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

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Location as the Linchpin

A friend of mine recently got engaged, and he and his partner are in the process of picking the venue. They live in Florida but have family all over, so they are considering myriad locations. Hearing about their journey brought me back to the stress of trying to select a location for our wedding. 

I won't delve too deeply into the stress here (it's explained in eight full pages of details from pg. 56-64 in The Book if you want the gory details); I'll just stick to the highlights. When we were planning our wedding, Matt and I were living in Denver. My family was in Florida; Matt's was in Indiana. Our friends were scattered all over the country. At the time, it felt like we could have had the wedding anywhere. In retrospect, I'm so glad we picked a location that was within an easy driving distance of our house (1.5 hours into the mountains). For us, planning a wedding from afar would have made it much more difficult to DIY, and it would have been more difficult to cultivate relationships with the owners of the venue. 

My point isn't that my friends should also get married near where they live. Each of us needs to figure out what makes the most sense for us, what aligns with our values, what matches up with our preferences, etc. We can all select different but equally valid paths. However, regardless of what path we choose, we should definitely consider it carefully. As I explain in A Priceless Wedding, selecting a venue was the "linchpin" in our entire wedding planning process. I go on to explain:

"Part of the stress related to finding a location is the realization that the venue is like the first domino. Once it's knocked down, it sets off a chain reaction. For example, the venue determines:
  • Your catering options...
  • What kind of decoration is needed...
  • What needs to be rented...
  • The formality of the event...
Selecting the right venue is challenging for a lot of couples. Maureen and Dave, transplants to the San Francisco area, were in love with the Wine Country but realized that a wedding at a winery was beyond their budget. Most of the wineries they looked at 'had ridiculous packages' that locked them into 'a certain caterer, a certain deejay, renting tables, having a sit-down ceremony, etc.' Maureen said, 'When it came right down to it, we just wanted far more control over our wedding than any of these places were willing to give us.'

They looked at lodges, inns, beaches, state parks, and even private homes. They decided that 'the most important part' was to get their 'family and friends together in a place where everyone would be comfortable and have fun.' They finally stumbled upon a 'restaurant with a large outdoor patio at a really reasonable price.' The patio was adjacent to a creek and 'shaded by beautiful old trees and landscaped with loads of flowers,' so they didn't have to do anything to decorate. The space rental for five hours was $800 and included all the tables, chairs, and linens. Maureen said, 'It worked out perfectly because we got the ease of having someone else do the food, setup, and cleanup, but we were able to customize everything else.'

One challenge you may encounter is that the location is usually one of the first decisions to be made, early in the process, before you've had a chance to think through your entire wedding. This is one reason creating your wedding vision before you start planning can be helpful."

How did you decide on your wedding venue? Or are you in the middle of trying to figure it out? Please share your story in the comments section!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

One Wild and Precious Life: Lessons Learned from Wedding Planning

A lot of different--yet related--thoughts have been swirling around in my head lately. First, I've been re-reading my book from start to finish, A Priceless Wedding: Crafting a Meaningful, Memorable, and Affordable Celebration

It's been four years since Matt and I tied the knot--about five since we started planning our wedding. The process of writing the book stretched out over many years, so it's a strange experience to sit down and re-read about our experience from cover to cover. 

I was reminded of all the insecurity I felt while planning our eco-friendly, budget-minded, handmade wedding. Matt and I tried to muster all the courage we had to forge our own path on our own terms, but we had no idea if the whole thing would fall flat on its face. We faced naysayers at various points in the process (neither my step-father nor my best friend wanted to help us cater our own reception; my grandfather didn't want to speak in our non-traditional ceremony, etc.). But when it was all said and done, it was the perfect wedding--for us. It was completely focused on community, connection, commitment, and fun (and my best friend ended up helping us cook and thoroughly enjoyed himself).

We learned such valuable lessons during that process. We learned that starting with the big picture vision helps you make more strategic decisions along the way. If you know where you're trying to get to, then it's easier to figure out which choices along the way will get you there. We learned that dreaming big and dwelling in possibility are exhilarating (albeit quite scary). 

We learned that forging our own unconventional, authentic path can incite adversity and judgement and doubts (which can easily make us feel insecure), but we're ultimately responsible for our own lives and our own happiness. We can't waste our "one wild and precious life" by trying to live someone else's dream. 

Since then, we've continued to dwell in possibility. We often talk about what are joint dreams are together and how we're going to make them happen. We realized that it made the most sense for us professionally and personally to move from Houston to Austin, so we figured out how to make it work. 

Now we're thinking a lot about what kind of family we are and what kind of family we want to be. We've spent the year figuring out which neighborhood we want to settle into (verdict = a diverse neighborhood in East Austin) and where we want to send our children to school (verdict = Austin's first public Montessori school). We've had to think a lot what kind of house we wan to live in (verdict = 3 bedroom/2 bath house on a 1/2 acre with close enough proximity to town and natural views out our windows and room for a garden and fruit trees). I've also been thinking a lot about how to pursue my professional goals (which are admittedly ambitious and time-consuming), while prioritizing my personal goals (e.g., plenty of quality time with my family). 

Then I stumbled upon this article about how the COO of Facebook leaves the office at 5:30pm each day. It was shocking to me that the idea of leaving the office in time to eat dinner with your family was so novel and worthy of attention. I absolutely want to be an effective leader who accomplishes big goals and prioritizes family. There's no use trying to make the world better if I only make my own life (and the life of my children) worse. 

Then Kristina led me to this article about how our quality of life impacts our life span. It made me think even more about my future and the kind of life I want to lead beyond my current plan for the next couple decades. It inspired visions of moving to an island or starting a retreat center or moving near my children to help out with my [future] grandchildren. 

And all that planning brought me back to a conversation with my best friend about the power of living in the now. That's when I decided to give Hoss a really good belly rub and introduce Henry to the glory of hot chocolate for the very first time. 

Our lives are full of choices and the choices that we made continually reshape our lives. Of course there is so much that is not in our control, but I am inspired by how much is in our control. I can choose to celebrate what is right in front of me. I can choose to figure out how to balance the professional with the personal. I can re-evaluate at any time and make adjustments as necessary. I can constantly ask and attempt to answer Mary Oliver's question: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?"

Photo taken back at our ceremony spot, three years after our wedding

P.S.: Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy started today. There's still time to join us. Register today! We'd love to get to know you better!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Planning a Priceless Wedding

It's real! It's finally real!

My editor at Voyageur Press sent me an actual copy of my book A Priceless Wedding: Crafting a Meaningful, Memorable, and Affordable Celebration. It has taken years to get to this point (from looking for an agent, to revising my 20,000-word proposal, to interviewing with publishing houses, to revising the structure of the book, to drafting it, to revising it, to holding it in my hands). I was worried that I would be disappointed with the end result (it's easy to be disappointed when there are four years of build up!), but I am overjoyed with the result. I can't believe my words (and the words of kindred spirits) fill up 208 pages in a real book. 

I started reading it as soon as I got it. I'm on page 68 and I'm honestly enjoying it. The book has come a long, long way, thanks to the support--in particular--of M.J. Bodeau, Anna Zeide, Beth Dehnart, and the team over at Voyageur Press. They worked really hard to sand and polish it into something presentable (and hopefully helpful). I am also indebted to countless other kindred spirits over the years who shared their experiences and revised sections of the text.

It's a full-color book with all kinds of inserts: DIY projects, worksheets for helping you clarify your vision, and thoughts from wedding veterans. I love Anna-Marie's letter of apology to her wife for becoming "wedding-possessed" and Kristen Walker's personal reflection about her experience with couples' counseling. And there are so many quotes that provide alternate perspectives and illustrate that each of us have to make decisions that make sense to us.

Phew! I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief over here...

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