Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wedding on a Budget (Part 1)

Well, so far, we are sticking to our budget. And our budget is, as I have discovered in my planning...small. How small? Less than $9,000 small. When we started planning in January, we would have said it was crazy to think of $9,000 as a small number. I thought we could plan our wedding with half that. (Even now, I can hear the wedding gods laughing hysterically at that idea!)
So we debated even having a wedding. Considered eloping. Yep. Considered a destination wedding. Yep. Considered a potluck. Vegas. Yep. Considered all the other options.
Then family chimed in. (*Deep breath*)
My mother forbade eloping. (Of course, that only made it more appealing...)
My sister-in-law couldn't wait to help plan.
And Sean's dad starting telling people to mark their calendars.
And it continued...My family lives in Michigan. They never come here. I have friends who have never been here. Sean has a huge family that is scattered across the US and several different countries. Really, the only excuse for them to get together is when one of us gets married, or one of us dies. Our fathers might never meet if we didn't have a wedding.
Did we really want to miss the opportunity to bring our families together to celebrate?
Did we?
Well, no.
Family is one of the most important things to both of us.
So how many family? The first guest list was over 250, including family and only close friends. With a mom as one of 8 and dad as one of 10 siblings, Sean is related to more people than I think I even know. The first cut (those out of town and out of touch enough to be sure to not come) got us down to about 200. We think between 130-150 will be there.
So we made a budget, with family contributions. About $9000.
And away we go....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Socially Conscious Venue Choices!

Choosing your site can be a socially conscious decision!

I thought this article was worth sharing:

The location a couple chooses for their nuptials is one of their most important wedding planning decisions, reflecting both their values and personalities. A socially conscious wedding location is one where the site itself is dedicated to public good, and proceeds from weddings go toward maintaining the site. For example, the fee to host a wedding at a nature preserve, botanical garden, museum, or historical society helps to pay for the maintenance of the location and often the educational programs that take place there.

The great news is that choosing a socially conscious wedding location can actually help couples save money. These locations generally cost a lot less than most traditional wedding venues, may require less decorating, and, because they are not the first places couples usually consider for a wedding, are usually easier to book than traditional wedding venues.

Artistic Expressions: Museums and Galleries
Couples can create a dramatic backdrop for their event and give their guests something to think about when they choose an artistic venue, such as an art museum or gallery. The Art Museum Network ( has listings of museums around the country, as well as information about their collections and exhibits for couples who would like to coordinate their wedding theme with museum exhibits.

History in the Making: Historical Sites and Homes
Hosting at wedding at an historical location helps to both educate guests and, in many cases, to support educational outreach programs for elementary and high school students. The Directory of Historic House Museums lists hundreds of historic houses in every state, some of which have special events planners on staff. Couples can click on the website of the location for information about event planning, or contact the sites directly to speak with an event planner. (

Stop to Smell the Roses: Parks and Botanical Gardens
Parks and botanical gardens offer beautiful settings for weddings with little need for more decoration. The National Park Service website,, hosts a directory of local, state, and national parks from which couples can select by natural formation (glaciers, volcanoes, and wildflowers to name a few choices!), activities available, and park type. By typing "weddings" into the search field of the NPS website, couples can also find a range of pre-organized wedding services in different parks. The American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta ( also provides a national listing of botanical gardens and arboreta searchable by state.

A Community Affair: Community Centers and Not-for-profit Buildings
Community centers and nonprofit organizations often open their doors to couples looking for a unique wedding venue. For same sex couples, The National Directory of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Community Centers website,, provides a listing of community centers in almost every state.

Where the Wild Things Are: Aquariums and Wildlife Preserves
Couples can take their guests for a walk on the wild side by hosting their wedding and reception at an aquarium or wildlife preserve. The rental fees for ceremony and reception spaces go toward maintaining the animals' natural habitat, care, and, in some cases, preservation of endangered species. The Directory of World Aquariums ( lists aquariums in the U.S. and abroad.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Nice Day for A Green Wedding...

Excerpt from It's A Nice Day for A Green Wedding....

When it comes to preserving Planet Earth, everyone wants to do the right thing. That’s why so many of us recycle, buy organic foods, and don’t dump anything toxic down the nearby storm drain. But when it comes to planning the Big Day, we worry that being environmentally correct will mean sacrificing our cherished wedding vision.

Luckily, you no longer have to wrestle with your conscience to have a celebration that is both beautiful and “green”—or at least, green-ish. Okay, so you might not be Judy Granola, determined to eradicate every aspect of her celebration tainted with anything unhealthy or consumeristic. But you’re probably not Betty Bridezilla either, who wouldn’t think of having a recycling bin if it clashes with her powder blue chair covers. The reality is that most of us have daily habits that range from environmentally correct to careless, usually depending on convenience. However, no matter where you are on the green spectrum, it’s easy to make a few thoughtful adjustments that go a long way towards raising your green standard.

What is Green, Anyway?

“Green” is a concept of promoting balance between humanity and Nature. Greenies support products that are eco-friendly, produced in a socially responsible manner, and enrich local or indigenous communities. They endorse sustainable farming, with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce, which minimizes depletion of natural resources.

Does What I Do Really Matter?

Raising awareness, and doing it with grace, is one of the most meaningful contributions you and your groom can make. Consider that the U.S. wedding industry is a $70 billion a year business. Your event budget is part of one powerful lobby! Every time you question a product or service’s environmental and social impact, you send a strong message to Corporate America. When you buy locally, you are countering corporate dominance.

You also have the ability to inspire. Your wedding is an outward expression of you and your groom’s inner values. Not only is your green celebration a promise to care for each other throughout your lives, it’s also a public commitment to nurturing the planet. As Michele Kozin, author of Organic Weddings puts it: “From backyard to black-tie, a wedding is the perfect opportunity to show family and friends the stylish side of environmental and social responsibility.”

...Continue reading at It's A Nice Day for A Green Wedding....

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Wedding Shoppe Review

The trip to the Wedding Shoppe was a spur-of-the-moment adventure with my maid of honor, Jessie. She and I had a Saturday free, and we decided to go try on some dresses. She and I had been to the Wedding Shoppe once before to help another find a dress, and we had a good experience then. I also liked the setting: a neat old historic house on Grand Ave.
So, off we set.

First recommendation: Make an appointment, especially if you go on a Saturday!!

You can go without an appointment, but you get on a "waitlist", and then when a spot opens up, they will call you. When we got on the waitlist, we were told it might be up to three hours before there was space for us. Unfortunately, all the dresses are upstairs with the fitting rooms, so you can't even look at the dresses while you wait. You can, however, look at invitations and other wedding accessories on the first floor- they bill themselves as a "one-stop wedding shop".
Since we had nothing better to do, we put our name on the list and went shopping for other things. There's no shortage of places to shop or eat on Grand Ave, so we passed the time quickly.

Once called upstairs, we removed our shoes and were introduced to our clerk. I brought some pictures to give her ideas of styles I liked- that helped her bring me specific dresses. You can look through all of their dresses yourself, and they do have a very good selection. They also had a fairly big price range, and they ask you for a dress budget right up front, so they won't bring you something to fall in love with that you can't afford.
The shoppe was pretty busy, so I was glad to have Jessie as my helper in getting in and out of dresses- it made the process much faster. The clerk spent most of her time returning my rejects and bringing me more to try on. She seemed to be helping several of us.
So, if you want to be "waited on hand-and-foot", don't go on a Saturday!

When it gets down to decision time, they ask you to limit yourself to three choices for them to write down. They don't allow photos, but the prices and some designers are available right on the tags.

It wasn't a high-pressure selling situation, I was able to try on as many dresses as I wanted, and I didn't feel rushed at all. They followed up with me once, but didn't bombard me with phone calls later. So, overall, I would say it was a pretty good experience.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Amy Jane's Bridal Review

I went by myself to Amy Jane's Bridal on Selby. After all, it's in my neighborhood and my dog and I have walked by the windows, oh, about 1000 times or so. I always admire whatever gorgeous creation they have in the window- even if it's decidedly not my style.
I knew I probably wouldn't find my dress there (and even if I did I probably wouldn't be able to afford it), but I still wanted to go.
After all, I'm a bride now, so now I get to go in places that I only used to look at from the outside. (God help me with that attitude!)
So, my visit:
The gal who helped me was very nice- and very low pressure.
You get the sense of it being a little "higher-class" when you walk in and you have to take off your shoes. They'll offer you tea or something else to drink and then ask you to look around at the dresses and choose styles you like.
They don't have a huge selection- I was surprised at how few gowns they had available- but their selection is representative of a lot of different styles. And, all of their dresses are made after you order them- so you can custom-ize your dress with features you like, minus features you don't.
They had GREAT veils. They hand-make all their veils at the store, and I found them reasonably priced and very well made.
They also have some very cool wedding jewelry from local jewelry designers.
Those were the highlights for me!

Monday, February 12, 2007

David's Bridal: Pros and Cons

Ok, so you know I got my dress from David's Bridal. And ONLY my dress. Why? Well, because the other items in the whole "package deal" are pretty pricey, and you can get more for your money elsewhere.
So, here are some things you should know if you plan to go shopping there:

1) The sales clerks work on commission.
Depending on the clerk, this can mean a higher-pressure selling situation. I was talking with a gal who used to work for David's, and she noted that they were trained to "upsell," (selling you a similar but more expensive item) or add items. For instance, she always gave the potential customers undergarments, slips, and crenaline to try on dresses. These are things that you may or may not need with your dress, but as you are trying it on "in the moment," you think they are MUST-HAVE items. They also have a pretty big markup, so the profit margin for David's is pretty large- you can probably find the same things cheaper somewhere else.

But the clerks will ask you if you want these things and they will want to write it all up and get it paid for in full right away- be prepared to thank them kindly and say no, at least until later when you can assess what you really do and don't need.
I know a lot of wedding dress shops operate on commission, but I have experienced the
"hard sell" most keenly at David's.

2) You can buy the dress you try on "off the rack" but you can also order a brand new dress that has never been tried on for the exact same price. It seems like they are pretty up-front about this, but it's good to know, just in case.

3) They have sales in January and June. Most dresses are $50 off at that time.

4) They charge you for a garment bag to keep the dress in! This is ridiculous. But another example of how the actual dress is just a starting point to get you to buy, buy, buy. If you have a nice garment bag, take that instead.

5) Their tiaras and veils that are WAYYYYY overpriced. I found a much more beautiful veil in a higher quality material at one of the high-end wedding shops in the cities for half of what David's charged (and I still didn't pay that- I got mine on ebay for $12.).

Anyone else have David's experiences to share?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Engagement Story

Yes, in case you haven't heard, we're engaged.
Here's the story!

As a carpenter, Sean sometimes travels out-of-town for work. In November, he warned me he might get sent to a job over Christmas. Although his company would fly him home for the holiday, he would have to go back quickly and the work would likely extend into the New Year. This was to be our first Christmas together as a couple, and we planned to spend it with my family in Michigan. Living in Minnesota, I only get to see my family twice a year, and Sean hasn’t spent much time with them at all. I was excited for our holiday vacation and naturally disappointed about the work plans. But, as a carpenter, Sean is thankful to have winter work, and I tried to be supportive.

On the day he left for the job- the Thursday before Christmas- I dropped him off at the airport and started my 12-hour drive to Michigan. He was scheduled to fly in to Michigan on Saturday, stay for the holiday, and fly back to work the next day.

When I finally arrived at my mother’s, I got ready to go to “Dad’s Christmas.” My parents are divorced, so my dad plans a separate dinner for us to celebrate with him. Although I had told my dad that Sean wouldn’t be there until Saturday, he scheduled his Christmas dinner for Friday. My dad wanted to go “up north” to his cabin for Christmas as soon as possible. I was really irritated they couldn’t wait an extra day.

As I got ready, my mom said she was going along too. Dad had been by her house earlier in the day to pick up his mail, and he invited her to join us for dinner. “Well, that’s weird,” I thought. Although my parents get along, they don’t spend much time together. But, I thought my dad was being extra nice, since he knew I was mad Sean wouldn’t be there.

My mom and I arrived at the restaurant first- the Fenton Hotel, a very cool historic building that has been operating as a restaurant since the 1800’s. We sat down, while my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my dad and his girlfriend all arrived.

We were pouring over menus when I suddenly became aware of Sean standing next to me- I was so surprised to see him. I stood up to give him a hug and, before I could say anything, he got down on one knee, ring in hand. He said, “I’m here because I want to ask you a very important question- will you do me the honor of marrying me?”

I of course told him an enthusiastic “Yes!”, and then turned around to see my whole family smiling and tearing up, dad included. They all knew about the plan and had helped him hatch the surprise. The work trip never existed! When I dropped Sean off at the airport, he flew to Michigan and spent the day and evening with my dad and my brother getting this whole plot ready. We spent the week relaxing with family and friends in Michigan, and Sean drove back with me to Minnesota. And so here we are, back into life as usual.

The wedding details:
August 25, 2007 at 490 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN (

I'm not much for wedding planning, so we picked a place where they basically do everything for you. Mark your calendars! :)

Some wedding industry statistics

Arg. arg. Why do we do this to ourselves? Ladies? Gentlemen?


The average budget for a wedding is estimated to be $20,000.
So... about $40 BILLION is spent on weddings every year in the U.S.
There are a few people around who believe this number is as high as $70 BILLION a year.

A couple will spend an average of $3,800 for their honeymoon.

The Dress

My mom lives in Michigan, and I live in Minnesota. So, after Sean proposed at Christmas, I knew the only time we would have to go dress shopping together was during our Christmas trip there. I didn't have much notice, and I haven't lived in Grand Blanc for over ten years, so I had no idea where to go dress shopping. We opted for the easy: David's Bridal.
I'm not a huge fan of David's in concept. To me, it's sort of the Wal-Mart of the wedding industry, in terms of business ethics and monopoly. But I do see why brides shop there. They've got a lot of stuff, and it's easy.
We went dress shopping on the day after Christmas.
Convenient, since most people go shopping on the day after Christmas for anything BUT wedding dresses. We had a very nice sales clerk all to ourselves, and since they weren't busy with appointments, we got to stay as long as we wanted. (Apparently, David's kicks you out after 2 hours when the clerk goes on to her next appointment.)
It's a good thing for us that we did have as much time as we wanted, because my mom and sister-in-law wanted me to try on everything.
My mom liked the more fancy dresses, but they weren't my thing.
Teri did a great job of helping me narrow down things that looked good on me and were also my style.
And, surprisingly, I had fun.
I found one dress that I absolutely loved and everyone agreed was beautiful. I didn't purchase it right then (much to the clerk's dismay), but I kept thinking about it.
After all that, I tried on some more dresses here in the Twin Cities (a review of dress shops to come...)
In the end, I had fallen in love with one of the first dresses I tried on at David's. It was affordable, and it was on SALE ($350).
So, now it's mine.
THE DRESS (no peeking, Sean!)

The Anti-Bride Plans a Wedding

Those of you who know me know that I have been decidedly anti-bride pretty much my whole life. Now, by "anti-bride" I don't mean I am against getting married, or against weddings as a whole. I am just not into all the hoopla that a "having a wedding" has become.
It makes makes me a little ill that there is an entire "wedding industry." It makes me even more ill to know that we, as a nation, spend the equivalent of the gross national product of small countries on these events. AND it makes me even MORE ill that there are those people out there (you know who you are) that knit-pick every teeny-tiny detail of each wedding "extravaganza," comparing one to another and deciding which events were "fabulous, dahling" and which were just "blasse."
Weddings have become a status symbol.
But not ours.
Oh no.
After being an anti-bride for nearly 30 years, I am now getting married.
And I'll be damned if I am going to be that bride.
Here's my day-by-day story as I try to stay calm, sane, and most importantly real about the whole thing.