Good News

Fox and I have been comparing costs at different venues, including one we have an appointment to visit next week. We’ve decided an a la carte wedding is a bit more of a headache than we’re up for, and that local inclusive packages aren’t really that much less expensive than the venue we fell in love with last weekend (Too Good to Be True). If we’re going to spend ridiculous amounts of money on a wedding, we might as well have it at a positively gorgeous location with really awesome amenities and a superb day-of coordinator, where we know we’ll be the only event happening that weekend. To me, that’s worth some extra cash – and it might even be worth asking nearby family and friends to come out to a “destination” wedding as well!

We’ve found a number of ways to cut over $2,000 off the budget.

* The owner of the venue offered us an exclusive, very generous room rate specifically for the weekend of our wedding. Although we’ll be leaving it to guests (including bridal party) to pay for their own rooms, we’re still saving hundreds of dollars on the rooms we’ll need for Fox & me, my mom, his parents, and his sister. (Our parents are helping to pay for the wedding, so it seems only fair to include their hotel rooms in the budget.)

* We’re telling the caterer it’s an “anniversary party,” not a “wedding.” In a way that’s true – if all goes according to plan, it’ll take place about a year after our legal marriage ceremony. We’re still waiting to hear back from them, but based on the information available online we’ll save at least $1,000 – for the exact same service and food.

* I found a beautiful dress that happens to come in white but isn’t technically a “wedding dress.” It’s a lot more practical than I’d been going for – no lace, no train, no beading. But it has long flowing sleeves, that should make up for it! The dress itself is less than $100; I’ve budgeted an additional $100 in case I need to have a professional make some minor adjustments (e.g. reducing the bust measurement). It’s a grand total of $1,000 less than I’d originally planned to spend on my dress!

To be honest I’m a bit torn about this decision. My inner little girl who wants to be a princess keeps yelling at me and stamping her feet. This was the one time I had an excuse to get and wear such a dress, and now I’m blowing it! I don’t know if it’s possible to get her to see the practical perspective (after all, she specifically wants a dress that isn’t practical), but I’m hoping maybe we can come up with some kind of compromise. Maybe we can play dress up more often – and yes, we’ll do it right – but with clothes that don’t cost $1,200 and then you can never wear them again. And this dress is quite different from what I usually wear, and I genuinely like it (at least as much as others I’ve seen with much heftier price tags). It will be special and mark me as special – which is what I think she‘s truly going for.

And it will be comfortable. I have an outfit in the same material and I love the way it feels against my skin. I’ll be able to move in the dress without catching on things. I’ll be able to use the restroom without an attendant. I won’t have to worry about the shenanigans stores pull when you buy a “wedding dress” from them (such as adding wedding accessories to the bill that you didn’t buy!). I won’t have to wait months for the dress to arrive. If there’s something wrong with it I can return it no questions asked and buy a new one. It just makes so much more sense. I’ve liberated myself from perhaps the most crushing part of the bridal industry. It feels good!

Or at least it would, if Miss Princess would stop glaring at me!

* Another thing that’s really nifty about our venue of choice is that we’ll have access to a grill and fire pit for the “rehearsal” dinner, which will really be the OMG We Haven’t Seen You In Forever Let’s Catch Up! dinner. I priced barbeque foods for about 50 people online and it came to about $250. Good luck finding a restaurant or caterer that will let you get away with that price!

[Update: Oops, I forgot to include drinks in the barbeque budget. There are other foods we might want to add, too. So it’ll be a bit more than I expected – but most likely still a lot less than a more traditional dinner!]

In other news, I’m starting to get a bit antsy. I want to be more active – physically, creatively, and so on. I keep feeling motivated to get a job, then doubting whether I’ll be able to find and keep one. It’s hard for me to follow through on my thoughts that it would be good or fun or interesting to engage in favorite hobbies. But I want to do them, and I no longer think there’s no point to doing them, and I no longer think I can’t do them. It’s more a matter of getting up the energy and convincing myself I don’t need permission to do them.

As frustrating as wedding planning number crunching has been, it’s shown me that I can feel motivated to do a task, remain focused on it, keep trying despite frustrations, and have at least some success. That’s a good feeling. And it’s forced me to question long-held assumptions (e.g. I’m going to wear a traditional wedding dress; we have to say it’s a wedding and pay wedding prices) and to be more creative in my approach to problem-solving.

My score on the Burns Depression Checklist has dropped dramatically since I wrote Planning A Head, even with some very painful experiences thrown in. I’m hopeful that this trend will continue.

No Space for Me

Sad person with phrases all around

I spent yesterday searching for potential wedding venues that were similar to, but closer to home and theoretically less expensive than, the one we’d visited over the weekend (Too Good to Be True). I found a handful that I really liked and contacted them.

One got back to me today; I learned that their minimum number of guests was much higher than the number of people we would want to invite. The per-person cost was so high we couldn’t afford it even if we only invited the number of people we’re prepared to. I emailed back, asking if there was any room for negotiation. No. They need to “make the most of their time” – which apparently means turning up their noses at my (sane) budget. To put things into perspective, for about the same amount of money we could either a) have the wedding at the venue we visited over the weekend – including clothes, gifts for key people, a photographer, flowers, a website, save-the-date magnets, invitations, and a short honeymoon – or b) have the wedding at this new venue, naked and with no guests, because we couldn’t afford invitations.

I didn’t even get to finish telling Fox the disappointing news; he finished my sentence for me with a cutting finality. They’re off the list. They have to be, I know that, but I would like to finish my sentence, thanks. (And express my indecision about whether to respectfully decline, or just never respond to the most recent email.)

Fox’s mom supports us in our decision to get legally married at the courthouse within the next few months (with the intention of throwing a big party later) – but wants to invite her many siblings. A sort of reasonable request, I suppose – except that some of her siblings are close enough to just pop down for dinner, but none of my mother’s are. It kind of sends the message that my family is less important in this whole affair than Fox’s family is, and that just kills me. She wouldn’t listen to me – to either of us – when we said we just want to bring our witnesses and immediate families, no more than 10 people total. And then Fox’s sister took it upon herself to tell me how to think!  :-/

My mom thinks we should wait 1 year to get legally married (2014) and 2 years to throw the big party (2015). I’m not really crazy about that idea. Either we wait a year to get legally married so we can realistically invite everyone, or we go to the courthouse now (we could just go with our witnesses, but we’re being nice and inviting our parents) and throw the big party when we can afford it (and give people enough time to make travel arrangements). I’d prefer to have the party next year, but I’m willing to wait 2 years if that’s what it takes to get what we really want.

Fox and I decided over 2 years ago that we want to spend the rest of our lives together. We’re eager to acquire the legal and other benefits that come with being recognized as a married couple. I plan to change my surname; I’d like to be able to begin using my new name within the next few months. Especially as we’re hit over and over again by the insane prices of the bridal industry, we find it more and more tempting to enter legal marriage sooner. It’s a choice we can make – and act on! – without spending tens of thousands of dollars … as long as we’re willing to do so without our giant family physically present.

Though, to be honest, I’m torn. I feel like I’m giving up my identity. The new identity I’d be taking on is my choice, but I guess I’m starting to question it a little bit. I’m happy to join Fox’s family and I see taking their name as a symbol of that affinity. But I don’t want to be eaten up by them, given no say in my own life and told how to think. We’re a family, not the Borg. I need them to respect my boundaries.

I need everyone to respect my boundaries. They all seem to think I’m a doormat. Telling me what to do, what to think, finishing my sentences for me. You say the word “wedding” and the vultures all swoop in. You have to do these things in this order. You have to pay thousands of dollars for this and that – never mind whether you want or need it. You have to drown all your guests in insanely expensive food and booze. You have to invite everyone I want to have a party with; if you don’t I’m going to guilt trip you. By the time we’re done talking you’ll fear that if you don’t to what I say, no one in either of our families will ever want to speak to you again, because “they’ll be hurt.” Suddenly it’s not our wedding anymore. It’s the industry’s wedding first, our parents’ second, and if we’re lucky then maybe we’ll get to make our own decisions about what to wear.

(To be fair, something just came up for Fox’s family that would stress anyone out; as my mom said, Fox’s mom usually isn’t like this. She’ll probably be more reasonable once she’s had some time to breathe.)

It got to the point today where I felt like I couldn’t do anything – not because I’m incompetent (I’m perfectly competent, thank you), but because it’s not allowed. Fox is here, so he became the embodiment of some hostile authority. If I left the bedroom to get something, if I became visible to him, if I even made a sound, he would be there. Questioning me. Judging me. Making me question myself and feel guilty. I felt like I had no privacy. I was under a microscope. And all I wanted was permission to live.

But if I wanted to live, I’d have to do so on his terms. And whatever they were (I didn’t know) they didn’t leave much room for me to express myself. I was lucky they allowed me to breathe!

All I could do was sit on the bed and cry. (“The” bed. It used to be my bed! But now I don’t even have that to myself!) I texted Banji; she did her best to assure me that I’m loved and that she’s here for me, but I couldn’t internalize her kind words. I had an overwhelming urge to hurt myself; finally I gave in by scratching my arm with my fingernails. All it does is leave a slight mark that fades within a few hours; it doesn’t even break the skin. The pain rushed up and calmed me down to an almost alarming degree. While I was crying it felt like I was struggling against something, fighting for my right to live. But the pain, the calm, it subdued me. It suppressed me. It told me I didn’t need to fight, there was no point to fighting, I should just accept my fate. And then I fell asleep.

The real Fox came in, put a blanket over me, kissed my hand, and left so I could rest. When we talked later he expressed that he’d wanted to come in and comfort me while I was crying. But I had said I wanted to be alone.

He respected my boundaries.

I don’t know what to do. I want to keep planning the wedding but I’m afraid that, the way my mind has been working and with the horribleness it’s bringing out in people, it just isn’t safe right now.

Too Good to Be True

Fox, his parents, Mom, and I spent the past 2 days at a potential wedding venue – a wonderful bed & breakfast on absolutely beautiful grounds. Fox’s mom had recommended it, believing it would be an affordable alternative to more traditional wedding venues.

The place was magnificent and we fell in love with it almost instantly. A cozy but open atmosphere, comfortable furniture, a wonderful heated pool, breakfast included, and the most breathtaking views from every room. The owner was extremely nice and friendly. She seemed to love our ideas and expressed a desire to work with us to make a wedding on her property affordable, as long as she’d still make the profit she needs. We all had a positively wonderful time. I’d recommend the place to anyone who needs (and can afford) to get away.

And therein lies the rub: money. I had been under the impression that renting the venue for the weekend (Fri-Sun) would cost $X (where X is a multiple of 1,000). When we sat down to talk with the owner, I asked about the rental, how much it would cost, and what was included. I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that the cost was 175% what I’d initially thought. It included the owner’s services as day-of coordinator – which I wasn’t expecting – but it still came as a bit of a shock. I’d already been worried about being able to afford anything else after we paid for catering (a separate expense) and the venue at $X – never mind $175%X!

I asked for the information in writing, which the owner provided this morning. As we were going over it, I learned something that inspired me to want to take my business elsewhere. I grew quite angry, though I don’t think it showed.

Not only is the actual cost to rent the venue $175%X + $500, but we also have to fill all of the rooms in the bed and breakfast at (a reduced) cost. We had thought this would be a great deal because (we thought) the cost of accommodations for members of the bridal party and other important family members was included in the cost to rent the venue for the weekend. Instead, we learned we’d have to ask those guests to pay more to stay at the bed & breakfast with us than other guests would pay for other accommodations in the local area. There’s no way we can afford to pay for all the rooms in the bed & breakfast for 2 nights at the rates the owner is charging, on top of the rental fee and everything else we need to make the wedding a success! The most we could do is maybe split the cost with some of the key people.

Talk about a slap in the face!

The owner has said she’s willing to work with us; this week she will determine how much she can reduce the price of the rooms. We’ve been brainstorming ways to make the entire affair more affordable. The venue is so beautiful we really don’t need to worry about decorations. We could only serve non-alcoholic beverages. We don’t really need a DJ. We could give ourselves an extra year to save up the money. Etc. etc. etc.

We can’t go cheap with the caterer – delicious food is essential – but we can try to be smart about who we go with, what we get, and knowing what we’re actually paying for. Decorations, alcohol, and a DJ are things I’m willing to drop, though with differing levels of enthusiasm: I’m set against hiring a florist, but I think it’s nice to have the option of alcoholic beverages at a wedding, and I’m on the fence about the DJ. With a little bit of extra effort, we already have the equipment and technical expertise we need to provide an awesome personalized auditory experience. All we need is to ask a member of the bridal party to announce things. Maybe I can let go of the DJ after all …

I’m also not that crazy about waiting another year to have the wedding. I like the energy I feel while planning, and I don’t want that to dissipate. At the same time, we’re going to need more money than our parents are able to provide; taking the time to save gives us a lot more options and financial stability. Just to clarify, we’d be pushing back the giant party, not acquisition of the marriage license. If there’s some way to still have the energy from planning while taking all the steps it will take to save the money, I might be able to make this compromise. But right now it’s a hard one.

I think what really appeals to Fox and me about this venue is the possibility of having our wedding / family reunion be a 3-day affair, with plenty of time to spend with our loved ones. We don’t want to feel rushed through the mill that is the wedding industry. But I think this particular venue is just too expensive; we can see if there’s someplace similar that’s closer to home and more affordable. Spending less on the actual venue will allow us to do more with our guests, whether it’s part of the “official” (catered) wedding or takes place in the time surrounding it. I love the idea of going back to the place we just visited for our honeymoon; if we’re smart about spending for the wedding, we can escape for at least half a week at that glorious place and enjoy some of the extra amenities. And just because we start looking at other possibilities doesn’t mean we can’t decide this venue is actually worth all the extra cost and effort and compromises we’ll need to afford having our wedding there.