Author Topic: Weddings: how to do what you want instead of things everyone says you 'have to'?  (Read 11854 times)

daymare

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Hi, all.

There have been some interesting wedding threads in the past that I've taken a look at:
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/why-do-people-get-obsessed-with-weddings/
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/weddings-and-their-costs/
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/planning-a-wedding

Somehow, now that my fiance and I are planning to get married, the topic has gotten way more interesting. ;)  I absolutely understand that everything about a wedding (outside of the person you're marrying, a license, and a witness) are purely optional.  My relationship and our happiness matters more than the one day -- and that money spent on a wedding could be spent in better ways (or better yet, saved).  Since I never had the intention of spending ridiculous amounts of money, and the cost of a wedding is positively correlated with the number of guests, my initial desire was for a very small, intimate event (with life-long friends, immediate family).  We discussed this and my fiance came to agree it would be a great idea.  Since getting engaged, talking to people, and going home for a few weeks to visit friends and family, I've realized that my perspective was well-intentioned but maybe not right for us.  I don't have much family, but have many dear friends, and frankly having many people who are excited for us and our relationship, is a blessing, not something to gripe about! (And my fiance does have a big family.)

So now we're considering a larger wedding (perhaps about 100 invited), for next summer after I take my quals.  All we want is to have family and friends celebrate with us -- and we'd like to make it a good time for them, with plenty of food and drink.  The social component of a wedding is really big for us -- we've been dating for nearly five years, committed and with a desire to marry for awhile.  So our relationship now, engaged, isn't fundamentally different to how it was a few months ago.  But there is joy in having it recognized and celebrated by our friends - hence the larger event.  I randomly found a beautiful outdoor venue (arboretum) that is owned by the university at which I'm a grad student at.  So maybe there is a way to get a discount - either way, it's a bit stressful to see the cost of the venue, with its list of venders (caterers must be chosen off the list).  I know it is so easy to get stuck paying with time and money for things that don't matter to us (I don't care about linens, centerpieces, etc.  We'd love a brownie cake or ice cream cake, aren't attached to any sort of momentous cake-cutting event, as an example). 

I'd love to hear more perspectives.  I keep hearing crap about things I 'have' to do or buy. (That others have brought up in previous threads, also).

What are your thoughts on weddings (and the Wedding Industrial Complex)?  What did you do for your wedding (if you're married)?  What crazy behavior have you seen others showcase b/c of weddings?  Tips for how to stay focused on the things that matter most (the marriage and sharing your happiness with those close to you)?  Advice on how to negotiate (esp to cut services we're not interested in favor of others, like replacing cake another appetizer)?  How did you get a dress without paying a ridiculous sum?

zenplayer

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Going away for a wedding is the best. Down south it's even better (check for legal first if you are going to an Island). The rest is easy to you come back do a small dinner to celebrate with friends and never invite people you don't know. If your wife want's to play princess that's another story (don't get brainwashed by the Hollywood wedding fantasy). The important thing is to have a good partner and to be in tune for that part of your life and after. Yes financial planning should go in your prenup even if it's not sexy, it's very good for during the marriage and after (think about it 50% end up in divorce). I think it's better to have a small wedding that you enjoy and travel with the rest of the money (like every year for the next 10 years).

MissStache

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Was a wedding coordinator for a historic site in a past life and saw so much excess and stupid choices that it made me HAAAATE weddings- so this is a breath of fresh air!

The best weddings I've ever been to have been at state parks.  They usually have nominal use fees and sometimes have lovely pavillions that are available to rent.  They can even be beautiful!  Or, if you have a family friend or relative with a big back yard, see if they will let you hold it here (but do spring on renting a porta potty or two if you are going to have so many guests!).

For music get an ipod, or ask some friends who are musically talented to play a few songs for the first dance or walking down the aisle if that is important to you.  Is there anything better or more romantic than an acoustic guitar?

Food and booze are the biggest expense.  Save on booze by having kegs and/or buy some cases of wine from your local wine/liquor store- you can find good wine for less than $10/bottle, especially if you buy in bulk.  Food can be tough.  Do you have any grill masters in your circle?  You can rent a big grill (or borrow one) and have a hot dog/hamburger bar.  Easy and fun!  Sometimes local casual restaurants (mmmm...bbq....) have good catering menus for decent prices.  It will still be expensive, but not the $50-$70/plate you get at a lot of venues.

For dessert you can do brownies, cupcakes, donuts, ice cream bar- lots of great choices if you don't care about The ($400) Cake.  Have a friend who is a good baker?  Ask them to do your desserts instead of giving a wedding gift.  Someone can bake a hell of a lot of cupcakes for $100...

I'd say this- think of it as throwing a big party and you're in a beautiful dress.  Somehow, if people stop thinking "wedding, wedding, wedding..." all those silly things become less important. 

If you really want to use a professional venue, try doing a Friday or Sunday wedding or doing it midday instead of evening or doing it in the off season (winter).  You can usually get better deals then because there is less demand.  Everyone wants to get married on a Saturday evening in May, so places hike their rates up then. 

Congratulations on your engagement!  Have fun planning your awesome-yet-cheap wedding!


MissStache

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Oh, and I'll add this.  I can't tell you how many brides and grooms ending up with a wedding they didn't want (and a bill they REALLY didn't want) because of all the little things they "had" to do.  Grandma insists on a champagne toast, all five nieces (and their gowns, and flowers...) have to be in the wedding party because feelings will get hurt, brother-in-law's roommate has to be a DJ, blah blah blah.  It adds up so fast.  Learn to chuckle and say "oh heavens, that isn't important to US at all..." as you wave off your busybody friends/family.  Everyone has an opinion about weddings and for some reason think it is their place to tell you what you MUST do. 

Don't let anyone make you feel bad about your choices!

swick

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First, Congratulations!

I thought I would chime in since we are in pretty much the same boat, and it has been a roller coaster!

The best advice I can offer is decide on what is important to you FIRST and then find a venue that matches your priorities and desires. The arboretum sounds awesome, but it sounds like you would be making a whole bunch of compromises or spending a lot of money to make it work - also would you need to rent tents in case it rains?

Our priorities were close to our home town, lots of room for any of our family and friends who wanted to come, a morning ceremony, and brunch buffet.

Actually we ended up building our whole day around the idea that we want everyone there who wants to come and support us. That was number one and made the rest fall into place.

We rented a community hall for the whole day that has a small garden backing onto a sandy lake-side beach for $300.00. There are a couple of big rooms and a couple of smaller rooms. We will be able to spend the day eating and visiting and playing board games. Some of our family are really into Geo-caching so we will make a  special Wedding themed cache so they can site-see around the area. We are going to be having an afternoon BBQ at the hall as well, for those who want to stay.

Fortunately I come from a very creative DIY family so instead of wedding gifts my family all want to get involved. Everyone has their own unique talents. My aunt is making a corset top for my gown, my mom is making the skirt. DH's mom is making grooms and groomsmen shirt, cousin is doing hair and make-up, other cousin is bringing the decor, another aunt is doing photography. This works out awesome for us because we have lived together for a while and are particular about what we like/use so really don't want people to feel obligated to get us "Stuff" and it makes it so much more personal.

We have definitely run into the problem of what everyone else thinks we should be doing and it has added a lot of stress. Especially when it came to gifts. Our original idea was to have a "Loaves of Love" table at our buffet and ask everyone to bring a loaf of bread or their favorite preserve to share. This idea DID NOT go over well with future MIL. Neither did our idea of making contributions to the SPCA we got our rescue pup from - I have been very upfront with our friends and my family saying we want them their and if they would like to contribute their unique skills to help make our day awesome, that would be the best ever.

We are just accepting the fact that spending money shows love in DH's family and just trying to minimize the "Stuff" by saying we have a small car and have to drive anything we get back home with us a 16 hour drive - and leaving our pup behind so we can fit in another blender is not going to happen:)

We got together and identified what was the most important to us, and are sticking to our guns on those things and are "going with the flow" on everything else.

As another one of my aunts said: "This is your day. when everything is done, all that you will have are the memories. Make sure they are what you want"

mlipps

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My mantra for wedding planning for 9 months was "It's only a day". We did lots of untraditional things, but did the traditional ones when they had meaning to us as a couple. Honestly, I'm just not the type to give a crap about "What you're supposed to do" and I'd imagine many here are the same. Our wedding was 35 people and cost around $9500 I believe. It was a lot, but I really wouldn't change anything.

I'd start by figuring out what's important to you. For us, it was the food & the venue. For others, it's having everyone they love there, sounds like this is you. For some, it's spending as little as possible to add to the stache. Assuming you're not in the middle of a debt emergency, I'm of the mind that any of these are acceptable. To me, the crux of Mustachianism is not necessarily spending as little as possible in every imaginable scenario. It's maximizing the utility of every dollar possible in every scenario.

Then, figure out how much you can afford to spend. Be realistic with yourself. Don't do stupid things, like leave yourself with no emergency savings. But, I think it's ok to cut back on stockpiling for a short period of time to pay for your wedding, which is pretty much what we did. See what you can get with that amount of money by being creative. I can tell you that our original budget was $4000. I had NO intention of spending almost $10k on one day, but it seems to have happened....track everything meticulously. Make a budget & stick to it (failed on that one personally). Our biggest wrinkle was planning long distance (9 hours) so lots of good, creative solutions like state parks & catering things yourself just weren't feasible for us. You can do it! Just have the strength to say no & stick to your guns on the things that matter to you & you can totally make it happen.

bogart

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We had our wedding at our church, and our reception outdoors at a family member's house, catered by a local BBQ joint (yes, really).  The reception ended up being MUCH more expensive than I had anticipated because we realized somewhat last-minute that we needed to rent tents for protection from rain/sun.  But, so it goes.  The BBQ option was very affordable and had the advantage that we didn't worry about adding folks in -- like you, we wanted to be inclusive.  I got my dress (actually a white suit) at a consignment shop and had it altered; total cost was under $100.  We got stunningly beautiful flowers from the local farmer's market, very affordable. 

The only downside that I really hadn't anticipated was that you get to assemble all the people you care about, but you don't really have much time to spend with them.  But, so it goes.  Good luck finding plans that work for you!

maryofdoom

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First: congratulations on your impending nuptials!

You've gotten a ton of good advice here already, so I don't have too much to add.

Cheap things I did for my own wedding included
  • having my dress custom-made at a local seamstress, which cost less than $200
  • hiring a grad student to do the photography and only having professional photography during the ceremony, not during both the ceremony and reception
  • designing the invitations myself and purchasing the materials separately so that I could use the work printers to print them
Do what is important and meaningful to you and your sweetie, not what other people say you have to have.

And as far as gifts go, we didn't really register anywhere, and we ended up with a lot of cash. Which was much appreciated. But we also got a lovely homemade quilt from my aunt and a sushi clock from one of my friends, which are awesome and also very much appreciated.

Whatever gift-related route you go with, be gracious and write thank-you notes.

Spork

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What did you do for your wedding (if you're married)? 

We eloped to Vegas.  Wedding/honeymoon were combined into a single trip.  Number of guests invited: 0.  (It wasn't a secret... but it also wasn't a big event.)  Dress cost: I don't know, but it was a nice dress she already owned.  I wore a suit I already owned.  We went to one of the big hotels and picked a package that gave us some number of photos and a wedding for a few hundred dollars.

We've been married 18 years now.  It worked for me.

Rural

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I'll second the state park recommendation, especially since you're liking the arboretum. Ours was free, at an overlook at sunset. We asked for donations to our favorite charity in lieu of gifts for those who felt they had to give.

We had a cake, but the reception (in a picnic pavilion at the state park) was otherwise some finger food punch (nonalcoholic, since there was no alcohol allowed in the state parks) and a watermelon.

My dress was thrifted; we rented a tux for him since the dress was very simple but formal. No attendants, so no drama there.

It was a beautiful day.

MoneyLifeandMore

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We're doing out wedding, engagement ring, wedding rings and everything else for $5,000 plus about $300-500 of help from our parents as their contribution. It will be a small 20-25 person wedding and it is less than 2 weeks away and we've been able to stick to the budget. The key is to pick what is most important to you and then work down the list in order of importance. If you set a budget, you'll run out of money at some point and have to decide if you want to give up or downgrade something higher on the list for something lower on the list. It is all about priorities, but it can be done!

Maybe you could get married in front of a small group then throw an awesome party somewhere else. I've found many people mark up prices just because it is called a wedding instead of a party.

olivia

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The best way to do what you want is to pay for it yourself.  That way people can offer all the helpful advice they want, but if they're not paying for it, they don't get a say!  And if they really want something that you're not totally opposed to (in my case, my MIL wanted a full on rehearsal dinner with all out of town guests) they can pay for it themselves.

I would recommend not using a typical venue in order to save a TON of money.  Most venues, as you discovered with your college's pavilion, require certain caterers, and caterers typically have a lot of rules and minimums and such.  I used a museum's ballroom that was about $1400 including tables, chairs, trash removal, etc., and was able to use my own caterer.  (A delicious local restaurant.)  Also, the restaurant let us buy the booze ourselves, so we got a ton of beer and wine at Costco.  We skipped a full bar and just had a "signature" cocktail, which was all different types of margaritas.  The restaurant made the mixers and we bought the tequila. 

Our food was delicious but was still quite expensive, about $55/person including a cocktail hour.  I think a more casual reception with BBQ would have been just as fun and saved a ton of money.  I don't regret spending the money on our wedding because we focused on what was important to us (friend and family, good food and a good photographer) but I think the day would have been just as special if we had spent less on food and photography, which were our 2 biggest expenses.

AlexK

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Eloped to Yosemite with my friend as the minister and his GF as the photographer. Photos turned out amazing. We had a reception at the HOA community center 2 weeks later, $75 venue cost. Food was pot luck, we supplied drinks. Music was CDs burned in advance played through my stereo system. Mother in law decorated the venue for us. We told guests to please not bring gifts (we're late 30's, we don't need more stuff!).

The most expensive part was the cottage rental in Yosemite Valley ($1100 for 3 days).
« Last Edit: July 08, 2013, 06:22:42 PM by AlexK »

fiveoclockshadow

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First, congratulations!

Second - who is paying?  If it is you I want to immediately point out something.  With 100 guests you might as well have zero.  You will not get to talk to anyone, even those at your table.  You will not get to eat, even your own wedding cake.  Everyone will want their moment with you, they will feel obligated to do so but they don't realize it is actually an imposition.  The event will go by quickly, be exhausting, be of little lasting value or memory.  It's just a big party and one you actually don't get to enjoy.  Half the time you will be posing for pictures.  If you insist on this then you need to chose two people, perhaps maid of honor and best man (but only if they have the right personality), who are task masters and polite but insistent.  Coordinate with them ahead of time and give them stop watches.  Anytime any guest interacts with you there job is to insist you must be someplace else once the exchange has gone on more than about thirty seconds.  That is the only way to even say "hello" to 100+ guests.  Know what you are getting into.  Big weddings seem like fun but they rarely are for the bride and groom and only are for the guests if you pony up for an open bar and they like getting drunk.

So I'm going to suggest what others have - go small, very small.  Elope.  I know folks that did some nice surprise weddings - just invited the parents to a dinner and had an officiant show up.  Then they had a big, inexpensive and fun reception some many days later.

If someone else is paying decide if you are OK with that.  In our case the mother of the bride insisted and was paying.  We just went along for the ride and made sure things weren't insane or an imposition on others (no freaking "location weddings").  She flushed 20K down the toilet, I suppose it was nice and hope she enjoyed it but really it was just a hassle.

Anywho, it sounds like your first inclination was small.  I would suggest keep thinking of ways to do that and only surrender to big if there is some extremely compelling reason to flush $$$ down the drain on a day that will be so hectic you won't enjoy it.

Rebecca Stapler

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We had many of the same priorities for our wedding, and didn't take on a lick of debt to do it. Granted, my parents chipped in for the things that they wanted but weren't in our budget. Here are some of the things that helped us keep costs down:

* We decided to focus energy and money (if necessary) on the 2 most important things to us: Entertainment & Photography. As "extras" popped up, we thought about whether it would contribute to guests having a good time and if it wouldn't, we didn't buy into it.
* I got recommendations for a DJ from my local Nest board, and scored an awesome deal
* The photographer's price included her time and the digital rights to the photos so we could make our own albums (albums and print prices can be very high).
* I made our invitations and a friend baked our cake -- which both cut costs but also the finished products were totally unique. Our invitations had pressed fall leaves and our cake was a flavor no local baker would bake!
* We married at my church, so it was free
* Reception was at a historic hall owned by the town, rental fee was $150.
* Caterer was recommended by the town but also reasonably priced.
* We provided the alcohol, caterer served it.
* I wore my sister's wedding dress. It is a beautiful dress. It wasn't completely my style, but I didn't have the $$ to get the "perfect" dress, and it seemed a little silly to spend all that $$ on just me. I used some matching fabric to make a lace jacket to make the dress more my style.
* I wore white pumps that were comfortable and I would wear again (and have!)
* We drove my car to/from the wedding.
* The wedding was local to my parents, so we stayed with them. Although, the hotel where we directly guests gave us a free night the night of the wedding :)  If your wedding is local to you, you can stay at home.
* I made the centerpieces with vases I bought in bulk and, because it was fall, filled with gourds, cranberries, and hot peppers (they look awesome!); Guests took them home and used them to make meals or decorate their tables. Very practical!
* We did invite my entire Big Fat Greek Family, and without cutting those costs, we wouldn't have been able to afford it. No one ever said anything was missing from the wedding, or at least they've never said it to me! They remember our vows and how much fun they had dancing. (We rented the hall for an extra hour so we could dance longer -- THAT was an "extra" that improved our guests' enjoyment!)

Another fun idea to keep costs down would be to have a cake and punch reception after a 1:30pm ceremony (you know, a reception at a non-meal-time).

If you haven't already, check out http://apracticalwedding.com/. It was my daily blog read for a while. It helped to keep everything in perspective. 

frompa

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Congratulations! It's funny that I find this discussion going on, as we have just been through this.  I think the most important thing is that you follow your own inclinations.  Some people really want the big hooplah wedding, no matter the cost.  If that's what you want, make it a priority and do it.  Some people want a tiny ceremony, with a minimum of fuss.  That's what we did a few months ago; it was enchanting and sweet, surprisingly so.  We didn't tell anyone, except my sister and bro-in-law, who came along as our witnesses.  After a few months of getting used to the idea ourselves that we were married, we told our family and friends that we had done the deed.  Then this past weekend, we had a huge blowout party in our backyard for all of them  -- it was a blast, and totally our style.  We cooked a mountain of ribs, barbecued a whole brisket and grilled for everybody, and served a keg of our homebrew, among other drinks.  People brought side dishes, and everybody had a blast.  We told everyone "NO GIFTS!" and we meant it.  We already have a functioning household and didn't need more.  Most people followed our instruction; a few couldn't help themselves, but what can you do? 
We didn't do things this way because we are frugal, though we are and now that I consider the expenses you and others are considering in your marriages, I see that our approach was really cheap!!  Please understand that these expenses are choices and optional. 
I'm glad we did things this way, because getting married was such a huge emotional event, doing it privately allowed us to share it in a deep way.  I don't think I could have fully lived and appreciated it if I'd also had to deal with everyone else at the same time.  But then, neither I nor my partner are comfortable being the center of attention, and doing things this way worked for us.  Again, think carefully and assess what your own truest inclinations are, then go that way.  Best of luck!!

fiveoclockshadow

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Just wanted to chime in with one more thought after more consideration and rereading my post and others.  I thought maybe my post sounded like you shouldn't include a large group of people in your celebration.  What I meant was don't include them in your wedding, but do have a celebration with them.

"Big Wedding" is a problem - don't do it.  "Big Party" is a blast, sounds like you'd really enjoy one.

You've already started to discover the issues with the "Big Wedding":

- Everyone tells you what you MUST do for a wedding and gets offended by your choices, no one gives a crap what you decide about a party and they just show up and have fun.
- You have a "venue" for a wedding, with extremely high margin vendors and policies.  Parties you rent a room, a patio or have it in your or a family/friend's back yard.
- There is a whole manipulative industry surrounding weddings solely focused on maximum profit with no concern for the couple's well being or even their enjoyment.  Ethical ranking of businesses: credit card companies, pay-day loan outfits, the mob, wedding vendors and venues.  And trust me, your school will rape you over for that pretty arboretum - weddings on campus grounds are a huge profit center for many colleges.

You will even find places where if you have a party in the very same location the fees are very low and there are no vendor requirements.  Use the words "reception" or "wedding" and now you are screwed.  There are even cases of places getting into contract fights or kicking an entire party out when a newly married couple arrives to a "party" which they didn't disclose to the venue as a "wedding reception".

But a big party is just a wonderful thing!  So I strongly recommend decoupling the two events for the maximum enjoyment of all involved.

Also, on that note, we thought it insane to do a "honeymoon" immediately after the wedding.  We were exhausted and couldn't even begin to think about then traveling some place.  Instead we did our honeymoon almost 9 months later and it was something we greatly enjoyed and could look forward to rather than just being another check-box that got lost in the wedding insanity.

Heather

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The great thing about the people who visit this site, is that most of them take pleasure from breaking free of the restrictions of convention, when such restrictions are silly. 
Our wedding was outdoors at a local conservation area which had a lovely chapel area often used for weddings. We hired an officiant to do the formalities. 
For the reception, we did hire a caterer and were expecting good things from them, but the food was boring.  I bet we could have asked if any of the guests would like their wedding present to be a little chef work.   But when it was all said and done, there were more interesting things going on than the food.
We held the reception at my sister's farm, and we rented a big party tent.
Photographs were taken by a friend who loved taking photos, and who enjoyed the opportunity to rent a really top end camera for the day.  Music was provided by many friends.  We set up a stage on the porch, and anyone who wanted to play a tune, or tell a story was invited up.   It was really fun.
Oh yes, wedding attire: I went to the top floor of our local mall with my great unconventional friend, and had her advise me.  Since there was nobody shopping who knew or cared what 'normal' was, we both were very pleased with the result.  An  off-white & black/sort of frilly nifty textured skirt, an off-white lacy top, and a silky white scarf thing to wrap around.  I got a black suit jacket to wear over the lacy top for the cool evening reception, and I still wear it to work sometimes. Oh, and comfortable black flat shoes because we  needed to ride a dog scooter away from the altar together.   Perhaps  somebody who knew what people were supposed to wear for weddings would be appalled, but luckily we didn't have any of those around.
My advice, for what it's worth: Put your energy into building a lot of your own character into your wedding, and don't waste time or money worrying about the  "supposed to's".




TrulyStashin

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http://2000dollarwedding.com/

Absolutely wonderful site that helps you plan a wedding backwards -- start with the end result and then work backward, step by step so that your choices are aligned with your end goal.

Best wishes!

daymare

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Thanks, everyone, a lot of truly great responses!  It's nice to hear thoughts and advice -- expected and unexpected.  It's always great to reconsider my assumptions, and you all are great at calling out the many other possibilities for a wedding.  Thanks for sharing your stories about beautiful and small weddings -- just the two of you, or a small group of friends and family in someone's backyard.  The idea of doing a party separately from the ceremony -- and avoiding the jacked up 'wedding' prices, is an interesting one. 

For us, the social aspect of having a wedding will be very important.  I think our two options are to have a very small courthouse wedding with just immediate family, or to do a wedding with 80-90 guests.  The number of friends I have (and the inter-connectedness of the community), and the size of my fiance's family (immediate, only aunts/uncles/grandparents), precludes a more moderate sized wedding of 20-50.  I personally want my friends there to witness the symbolism of us getting married (so a short, sweet, extremely personal non-religious ceremony).  I would personally not pay to travel to someone's party that didn't include a ceremony, so a party without a ceremony is a no-go for us.  I'll have to think about why I have such strong feelings. (Didn't quite realize I felt this way.)

I'd be curious to see how you all feel about the time/money trade-off when it comes to wedding planning.  In the coming year, I'll be dealing with the first year of my grad program & quals, and my fiance will be finding a job in my city and moving here.  Subsequently, we're leaning towards a wedding in the city we'll both be living in.  The unfortunate part is that literally nobody invited lives in this city.  There will be plenty of cheaper ways for guests to get there (carpool, trains, buses), but the net cost of having literally everyone needing to travel, just for our convenience, it pretty jarring.  On the other hand, planning a wedding long distance will suck, we'll have a harder time being creative or planning cheaper.  I'm not really looking for an answer as to what I should do (my mind is pretty much made up -- a wedding invite is not a summons, I will have no ill-feelings towards friends who choose not to attend, will do a lot to share cheaper travel options with guests, etc), but am curious to hear thoughts of others who aren't living in their hometowns. 

How did you all make decisions about time/money tradeoffs?  Also, the notion that a non-small wedding will be super hectic and we won't be able to talk to anyone or remember it is an interesting one.  I get the feeling that many people here are introverted and dislike being the center of the attention -- I'm an introvert, but love being surrounded by people I love, and public speaking and attention, so I'm not too worried about that.  For those who had medium/large weddings (80-100 guests), or who have attended them, is it true that you don't remember much and it's super overwhelming?  Or did you have a different experience?

mlipps

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My friends just got married a few weeks ago and had a wedding of around 100. They seemed busy, but we definitely got to talk to them & spend a good amount of time with them.

As for the hometown vs. long distance thing, I went in circles and circles and circles about that one myself. As I said above, I opted for long distance, but that was because my parents do not travel. Ever. They skipped my college graduation. I didn't want that battle, so I did it long distance. We could still drive there though, so we made all the decorations and took them home over the course of a year. I had lots of things shipped to my mom. The dress was a hard one, I bought it in my hometown & only had one fitting because it was impossible to get home more often than that. If we'd had normal bridesmaid dresses it would have been even more of a nightmare; ditto for matching tuxes for the groomsmen. There's just so much "traditional" stuff that really requires you to be present to get it done. We spent extra for the convenience on a lot of things, out of "necessity".

I wouldn't change a thing about our wedding, but you have to know what you're signing up for, so to speak. And for what it's worth, I'm with you on the idea that it feels a little weird to have a party after & not invite everyone to the ceremony itself. You're not alone!

olivia

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How did you all make decisions about time/money tradeoffs?  Also, the notion that a non-small wedding will be super hectic and we won't be able to talk to anyone or remember it is an interesting one.  I get the feeling that many people here are introverted and dislike being the center of the attention -- I'm an introvert, but love being surrounded by people I love, and public speaking and attention, so I'm not too worried about that.  For those who had medium/large weddings (80-100 guests), or who have attended them, is it true that you don't remember much and it's super overwhelming?  Or did you have a different experience?

Well I wasn't very mustachian at the time, but some things I just didn't care about, like decorations beyond flowers, favors, etc., which saved me time and energy.  The super designed Pinterest wedding just isn't my thing.  My venue was gorgeous so it didn't need much, luckily.  My cousin did the flowers for us for a wedding gift (she's a landscape designer) and my older sister made her killer chocolate chip cookies for favors and I just bought little bags from Michael's.  I also handwrote the place cards (bought the cards from Michael's also, Martha Stewart's line) because I have pretty handwriting.  I wanted letterpress invites so paid for those, but got them from the cheapest place I could find online. 

And I did a buffet which was WAY cheaper than a sit down dinner.  I did splurge on a great photographer and the food still wasn't cheap-including the rentals for plates, linens and such it ended up being around $8k total.  But people raved about the food and everyone loved it, so I think it was worth it.  I wanted to throw a great party and having good food is part of that, IMO.  No one left hungry, that's for sure!

I had about 110 adult guests and then 10 kids, and I felt like I got to spend time with them all and it didn't overwhelm me.  I am an introvert but don't mind being the center of attention when it's my family or friends.  Or even for public speaking, really.  I'm an introvert but I'm not shy, I just like my down time.   

And it's not like guests are all clamoring for your attention-if you have groups of fun friends and family there, they're going to have a killer time with each other too!  I made sure to seat people together who knew each other to maximize the fun for everyone.

Rebecca Stapler

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I personally want my friends there to witness the symbolism of us getting married (so a short, sweet, extremely personal non-religious ceremony).  I would personally not pay to travel to someone's party that didn't include a ceremony, so a party without a ceremony is a no-go for us.  I'll have to think about why I have such strong feelings. (Didn't quite realize I felt this way.)

It is great that you are thinking of your wedding as it relates to your goals. I completely understand, and share this perspective. I didn't want the wedding to get lost in the party!


I'd be curious to see how you all feel about the time/money trade-off when it comes to wedding planning.  . . . How did you all make decisions about time/money tradeoffs

There are a LOT of DIY wedding ideas floating out there. I only DIYed when it would save me money, and if I wouldn't enjoy DIYing it then I probably didn't do it -- or pay for it -- at all. We DIYed our centerpieces, our invites, and our table seating cards. I liked doing it. Well ... I didn't quite like writing out everyone's addresses, but it really didn't take long and there was no way I was going to pay for a calligrapher. (and printing and sticking labels would have cost more and taken me longer to figure out than just using a nice pen and putting elbow grease into it). If the DIY would cause me last-minute stress, I paid for someone else to do it. For example: there are a lot of people who suggest buying your own flowers and arranging your own bouquets. That sounded too stressful for me because you can't do any of it beforehand. It all had to be done the day before the wedding. I did want flowers, so I paid for it. That said, if you're not "wedded" (LOL) to flowers, you can do something else that's not perishable like a candle or something along that lines.

Also, the notion that a non-small wedding will be super hectic and we won't be able to talk to anyone or remember it is an interesting one.  I get the feeling that many people here are introverted and dislike being the center of the attention -- I'm an introvert, but love being surrounded by people I love, and public speaking and attention, so I'm not too worried about that.  For those who had medium/large weddings (80-100 guests), or who have attended them, is it true that you don't remember much and it's super overwhelming?  Or did you have a different experience?

Not true at all. I remember just about every moment of our wedding. I remember talking to everyone. I made a point to do it! My parents greeted people at the door to the reception, so they talked to everyone too. We also made a point to have time with just the two of us right after the ceremony. It was a short 5 minutes, but it was nice. Then we spent an hour during the cocktail hour taking photos with the bridal party and each other. At the reception, we sat at a table with 8 guests. We danced with friends and family. We went table to table and thanked everyone for sharing our day with us. It helped that we had a 5-hour-long reception ;)  Then we invited all of our friends to my parents' nearby house for a post-reception hang out. It didn't last too long though, because everyone was so tired from dancing. That's exactly the wedding we wanted.

lifejoy

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I love this thread! My man wants a big fat Jewish wedding, and I'd love something small with 60 people tops.

It's going to be loads of fun balancing that out. :/

fiveoclockshadow

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How did you all make decisions about time/money tradeoffs

One thing we noticed, and many friends have as well, is that it will fill the time allotted to it.  This can be another unseen pitfall of the dreaded "Wedding Industry".  Everything needs to be booked ages in advanced, that perfect venue isn't available for quite some time, and so the timeline drags on and the longer it drags on the more time you spend on it.  For you, it sounds like you've got other life experiences anchoring the date - so just be cognizant that perhaps you should only "start early" on the things that need to be done early and leave a lot of it until later.  I know that sounds odd...

The best time/money trade-off is completely eliminating things of course.  After that, the more it is a "must do" the more skeptical you should be.  For us wedding dress was not a typical puff ball thing but a nice sleek number off E-bay for $60 with about $50 of alterations applied.  Looked great, took very little time.  Invitations were fairly simple, a guest was a printer and offered them as a gift but we still kept things sane.

Decide on the gift thing.  Registries are a pain in the neck for everyone involved, often tempt one into getting all sorts of junk you don't need and make less sense the older you are (you probably already have a functioning household if you are older).  We already had two sets of silverware, why the heck would we need another?  China?  Really?  I've never thrown a party requiring such nor have I even attended such a thing.  This will waste space in your cabinet and be stuff you have to pack carefully everytime you move.  The catch here is registries encourage you to spend your own time to force other people to spend more time as well all to likely acquire things of low utility.

So - there is the "no gifts" option - always a good one.  Or for us, we did a Honeymoon registry.  We split up into chucks all the expenses associated with our honeymoon (Galapagos) into nice wedding gift sized chunks.  We got something of actual utility to us and through descriptions of the trip on the registry site and follow up thank yous afterwards everyone got to participate a bit in our "once-in-a-lifetime" kind of trip. (And we actually invited friends and family to join - in the end there were eight of us on the "Honeymoon" and we were more than half the boat).

Quote
For those who had medium/large weddings (80-100 guests), or who have attended them, is it true that you don't remember much and it's super overwhelming?  Or did you have a different experience?

I think this comes down to planning and thinking ahead (something you are clearly doing).  A lot of "standard" wedding stuff separates you from the guests and turns you into a little puppet show for everyone (a long ceremony, three thousand permutations of family photos at yet another "great photo location" separate from ceremony and reception, speeches, dances, wedding cake shenanigans). 

These things, especially for an introvert, are just senseless and trivial interactions with an audience and they take time away from actually talking with your guests.  Keep these to a minimum.  Our ceremony was at the same place as the reception (a nice garden) and took a bit over five minutes.  We attended a friends wedding and they had a lot of nieces that needed things to do in the ceremony, but again everything at the same venue (an aquarium) and theirs might have pushed fifteen minutes tops.

We don't dance and we don't like watching people dance either and DJ's typically just make it hard to talk to people.  Plus if you don't make it clear to a DJ ahead of time they will slip into the standard wedding schlep of stupid gimmicky things that again shut down conversions and real human interaction into another checklist of senseless "traditions".  So we had a classical guitarist, just one, and it was extremely pleasant.

The one thing we failed at was guest management.  There will be people that are genuinely excited for you and want to share the moment.  Unfortunately this often means certain guests dominate the interaction.  Hence my earlier recommendation to have designated people who provide excuses for you to move on so you can remain polite while not spending half your wedding hearing about a distant relative's cats.

Another interesting option is to break free from the confines of and problems of tables and seating.  Friends did this, their venue invited exploration (the aforementioned aquarium) and they actually went with a buffet and mostly standing tables to encourage people moving about and seeing more of each other and the couple.  It worked very nicely.  Also, buffet cheaper than sit down usually.

So while I was very down on big weddings - it can be done.  And since you are thinking about it ahead of time and forewarned I expect you'll be able to put something together that everyone enjoys.  That of course has a lot to do with you and your friends and family, so stay true to your intuitions on what you want and ignore the standard wedding advice.

And don't worry *too* much about the price.  You can have a wedding, a largish one, in a nice venue by without doing face punch worthy things like a $10K dress.

Oh - and I bad mouthed "location" weddings earlier - it sounds like for you travel might already be an issue for most of your guests in which case this is less of an issue as long as "location" is someplace reasonable to get to (not half way around the world).

I think you are ahead of the game here - you are considering the big picture stuff early in your planning.  I'll wager you'll end up with something great in the end.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2013, 11:53:20 AM by fiveoclockshadow »

Mrs WW

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Some bullet points from my own experience:

You do NOT have to invite anyone else in to the planning stages but you and your significant other. People are very unlikely to have opinions about your choises while they experience them, but given them beforehand they may be very opinionated. If people really want to help out, give them specific tasks and tell them in a polite way that their help is most welcome, their input is not - or give them totally free rains (if they can be trusted and/or are paying for it) and you have one less thing to care about. Might sound harsh, but for us it worked out really well. We wanted this day to be about us, and for the people attending to be surpriced and relaxed so we did not tell them any details really except for where and when everything was taking place.

Wear something nice and comfortable, whatever colour or shape YOU want it to be and feel pretty/special in. This obviously goes for both sides of the party.

Skip the favours (yes really, such a waste) but do tale the time to tahnk everyone for coming at the party, and do write nice thank you cards.

Do your own make up (if applicable) otherwise you might end up not looking like yourself which would be a shame :)

Flowers are not rocket science. If you want them, just buy what you like and bunch them together. They will look lovely.

Skip the whole attendants business. People should be focused on YOU two, not alot of other people crowding your space! Just have someone on the first row stand up to grab the boquet (if you decide to include one) and just hold the rings yourselves. Tada!

I have so much more but don't want to completely take over this thread:)

mlipps

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I love the irony of a whole thread of us giving advice on how to have a wedding when the problem is too many people telling OP how to have a wedding...Solicited vs. unsolicited, but still.

Mrs WW

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I love the irony of a whole thread of us giving advice on how to have a wedding when the problem is too many people telling OP how to have a wedding...Solicited vs. unsolicited, but still.

I know! Felt that maybe I should follow my own advise to the OP better myself, no meddling, yet here I am giving all this advice...

nawhite

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My wife used offbeatbride.com a lot when planning for our wedding.

My counter was theplunge.com. Mostly just entertiaining but the best bit of advice for planning numbers: Rather than saying we want 80-100 people and then coming up with your huge list to fill that out, instead come up with who would be invited to a 20 person wedding (10 guests for each of you) and no more. Getting your 10 people really nailed down makes it really obvious what your priorities are and you can add a few here and there to your list to get the people you really want to come.

Its much easier to go from a 20 person list to an 80 person list than to go from an 100 person list to an 80 person list.

SwordGuy

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"My, what a lovely suggestion!   But we've already made our plans.  Our plans are to..."

Don't do anything on YOUR and YOUR SPOUSE'S wedding day that the two of you do not want to do.  Period.

Be respectful of your friends and family's time and budget, so don't expect others to do anything other than show up.

You can have a heck of a great wedding on a few hundred dollars.  We did ours on $50 (total budget for EVERYTHING), but that was over 30 years ago, so I'll allow a bit for inflation.  Why spend thousands on catered food when you can ask your friends to bring food and dring pot-luck style?   We just told folks that if they wanted something to eat or drink at the reception it would be wise to bring it.  We had plenty of food.  I don't like hanging around with drunks so I'm certainly not going to pay $$$$ for that dubious "privilege".

People had a great time at our wedding because all they had to do was show up, plop down a pot-luck dish, and have a good time.  We had a great time because all we had to do was hug our friends and stand in the ceremony for a few minutes.  No stress, no fuss.   We were too poor to spend more than $50 - which was a HUGE sum to us at the time.   But I've never been to a wedding I've enjoyed more.  We had people begging us to stay for days because they were having too much fun to leave, so I'm guessing it wasn't just me...

Do have a friend take photos for you.   We were too poor to have a camera or get the photos developed even if we had one.  The preacher refused to take a dime, went home and got his camera and had someone take photos for us.  Then he had them developed and delivered them to us.    He was a total stranger and a fine example of a true Christian.   




MrsPete

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Lots of the advice here seems to be about not having a wedding because it's expensive.  While it may not be the most sensible way to spend, I think lots of women are like me:  I wanted a wedding!  If I hadn't had a wedding, I would've been disappointed.  It's something I'd wanted since I was a child. 

I think the real point is to pick and choose the things that really matter to you . . . And don't be afraid to say no to the things that don't matter to you. 

Daleth

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Congratulations! Here's how we saved:

- Smaller guest list (about 40 including the wedding party). Talk to some caterers to get an idea of the food and drink cost per guest. Do the math and compare this to your budget.
- No DJ. I made an iPod music mix, one to play during dinner and another for dancing. I copied the mixes onto my and my husband's iPod so that we would have backup if one failed. The caterer brought the speakers and cables to make it work.
- Beer/wine only (enough for each adult guest to have two or max three drinks), plus enough champagne for the adult guests to toast once. No hard liquor. The caterer let us buy the alcohol ourselves instead of having them buy it and tack on an upcharge, and then they brought it and served it.
- No centerpieces. Instead we rented cool tablecloths (neat metallic colors rather than the standard white). The tables looked awesome AND the guests could see each other across the table, haha.
- No flowers. We got married outdoors in a lovely place; nature provided the flowers/greenery.
- Brownies instead of cake. We got married in an expensive area and cake priced out at, I kid you not, $7.50/guest! Brownies were like $2.50/guest.
- Got married on a Sunday evening, which resulted in the photographer giving us a discount ("I'll come for 4 hours instead of 8 and charge half price," not really a discount except that he didn't normally offer 4-hour options; he did in our case because doing our wedding didn't prevent him from doing someone else's, since hardly anyone gets married on a Sunday evening).
- $650 dress (on sale from $900). That's not cheap for a dress, but it's on the cheap side for a wedding dress. It wasn't designer label, which is pretty key--you will pay through the nose for designer, and for what? There are plenty of gorgeous dresses that don't have some fancy name attached to them. Also, my mother-in-law did the tailoring to make it fit me perfectly (she's an excellent seamstress) and she also made my veil out of fabric we chose at Joanne Fabrics. It was completely GORGEOUS.
- Just bought cool shoes, not "wedding" shoes. Much cheaper and I've worn them many times since.
- We spent around $2500 on all three rings (engagement, my wedding band, his wedding band). Again, not cheap, but many people spend a whole lot more; this was like one week's salary for us at the time, not that so-called rule (which is complete BS) that you should "spend 2 months' salary on the engagement ring." My engagement ring is one of a kind (we designed it) and came from GreenKarat.com, a very environmentally conscious business in Texas. The gold is recycled and the sapphire (no diamond) is lab-created because I'm not a fan of mining (environmentally or socially--it's a terrible job for the people who do it) and because the only sapphires you can get these days are a very dark blue that I personally don't like; the natural sapphires in the color I like (vivid cobalt) were all mined and used up 50-100 years ago. GreenKarat sent me a bunch of color chips and said, "Pick which shade of blue you want"! So it's exactly how I want and ALL the rings cost one week's salary.

Our priorities were (1) lovely photos and (2) everyone having a great time. That meant that our basic requirements were a pretty location, pretty clothes for us to wear, good food and good music. The food was AMAZING, since it was harvest season in northern California (where we were). But once you get quotes from a few caterers and wedding cake makers (who also charge per guest), you will be able to compare that to your budget and see whether you really want 100 guests. There is a LOT of room between "a small wedding" and "100 guests." In my book that's a big wedding. As a thought experiment, if there were absolutely no way for you to invite more than 50 people, which 50 people would you invite?
« Last Edit: July 10, 2013, 11:40:02 AM by Daleth »

A440

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Our wedding ended up being larger than I had hoped, but at 55 people was still reasonable.  I think there are always trade offs.  We got married on a Tuesday, partly because of my schedule, but it also probably helped us get the place we wanted on shorter notice. 

I decided the food and the photography meant the most to me, so most of the money went to those.  But you may be able to find friends that can do those, or just do a dessert reception or a food cart or whatever.  You decide what's important to you.  Definitely look into alternative wedding venues.  I think anywhere that requires certain caterers is going to be spendy. 

We had flower cookies on a stick, which family members just end showed up with, and those made a good decoration/favor.  If it was just me, I probably wouldn't have done anything.  If you are somewhere with a nice view, you don't need a bunch of decorations.

Wedding dress from eBay.  There are usually a lot with minimal wear.  If you don't care about white/ivory, there are a gazillion. 

It seems like a lot of stress, but at the end of the day, if you managed to fill out the papers right, you are legally married.  And if no one is seriously injured in the process, so much the better.

PGH

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How did you all make decisions about time/money tradeoffs?  Also, the notion that a non-small wedding will be super hectic and we won't be able to talk to anyone or remember it is an interesting one.  I get the feeling that many people here are introverted and dislike being the center of the attention -- I'm an introvert, but love being surrounded by people I love, and public speaking and attention, so I'm not too worried about that.  For those who had medium/large weddings (80-100 guests), or who have attended them, is it true that you don't remember much and it's super overwhelming?  Or did you have a different experience?

I was one of those who eloped (in New Zealand) and had a reception later (in California, where we were living at the time). My husband had already gone through one big wedding and neither of us were attached to the idea of having friends or family see the actual ceremony. We both love a great party with lots of people, but there was something special about our wedding day being just the two of us (and a few international folks who happened to be staying at our B & B). It was so relaxed that we even got to take a four-hour hike the morning of the ceremony.

The reception was a cocktail/heavy appetizer affair for about 50 people. I loved that our wedding photos had already been taken (except for a few with family and friends) and that I really had nothing to do that day but be with the people I cared about. No sit-down dinner, either, as those are more expensive and it takes away from visiting time. We purposefully kept it small because we wanted to be able to talk to everyone - but particularly those people who had to travel across the country to see us. Two of my friends dealt with the caterer, music, etc. so that we didn't even have to think about it.

I can tell you that most of my friends who had big weddings have few memories of actually talking to people - or they remember zooming from one person to the next or being bugged by their parents to make sure they talked to Great Aunt Matilda and Second Cousin Jeff and so on and so forth. If you do have a larger wedding, enlist the help of a few friends to manage the details of the day and you'll have much more fun.

Congratulations!

brand new stash

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How did you all make decisions about time/money tradeoffs?  Also, the notion that a non-small wedding will be super hectic and we won't be able to talk to anyone or remember it is an interesting one.  I get the feeling that many people here are introverted and dislike being the center of the attention -- I'm an introvert, but love being surrounded by people I love, and public speaking and attention, so I'm not too worried about that.  For those who had medium/large weddings (80-100 guests), or who have attended them, is it true that you don't remember much and it's super overwhelming?  Or did you have a different experience?

We had 101 people at our wedding, and it was the best party of my life.  I loved it. I've been married for 7 years and my husband and I often talk about how much fun we had.

One thing that we did that dramatically increased our time at the wedding compared to several I have attended is significantly limit the number of posed pictures.  I've been at several weddings where the bride and groom spent an hour or more having pictures taken after the ceremony, while the majority of the guest were at the reception.  We took three posed pictures 1) the two of us, 2) the wedding party, 3) a group shot of our immediate families all together.

We didn't have centerpieces on the tables.  We didn't give out favors.  We had a DJ, but I wish we had just gone the ipod route that I've seen work well at other weddings.  We hired a photographer, but only to take the pictures and give us a CD of the photos and a photo release (don't buy the albums from a photographer).  The best photos were ones taken by our family and friends....tell everyone that you want them to send you whatever pictures they take.  We hired the caterer without telling them it was for a wedding...which I think got us a better deal.  We had a very simple cake made inexpensively by a new baker.