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

Monday, April 1, 2013

Q & A: Engagements & Courthouse Weddings

Image courtesy of thespottedsparrow
Kindred Spirit Question: My boyfriend and I have been together now for over eight years, we've owned a house together for three and have a lovely family of cats and dogs. I recently lost my job, so my health insurance benefits run out at the end of this month. Even though we never got around to getting engaged, we're planning on getting married at our local courthouse next month, surrounded only by our closest of friends. A real ceremony will follow when we are financially stable again.
Would it be silly for him to propose now? Unnecessary? We have a family heirloom engagement ring, so it's not like he needs to spend anything extra. He and I aren't quite seeing eye to eye on having a proposal. I feel like I'd be lying if I send out engagement notices to my family and we never had a proper engagement. What are your thoughts on this? Am I being unreasonable? 
Also, what is appropriate attire for a courthouse marriage?
Ooh, I love both of your questions because they highlight an essential aspect of wedding planning (and--let's face it--our lives): Despite what everyone and everything around you make you feel, there are no rules. It's up to us to figure out what our values and principles are, what resonates with us, what will make us feel proud of ourselves at the end of the day, and then to make it happen.
So let me tackle the easier question first: Wear whatever you want! Honestly, there is no such thing as "appropriate attire for a courthouse marriage" (well, aside from following the legal requirements posted on the door, such as "Shoes and Shirt Required.")
Please, please, please think long and hard about what will make you comfortable (both physically and emotionally, both as an individual and a couple) and then go for it! It might be a sundress or a skirt or shorts or even a traditional wedding dress. I'm sure the court has seen it all.
The engagement question is trickier because you and your partner disagree. Honestly, disagreement is a healthy and normal part of the wedding planning process, too (it better prepares us for a lifetime of compromise!). I recommend using the strategies you've cultivated over the past eight years together to reach agreement. Sometimes, Matt and I resort to a really formal style of discussion when we need to hash something out (e.g. "I hear you saying..."). Sometimes I just cry and storm out of the room (and then pull it together and engage in a real conversation).
So it's time to really listen to each other. Figure out why a formal engagement is important to you and try to unearth why it isn't something your partner wants. Maybe you could each propose to each other in creative ways? Maybe you could figure out how to word an engagement announcement in a way that authentically represents the situation instead of feeling fraudulent (e.g., "After years of writing a shared history together, it's time to write the next chapter.")?
The best we can do in these situations is hear each other out, engage in introspection to figure out why we're responding to the situation in the way that we are, and figure out how to reach a compromise that contributes to (rather than detracts from) our partnership and shared life together.
Wishing you and yours the very best!

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Giveaway!

 Hooray! I love the word "free" when it comes to wedding planning. 

You're welcome to enter two separate contests to win a free copy of A Priceless Wedding: Crafting a Meaningful, Memorable, and Affordable Celebration (and definitely feel free to send your partner/friends/family/neighbors/colleagues over to increase your odds of winning)!

The first contest is over at Goodreads, and the second one is via Craftside.

Good luck to you and yours!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Priceless Wedding by Sara Cotner

A Priceless Wedding

by Sara Cotner

Giveaway ends February 07, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Young House Love Wedding

Last week I braved the rain to attend a book talk presented by the one-and-only John and Sherry of Young House Love. I wanted to hear them speak in person, and I also wanted to hand-deliver a copy of my book, since one of Sherry's stories is included as a sidebar in it. 

While I was standing in the labyrinth of a line (seriously, John and Sherry are so popular the book signing had to be divided into groups and I was all the way in E!), I overhead Sherry giving the most awesome wedding advice to someone while she signed their book. She said, "Remember that your wedding is just a party. And also remember not to worry about what your grandmother wants. It's your wedding." 

I loved reading the story of John and Sherry's $4,000 wedding many years ago. It's full of sincerity, budget-mindedness, and handmade elements. The thing I love about it most is that it doesn't set impossibly high standards for the rest of us. It's not one of those glossy weddings or intimidating DIY weddings where every element looks like it could be featured in Martha Stewart Weddings. It looks like a fun, crafty, creative, and memorable backyard wedding. 

Thanks--as always--for the inspiration, John and Sherry!

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Making Things Special with Sincerity Rather than Money

Even though Matt and I only had $2,000 to spend on our wedding, we still wanted the event to be meaningful and memorable. We wanted our guests to enjoy themselves, and we wanted to honor them for their long journeys out to Colorado and thank them for their support. 

There were many times throughout the planning process when we had to make things special with sincerity rather than money. For example, we couldn't find a place for photo stamps in the budget, but we did manage to hand-write a personal message to each and every recipient, letting them know how much they mean to us and how much we hoped they could join us. 

I find myself in a similar situation as I prepare to attend my cousin's wedding in the Outer Banks of North Carolina this May. Honestly, we almost couldn't afford to go. We are busting our behinds to live within Matt's income so we can completely bank my part-time salary. We need to save a ton of money for the downpayment and closing costs on the permanent loan for the house we're building (we're converting our construction loan from 85% to 80% at that time, so it's a pretty hefty chunk of money that we'll need). We also need to save up money for my maternity leave. I'll stop working when the baby is born in June/July and won't resume part-time work again until late in the fall (then full-time work in the spring). We'll also need money to send Henry to daycare over the summer and then pay for his Montessori school when it starts up again in the fall. Our other major expense will be our midwife/homebirth costs. We'll also need to be able to pay babysitters here or there when I have work obligations that I simply can't avoid during my maternity leave. 


I don't say all of that to make it sound like I feel sorry for us. We are fortunate that all of these costs relate to creating the life we want to live. They aren't related to unforeseen medical emergencies, job losses, etc. They relate to the urgency I feel to move into the house we want to spend the next 10 years in and the urgency I feel to complete our family while my age hovers around the mid-thirties. 

But these choices mean that we have to live within a very tight budget. We don't have room for any extras right now. When my cousin announced that she is getting married in a remote place in May, it added a conundrum to our situation. Of course we want to prioritize family and attend important events, but the cost of flying and housing our family of three was going to cost $1,500--almost the cost of our entire wedding. 

In the end, we decided that I would go alone to reduce the cost to about $500. It's sad that Henry won't be able to spend more time with our extended family, but it's the only way we could make it work.

As far as a wedding present goes, I decided that I could contribute something with sincerity rather than a lot of money. She was talking about how she's trying to balance her full-time job with her master's program with her wedding planning. I decided to offer to undertake one of her DIY wedding projects for her. I hope she takes me up on her offer!

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