It finally happened. I woke up at 6:00 am, still in mid-dream panic about my first wedding nightmare. It didn't even fully hit me until I looked over and saw Jason, and finally crumpled with relief upon realizing that it had only been a dream and I wasn't trapped in a vaguely and ominously wrong nightmare wedding scenario. It wasn't the kind of dream where something terrible happened, but it was a dream in which everything was just slightly wrong, I couldn't fix it, and everything just got worse and worse. I ended up at the altar crying that something wasn't right but everyone just dismissed my tears. It wasn't until I woke up and saw Jason that I realized just how wrong the dream-situation had been: the man at the altar wasn't Jason.
Usually, I don't remember my dreams. And usually, I don't put much stock in them even when I can recall them. But last night's panic stuck with me today, and not because I'm worried I'm with the wrong partner (my relief upon waking up and seeing Jason was like the heavens opening.) Instead, it was the feeling of that increasing panic and lack of control that continued to haunt my daylight hours. And I think it's that feeling of panic that inspired the nightmare in the first place. Because right now, I'm behaving as if we've got this wedding thing all under control, but the truth is I'm starting to panic. Everything is riding on our venue contract, and the venue contract is the one thing I've been unable to secure. We've interviewed a ton of other vendors and even started to price out options, but we don't know our actual date or budget to actually lock anything down unless we have a venue.
I've been planning a wedding for nine months now, and we're still at square one. I've done everything in my power to move the contract process forward and research every possible contingency, but we're currently stuck. I have 94 wedding scenarios and contingencies and what-ifs and vendor alternatives bouncing around in my headspace and I can't make a decision on any of them, because I don't have a clear yes or no on our first-choice venue. And, despite the months of insanity and inability to get an answer, this is still our number one venue option for a multitude of reasons, and so I'm not entirely ready to give up on it. Not to mention, I'm frankly terrified of jumping back into the Los Angeles venue hunt all over again in the vain hope of finding something attractive and affordable that meets our handicapped accessible, indoor-outdoor, BYOB, 150 people guest list criteria. Ha.
A bit of background on the venue. It's owned by a lovely but incredibly unorganized non-profit. It's really a community group more than a full-time non-profit, and their limited office hours (Mon - Th from 3:00pm - 7:00pm) reflect that. Their inability to reply to emails or phone calls in under two weeks reflects that. And their inability to book our event in April 2011 when we did a site visit in October of 2009 also reflects that (literally, they didn't have a calendar yet for 2011, so they told us to come back in six months). So we came back in six months, willing to overlook the organization's quirkiness in pursuit of the amazing inexpensiveness ($1000 for the entire day!), the beauty (nestled in the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, about a mile from the beach with rolling hilltop views), the brick reception hall/community house with gorgeous high-beamed ceilings and a fireplace, a full kitchen, and handicapped accessibility, and the complete freedom to do whatever we wanted (BOYB! BYO Catering! Play lawn games with friends on the grounds!)
It was nearly perfect, and more than perfect for our budget and guest list, especially in a town where we've seen venues that cost over $8000 for an empty room and a restricted catering list (read: expensive.) It isn't perfect: we'll need to be creative with handicapped access for the ceremony site, we'll need to rent everything except tables, we'd feel more comfortable renting shuttles than letting our boozy guests loose on the windy canyon roads and there are no nearby hotels, we need to be in and out in a single day, and the staff is less than unresponsive. However, it's affordable, beautiful, and the limitations are manageable, particularly when we estimate that any other similar Los Angeles option would cost us $5,000 - $10,000 more. And particularly when we spoke with another couple who got married there and went through similar frustrations getting booked and organizing walk-throughs (though nothing as drawn-out as our process) and had a perfect-for-them wedding in the end. So we know this can work, but it just takes a lot of patience.
But, as the months tick by without a contract, I'm getting increasingly panicked and less patient. We contacted them in March to confirm our date and get a contract, but they've been distracted by two big fundraisers (one in April and one this upcoming weekend) so somehow our wedding never made it onto the Board agenda. We're penciled into the calendar, at least, but we still need Board approval to actually get a contract and finalize pricing. (Although we were initially quoted $1000, it turns out that it's more like $1000-ish to $1500-ish, since the Board has to make the final decision. $1500 is still a steal, and we'd take it in a heartbeat, but it would be nice to know.) I know that they are distracted in general and in particular with this week's fundraiser, so I'm crossing my fingers for the June Board Meeting. Because, if the June meeting doesn't happen, we finally have to give up and start a frantic nine-months-out hunt for a different site.
I have two decent backup options, but neither of them make my soul sing like this site. Neither of them are perfect either: one is run by artists who are just as non-responsive as the non-profit at "our" site (awesome) and the other is inexpensive(ish) to rent but very expensive to cater. Both are the best backups we've found, but would entirely change the feel of our carefully envisioned wedding and we'd have to pay a great deal more for the privilege. But we're starting to consider it, because we have to and because Los Angeles doesn't offer much in the way of affordability for 150 people weddings. The maddening part is that we just don't know. We don't know our site, our date, or the associated availability of any vendors we've spoken with. We don't know if we can have a taco truck wedding or we'll have to go with something more formal. We don't know if we're getting married on a rustic hilltop, at the beach, or in a downtown lofty-arts complex. We don't know what our decor or attire or invitations might look like because we don't have a site look-and-feel to frame the event.
Nine months into planning and ten months away from our hopeful date, we have nothing, except a growing panic that makes me vaguely uneasy whenever someone mentions the word "wedding." (which happens quite a lot, seeing as how we're engaged and trying to plan a wedding.) I have 94 options to kick into gear the moment we know, one way or the other, but for the moment juggling those 94 options is just exhausting and nervewracking.