wedding planning

Groom Not Involved? Don’t get Married

by Melissa on February 14, 2012

Watching the Suze Orman show is a weekend ritual in our household. While I like Suze for the most part, I mentioned one of her more irksome qualities to Ken a few weeks ago.

A female caller had phoned in to The Suze Orman Show and was expressing anger and disappointment that her husband was never willing to participate in and follow the household budgeting efforts. Without skipping a beat, Suze starts asking the caller questions. And I know right where the line of questioning will lead – to a question that basically suggests that the caller should leave her husband. I’ve seen it before on her show several times.

I say to Ken, “You know, that really bothers me about Suze. She suggests divorce at the drop of a hat for the most trivial things!”  To which Ken replies, “I think Suze just realizes it is just indicative of a larger problem that will probably not get better.”

That got me thinking.

If your fiancé is not an involved partner in wedding planning efforts, should you even marry him?

I mean, after all, if your wedding is important to you, and you can’t even get him involved enough to track down addresses for invitations or help you pick out groomsmen gifts, (or whatever the complaint of the day may be) then isn’t that indicative of a bigger problem? The fact that he can’t even pretend to be interested in and excited about something that is clearly important to you? 

Maybe you shouldn’t get married.

Instead of calling into the Suze Orman show ten years from now complaining that your husband won’t follow the household budget, maybe you should just cut your losses now.

I was blessed with a very involved groom, so I can’t speak to this directly.

But what do you think? Should you even get married if getting your fiancé to contribute to the planning is like pulling teeth? Do you think that can be indicative of a larger issue? Will you face problems down the road on topics other than wedding planning?


Our Best Wedding Decisions

by Melissa on January 6, 2012

A few weeks ago, I told you what I would do differently if I could plan our wedding all over again. This week, I’m here to tell you about our best wedding decisions!

1) Not having a bridal party. Seriously, this tops the list. No regrets here.

2) Not involving others. We paid for the wedding on our own. The majority of the wedding details stayed between me and Ken. When my family asked how it was going, I just gave them generic “it’s fine” answers.  I even went wedding dress shopping by myself. While I do have a slight twinge of guilt about it sometimes, in the end, it made our wedding planning process much, much saner.

3) Maximizing cash back rewards and frequent flyer miles. Let’s face it, wedding are expensive. Even “budget” weddings are a few thousand dollars. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted rewards for spending that money. Although I still have to do the final tally, I ended up with more than 100,000 frequent flyer miles from British Airways (thanks to an awesome sign-up bonus), which is, in general, good for two free tickets to Europe. I also collected other cashback too. Rewards tally post to come soon!

4) Taking dance lessons and starting them early! Both Ken and I did not know how to dance. I mean, at all. Like, the only time I slow danced was at other weddings I was in. Not even awkward white people-type dancing. We just never did it. So, eight months before the wedding, we enrolled in ballroom dance lessons. This was a great, albeit pricey, decision. In fact, if you decide just one month away from your wedding that you want to take dance lessons, don’t do it. I feel like I would’ve been more frustrated and more overwhelmed trying to learn everything from scratch in such a short period of time.

5) Having a venue that doesn’t kick you out. We rented our wedding venue, which was a campground, for (get this) 3 nights! When we were early in the wedding planning process, we were so disappointed in the short amount of time that venues would allow. The price per hour was going to be enormous for one of the initial venues we found and liked. When we found the campground, and realized that we could rent it for three nights for the same price as other venues wanted for just 5 or six hours, we were sold. Our wedding venue rocked!


Wedding Superlatives, Part 2

by Melissa on December 19, 2011

A few weeks ago, I shared with you some high school yearbook-style superlatives! There were too many to put in one post, so here’s a part two!

Biggest worries about stuff I could do nothing about (a tie!)

Weather. November weather in the DC area is quite pleasant, but folks tend to forget that. But there are, of course, cold snaps here and there. So, we knew we were taking a chance by having an outdoor wedding in November (with indoor backup locations of course). Our wedding day was a definite cold snap. Luckily we didn’t have the rare October snow that fell just two weeks before our wedding, but our wedding day was the coldest day that entire week! In the end, I think it worked out just fine. I don’t think it was any more inconvenient to our guests than what it would’ve been if we had an outdoor wedding on a sweltering July day, something brides and planners never even bat an eyelash about.

Losing my job. Back in August, the organization I work for announced its intention to conduct a Reduction in Force (that is the new agey term for layoffs). This was a fairly significant worry for me especially because i was spending so much money. Luckily I wasn’t laid off so all is well!

Most awesome decisions

Most frequently second-guessed decisions

DIY Wedding day makeup. I’m pretty good with makeup, but realized that I should probably have it done professionally for my wedding day. Then I had a terrible hair and makeup trial back in September. I knew I had to get my hair done professionally, but I’m pretty good at doing my own makeup. So, I found a great hair stylist for my wedding-day hair, but opted to do my own makeup. Even until the week before the wedding I was second guessing this decision! But, based on some of our guests’ photos, my makeup looks great in the pictures!. Phew!

Self deejay. This is a really big risk/reward decision. The risk, of course, is that everything could go wrong, the equipment could malfunction, and then you’re left with a music-less wedding. But the reward is saving a significant chunk of change. The cheapest deejay we found in the DC area was $1100 for 4 hours of music. So, we decided that we’d self-deejay, even though I had some second thoughts for a while. But then once Ken started showing me how all the equipment worked to iPod our Wedding, I felt a lot better about everything! Our self-deejaying went off without a hitch! Ken even got the equipment set up in less than five minutes!

Whether to get ready at house or at hotel. I went back and forth on this decision for a LONG time, and first articulated it back in March. Our house was about a 20 mile drive to the wedding venue right down I-95. However, that stretch of I-95, even on weekends and holidays, ALWAYS has traffic. Seriously, I have never once been on that stretch and not sat in traffic. The heaviness of the traffic, however, varies. Sometimes we could get to the venue as quickly as 30 minutes, sometimes it could take well over an hour. So, I was panicked that traffic would be extra heavy on my wedding day and thought it would be better to get ready at a hotel near the venue. On the flip side, I wanted to get ready in familiar surroundings, and not worry about forgetting anything. As I write this, I realize it’s a longer story than I expected and probably needs its own post. But in the end, I got ready at the hotel. It went fine, but I did forget my personalized wedding hanger.

Most involved groom EVER

Ken, of course. Seriously ladies, I was so lucky. Ken took on SO many wedding-related projects. From programming a lighting scheme, to figuring out and buying and setting up all the deejay equipment, developing a DIY photobooth, making an incredible custom slideshow that incorporated both photos and home videos, tweaking our wedding invitations to make them look even more awesome, and figuring out the best way to incorporate LED lights into my dress, he was a super groom!

Biggest guest annoyances

Buying items not on registries. Seriously guests, there are three appropriate gifts for a wedding. 1) An item that is on the couple’s registry, 2) Cash or Check, 3) A gift card to one of the stores they’re registered at. That’s it. Ever. It was a huge waste of time returning gifts we didn’t want. (Extra Tip: If you DO decide to be “that guest” and buy a gift that’s not on the registry, please, for the love of G-d, provide the receipt!)

Not RSVPing on time. I was prepared for this, but still, I was shocked at how many people were so late with their RSVPs and had to be hounded to return them.

Most unreasonable fear

Getting sick or hurt before the wedding. I’m not sure why, but I had this terrible fear that I would fall down the steps and break my leg or that Ken or I would get into some horrific car accident right before the wedding. Although I only work on the 2nd floor in my office building, I took the elevator almost every day in the six weeks or so leading up to the wedding.

Most unwittingly involved wedding helper

Thank you, UPS man. You delivered so many of our wedding purchases and wedding gifts in such a pleasant, timely manner!

Most neglected

Regularly-watched TV shows. By the time Ken and I started watching our regularly-watched TV shows again after the wedding, we were at least seven or eight episodes behind on the TiVo. We’re still catching up!

Most awesome newly discovered website

Pinterest, duh!

Most epic fail

Remember that post from the summer in which I outlined non-wedding activities I would do? Ummm, it’s confession time. I didn’t do a SINGLE ONE of those activities. Oops.

Lamest excuse for a guest not attending the wedding

“I’m really broke and can’t afford the gas for a 40 mile trip.” They told us this about 20 hours before the wedding. (seriously, just lie or just say you can’t make it)

Most surprisingly easy wedding tasks

Virginia bureaucratic processes, including applying for a liquor license and a marriage license. Our venue required a Virginia liquor license if we planned to serve alcohol. I applied and was approved for a Virginia liquor license in less than 24 hours. I applied online for the license on a Sunday night. By 11AM on Monday morning, I had a voicemail from a nice lady at Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) with further instructions. I called her back, and she was so pleasant and helpful! The license was e-mailed to me on Monday evening!

Applying for our marriage license was also a very pleasant experience. Virginia requires that marriage license applications be submitted in person. We went to the local county courthouse about a month before the wedding to apply. There were no lines, the clerk was super friendly, and we were done within about five minutes!

Most blatantly copied wedding ideas

Our wedding card box. Seriously. With the exception of color and some additional lighting, we copied this idea almost exactly. Ken had a LOT of fun with this one. He used it as an excuse to dabble in case modding.

Biggest “bride brain” moment

I had to pick up some items from Costco the Monday before the wedding. The same Costco I have been to probably dozens of times. With my brain in Bride mode, I drove more than two miles past the exit for Costco before I even realized what I had done. All of a sudden I was like, “Wait, why am I in the car again? Where am I even going?” Don’t drive distracted!

Biggest “whoa, I can’t believe I almost just did that”

You can read more about this in last week’s Wedding Recap, but I walked out the door the day before the wedding without anything to wear to the rehearsal dinner!


T-2 Days, Part 1;    T-2 Days, Part 2;     T-2 Days, Part 3

After our amazing day on Wednesday, we were ready to get started on another productive day on Thursday. Our original plan was to depart for the hotel early in the morning, attempt an early check-in, and if we couldn’t check in, at least drop off our wedding items, like my dresses and Ken’s suit, in my family’s hotel room since they had already checked in.  Then I would head to the venue in time for some vendor deliveries that would start at 10AM, including tent wall siding for the pavilion and hay bales used as decor and extra ceremony seating.

However, our plans changed a bit. 1) I didn’t want to rush departing for the hotel early in the morning and I still had to gather up all my makeup and other wedding day supplies. 2) My cousin’s flight (which I had lamented in a previous post) was delayed. Therefore, my sister and her husband wouldn’t be picking her up at the original time. They were going to pick up the beer kegs on the way back from the airport, but since my cousin’s flight was delayed indefinitely, we had no idea what time my sister would be heading our direction (our beer kegs weren’t ready for pickup on Wednesday as originally planned). So, I decided to pick up the beer kegs myself, but the store wouldn’t open until 10AM.

Ken gathered up some last minute items and headed down to the venue at around 8:00 in the morning. I stayed behind to get some last minute things organized and to pick up the beer kegs.

It took me a little while to load up the car with things like my two wedding dresses, Ken’s suit, Ken’s dad’s suit, and suitcases filled with other items, like toiletries, makeup, accessories, and manicure supplies.

But finally, I was ready to leave the house. It was a strange moment. I realized that the next time I would be at the house, I’d be a married woman!

I started my car. Then, SHIT. I didn’t bring anything to wear for tonight’s rehearsal!! I had my wedding dress, my wedding shoes, and my pajamas for the night. Other than that, I had no other clothes except the ones I was wearing. Jeans, a t-shirt, and flip flops. I got out of the car, ran back into the house, and grabbed a dress and shoes from my closet. The same dress I was wearing the day we got engaged.

Do over! I got back in the car and headed to the Beer and Wine store, just a few miles away, to pick up the beer kegs. I had placed an order for them, but for a few moments, the employee couldn’t find the two half-kegs of Yuengling I had ordered. I didn’t want to panic. “Worst case scenario, I just buy tons of cases of beer,” I kept saying to myself. No biggie.

While he was looking for them, my mom called me on my cell. She asked if I could bring a thermometer from our house. My grandmother wasn’t feeling well and was shaking uncontrollably. My mom had called my grandmother’s doctor, who speculated that she might have a fever. I told her that I had already left my house, but that I could stop there again because I’d have to drive back that direction to get on the interstate anyway.

While I was on the phone with my mom, the employee finally found my beer kegs. Whew!! The employee helped me load them into the back of my SUV and I was back on the road, and heading back to the house. Again. As I was driving, I couldn’t help but chuckle. In my car, I had two suits, two wedding dresses, and two beer kegs. What a classy combination!

I went into the house and grabbed the thermometer and also a pair of warm socks. I have this strange thing about stiff hotel room sheets on my bare feet. I hate the feeling of it  and realized I’d need a pair of socks as a barrier between my feet and the sheets. There you have it, a weird factoid about Melissa. I think I also grabbed something else too, but I can’t remember what (even though, as of the time I’m drafting this post, it’s only four days past my wedding).

Do over once again.

Now I’m heading to the hotel about 20 miles away. For real this time. As I’m driving,  I realize that I don’t want the kegs to get even the least bit warm. So, I decided to drop off the beer kegs quickly at the venue and then head to the hotel, about 6 miles away from the venue. I knew I would make it a quick trip at the venue because my wedding dresses were in the back of the car and I didn’t want them to get too wrinkled.

When I told my mom about the change of plans, she said she would just meet me at the venue.

I got to the venue and some family friends unloaded the VERY heavy beer kegs and put them in the industrial walk-in fridge in the Mess Hall. I started working on some projects and then my mom, dad, and grandmother arrived shortly thereafter.

Next week I’ll detail how this day became one of the craziest days of my life.


T-2 Days, Part 1

T-2 Days, Part 2

We left off in the previous post with our family and some family friends hard at work at our helper stations!

Once we had too many people at the Mess Hall, it was difficult to have that same focus Ken and I had earlier that day. Too many people asking too many questions. If I could have added one thing to the helper stations, it would have been a notepad and pen. I would have requested that they wrote down any questions they had in the notepad, and that Ken and I would check in with them about once every 45 minutes and we could answer all their questions at once. I also wish I would’ve worn noise cancelling headphones to improve my focus and ignore their questions (at least until a time it was more convenient for me to answer them).

My five-year-old nephew was also really excited about everything and was trying to “help.” He also spotted the marshmallows that I had purchased to make s’mores at the wedding and kept asking if he could have them. I finally relented and let him roast some marshmallows in the fireplace in the Mess Hall.

As things got completed over at the “helper station” side, I would move it over to the “Ready for Coordinator” side of the room and put a post-it note on it with instructions. Unfortunately I never took a photo of things that I set aside for the coordinator, but, for instance, after all the galvanized buckets for the s’mores supplies had been washed, I moved the buckets, chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows over to a table on that side of the room, and write a post it note that said “put marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers into labeled buckets and put on table next to fireplace in pavilion.”  (We had purchased little vinyl decals to label each of the buckets.)  Or, after I labeled our chalkboard A-frames, I put a post it sign on one that said “put at intersection to entrance of park,” and on another I put a post it note that said, “put near entrance to parking lot.”

Although there were definitely additional distractions after family and friends arrived, they definitely helped get a lot of things done, like filling more than 100 white paper bags with sand for luminaries.

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Yep, those are 100 paper bags filled with a little bit of sand on the bottom

My mom was pretty worried about my grandmother being by herself in the hotel room, (she hadn’t wanted to call to check in, in case my grandmother had fallen asleep), so my family left after a few hours.

Ken and I agreed that we would leave by 11PM to go back home. Once we got to a good stopping point, we were ready to go home.

This is what the Mess Hall looked like when we left it that evening:

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Middle row of tables. The table in the foreground was home to Ken’s DIY photobooth setup!


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The right side, a.k.a, the “ready for coordinator” side of the Mess Hall. Those pumpkins in the little carts were going to be for the tables in the mess hall!

2011_11_09 23_42_03 Wedding Moving Day_thumb

The middle side again, and the left side in the background, a.k.a, the “helper station” side.

It had been a long, but very, very successful day. We determined that hiring the movers was an excellent decision and had really set the tone for a great day. We weren’t tired by the time we arrived at the venue, so we were able to really focus our efforts on the important stuff.

Since we had driven separate cars to the venue earlier that afternoon, that meant we had to drive separate cars back home for the nearly 20 mile drive. Typically not a big deal, but we had been doing our own thing all day, it would’ve been nice to catch up with Ken during the car ride home.

Unfortunately, we hit a ton of traffic on our way home. Since it was late at night, there was a lot of road construction and lane closures. It took probably close to an hour to get home.

When we finally arrived at home we just kept talking about how absolutely perfect of a day it had been. All our planning and organization had paid off. The only two hiccups of the day had been forgetting the frozen pizza at home, and not being able to get as much done when we had friends and family at the venue. But I still think that was a net gain considering how much work they managed to get done while they were there.

We fell asleep pretty fast after going to bed, although, (I’m having a hard time recalling at this moment, now 13 days post-wedding day as of the time that I’m drafting this section – even though it won’t be published until later) I woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time falling back asleep.

There will be several posts recapping the next day, (the day before the wedding), Thursday November 10. That day, if you recall from my wedding-day morning post, was filled with absolute craziness.


T-2 Days, Part 1

We left off in our previous post when the movers had finished unloading all our items at our campground wedding venue!

We had several hours before family and friends would start to arrive that evening. Since the campground had several heated cabins that Ken and I were offering free-of-charge, a handful of adventurous folks would be staying there.  We had initially asked family and friends (and our day-of coordinator) to arrive early on Wednesday to help us unpack and get other things done, but about two weeks before the wedding, we realized we would get a lot more done uninterrupted and with no one else around.

We were expecting some handymen to arrive at 3:15 to help us with a few manual tasks so we had just a short amount time to get other things set up until they arrived. Ken set up the deejay equipment in the Mess Hall (we purchased two sets of deejay equipment, one for the pavilion and one for the Mess Hall) and it started without a hitch. I started unboxing things and setting up our helper stations. Ken seriously got the deejay equipment set up within like five minutes, so he started playing music when the movers were still unloading stuff. The first song to play was “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas. And that song got us (and the movers) really pumped! We had music play for the entire rest of the evening.

On one side of the mess hall, I set up the helper stations.

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On tables on the other side of the Mess Hall, I started stations labeled as “ready for coordinator” to indicate things that would be ready to be set up on the actual wedding day by our day-of-coordinator (somehow I never took any photos of the “ready for coordinator” tables).

The handymen arrived right on schedule at 3:15PM. We needed them to rearrange twenty 400 lb tables in the pavilion, our reception site. We also needed them to hang string lights from the pavilion ceiling, not a a task that Ken or I wanted to tackle and risk falling from a ladder a few days before the wedding. Ken and I took turns supervising the handymen in the pavilion and getting other things set up and organized in the Mess Hall.

We were getting things set up very quickly and everything was working great!

The handymen took a while longer than we expected, but it was fairly complicated to string the lights from the pavilion rafters. Also, the bulbs on the string lights were SO fragile, that several of the bulbs broke. Luckily we had extra bulbs though. One of the string light sets broke and it took some troubleshooting to figure out what was wrong with it. Initially we thought it might have been the extension cord or the outlet, but we finally discovered that the entire string was just completely broken. It wasn’t a big deal though, we had plenty of other strings. Funny enough, I had purchased those string lights from another couple who had gotten married at the same venue (our caterer also catered their wedding, and gave me their contact information). And that couple had purchased the lights used from ANOTHER couple who had gotten married at the venue.

(Useless fact: I purchased the lights from the couple – well, just the husband, on the day of the DC earthquake. He told me where he worked, which was just two metro stops from my office, so I went to his office to buy the lights. After buying them from him, I grabbed some lunch and went back to my office. Literally just as I sat down to eat my lunch, the earthquake hit.)

There was zero cell service at the wedding venue. Zero. We tried both AT&T and Verizon phones and there was no luck. But, we discovered that we could send a text message if we stood in one particular place near the pavilion, but you had to send it like five times before it would finally go through. So, Ken and I both texted our families with the phone number to the landline in the Mess Hall (since the landline wouldn’t allow long distance calls, texting was the only way to let them know the phone number).

A few hours later, my parents called to say that they had arrived at the hotel, but they probably were just going to stay there for the night and not come to the venue. I’m not sure what time that was, but it was probably about 7:30. I was kind of pissed. They said that my grandmother didn’t want to come to the venue. But, Ken and I said that we were hungry and asked if they would pick us up some food. Our original plan was to bring a frozen pizza with us and cook it in the industrial kitchen at the Mess Hall. But we had forgotten the pizza at home. So, my parents ordered a Domino’s pizza and finally came to the venue and left my grandmother at the hotel.


The industrial kitchen in the Mess Hall

Family friends (a woman and her adult son) also arrived very shortly after my parents arrived with the pizza. The family friend was going to help make the rehearsal dinner on Thursday night. Both she and her son were staying at the campground. Luckily they both also have a wood burning fireplace in their house, so they were able to get the fireplace roaring in the Mess Hall very quickly, which was a good thing because it was getting chilly in there. About two hours later, my sister, her husband, and her five year old son arrived. By that time, my parents and our family friends were already hard at work at our helper stations:

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There will be one more post detailing the T-2 Days until the wedding. Look for it next Wednesday!


Over the next few weeks (er, months), I’m going to dedicate an entire blog post to each topic listed below. But, for the quick and dirty rundown, this is what I would’ve done differently:

Planned it in a much more compressed timeframe

We were engaged for 13 months for a few reasons 1) We wanted a fall wedding, and since we got engaged in October 2010, we knew there was no way to have a Fall 2010 wedding! And 2) All the books and wedding magazines tell you it takes a year to plan a wedding. Now hear this. There is no reason a wedding takes a year to plan.

I recommend planning it over the course of 4-6 months. Why? By the time our wedding approached, I was starting to become annoyed about it. I just wanted it HERE. Month after month of spending money. And it becomes all anyone ever asks you about – “How’s the wedding planning coming along?” While the wedding was, of course, joyous, those last six weeks leading up to it were brutal. We were done with all major do list items that could be done, and time just dragged on and on. I started fantasizing about my post-wedding life and planning all sorts of post-wedding projects. Be flexible with your potential wedding dates and find a venue that that has availability within six months, and BOOK IT. You won’t regret it!

Not hired a day-of coordinator

Well, let me back up a second. We had an awesome venue (actually, it was a campground) that we were able to start setting up more than two days prior to our wedding day. If I had a traditional venue that only allowed a setup on the morning of, then I probably wouldn’t regret hiring a day-of-coordinator. However, if you are organized, have a clear vision, the discipline to execute it, and a firm timeline, the coordinator will just add more hassle to your life by asking you stupid questions. Umm, why yes I do know what I’m giving guests as favors. And yes, I know I should have all my bins and boxes labeled when I come to the venue. There will be a more in-depth post in the next few weeks about why I HATED having a day-of-coordinator. HATED.

Had a dress custom made.

I had a very clear vision for what I wanted my wedding dress to look like. But I was never able to find it. As a compromise, I established some key criteria for my wedding dress. I was offered my grandmother’s wedding dress (I talk about that in the same post), which I considered having cut and made into the dress I wanted, but I ultimately decided against it. While I liked both the dresses I wore on my wedding day, I still would’ve liked to have worn the one I had envisioned all along.

Here is a sketch (ahem, a very crude sketch) I made early on in the wedding planning process of how I envisioned my wedding dress. Tea length, v-neck, with 3/4 length sleeves. And apparently some weird ruching thing on the waist!

(Update! Now that we have our wedding photos, I completely take this “regret” back. My wedding dresses looked phenomenal and were so perfect for our casual autumn campground wedding. So, this regret was short lived!)


Used those slower “interim” months to take care of the more “boring” details

If you do decide to drag out your engagement for a year, there’s a period of time in the middle when you’re kind of in a lull. You’ve booked your venue and other priority vendors, but you’re not ready to book other things or start buy decor that will just clutter your house for the next nine months.  What would I classify as the more “boring” details? In my opinion (and I realize others may be different!) things like the ceremony readings, ceremony music, making iPod deejay playlists, and designing your wedding program could’ve all been done much earlier than I did them.

Not spent so much time looking for things online

Look, we all want to save money on our wedding. But seriously, if you spend 3 hours researching the best prices to buy table runners and you save yourself 15 bucks, was it really that worth it? After hours of researching something and delaying decisions in hopes of finding something better and/or less expensive, I would feel just so completely unproductive.

Not invited so many people

This was one of my bigger worries. In fact, it tied with “weather” as the “Biggest Stressor” in my wedding superlatives post. In the end, we invited 287 people. Way too many. I have no idea how that happened. Both my parents are only children, and therefore I have no aunts, no uncles, and no cousins. Ken has a bigger family, but not huge. Our venue had seating for 160 people. With extra table rentals, we could probably fit another 50-75 people comfortably.  But, of course, that adds significant costs. So, we were relying on a very high “regretfully decline” rate in order to not be packed in our venue like sardines. I’m a little ashamed to admit that with every RSVP regret we received, I breathed a little sigh of relief!

Not used people we knew as vendors

Our officiant was a long-time friend (and pastor) of Ken’s family. Our day-of-coordinator was a woman from the neighborhood that owns a concierge business. While everything worked out great in the end with the officiant, even after some initial hiccups, he was not the most responsive guy. About a week before the wedding, we were worried that he never submitted the paperwork he needed to officiate a wedding in Virginia (because he’s a pastor in Maryland, he needed special approval to officiate a wedding in Virginia). And he wasn’t returning our phone calls, which was really worrisome.

We also knew personally our day-of-coordinator, and I have a feeling that I would’ve been much more comfortable with someone that I didn’t know. Someone that I could say to, “No, that’s a terrible idea,” and not have to worry about facing them after the wedding. Because, frankly, she had too many terrible ideas and I never told her outright they were terrible because I knew I’d still have to live in the same neighborhood as she does.


Wedding Superlatives, Part 1

by Melissa on November 18, 2011

Over the course of our 13 month engagement and wedding day, we certainly had our more memorable moments. Here to commemorate those moments are some yearbook style-superlatives!

Most likely to make Emily Post cringe: Printed labels on our invitations. Yep, we did it. Mail merged our invite list and printed out labels. Granted, they were printed onto lovely kraft wraparound labels, but I think we still broke a major etiquette no-no. Oh well! We wanted to make our entire wedding planning experience actually enjoyable. And handwriting 113 envelopes would not have been enjoyable.

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Most Surprisingly Worth-it Expense: Dance lessons. Ken and I were not comfortable at all dancing. So, we’d avoid dance floors like the plague when we’d go to a wedding or holiday party or something. But, you know what, I think that’s just because we were always afraid to get out there and try. Back in April, we started ballroom dance lessons. Ken was apprehensive, but I asked him to at least keep an open mind. Can you believe that we both actually loved it! It’s so NICE to actually feel comfortable on a dance floor now. The lessons were expensive, but well worth it!

Most offensive to herbivores: No vegetarian option at our wedding. None. Well, I guess if one can survive on garden salad and coleslaw they’d be okay. But our buffet was one big BBQ meatfest!  Mmmmm. Meat.

Most asinine idea we considered: Renting a Coke Freestyle Machine. Ken saw one of these in Firehouse Subs a few months back and loved it! So, we explored options to rent them. Of course, we only considered it for about 30 minutes after we realized that it wouldn’t be feasible, but still, that would’ve been some cool shit at our wedding.

Biggest stressor. (a tie!)

1.  Inviting too many guests. The venue had picnic table seating for 160 guests. With extra table rentals, we probably could’ve fit another 40-50 people comfortably. So, how many people did we invite? 287! That’s right. Two Hundred and Eighty Seven people. No idea how that happened. I have a very small family. Both my parents are only children, which means I have no aunts, uncles, or cousins. Ken has a bigger family, but it’s still not huge. I didn’t even realize we KNEW 287 people. And you know what else? There were other people I still wanted to invite. This was a huge stressor for me and sadly, I actually breathed a little sigh of relief every time someone RSVPed “no.” I was worried about space, parking, and the huge added cost of renting extra tables and chairs. Luckily we only had 147 RSVP!

2.  Scheduling an outdoor wedding for November. November weather in the DC area tends to be quite pleasant. But of course, there are always cold days here and there. In fact, just two weeks before our wedding, DC had its first October snow in nearly 30 years. Temperatures in the days preceding the wedding were nearly 70 degrees. But our wedding day? 56 and windy. When we realized that it would be that chilly, we stressed the entire duration of the 10 day weather forecast. We ended up having it outside, and yes the wedding was colder than we would’ve liked, but, we knew it was a risk!

Most likely to have offensively bad breath: Realizing I forgot my toothbrush when I checked into hotel the night before the wedding. Yep, no toothbrush the day of my wedding. I used Ken’s. I know I’m married to him and all now, but still, there are some things you just should never share.

Most unplugged: No internet, no cell signal at the wedding. We rented a campground at a nearby National Park. The National Park had no internet and not even a sliver of a cell signal. For this very plugged-in couple, our wedding was completely unplugged!

Best excuse for a guest not attending the wedding: Attending U.S. Citizenship ceremony. One of Ken’s friends from college had been going through the U.S. citizenship process for the last 15 years. On November 11, our wedding day, the friend was attending his U.S. Citizenship ceremony! 15 years in the waiting! (Oh, and he had refugee status, so he was “fast tracked” for citizenship). Runner up: Due with baby (2 different couples!). Although Ken said that’s not nearly as cool of an excuse because people have babies all the time. Earning U.S. citizenship is much more difficult.

Most likely to burst an eardrum: Controlled explosions at Quantico the day before the wedding. Our wedding venue was just a few miles from Quantico, VA near the Marine Corps Quantico base. Little did we know that there was munitions training scheduled the day before the wedding. So every few minutes, we’d hear this loud BOOM! Hilarious, and I’m glad it wasn’t actually on our wedding day!


Over the next several weeks, heck, probably the next several months, I will recap our wedding wedding week through a series of posts I will publish on Wednesdays.  Here’s your first full recap, starting Wednesday November 9! Check out all our wedding recaps here.

Wednesday November 9 – The Story of Our Movers

On Wednesday November 9, we were able to check into our venue, Cabin Camp #5 at Prince William Forest Park. We had rented the venue for three nights so that we would have plenty of time to get things set up and organized for our Friday afternoon wedding.

One of our fairly last minute decisions was to hire movers. We had about 75 boxes of stuff that needed moved, as well as other odd shaped items, like chalkboard sign A-frames and wooden stake signs.  We already knew that we needed to rent a U-Haul truck to move everything all in one trip. The truck itself was going to cost us about $20 plus $0.99 per mile. Since our house to the venue was 48 miles roundtrip, we were looking at about a $70 expense. We figured it might be a worthy expense to pay a bit more and have someone actually move the stuff for us, that way we weren’t exhausted by the time we actually arrived at the venue.

guest bedroom wedding stuff

Wedding stuff in our guest bedroom. We actually had to disassemble the bed months ago to fit it all in there

Wedding Stuff by Front Door

Electronics equipment for the wedding ready to be moved by the front door (this is only a small fraction of the electronics equipment we used at our wedding). The helmets stay.


Even more wedding stuff in our breakfast nook in our kitchen

After researching a few moving companies, I called College Hunks Moving Junk, and they ended up being GREAT. Seriously. I called them less than a week before we needed moving services and they were able to accommodate everything. They charged $124/hour plus a $124 flat fee that included things like the truck and packaging materials.

Our campground check-in time was 3PM, so we asked the movers to arrive between noon-1pm (they required a 1 hour window).  I used Wednesday morning to run some last minute errands.

Wednesday Begins! T-2 Days till the Wedding!

Wednesday morning, we woke up at 6:10AM, our normal wake-up time on a work day. I had mentioned a few days earlier that I had a last minute idea to decorate the mess hall at the campground, using this as the inspiration. So first, I went to the fabric store and purchased about 40 yards of muslin and about 30 yards of tulle.

After the fabric store, I went to Target to buy some gladware containers, some apple cider that we were going to serve at the wedding, and a few cleaning supplies for the campground, like lysol wipes. Actually, “some” apple cider may be an understatement. I bought about 12 gallons of it. Then, I went to Home Depot to buy a push broom, anticipating that there might be a lot of leaves in the pavilion that we’d need to clear out.

While I was at Home Depot, the movers called to say that they were about 30 minutes away. That was at 10:50AM. While I appreciate that they were running early, it was problematic for us. 1) Ken was still getting things packed for them, and 2) Since our check-in time wasn’t until 3PM, we had to be careful. We didn’t want to arrive at the venue at like 1:30 and then have the venue groundskeeper tell us we couldn’t start unloading for another 1.5 hours, especially paying movers at $124/hour. So, I just told them flat out that that was way too early for us. They were understanding and said they would wait to arrive until later.

I wrapped up at Home Depot and headed home. I had to do a few last minute seating chart rearrangements, and while I was working on that, the movers arrived right at noon. It was GLORIOUS. Ken just showed them the guest bedroom that housed most of our wedding stuff and they started moving it. I continued to work on my seating chart while they did all the work! Already the movers were a great investment.




They finished loading the truck at around 1:45, and we headed to our campground venue. I drove ahead of them so I could check in with the campground host, and Ken followed the movers in a separate car to make sure they didn’t take off with all of our wedding stuff.

We arrived at the venue around 2:20PM. I was a little worried because we were early, but luckily we were able to check in with no problem! As I signed all the check-in paperwork, the movers started unloading all our stuff into the Mess Hall.  The movers were done by 3PM.

Let’s recap this. Truck loaded, transported, and unloaded by three professionals in 3 hours. It probably would’ve taken Ken and I at least twice the amount of time to do that. Plus, we weren’t exhausted by the time we got to the venue. In fact, we were quite relaxed! That was a great investment of $496!


That’s me, starting to arrange things after the movers left!

Next recap post will be a continuation of Wednesday November 9, T-2 days!


A Fleeting Moment of Guilt

by Melissa on October 5, 2011

The other day I was talking on the phone to my mom just about regular old stuff. She had recently gone to a funeral for a distant relative and saw some of her cousins there. My mom and her one cousin are close in age (62 and 64) and this same cousin’s stepson had just gotten married the previous year.

As they were getting caught up on things, the cousin said to my mom:

“Well, you must be really busy with the wedding coming up soon!”

To which my mom replied with a short, “No.  No I’m not.  They’re taking care of everything themselves.”

Then my mom’s cousin started telling stories about all the tasks she had to do for her stepson’s wedding and how busy she was in the months leading up to the wedding.

Two thoughts occurred to me as my mom was recounting this conversation.

1) Shit. Should I have done more to involve my mom?

2) What am I doing “wrong” in this whole process that I’m not needing to reach out to others for help?

I mean, sure, my fiancé and I are busy doing stuff we wouldn’t normally have to do, but it’s not like overwhelming us or requiring us to reach out to others for help.  And I know typically you’re supposed to enlist the help of your bridesmaids for wedding-related projects, but never once have I felt the need that things were so crazy busy or overwhelming that I needed others’ help and regretted the decision not to have bridesmaids.

And I guess, because I haven’t felt overwhelmed, I didn’t involve my mom that much either. Well, there may be a few reasons for this upon further consideration.

1) My mom and dad don’t have much money and my dad’s health has been tumbling for the last two years. My dad’s medication is very, very expensive (think $1200/month for just one medication), and they always have to go through a laborious process to get it subsidized.  Therefore I never, ever wanted them thinking even once about paying for something for the wedding given that they can barely afford medication.

2) Money is a very, very taboo subject in my family (which is the polar opposite of my fiancé’s family who all talk very openly about their credit card debt and bankruptcies). Therefore, I never had the budget “talk” with my parents (or my fiancé’s parents for that matter) after we got engaged.

3) I always feel like my parents are judging me when I spend money, so I have barely told them what I’ve even purchased for the wedding, so I guess that also led to me not involving them much.  They always buy things cheap, no matter the long-term cost. For example, they’ll pay a few hundred dollars to get their car “halfway” fixed, only to have to pay even more a few months down the road to get it fixed again. The judge on “The People’s Court” has an interesting phrase, “The cheap becomes expensive.”  Anyway, I digress. I’ll give you an example when I’ve felt judged. I discovered that buying linen tablecloths was cheaper than renting them, and I told my parents about it. When they asked how much they were, I said they were $8 each to buy and that I would need about 30 of them. They immediately encouraged me to just buy those plastic roll tablecloths because they would be much cheaper. And, they about flipped out when I told them how much our photographer cost (which, I didn’t even tell them the real amount, of $2900. I just said it was “about $2000”).  My mom also firmly believes in the cash bar concept, because if people want to drink, they should pay for it themselves.

So, to avoid the judgment, I just stopped telling her about the things I bought. Because seriously, if she knew we spent $41 on custom luminaries from Etsy or that we spent $290 on 7 cases of wine (even though that’s a great deal!) the judging would continue.

All those things compound I guess to not involving her much at all in the wedding.

But what do you think? Should I have involved our families more in the wedding planning process?