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.

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.

Mother-of-the-Bride Zilla

Fox and I have had our eye on a potential venue for some time now. It seems like a great deal, near a delicious and affordable caterer, with places to stay nearby … pretty much everything we could want in a wedding venue, plus breakfast at no additional cost. We just need to visit the place, ask some questions, and make a decision: yay, nay, or let’s look at some other venues and compare.

I’ve been itching to go check it out. Planning a wedding might not be the wisest decision right now, but it’s something that helps me feel energized and motivated. It gives me something concrete to look forward to in the foreseeable future. An outlet for my creativity. A goal. We need to secure a venue, so we’ll have a definite date, so we can do everything else.

Fox’s folks asked to come with us when we go visit the venue, which is a couple hours’ drive away, figuring we could make a mini vacation out of it. That sounded wonderful to me, I just wanted to invite my mother to join us – largely so she wouldn’t feel left out. Based on past experience, she’d be quite miffed if she found out we’d gone to see a potential venue with Fox’s parents but without her. She’s my mother, I want to try and have a healthy relationship with her, so I figure part of that is reaching out and including her in important things like this. She might even have something useful to contribute – she’s smart and has a lot of experience in the world, so I value her opinion highly.

Mother of the Bride and Bride arguing

idoidoweddingplanning.com

But when I asked Mom about her availability on Sunday, all hell broke loose. She didn’t seem to want to commit to a date and time at first. She raised a myriad of concerns:

  • Was this really my idea, or was I just going along with Fox and his parents (who suggested the venue)?
  • What about the venue she had suggested? We should get an updated quote from them.
  • Can they accommodate our entire guest list, even if it rains?
  • What’s really included in the deal? Are there extra expenses we’re not aware of?
  • Who’s paying for this and how?
  • Pretty much everyone will have to travel a distance; most people will want/need a place to stay. That will reduce the amount they’re willing to spend on gifts and/or give directly to us – if they come at all.
  • The places to stay near the venue are small; the nearest big-name hotel is 20 miles away.
  • What do I mean I don’t plan to wear makeup?! I don’t want my face to look red and splotchy in my wedding photos, do I?
  • My new haircut is too short. There aren’t enough layers.
  • We should call and ask questions before taking a long, expensive trip out to the venue location.
foal hugging mom

too cute not to share

I think some of her concerns are legit and I appreciate her raising them.

  • Getting an updated quote from the other venue is a good idea, but there were a few things about it that rubbed me the wrong way.
  • The wording on the website is a bit ambiguous, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask whether the indoor space alone can accommodate our whole guest list.
  • Always ask about additional expenses. Tax and tip can make the difference between “affordable” and “too expensive.” And I intend to get as much in writing as I possibly can.
  • We’ll need to make extra-specially sure there are sufficient accommodations for guests near the wedding venue; we intend to look into securing a group discount from one or more of the closer inns, possibly also the big-name hotel.
  • She definitely has a point about calling to ask questions first. It can save us a lot of time and money, especially if we don’t like the answers we get.
    • But I hate making phone calls and really want to see the place in person. Road trips can be fun and worth the expense, if you do them right. Fox’s Mom is treating us and she already called to make reservations.

I think some of Mom’s concerns are actually an attempt to manipulate me, regardless of whether that is her conscious intent.

I’d be more inclined to take her concern about whether this is really what I want – not just what Fox and his folks want – seriously, if she weren’t also trying to control what I put on my face. How can she claim to support me in making my own decisions and acting on them, if she’s choosing to interrupt a discussion about an important decision I need to make (and want her input in!) so she can criticize my appearance? That’s the last thing I need to be worrying about right now. It hurts extra because I had just stopped beating myself up over (my warped perception of) my appearance; just chosen to love and accept myself as I am and to focus on healthy things that are important to me.

I’m choosing to accept my face as it naturally looks instead of just going along with society’s obsession with female “beauty” – which is all about covering up one’s natural appearance with expensive products. Why do I have to wear makeup if Fox will be next to me in the exact same photos, his face naked? If Mom can’t support – or at least quietly accept – my decision to passively stand up against a faceless nameless “society” by not wearing makeup, how can she support me in actively standing up to people I love and admire?

Money is a very serious concern. Fox and I don’t have much of it; we need to be careful and we need to budget. But there is money set aside for the wedding – mostly promised by Mom and Fox’s folks. In the meantime we’re working on what we need to do be able to support ourselves financially. There are better ways to bring this up and have a conversation about it that might help us instead of undermining whatever hope and determination we’ve managed to muster. When I don’t have the answers I feel anxious and guilty; those emotions quickly turn into discouragement, the last thing I need if I’m going to get anywhere.

People will do what they need to do and will give what they’re willing and able to give. It’s important to Fox and me that people come and have a good time. We can use all the help we can get, but we’re not inviting our loved ones to the wedding because we want them to give us stuff. We’re inviting them to celebrate something that’s really important to us, and giving people who rarely see each other an excuse to come together. I really don’t want to exclude anyone because they can’t afford a hotel room – that’s why we plan on looking into group discounts. But the bit about expenses reducing the amount we get back in gifts just seems manipulative: it pokes at a basic human instinct (wanting to get stuff) and distracts from the bigger picture, for the purpose of making me question a decision I’m considering making.

Fingers with strings tied to them, controlling a puppet.

By the time we were done, I thought I didn’t want to do any of the wedding planning if it’s going to be like this. I felt completely wiped out and discouraged, all the energy and excitement I’d had gone.

I’m past obsessing over the tiny details that the bridal industry blows way out of proportion, so you think the fate of the entire universe rests on you picking the right design for your customized napkins. My goal is to throw an amazing party – which means we need a nice accessible venue, a variety of delicious food so everyone has something to eat, music people can dance to, some organization of the time (e.g. ceremony, first dance, etc.), access to places where guests can meet their basic needs (e.g. sleep), and clear communication about all of the above (e.g. invitations, a website). Everything else is icing on the cake.

This perspective is my armor in the battle that is navigating the bridal industry. But I don’t have armor to protect against what Mom threw at me. Her criticism of my appearance was an especially “low blow” because, try as I might to assert the contrary, I have internalized society’s messages about how important it is for a woman to be “beautiful.” I want to look good in my wedding photos, but there are other ways I can do that – such as wearing clothes I find comfortable so I’m not grimacing in pain, hiring a competent photographer, and having a genuine smile on my face because I’m enjoying myself. If my mother thinks all that isn’t enough, I still need makeup on top of it to prevent people from being tempted to burn my wedding photographs, what value does my life really have? If I can’t stand in front of the people I love and trust the most in the world and be accepted as I am – if the people I’m choosing to share this amazingly huge and meaningful transition with can’t wholeheartedly celebrate it with me – because I’m not wearing makeup … either she has a devastatingly low opinion of me, or she thinks the people on our guest list are incredibly shallow.

This wedding is a really big deal. It’s going to be the first, and very likely the last, time I’ll be in the limelight in the middle of a very large family (especially if you combine my and Fox’s families). It brings up a lot of anxiety. Will I be accepted as I am, having made the choices I’ve made – from as big as the building in which we’re celebrating, to as small as naked pores on my face? The whole wedding is a reflection of Fox and me: the people we associate with, our taste in food, music, fashion, our consideration of people’s needs and preferences, the degree to which we’re willing to perpetuate heteronormativity.

I think Mom’s scared because she sees everything I do as a reflection of her; from her perspective I am her reflection – she doesn’t seem to see me. She wants the model of what a daughter and her wedding should be, so she’ll be accepted by a family she’s afraid of disappointing. For some reason she finds it too painful to look at who and what I truly am. And often – far too often – so do I.