Tuesday, November 3, 2015

a pre-Pinterest wedding was probably a really good thing.

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Look. Back in MY day (ahem...2010), wedding planning was simpler than it is these days. There was no Netflix bingeing to distract me from a menu brainstorming session, no discussions necessary about the perfect punny-yet-memorable wedding picture hashtag to use, and - the biggie - no Pinterest goals to live up to.

On the one hand, you may recall that Pinterest and I are on good terms with each other. Great, even. Could've been my bridesmaid. But Pinterest was started just a few months before my wedding took place, so when I was planning, I had nothing to go on for inspiration other than random Google image searches. Looking back, that was...probably a good thing. I think I would've gone way overboard trying to DIY the crap out of everything.

As it was, our M.O. for wedding planning was to keep everything as simple and stress-free as possible. We got married at a barn on a Sunday; I wore a dress I bought online; and everyone ate pizza and ice cream. We found great ways to save money, but we managed to strike a happy balance between DIY'ing and outsourcing. 

Here's a breakdown of how we pulled off Cathy + J.J.:

#1. We hired a wedding planner.

This might seem backwards in terms of saving money, but trust me, hiring a wedding coordinator was hands-down the best decision we made (aside from choosing each other, duh). We worked with the amazing folks at A Moment In Time, and we picked their middle-of-the-road planning package. Back in 2010, they had three package "levels" (I think it's changed since then). At the high end, they'd take care of every last detail for you throughout the process, right down to serving you breakfast the day of the wedding. At the other end of the spectrum, you could have coordinators show up just for the day of your wedding to help the day run smoothly (set up, juggle vendors, clean up). With our in-between package, we worked with them from the beginning to hone our vision, choose the right vendors for our price points, and stay on a reasonable planning timeline...but everything else (food choices, decoration ideas, etc.) was pretty much up to us. It was the perfect mix between having someone to guide us while still maintaining agency over the final product.

I've recommended a wedding planner (and, specifically, my planners!) to everyone I know who's gotten engaged since I got married. They saved us tons of money by helping us create a budget, by steering us away from accidentally-expensive ideas (example: our original "Taste of Ann Arbor" menu plan), and by helping me maintain my sanity, thereby saving us untold amounts of cash on a Xanax prescription.

#2. We DIYed when it made sense...

It's true that this was pre-Pinterest, but we still had some DIY ideas that we executed, usually with the help of more-talented friends. We just kept the DIY portions of planning to a manageable minimum. For example:

:: Table markers: For our table number markers, we recycled some wood blocks painted with chalkboard paint and stamped around the edges that our friends had made for their wedding.

:: Kid entertainment: J.J. drew a coloring book for the kids who'd be attending, which we left on the tables with crayons. The book told the story of our relationship through J.J.'s cartoons (aww).

:: DIY linens: Instead of more-expensive colored table linens, we went with crisp white linens (included in the cost of renting our venue) and had J.J.'s mom make us table runners in our wedding colors. The great thing about having our own table runners is that J.J.'s mom was able to make them into a quilt for us after the wedding.

:: Moss letters: J.J.'s mom also added moss to papier-maché letters to hang as the decoration on the barn doors. We still have these letters (just the cardboard...the moss is long gone!).

:: Stationery: For stationery, here's a pro tip: Choose your maid of honor based on her graphic design skills. Kidding, but seriously, my maid of honor helped us out with stationery majorly. We ordered professional invitations, and I made the place cards (using card stock and a cheap circle cutter from Michaels), but Beth did pretty much everything else. She's a graphic designer and knows me inside and out, which meant she knew exactly what we'd want in the paper department. She made our save-the-dates:

...our wedding programs:

...and our I Spy game cards, which we put on tables with disposable cameras (since this was also pretty much pre-camera-phones):

:: Lawn games: We wanted to offer something unique and fun to do during the cocktail hour and reception, so we bought inexpensive ladder golf and bocce ball sets, and our friends made us a beanbag game (which we still have).

#3. ...but we generally aimed for simplicity.

:: Online wedding dress shopping: I bought my wedding dress from JCrew.com, which was soooo much more enjoyable for me than trying on dress after dress on a glittery dais in front of cooing (or booing) onlookers (an introvert's freaking nightmare). Thankfully, the dress was made well and fit like a dream right out of the box, and the only alterations I got were some bra cups added, since the material around the bust was see-through silk. (It's also an introvert's nightmare to have her nipples available for viewing at her own wedding. FYI.)

:: A small wedding party: J.J. and I had a best man and a maid of honor, which kept things simple in a bunch of ways. Our siblings did readings at the ceremony, and to me, that was still a super meaningful way for them to be involved.

:: Rehearsal brunch vs. dinner: We did a simple restaurant brunch instead of a rehearsal dinner. This was partially by necessity, since our venue was booked the day before our wedding for another event, so it was do it in the morning or nothing, if we wanted to rehearse on-site. Plus, we had a small wedding party and very few out-of-town guests, so a big dinner wasn't really called for.

:: A Sunday event - but at the ideal venue: By the time I called to reserve our first-choice venue (more than a year in advance), it was already booked for every single Friday and Saturday from May through October. So, it was either go with a Sunday wedding, or choose another venue, which would be both less desirable to us and more expensive. But!! I readily admit that this is one of the few things I regret about our wedding - having it on a Sunday. It meant most guests left between 10 and 11:00 p.m., and it was less convenient for them to squeeze our event into their busy summer schedules. It may have been worth it, though, for the simplicity of the venue: It was naturally beautiful, which kept necessary decorations to a minimum and provided us with lots of pretty photo ops, and it had air conditioning, easy parking, and an inclement-weather indoor option (which was, thankfully, not necessary...it was 74 and overcast, AKA perfect wedding weather).

:: Candles vs. flowers: Instead of designing dozens of flower arrangements, we went with candles and river rocks. Our wedding coordinators were also our floral designers, which helped a ton, and the results were modern, clean, and attractive (and less expensive).

:: Simple ceremony: We hired our friend's band (a string trio) to play during our ceremony, and they even managed to arrange the song "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid for us (it has special meaning to us, obviously...it was the song J.J. was humming during one of our first dates, as he rowed me down the river in a little boat). And we followed a generic ceremony outline, but added our own vows (and the sibling readings). It was about twenty minutes long, and my only regret is that we didn't get it on video!

:: Donations vs. favors: Instead of spending precious time assembling favors that half the guests would leave on the tables, we made a donation in our guests' names rather than offer wedding favors. The money we would have spent on candies, candles, or keychains instead went to the "Cool Cap" research program at Mott Children's Hospital, where my nephew was treated when he was born with a brain injury.

:: Easy decorations:  The only decorations we added to the rustic barn setting were white twinkle lights and paper lanterns in blue, green, and white.

:: Simple & delicious main course: It's our favorite food, and pretty much everyone loves it, so we went with pizza as our main course (followed by wedding cake and a sundae bar). This also eliminated the step of asking for and organizing meal choice cards, and it was no problem to add vegetarian and vegan options.

:: Guest book: You can buy high-quality, expensive wedding guest books. And I did, in fact, about a month before the big day. A few days later, though, I had to buy a copy of Dr. Suess's "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" since my siblings were going to do readings from the book during the ceremony. As I was flipping through it, I realized it'd make a perfect, unique guest book. I returned the expensive guest book and had the guests make their mark in a book I now read with my daughter.

#4. We planned for memories.

The wedding's only one day, right? We wanted to make sure we remembered details from our day, so we planned to save as many mementos as possible and display them throughout our home. We've managed to incorporate quite a few:

:: Pictures: Obviously. While we tried to scrimp and save in as many areas as possible, we did not want to skimp on a photographer. We ended up getting beyond lucky when our incredibly generous friends gifted us a quality photography package from Michelle & Chris Gerard Photography. We have so many awesome photos from the day, and we put together a photo album with our faves, along with displaying a few more.

:: Anniversary pictures: In addition to the wedding pics themselves, we started a tradition of taking a picture every year in front of a little red barn that was on our wedding venue property. One of these days, I'll even get around to printing and hanging those anniversary shots...

:: Fabric remnants: Like I mentioned earlier, my mother-in-law made us a beautiful quilt using the fabric from our table runners, and I also framed some remnants for our kitchen's frame wall.

:: Random tchotchkes: I saved one of our wedding water bottles (we added custom labels), and we have some of the candles from the reception tables. Our guest book stands on one of our bookshelves, and we still use the paper lanterns every now and again.

So that was our wedding! Overall, I'd say we achieved our wedding goals, which were (1) get married, and (2) plan the wedding without killing each other. If we had to do it all over again, I still say the only things I'd change would be getting a video of the ceremony and holding the event on a Friday or Saturday instead of Sunday. Otherwise? Thanks to our wedding coordinators, our supportive friends and family, and our literal inability to get sucked down the rabbit hole of inflated Pinterest dreams, we got hitched without a hitch.

And are pretty much living happily ever after.

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