Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Subtle References

When people ask us about wedding music choices, they've generally been concerned with four things: the recessional song, the processional song, our first dance song, and whether we found a DJ who can rock the house (he can, and will.) But in truth, I'm a little more interested in the quirky songs we're planning to make space for throughout the day. The recessional song and first dance are so weighted by their presumed Meaning and Importance, but we really don't have a Meaningful and Important story behind our first dance song. We have a song we love, of course, but it's not a Singularly Important Song in our relationship. And we haven't broached the question of ceremony music at all, primarily because we still don't know what the heck we'll be doing about music during the ceremony (no electricity + a constrained budget = questions about ceremony musicians/amplified music/whatever that we really can't be bothered to muddle through yet.)

And so, it's the quirky songs we're planning to sprinkle throughout our playlist requests that are the most exciting to me. The song that reminds us of a summer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Or the song that reminds us of a Texas roadtrip. Or the songs that remind us of evenings spent cooking and drinking wine and talking about music history via Jason's vinyl collection offerings. These are songs that hearken back to the real heart of our relationship and the experiences we've lived together more than any one single dance song.

And so, when I saw these cupcakes the other day, they reminded me of my number one priority playlist song, and made me smile.


Why yes, that is a Muppet wedding-cupcake tower (which is awesome enough that I'm making an exception to my fondant-hatred to post it here). And yes, I am most certainly requesting a Muppet-related song for our wedding. Yes, a Muppet song, as interpreted by Cake (the band, not the wedding dessert. Though I can see how you might get confused with all the cupcake pictures.)

Somehow, the Sesame Street Muppet version of "Mahna Mahna" became an inside joke for us, and the phrase "Mahna Mahna" has been featured prominently in our sillier shared moments (probably more times than is appropriate for fully functioning adults, which I see as a sign of relationship health.) And, luckily for us, there's a fully functioning adult version of the Muppet song we know and love. And so, we're sneaking in this subtle musical reference to our goofball couple joy at the wedding, in a way that's entirely appropriate and won't stop the cocktail hour chatter, but will add another minimal layer of meaning to an already incredible day. Although it may not make sense to anyone else, this song (and other similar subtle references) will hint more at who we are as an everyday couple than any perfect recessional choice.



Monday, April 26, 2010

Vet Your Vendor's Vibe

Jason here. Let's be frank: society's expectations for a groom's role in wedding-planning are basically zero. For most husbands-to-be, it's a big deal to show even the slightest glimmer of interest in wedding preparations. I'd like to think my level of involvement is a step above the (stereo)typical groom. I want to have a say in the decor & design. I'm helping to book transportation & research caterers. I'm doing my best to save up some dough. Becca & I are treating this as a shared effort. Still, my contributions don't come close to the level of time & effort that B has invested. She's researched tons of vendors and culled her lists down to a handful of top options, which she passed on to me. I've started given them close, serious consideration, and we've had many a chat about it, expressing our opinions, figuring out where we agree & disagree.

Now we're starting to make some final decisions, and I've noticed an interesting theme running through the vendors we've felt the best about. They all share a certain attitude toward work: they really like their jobs. This wasn't an explicit criteria on our checklist, but I realize now that a vendor's attitude toward their work can have a ripple effect on the wedding. Not necessarily ALL vendors - bartenders and waitstaff don't have to love their jobs, just do them well - but the ones whose creative, human touches give life to the wedding. Photographers. Designers. DOCs. DJs/bands. If they truly enjoy what they do, their positivity will infect your wedding. We're really fortunate to have found several affordable, high-quality vendors who share this attitude. But I wonder whether it's something most couples consider when vendor-shopping.

I hear a lot about the Wedding Industrial Complex, and while I haven't had the pleasure of wading through the deep end of it, I get the feeling that there's a universe of vendors whose motives are to squeeze as much cash as possible from their clients. And a group that focuses on catering to their clients' sense of vanity. Still others simply aim to run a solid, dependable, reasonably-priced (if somewhat generic) operation. They all seem focused on the "business" side - and that's not a bad thing, everyone's gotta make a living - but just like in other industries, people often chase big-time success at the expense of personal fulfillment. They're good at their job, but they don't really enjoy it.

Meanwhile, people who are truly happy with their work might not make a million bucks, but their output will be high-quality and uniquely their own, and they'll be far more pleasant to work with. They are professional businesspeople, of course, but they respect the significance of how their work fits into this extremely emotional, once-(hopefully)-in-a-lifetime experience for their clients. Some might even get real joy out of working weddings, even after the work gets repetitive.

When interviewing vendors, it's important to try and gauge their attitude. The "vibe" between vendor and client can really impact a couple's emotional outlook on their whole wedding. For example, if you know your photographer loves his job (and if you like his style), you trust that he'll get great results, and that he won't flake out or screw you over. That peace of mind will be invaluable as the wedding date approaches and the pressures of planning begin to mount.

Of course, someone's "vibe" is subjective; you can't judge it from a website, a pamphlet, or a slideshow. It's only discernible in-person (sometimes over the phone). But it's an important thing to consider in your vendor interviews. During the conversation, I suggest asking open-ended questions that let them reveal a little bit about themselves & their experience in their line of work. Their tone, attitude, and personality will come across (sometimes in subtle ways), and this can give you crucial information that can't be found just by looking at their portfolio or their rate sheet. Attitude doesn't have to be a make-or-break factor. But it is an important and overlooked factor to consider when choosing a vendor. Sometimes the right attitude can be hard to find, but it's always worth it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Musings at 11:30pm

I'm still at the office, waiting for feedback from my boss before jumping back into project work. Yes, it's 11:30pm at night. And yes, this may be my only break for the next few days.

Normally, I can manage intense periods of work-stress, which is helpful for my field. But tonight, I wish I was at home with Jason, dancing around the living room and cooing over baby pictures. Because one of my best friends in the world just had her first baby. I've known this woman since we were both five, and she's more a sister than a friend. And now, she and her husband have a 4-hour-old baby boy. Since she lives in another state now, I can't visit her in the hospital or help take care of her and her husband as they adjust, but it's still hard being trapped at the office when I really want to shove my face in my kitties tummies and celebrate life and cuteness and family.

So, since I can't call or help my friend, can't call my Mom to get all weepy and excited, and can't dance with Jason in our living room about cute baby pictures, I'm going to post pictures of our kitties instead. Because I wish I was home with them right now, noming their fuzzy bellies and getting all schmoopy about babies and families and love, instead of waiting for document revisions at 11:30pm.

Liz Lemon

Laila

Also, this is my way of apologizing for going MIA. It may be a sporadic few weeks, but I figured cute kittens and heartfelt explanations generally make things better. See you back here whenever this madness finally ends.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Vacation Day

Although I generally like to start the week off right with a good Monday post, it's just not happening today. Sorry. Instead of spending Sunday blogging and trying to take care of cooking/house/wedding stuff, I spent Sunday at Coachella. And all-day Saturday and late Friday night for that matter too. If you're reading this early on Monday morning, I may still well be in the Indio area, frantically trying to get my bum back to the office before noon.

So yeah, this is our big non-wedding splurge of 2010. It's the weekend I pretend I'm not a cranky nearly-30-year old and I rock out with the kiddies in the Coachella heat. It's the weekend I give up on style and admit that I need ugly-but-comfortable sandals to tackle the festival grounds. And hopefully, it's the weekend that all of the following bands rock us. Hard.
  • Jay Z
  • Portugal the Man
  • Beach House
  • Corrine Baily Rae
  • MGMT
  • Muse
  • Dead Weather
  • Sia
  • Local Natives
  • Julian Casablancas
  • Spoon
  • Phoenix
  • Pavement
  • Thom York
Still sad I'll be missing Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit and Imogen Heap on Friday. Oh well. Rocking will be had, regardless.  Happy Monday.  See you back here when I've recovered a bit more. Don't be surprised if that takes a day (or two.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Ponytail Tale

This explains so much. Um, I had no idea that hairspray and effort went into even the eff-it ponytail hairstyle. Did anyone else know this? 


How To Create the Perfect Ponytail via Project Wedding

It probably should have been obvious before this, but "effortless" style is bullshit. As are effortlessly pretty weddings. I really need to learn to embrace the real eff-it-ness a bit more and understand that DIY events are more apt to look like true DIY than anything event-design-worthy. 


It's like I need to keep learning this again and again and again and maybe it will sink in a bit.  Because really? Who am I kidding. There's no way I'm blowdrying, poofing, and hairspraying in order to get a simple chic ponytail. If it's going up, it's going up because I'm running 10 minutes late already and couldn't be bothered to blow dry it into respectability in the first place.And that's what I need to remember about the wedding too. For my hair and my DIY. 

If you do, however, want to achieve effortless-looking style at a truly affordable price and you live in Los Angeles, The Dry Bar provides a menu of gorgeous blow-out hairstyles that would be eminently wedding-worthy, especially for a more low-key event. At the salon, the price is only $35. Offsite (at your wedding site, perhaps?) prices run $75. For Los Angeles, where wedding-site hair and makeup easily runs $500, thats definitely stress-free pricing for effortless-looking style.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cheap, Sensible, and Simple

Not only am I trying to plan a cheap, sensible and simple wedding, I'm trying to live a cheap, sensible and simple life. Of course, wedding planning adds a certain imperative to the cheap thing. And wedding planning puts some extra oomph in my long-term sensible/healthy living efforts. And wedding planning (in combination with work, volunteering, life, and blogging) has made simple even more of a priority. And that's why, today I wanted to talk about oatmeal. Yes, oatmeal: the unsung hero of cheapo, lazy, wanna-be healthy bums like myself.

Some people might argue that peanut butter sandwiches are the ultimate end-of-month/post-tax reckoning/year-of-wedding-budget-saving meal option. In fact, several fellow budget-conscious women and peanut butter fans spent yesterday on twitter sharing peanut butter delicacy options (all of which made me hungry) including:
  • the old standby, PB&J
  • PB & Banana
  • PB & Banana & Honey
  • PB & Mashed Banana with Cinnamon & Sugar, grilled like a grilled cheese sandwich
  • PB & Bacon
  • PB & Bacon & Maple Syrup, also grilled like a grilled cheese sandwich
While reading this conversation, it wasn't the bacon references that got to me (though really? would this work with turkey bacon, which is the only sort of bacon we might ever have around?) it was the obsession with sandwiches as our cheapo food of choice. Because really, everything on that list would be just as delicious and a lot more filling, if it were in a bowl of oatmeal (minus the grilling, obviously. And I'll have to take everyone's word on the bacon).

As I try to move away from processed foods and towards filling, healthier, whole food options, oatmeal has been become a rockstar go-to staple. And no, I don't mean the instant packet crap swimming in sugar. I mean stick-to-your ribs, real whole grains, actually-cook-it, oatmeal. Because my lazy bum discovered that, if you have a really large bowl you can cook delicious oatmeal in the microwave in four minutes (stir once! and make sure the bowl is HUGE if you don't want it to bubble over and create a mess). And oatmeal is loads more filling than bread (unless you do homemade bread, in which case it's made of real ingredients and is actually filling. We don't have time to bake real bread, so I chose oatmeal.) And oatmeal is surprisingly low-calorie for such a filling option (seriously, you won't need to eat anything for hours and hours.) All this makes it a perfect running-late-for-work/didn't-pack-a-lunch/don't-want-to-spend-$7-at-the-local-food-joint healthy, filling, lazy-bum alternative. With half a cup of oatmeal, one cup of water, and a dash of salt, my cheapo-healthy-oatmeal options include:
  • oatmeal & pb & banana
  • oatmeal & banana & strawberry
  • oatmeal & strawberry & peach & crushed almonds
  • oatmeal & whatever fruit I have available & half a cup of plain fat free yogurt
  • any combination of oatmeal & fruit & dried fruit & PB & yogurt & nuts & cinnamon you feel like
And for dinner, I've been known to concoct oatmeal & salsa & scrambled egg. This makes me think the bacon girls totally have a viable option with oatmeal too.
 
Yeah, I could cook homemade meals every night and save money and keep myself healthy. Or, more likely, Jason could cook homemade meals and I could appreciate his amazing cooking and leftovers. But some weeks are rough. And some meals don't have leftovers.  And sometimes we just fail at keeping all juggle-balls in the air and finding time or energy to make dinner or go shopping. And on those days, instead of paying $7 for lunch (or dinner) near the office, I've been turning to the massive container of oatmeal I keep in the office kitchen. 

But for the days when oatmeal or PB&whatever sandwiches are no longer appealing, I was thinking some of you might have cheap, healthy, tasty, real-food, lazy-bum lunch alternatives too. Because frankly, I've been lazy a LOT lately, and my oatmeal concoctions are getting a bit old. So what are some of your fave I'm-broke-from-planning-a-wedding-but-still-want-to-be-healthy-even-if-I'm-lazy meals? If it requires real-real cooking, that's not precisely what I'm looking for. I have a fabulous lentil soup recipe and can make a whole chicken in the crock-pot, but I'm talking laaaaaaazy. Couscous level lazy. PB&J lazy. Because that's how I'm feeling this week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Praise of the All-Inclusive Venue

When I started this wedding planning process, I started at the end. By which, I mean that I asked myself how I wanted our day to feel, and tried to imagine a wedding-day schedule and a planning process that would help us achieve that feeling. For us, the best description of our wedding feeling is "backyard barbecue, without the backyard or the barbecue." Laid-back, on the formal edge of casual, friends and family interacting like they've all known each other forever, and a buffet style dinner that transitions effortlessly into dancing.

I always wanted a backyard wedding, like my parents and other family members had.  I wanted something low-key, personal, and simple.  I want the feeling of a casual summer afternoon in which hugs are passed around freely.  Unfortunately, we don't have an adequate backyard.  Our compromise is that we're trying for the backyard wedding feeling.  And that decision has shaped so many of our vendor decisions as we try to work with small businesses and artists we respect, keep things local, to keep the event in our "emotional backyard," at least.

But right now, it's hard.  Right now, I want to wave my magic wedding want and make everything just happen effortlessly so I can focus on the ceremony and on whatever details I deem fun-worthy.  Right now I don't want to worry about finding affordable friend-artist-vendors or worry about how my decisions impact the morning-time logistics and feeling of the day.  At no point in my description of the day's "feeling" did I imagine how it would feel to run around managing DIY and vendor issues and getting dressed in a fluorescent-lit bathroom and doing my makeup in a crowded Rec Center Green Room. Because, even with the amazing efforts of our Coordinator Sweet Emilia Jane, I get the sense that our wedding day will not exactly follow the "typical" bride timeline and may include some nutso logistics.  And it will definitely include a bathroom with fluorescent lights and a crowded Green Room for "bridal" prep time. And groom prep time, for that matter, since there's no where else to get ready and no hotels nearby.  And that's the price we pay for paying much less of a price on this wedding stuff and for having the freedom to craft a completely unique day with the perfect vendors for us (and our budget). 

But this whole experience also has me thinking that unique is overrated, at least a bit. Because for people whose wedding day feeling-goal is "I really could care less about the details and I'm going to scream if someone asks me about flowers and all  I want is to spend time at the salon with my mom and bffs and get married, for crissake" then maybe, just maybe, an all-in-one banquet hall or hotel package is the right way to go.  They're certainly sanity saving.  And can even save you money (I'm not saying they're cheap, but once you bump our of that $10K budget category, you're not too far off. ).  And not all of them have bad carpet.  Some are even very pretty and reasonable affordable. Yes, pretty, affordable and simple. Hurrah.


 Calamigos Equestrian (more affordable than Calamigos Malibu)

Happy Trails Catering (photo courtesy of Andrew Kitchen Photography/NMG Photography/Harthen Studios)


The more independent-minded wedding world seems to have a problem with package weddings but, after nearly three weeks of being unable to get in touch with my perspective venue (or any other low-cost venues around town, for that matter) I can see the STRONG allure of an all-in-one option. Sure, you lose the personalization of choosing your own caterer, florist and rental company. You can't get married in the woods with a parade of your closest friends twirling ribbons and puppets. It feels more apparent that 1000 brides have been married here before you and will be married here after, so you're obviously just one of many. Yes, we're all just one of many sets of couples getting married, but it will be more apparent your wedding day isn't 100% super duper unique if you get married at a location that caters to weddings, especially those that appear to be more "traditional." But who the eff cares?  It's going to be personal the moment you look into each others' eyes. And maybe there was a really good reason so many thousands of couples got married here before you? Namely the pretty, affordable, and simple nature of these all-inclusive spots. 

What's the feeling you want to hold onto?  Is it zen?  Then maybe a low-budget DIY super crafty wedding (read: potential logistical nightmare) isn't for you. Maybe a unique setting with 87 restrictions and the complications of managing the rentals delivery/pick up, decor, catering set-up, generator, and tent isn't quite for you.  Maybe you don't want to tear your hair out when you discover that rentals are going to cost you $3000 (that's just for tables, chairs, plates, glasses, linens, silverware, and serving equipment. I know.) So maybe, just maybe, an all-inclusive venue might be a very workable plan after all.

So, for all you smartypants people who went with an all-inclusive venue, hats off to you. Today, I admit that I envy your logistical foresight your ability to spend the morning with you mom and bffs getting pretty and drinking wine. And I envy your months before the wedding, when you're not fretting about deliveries and pickups and hiring extra cleanup staff in case you don't feel like running around at 11pm. I think we've given your all-in-one wisdom a bad rep here in "indie" wedding land.  Because frankly, I'm trying to chase that laid back feeling right now, and it's just not working. So, from here on out, I'm done judging the "uniqueness" of your wedding or venue. Because I have more important things to worry about, like how I'm going to achieve a backyard "feeling" at my unique venue when laid-back is the furthest thing from my mind.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Note to Self

I try really hard to be sane and balanced about this wedding stuff. And I try to keep it in perspective and reach for the zen. But sometimes, trying isn't enough, and I need emails like this from my partner.
F*ck 'em.  I know it seems really hard to actually hold true to that idea, but at the end of the day, it's OUR wedding, and people who are gonna judge will go ahead and judge, no matter what we do to appease them.  So f*ck em.  Let them sit all high & mighty in their tower, because we'll be down in the beautiful green grass running around smashing pinatas and eating tacos and getting married and being the happiest people in the world and not giving a shit what they think.  That kinda sounds like fun, doesn't it? 

:-)

Why yes, that does sound kinda fun, if by fun you mean the absolutebestfreakingwedding EVER. Mostly because it will be ours. Yay.

Silver Linings Made of Taco Trucks

Recently, life has moved from hectic-but-fulfilling-and-manageable into high-alert-there's-nothing-fulfilling-about-this stress zone. It's bad enough that, when trying to make plans with a girlfriend I haven't seen in ages, I could offer her one open Wednesday and possibly one Friday night in the next month and a half. I wish I were joking.

And somehow, in the midst of this, I'm supposed to be planning a wedding. I got an email last week saying the venue price may have gone up, but I've already been playing phone and email tag with them for weeks without any confirmations on our date. So I'm trying to sort that out while also coming up with an affordable Plan B venue option, just in case. We're trying to price out all our food choices by weighing our cost/stress/environmental options by pricing out sustainable caterers, mobile food truck catering, partial DIY food costs (appetizer, side dish, and dessert), party staffing services, rental costs, and eco-friendly disposable options. We're trying to suss out how much buses would really cost to rent, since our likely venue is poorly located for anyone who's drunk a few glasses of wine. We're trying to manage our ever growing guest list that moved far beyond our flippant estimate of 150 once we really started digging in. In other words, we're trying to figure out the real costs of this thing so we can make some real decisions about budget options and saving plans. But, with our lives hurling forward at an absurd pace and every cost-saving option up for discussion, we are even more overwhelmed. And with this much stress, the idea of actively choosing the cheaper-but-much-more-labor-and-effort intensive DIY or multiple vendor coordination option just feels exhausting. And still so expensive that I want to cry.

This is the point where my hoped-for zen comes crashing down around me in tense car-ride misunderstandings. This is where suddenly everyone decides to share their unhelpful advice and subtle (or not so subtle) judgments about how much we're spending and, contradictorily, just how cheap we're being. This is where I get nervous about what my future family will think of me and our seemingly less traditional (and apparently cheap) approach to the wedding. This is where I'm running a different spreadsheet scenario every night to figure out just how we might be able to pull this off and if there's any way around a year of pasta and peanut butter sandwiches to manage to afford this (answer: probably not.)

Yeah, just about the only thing I'm looking forward to is our upcoming mobile food truck gastronomical tour of Los Angeles. A ton of the trucks are closed for Sunday catering (boo, that's not really convenient for us) and we've only eaten at a handful for the 89 gourmet and fusion cuisine mobile food truck eateries and a handful of the authentic taco trucks in the city. It's catering research, and it's just about the only part of this planning process I'm looking forward to in the next two months. It's a silver lining made of Vietnamese-French fusion tacos and other such tastiness, and hopefully that will make everything okay (or some approximation thereof.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Details Matter

About five years ago, my then-boyfriend broke up with me by playing one of my previously favorite sad-sack songs and asking me to really listen to the lyrics. This WTF breakup came about a week after a mountain biking accident in which I ended up in the emergency room (and which I can largely blame on him.) Due to resulting complications from the accident, I was unable to take the LSAT exam (which I'd been studying for by sinking my savings into an expensive test preparation course) and I racked up a ton of medical bills in the process.

It was, to say the least, a difficult period in my life. And the first moment that I really and truly knew I'd be okay happened while sitting alone in a park. I couldn't walk, and so I could only sit there and take everything in. I watched dogs playing offleash. I watched kids playing frisbee with their parents. And I leaned back into the smell of fresh springtime grass and blooming flowers and it suddenly hit me: he and all my mounting problems couldn't take away from the simple pleasures of a sunny day at the park. Life could fall apart around me, and still, I could always take solace in a quiet moment of beauty. And I could string together these small moments of everyday beauty until sometime, someday, they added up to a recaptured life of fully appreciated joys. 

I picked a few small yellow flowers from next to me and stuck them behind my ear, and I somehow turned an emotional corner. It took a year to recover from him and my own complicity in my relationship patterns, and I've managed the health and financial impacts just fine. But I learned something more important about how imperative it is to search out small moments of imperfect beauty in my everyday.

All these memories came flooding back last week after reading Ms Awesome's eloquent post about why the details do actually matter in our weddings:
"Beautiful light. A second cup of coffee in pajamas. A crisply tied bow. A perfectly frosted cupcake. There is beauty and power and magic and art in the details.
Why in the hell else would I spend a year of my life planning and writing about our wedding if not to focus on the details?  ALL the details.  Aesthetic, emotional, and otherwise.
There is beauty in the intent, in the execution, in the memories of the details themselves. Our paper cranes started out as a purely aesthetic and slightly budgetary detail (paper is cheap yo!) but they’ve evolved into much more than that.  When I look around at the hundreds of cranes in the trees at our wedding I’ll remember my drunk friends trying to fold straight lines and pouring more wine, and laughing out loud and showing off their epic crane fails. And that makes me smile. And even if I don’t notice the cranes on our wedding day, I’m sure the pictures of them will make me smile just the same. And I’m smiling right now, so I think the cranes are already worth it!
Here I am constantly trying to justify or rationalize or over think my desire for a beautiful wedding when there is absolutely nothing wrong with beauty.  Beauty is valid, life affirming and uniquely in the eye of the beholder."
After trying so hard to carve some sanity for myself in this wedding process (and budget) with a giant eff it to the unimportant stuff, this post hit home. Because, while it's true that pretty invitations, unique centerpieces, pinatas, bouquets, a stunning dress, and all the other details don't matter one whit in crafting a meaningful or beautiful wedding, they have a fierce pull on my heartstrings for more than simply aesthetic reasons. Aesthetics are deeper than superficial markers of wealth, theme, and prettiness that our wedding decor can project. Aesthetics don't have to rely on DIY projects or extensive florals, but there's a reason so many of us are drawn to these projects and expenses, and why many of us battle with wanting to achieve Bridal Pretty (TM). I think it's because, at our core, we're responding to the smell of cut grass and those bold yellow flowers in the park. We're pulling from our own moments of beauty that have sustained and nurtured us through the hard times. We know how framing a photograph or filling a vase with flowers can transform a room, make an apartment into a home, and make our everyday just slightly more worthwhile. And we want to have those feelings, writ large, on our wedding day.

And yet, there's a real reason to disregard the details. They are expensive. Some of us just aren't DIY savvy. And DIY can also be a giant, expensive, near-impossible, time-consuming, pain in the *ss. And frankly, the details aren't important in the grand scheme of a wedding. As intelligent people, we know this. And so we embrace the core purpose of our weddings and embrace the practical-but-ugly chairs that come with our venues. I cheered when A Cupcake Wedding posted pictures of ugly chairs at a beautiful wedding because my chairs are going to be the ugly plastic things that come free with our venue and my wedding is going to be beautiful anyhow. I needed to see that. I needed to see it in pictures to finally know it, after having seen far too many images of joy that get equated with chivari chairs and "effortlessly" designed wedding details.

But still, the Pretty has its pull. I think it's important to honor such an important day with aesthetics that make our heart sing. If I got married in a recreation center with grey metal chairs, plastic plates and no semblance of celebration, a part of my would cry inside, regardless of how emotional my vows might make me.  Granted, I'm getting married at a community center with ugly chairs and (possibly) compostable plates, but we chose this budget-compromise spot because of the stunning ceremony views, partly so I wouldn't need to make myself nuts with wanting aisle runners, hanging flowers, and pretty chairs. And we can easily spruce the place up with succulents and a few flowers, and our plain plates with some bright tablecloths. And I'm looking forward to crafting-and-wine parties with friends to create the imperfect-but-festively-pretty decor we'll throw around the room and cocktail area.

And that's why I think the obsession with wedding details gets it wrong. Beauty matters because it honors the celebration and importance of our weddings. But the details do not matter in and of themselves. And beauty is not achieved in the sum of 50 amazing DIY projects or well-executed details coordinated throughout the event. A few well-chosen and well-loved details help honor our day, both in the process of lovingly creating them and in their display. But they don't matter because they're stunningly pretty. Nor do they matter in and of themselves. An invitation is an invitation. A stamp is a stamp. Big effing deal. They matter because we chose to make them matter and because they hint at the real beauty and meaning underlying our wedding day events. And this beauty can be achieved without one single flower or one single pretty detail, so long as our courthouse-wedding grins shine over any possible plainness in the city hall office (or wherever we get married that hasn't been blessed with design-worthy beauty.)

Our obsession with details makes sense: they are the photos that get celebrated on blogs, they are certainly beautiful and can make our aesthetically-attuned hearts jump a bit, they're more concrete and easy to tackle than the difficult questions of writing ceremonies, vows, and promises, and, yes, they matter. But everyone who's been through this wedding stuff before said to pick a few important things at the wedding and disregard the rest. If you love food, focus on food. If you want a dance party, focus on your tunes. And if you want pretty details, focus on a few. We can only spread ourselves so thin, and this desire for pretty details can easily take us to the breaking point of wedding day sanity as the unfinished projects pile up and we worry about how our wedding will measure up and if it will be pretty enough. Um, of course it will be pretty enough. We're getting married, and true joy from a true partnership will light up even the ugliest recreation room and grey metal chairs.

And so, this wedding is also becoming a process of cutting back, of finding beauty again at its core, and of remembering that I only need one yellow flower tucked behind my ear to transform the day. Simple decor and simple efforts are enough when they honor the beauty of the day itself. Wedding details are important because they are honoring something important, and not because of their intrinsic aesthetic. And the moment we forget that we are choosing our pieces of beauty to honor something important and not because We Need The Pretty, that's when meltdowns happen. And that's when we need to take an afternoon in the park with dogs running around, kids playing frisbee, and some freshly cut grass to remind us that it's going to be alright.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dear Jezebel

Dear Jezebel,

I think it's worthwhile to consider that your recent spate of wedding articles are missing a huge opportunity to talk about the real complications of weddings, far beyond the judge-y articles you've been writing about weddings and budgets. It's easy to attack the $28K average wedding cost figure. It's easy to poke fun at Bridal Expos. It's easy to create a post where commenters pile on and rip apart couples and their highly personal choices about weddings (though I do think Dodai made the best, most honest attempt to sort through the challenges). And, since Jezebel is a Denton-owned, pageview-centric operation, I understand why this happens.

However, I think there's a serious case to be made for looking at the more subtle complexities of the wedding industrial complex, of the "blogging industrial complex" (as some of my weddingland girlfriends have begun to call it), of the economies of handmade weddings, of the pressures of "indie" wedding/DIY planning, of our weddings as an expression of our values, of weddings as a viable economy for artists and women-owned businesses, of the gender expectations associated with weddings and marriage, of the real costs and decisions inherent in these wedding related issues, and of the meaning of marriage itself. So many of your incredibly intelligent staff have recently planned/are planning weddings/marriage that it's shocking to me that there's not more talk about the hard-but-interesting stuff.  You have a real platform to talk about weddings differently, apart from the standard woman-bashing narrative. There's a real case to be made that the disdain with which some of your writers have approached women's choices about their weddings indicates a real lack of respect and buy-in to typical gender stereotypes and trashing of a traditionally women-centric domain (speaking of, there's a real groom sea-change happening too, some for good and some for bad. But it's interesting, nonetheless).

I think recent comment sections have indicated some of that same frustration with the flippant articles, or the less-than-analytical articles, or the comment section ugliness. I love Jezebel. Though I comment infrequently, I've been around since the beginning. And now, as I've started to plan my own wedding, this is the first time I've been viscerally turned off to what I've seen, primarily because it's not a fair or thoughtful approach to everything out here. And also because you have a real chance to open your audience's eyes about the alternatives and feminist conversations surrounding weddings, much like Jessica Valenti did with her recent wedding.  There are incredibly smart people blogging about these challenges and providing a serious antidote to the Kn*t and its ilk. And it's not just Offbeat Bride (which is great for the openminded perspective, even if I'm not goth or rockabilly, or whatever).  A Practical Wedding is my go-to daily must-read, but I genuinely feel that individual bloggers talking about their weddings are providing a real third-rail antidote to the madness as we find a space to talk about our issues with each other (my blogroll has some great examples). The rest of the world dismisses us as Bridezillas, regardless of what we do or say, and the space apart has been imperative in keeping my sanity and working out my egalitarian, community-centric, wedding and marriage process.

It's not just me. I wrote a post yesterday that already has 45 comments (and received tons of behind the scenes emails) about how angry we are with wedding articles - specifically referencing Jezebel - and how dismissive they are of the real wedding challenges. It's not just me. It's a lot of thoughtful, feminist, writers and readers who are really turned off right now. We're your audience. And we're battling with the same challenges as anyone else planning a thoughtful, values-driven wedding. We're planning weddings, not elopements, for a reason.  And there's a reason these things cost money. And we're struggling with our choices every step of the way and with the expectations heaped on us from every corner. It would be nice to think that our normal safe-space reading on the internet (Jezebel) could be a little less judgmental and a little more open to the challenges and complexities too.

Becca


p.s. It's not just me. Anther Damn Wedding wrote a similar post here, published minutes before mine.
p.p.s. I emailed this to Jezebel. Because if influential, feminist-leaning sites keep getting it wrong, what hope do we have for ever shifting the mainstream cultural conversation?  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Open Letter to Commenters On Wedding Articles

Dear People Who Comment On Wedding Articles,

If I could wave my magic wedding wand and make you go away, I would. Because somehow, whenever anyone writes an article about weddings on a news site, a personal finance site, a feminist-leaning culture site, or anywhere else that isn't strictly wedding-related media, the comment section immediately turns into a giant self-congratulating pile of crap. For people who are married, it degenerates into a pissing contest about who spent the least on their wedding. For people who are single or unengaged, it becomes a breeding ground for holier-then-thou proclamations about how you're going to get married at City Hall or elope or be an otherwise super laid back cool-and-cheap bride/groom, IF you ever bother getting married at all. Some of you are still angry at your friends for wasting some ungodly sum on One Single Day with "shitty food" and over-the-top Bridezilla antics. You can't believe that people actually spend that $28,000 average cost on their weddings because it's such a waste of time and money and stress.

First, I would kindly request that you actually read and understand the damn wedding articles you're commenting on. Because you seem to read the word "wedding," skip the bulk of the content, and think that it's an excuse to wax (very un)poetic about your moral superiority due to your budgetary party-throwing prowess (or perceived prowess, for those of you who have never actually been faced with planning an actual wedding).  Unfortunately, most of these articles were not, in fact, invitations for you to spout your crap. They were articles about bigger issues like who pays for the wedding in this modern age/what are those implications and how to think about and save for big-ticket life items. But you obviously missed that in your zeal to piss all over anyone who didn't spend their wedding budget in accordance with your wedding budget priorities.

Secondly, can we talk a moment about why you hate weddings so much? Yes, hate. Because that's my only explanation for your willingness to leave 241 comments (some quite recently... on a 2007 post) about the idiocy of spending $28,000 on a wedding (even though that's not what the article was about, but moving on) and how you only spent/would spend $5,000. If it were an article about spending $28,000 on a car or a year-long life-dream trip around the world or a remodel, some comments might mention fiscal prudence, but 241 of you wouldn't leave impassioned arguments about the complete stupidity of spending that much money on a new car. No, you all get your panties in a bunch about weddings. Money is money, which we use to buy things of value (like cars, I suppose) but apparently weddings are a crock of meaningless emotional drivel. Well, if that's your approach, goody for you.  But my approach is slightly different. I see my wedding as an investment, one that's a lot bigger than myself or my own individual needs. And so it's worth it to me to pay for a meaningful event, even if I have to stretch a bit.

Now, about that stretching... I'm sorry to inform you, but some people are fully capable of paying for a more-than-$5K-wedding without going into debt. Many of us are NOT spendthrift idiots, despite what your comment sections may claim.  In fact, that's how we managed to save enough money to pay for this shindig in the first place. Yeah, that's right, some of us are not the horrible leeches from our parents you'd like to portray us as.  And, on the other hand, some of us have amazing parents who are so excited to support and share this important day that they want to provide financial support. So good for you that you didn't go into debt and that your parents weren't involved. But guess what? I'm not going into debt either, I'll maintain a semblance of savings, and I'll maintain a great relationship with my parents and partner (enrich it, even), even though my wedding will run close to the national average.

I know I just blew your little pea brain mind, but follow me here. That $28,000 average is bubkis in Los Angeles. That's right, bubkis, nada, monopoly money even, when it comes to weddings (and houses, by the way. $28,000 isn't blowing a downpayment, since even shacks in Los Angeles cost $400,000+). I know, I know, you don't believe me and I'm an entitled wasteful Bridezilla.  But this b*itch can still do math, so bear with me and tell me again where you live. Was it Kansas? Or Central Valley California? Or Texas? Because last time I was in small town Texas I got a well drink a the fanciest bar in town for $2.  That's right, $2. If you are, in fact, from small town Texas, you'll be wondering why I brought this up. I brought it up because, to me, that pricing is ludicrous, whereas for you it seems just about right.  However, when I ordered my first $2 drink I laughed/cried-with-glee for five minutes because well drinks in Los Angeles (outside happy hour and super sketchy dive bars) cost about $6. That's just for drinks. Now extrapolate that 3x multiplier for your $10,000 morally superior wedding budget and what do you get? $30,000. Just over the national average for weddings.

I think you also like to conveniently forget the (sometimes) disparity in income between small-town wherever and the Big City (specifically Big Coastal Cities) that helps account for the $2 vs $6 and $10K vs $30K disparities too.  Because, I can assure you that, if I lived in the Midwest at a similar job and similar firm, I'd earn about 20% less than I do now. So your $10K budget is great and all for you, but it's about the same as my have-to-stretch-for-it $20K budget, in relative terms of what we can get for our money in our region of the country.

Also, I never want to hear you mention another photographer cousin or baker mother or dressmaker aunt ever again. Because I don't have them. And it's great that you do, but it doesn't make you some sort of saint to have been born into a talented family that gives you free labor. It means you won the genetic-association lottery. Good for you.  Instead, I won some genetic brains and used them to earn $20K to pay for my wedding.

Also, I'd like to take a look why I hate it when you extol the simple backyard, mountain top, and barefoot beach weddings. Um, I live in an apartment and so we don't have a backyard. And my parents (who also live in Los Angeles) don't have a very large backyard (and if one more person says I should cut my full-of-love guest list to make it work, I'll turn around and cut them instead.). If you, however, have a glorious backyard for a wedding and wouldn't mind us using it, I'm all ears.  Really.  Send me your phone number and I'll give you a call.  And as for that intimate beach or mountain top? You're making a lot of assumptions about peoples' mobility and ability to participate in your crazy on-the-top-of-a-mountain 15-person ceremony. We have dear family members and friends who would be in that blessed 15-person invite group who would be unable to make it up a mountain, let alone a flight or two of stairs.  So, yeah, take your barefoot beach wedding budgetary prescriptions and shove it. Just shove it.

As for the single or unengaged-but-coupled commenters... I really can't wait until you get engaged. I've eaten my I'll-be-a-laid-back, $10K, backyard-bride crow already. You'll rant and cry and look for alternatives, but many of you will eventually come to the same "it's worth it" conclusion that I did, at a number you're comfortable with. Certainly, I could shave about $5K from our current budget, somehow, but then it wouldn't be mine.  And by mine, I mean doing it in a way that feels right for us. And no, I do not mean in a hotel ballroom dripping with expensive florals. Because sorry, that wedding costs about $100K, not $20K.

So, since you're so obviously misinformed about the facts, emotions, and everyday negotiations related to weddings, I would kindly ask you to take your comments and shove them where the sun doesn't shine.


Kisses,

Becca, aka A Los Angeles Love

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The $10,000 Wedding... In Los Angeles

I am so excited about today's guest post from Liz Coopersmith of Silver Charm Events here in Los Angeles. I am a huge fan of Liz' sane approach to wedding planning and her range of quality resources for both high-end and everyday couples who are trying to navigate wedding planning challenges.  She offers top-notch wedding planning packages but, for those of us who aren't in the DOC or event planner budget categories, she also offers the Recession Bride Workshop and downloads, and her blog is chock-full of great local information and major deals (especially in her Wedding Wise Wednesday posts). She's even provided her readers with realistic information on a $10K budget breakdown in Los Angeles (and other major cities), which was such a breath of fresh air from a wedding planner that I reached out to her for more details in today's post. 


The best part about Liz is that she gets what's important about weddings. She had a $10K wedding herself but, more importantly, she had the wedding she wanted. In Los Angeles. She planned it in 5 months, went to the florist down the street, rented her dress (more on that later), had dinner at the Sunset Towers in 20's/30s art deco style, and even served a sit-down steak dinner. But best of all? She loved her wedding, because it was exactly what she wanted, and that's her approach to everyone else's wedding and joy too. 


Now, as a caveat about today's post, I'm still not sure how $10,000 became the wedding budget dream goal for so many of us. Perhaps because it feels splurge-ish but still reasonable. Perhaps because, once we acknowledge that our real desires for DJs and catered food and a dress are likely to cost $20,000 (or more), it makes us hyperventilate to realize that, while $10,000 is possible, it's won't remotely buy us the sorts of wedding celebrated in magazines and blogs and that we really truly want. And that's okay. There are ways to cut corners and expenses but, in Los Angeles, you'll rarely be able to achieve the sort of weddings celebrated in magazines or blogs (not that this should be your aim when you're planning a marriage) for $10,000.


Whether you decide to stick with a $10,000 wedding or recognize that it's worth it to you to spend more for a different event, you won't find any judgment from my $20,000 corner. My only problem with throwing out numbers like $10,000 is the unrealistic expectations that the $10,000 goal creates, and I think it's important to acknowledge what a $10,000 big city budget is and what it isn't so we can start to make better-informed decisions about our true wedding and budget priorities.


And so, Liz took her $10,000 budget for 100 people in Los Angeles and wrote us a post on some options for actually making that happen.  It's not a rundown of every inexpensive option in the city, but it's a starting point with numbers and suggestions that are realistic and manageable, if you're really careful and honest about your priorities. It's a reminder that this is possible, if you want it to be. And now, without further ado, Liz's tips for achieving a $10,000 wedding in Los Angeles (and elsewhere):

Venue ($1200 goal)
Lots of those will fit in the $1200 and less range for site rental, which is about the range you need for a $10K wedding
  • L.A. Parks and Recreation has finally broken down their list of what's available for weddings.  Some of these spaces are really pretty, some offer indoor-outdoor options, and all are affordable.
  • The California State Parks site has a list, too, although it's not as informative. 
  • There's also the Eagle Rock Arts Center, which is a very nice space, which doesn't need a lot of decoration, whose rentals start at $1200.

Catering ($3800 goal)
  • This breaks down to $38 per person, INCLUDING standard 9.75% tax and 20% service, $29.35 base without tax and service OR, if there is no site fee/only a charge per person for food, $38.50 per person.
  • Start with your favorite restaurant, and see what they have available. Many restaurants are less expensive than catering companies, which can't rely on restaurant clientele to keep their doors open.
  • Depending on where you're having the wedding and what your caterer can provide (chafing dishes? steno? Plates, etc.), you might have to bring in rentals. Provide the rental company with your menu, and work from there. As far as trying to find rental companies, google local ones. Use Yelp for referrals if you need to. 

Photography ($1000 goal)
THIS one is tricky, because that's about 1/3 of what a photographer usually costs.
  • Start by finding a photographer you REALLY like, and asking them if they have an assistant, or know anyone who is just breaking into the business, who would be willing to shoot your wedding for the pics, referral and experience. These days, every photographer has an assistant.
  • Think about cutting down your photography time - nix the getting ready shots, get the group shots, shove the big reception stuff (toasts, cake cutting, first dance) to the front of the evening.
  • My next-last recommendation is that old standby craigslist, but see if you can find a shooter that matches your style, and comes with referrals. There's the whole argument in wedding world that craigslist makes it harder for all of us, including craigslist vendors, to get paid what the work is worth, but a 10k wedding is a 10k wedding. Try an avoid the hacky shooters - you'll know them when you see them.
  • My last recommendation? Set up a flickr account for your wedding and put disposable cameras on the tables. Between the two of them, you'll get a ton of great shots.
  • If you REALLY want pro pics of you in your wedding dress, schedule a day-after or before shoot, which will cost you tons less.
  • Between/in a combination of all those, you'll make your $1,000 photography budget.

Attire ($1000 goal)
Tuxes are about $100 to rent, or perhaps he has a suit already, so that leaves $900 for your dress and alterations. 
  • I'm a see-the-dress-in-person kind of girl, so if you don't mind pre-owned or samples, I'd go for Glamour Closet  [LA Love note: Here's my review of Glamour Closet and Encore Bridal, which is similar and also local]. If seeing the dress in person is less important to you, there are a ton of resale sites online (like Recycled Bride, OnceWed, Preowned Wedding Dresses, Bravo Bride, etc)
  • I was just in David's Bridal and they had some really beautiful couture-ish gowns in the $600-800 range. Alfred Angelo also has some dresses in that range. Again, you have $10k and these stores offer a lot of affordable wedding gowns for women on a strict budget (but be VERY specific about not looking at the more expensive dresses)
  • When I got married, I rented my gown for about $800 at One Night Affair, so that's an option, too, AND they rent jewelry. Odds are, even though you could, you're NOT going to clean your kitchen in your wedding dress later. Renting a couture gown at an affordable price is a real option. 

Flowers ($1000 goal)
Keep it simple, stick to one type of flower. It doesn't have to be the cheapest flower, but you need to stick to one. 100 people =10 tables. If you keep it to $50 per table, that leaves $500 for the wedding party flowers, which is doable even without DIY. If you keep it to $35 per table, you'll have even more. I walked down the street from my apartment to the nearest florist and ordered mine, but again, ask your friends or vendors you've already hired for referrals. Venues are good places for these referrals.

Music ($1000 goal)
There's the ipod route, but you're going to need someone to monitor the music. Plus, make sure that you don't need to bring in a sound system. DJs can run twice as much as your budget for this is. My recommendation, again, would just be to ask around, starting with your venue.

Cake ($500 goal)
Keep the cake design simple. High end bakeries like Hansen's DO have cakes in the $3.50 - 5.00 a slice range, and their cake is delicious, it just won't be the fanciest cakes in their portfolios. Los Angeles Baking, Co. starts their cakes at $2.75 a slice. Fantasy Frostings just launched their Broke-Ass Cake Line which starts at $4.25 per slice. If you DON'T want cake (because that's okay, too), then just make sure you stay in the $3 per piece range, because you're going to need 2-3 pieces per person.

Invitations ($500)
Target has boxes of 50, complete with RSVPs, etc, for $24-35.00 per box. I just posted about a plantable invite company that has cards in the $2 - 6 range. If you do want to order online, get samples. At any rate, 50 invites, you'll probably have to spend $2 per invite if it's not from a Michaels or Target kit. And don't forget postage. 


Big Picture Tips:
  • Stick to your budget! You have $10k. You will be able to find what you need with a budget of $10k. You need to believe that, because it's true. Even when you get frustrated, you need to believe it, because it's still true. Knowing what you have to spend on everything will help you.
  • You have more time than you think. If you're talking to a vendor and they can't work with you, move on. The last vendor you meet is not the last chance you have.
  • ASK. If you don't know where to find what you need, post the question on your favorite wedding site/blog, etc, or ask whatever vendor you've already hired. Ask a vendor you really like, regardless of if you can hire them. The worst they can say is no, I can't help you, which means you're not behind, you're just where you started. Big girl panties are important here. If you're old enough to get married, you're old enough to ask direct questions so you can get what you need.

Thank you Liz for such great tips and, more importantly, the reminder that we can actually do this. We can actually plan a straightforward wedding with the white dress, pretty venue, flowers, and cake for $10,000, even in a city like Los Angeles. Go check out more of Liz' great information and inspiration at the Charmed Weddings Blog or at Silver Charm Events.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Our Wedding Checklist

I am a perfect case study in why no one should make any wedding purchases more than a year out from their wedding date. Because, after all my scheming and deal finding, I have zero to actually mark off as complete on my wedding checklist.
  • I bought five amazing vintage silver serving platters at a thrift shop, thinking we could use them in the wedding. Unfortunately, we're probably going for a California Casual-Chic look that plays with shapes, texture and color (think succulents and bold springtime influences.) Since our home has more modern, clean line, bold color decor as well, the vintage serving platters don't match either our wedding or our everyday life. Great.
  • I bought an amazing dress, at an amazing deal, but it no longer fits me or our more casual afternoon-into-evening party. But, when I finally managed to find a buyer, I then proceeded to freak out about how much I love the dress and couldn't possibly part with it. I then had to spend the next two hours looking through simple dresses options with bold accessories that feel much more like my authentic style. 
  • Similarly, Jason has an amazing Theory suit that he bought last year. So we were cucumber-calm about the status of his attire (and pretty excited about the wedding budget reading $0 for that line item.) Until we realized that an afternoon-to-evening event might call for something less formal than a black suit. Grey suit and vest browsing has begun.
  • We decided to go for The Flashdance DJ splurge and couldn't be happier. Only we can't sign the contract with Michael and secure our date because we haven't heard back from the venue about our contract.
  • We know our venue, but yeah, getting in touch with them has been a bit difficult. On the plus side, once we sign the contract they're supposedly just as hands-off about rules and restrictions. But, it would still be nice to have a contract for our cheap, non-profit, BYOB, cater/eat-whatever-you-want, we-can-actually-afford-it, venue.
On the plus side, I bought those Abstract Expressionist stamps for our thank you cards. And we've been eating a lot of dishes that call for tomato sauce, meaning we've had a lot of time to start collecting surprisingly pretty (and free!) mason jars. So, if everything else goes to hell, at least I can send thank you cards to the people who attend our mason jar decorated, Flashdance-accompanied soiree. Which will be happening somewhere, at some point in time, with some sort of attire.

This is what six months of planning and shopping got us: stamps, pasta jars, and the hard-earned knowledge that no one with a long engagement should make ANY decisions in the first six months. Except for the venue. I'd definitely recommend locking down that venue.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Our Weddings Are Investments

This weekend, I was once again ready to throw my hands up and run screaming from everything associated with weddings.  Even worse, this weekend I spent a few hours of mourning the lost simplicity single-person decision making and single-person responsibilities. Then, of course, I promptly turned around and thanked every possible diety for having Jason to share my life with after being reminded, yet again, why we're bothering to tackle this beast of a wedding expense and all the associated hassles. It's been, to say the least, a very mixed up weekend.

If I wanted an easy scapegoat for the weekend's mess, I'd blame my taxes. Which might seem odd, seeing as how I'm getting a tax refund this year (for the first time ever.) But instead, I sat there fuming on Saturday morning, angry that every darn cent of the refund is heading straight into our wedding fund. Even worse, I tortured myself with math and realized that we'll still be $5000 short of what we need next April, based on our current saving plan, even including this tax related windfall.  I was particularly ticked off because I'd just upped my monthly wedding savings by another $100. Yet again. And yet it still won't be quite enough.

Harumph.

I was not happy. For me, every month is a struggle and a decision about where to spend my money: on my car repairs, on my medical bills, on a much-needed night out with friends, or on the wedding. Whereas for Jason, the bulk of his contributions are coming at the end of the year from his bonus (he's meeting all his contractually related benchmarks to achieve the bonus, so it's not just pie in the sky imaginings). Which means that I struggle with the wedding versus life-choices every day, whereas Jason rarely has to engage with what it means to sacrifice the nice little things to finance the wedding instead.

My tax refund frustration turned into a serious discussion about finances, emotions, and how this partnership needs to adjust. Because even though we live together and have a joint checking account for shared household expenses, we're both still acting like single people when it comes to everything else associated with our finances. Everything is transparent, of course, but if he wants to pay for a new guitar amp, it's his money and his call.  Similarly, if I want to buy a new fancy dress, it's my money and my call. Which is great... until it's our wedding and not really our money. Or if it's my medical bills last month paid for with my money/my call, leaving him with more fun money at the end of the month than I have and me with more frustration.

Getting married is a process. It's so much more than the single day at the end of these negotiations and frustrations. And I'm finding this process of planning a wedding is as much part of the marriage process as anything else. Because it's the time when we run up against the limits of our current singleton systems. And it's the time when we have to learn new partnered ways of doing things, even with a partnership that worked perfectly well before the engagement hullabaloo. This marriage stuff is bigger and more fraught, and the balancing is more delicate and necessary than ever before. We've agreed to start finally working through Smart Couples Finish Rich, which is much more of a workbook approach to talking about separate and joint values regarding money than it is about chasing dreams of wealth. We've agreed, yet again, that this process of figuring things out is both frustrating and comforting, and that we're really happy to have this period of engagement.

And, once again we agreed that we're really happy to be planning a wedding together, despite all the frustrations and budget woes. We know we'll figure it out and we know that it will be worthwhile. We know there's a reason our wedding will cost so darn much: we're paying for meals with a large number of loved ones, for a large party to facilitate our celebration, for a photographer to capture memories of that joy, for people to help us focus on the joy and not the clean-up, and for the travel to get the people we love all safely back to the hotel.  In other words, we're investing in joy.

Our families don't live nearby.  The wedding weekend may be one of the few times our families ever get to meet each other and it may be the only time we'll ever get to spend a weekend with our scattered loved ones: high school friends, college friends, Los Angeles friends, and our large families. When else will I have the opportunity to gather my girlfriend living in Europe with our other girlfriend and her new baby with my step-grandmother and her new boyfriend with all of Jason's family? Never. And it's going to be amazing.

And so, my tax refund argument was worth it, as is putting the entire darn thing towards this wedding. Because our weddings are investments in us: in our marriages and in our expanded families and in our expanded joy. They are not investments in photos or investments in nice dinners, though that may be the format that some particular expenses take.  Instead, our engagement period and wedding are very clearly investments in our future as a couple and as a family.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Simplicity

We attended a massive Passover seder last night. Each year, our friend is generous/crazy enough to invite over a giant 30-person mix of Jews and non-Jews to participate in the seder rituals, wine drinking, and general dinner party merriment. When we arrived at his house, he had two long banquet tables set with pretty plastic dinnerware, a few votive candles, and wine. Within moments of sitting down, the room and tables were overflowing with elbows, conversation, food and joy.

And that was all we needed. Obviously, Passover isn't about the pretty tablescapes and I generally don't expect to see fancy china at our friends' apartment parties (especially when serving 30 people). But the point was that the centerpieces and fancy china and everything else we can easily obsess over for our weddings wouldn't even have fit on that table, because the elbows, conversation, food and joy took clear precedence, making centerpieces a moot point. An inconvenience and distraction, even.

And so, last night was simply another reminder of the things that really matter when planning our celebrations: making space for those conversations and joy.

Someone Please Buy This Dress


Dear lord, someone please give this spectacular dress a lovely wedded home. If I remotely fit the vintage-sized measurements, I'd do it myself.

The dress is an authentic vintage piece from the 1920s/1930s currently onsale at Tavin, a glorious little vintage treasure chest in Los Angeles' Echo Park area. You can also find Tavin on etsy here (expect the dress to show up online shortly, if someone doesn't snag it due to her blog post about upcoming etsy goodies here.)

Please, someone, take it home.  I'm jealous of all your twirly wedding loveliness already.