Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wishing Things Were Different

Wedding-wise, it's been a hard few days for me. In a lot of ways, we're finally diving into planning our wedding. Yes, we already have a venue. And yes, I already have a dress. But since our wedding is scheduled for April 2011, we gave ourselves a reprieve on active planning until after New Years (though obviously I dove in and started researching and writing my little heart out before then.) I got acquainted with the wedding world, found some context, and feel comfortable that we can talk through the important questions with an overall vision and purpose in mind before we're up to our eyeballs in must-have BS. We're finally feeling ready and eager to design our own list of must-haves. 

However, now that we're finally at this stage, I broke down with a few days of serious resentment that I can't ditch this whole wedding thing altogether. Despite all of these blog entries and all of this thinking about weddings, I never really wanted anything like this in the first place.  For us, "this" means a 150 person ceremony and celebration.  It means at least $20,000 in expenses, even though we're trying to keep it simple and we're trying to focus on the enduring, meaningful aspects of the wedding instead of the fluff.  It means over a year of difficult and emotionally consuming discussions, negotiations, and compromises about what constitutes meaning, fluff and value. And so, just as I started looking this expensive year-long planning beast in the face, I got exhausted and wanted to slink away from it all. 

My dream wedding looks nothing like the event we're trying to lovingly build.  In fact, for a long time I had no image of a dream wedding whatsoever; I'd never wanted to get married and never anticipated finding a life-partner, so weddings simply never crossed my mind.  Only after being with Jason for a year did I start thinking seriously about getting married and weddings, and I immediately nixed the fantasy-ballroom popular culture idea of weddings. I started thinking about getting married like my parents did, in a hastily-planned, DIY backyard wedding. They bought a house, fixed up the house and backyard, made some sandwiches and punch, and invited their friends for their wedding a month after moving in. I started thinking about other weddings I've loved, and realized that they were all more low-key intimate weddings of 50-75 people, often in backyards or gardens, giving the couple time to savor their joy with each and every guest. 

Unfortunately, we don't have a backyard.  And unfortunately, my parents' backyard simply won't work for our wedding needs. We need a handicapped accessible event space that can hold 150 people.  Their tiered, multi-leveled backyard can comfortably meet the needs of 60 for a ceremony and 80 (scattered around) for dining.  I thought about building ramps (which would be do-able) but the real constraint comes in the guest list: Jason's family is huge, and we have a decent sized list of friends-who-are-essentially-family.

Therefore, our real options came down to elope, a backyard celebration for family only, or 150 person celebration in a rented space.  A backyard wedding would be dominated by Jason's 50-ish member family versus my 10-person group, which didn't feel right and excluded all my parents' friends who were essentially aunts and uncles to me through the years. As for eloping, our private commitment is already clear and we're not doing this for the legal rights (though we very much appreciate them and wish they were extended to all couples), so that didn't sit right with me either. Therefore, given our real-life choices, it was no contest: we choose the 150 person celebration in a rented space with our families, our friends and a variety of other loved ones.

Any vision of a wedding that might have fit want I wanted was simply out of the question.  Instead, we're focusing on trying to create a backyard/intimate feel, without having a backyard or an intimate-sized guest list. I'm generally finding joy in the process and in the preparation for our marriage, but all of a sudden I'm finding myself mourning the backyard-wedding-that-will-never-be.  I resigned myself months ago to the near-obscene cost of this thing, because I want a wedding and $20K+ is simply what it costs to throw a party for 150 people in a safe, welcoming, and minimally attractive way.  But although I resigned myself to the cost, there's a new element of resentment creeping in that I'm spending so much on something I never really wanted to begin with.

I know by now that life isn't all about unicorns and rainbows, and my approach is generally to find joy in the hand I'm dealt.  In this case, I was dealt a 150-person rented-venue wedding.  It is what it is and, if I want to have a wedding celebration, this seems to be my best option.  But I spent the last few days wishing things had turned out differently, and hoping that the joys of the day outweigh the hassles and challenges we're already facing down.  Last week, I read this post and comments at A Practical Wedding about "Not Loving Your Wedding" and I found myself tearfully nodding along and relating to the discussions, finally able to give voice to the secret fears and unspoken resentments that I've tried to silence as I move on and deal with the situation life gave me.  Because this isn't what I wanted, and yet it also is.

I can't picture anything more important than sharing a day of such monumental importance and joy with the people who matter most to us, but I'm fed up with all of the logistics, cost, and compromises that seem to be taking me further and further away from what I wanted out of this to begin with.  I feel like I'm shouldering a lot of this myself - the endless research, the logistical planning, the savings - in large part because it makes sense for me to shoulder these.  I enjoy research/planning and have a background in event planning.  We decided to not ask our parents for financial assistance (for a variety of reasons) but, since I have the higher salary (I'm older and higher on the career ladder), the financial burdens are heavier on my end for the wedding.  So even if it makes sense for me to take on these responsibilities, I just wish I felt better again about whether it's all worth it.  And I wish I lived in the land of unicorns and rainbows where everything perfectly supported a low-key backyard wedding soiree with an into-the-wee-hours dance party celebration, capped off with a campfire, guitar playing and smores.  Because that wedding would be worth it, and I would happily embrace the planning and cost challenges associated with it.  I don't care much about the Prince Charming myth and I'd choose Jason anyhow but, just once, it would be really nice to get everything I wanted, in all it's imperfect backyard glory.


  1. I don't what to say yet your always articulate your words most evocatively. I wish I has the solution for you. Yes, it will be different from what you envisioned but maybe with a little ingenuity you can bring the outside in and all those little touches from the campfire into your day. What's more if you do that it may feel incongruous but that incongruity will help make it feel like the relaxed imperfect intimate gathering you're currently dreaming of.

  2. this is so weird.

    i, for the first time in the 15 months i've been engaged, felt exactly how you described here, this weekend.

    i really was tired of the BS, tired of explaining all. the. friggin' time, to each person that i don't care about colours-flowers-favours-music... i AM tired of how much effort, planning, stress is coming into trying to be sustainable and having the wedding I want.

    for the first time i thought- eff this noise, i just want to elope. and it was a scary feeling.

    most non-brides don't seem to get it... i just wanted to complain you know?

    sigh- hopefully it's a phase we go through?

  3. Oh honey. When I was in the middle of my planning, I could have written this exact post myself. For a million different reasons, our wedding (and the work of planning it) turned out to be a huge compromise, and certainly not what we would have initially pictured. Then came the hard family stuff, and I just felt like WHY couldn't I have that nice mom-daughter experience that you're supposed to have? It is a process to accept that our weddings will be what they are, and not what we wish they would. It's a good life lesson, I guess, although a harsh one.

    Looking back on it now, in the sober light of day, if I had to do it all over again, there is very little we would change. The circumstances were what they were, and it was as good and representative of "us" a day as it was possible for us to pull together considering all the Stuff. I don't think we ever could have had our "ideal" wedding day, because we didn't plan our wedding in a vacuum--so painful as it was at times, I genuinely don't think there was a way to avoid it. I do promise you that you will come to terms with it, though. (And vocalizing all of this is part of that process!)

  4. I can relate a bit to what you're describing because the wedding I wanted was a small destination weekend. But the reality was, if we wanted our anyone besides our parents there, it would have to be a traditional wedding in a location right between our two families, so no one would have to drive more than a couple of hours. So that's what we're doing.

    But I don't consider that I'm not getting what I want - I'm just not getting ALL of what I want. Having all of your friends and families there is a "want" as well, and it's a want that both you and I decided was more important than our dream style of wedding.

    PS Have you looked into venues that could accommodate a low-key backyard-style wedding for 150? Like a park or the beach or the grounds of a historic mansion?

  5. I totally understand what you are feeling. When i first got engaged, FH and I had the exact same dilemma. Except I have a 75+ family and he has a small 10-20 person one. Also, our guest list exceeded 250 people. It became very stressful and I lashed out. I didn't understand why it was so expensive, and why every single "budget saving" article I read, didn't save me anything. Our solution - we are renting a city owned venue for a small fee (there are a few out there depending on ur party size, and you are at 150 - so i know more options available for parties 100-150 than over 200 which was what i was looking for).

    We are using our own caterer (30/person) and we get to BYO alcohol which saves TONS. On top of this, most of these city/state owned venues rent hourly - which gives you the luxury of renting certain areas for only the time you need them instead of paying a flat fee for space you may not use. There are certain restrictions with these venues, but most are easy to work with... I think i have a list of some if you are interested.

    I have a 23 month engagement (1.5 months left to go) and I feel like at a certain point i had the same feelings. I had to step away. Then came back ready to attack the "beast" as you call it and find a way to make it work. I found my way and i promise you will find your way too :)

    Good luck!

  6. Like @Eco Yogini, I really just needed to vent. So thank you all for listening. We've made our choices and compromises for a reason, and we've therefore made our peace with them, but when I stood back and looked at the big picture a few days ago and saw how far it was from my original wedding hopes, I nearly lost it with frustration. I'm holding onto what @accordiansandlace wrote about looking back in the sober light of day and not really wanting to change much. Because we're owning our compromises and the reasons behind them, however frustrating they oftentimes are.

    And to @Katerina and @Amy Jean, we found a venue that essentially meets the needs you discussed. It's a compromise, and it gives us a lot of leeway with catering/booze/backyard feel. It makes me marginally less resentful to know I found something comparatively affordable and backyard-ish. But at my most bratty moments, I'm still ticked off that it's not what I really wanted, it's just the best we can do with our situation.

    And as a side note to @Amy Jean - I read about your venue search earlier this year and it helped inspire me to get creative and demand what we needed (the list looks a lot like yours.) Relentless, indeed.

  7. when i first started planning wedding I wanted that small intimate backyard wedding and like you, it just could not possibly work with our families combined alone. we at around 130 now. but i found that instead of being sad or stressed about the amount of people, i am trying to focus on all the little successes instead. like we have a great cheap venue, great cheap food. there are deifnetly still days when i am so stressed i am basically frozen and can't accomplish anything but i'm at the point where i can't let that bother me anymore or i will just be a wreck who didn't make any of the 10,000 projects i set aside for myself.

    i guess what i'm saying is good luck and don't worry. the reception/ceremony might be too big but you still have your man and a million sweet touches that i'm sure will make your wedding uniquely you.

  8. I could have written this 5 months ago. Just as we were getting set to sign a contract for a lovely reception space, I pretty much lost it with frustration and sadness that we would not be having a simple backyard wedding or a super fun camp/retreat-type wedding, or just a mad cheap but super fun and casual wedding (reception). I waffled on the contract for a month, and cried pretty much whenever my fiance (who was awesome in researching and finding the place) brought it up. He finally shook me out of it -- reminded me of the various reasons that such a wedding was totally impractical for us (we live in a tiny city apartment and don't have an yard to speak of) or would put a major strain on our guests (a "camp" wedding would require them to drive 2+ hours AFTER flying across country/oceans to be with us), offered the elopement alternative, etc. I finally accepted that I very much wanted to celebrate with all our friends (and family), and that to be able to do that, an expensive, and more traditional/fancy than I wanted reception venue was our only practical option. And that it WAS worth it to me, $20k of our hard earned savings and all, and to us, to share our vows with our friends, and to celebrate with everyone we love.

    I still feel a bit sad about the loss of the laid back, simple wedding I realized during planning was the "wedding of my dreams," but I'm no longer filled with regret and second-thoughts -- I'm actually genuinely excited about the wedding we are throwing. But it took time to embrace the wedding we have -- and a serious break from the blogs*, with their "effortlessly" fabulous, personal, laid back backyard and friend's barn weddings that they pulled together in a couple months. Cheers to them, but their circumstances were different, just like the circumstances of rich folks who throw six-figure weddings are different, and I've come to accept that we're going to have a great, no, awesome wedding that's right for us and for our circumstances. I mean, there will be all of the people we love plus good (if fancy;) food plus booze plus dancing plus people saying sweet things and my amazing boy and i getting hitched -- there is no way it could not be awesome, even though it won't be perfect.

    *I kept reading A Practical Wedding though, because I loved that Meg was so open and honest about the limits of her circumstances and what that meant for their wedding in terms of cost, formality, etc -- it totally helped to have that voice of sanity. And I really wish that Cupcake Wedding had been writing at that point -- her defiant celebration of her own wedding, ugly chairs and all, rocks my world and is a great model for embracing the wedding you have.

  9. I feel like most everyone must feel this way. Who really gets the wedding of their dreams other than women with unlimited budgets? I am really worried that I am going to hate the wedding-- I never wanted it, I wanted to elope-- but I hope that all the good will in the air and alcohol will guarentee a fun day I will want to remember ;)

  10. AccordionsandLace made a good point when she mentioned that you can't plan your wedding in a vaccuum.

    That said, I know exactly how you feel. Somehow my intimate wedding has turned into a 300 person+ extravaganza. At least we're getting married Unitarian, which was my #1 priority. I focus on that when I'm fed up with all of it.

  11. Oh what we would have given for a simple backyard as well! And maybe it would all be different if you could have a simple backyard to plan your simple wedding in, or maybe not. See the thing I find over and over with planning any sort of event or party, is that even simple things require a lot of planning. "Effortless" rarely is...someone (us) usually did a lot of planning/prep and the effect is that it was all "effortless." It's like watching a dancer right? It looks completely effortless and yet they've spent their entire life sweating/bleeding for one effing gorgeous move. So give yourself an even longer break if you need to- trust me you've got time. And breathe- I too shoulder the bulk of the financial responsibility for this shindig of ours and sometimes that is just so damn frustrating. It is. So let it be frustrating and move on....Take joy in the parts of planning you enjoy, ask for help from your partner, and remember in the end none of it matters except the marriage anyway. :)

  12. Oh, hon. This is totally understandable. We did a backyard wedding for my sister, and we managed to squeeze seating for 125 in there. You wouldn't believe how many floorplans we went through to get it worked out.

    You can do a "backyard" wedding in a city park and it will be very similar. The thing to remember is that backyard weddings are totally DIY, which means they are a ton of work. Arranging tables and chairs for 125 people the morning of, putting out table linens, setting up the food and then rushing to the ceremony. As lovely as the results can be, it is SO MUCH WORK.

    The advantage to a rented venue is that you aren't going to have to set up and break down, which is huge. I think you'll be happy with your decision to rent a venue, in the end.

    Just keep following your heart and you'll get through this! Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be you.

  13. Gut reaction after reading this post? Gut-gut-gut reaction? (feel free to ignore)

    2011?? 150 people when you wanted 50?? Ditch your plans. I know it seems impossible, I know you'll loose money, but F* it, ditch them. It can and has been done. Find a park for a picnic, figure out city hall and renting a cafe, what-the-hell-ever, and get married THIS APRIL.

    You want to be married, lady. And engagements? They suck harder and harder the longer they drag on.

    Seriously. F* that shit. (and this is totally not about the money, because whatever).

  14. Okay, I'm setting myself up to get pilloried in a somewhat career-destroying way, but here goes: I had my dream wedding. 50 people, 1/10 of which were my bridesmaids. Everyone else was equally divided between my friends and his family. And my Mom. Oh, and my boss at the time. I planned it in 5 months, would have taken less time, but we had some folks coming from DC, and they need time to get travel. I went to the florist down the street for my flowers, I rented my dress, we had dinner at the Sunset Towers, all 20's 30s art deco, and even with serving steak,the whole thing came in under 10k. I loved my wedding, because it was exactly what I wanted.

    I can hear you now - "well, that's not possible for me. We HAVE to invite x number of people, we have to have this or that or the other." No. You don't. "Well, the last wedding I went to had this or that, and the same people that went to that wedding are going to mine, so..." NO. This is a wedding, not an arms race. Your wedding. YOUR celebration of YOUR love and YOUR life, not anyone else's. Why are you throwing 30k at a wedding when you don't have the 30k to throw and/or you or your family is going to be paying it off, with interest, for God knows how long? To please other people? Because your friends will get mad at you if you don't invite them? Your friends and your family just want you to be happy, or they should. One more time: Your friends and family just want you to be happy. Plus, think of it this way - With travel, hotel, and their dresses, It cost each of my long-distance bridesmaids about $1500 to be in my wedding,and that was 7 years ago. I nearly died when I realized that. There's a fine line between extending an invitation and extending an obligation.

    This is the choice you are making - between the wedding you want, and the wedding you THINK you should have, or that others think you should have.

    I'm a wedding planner, so I make my living off of people who can afford a wedding planner. Trust me - rich brides with 6 figure budgets end of up hating their weddings, too, because they made the choice to have the wedding they or their parents thought they should have, as opposed to the one that they, the bride, wanted. Don't believe me? Think about how many people responded to Meg's post on a practical wedding, about not liking their wedding. Think about how many people are responding that way here. You really want to wake up the day of your wedding dreading it? Or wake up the next day wishing that you'd done it your way, and making excuses for why you didn't? When you could do still do something about it right now? You're the one who has to pay the bills. You're the one who has to live with the memories.

    Dude, it's not too late to take back your wedding! No, it's not. Yes, I do understand how complicated it will be to do that. Figure out what you want to change and ask someone how to do it. Ask around here, ask around the other blogs and sites that you visit. ASK. Just think of the deep breath you'll be able to take when you say out loud, "Okay, this is what I wanted."

  15. I hear you. There was a time, a few months ago, when I became intensely fixated on this venue north of the bay area. It was remote -- five old houses on a lake. We could rent the whole place out, have bonfires, sing under the stars, hike, go canoeing. But not everyone we wanted to come could fit at this place. Some people could camp but not all would want to, and the nearest hotels would be a 45 minute drive down a winding dark road.

    I tried cutting the guest list, and it didn't feel right. I tried sorting out a mass transportation option, and it was so spendy. Plus then there was the issue of which family/friends would get the rooms in the houses. Plus then there was the issue of the intense amount of preparation that would go into bringing enough food/booze/supplies for a 110-person wedding week. Plus, plus, plus.

    I didn't want to let this vision of the wedding go -- what about the marshmallow roasts? -- but I had to.

    I felt apathetic about the venue we chose for a good long while. It was very different. I was afraid it was the wrong choice. I was afraid we were spending too much money. I was caught between contrasting priorities, and sorting them out was getting to be hellish.

    But the thing about our venue -- like yours -- was that it was the best compromise. It enabled us to meet the highest number of priorities. And I know you just wanted to vent it out, but I guess the point of me commandeering this comment with a lengthy back story was to show that I kinda get where you're coming from, and to share that I eventually came around to liking this "compromise," and even maybe being just a little bit excited about the possibilities it offered us.

    And so I wish you the same: may what you have turn into unicorns, rainbows, and smoked gouda.

  16. I so feel you on this. We want a small intimate wedding of close family and friends. Each day it seams like it is getting bigger and bigger. All I wanted was a small backyard or courthouse wedding.

    Then I realized, its not really my day. It's my Moms day and my Dads day too. My Mom eloped and is living her wedding through me. I am the first of my sisters to marry (and the youngest) so they are living that day through me as well. It's funny because I was the one who was supposed to elope after they got married. Once I realized it is a day for everyone then I started to just let go and let flow.

    Everything will get better, the begging of the planning and paying for ever thing is the worst, after a while you hit a good stage and everything is better.

  17. I can relate dear. My wedding changed entirely (date and venue) and that is how I became a bride planning her wedding in 4 months.

    That kinda sucked.

    But I ended up with a wedding that I loved. Your wedding may not end up being your perfect backyard wedding, but can't you still bring elements into your current wedding?

    Most importantly, the love, the people, the fun will still remain so remember that when all the other details and "what I DIDN'T get" bog you down.

    At the end, no matter what it looks like, it will still be YOUR party. I have a feeling it will be awesome.

  18. Posts like this one make me realize how different we all are, and yet how we all relate to one another on some level. I can't say that I am worried about not liking my wedding or not wanting it...I feel like I am getting almost everything I ever wanted. But I can say that I worry about what others think or will feel on the wedding day. There is just so much opinion out there from others as to what they expect, want or judge you for when planning your wedding. It sounds like you have a good way to work through your emotions and desires and learn to be satisfied with where you end up, even if it is not always exactly what you want or how you want it. I love reading your posts because even when I don't feel the same way you do, I respect and understand your honesty and your process and think you are one of the healthiest people I 'know' :)

  19. This is me venting about my lack of backbone on my own wedding. I even posted about it recently on my double-secret whine about my outlaws blog.

    I wanted to elope. I did not want to plan a wedding after the year we had already had (selling my house, moving to a new city, buying a house, moving, flooded basement, contractors, etc).

    I already had my mom's agreement. His parents, who had told him repeatedly not to marry me (oh they are an issue to this day) had said they did not care if they attended our wedding.

    We made the mistake of asking them one more time before making our plans to get married because we had to be married before the end of the year for tax reasons.

    Oh yes of course they wanted to come!

    We never should have asked. We should have done what we wanted and said screw you to his parents.


    My family and my husband's stepdaughters from his first marriage were all delightful.

    His parents?

    A nightmare.

    So ours was not a wedding issue as much as an outlaw issue, but still.

    I wanted to elope and still wish we had. Again, though, this is me venting, not me giving you a horror story advising you not to have your wedding.

  20. You have given words to my feelings better than I ever could have thought words could express what I'm going through. My fiance and I have been engaged since the summer of 2008. We are getting married this spring, because I hated the thought of having to plan a wedding that was antithetical to anything I'd ever wanted and therefore refused to do much in terms of planning for a long time. All I ever wanted was a small church wedding (maybe 50 people, max) so that the most important people in our lives could celebrate us entering into a formal covenant (our hearts entered into such a commitment a long time ago). I never dreamed of a wedding, or even a husband. But when I met him, I knew that he was the one person I could see committing to forever. Unfortunately, his idea (no, his "picture") of a wedding was the traditional wedding. All I care about is being married to him (and eating cupcakes, which I love), so I made a compromise. If he would let me "renew our vows" for one of our anniversaries MY way, we would do the wedding his way. Except that I couldn't leave it up to him - I am a high-stress type-A and if I was having this wedding, the least I could do is make it pretty and nice. But it is such a source of angst. I feel resentful - sometimes with him, but mostly with the wedding. I resent that the marriage is no longer the focus. Instead, what I'm wearing or where we registered (we haven't) is. But when I get too stressed, I try to bring my focus back on the idea of us promising to try to make each other happy for the rest of our lives.

  21. I, too, am having a 240 person wedding when I'd much rather something small. Like, 40 people at most. I re-read this post every time it gets to me, and I start hating every single one of my lovely relatives who WILL show up, because that's what my family does. Nobody has small weddings. It's the full shebang or elope (and I'm not that brave). I understand about having to invite people- when I tried to see if I could cut our guest list, it was a nightmare. I can't imagine getting married without Cousin X, but then there are 12 other cousins that I have to invite, because they're all at that "level" of being related. My mother's family is huge and extremely close- so trying to cut out one person is impossible-it actually ends up being groups of nearly 30 (first cousins? check. Firsties once removed? check- and I can't not invite them. We all go to everyone's wedding. Every. Single. One.)


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