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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guest Post: Catering as a Wedding Gift

Oh how I wish I lived next door to Anna! What an inspiring person. I love this post about how she catered her friend's wedding. I mean, what's not to love? She has a list of 100 goals for her life. She uses Google Docs to organize her friends. She believes in the power of community. She shows appreciation through crafting. You're awesome, Anna!

By Anna Zeide

Earlier this year, when my best friend from high school and I each drafted a list of 100 goals we have for our lives, one of my items (#93, though there was no particular order) was “cater a friend’s wedding.” I figured, in some daydreamy way, that this was the kind of thing that I may do five or ten years down the road. But then, less than a month later, two of my closest Madison friends were scheming a wedding on fairly short notice and were having no luck finding an affordable and suitable caterer. What could I do but say “I’ll do it!”? So, I jumped right in and starting planning a catered event for 90 guests, without any real background or experience besides a love of food and weddings.

Although my own wedding took place almost two years ago, I’m still reading my two favorite wedding blogs (this one and APW), and continue to be inspired by the messages they share about community, goal-setting, and creating a wedding to fit your dreams rather than those depicted in the media that surrounds us. And so, I owe my ability to make this big event happen partly to Sara and Meg and the example they have set.

Despite these great blog resources, when I began the planning, there were still a lot of questions I had about menu ideas, catering supplies, and the nitty gritty of making this kind of thing happen that I wasn’t finding answers for. So, now that it’s behind me, I’d like to share a few reflections and resources (and check out my blog for the full low-down on my wedding catering experience):

Location, location, location! Just like when planning a wedding, deciding on a location, along with its benefits and limitations, creates the outline for what you have to work with. Because this wedding was in a park shelter without any cooking facilities at all, and even without convenient running water, I knew that I’d have to bring all the food in fully-prepared, and that room temperature dishes would be best since there’d be no fridge to keep things cool or oven to heat things up.

Comfort as a priority. In choosing a menu, I came up with a long list of appetizers, salads, sides, and entrees (others were making all the desserts) that I had made before or was comfortable making. Trying something brand new when you’re cooking for 90 people, for a wedding, is probably too much! We also had an all vegetarian menu, and wanted dishes that were fairly accessible to meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike, that didn’t rely too heavily on non-local ingredients, and that could also be easily made vegan and gluten-free for the other dietary restrictions among us. The full list of options I proposed to the couple is here. And the final menu we chose is here.

Staying supplied. Some of our main issues with regards to supplies were keeping the entrees (we settled on these enchiladas) hot, having enough fridge and oven space during the cooking, having enough bowls, platters, and serving spoons for all the dishes at the wedding itself. Our key supplies ended up being inexpensive chafing dishes from this site, warm pancarriers from a local rental company, and lots of bowls/platters/spoons that we borrowed from friends and bought at a local thrift store. The chafing dishes and warm pan carriers were great, and ended up keeping all of our food piping hot. One tip for borrowing supplies: label the bottoms of all the bowls with a small piece of tape and initials; also keep a spreadsheet of all your supplies, so you know who to return things to! Other kinds of dishes and supplies that we found indispensable were foil pans of the full-size and half-size varieties, cutting boards, knives, food processors, large pots, a huge Rubbermaid container for mixing large quantities, and large cookie sheets for extended work surfaces. We also ended up having to store food in three different neighbors’ fridges and cooking in two different ovens—so make friends with your neighbors in advance! Read more about supplies here.

Communal Cooking! Although I suppose it would be possible for me to do this all on my own (or with only my husband for help), I knew that it would be most fun, and least insanity-inducing, if I got a lot of helping hands in the kitchen. So, I invited all my friends in town to a big cooking extravaganza, and had them all sign up for 2-3 hour shifts on a Google Doc spreadsheet. I knew our kitchen could only handle about 5-6 people at a time, so this helped to make sure the aid was spread out. Sharing my kitchen and fresh food with most of my favorite folks in town was gratifying in a deep-down kind of way. It all gave me an overwhelming sense of hope in the power of community and what can happen when people band together. And I made little personalized Polaroid magnet gifts (inspired by these) for everyone who helped, to make sure they felt appreciated.

Organization is key. Another piece of advice, that again applies to wedding planning as a whole, is that the more work you can do in advance, to organize the process, the easier the actual tasks will be. In addition to dividing my shopping lists into categories based on grocery store, I also broke each of the recipes down into discrete tasks and determined which day the task could be completed (Thursday, Friday, or Saturday--the day of the wedding). Further, I labeled each of the steps with a letter that corresponded to a particular dish, whose full recipe was on the fridge, for cross-checking purposes. So, when friends came over to help cook, rather than having to ask me what to do, they could just look the list and say, "Ah, yes, now I will 'husk, rinse, and halve 200 tomatillos'." See the full Google Doc version of the task list here.

Enjoy and eat! The wedding itself was a remarkable success, with so much visible joy and appreciation running through the beautiful park shelter. We got the food there and set up in time, everyone seemed to enjoy eating, and we definitely didn’t run out of food (we had tons of leftovers, in fact!). Being able to do this kind of thing for our friends was so gratifying and so pleasurable. It cemented our friendship in a way that I think few other things could. We are now irrevocably part of each other’s stories!

Lots of people have been asking me if I’d do this again, or if catering is now my back-up plan if this whole grad school thing doesn’t work out. And although I don’t yet quite know the answer to either question, I do know that taking on this kind of project, and having it succeed (!), has made me feel much more confident about my abilities, and has made me smile on a daily basis. So, if you love to cook and love making people (including yourself!) happy, I’d say go for it. I’d be happy to answer questions!

Anna is a graduate student whose whole life—personal, academic, and political—is wrapped up in food. Read more about all of it at her blog Dining and Opining.

A huge thank you to Anna for sharing her insights with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please send me an e-mail!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on June 5. Register today!

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Not as Important as It Seems

Matt and I have two weddings on the horizon, so we recently received two different Save-the-Dates.

One couple took the simple route. They had a postcard printed with the information.

The other couple took the indie-DIY-rockstar route. Their Save-the-Dates were seriously the coolest thing I've ever seen (think great graphic design and an origami boat!).

But here's the thing I realized: I'm equally excited to attend both weddings. My eagerness has nothing to do with the stationary. It has everything to do with getting to hang out with good friends for an entire weekend.

The first wedding is in Taos. Although we won't make it in time for the rafting event, we will be able to attend the Welcome Picnic. The following day, we'll hang out at our hotel pool with old friends before the ceremony and reception. I know there are going to be lots of good people there, and I bet the dance party is going to be awesome (just because everyone loves to dance so much).

The second wedding is at a lake outside of Austin. It, too, is a multi-day event. I imagine there will be lots of guitar-playing and relaxing. And we get to ride in boats on the lake!

I can't wait to see my friends and meet new people. That's the thing about weddings from an outsider's perspective: It doesn't take that much to make us happy. You don't have to drive yourself to the brink of insanity about the pretty details (unless you want to). We will probably notice them if you have them, but we'll still have a good time if you don't.

When you're in Wedding-Planning-Mode, it can be so easy to fall into the habit of examining E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G under a microscope. The smallest things feel like the biggest deal. The more wedding blogs or magazines you subject yourself to, the higher the standards rise. Sometimes it can be helpful to step back and remember the little things don't matter as much as they might seem to in the moment.

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on June 5. Register today!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comfortable Wedding Shoes

Kindred spirit Sarah left a comment on my post about comfortable wedding shoes to let us know that she, too, is going the Dansko route for her wedding with these comfortable shoes.

Shoes get a lot of airtime on the world wide web, but the conversation is usually more about fashion than function. I thought I would dedicate a little time and space to celebrate comfortable shoes.

Hooray for comfortable shoes!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on June 5. Register today!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guest Post: Getting Married Abroad

By Hannah Hambleton

Paul and I decided to get married after 9 years of being together one sunny September evening after work. There was no flashy proposal and no big build up and then we went to my parents' house and celebrated with pizza, while calling everyone we know. This casual approach to getting married pretty much sums up our entire wedding--and I wouldn't have had it any other way. We had a pretty small budget--about £2500.

The only thing that I definitely wanted was to get married outside at late afternoon. Unfortunately, due to legal issues and the often rubbish weather (!), this wasn't possible in the UK. We had a few stressful weeks trying to find something in the local area that we'd have been happy with, but it always felt like settling--and I couldn't get the idea of a small, outside wedding out of my head ("It will be cheaper, much more relaxed and much more us' was all we kept saying.")

In the end, one of us said, "I wish we could just go on holiday and come back married," and the idea was born. We always go on city breaks to Europe--it's our favourite thing to do and I am always counting down the days until our next one. When we realised that we could get married abroad, it all fell into place--the idea was so us and it instantly made me smile instead of anxious! Our parents loved the idea--I think they were always worried we'd just run off an elope, but it was very important to have our closest family and friends there.

So, we decided to get married in Sorrento, Italy. In all honesty, I picked this destination pretty randomly as we had always wanted to go there, it was beautiful, and none of the guests we invited had been either. I literally booked EVERYTHING online. We had never been to Italy or visited Sorrento until we turned up three days before the wedding, but I knew everything would be fine! I even bought my dress from ebay for £70. I put so much faith in the internet, but it all paid off.

The idea of getting married in Italy may seem daunting, but it's actually very straight forward for a civil ceremony, for both UK and US citizens. We hired a planner to help us with the translation and organisation of documents and town hall timings, but other than that I did it all myself using information online and lots of emails. I 100% recommend hiring someone who can translate for you--it takes out all that stress. Italian paperwork is a bit of a nightmare--they are slow to get back to you and approve your documents, but it all turned out fine and with plenty of time.

I honestly suffered no stress through organising the whole wedding online. I arranged the restaurant where we ate a fabulous meal after the wedding and contacted a local Italian photographer to hire for a couple of hours. Although I didn't have the help of the translator for these parts, we got there in the end and muddled through with a mix of Italian and English! Obviously you can hire someone to arrange these things for you, too, but I was convinced the internet and I could pull it off (and did).

We got married in August 2010 at 5,30pm in a Medieval Cloister, with our 9 guests in attendance. The civil ceremony was in Italian and English and we had beautiful readings from my sister and best friend. The wording of the civil ceremony was based around partnership and it was so perfect for us. The day of the wedding was exactly as we wanted it--we spent the day together slightly nervously, with family and friends eating ice cream and drinking coffee in the Piazza--no stress and no regrets!

After the ceremony, Paul and I walked through the old town with the photographer. This was a complete surprise, but it was brilliant. Italians love marriage and we received so many good wishes and so much happiness from people in the town.

After the photos we ate at Photo restaurant, where we had a brilliant meal full of local food. The whole day was exactly as we wanted it--no stress, our closest family members there and full of laughter and joy. I was so pleased that everything worked out perfectly as it was all planned online, which looking back could have been a bit of a risk!

The planning process definitely brought us closer together as a couple. It gave us the opportunity to truly focus on our values and priorities in life and taught us how important it is to stand by these. We wanted a small, civil wedding in a location that we loved, without 100 other people there. Although nothing went wrong with my crazy online-distance planning, we were also very casual and relaxed about it and any details. Our main focus was on getting married in a beautiful place, and being surrounded my friends and family, and I don't think anything could have really gone wrong with that! We didn't care about flowers or place names or seat covers-- just the marriage about to start.

So, I 100% recommend getting married in Italy. I think a lot of people may think it's a great idea, but difficult and expensive. It truly isn't and it was significantly cheaper for us to get married in Sorrento than it would have been in the UK. We came in well under budget--the total ceremony, license, photographer, meal for 11, wedding clothes etc and flights came to under £2000. The Italian people truly love and respect marriage, and combined with the love from our friends and family, it was an unforgettable, perfect experience for us.

Hannah works in marketing and Paul is a secondary school maths teacher. They met when they were 6 years old and started dating at 16. They live in the countryside in the UK with their two cats. They are constantly going on city breaks to Europe and have the next ones planned already. Hannah has a lifestyle blog called Smith + Scout, and she is realizing her dream of being a boutique owner and recycled event planner.


A huge thank you to Hannah for sharing her story with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please
send me an e-mail!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on June 5. Register today!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Q & A: Planning an Authentic Wedding

Reader Question: My boyfriend and I are looking to get engaged soon, which led to me looking online for anything and everything wedding. My boyfriend and I have started to think about all the details of the wedding: when, where, decorations, people, dresses, etc... you know how it goes.

His family has a lot to say, as does mine, so it has been really tough. He and I are both very eco-friendly and want to keep costs down as much as possible. We also really want the wedding to express who we are. We want people to remember what a marriage really is--the beautiful bonding of two lives into one--not just an after-party.

Things have been getting tough and we've both been very stressed. Do you have any advice? This is supposed to be an exciting and fun time, and I feel like stress and what not is bogging it down. Do you have any ideas for how to keep everything in perspective?

I know this probably sounds crazy. I guess in a sense I just see a lot of myself in you... but I end up not showing a lot of that.. and I'm not really sure how to just fully be me.

Thank you so much for e-mailing me your question!

It's been almost three years since Matt and I tied the knot, but here I am, still blogging about weddings. It's not because I'm enamored with the pretty, pretty details. It's not because I think weddings are "the best day" of our lives.

Honestly, it's because weddings are about so much more than--well--the wedding. For many of us, how we plan our weddings is how we live our lives. We can choose to plan our weddings with authenticity and courage, or we start to buckle from the pressure of "how it's supposed to be." We live out our values through our weddings--all of us in different ways. Grace, frugality, elegance, creativity, fun, eco-friendliness, spirituality--whatever we value has a place in our weddings.

The truth is, weddings are not the only time we get pressure from family, friends, and society to do things a certain way. When we buy houses, we are inundated with the idea that bigger is better. When we have children, we are pressured to raise them in certain ways. How we choose to deal with the pressure we feel during wedding planning can often set precedents for how we choose to deal with the pressure we feel in other aspects of our lives.

At the end of the day, we have to be our most authentic selves. If we don't seek out and attempt to follow our authentic paths, we risk losing our sparkle, our motivation, our happiness.

I think the best place to start is at the end. What kind of wedding do you want to have? What is your vision as a couple? Then you can plan the smaller steps that align with that end vision. You can work to invest your family in your vision.

When conflict and stress rear their ugly heads, you can ground yourself in your wedding vision and in the strength of your partnership.

I also find that developing "wedding planning mantras" helps a lot.

Wedding planning is often very difficult. So is living an authentic life. But at the end of the day, the effort we put in is worth it!

Wondering whether you have to send Save the Dates? Wondering how to build an equitable partnership? Wondering how to handle pressure from your parents? E-mail me your questions, and I'll take a stab at answering them!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on June 5. Register today!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links: 5/19/11

Diana+ Dreamer from GeekSugar

By Anna-Marie

Sylvie wrote in looking for DIY photobooth ideas with two requirements. 1) No onsite computer needed. 2) A laid-back feel. “Our wedding is in a state park, reception in a barn,” she says. “We’re going for fun and not super formal—we want to build community among family and friends.”

Sylvie’s wedding combines two of my favorites: an outdoor ceremony and a barn reception. In keeping with the summery and natural feel of her celebration, here are a few things I found:

First come logistics: Depending on whether or not you have your heart set on instant results, you can either go the Polaroid route, or let everyone use their own cameras. For the latter, if you’d like to see everything all on one camera, you could try designating a specific photobooth camera (digital or film), and add a little note asking guests to snap an extra. If you don’t have one to borrow or spare, Overstock probably has some of the least expensive digital cameras on the web, but I swoon for lomography beauties like the Diana Dreamer and the Diana Mini. What can I say? I’m also the girl who likes my paper books, and probably won’t be going over to electronic readers anytime soon.

For Polaroid booths, check out this one over at a backyard wedding. No computer necessary, and your guests’ antics can be displayed in seconds. I’m a fan of the fabric backdrops and the sense of fun.

Speaking of fabric backdrops, how about a print with vintage buttons or tea roses? Warm Biscuit Bedding Company has retro and rustic by the yard. You could even pick one with flowers that will be in bloom at your wedding site.

And depending on just how DIY-happy you’re feeling, here’s a tutorial on stamping your own patio tablecloth, which could be hung as your background. Their pattern involves leaves, which could be painted green for all the lush trees of summer instead of the autumny orange they use, or you could try a similar technique with flower cut-outs.

I hope that helps, Sylvie—have a wonderful time at your beautiful celebration!


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

Want a few ideas for your own wedding? Drop me a line.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Free--Yes, FREE!--Photography

Photos courtesy Shae Acopian Detar

With a very tight budget, Matt and I didn't have much choice but to ask a couple of our friends with fancy cameras to be our photographers. We also asked our friends and family to upload their photos to a centralized site. In the end, we had more than 2,000 photos, and we didn't have any regrets about skipping the professional photography part.

But check this out! Shae, a photographer and fine artist based in Los Angeles, is offering free wedding photography to 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits living in California. She's been shooting mainly fashion photography and is looking to build her wedding portfolio.

California couples, make haste! You can check out her site and send her an e-mail from her contact page.

Thanks for this amazing offer, Shae!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest Post: Keeping Bridal Expectations at Bay

As I read through this guest post by Susan over at Quitsville, USA, my head got tired from nodding so much. In this post, Susan talks about the pressure that comes from all the "should-ing" that goes on around us. Since the birth of my son Henry this past February, there have been times that I've felt like an inadequate mom because my responses to motherhood don't seem to be as glowing and syrupy sweet as all the other moms I know.

At the end of the day--in wedding planning, in raising children, and in living our lives--we have to find our own way. It's usually easier said than done! Thanks for the reminder, Susan...

By Susan

There are, I know, women who plan their weddings long before they're engaged. Women who spend time on wedding blogs and in wedding magazines for fun, who know exactly where they want to get married and how it should work, how big it will be, what they will wear, and what they will feed their guests. There's a certain comfort in knowing exactly what you want and being able to implement it.

I was not one of those women.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a ridiculous planner (you should see my archived spreadsheets) and I'm pretty girlie. But before I got engaged last year (to my long-term, live-in boyfriend) I'd only really given thought to what I didn't want to happen at my wedding - and that only in response to the weddings I'd attended. I was really excited to marry Nate. I was excited to be taking this next step together and knew it meant a lot for us. I wanted to start the next stage of our lives together...but I had no idea what color scheme I wanted to mark the day or what my dress should look like and it wasn't very long before this started to make me feel inadequate as a bride.

Weddings are an interesting thing. This is by no means an absolute but, generally, they are a very public display of a very private, intimate moment. Weddings are the external, social embodiment of two people pledging their lives to each other in a legally binding way. For better or worse, our society (or at least mine!) attaches a certain "importance" to marriage that you don't get without the legal document. And amidst all the emotional and logistical minefields that can come from taking this step with someone you (hopefully) care a lot about, a woman is expected to feel a lot of very different emotions.

For the record, I never ended up caring about my color scheme (or my makeup, or a bridal shower, or a lot of other things) but I was frequently reminded of what other people thought I should be feeling. There was a heck of a lot of "should-ing" going on and I ended up worrying that I wasn't doing my wedding right, that I was missing out on things, that I was some sort of bad bride. I worried that I was being too demanding, or too easy going, that I had made the wrong choices, that I would end up caring about things that I thought I wouldn't. And while all of these feelings were self-imposed, they were certainly helped along by the expectations of others - most of whom were just trying to be helpful.

In the end, my wedding was wonderful. It went nearly perfectly and had the sorts of hiccups that really only make the story better in the end. I felt beautiful and loved. I had an amazing time and it made all the DIY time we put in worth it. Everyone told us that it was a fantastic time and best of all, we agreed. But when the wedding was over, I didn't miss it. I was glad to get my real life back and to spend time just being rather than checking off a lot of boxes all the time. I know I am not alone in feeling inadequate as a bride. Any woman out there who wants to make their wedding meaningful but affordable but unique...will end up feeling inadequate at some point (if you don't, you know far more than I do). You'll end up getting unsolicited opinions and advice from practical strangers and it's important to keep your eyes on the prize (whatever it is for you).

I'm not an expert. I hope to only be married this one time. But, here's what helped me when I fell into the "should-ing spiral":
  • Know that the advice is actually coming from excitement: strangers will be excited because you're getting married and weddings are exciting and your friends and family will be excited for you. It might not always come out that way but it's helpful to remember.
  • Hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz. If you're a first time bride, folks will inevitably think that you're missing something - because they missed something - and they'll want to help you see it.
  • Their advice might actually be helpful. I know this is hard to believe but for real, I did get some good ideas. And for the others? Smile, be gracious, and only roll your eyes with your best friend or your husband/wife-elect.
  • People will seem less annoying when you're married. This seems callous but I'm being honest! Sure, I never did end up caring about the guest book but looking back, it's kind of cute that my mom was so concerned about it.
  • Stay true to yourself. It can be very easy to give in. Sure, it's just a guest book, it's just a color scheme, it's just a...whatever! Pick your battles but remember that this is supposed to be about your and your person and your life together. If you want it to feel/look/be a certain way, stay true to that.
  • There is not one type of bride (or groom for that matter). You are allowed to feel any GD way you want. It's scary and exciting and fun and stressful and pretty much everything else that comes along with event planning and major life decisions rolled into one. YOU ARE OKAY.
  • This bullet point is for you guys. What would you add? What helped/helps you?

Enjoy your day and the life that comes after. And try to remember what it was like when you were engaged. Don't ask someone their color scheme if they don't want to talk about it - let them tell you what's important to them. And share it.

Susan is a book fanatic who spends her working hours building communities and marketing programs and the rest of her time reading, cooking, canning, crafting, creating spreadsheets, and intermittently blogging about all of those at Quitsville, USA. Her husband, Nate, photographer extraordinaire, kickass guitar player and all around nice guy, reaps the benefits of her many culinary enterprises and helps to settle her restless mind.

A huge thank you to Susan for sharing her insights with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please
send me an e-mail!

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Linda Do.! She scored a free canvas of the photo of her choice from the folks over at Easy Canvas Prints.

Linda, please e-mail me so I can put you in touch with the right people. Congratulations!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter...

Happy Monday!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Inspiring Blogs: Fighting Being a Bridezilla

There were so many helpful wedding blogs out there when Matt and I were planning our nuptials (thank you Kristina, Jamie, Katie, and Meg--to name a few). It felt like I was planning my wedding among friends who were going through the same things around the same time.

That's why I'm eager to showcase someone (well, actually three someones, in this case) who is planning a wedding right now: Fighting Being a Bridezilla. The name says it all! These ladies are hilarious (I love asides about global warming) and they are definitely keeping it real.

Here's what Donnica added:

We are three good friends getting married in the SAME year!!! Can you believe it!?!? One in May, I'm in August, and the other in December. AND we are in each other's weddings! So we started a blog about our different journeys to the same destination...MARRIAGE! :) We blogabout great frugal finds and DIY projects.

Here is a picture of them helping out at another friend's wedding:


I would love to help promote your blogs by featuring one of them every other week. That way, you can connect more easily with kindred spirits who are in the same phase of the [potentially crazy] wedding-planning process.

If you would like your blog to be considered, please:
  1. E-mail me the link
  2. Write a little bit to explain who you are and what your wedding vision is and how you approach the wedding planning process.
  3. OPTIONAL: Attach a relevant photo

I regret that I won't be able to feature every blog that is submitted, but I look forward to browsing every single one of them!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guest Post: The Trials and Tribulations (and Joys!) of Planning a Different Sort of Wedding

Photos by Darby Gieringer and Stephen Ironside, our talented and lovely friends and wedding photographers

by Helen Chase

Most of the time, I’m just a girl in love, going to school and working and adopting a kitten and doing all sorts of things that lots of people do. But then, this amazing lady I’m in love with and I decided to get married. With an engagement ring on each of our hands, we had to brave some strong opinions about what we were planning.

Overall, we were rather lucky. We didn’t experience any catastrophes—we won a free engagement shoot from a photographers’ collective in a neighboring city, and when I told the company that my partner was a woman, they said that was fine with them. Our wedding photographers were friends of ours. We made all the food, decorations and flower arrangements, and the owners of our venue were gay-friendly. Our officiant, who has known me since I was in junior high, was more than accepting. We didn’t have to deal with anyone refusing to work with us because of our sexuality, which I know has been a problem for many other same-sex couples. We did, however, encounter some raised eyebrows (at best), disparaging comments from everyone from family members to strangers who didn’t understand our “lifestyle choice”… and having to tell people over and over that yes, I was engaged, but not to a man.

We went to a bridal store to look at dress options, and the friendly woman at the front desk had us sit down with her to give her our information.

“When is your wedding?” she asked me, and I told her August 1st. She asked Lindi as well, who said August 1st also.

“So you’re having a double wedding? How exciting!”

“Oh no,” I answered. “We’re marrying each other.” Lindi squeezed my hand under the desk.

The woman stiffened, her eyes widened, and she told us she was going to get someone else to help us.

We considered walking away, but we had been excited about looking at dresses. We’re not naïve—we live in the mid-South, where gay marriage is not yet legal and churches outnumber everything but fast food restaurants—and knew before setting foot in the store that it might not go well. But, we wanted to try on dresses. We’re both girly and giggly and love pretty things (not to mention that we aren’t the type to retreat so easily), so we stayed.

Another consultant, a younger, perky woman named Jen, came to the front of the store and welcomed us, then walked us back to the dressing rooms. She wrote our names, surrounded by hearts, on the mirrored doors. She brought us the dresses we’d selected from photos and helped each of us, in our separate rooms, zip them up and pick out accessories.

She walked away, at one point during the appointment, to get more dresses from the stockroom. Lindi and I were standing on the platform in front of the dressing rooms in our gowns and when she returned we were holding one another loosely, as if dancing. She clapped her hands and gushed, “Oh, you two are so cute!”

That day, when the rather cold woman who took down our names and addresses and our shared wedding date could have easily been the one to make one of us cry, it was Jen who made me tear up instead. I sent her a thank you note, for dealing with what must have been an unusual situation with such grace and enthusiasm.

I think this situation fairly well sums up what it is like to plan a same-sex wedding in this heterosexist society of ours. Some people were just as excited for us as if we were planning a marriage between a man and a woman, while others were not. We were blessed—our parents, siblings and most of our close friends supported us and we experienced an extraordinary outpouring of love and joy surrounding our wedding planning and the event itself.

Then, there were those who didn’t agree with our choice to commit our lives to one another—a good chunk of Lindi’s family including her grandmother and an aunt who is a Catholic nun, some of my extended family and two of my four closest friends, neither of whom attended the wedding. Then there were the responses that meet with a proclamation of future wedded bliss with a member of your own sex: “Isn’t that illegal?” and “Are you wearing matching dresses?” and (from my cousin, no less): “I wish I could tell you I was happy for you, but it’s against my religion.” Then, the legal pieces—or rather, the legal pieces that were not: the wedding license, the promise of shared medical insurance, easy name changes.

Nonetheless, I would say that we were probably much like many other engaged couples. We looked at venues and invitations and decorations; we found an officiant and what we wanted to wear. We fought about wedding-related things and considered eloping instead. We dealt with family drama. We planned a menu and wrote our vows. We decided against a DJ and made our own iPod playlist.

I look forward to a day when other same-sex couples planning an exciting event of their own won’t have to deal with lack of acceptance. Hopefully in the next decade, gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states, not just a few. We chose to only register at stores that allowed us to register as “Bride 1 and Bride 2” or “Partner 1 and Partner 2” and someday, maybe all businesses will have equal respect for all couples, no matter their respective genders. Things are changing, and I feel incredibly lucky to live in a time when we can see how things are shifting, day by day.

We’ve been married now for eight months (eek!) and I feel like… a married person. Not a gay married person, just a married person. And it is utterly fantastic.


Helen and Lindi are both in their final year at the University of Arkansas. Helen works as a copy editor at a organizational management firm, while Lindi works with tiny, cute children at the University nursery school. They met in January 2007, muddled their way into a wonderful relationship and were married on August 1, 2010. They also just started a blog together, titled Bettencourt Chase: the things we make, bake and photograph, and an Etsy shop named Operation Petticoat.

A huge thank you to Helen for sharing her story with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please
send me an e-mail!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Contest: Enter to Win a Photo Canvas

The lovely folks over at Easy Canvas Prints are offering a free 8 x 10" canvas of your chosen photo. You can turn your favorite photo into a work of art with four easy steps. Think of the possibilities!

To win a free 8 x 10" canvas with free shipping (within the contiguous United States):
  • Leave your first name and the first two letters of your last name in the comments!
  • For an additional entry, "like" Easy Canvas Prints on Facebook and then leave an additional comment here with your first name and the first two letters of your last name (with the phrase "Facebook Entry")

The contest will close on Sunday, May 15 at 11:59pm EST and a winner will be announced on Monday.

Happy Entering!

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Q & A: Postponing a Wedding

Reader Question: A few months ago, my fiancé and I were having a discussion about postponing our wedding. Well, actually we were talking about an opportunity to buy a house and he said, "If we get this house, we're not getting married this year." Thinking that was a logical reason, I agreed to postpone the wedding.

A few months later (after we decided not to buy the house) it was finally uncovered that he really wanted to postpone the wedding because he felt we weren't ready, that there were more areas that he felt we needed to grow in. So we worked on it and I feel that we are better. I waited to bring up the wedding again until he did, and he did a month ago.

So last week I asked him about setting another date, and his response was "when we have money."
I can't help but feel hurt because 1) if he didn't feel we were ready, why did he propose in the first place? (ring, engagement party, flew my mother in town and everything) and 2) we can't have an honest conversation about why the wedding is being postponed. My question is how do you breach the conversation to talk about the wedding or the lack thereof? We are able to have honest conversations, but when I'm frustrated I don't talk and he knows this so he doesn't push the issue when he doesn't want to talk either. I don't think he doesn't want to get married, but I think I'm hurt by him wanting to push it back that I'm not moving forward either.

How do I get over it and move on?
I'd appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks in advance.

I imagine that it's hard to see the silver lining in this frustrating and difficult situation, but I honestly think it's good that you and your partner are facing these issues BEFORE you get married rather than after.

Of course all of our relationships are works in progress and we continue to work on them even after we tie the knot, but it's important to have the fundamentals in place before making a lifelong commitment.

First, trust is an absolute must. You need to be able to trust that your partner is 100% honest with you. He clearly wasn't being honest when he postponed the wedding because of the house. I'm not saying that he was intentionally dishonest; it may have been that he truly wasn't aware of his deeper reasons.

Regardless, both of you need to get to the root of what is going on, which brings me to the second fundamental: strong communication.

In order for your marriage to be an enduring commitment, both partners need to strengthen their ability to communicate with each other. It's awesome that you're already aware of the limitations of your communication with each other; the next step is to build your communication capacity as a couple.

Related to strong communication is a third fundamental of a healthy relationship: the ability to work on problems together. All of our marriages will inevitably face their fair share of problems throughout the years. The trick to overcoming those problems and building our relationships rather than breaking them down is to figure out how to work together to solve problems.

There are lots of different ways to work on trust, communication, and problem-solving in a relationship. The first one that comes to mind is couples counseling. Working with a neutral, objective professional can really help couples strengthen the foundation of their relationship. I highly, highly recommend this route.

Other ways include reading relationship self-help books and working through exercises, or just starting the dialogue between you and your partner.

Giving you and your partner time to work through these issues before getting married is an investment in your future together, despite how frustrating it may be.

Try to be as patient as possible as you and your partner work toward a resolution together. Creating a solid, healthy, thriving partnership is the most important thing to focus on right now.

I wish you the very best!

Wondering whether you have to send Save the Dates? Wondering how to build an equitable partnership? Wondering how to handle pressure from your parents? E-mail me your questions, and I'll take a stab at answering them!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guest Post: Three to Get Married

photos by Tina de la Rosa

I adore this post (not just because a) Pickle is an utterly and completely adorable little boy and b) I love the name Pickle because it reminds me of my little Piglet) but also because it talks about the hard stuff of marriage--how to bring together pre-existing families--in a very optimistic and upbeat way.

By Sanyamakadi
This title is taken from the name of our Pre-Cana classes (which couples have to take to get married in the Catholic Church, and which is another story all together), but I am using it to refer to the three people in my marriage--me, my husband Socrates, and his 6 year-old son, Pickle.

Ever since Socrates and I moved in together a year before our engagement, we have told Pickle that we are a family, and that he is so lucky to have so many people in his family who love him, which included all the members of my family. So when we got engaged Socrates told him, “Sanyamakadi is going to be part of the family now,” he was confused, saying, “But she’s already part of the family.” Pickle was very excited about the wedding and thought that we were all getting married. He would ask, “Can one girl marry two boys?” When we said no he would ask worriedly, “Then how can we both marry Sanyamakadi?” Our go-to explanation became that Socrates and I were getting married, and because he, Pickle, was part of Socrates’ family, when Socrates and I got married and became a family, he would be part of that family too.
During the planning process we thought a lot about how to involve Pickle in the wedding day. He had been a ring bearer at his uncle’s wedding and loved it, and knew that was what little boys did in weddings. One of my cousin’s had integrated his new 5-year old stepson into the wedding ceremony, giving him a little ring and having them exchange vows as well. I thought this was a little weird, and it seemed even worse when my cousin and his wife eventually divorced, because it seemed like he was divorcing his stepson as well. Socrates wanted him to be the “Best Boy”, like the Best Man, and that is what we called him, but in the end Pickle really wanted to carry the ring and play a more active role in the ceremony, so we let him do that (luckily my mom had picked up a ring bearer pillow on clearance as part of her obsessive wedding purchasing).
For the reception, we thought it would be nice for Pickle and me to do a first dance together. We weren’t sure if we should ask him ahead of time...what if he said no, or said yes but then psyched himself out about it and backed out at the last minute? In the end we didn’t ask him. After all the other first dances, “Upside Down” from the Curious George movie (one of his favorites) started playing, and I asked him if he wanted to dance. He said yes very excitedly (which may have had something to do with the ten glasses of punch he had already consumed) and up we went. Halfway through I motioned Socrates on to the floor and we finished the dance as a family, which was really wonderful and sweet. One of the big planning issues was whether to have a babysitter at the wedding. My family is huge and traditionally Mexican, and everyone takes care of everyone else; no one would ever worry that the children weren’t being watched by someone. But this time the kid belonged to the bride and groom, and we worried about inconveniencing our guests by forcing them to watch him. In the end we didn’t get a babysitter, and it worked out fine...Pickle danced with everyone, and hung out with family, friends, and the photographer. And when the sugar crash from those ten glasses of punch hit and he fell asleep on a couch by the restrooms, it provided a quiet getaway for anyone looking for a break from the party. They would “go check on Pickle” and join the quiet group sitting and talking.

Sanyamakadi means “eyes blinking in the sky” and is the Malinké word for “lightening”, which was one of the first she learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea. She loves to travel, create adventurous food, and fly kites. After 5 years overseas she returned to the US and happened to meet the love of her life at a swing dancing class, and now spends many happy evenings dancing around the living room with him and her new son. (photos by her rockstar photographer and Peace Corps buddy Tina de la Rosa)

A huge thank you to Sanyamakadi for sharing her insights with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please send me an e-mail!

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Dress Giveaway!

Hooray! I am honored to announce that 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirit, Casandra, wants to give her stunningly beautiful wedding dress to one of you! Here's the scoop from Casandra:

Aaron and I are high school sweethearts. We got married on June 12, 2010 after being in love for 9 years! Our wedding (and reception) was held at a community center in nearby Old Town Alexandria. Our moms graciously helped us host a casual midday ceremony and reception that was so "us." Because it was a family affair, the wedding planning process was definitely a test of our ability to remain flexible and compromise. Important to him (and the moms): We had a Christian ceremony led by Aaron's long-time pastor. Important to me: A fun, low stress casual day with as many eco-conscious choices (compostable tableware, minimal stationary, electronic RSVP, location accessible via public transportation, locavore catering). Our wedding day was a win, win, win for all involved. Many of our guests told us it was the most fun they had had at a wedding. Mission accomplished!

I want to give my dress away to a like-minded bride (or as Sara]would say, "a kindred spirit"). I'd like the next bride who wears this dress to be a person who is entering into marriage mindfully, by seeing through the wedding industry's hype to make choices that suit her values.
Feel free to check out their wedding website or see more photos from the wedding.

Here's the scoop on the dress:

Size 4, White, hemmed (I'm 5'5" and wore 2.5 inch wedge heels with the dress)

Product Description: You'll look and feel fabulous in this long, flowing goddess dress. The soft charmeuse design features straps that cross and drape elegantly in the back. The empire waist and flattering silhouette make this dress perfect for any special occasion! Available in Ivory or White. Double lined. Side zip. Imported polyester. Dry clean only.

Enter to win by:
  • Leaving a comment about why you would like this dress. Please include your e-mail address so we can contact you if you are chosen.

We will accept entries until Casandra feels like there's a good match. You'll just be responsible for reimbursing Casandra for shipping. She paid $40 for shipping, but she will try to keep it as inexpensive as possible!

Happy Entering!

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