Our Wedding Seating Chart

by Melissa on April 19, 2012

I have a bit of a confession to make that I fear might make other brides hate me.

Our seating chart was not difficult. At all.

Remember back when I was pissed off when I realized that our original plan to have open seating was dashed? And how angry I was that I’d have to waste so much time in the weeks leading up to the wedding to figure out a seating chart?

Well, creating that seating chart took a total of about 30 minutes. 45 minutes, tops. How? I’m not sure. But here are some things I think that helped.

1) We didn’t even bother starting the seating chart until a week before the wedding. Our RSVP-by date was exactly three weeks before the wedding, but by that date, we had only received 47% of our RSVPs. By waiting until the last possible second to start the seating chart, I didn’t have to speculate who still might come and who still might need seats. We waited until we had received all the RSVPs we thought we’d receive and then started it.

2) We had rectangular tables instead of round. This, I think, was the biggest reason our seating chart was so easy. When we couldn’t figure out how best to “split up” folks that knew each other, we just put two rectangular tables together instead of having space between them. That way, everyone was still sitting at the same table (even if it was actually two tables). In fact, we ended up having not having an “single” rectangular tables.


3) We made a floorplan of our venue, making it easy to visualize where our guests would be sitting. This was also extremely valuable as it allowed us to quickly rearrange tables (electronically) as necessary when we wanted to combine tables or separate them. This worked beautifully in conjunction with a spreadsheet that we created. Each column was a table number, and each cell under the table number had an individual’s name. When we wanted to move someone to a different table, we just dragged that cell to a different table number column.


What about other couples? Was your seating chart easier than you expected?


The Story of Our Engagement

by Melissa on March 19, 2012

Like our wedding venue hunt, I realize that I never actually shared with you all the story of mine and Ken’s engagement! So, here you go!

For more than six months in 2010, Ken and I had been planning a trip to Europe departing in September 2010. We were going to travel in Spain for a week, and then take a week-long Mediterranean Cruise out of Barcelona.

We left for Spain on September 25, 2010 and had a great time traveling all around Spain. We visited Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, Toledo (although just for a few hours), and Barcelona. It was gorgeous! In Barcelona, we met up with my sister, her husband, and their 4-year-old son. The idea for the cruise had actually been my sister’s idea and Ken and I said we wanted to go on it too. But we added the week-long tour of Spain ourselves.

Our cruise departed Barcelona on Saturday October 2. Our first port of call on the cruise was Villefranche, France (near Nice on the French Riveira) on October 3.

We disembarked the ship and took tenders to the land, and then hopped on a train/subway thing from Villefranche to Nice. We were walking around, and Ken kept cough-gagging really badly (remember I talked about that on our wedding day recap? And how he coughs when he’s really nervous, excited, cold, or grossed out?). He said he ate too much for breakfast and his stomach was really upset.

We were walking all around Nice taking photographs and we finally approached the main square of the city. Ken said he needed to take a break from all the walking around and sit down for a while. So, we sat on a concrete ledge surrounding a tree. After we sat for a few seconds, Ken told me to walk toward the fountain in the center of the square so that he could take my photo.

As I walked back towards where he was sitting, he was reaching for something in his bag and was getting down on to the ground. It took me a second to realize what he was doing, and when I did, my mind just filled with excitement and my eyes filled with tears.

He said, “I love you, and want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Will you marry me?”

I nodded “yes,” unable to get out the actual word because I was so choked up. He opened a wooden ring box that contained a beautiful sapphire engagement ring.

The next few moments are a blur.  But I soon realized that the ring was still in the box!  So I blurted out, “Aren’t you going to put it on my finger!?”  Ken said, “I don’t even know what hand it goes on,” so I showed him where the ring would go.  It fit perfectly. It was just what I wanted. A sapphire stone surrounded by a diamond band (more on the story of my engagement ring in a future post!)

sapphire-engagement-ring-supernovabrideI was truly, genuinely shocked. We had only started talking about rings and stuff a little over a month earlier, so I never even thought that there would’ve been time to find a ring in that amount of time.

We sat back down and he told me all the crazy stories and secrets he had been having to keep from me. The one about my ring was especially funny! (again, more on that later).

He told me that he thought my entire family already knew. He had talked to my dad about it oh the phone already and apparently my dad had asked if he could tell my mom and sister, and Ken said that was okay. I was all like, “WHAT!!”  I couldn’t believe they knew!

Then a lot of things started making sense. Before every vacation Ken and I would go on, my mom would always ask, “Are you getting a ring? Do you think you’re going to get a ring on this trip?” I would always get so annoyed. But, as I thought about it, my mom NEVER asked me that question before this vacation!

And, it finally made more sense why Ken was cough-gagging. He was nervous about asking me!

Later that afternoon, we made our way back to the ship. I called my mom, and he called his mom. Then I called my grandmother, who is hard-of-hearing and will sometimes pretend to hear what you say, even if she doesn’t actually hear you. That’s exactly what happened during my phone conversation with her.

Me: Hi Gram, I have big news! I got engaged!
Gram: You got a what?
Me: No, engaged. I got ENGAGED (louder voice)
Gram: A what??
Me: ENGAGED! Ken PROPOSED to me! (even louder still)
Gram: Oh, that’s nice to hear you’re having a good time.

After one or two more back-and-forths, she finally hears me. So, she asks about the ring and I tell her about it.

Me: It’s a sapphire stone with a diamond band
Gram: A sapphire???  Why not a diamond?
Me: I wanted a sapphire, not a diamond. He got me what I wanted.
Gram: What color is it?
Me: It’s a blue sapphire. I really like it.
Gram: Yes, but it’s BLUE! (clearly disgusted that it’s not a diamond).

I gave up and we ended our conversation.

We just hung out until my sister got back on the ship a few hours later and I went and gave her the news. She obviously knew it was coming at some point because my dad told her about the conversation with Ken, but she was still really excited when we gave her the news. Then we explained to my four-year-old nephew that I was going to become Ken’s wife. My nephew was quite sad about this, because he had asked me to be his wife on a number of occasions (apparently there is some scene in the Princess and the Frog where someone (presumably the prince?) kisses a girl’s hand and says “Will you be my wife?”

A brief, but kind of funny, side story.

While in Spain, just three days into our two-week trip (Ken had not yet proposed), Ken fell down the steps of a bus and hurt his foot pretty badly.  (Coincidentally, I fell UP some steps at the Alhambra the very next day and bruised my shin badly and scraped up my hand.  Hence the scraped up ring finger in the engagement ring photo above!).

Ken started to sit on the sidewalk right after the fall, but I told him to get up and hobble over to a chair at an outdoor cafe just a few feet away.  It’s a long story, but Ken lost consciousness about 30 seconds after his fall, leading me to believe that Ken had hit his head when he fell.  So, in the middle of a sidewalk in Seville, Spain, I started to scream at the top of my lungs for someone to call an ambulance (in English, no less).  A doctor at a nearby restaurant rushed over as Ken woke back up.  The doctor said that if Ken had hit his head, that we should get him to a hospital right away.  But Ken said he had only fainted and that he definitely did not hit his head and that he had only hurt his foot.

Ken's-Foot copy

Later that evening, after I had calmed down from such a terrible scare, I called my Mom to tell her the story about Ken’s fall down the stairs, including the part about how he tried to sit on the sidewalk after he hurt his foot and subsequently fainted.  Fast forward 4 days, when I was now giving my mom the news about Ken’s proposal.  My mom was very excited, and then revealed that when I told her the story about Ken’s fall a few days earlier, that she thought it was all part of Ken’s grand proposal plan. That he had “pretended” to fall and would get on the sidewalk to propose. She was really excited with the story at that point! But then, she was very surprised at how the story about the fall had ended.  Not with a proposal, but with a loss of consciousness.

Luckily she had kept the secret and didn’t blurt out with a “CONGRATULATIONS” or anything like that! I would’ve been like, WTF?

So, there you have it. The story of our engagement. In another post, I’ll discuss the full story about finding an engagement ring, and all the hoops that Ken had to jump through to find a sapphire engagement ring!

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Wedding Costs vs. The Cost of Getting Married

by Melissa on March 8, 2012

Yesterday, I provided the comprehensive list of ALL our wedding expenses, coming in at a grand total of $23,598.91 (including shipping costs for items, as well as including “negative” transactions such as returns and refunds).

So, do I think our wedding cost $23,598.91? Nope? But, that is how much it cost us to get married.

“Now Melissa,” you’re probably saying right now, “I think you’re just splitting hairs here. I think you’re just trying to make yourself feel better about going more than $8000 over your intended budget.”


Because denial is a river in Egypt. No, seriously. Da Nile. (I took this when I used to live there nearly 10 years ago!)

Maybe I’m in denial or just trying to make myself feel better about it. But I think that this analysis could be helpful to other couples who really want to avoid “pre-wedding” costs, and just focus the necessary expenses on the actual wedding day.

Here are the line items from our wedding expense spreadsheet that I would deduct from the wedding day cost, and why:



Reason excluding from “wedding day” expenses

Ken’s Shave for Engagement Photos $20 Was for engagement photos, not related to any actual wedding-day expense
My hair and blowout for engagement photos $64 Was for engagement photos, not related to any actual wedding-day expense
Hair and Makeup Trial (1st one) $80 You may remember, I had one hair and makeup trial that I hated, then decided to DIY my makeup, but got another hair trial. I could’ve avoided trials altogether.
Hair Trial (2nd one) $70 Could’ve avoided trial and just trusted the stylist to do it right on the wedding day
Local bakery for cake tasting $6.88 I wanted to taste their cakes, but didn’t want to tell them it was for a “wedding cake,” because I didn’t want the markup. So, I just bought some cupcakes to try. I now wish I had gone with this bakery after our bad experiences with our “real” wedding cake bakery
Some sample centerpiece items from Dollar Tree $4.20 Bought some little vases to do some table mockups, but never ended up using them at the actual wedding.
Other sample centerpiece items from Oriental Trading Company $24.97 Bought some pumpkins and other things to also try for our centerpiece mockup, but were not actually used on the wedding day
Quick Candles $103.41 More items for centerpiece testing, but never actually used them on the wedding day, mostly because we weren’t allowed to use candles (we didn’t learn that until after our wedding date was confirmed)
Used cobalt blue vases from Weddingbee Classifieds Seller $27.50 Bought these, but never used them at the wedding
Burlap and thread to make burlap table runners $89.39 Bought this with the intention of having a local seamstress (found via craigslist) make 25 table runners for $125. Well, she flaked, and 2.5 weeks before the wedding, we had to take back the fabric from her because it still wasn’t done, and buy runners from an Etsy seller. So this burlap was never actually used on the wedding day.
Parking meter during engagement photo session $1.25 Not actually relevant to the wedding day
Engagement Photoshoot $300 Not actually relevant to the wedding day
Shower thank you cards $10.50 Not actually relevant to wedding day. The stamps for the shower thank you cards are hidden somewhere in the cost of the stamps for the save-the-dates and invitations, because I only had 18 to send out, and there were several stamps left over from the save-the-date mailing


Okay, that is not as many expenses as I thought it would be (not like Tuesday’s post about wedding expense distribution that just totally floored me). Seriously, I was just doing these calculations for the first time as I am writing this post, and I thought that the cost of our “wedding” would’ve been much less than “getting married.” But, in fact the cost of our “wedding” was really only $802.10 less than our overall cost of getting married. But still, $802.10 is not an insignificant amount of money!

What about some other savings that, using a very liberal definition, were not related to the actual cost of our “wedding.”

  • Save the Dates (including the magnets, envelopes, stamps, and labels): $131.91
  • Wedding magazines and books (huge waste of money. Blogs are much better!): $106.50
  • Dance lessons. Well, since we actually “used” our dance knowledge at our wedding, I guess this technically is a “wedding” expense instead of a “getting married” expense. But again, using a liberal definition: $760
  • Engagement session prop. If we wouldn’t have had engagement photos taken (or sent out save-the-dates), we wouldn’t have needed our little prop. $51.95


Additional savings: $1050.36

So, including those “liberally defined" expenses, that brings the total to $1852.46.

That would be our total sum of costs included in the “getting married” (but non “wedding day) expenses category.

Taking our grand total wedding expenses (see yesterday’s spreadsheet) of $23,598.91 and subtracting those “non wedding day” expenses of $1852.46, we can figure that our wedding day itself cost us $21746.45. Or, excluding the "liberally defined” expenses, our total wedding day cost would be $22796.81.

Still, that is wicked over our desired $15,000 budget.  Oh well. Live and learn.

Yes, live and learn indeed

I have to admit, I am pretty ashamed and embarrassed to be admitting these figures to you all. Although I’ve been communicating this information fairly dispassionately over the last several days, there’s a huge feeling of irresponsibility that comes with knowing, let alone communicating with the blogosphere, how much we went over our desired budget.  So, I am here to shout it to the world.

Ken and I spent $8598.91 MORE than we wanted to spend on our wedding.

*throws up a little in mouth*

Ken and I spent $8598.91 MORE than we wanted to spend on our wedding.

I’ll talk more about this when I discuss our “wedding budget lessons learned” in a few days.


Compromise is okay for your wedding

by Melissa on March 1, 2012

Shhhhh. I’m about to tell you a secret. It’s something that most brides don’t realize, especially if they’ve already talked to lots of wedding vendors.

Here’s the secret.

Compromise is OKAY for your wedding. After all, some folks tell you that if you can’t afford LED uplighting or Filet Mignon with a Classic Bordelaise, then the alternative is “a compromise.”

It is okay to compromise if you can’t afford certain elements for your wedding. But vendors are quick to try and change your mind. They tell you, your wedding day should be perfect. It’s the most important day of your life. You only have one shot. Most people “regret” not having made that extra expense to [whatever … have a videographer, buy the more expensive dress, etc.]

Yes, your wedding day is an important day.  But what the fuck does that have to do with LED uplighting and Filet Mignon with a Classic Bordelaise?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But because vendors and wedding magazines and styled photoshoots make us think that these are elements we need to make our day “perfect.”  And when we don’t think we can afford them (or we just plain old don’t want them), we’re told, “Oh, you shouldn’t have to COMPROMISE on anything for your wedding.  It’s the most important day of your life!”

A House Hunters Analogy

Do you ever watch House Hunters? Even folks with the biggest house budgets always have to compromise on SOMETHING. Maybe it doesn’t have the pool. Or maybe the location was a bit further than they preferred, or it has one bedroom less than they were hoping.

So, if wealthy folks that can afford multimillion dollar homes have to compromise on elements of something that they will likely spend most of the waking hours in, don’t you think it’s okay to compromise on elements of your wedding and not be made to feel guilty about it?

I think so.

So, make your wedding decisions. OWN your wedding decisions. Bake your own cake, self-deejay your wedding, DIY your own flowers, or decide not to hire a videographer. And when people tell you that you shouldn’t “compromise” on any of those elements, tell them that you’re just being a practical, smart, human being. Because after all, everyone has to compromise.


DIY Wedding Project: Escort Card Display

by Melissa on November 4, 2011

I initially didn’t want to have assigned seating at our wedding, but once we made the decision to have table assignments, I wanted to have a fun way of displaying our escort cards. I took the inspiration for this project from Martha Stewart. (On a side note, now that we have created our actual seating charts, it took about, oh, 30 minutes. That was not what I expected!)

I started with two blank pieces of 20×30 white foam core and arranged some autumnal fabric on it that I purchased from Joann’s (this is it from the back)



First, I pinned the fabric in place to make sure it was straight and even. Initially I was going to use only pins, but they jutted out too much in various places of the foam core, and since I didn’t want any guests getting stabbed with pins, I took the plunge and bought a hot glue gun and some fabric glue sticks.  Here it is with the pins (which I put all around the perimeter).



Using a checkered fabric presented its own issues. For one, it was kind of difficult to make sure that the fabric didn’t look crooked. So, it took some time, but I made sure everything was nice and straight and crease free.



Then it was time to glue the fabric to the foam core. Without taking out the pins yet, I glued the fabric edges to the back of the foam core.



When I turned the foam core over, it looked like this. I let the glue dry for a while, and then I took out the pins.



Next, it was time to add the ribbon to the fabric on the foam core. The escort cards would then sit on the ribbon. Before gluing any ribbon, I just laid it out across the fabric to make sure everything would be nicely spaced and aligned. Here’s the first layer of “ribbon,” which is actually webbing:



And then alternating ribbons of various browns and glittery orange on top of each webbing strip. I purchased both the ribbons and the webbing from Joann’s too.



Next, I glued the webbing strips to the fabric and put something heavier on top of it to make sure it stayed (in this case, a messy bin of sewing supplies).



Next, I glued the ENDS ONLY of the narrower ribbon to the webbing strips. Sorry, I don’t have a photo of this step. Then, I flipped the board over, and glued the ends of the now combined webbing/ribbon to the back of the foam core:


In the end, I ended up with a escort card display board that looked like this!  I repeated the entire process one more time to make another escort card display.



In a future post, I’ll show you how I actually displayed the escort cards on the board (here’s a spoiler, after some trial and error, I opted for a slightly different look than the Martha Stewart escort cards in the inspiration.


A totally off-putting moment with our officiant

by Melissa on October 21, 2011

Our officiant is a Lutheran minister that is a friend of my fiancé’s family. He was also a teacher at my fiancé’s Lutheran school when he was growing up, so they all have known each other for quite some time.

I’m not religious, and my fiancé is not particularly religious, but we both grew up going to private religious schools, and we have very religious, church-going families – my parents are Roman Catholic and my fiancé’s parents are Lutheran. I would have been happy to have been married by a Justice of the Peace or other civil celebrant, but having a religious-oriented ceremony was one of those things I just kind of chalked up as a necessity for not having overly disappointed parents. (Although I still think my family is disappointed I’m not getting married in a church by a Catholic priest.)

As we started to plan the ceremony in detail, all the religious stuff started to bother me a bit. Once again, I just decided to grin and bear it. I started to explore other officiants who were not religiously-affiliated but could carry some toned down religious elements into the ceremony. But officiants I contacted were about $450, plus an extra $150 if we wanted a rehearsal! Yikes! So, that settled it, we would stick with Ken’s family’s pastor friend.

We had to go for two sessions of pre-marital counseling with him (ugh). Waste of time. During that first session, we were also chastised for living together before marriage and for not going to church. I also was not planning on making a wedding program, but he insisted. Then when I explained what I had in mind for a program, he did not like it. Double ugh. We just ended up turning over that task to Ken’s mom, since she’s familiar with the wedding programs the pastor likes and I had no desire to make one.

Then we started to go over the ceremony details. I specifically wanted the words “obey” eliminated from my wedding vow to Ken. The pastor then explained to us that God places the responsibility on Ken, as the man of the house, to make the ultimate decisions in our relationship.

I about wanted to start yelling impolite things about antiquated views and chauvinism and women’s rights and all that, but I just nodded and said that I did not want to have the word obey and that it was very important to me.

The pastor continued to try to convince us otherwise. Ken interjected saying that our relationship, including our future marriage, is an equal partnership. The pastor then told us that that is not how God intends marriage to be. He explained that if Ken and I disagree about something, that Ken has God’s authority to make the decision. In essence, Ken wins!

I wanted to vomit. And then I wanted to walk right out. But, I did neither.  In that moment, however, I did lose a lot of respect for the officiant that would be marrying us on our wedding day. I didn’t know what to do. There’s really not much you can do to reason with someone’s religious beliefs obviously and I didn’t want to say anything that could be interpreted as hurtful to a family friend. I didn’t know how I felt that I was going to be married by an officiant I didn’t have any respect for. Would that somehow make our ceremony less meaningful?

So, I asked the pastor to read the vows how they appear in his book. Well, as it turns out, the vow does not include the word “obey.” Rather, it says that I will “submit to” my husband.


Submit to = oh, about 10x worse than “obey.”  What is this, 1688?

He finally acquiesced and said he would not use the words “obey” or “submit to” during the ceremony. I have a feeling I will be reminding him of this over and over again at the rehearsal like a brat. I started to wonder. $450 seems worth it all of a sudden to have an officiant that doesn’t hold such disagreeable views. It also seems worth the piece of mind that the pastor won’t slip up at our ceremony and actually use the phrase “submit to.” What would I do? Ask him to read it again? Say “Yeah, ‘I Do’ on everything but that last part”?

As I write this, I guess I’m not sure why I’m so riled up over words. It’s not like Ken would ever force a decision on me anyway, it’s just the principle at this point.


Thoughts Early in Engagement vs. Late in Engagement

by Melissa on September 23, 2011

Sunday is the one year anniversary of Ken and I departing on the vacation on which he proposed (although he didn’t propose until 8 days into the vacation!)  We’re now just about six weeks away from our wedding!

I thought I would compare how my thoughts differ now compared to early in my engagement. I wonder if other brides-to-be experience the same?

Early in Engagement: OMG, Weddingbee is like the best site ever.
Late in Engagement: Christ, Weddingbee posts are SO repetitive.

Early in Engagement: Woohoo, Wedding Magazine subscriptions
Late in Engagement: Why am I still getting these in the mail? I already have my dress and I read about these ideas online months ago.

Early in Engagement: My to-do list has things like “pick venue” and “book catering tasting.”
Late in Engagement: My to-do list consists of 200+ discrete tasks

Early in Engagement: Look at all this amazing stuff on Etsy! I’m going to buy so much stuff on here once the wedding gets closer!
Late in Engagement: This stuff is still amazing, but dude, it’s also SO expensive.

Early in Engagement: OMG, Style Me Pretty is like the second best wedding site ever! I’m totally having all those amazing DIY elements
Late in Engagement: I’m pretty sure there’s about 3000 dollars worth of details in that single photo on Style Me Pretty

Early in Engagement: I’m so glad we’re having a 14 month engagement! It’ll give us plenty of time to plan all the fun things we want to have at the wedding!
Late in Engagement: Ugh. I can’t believe I’ve been thinking about this wedding for nearly a year. I wish I would’ve planned it all in six months or less.