May 2011

How We Have Avoided Most Wedding Stress

by Melissa on May 31, 2011

We’re now nearly 8 months into our engagement and a little over five months from our wedding.  For the most part, things have been really smooth sailing.  Sure, there were some initial freakouts in the beginning once I realized that, no matter how much of a bargain hunter you think you are, a budget wedding in the DC area is very, very difficult.

All I seem to read about are brides stressing out, freaking out, and otherwise going crazy planning their wedding.   Things have been calm for us.  I should be stressed, and for good reason.  Afterall, our wedding venue, a National Park with a complicated application process, still has not confirmed our desired November wedding imagedate.  We’re supposed to find out “in May,” but today is the last day in May and we haven’t heard anything from the venue.  This means we can’t book anything.  No photographer, no hotel room blocks for our guests, no ceremony musician, nothing.  Nothing until we get the date confirmed.

And I’m calm.  My family is freaking out and is getting angry with the park, but I’m just taking everything in stride.  Our families continually ask us if we’ve heard confirmation from the park on our wedding date.  Hello!  We’re not going to keep it a secret!  As soon as we find out, we’ll let you know.  Yet, they continue to ask.  I say “No, We haven’t heard anything.”  When they start to speculate why we haven’t heard, I just change the subject.

So, how else have we avoided stress so far.

No Rushing and a Good Action Plan.   We found the National Park venue in January.  Although we haven’t been able to book anything, we’ve still been able to move forward with a lot of things, but just spread over a greater amount of time.  I attribute this to the action plan I developed back in January.  It has helped immensely and has kept me from getting overwhelmed, and when people ask, “Have you done XYZ?”  I can just say, “No, that’s on our schedule for July.”  End of story.

Limiting Involvement and Help from Others. Although this may sound a little harsh, we have severely curtailed others’ involvement in our wedding planning process.  This has been helpful in a few ways.  1) It’s always frustrating when people either offer to help, or you ask for their help, and then they end up flaking out.  Then you stress because they were supposed to do something, but didn’t.  2) On the opposite extreme, a lot of folks just like to completely take over and hijack your planning when you accept their help.  By doing everything ourselves, and spreading it out over a manageable timeframe, (see #1), we’ve been doing just fine.

Limiting Vendors. We are limiting the number of vendors we are using.  We have realized one thing.  Vendors continually like to push you in a direction with which they’re familiar.  And although I just realize they’re trying to be helpful, I find it frustrating.  For instance, when we showed our “day-of” planner (a neighbor who owns a successful concierge business) our save-the-date cards, she pointed out that they didn’t match our color scheme.  (Side note: our color scheme is super vague to begin with.  Fall colors with some sapphire blue).  Other vendors, like deejays, asked us about songs for bouquet tosses and garter tosses, which we do not want to have.  Freeing ourselves from these vendors help us keep our minds open so that we don’t fall into any sort of traditional wedding stuff that we don’t really want to do.  Other vendors have also (very kindly and with good intentions) suggested that we reconsider our choice not to have a bridal party (or at least have a Maid of Honor and Best Man) and to not select a more casual wedding dress, because we may “regret it later.”

Ettiquette Shchmetiquette. Handwriting addresses on the envelopes?  No online RSVP’ing?  No thanks.  Although I do my research on how things are supposed to be done etiquette-wise, I’m not stressing myself out over it if I can’t figure it out.  For instance, if people really end up judging me because I didn’t address their invitation by hand, then that’s probably someone I don’t want to associate with anyway.  I’m focusing on the important stuff.  Inviting our friends and family, making sure all their names and kids’ names are spelled correctly, and making sure there are fun things for them to do at the wedding!  Although there are a few things I’m adhering to.  For instance, my fiancé thinks it would make things less stuffy if we didn’t have assigned seating.  But, from everything I’ve read, and not even an etiquette issue, this actually helps people feel MORE comfortable, as opposed to less comfortable.

Negativity is self-perpetuating. Do you ever find that the more people talk negatively around you, the more likely you are to join in?  For example, at each job I’ve ever had during my career, people seem to constantly complain.  Bosses, the work, bureaucratic processes, whatever.  And I’ve never thought that anything was all that bad.  But hell, the way people complain, you would think that it’s the worst job ever.  It’s tempting to join in on their complaining just so you feel like part of the conversation, but then you do end up actually feeling negative about your situation!  So, when other folks I know who are married or engaged ask how “crazy” things are going, and if my family is “driving me crazy” and they start to tell all the hellish stories from their experience, I am extremely cautious about searching for things to complain about.  I just say, “no, things are going well so far,” and outline the things that have helped, like our action plan, our decision to limit vendors, our decision to not have a bridal party, not going DIY crazy, etc.

Having the wedding close to where we live, not near where our families live. Planning a wedding that will take place about 20 minutes from our house has made things very easy.  We don’t have to rely on others to take care of things for us.  We don’t have to make extra trips out of town, which would likely make things much more expensive and stressful.  I’m originally from Pittsburgh, a city that is much cheaper than Washington, DC.  At first, I thought it would be cheaper for me to buy a wedding dress in Pittsburgh instead of here in DC.  Well, the more I thought about it, I realized that I would have to make extra trips to Pittsburgh, a nearly five hour drive, several times more than I would typically visit my family there.  To shop for the dress, buy the dress, get fitted for the dress perhaps twice before the wedding.  It didn’t make much sense.  I certainly wouldn’t be saving any money after I took into account gas money or airfare to get myself to Pittsburgh, and it would certainly add aggravation and time to our wedding planning.

So there you have it.  Ways that I’ve managed to avoid wedding stress.  How did you do it?

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Best of the Web: Self Catering your Wedding

by Melissa on May 24, 2011

We’re planning on self-catering our wedding with the help of some family and friends.  However, information on self-catering a wedding is hard to come by!  Tips for self-catering your wedding are typically general and useless.  Um, really, thanks.  I didn’t know that I “should ensure that I don’t leave food out for too long.” or that I “should enlist the help of friends,” or that I need to figure out how to transport the food.  Like this

No.  Someone tell me how many salt and pepper shakers I should have.  Where can I rent industrial coffee pots?  How much coffee do I need to buy?  How many trash cans do I need?  Who will EMPTY the trash?  I don’t even know what I don’t know so I don’t know what questions I need answered (hmmm, that sounds like a Donald Rumsfeld quote).

So, I went on a big search for information on self-catering a wedding.  This is the best of what I’ve found.  I hope it helps other brides who want to self-cater their wedding.

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A lot of folks from my family’s side will be coming to Washington, DC  from out of town and staying in Canvas Bags Wedding Welcome Bagshotels, so I really like the idea of a welcome bag to be waiting for them at the hotel room when they arrive.  I think it’s a nice way to demonstrate our appreciation for traveling to celebrate our wedding day.

But, I’ve been trying to figure out what to include in it.  Here are some initial thoughts.

  • Road Map of Metropolitan DC Area – I can get these free from the local AAA office since I’m a member.  I realize road maps are a bit old-fashioned at this point, but it’s a nice touch!
  • Printed Driving Directions from the hotel to locations they might want to visit
  • Lots of brochures (DC, Northern Virginia, etc.) – These would be free from the local tourism offices.
  • Metro Map – including what stops to use for key landmarks and a list of metro fares
  • List of nearby restaurants and their price ranges
  • List of contact information in case they get lost on the way to the wedding.  I’m not sure who’s contact information I would provide though.
  • A reminder of the wedding day events and start time!
  • A highlights page, pointing out some things they may want to check out in the DC area, going beyond the basics of the National Mall, including pointing out lesser-known areas they may want to visit, such as Old Town Alexandria, Mt. Vernon, etc.
  • Some sort of welcome snack, TBD. Maybe a small baggie of variety snack-size candy bars, a small bag of chips, and an apple or orange.  I realize there are a lot of “local” type candies you can buy, but I don’t want to spend that much.  For instance, there are candies in the shape of like the White House and Washington Monument, but they’re close to $4.00 each!  Although I do feel a little bad saying that considering the fact that the guests have to spend money to get to the wedding.
  • One or two bottles of water
  • A quick thank you note telling our guests that we’re excited they could come and can’t wait to see them at the wedding.  Maybe this could just be a gift-tag type note attached to the welcome bag handle

All of the paper items could go in an inexpensive folder.  I think I would print things out on heavier cardstock paper so that it would look a little nicer

And then we would need just a plain canvas bag to put everything in.   Most of the items would be fee, but I’d have to figure out the average per-bag cost if we included some candy, fruit, and bottled water, plus the cost of folders and cardstock.

What do you think?  Anything I’m missing?

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Yesterday I talked about how I’m organizing all the STUFF I’m starting to acquire for the wedding.  Well, in typical SuperNoVAbride fashion, before actually buying anything, I developed a spreadsheet to help me compare costs.

Well, actually, it was a spreadsheet partially “borrowed” from my fiancé, which he developed when trying to compare costs of LED light reels from various online Chinese wholesalers (long story).

I heart spreadsheets t-shirt(A t-shirt my fiancé’s family gave me for Christmas a few years ago)

My issue was this:

  • I would go to one website, and they would be selling six vases for $30 and free shipping.
  • An Ebay seller would be selling 25 vases for $90 plus $5.50 for shipping
  • Someone on Craigslist was selling 10 vases for $40, and all I’d have to do is go pick it up.

At quick glance, I can’t tell which one is a good deal, and which one is the best deal, or if one of them is a total ripoff.

In another instance, I was looking for dried wheat stalks for centerpieces.  I looked on various websites, collected the price of wheat (in terms of ounces) and the shipping costs various websites charged.  This spreadsheet (thanks Fiancé!) has been invaluable helping me make sure that I’m not overpaying for items, and which items I should scoop up right away because they’re a great deal!

So, I’m sharing the template that I developed with you all.  It’s in my template library on Google Docs called Cost Comparison Spreadsheet (Weddings)  I hope you find it useful!

Screenshot of spreadsheet comparing wedding item costs

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Organizing Items Until the Wedding

by Melissa on May 16, 2011

I am an organizational freak.  I know a lot of brides like to say that.  But I always question how much they mean it.  Have I ever showed you the storage system  in our house?  No?

Well, this is our laundry room.  Yes, our laundry room.

Organizing Wedding Items 06 Organizing Wedding Items 08

Organizing Wedding Items 12

My fiancé and I organize things into these little bins so that we can always find things when we need them.  We have similar setups in other closets in our house too.

So, the thought of having little items in different parts of our house for the next six months is driving me crazy.  Over the last several weeks, we’ve purchased vases, digital cameras, votive candle holders, burlap, cakestands, and lots of other things.  And after I’ve unpacked each box, the items  have remained on our kitchen table. No good.  These things need to get packed away for the next several months.  But, before I do that, I want to photograph everything and measure everything, so I know exactly what I have, and I don’t need to physically see it.

So, I enlisted the help of my trusty DIY lightbox (modified slightly from the tutorial found here) to photograph the items.  Several months back, I created one of these out of PVC pipe from Home Depot, but I had never actually used it for anything.  Well, now I finally have a use!

Organizing Wedding Items 56 Organizing Wedding Items 58

I photographed all the items that I’ve purchased to-date and recorded their dimensions (only some are pictured below).  These are what the items look like photographed in the lightbox

Organizing Wedding Items 24Organizing Wedding Items 26Organizing Wedding Items 28

Organizing Wedding Items 18Organizing Wedding Items 50

 

Then, I went upstairs to my computer, and printed out what I call a “large bin” label (like the one on the dark purple bin in the far left of the first photo) on my trusty Brother QL-570

Organizing Wedding Items 62 Organizing Wedding Items 64

Then, I dug through our “Mailing and Shipping Supplies” bin to get some stuff to help protect the fragile items in the bin.  I just layered the packaging material throughout.  We save a lot of the packaging material that are in boxes we get, like from Amazon.com.  Once that box is full, we stop saving materials, and sadly, just throwing it away.  But after a few months, the supply goes down a little, so we save a few more supplies.  The boxes on the right are just a nested set of boxes we keep in case we have to ship anything.  Like the packaging supplies, we just keep a certain amount of boxes.  In this case, we have two nested sets of boxes.  But as we use them, we save more.

Organizing Wedding Items 68 Organizing Wedding Items 70

And, voila!  All of my vases and cakestands are packed away neatly and I can forget about them until November!

Organizing Wedding Items 72

Organizing Wedding Items 76

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Saturday Randomness

by Melissa on May 14, 2011

A few thoughts, none of which warrant an entire blog post, but just feel like sharing:

  • Two weeks ago, I went to the Filene’s Basement Running of the Brides in Washington, DC.  I went at 6pm.  There were still a ton of wedding dresses left on the racks.  A TON.  Glad I didn’t wake up with the crazies and hoard dresses.  Only a few caught my eye.  I tried on five.  I can, without a doubt, say that I do not like any sort of bridal-looking wedding dress.

Filene's Basement Running of the Brides 1 in DC


Photo 1

 

  • On the upside, a week before the Running of the Brides, I tried on some dresses from a designer that had caught my eye on the internet.  Her designs are only carried by one shop in the DC area.  I tried on several from the same designer, Saja.  The one I thought I would love, I still liked a lot, but I definitely liked a different one better.  The issue?  The one I liked better is $400 more than the other one.  Not sure if it’s worth it.  Now I just need my parents and sister to come visit for a day so I can take them to see the dresses. Which one do you like better?  (Images from www.sajawedding.com)

 

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  • I am working on the ultimate Wedding Playlist.  The most pressing problem is that it’s a bit heavy on fun, faster music, and a bit light on slower dance music.  I can’t help it!  I like fun, upbeat music!

 

  • I think we’re going to continue with our dance lessons.  We’re having a lot of fun, it gives us an excuse to get out of the house, since we always seem to be working on projects at home, and we’re both learning something together from scratch.  I am so proud of my fiance and how well he is learning how to foxtrot and waltz!  But neither of us like the Club Swing or Single Swing.  It’s just a very awkward feeling dance.

 

  • We still haven’t had our November 2011 wedding date confirmed yet by our venue.  The application period closed on May 1, so we should hear something any day now (it’s a National Park site, so the application process is kinda complicated).  If we don’t hear something by Monday, I’ll call.  I’m doing a good job of not obsessing about it, I’m just worried that the vendors we like will get booked before we hear back from the venue.

 

  • We had our engagement photos taken.  Well, they were actually taken in two parts.  We were supposed to meet our photographer at our picture location at 3pm last Friday.  The location closed at 5pm, so we would be able to get in our full two hours that the price included  (the photographer preferred to meet as late as possible to get the best light).  Well, the photographer was 30 minutes late.  Our session was rushed, she hadn’t scoped it out for the best picture locations (my fiance and I had been there before, but how are we supposed to know the best places for portraits?) and so we were running around like crazy.  So, I asked, and she agreed to do a second shoot at a different location just a few days later.  Even though she was only late by 30 minutes, the extra shoot went an hour.  I’m happy she was so accommodating, but, seriously, she was 30 minutes late!  We sat in the same traffic she did, and we were still there on time because we know how traffic is in this city and how long it takes to get places.  She assured us she wouldn’t be late for the wedding day.  She was super nice, but I just can’t seem to shrug the initial disappointment.  She’s a professional (read: expensive, and this is her full-time job, since photography is our top priority), so I’m hoping it was just a fluke.  I guess we’ll wait to see how the pictures turn out.

 

  • I’m a cheapskate, and hate how much it costs to get a haircut.  So, for years, I’ve been trimming my own hair and have never had a disaster.  Well, three days before our engagement photo session, I trimmed my bangs, just like I had done a hundred times before.  Well, I managed to cut off WAY too much. And rather than making it even, I decided to just leave it alone so that I wouldn’t end up with all short bangs (the shortest part was in the middle).  I have a fear of extremely short bangs after an unfortunate haircut in middle school that made me look like a little boy with a bowl cut.  So I figured, uneven was better than too short. For the next three days, I tugged on my bangs, massaged my scalp, and ingested many vitamins in an attempt to get my hair to grow back.  (not that I actually expected that to work).  Well, the day of the photos I think I managed to conceal it well and just kept rubbing down my bangs in between photos in an attempt to make them look longer.  This is an important lesson learned for my hair trim before the wedding!

 

  • We started our registry on Amazon.com.  The Gear for Your Kitchen book has been invaluable.  So many useful tips and tools that I would have never thought of.  Now that I’ve cleared some of the usual registry items, I’m trying to think of other things to register for.

 

  • We bought 10 digital cameras to put on tables at the wedding.  Yes.  Ten.  They were refurbished Kodak point-and-shoots for $49 each from an Ebay seller.  We figure we can sell them after the wedding.  Now we just need some SD cards for them, and we’re all set!  I think this is actually a very reasonable price.  Disposable cameras used to be in the $10 each range, but then of course getting all those photos developed was very expensive.  I think this will come out to be about the same price.

 

Happy Saturday!

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    Weekly Link Roundup May 13

    by Melissa on May 13, 2011

    I have to admit, I’m losing my mojo for weekly link roundups. More of the same, over and over again, all over the wedding blogosphere. Paper flower tutorials, rustic chic photo shoots, DIY invitation tutorials, bridesmaid dress stress, and blah and blah and blah.

    One of the things that I like to think is different about my blog is that I provide detailed wedding tips information that you typically don’t find elsewhere. I don’t post pictures of flowers and centerpieces, inspiration boards, photos of amazing weddings and certainly not photos of ridiculous wedding “photoshoots” which aren’t even from real weddings.

    In my earlier link roundups, I even included a “Shit I’m not Going to Worry About for My Wedding” section, just to draw attention to and poke a little fun at folks who may obsess a bit much over tiny, unimportant details. For better or worse, I scrapped that section. Too many folks declared their hatred or hurt, and so, I stopped. But there is so much shit. Too much ridiculous, ridiculous shit. And it is all starting to look the same. And it is stunting my creativity.

    A few months ago, I decided I wanted to have burlap table runners. But I see them EVERYWHERE. What can I do to have a truly creative wedding? If I have mason jars and burlap table runners, will I, decades from now, look back at my wedding photos and say, “wow, that wedding was SO 10’s!” I don’t know what to do. I’m at a complete and utter loss. And what’s weird is that, I don’t mind it much.

    I provide you, my readers, text. Information. An occasional photo may accompany my post. Everything I read about blogging says “Content is King.” I think that’s everywhere except the Wedding niche. Screw content. Just show us beautiful, awe-inspiring photos. We just want to see photos that will inspire our wedding design. We want to buy lots and lots of stuff. We don’t want to actually READ anything.

    Alas, I will keep on posting content. Text. Information. The things that I think are useful for every DIY budget bride to know. Because seriously, there will always be better places to get your wedding porn fix, so I’m not going to waste my time. This is the place to come when you need the nitty gritty details about planning your wedding that does not include “book your venue 9-12 months in advance” type stuff that you can get anywhere and everywhere.

    But, for now at least, I’m going to eliminate the “Links I’m Loving” part of my Weekly Roundup, and go more for the “Best of the Web” style posts, like this one from a few weeks ago. If a link does catch my eye, I’ll tweet it instead, so be sure to follow me on Twitter! I’ll keep the personal summary portion though, because it helps me track and stay on top of things I have to do for the wedding.

    Wedding Fitness Goal Progress

    I’m a loser in this area. And not the good kind of loser. Enough said.

    May Wedding Planning Goal Progress

    (as part of our Wedding Planning Timeline)

    • Begin to obtain decor items – In Progress – Have bought lots of vases and other things
    • Purchase wedding dress –In Progress – Well, I found a few that are promising, but have not purchased)
    • Identify items for registry – In Progress – Set up Amazon registry and added about 35 items to it. Still need to register at Crate and Barrel and potentially Bed Bath and Beyond.
    • Interview wedding coordinators – DONE. We are hiring a neighbor that is an event planner and owns a Concierge business
    • Finalize website – Just about done. Once we have our registry stuff complete, I just need to add the links
    • Research calligraphers – Deferred. We’re not doing this anymore. We’re breaking all the rules and *gasp* printing labels!
    • Follow up with venue if date has not been confirmed – Not Done – I’ll follow up next week if I haven’t heard anything.

    Finances and Administrative

    Check out our Wedding Expense Tracking Spreadsheet for a list of all our expenses to-date.

    • Wedding Related Expenses This Week: $385.55 (Includes engagement photoshoot, hair style for the shoot, and Fiance’s professional shave for the shoot).
    • Total Wedding Related Expenses (all time): $1648.94
    • Total budgeted Difference (we have a $15,000 budget): $13,351.06
    • Estimated Hours Spent on Wedding Planning (not including blogging) This Week: 3 hours (mostly researching songs to play at wedding and identifying items for our registry)

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    This is Part 1 of a multi-part series about having a budget wedding in the DC area.  There will be additional posts over the next few weeks.

    Part 1: An Overview

    Reading Part 1 probably left you feeling a little discouraged.  But, think of it as a simple reality check.  Better that you realize it up front than several months down the road, like we did.  The more reasonable your expectations, the less likely you are to become stressed and disgusted with the prices of weddings in the DC area.

    In terms of wedding logistics, your most important decision will be the wedding venue (I say wedding logistics, because the venue is not the most important part of your wedding.  That part is saying your vows and having a good time!).  So, here’s my recommended approach for finding a budget venue in the DC area.

    1) Eliminate right off the bat any venue that has a pre-approved list of caterers or only allow you to use in-house catering.  These places, no matter what (see #2), will be too expensive.  Here’s a little wedding industry secret I learned.  Many venues actually charge caterers a fee for being on their exclusive, pre-approved catering list.  Well, caterers want to recoup that fee.  So what do they do?  They pass it on to you.  So, by choosing a venue with a list of preferred caterers, you are already upping your overall wedding expenses, by probably close to 5%.  Does 5% not sound like a a lot of money?  On a $20,000 wedding, that’s an additional 1000 bucks.

    2) Just because a venue is relatively inexpensive does not mean that your wedding will be inexpensive. Our original venue that we had put a hold on was Glen Echo Park, a fairly reasonably priced venue for this area.  For a Friday, off-peak season wedding, we were going to pay $1800 to rent out the Bumper Car Pavilion for an entire day.  Compared to other places in the DC area, that seemed like a downright bargain!  Well, unfortunately, Glen Echo Park fell victim to topic #1, the dreaded pre-approved caterers list.  Even with such an inexpensive venue fee, our venue/catering budget was going to reach $10,000 very quickly, especially since the venue did not provide any equipment like tables and chairs.

    3) Farther outside the city does not mean cheaper. Perhaps you already realize that places right in DC will be too far outside your budget.  Just because places have some foreign sounding names that you only hear on evening traffic reports, it does not mean cheaper.  Leesburg, Manassas, Occoquan, Gaithersburg.  Venues in those locations are not cheaper.  (However, and this is a topic for a different post, if you look for other vendors, like photographers and Deejays, based out of Fredericksburg or Richmond, those can be a bit cheaper.)  A rule of thumb: if the venue is on Wedding Wire or The Knot, realize that it will be out of your budget, regardless of its proximity (or lack thereof) to DC.

    4) Only consider venues that allow you to bring in outside alcohol and soda. Can you believe that we saw soda packages from some caterers (SODA!) for as high as $8 per person!?  For fucking Coke and Sprite?  Sometimes, alcohol packages were as high as $30 per person!  And, there are some venues that have pre-approved caterers that DO allow outside alcohol (you typically just have to hire a bartender (not sure of cost of that) and pay for a state liquor license – about $25).  Of course, venues do not advertise this, so make sure you ask and are pushy when asking, especially if they give a vague answer at first.

    5) If your venue does not provide tables and chairs, be advised that your caterer may throw a fit if you tell them you want to use an outside rental company. We had one caterer (the same caterer mentioned in #2) tell us outright that they would not cater a wedding unless they provided the tables and chairs.  They said that it becomes too difficult logistically, and that it has caused too much trouble in the past.  There might be some truth to that, but don’t book a caterer for a venue assuming that you can get cheaper rentals elsewhere.

    6)  When searching for a venue, go beyond Wedding Wire and The Knot. See my tips for searching for a wedding venue.

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    Minimoon Ideas

    by Melissa on May 9, 2011

    I pointed out a few months back that my fiance and I aren’t going to go on a honeymoon immediately after the wedding (oh, just another thing that the Royal Couple seems to have copied off us!).  But, we are contemplating the idea of a minimoon, a quick trip fairly soon after the wedding.  Driving distance from the Washington, DC area  is preferable, but not overly necessary.  So, what are some ideas for a minimoon?

    • Thanksgiving in NYC. This is definitely on my bucket list.  I’d like to spend Thanksgiving in NYC to go to the Macy’s Day Parade, then do Black Friday shopping in Manhattan, maybe see a Rockette’s show, and other Christmas-y things!  A few issues with this though.  1) If I ever went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, I would want to take my nephew, because I know that parade is really exciting for kids.  But, bringing my 5-year-old nephew on a minimoon?  Yeah, probably not.
    • Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA or some other nice southern US locale. I’ve heard that both of these places are very nice and quaint, and there would probably be some remnants of warm weather left there in November.  There’s enough to see to get a long weekend out of it, but not so much that we would feel rushed by spending only a weekend there.
    • Key West, FL. Definitely not driving distance from DC, but it would be a fairly quick flight.  There’s lot to do in Key West, it’s relaxing and low key, but the problem is that it’s pretty expensive.  Flying direct into Key West is pricey (and, you have to go on those little turbo prop planes that I hate), and hotels are expensive too, with no major chains for me to cash in any hotel points.  A few ideas, we could fly into Miami and drive to Key West, stopping at some of the other Keys along the way.  Airfare into Miami would also be way cheaper than directly into Key West.
    • Weekend in Shenandoah Valley. I’m a little ashamed to say that, although it is so close by, I have never been to Shenandoah National Park.  Skyline Drive in the fall is supposed to be gorgeous (but crowded), with all the changing leaves and cool crisp air.  There’s also a lot of wineries in that area.  But, the weekend of our wedding is peak foliage time, so if we go to Shenandoah a week or two after the wedding, all the beautiful foliage will probably be gone.  Not that there isn’t other stuff to do there, but I’d really love to see all the fall colors there.
    • Chicago. You know, I’ve never been to Chicago.  And I’ve been LOTS of places.  This one also wouldn’t be too far of a drive from DC, but November in Chicago will be damn cold already, and I don’t think I’d enjoy such a cold locale.  But, I would like to go just to see it and spend a few days there.

    That’s all I’ve got for now.  Any other ideas for a minimoon?

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    Update July 22, 2011. This program is no longer valid

    If you recall from my Credit Card Hacks for Weddings post, I discussed all the different ways to maximize points and cashback rewards when paying all those wedding-related expenses.  Well, one thing weighed on my mind.  A lot of vendors, including pricey photographers and videographers, don’t accept credit cards.  Or, in some cases, like we’ve found with DJs, the DJ will take a credit card, but actually offers a discount if you pay by cash or check.

    My thought was to take one of those 0% balance transfer offer checks that I get in the mail all the time, make the check out to myself, and then use that as a cash fund for vendors that don’t accept credit cards.  I could pay the vendors in cash, but still manage to rack up points and cash back rewards.  But, most of those checks charged a one-time, 3% fee.  And while I would probably make that back in terms of points/miles/cash back earned, I was afraid I wouldn’t.

    Well, then while on the Flyer Talk and FatWallet forums, I learned that you can purchase $1 Presidential coins online directly from the Mint.  There are no shipping charges, no fees, and you can pay by credit card to purchase them (and no, it doesn’t count as a cash advance).

    You can order $250 worth of coins every 10 days.  So, there may be another way to get cash from your credit cards to pay your vendors (and still earn points!) afterall!  Of course, you could deposit the dollar coins right away, but I should point out that the Mint says right on their website that that is not the intended use of the program.  They are trying to get dollar coins in circulation, not just have folks deposit them at the bank.

    Just to let everyone know, The British Airways Chase card if having a bonus.  Apply for a new card by May 6.  Earn 50,000 miles after your first purchase, and then an additional 50,000 miles if you spend $2500 on the card the first three months.  $2500 in three months when planning a wedding?  Easy peasy.  That comes to 100,000 British Airways miles for not a whole lot of work.  100,000 miles will get you two roundtrip Transatlantic tickets!

    I signed up for this last week, so I can’t wait to get my new card and to get my miles!

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