of marriage rituals recently because society expects it. He and I don't care that we ever have a ceremony, and am wondering what your reason was behind inviting your families and friends simultaneously when your community already accepted you both? I wonder if a "wedding" is necessary for the families to feel like they had a choice in the matter? I suppose it bothers me that society does not accept relationships as "legit" until the legal system gets involved, when that definition really belongs and lies within each couple and within the communities that accept them.

I definitely hear and respect your perspective! I have my own beef with "the system," mainly the fact that it discriminates against a whole group of people based on their sexual orientation. In fact, I thought about not ever getting married as a form of protest and to show my commitment to the gay rights movement, but I decided that my most effective form of protest and activism is to keep this inclusive wedding-planning community going and to speak up about the injustice as often as possible.

As for the reasons why I chose to get married:

First and foremost, the idea of proclaiming our love for each other in front of our nearest and dearest (and then partying together afterward), really appealed to me. I believe in the power of rituals to help us step outside of our day-to-day lives and acknowledge the sanctity and profundity of our life's intentions. I happen to be reading a book right now about how to honor rites of passages with various rituals, and I'm realizing (rather sheepishly because rituals can seem really cheesy and hokey) that I want to incorporate more ceremony into my life.

For me, I loved working with Matt to write our wedding ceremony from scratch. I loved learning about different rituals and drawing from them to create our own. I loved crafting the language and writing our vows. We still go back and reread them every year! Even this morning, I was revising a family mission statement that Matt and I drafted together. I believe in the power of words, and a wedding is a chance to craft important words and share those with your beloved and your community.

I also loved the community aspect of a wedding. If we just threw a regular party, there's no way we could have gotten 80 of our friends and family to trek to the mountains of Colorado. I loved having a wedding because it meant that we were reunited with friends from all different parts of our lives, and we got to introduce them to each other.

The legal part meant very little to me. In the state of Colorado, people are allowed to solemnize their own marriage. So basically, Matt and I signed the certificate ourselves (as part of the ceremony). A few days later, we realized we needed one more witness to sign it, so we just asked a random neighbor to sign it.

I try not to kowtow to what "society expects." If you feel like you're only getting married out of societal obligation, then, by all means, don't get married! For Matt and me, getting married was a wonderful opportunity to deviate from the norm and craft our own meaning and memories in a way that made sense to us. Going through that process fortified our trust in ourselves as a couple to make decisions that feel right to us, regardless of what everyone else thinks.

I'd definitely like to hear others' perspectives about why they got married. Please chime in!
E-mail me your wedding, marriage, and relationship questions!

Share |

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links: 1/20/11

Vanilla Caramel Cupcakes from The Parsley Thief

By Anna-Marie

Hello out there in Blog Land! My wife’s birthday is this week, and I’ve had things she likes on my mind (like sea turtles, caramel, and VSQ). And so, in the spirit of wedding possibilities, here are this week’s links:

Adopt a Sea Turtle

If you’re an animal lover hoping to donate in lieu of favors, the WWF’s Species Adoption may be just the thing. Your donation comes with a plush sea turtle who could adorn your dessert or guest book table, along with a note to your guests. If you’re more inclined toward the black-footed ferret or the arctic fox, fear not: there are more than a hundred species up for adoption, from red pandas to pink river dolphins.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

My wife is a hard-core caramel lover; I like the flavor of caramel but not the stickiness. This is one recipe we can both get excited about. These struck me as great for a shower, rehearsal dinner, or small wedding, but maybe a little ambitious to DIY for a bigger wedding; then again, there are a lot of baking rock-stars out there...

Wedding Catering on the Move

Food Trucks are all the rage nowadays (The Food Network even made a show about them), and they’re definitely making their way into the wedding world as a quirky (and often economical) option. Check out this wonderful array. Los Angelenos: Has anyone tried the Grilled Cheese Truck? Their menu looks amazing, and they cater.

The History Behind Wedding Superstitions

So much for black magic calla lilies: apparently early bridal bouquets were herbs meant to deter malevolent spirits. One of our ceremony witnesses was the best fencer my wife knows—appropriate, since the best man was historically the most skilled swordsman among the groom’s friends. Moral of the story: keep the traditions you connect with, don't worry about the ones you don’t. If a white dress isn’t your thing, don’t wear one—before Queen Victorian, few brides did.

Tree Seedling Favors

Matt and Sara’s beautiful tree-planting ceremony got me thinking about other ways to bring trees into a wedding: As brides take an eco-conscious view of their big day, seedlings are cropping up as favors. The Magnolia Company will match you with oak seeds that will take root and thrive in your region.

River Rock Place Cards

If you grew up near a stream, or the love of your life taught you to skip stones, what could be more meaningful? River rocks can be purchased at garden supply stores, but for a small wedding, you could also gather stones during a hike or camping trip. Just make sure the park, forest, or wilderness area doesn’t restrict or prohibit removing them (if they do, it usually because the ecosystem is fragile).

The Vitamin String Quartet

If your partner's more Ravel and you’re more Rolling Stones (or the other way around), this may be a great option. The “Modern Wedding Collection” and the “Gothic Wedding Collection” offer good mixes, and you’ll find many of your favorites in their by-artist albums.

When Anna isn’t searching the blogs, she’s writing romance stories, cooking for her wife, or freelancing as a cake decorator and floral designer.

Share |

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flashback: Past Posts from Our Wedding Planning Process

Three years ago in January, Matt and I started our wedding planning. Here are some of the highlights from the first part of January:
  • January 1: We are optimistic about making our $2,000 budget work, even after watching an episode of "Rich Bride, Poor Bride," where the "poor bride" was working with a $15,000 budget. Argh!
  • January 3: We take a stab at generating our initial budget (which doesn't even have room for a Miscellany category(!), reminding ourselves that a wedding is one special day in a long line of many.
  • January 4: We face frustration as we try to secure a venue within our budget. Oy vey!
  • January 7: Matt shares some of the familial difficulty we faced during our wedding planning process.
  • January 11: I walk through my dress progression from "I want a REAL wedding dress" to "I'll settle for a $20 sundress from Target."
  • January 22: I talk through how we opted for budget-friendly and eco-friendly wedding invitations.

Share |

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Going Your Own Way

A friend of ours asked us if someone was planning a baby shower for us. When we replied no, she said she would do it. She's honestly our most generous friend, the one who puts others' needs ahead of her own. She's always inviting people over for dinner, giving people rides, buying people presents, etc.

Rather than burden her with another baby shower to plan, Matt and I decided to take matters into our own hands. We decided to plan our own shower. (I can hear the chorus of "tacky!" forming out there...)

Since we had already broken convention by planning our own shower, we decided we might as well break all the other rules too: no girls-only event, no party games, no gift opening--we decided to simply go bowling with all of our friends to celebrate the impending arrival of our baby!

Of course I felt the normal flashes of uncertainty and insecurity as we forged our own path: Will people think we are throwing a party for ourselves just to get presents? Will people even come? If people do come, will they have fun?

Luckily, in the end, we had a ball (pun intended!). At one point in the event, one of our male friends thanked us for inviting him. He expressed frustration at often being left out of baby showers. He explained that women want their partners to be involved in parenting, yet they exclude them from important celebrations. Although I absolutely appreciate time with just my female friends (like pre-natal yoga, for example), it felt right to be celebrating the impending arrival of our baby with all of our friends.

There are so many rules and protocols that surround important life transitions (engagements, weddings, babies, etc.). Sometimes, it can be easy to get caught up in "doing it how it's supposed to be done," instead of focusing on the meaning behind the event. For me, it's about bringing people together, building community, and having fun. If following the traditional pattern brings about those things, great! If it doesn't, it makes sense to do things differently. It's a straightforward concept, but it's not always so easy to implement.

Share |

Monday, January 17, 2011

Guest Post: A Tale of Two Receptions

by Rachel Lowe

This is a short and sweet post, chronicling our adventure of a bi-coastal wedding reception. If we had to do it all over again, we would do exactly the same thing! I would encourage any couple who has roots in two vastly different areas (like, Virginia and Oregon for example) to consider the possibility of celebrating your marriage in both areas. Here are the top 3 reasons for at least giving it a second thought.

1) You get to celebrate with everyone - even those who can't travel. Part of our reasoning for doing the bi-coastal celebration in the first place was the sheer number of people we didn't want to burden with the cost of a plane ticket. There were college and high school friends, distant relatives, and old colleagues who truly wanted to be a part of this special time, but couldn't afford the time off work and/or the travel costs. So this was a way of allowing them to spend some time with us! Plus, the cost of 2 plane tickets is MUCH more affordable than say...60?

2) You get to involve more people in the process. My mother and my aunt wanted to be part of the wedding in a big way, but due to the distance (just over 3000 miles I believe), that would not have been very likely if we had kept the reception as a Virginia-only affair. It felt good to let them be part of the planning adventure as well. They both had their hand in the VA festivities as well, but more with the last minute details, since they did not know the area or the vendors.

3) You get to celebrate TWICE! We chose to have two completely different reception types, and it was so fun. Our Virginia ceremony/reception was small and intimate - an afternoon, adults-only affair for very close friends and family. Our Oregon Reception was a PARTY - kids, dancing, singing, and large amounts of wine and beer. Plus - added bonus - I got to wear the dress twice. The first Reception ended by 6:30pm, so we actually got to have a wedding night. The second reception ended at 2:30am, following too many free shots at random downtown bars.

One suggestion that made things easier on our end: hold the reception that is not attached to a ceremony close to a major holiday. This killed two birds with one stone. In addition to making sure many of my friends were in town visiting their families, we also go to fly out west and spend Thanksgiving with my family this year! Finding a venue the Saturday after Thanksgiving was also fairly easy, as far fewer people hold weddings around Thanksgiving (although I've heard it is a popular time for other large events like high school reunions).

I realize this doesn't apply to everyone, but I hope I've offered some food for thought to those in situations similar to ours. Wherever, whenever, and however you hold your receptions, just remember to CELEBRATE!


Rachel Lowe is a very part-time blogger and photographer living outside Washington, DC. Along with her brand-spanking-new husband, Greg, she loves to ride motorcycles, look at random things through her telescope, and go hiking in her new Vibram Five-Fingers. Read more about their journey toward a balanced life at Lowe on Balance.

If you would like to write a guest post to share your perspective with fellow kindred spirits, please e-mail me your topic idea!

Share |

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links: 1/13/11

Anna-Marie here, with your Thursday clicks, from leftover holiday candy to hours of inspiration board distraction.

33 Uses for Leftover Candy Canes

You’ve probably still got at least half a dozen of these languishing around your house. Don’t let them sit around through Valentine’s Day.


I know you know better than to throw that old computer battery in the kitchen trash. But if your earth-minded outlook has left you with a pile of obsolete electronic accessories, this website’s here to help.

Engagement Pictures in a Tent

I’m still on the fence about the concept of an engagement shoot (who needs an excuse to take pictures with the one you love?), but here’s a cute backyard idea, particularly if you’re camping fans. Or if you don’t feel like hauling a damask sofa and fifty pounds of antique milk glass into an open field.

10 New Year’s Resolutions Every Couple Can Use

Losing the Auld Lang Syne glow? Some of the resolutions you’ve each made for yourself may be ones that can bring you closer together.

Candied Pecans

Salads tend to lose their allure in colder months, but try throwing a few of these on arugula or spinach while they’re still warm. This is the basic recipe, but I recommend playing around with spices. Cinnamon, cayenne, and black pepper are great for winter.


Inspiration board junkies can get there fix on this site, which lets you search for images by a color or combination of up to ten colors. Style Me Pretty has a similar feature and tons of gorgeous photos specifically of weddings.

Black, White, and Read All Over

And now for another kind of color: I'm half of an interracial marriage, and I rarely give it much thought. But with MLK, Jr. Day this Monday, love and color warrants some discussion in the wedding world. Here are a few articles from the past few years talking about a new generation's acceptance of interracial relationships, how they've changed in America since anti-miscegenation laws were struck down, and how the struggle for same-sex marriage may bear a resemblance.


When Anna isn’t searching the blogs, she’s writing romance stories, cooking for her wife, or freelancing as a cake decorator and floral designer.

Share |

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vistaprint Recommendation

I've hosted Vistaprint contests in the past because I know lots of budget-conscious couples go that route for their stationary needs, but I had never actually used them myself.

I decided to get real postcards printed for our baby shower, and Vistaprint was a natural choice, especially because I had a special for "free postcards." If you sign up for their e-mails, they will inundate you with these kinds of specials!

My one complaint about the company is the fact that "free" never means free with them. By the time I had uploaded my own images for the front and the back and included the cost of shipping, my "free" 100 postcards cost approximately $25. They would have cost an additional $5 if I had upgraded to a color photo on the back (which I was tempted to do, but I resisted the pull to spend even more money...).

However, everything else about my experience was wonderful. I was very impressed with the quality of the printed images. I couldn't have asked for a higher quality. The designing and ordering process was pretty straight-forward, and the delivery time was fine.

I created a free blog and used a Google form to allow guests to RSVP (which I explained here). The process was so simple!

Share |

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest Post: The Benefits of a Long Engagement

Matt and I kind of fell into a "short" engagement just by virtue of our circumstances. We were both teaching in public Montessori schools in Denver and knew that we would be moving back to Houston at the end of the summer. We figured we would much rather get married in the cool mountains of Colorado than the heat and humidity of Houston (although I've been to some awesome Texas weddings!). Since we got engaged in December, we ended up with approximately seven months of planning time.

I put the word "short" in quotation marks because seven months is actually quite a substantial amount of time. However, in the wedding planning world, a seven-month engagement is pretty short (it can take months for dresses to come in and then you have to think about alterations!).

There were aspects of our short engagement that were difficult. For example, most of the venues we considered were already booked, and we ended up not having much choice at all (primarily because the mountains of Colorado are a very popular summer wedding destination).

In the end, however, I think a shorter engagement saved us from going insane with the wedding planning process. Because I was so excited about the wedding, I was thinking about it all the time (which honestly started to turn into an obsession). I started coming up with more and more project ideas. Flower pins, cilantro seed wedding favors, a coordinated bandanna for the dog--oh my!

However, this guest post from Sarah looks at the benefits of a longer engagement. Although she addresses several different benefits, the most obvious benefit for her is that a longer engagement prevented her from getting into a marriage that wasn't right. I so appreciate her candor and her willingness to share her experience!

In the end, each of us needs to do what feels right for us and carve out our own paths that authentically align with what we value and what makes sense for our lives.

By Sarah Watts

Let me preface this by saying that my fiancé and I are no longer together. It was a good decision, and I think we will both be better off. So, for the sake of continuity and honesty, I will refer to him as M for this post.

We got engaged in July. We knew that the wedding would not be immediate; we had no money, and he has a very low-paying job, so quick savings was unlikely. We also both lived with our parents, which meant we’d also be saving up for a house. I’m a bit of a snob; I don’t like renting. I just don’t see the sense in paying the same amount each month on something you don’t own, and never will.

So those were the two things necessary to save for before we could even consider marrying. We also both wanted to take a honeymoon of some kind. Not necessarily expensive, but another expense. We therefore decided to set the date at least two years down the line. M suggested that we should get married on September 7, because “it would be the seventh day of the seventh month”. He then realized that September was indeed the ninth month!

But September 7 it was. It was a convenient Saturday in 2013, so we picked it and began saving. Although we recently called off the relationship, I got far enough into planning to realize several really great reasons for a long engagement.

First and foremost is money. We didn’t have any, and saving over a period of three years is much more easily accomplished than in one year. Though we were planning a small budget wedding, it still seems like much less when you have years to accumulate funds, rather than months.

The second benefit was our age. I’m 22, and he’s 23. There was no reason for M and I to rush into anything. Actually, I wanted to wait because I didn’t want to be the girl who married right out of school. There didn’t seem to be any kind of rush.

Another benefit of a long engagement is “first dibs” on things like venue, decorators, photographers, bakers, and other vendors. With a date so far in the future you can secure great rates, and guarantee that your people are out there gaining experience, while you’ll be paying for none of it! For example, a photographer friend of mine signed up a couple at the beginning of her career to do a full day of photography (and all the extra stuff you get) for $990. Her rate three years later? $1600.

Having your venue and vendors booked early can also allow you access to popular or exclusive places and people, that you may not have had time to book with a 16 month long engagement (this is the average length of an engagement in North America).

Finally, the greatest benefit for M and I was that we had the opportunity to get to know each other even better. We’d been a couple for four and a half years, but without the prospect of marriage, it’s easier to blow off behaviours or attitudes that you find unacceptable. With the looming possibility of forever, we both learned that we should probably end our relationship on good terms, rather than divorcing further down the line.


If you would like to write a guest post to share your perspective with fellow kindred spirits, please e-mail me your topic idea!

Share |

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wedding Trends, Blech!

I hope everyone made it through the madness that was "Matrimony Monday" last week. The fact that the Wedding Industrial Complex has coined that phrase to describe when a significant number of newly-engaged-during-the-holidays-brides-to-be start planning their weddings makes me laugh (and, to be honest, throw-up a little).

I'm just so saddened by the fact that planning a wedding has become such a commercialized and commodified event. I received countless spam e-mails last week about the "Wedding Trends of 2011!" Perhaps I will be the first to inform you that "sophistication is back" and "scripted calligraphy" and "custom monograms" embody this trend. And did you know that "grey is the new black"? What about the fact that "brights and metallics will be popular choices for wedding color palettes in 2011"?

I don't mean to be overly critical of the folks who compile those lists and shoot off those e-mails. I mean, they're just trying to make a living. And I don't actually believe that the Wedding Industrial Complex is a true conspiracy hatched in some secret boardroom to manipulate and brainwash unsuspecting wedding planning couples.

I do think, however, that the Wedding Industrial Complex is a dangerous cultural entity that has the power to distract us from the significance and importance of planning a major life event. In my mind, it's a zero-sum game: The more time we spend thinking about the calligraphy and the custom monogram and the metallic color palette, the less time we have to think about how to strengthen our partnerships, to reflect on the enormity of the commitment we are about to make, and to maintain all the aspects of our lives that are totally unrelated to our weddings.

I love this comment from Accordians and Lace that was in response to a post on A Los Angeles Love:

Honestly, when I look back at our wedding (now 1.5 years ago), it like, blows my mind that I cared so much about little DIY details and all that crap. They were cute and everything, but I don't know why I CARED so much, or invested so much of my time in it. In the sober light of day, it feels crazy that I spent so much mental energy on the small stuff. Planning a wedding can be fun (and it can be fun to focus on return address labels when you have a dissertation to finish, for example) but it can also be so consuming that I am honest-to-goodness EMBARRASSED now when I think about some of the stuff that seemed So Important to me.

I feel the same way about aspects of our wedding. For example, I can't believe I spent so much time stressing about the stamps for our invitations (I really wanted customized photo stamps, but they just didn't fit in the budget). After the fact, the stamps seem so inconsequential. It's so much more important to me that Matt and I wrote vows to each other that we still pull out and recommit to once in a while, that we got to spend a significant amount of time relaxing and reconnecting with our friends during our wedding weekend, and that we had the courage to define what an authentic wedding meant to us (because that courage was the foundation upon which the rest of our life together is built).

Unfortunately, we may rationally understand all of this and yet fall victim to our own emotional responses throughout the wedding planning process. I'm serious when I say that those customized photo stamps--in the moment--felt like they had the power to transform our wedding from mundane to cute and clever. It's embarrassing to admit, but it's oh-so-true! We have to remind ourselves--over and over--to stay focused on what really matters to each of us. How about that for a 2011 wedding trend?

Share |

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links: 1/6/11

Cherries from The Graphics Fairy

Hello out there in Blog Land! I’m Anna-Marie, domestic princess (not quite to goddess yet) and sometimes-crafter. I’m a bride-to-be as well as a wife (more on that later), and an addict of blogs, both wedding and otherwise. Here are a couple links I’ve had bookmarked for my own wedding and a couple I’ve found this week.

DIY Aqua Mason Jars

In love with old-time blue Mason jars, but lacking the time to scour the flea markets or funds to buy them online? Here’s the next best thing to real vintage glass.

Paper Peonies

There’s nothing like the fluff and frills of a peony, and here’s a great way to have a reminder of them all year round. I’ve seen a few brides make tissue paper bouquets that now sit in vases in their homes, a little piece of their wedding they get to see every day.

The Too-Good Marriage

Give your relationship a break: here's why the perfect marriage usually isn’t.

Pristine Planet

I stumbled on this site during my holiday shopping. They compare prices for thousands of products from candles to children’s toys, all from environmentally responsible merchants.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

Short days and cold weather call for simple, wholesome cooking; I just picked up a beautiful acorn squash from my local market, and I can’t wait to try out this recipe.


Sara has talked about World Centric, which has a great selection of biodisposable dishware and utensils. Taterware is another good option for when disposable is the only or the most practical option; the website also gives a concise explanation of the differences between biodegradable, biocompostable, and recyclable.

The Graphics Fairy

With vintage graphics ranging from sweet to gothic, the Graphics Fairy offers free clip art of drawings, photographs, and borders. Imagine a man-in-the-moon trade card to give an invitation a Victorian feel, 1920s postcards of radishes and leeks for menus, or pink and blue hydrangeas on a thank you card.


When Anna-Marie isn’t on the blogs, she’s writing romance stories, cooking for her wife, or freelancing as a cake decorator and floral designer.

Share |

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Guest Post: Gay, Broke, and Getting Married--Am I Asking for Trouble?

Wedding planning can be hard for all of us, for a variety of reasons. At the end of the day, we all want to feel valued, loved, and appreciated, especially by our nearest and dearest.

Sometimes, though, if we make choices that deviate from the choices that our nearest and dearest would make,
or if who we are as people does not match up with others' expectations or hopes, we can feel disconnected and judged.

Matt and I faced general skepticism as we tried to plan a wedding that reflected our budget-minded, eco-friendly, hand-crafted values. For example, I was hurt when my step-dad refused to help us cook the fajitas for our self-catered reception and when my best friend initially balked at helping us pull together our wedding. I faced judgment from colleagues and acquaintances about various things, such as not having an engagement ring, wearing a $15 dress, and opting for a super-simple and practical wedding ring.

But this letter from Kristin reminded me that the wedding planning process can be even more difficult for our LGBT friends in the United States who are trying to solidify their love and commitment within a hostile legal landscape that does not even recognize their fundamental right to choose whom they love. On top of that, as her letter explains, there can be family issues to contend with.

The U.S. recently took a step forward with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but even that step forward is a reminder that this country's journey toward "liberty and justice for all" is entirely too slow. The fact that the United States still does not guarantee equal rights for all citizens is embarrassing and hypocritical.

Despite the situation, Kristin has maintained such positivity and hope. Her resilience inspires me! Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your journey with all of us. I wish you and your partner the very best with your wedding and, more importantly, your lifelong commitment to each other.

by Kristin Doty

My fiancée and I have been engaged for over three months now. It has been very difficult as a gay couple trying to announce our engagement. Most reactions consisted of the question "How does that work?" We live in Ohio, which has absolutely no marriage rights for homosexuals, but still this reaction seemed to really bother me. To me and my fiancée, marriage has never been about the legality of it all; it has been about the commitment to love and honor each other.

The biggest disappointment that we have faced so far is the lack of participation by each of our parents. We all know that traditionally the Bride's parents pick up the wedding bill, but what happens when you have two brides??

At first we honestly were hoping that maybe each of our parents would step up and offer to help us out a little. We did not expect them to pick up the whole tab, but at least help us out. Right now I am supporting both of us while my fiancée is in her first year of law school, so we really do not have a lot of money to spare. We really would have appreciated anything. So far we have had no offers, and not even a "Hey how’s the wedding planning going?" This really angered and frustrated my partner and me, but we finally came up with some great cost effective and friendly participation ideas.

Although our parents have not been very helpful toward our wedding, our friends and other family members have been more than amazing! I would have to say that without these wonderful people in our life we would not be where we are today. We have so many great people who do not judge us for being gay, but simply love us for who we are.

To be budget-friendly and include these amazingly supportive people, we decided to have a separate ceremony and reception. We searched through venue after venue and nothing really struck us as somewhere we wanted to get married. The bottom line was that we wanted to be married in a very intimate, private location, and somewhere that meant something to us as a couple. Finally we decided on the comfort of our home--what can be more private than that? It is also our first place living together so it means something to us, and when working with a budget you can't beat free! Our wedding party are the only people invited to the ceremony. While trying to keep within a budget and maintain a private, intimate ceremony we both felt this was the best way.

Throughout this whole process we also wanted to make sure that everyone could have a part in our wedding. For instance, our engagement photos we had done by my cousin who is like a sister to me. She is not a photographer, but in every essence an amateur, but she insisted on wanting to borrow her friend’s camera and take our pictures, so I couldn't say no. During the ceremony we decided to save money as well but not having someone to "officiate" the ceremony. Instead we are having each of our wedding party take part in marrying us.

Of course we have not worked out all the details, and each day is a process as we have to make more and more decisions, but one important lesson I have learned so far is that no matter your budget, your sexual orientation, the support or lack of support you may have, the bottom line is that this day is about you and the person you love planning to spend the rest of your lives together. Do not settle, but do not get stuck on the same ideas you had for your wedding as a kid, and no matter what the budget try not to get discouraged because you will find a way....

Kristin helps run a small business wholesale furniture company. When she is not working she enjoys watching British television, discovering new music, and taking pictures. Hannah who is recently out of the army is now a full time law student. When she is not buried in her books she loves making Kristin laugh and spending quality time together. Although many don't believe in it, it was love-at-first-sight for Hannah and Kristin. Kristin was getting ready to move to Michigan and Hannah was about to give up on "Miss Right", when their eyes locked from across the bar they just knew it was right. Almost two years later Kristin proposed to Hannah after they jumped the fence of the closed bar where they had first met.

If you would like to write a guest post to share your perspective with fellow kindred spirits, please e-mail me your topic idea!

Share |

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In the News: What Makes a Good Marriage?

Image courtesy of the amazing Volume Twenty Five (who can customize this image for you!)

Yessssssssss! I love when mainstream media focuses on asking and answering questions about what it means to have sustainable and satisfying relationships. So much of what we see on wedding-related TV is about the drama, the fairytale, the absurdity. We need more productive conversation about our relationships, our values, and what it takes to sustain a joyful, lifelong commitment to another person.

This article from the New York Times talks about the idea of "self-expansion." When our partners help us become better people, we are more likely to have "sustainable" and satisfying marriages.

There's even a quiz you can take to assess the extent to which your relationship contributes to your self-expansion. (I guess I haven't outgrown my pre-teen obsession with taking quizzes to find out more about myself...)

Share |

Monday, January 3, 2011

Establishing a Vision for Your Wedding

Hooray! A new year is here! Did you celebrate with champagne and resolutions?

I'm not someone who believes that the most significant personal growth and change happens overnight. I don't think we can be one kind of person with one set of habits on December 31, 2010 at 11:59pm and another kind of person with healthier and more positive habits on January 1, 2011 at 12:00am.

However, I do think that the new year is as good a time as any to set aside space to reflect, assess our lives, clarify our values, reconnect with our authentic paths, and set intentions for the upcoming year.

Every year, I try to cajole my friends and my partner into filling out this New Year's Reflection Form. First, we fill out a calendar that helps us remember the significant events from the year. Next, we evaluate ourselves in several different areas. Then, we set goals/intentions for the new year. Finally, we make a collage to visually represent the kind of year we want to have.

I find that setting aside time to start with the big picture is such an important way for me to live my best life (thanks, Oprah!). If I have a clear sense of where I'm trying to go throughout the year, then it's much easier to figure out the smaller steps that are aligned with getting there.

The same is true about wedding planning. If we start our planning by focusing on the "big picture" vision of what kind of wedding we want for ourselves, then we are more likely to create the best possible weddings for ourselves. If we start with our underlying principles and values, then we can work backwards from there to plan the smaller pieces that align with those principles and values.

Good friends of ours got engaged a couple months before we did, and by the time we showed up at their house with a "happy engagement" cake, our friend already had a folder going with magazine clips of dresses, bridesmaids' dresses, and centerpiece ideas.

Eight months later, when we sat down with them for dinner a couple weeks before their wedding, they confessed, "We just want the wedding to be done with so we can go on our honeymoon."

If we start with the small stuff--the dress, the centerpieces, the wedding favors--we can quickly lose sight of what a wedding is all about. It's about formalizing your commitment to your beloved and celebrating that commitment.

How we formalize and celebrate our commitments depends more on our values, personalities, and preferences, rather than the current consumer trends featured on the glossy pages of wedding magazines.

So many wedding books break weddings down into the details. Planning a wedding is not just a checklist of "to do" items. It's a chance to share your relationship with your nearest and dearest.

Who are you as a couple? What do you value together? What kind of life have you created together? How do you want to share that life with your friends and family? What kind of wedding will feel completely authentic to you both? What do you want to spend your time doing immediately before, during, and after the wedding? What will leave you feeling vibrant, connected, and joyful?

Of course answering those questions is easier said than done. The vision-setting process usually requires lots of discussion, compromise, more discussion, and more compromise. But then again, so does creating a life with another person!

Once you and your partner have a clear vision of the kind of wedding you want to have, it can be helpful to think through your vision for the wedding planning process. How do you want to work together to plan and execute your wedding? What are your non-negotiables? What are you willing to compromise on? How do you want the process to feel? What will your process be for reconnecting yourself with your vision when you start to get off track? What are the pitfalls you anticipate? What can you do proactively to set yourself up for a successful process?

This kind of vision- and intention-setting takes time and effort upfront, but it can really help make the process better.

For Matt and me, these were the goals that made sense:
  1. To bring family and friends together to reconnect and form new friendships.
  2. The experience will not be overly-orchestrated. It's a celebration of our love, not a show.
  3. We will fight consumerism by spending only $2,000 max. The Wedding Industrial Complex is conspiring to make us think we have to spend more money. But we want to make the event special with sincerity, not money.
  4. It will be good for the environment.
  5. It will be connected to nature.
  6. We will have real time to spend with guests. We want to be able to spend quality time with our friends and family. We don’t want to follow the traditional pattern of a few wedding “events” where the bride and groom only have time for a “meet and greet”: rehearsal dinner, reception, brunch the following morning. We want more of a family & friends reunion.
  7. We will make all the decisions ourselves so our wedding represents us.
  8. We only want to be surrounded by our closest friends and family.
  9. We want to be relaxed and fully present.

Every couple has to figure out what makes sense for them. That's the fun part of planning a wedding (and a life!).

Share |

Related Posts with Thumbnails