Friday, July 31, 2009

Vignette 2: In which BiE inadvertently makes life very difficult for her bridesmaids

The rehearsal, on Friday afternoon, was brutally hot. It was 90 degrees outside, and at 3pm, we were standing more or less in direct sun. But the bridal party pulled through like champions, and when it was all over, Econo Boy and I were looking forward to hanging out with our buds for a while before the rehearsal dinner.

Not to be. The groomsmen departed to fix a tux situation, and the bridesmaids departed for a vague "errand," leaving me and Econo Boy alone to watch an episode of "Bones" on his parents' TV. (Did I mention we were fried?)

In my zoned-out state, I did not realize that the "errand" had anything to do with us. Nor did I catch on the next day, when my "Supermaid" (really my "matron of honor," but "matron" sounds so wrong!) continually offered to take my luggage to the wedding night hotel for me. "Oh, no thanks!" I chirped as the nice makeup lady glued false eyelashes to my lids.* "I need some of the stuff in there at the wedding."

As you have probably figured out, the "errand" involved buying treats for our wedding night hotel suite, and poor Supermaid was trying to subtly sneak away to put the champagne and strawberries out for us. It was not to be. Instead, Econo Boy's sister snuck away while I was getting dressed. Thank goodness the hotel was only 4 blocks from the wedding site!

And since I'm an aspiring wine geek, I'll tell you that our wedding night champagne (which was, in fact, consumed 2 days later on our mini-moon to the mountains) was Veuve Clicquot, which we'd never tried before, but enjoyed tremendously.

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* I have skimpy lashes, and the little clusters of faux lashes the makeup artist used looked brilliant. I'm not about to use 'em myself in the mornings, but for this most photographed of days, I was a big fan.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm back!

Whew. Now that? That was quite a week.

To be honest, I'm not even sure where to start with a recap of our wedding weekend, so I'll start by saying this: it was fantastic. We had a blast, felt incredibly loved, and we think (we hope!) those who attended had almost as much fun as we did! There was also some last-minute wrangling of details, a few minor stressors, and a slightly annoying rainstorm. It was, as I mentioned on A.'s blog, "perfectly imperfect."

Rather than try to give a blow-by-blow of the whole weekend, I think I'm going to focus on little stories/vignettes. These may or may not be in order, but I'll do my best to tell them roughly chronologically!

Vignette 1: In which BiE's bridesmaid is put to work, and too much wine is opened.

On Friday, the day before the wedding, two dear family friends helped my mom throw a bridesmaids' brunch. My bridesmaid C had arrived the night before, and joined me and our other college pals for low-key beer and pizza at my favorite hometown pizza joint. As early as Thursday evening, having solved the Great Shoe Crisis of 2009 and otherwise spent the week a bundle of nerves, I was exhausted and borderline incoherent.

Thankfully, C was there (having stayed in our neighbor's guest room the night before) -- she transferred salads from plastic bowls to serving bowls, helped my mom set the tables, and was otherwise a rock star. My only task? Opening 2 bottles of wine. Number of glasses of said wine consumed at lunch? 1. (Guess who drank it? That's right, your truly, BiE.)

Lunch was lovely. Presents were bestowed upon the bridesmaids and upon our mothers. I gave each bridesmaid a book, individually chosen for her, and a La Purse pashmina in "Dusk."

Image from Two thumbs up for this San Francisco-based retailer!

Econo Boy's family skittered out earlier than I'd expected in order to work on the rehearsal dinner. Fortunately, this meant that I got to follow lunch with a pre-rehearsal power nap. Mmm, power nap.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The shoe situation

Previously: My frustrating search for shoes moved online, and I ordered two pairs, which arrived 4 and 3 days before my wedding respectively.

Contender #1: Coloriffics Knotty, sold by Price: $29.95 plus $15 for two-day shipping.
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A little plain, but the knot in the front saves them from being totally boring. At that price, I couldn't pass up the chance that they might work. But I wasn't convinced they would. Would the heel be too high? (It's listed at 2.5", but the sites don't always get that quite right.) Would my ankles be too fat for the straps?

Contender #2: David Tate Rosette. Price: $71 plus free shipping.

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Sparkly detail, sturdy 2" heel, and a lovely goldish color -- what's not to like? I'd had my eyes on these for a while. What stopped me from ordering them? The price, and my belief that I could score something great in Colorado for less. Ha, ha, ha. When the situation became desperate, these were the first shoes to hit my electronic shopping cart.

Contender #3: VANEli Modesta, sold by Nordstrom. Price: $95 plus tax.
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In all my hours of shoe searching in Colorado, this was the only pair that almost became my wedding shoes. They were comfy, pretty, and even looked a bit like those Stuart Weitzmans that first caught my eye in Nordstrom. But alas, at $95, they were pretty spendy for me. And to make matters trickier, the store only had 1 pair of my size left, and it was clear they'd been tried on a *lot.* The soles were visibly scuffed and one heel had a nick in it. Normally I'd say "whatever" and just buy 'em, knowing I'd scuff them myself by the end of the night anyway, but I felt weird about spending so much on a pair of shoes that clearly weren't in top condition.

And the winner is ...

David Tate Rosette! This shoe looks so much better in person than on the website -- the champagne satin has just the right amount of shimmer, and the heel height is perfect.

I was sorely tempted by the Coloriffics, which made my feet and legs look long, slim, and sexy, but that extra 1/2 inch and the narrower heel made a huge difference in terms of how they felt on my foot. I feel like I can dance all night in the David Tates, while the Coloriffics had the balls of my feet going "ouchy!" within minutes of putting them on.

They're a hair tight across the instep, but I'm solving that by wearing them around my mom's house all day today. Next stop: pedicures!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wine Wednesday: A big-bottle buy

Econo Boy's parents are also regular readers of the WSJ Tastings column, and when we came to their house for a few nights, they had this lovely wine waiting for us: the Frontera Sauvignon Blanc, recently recommended by Dottie and John.

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Frontera is sold in large, 1.5L bottles for around $9 (for those keeping score, that's the equivalent of $4.50 per regular bottle!), which makes it an amazing bargain for everyday drinking -- and especially for a party. If anyone is looking for an inexpensive white wine to serve at a wedding, for example, I would definitely point them to this one! It's juicy and fragrant, light and refreshing, and seriously yummy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On gratitude

One of the things I've struggled with this week is gratitude, and how to balance the appropriate amount of gratitude with the appropriate amount of sanity-saving alone time and appropriately saying "no, I'm so sorry, we won't be able to do that." Let me elaborate.

Weddings that turn into "wedding weekends" get a lot of flack from the indie bride community. But now I see how they happen. Econo Boy and I are booked solid from Thursday night until Sunday brunch. It's not that we think we're super-cool and so important that our wedding deserves a ton of extra events. It's that we have lots of people traveling in from out of town who we want to see (result: Thursday night dinner with friends), and lots of family friends who are throwing offers for parties at us left and right (result: Sunday post-wedding brunch). We honestly don't care if people attend or skip the "extras," but people offered to host them, and really wanted to do these things, and so we said yes.

But to be honest? Brutally, totally honest? I wish the brunch would go away. And maybe a few of the other events too. I could use some down time this weekend.

And I feel awful for feeling that way. Because these family friends have worked so hard to put these events together, and they've done it out of love and warm wishes and all good intentions. But I am so. fracking. sick. of reviewing lists of people who haven't RSVP'd for Wedding Weekend Event X, and of answering questions about whether we prefer donuts or danish. Again, I know full well that these questions are posed with the best of intentions, and that the people posing them just want to make us happy, and I answer all of them promptly and with enthusiasm (sometimes faked). But what would really make me happy right now is not being asked any more questions!

So the lesson here is twofold. 1) Any events associated with your wedding WILL INVOLVE WORK FOR THE COUPLE. Even if they say "you won't have to lift a finger," trust me, there's work in there somewhere. Sometimes it's tracking down RSVPs, sometimes it's long and boring conversations about the guest list, sometimes it's constant questions about details. Be aware of this, and accept or decline offers to host such events accordingly. (It's OK to decline.) 2) Sometimes we end up resenting people who are trying to be kind. Take a deep breath and remember that they're trying to be kind before you let yourself get too far over the edge. In short, remind yourself to be grateful that people care about you guys enough to do this stuff, even if the danish vs. donut e-mails are driving you nuts. And if you really don't care about what they're asking, just flip a coin ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

This is a message from the Office of Ceremony Program Quality Control

The little inkjet printer in the room is whirring, whirring, whirring, working its heart out to print the inside of our programs! It has already given us the front of the programs, our wine lists, and drink menus, plus name tags for the rehearsal dinner. Next up: place cards, color-coded according to meal choice. (Number of ink cartridges depleted thus far - 1, at $50 a pop. HP, hats off for your extraordinary dedication to the "sell the razor for cheap and the blade for dear" business philosophy. But I love your inkjet printers.)

I like doing this stuff. It makes me feel useful, and busy in a mindless sort of way that doesn't require too much concentration. Econo Boy has been writing thank-you notes and helping his mom with the rehearsal dinner nametags (she bought adorable cowboy boot stickers to put on them -- it's a Western BBQ themed dinner).

On another subject entirely, Econo Boy and I played hooky and went on a date last night. I highly recommend this activity in the week prior to your wedding. We banned all wedding talk, went to see "Star Trek," and then drank margaritas (decent ones, not ones made with that horrid sugary mix) and ate carnitas and sopapillas at my favorite Mexican restaurant in my hometown.

And this morning, we got our marriage license! We both agreed that the women working there seemed unusually cheerful for government employees. I'm sure that has a lot to do with the fact that they're giving out marriage licenses, and not handling vehicle registration or jury duty -- they see happy people every day.

So in short, we're doing really well. I still don't have shoes, though. C'mon Zappos, let's see that box!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A couple things I've done right

Two minor things were accomplished this morning.

* I ordered liquor and beer to fill out our bar -- and the store was running a sale! $7 off Bombay Sapphire and $3 per 12-pack off our favorite beer (Blue Moon). Yes! (My brother will be relieved when he sees the drinks menu. His cocktail of choice is the G&T, and I've been teasing him by saying that I'm going to buy the ultra-cheap Gordon's gin. I don't like gin at all, so I'm no judge, but according to Bro, Gordon's tastes like nail polish remover. Then again he likes sweet Riesling, so what does he know?)

* We will still have a cake, according to the nice lady at the bakery who took my CC information. Phew. I am not a pastry delinquent.

But to be perfectly honest, the courthouse elopement followed by popcorn-eating and shoe-running-over still sounds pretty appealing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

10 days out: details meltdown

OK. I pretended to be all cool and calm in this morning's post, but the truth is I'm having a meltdown. I'm swimming in details, constantly exhausted, and I feel like an unorganized failure. I know that's silly, that we've done a lot of things right and we're actually very organized, but in the past few days I just keep slamming against stupid little humiliating things that aren't working or that I didn't do right. And Econo Boy has gone backpacking with his father, so I'm left alone facing an ever-increasing list of stupid wedding crap like the following.

* Had the florist not reminded me, I would have missed her final payment deadline. And I think I may have missed the deadline to pay for the cake, judging from the very friendly but firm voicemail the baker left me today. Great.

* I still don't have shoes. I'm wearing a very cute wedge sandal for the ceremony (which is outdoors, hence the need for a heel that won't sink into the ground), but the shoe is vinyl and doesn't breathe at all -- I doubt it's going to be very comfortable for dancing. So I've been searching high and low for a cute sandal with a 2" heel that I can dance in and that won't break the bank ... and so far, zip. Zero. Nada. I've seen cheap shoes with footbeds that won't bend at all, great shoes with 3" heels, great shoes with only one pair left in a size way too small for me, and one pair of perfect shoes that turned out to be $300 Stuart Weitzmans, but nothing in my size and price range that I like even a little. And I came dangerously close to strangling a saleswoman who tried, very loudly and insistently, to convince me that a pair of shoes did in fact have a 2" heel if you "measured it right." Call me crazy, but if a heel adds 3" to my height, in my book that's a 3" heel.

* I'm also lacking a necklace. Several months back I found a stunning necklace online: Lily, from Blue Sprinkle.

Image from

But it was more than I wanted to spend, and so I kept looking. And looking. And looking. And I found ... nothing. And now, after several humiliating trips to various jewelry stores and department stores, having received looks dripping with either pity or scorn when I explain what I'm looking for (a very simple necklace with a drop pendant) and my ideal price range ($50ish), I am jewelry-less. (It's not like I want diamonds! I'm happy with paste, seriously, it only has to look good for about 4 hours. But the saleswoman at Nordstrom, which usually has such great customer service, turned away with a disgusted look on her face and *stopped talking to me* when I said that the pearl pendant she showed me was out of my price range. And it was a fucking ugly necklace to boot.) Maybe I should just give in to temptation and pay for 2-3 day priority shipping on the Lily necklace, but it still feels like too much money, and frankly I'm not sure I trust USPS to deliver it in the promised time frame anyway.

Ugh. Between hair appointments and shoes and jewelry and looking skeptically at the very expensive dress that I'm not even sure I like anymore, I feel sick about the money I've spent and the money I'm thinking about spending on myself, and I feel like I'm going to be the world's most unimaginative, slapped-together, frumpy bride no matter what, so why bother? It's probably gauche not to show up for one's own wedding, but I am so over this right now that I just want it all to go away so I can spend the 25th eating popcorn in front of a TV, having eloped to the courthouse the day before, donated my dress to charity, and run over my shoes a few times in a very large and heavy car.

Wine Wednesday: Clayhouse Adobe Red

Y'all. I am exhausted. 2 walkthroughs, numerous errands (votive candles for $5 a dozen at Michael's! Hooray!), a listening session, and what seems like an infinite number of discussions later, Econo Boy and I have picked our vows, purchased place cards, finished the seating charts for the rehearsal dinner and the reception, and somehow managed to squeeze in time with all 3 branches of the family (my mom, my dad, his parents). Still to do: dancing shoes (I'll explain later), decorations for the outside terrace, purchase of beer and liquor, and hopefully little else.

At dinner with my dad (who you may remember is a wine lover too), I chose the following bottle of red wine for the table.

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US winemakers tend to prize varietal wines, which are almost entirely (or sometimes 100%) made from the same grape. While a wine labeled simply "red" can be a bit of a risk, I've grown to appreciate the results when skilled winemakers blend their grapes. This Clayhouse Adobe Red is delicious. The combination of Malbec and Zinfandel makes it rich and robust, with a nice kick on the finish, while the Syrah and Petite Sirah add roundness and softness. A great buy for $15 at the wine store (and still not a bad value at the restaurant for $32, but restaurant alcohol markups just kill me).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

RSVPs part III: my favorite responses to RSVP follow-ups

Our efforts to follow up with guests who hadn't RSVPd yielded one excellent excuse, a couple who did RSVP but whose card went astray, and a handful of pretty lame responses.

* "I'm definitely coming, but my wife hasn't decided if she can make the time yet. Can you put her as a 'maybe'?"

* "Sorry I didn't return the card, I thought my dad already told you I couldn't make it." (Is it just me, or should someone over 30, living on his own, consider handling his own social calendar without parental assistance?)

* "Oh, right! I lost the invitation, but I totally want to come. When is it again? And can I bring my girlfriend?" (Age of guest: two years older than I am.)

But my personal favorite RSVP mishap was the phone call I got last night: "Hi BiE! I RSVP'd no, but then I realized the river rafting in Colorado was going to be awesome this month. Can I still come? I already bought the plane tickets." (This was a relative of mine! We got the call while staying with my grandparents, and my poor grandmother was beside herself with annoyance.)

To be honest, though, we're feeling pretty good about everything -- walkthroughs are scheduled, all invited guests are accounted for, our seating chart is in good shape, and we're arriving in Denver tomorrow. Whew! Here we go!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wine Wednesday: A Zinfandel for summer

In their Wine Notes column last week, my favorite wine writers, Dottie and John of the Wall Street Journal, gave advice to a student at Chapel Hill looking to expand his palate on a tiny budget. Their advice was excellent -- go down to the local wine store and buy a mixed case of wines under $10. Econo Boy and I have been doing that for a while ourselves. We'll take an afternoon, go down to the wine store, grab an empty case box, and start picking different wines to try.

The rule for these cases is that they have to be mostly wines that are new to us, but we also go back to old favorites -- I think Altos Las Hormigas has found its way into our last 3 cases. Another regular feature of our mixed cases: Rabbit Ridge Barrel Cuvee Zinfandel, from California's central coast.

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This charming wine is surprisingly gentle for a Zinfandel. It's not particularly spicy or peppery, but it's not a fruit bomb either. It's just a relaxed, smooth, sippable wine that doesn't feel too heavy on a hot summer day. (But be aware of the high alcohol content in this one! 14.9% packs a bigger punch than the usual 13-14%.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

RSVPs part II: why it's important to follow up with the missing ones

A good friend of mine officially has the best reason ever for not RSVPing: he didn't receive an invitation!

In our defense, we did send one. But he had just moved, hadn't sent out his new address, and hadn't updated his addy with USPS. And fortunately, he did receive our e-mailed save-the-date back in January and had already purchased plane tickets and a hotel room, so he won't miss our wedding because of it. But I think he was relieved to hear that he is, in fact, 100% officially invited!

So if any of you, like A.'s dad or Econo Boy, feel bad about following up with people, keep my friend T's story in mind. It may feel a bit awkward to ask, "so, uh, are you coming or what?," but it's nowhere near as awkward as a guest whose invitation went astray having to ask, "so, uh, am I invited?"

Image from

Monday, July 6, 2009

RSVPs have turned me into a crazy person

I don't know if anyone else is finding this to be the case, but as we get closer to the caterer's final deadline, I'm starting to see our guests, our beloved friends and family, almost purely as numbers on the spreadsheet -- as 1s in the "yes" column or 1s in the "no" column, as chicken, beef, or vegetarian meals, to be carefully color-coded on the place cards and reported to the caterer.

I am also developing a new category of guests. We have "friends," "family," and "people who don't RSVP on time." I'm a control freak. I can't help it. Missing numbers and head counts that don't match up bug me.

A while back, Sweet T lamented the apparent inability of some guests to RSVP, or to give attending a wedding any more consideration than they would have given the kegger at Pi Kappa Alpha back in the day. I think part of the problem is that many twentysomethings may not have had much experience planning large events, and therefore don't have a strong grasp on things like the importance of RSVPs (yes, the "please respond by" date meant something) or how much it means to the couple if you can come. I've noticed that wedding IQ tends to increase drastically between the ages of about 22 and 30. My matron of honor, who got married right out of college, had to deal with some pretty crazy stuff from friends and guests who sort of didn't "get" the whole wedding thing (as in, "I can't wait to come to your wedding! It's OK if I bring my 4 housemates, right? You've never met them but I'm sure you'll love them"). Four years later, I've had far fewer annoyances to cope with.

For those who might need a bit of help navigating a wedding invitation, I humbly present Bride in Exile's Guide to Being a Delightful Wedding Guest: What to Do When You Get an Invitation

For the uninitiated: This is a wedding invitation. It requests the pleasure of your company at a marriage ceremony, followed by a reception. Image from

1. RSVP promptly.

"Promptly" means "by the date indicated on the invitation, and preferably as soon as you decide whether or not you're attending." If you're like most of us, and you have giant piles of random papers and mail in your house, procrastinating on your RSVP card will probably mean it gets lost somewhere in those piles. So just drop the little card in the mail already, or call, or e-mail. Really, you have so many options, so why not take 3 minutes to let your friends know if you'll be there? (Note: even if you think the couple already knows you're coming/not coming, you still need to formally RSVP after you get the invitation. It will be really helpful to the hosts to hear official confirmation.)

Our guests were actually really great about this -- as of the RSVP deadline, only about 10% of RSVPs were missing, and many of those trickled in a day or two later. But I've definitely known other couples who had to call huge portions of the guest list to find out their head count. This adds stress and more work to the couple's already full plate.

If your plans haven't solidified by the RSVP deadline and you think you might be able to make it but aren't sure, talk to the couple and let them know what's going on -- but be aware that this kind of "maybe" RSVP is really only acceptable under extraordinary circumstances, e.g. if at the time of the wedding you will be 8.25 months pregnant (one of my friends RSVPd "yes, unless the baby is early!"). Otherwise, you're just being indecisive and annoying.

2. Stick to your RSVP response.
The morning of my matron of honor's wedding, my beloved-but-sometimes-clueless younger brother, who had RSVP'd "yes," answered a call on his cell phone from my mom. She was also attending and wanted to know what time she should pick him up. Bro responded that he'd sort of forgotten about the wedding and thought he might just skip it. So I will quote my mom, semi-directly: "You have got to be kidding me. You don't RSVP 'yes' to a wedding, let the family pay for your meal, and then not show up because you 'don't feel like it.' This is not a frat party!" The next time I saw Bro, he was seated in the pews next to my mom wearing a jacket and tie. (Now *that's* parenting!)

So to echo my mom: weddings (or really any event where you're asked to RSVP) are not frat parties. Nor are they like that "Welcome Freshmen!" BBQ at the college dining hall. Extra people or missing people will be noticed, and will annoy your hosts. So if you said you'd be there, be there. (Obvious exceptions for births of babies, family emergencies, canceled flights, and other events beyond your control.) Don't decide to skip it in favor of the TV Movie of the Week or drinks with that cute girl in your office who you think might like you. Conversely, if you said you couldn't make it -- or worse, if you didn't bother to RSVP at all -- don't show up and expect dinner to be waiting for you.

3. If the wedding invitation is only addressed to you, don't assume you can bring a date.
The invitation is intended to invite the person or persons to whom it's addressed -- and no one else. If the envelope says "Miss Mary Smith and Guest," obviously it's cool if you bring a date. If it just says "Miss Mary Smith," please don't respond for two -- at least, not without checking with the couple first.

I am of the somewhat unpopular opinion that it's OK to call and ask if you can bring a date, provided that you are asking on behalf of a serious boyfriend/girlfriend. Econo Boy and I received several of these calls and said "yes" every time. But not all receptions will have extra space or extra room in the budget. If the bride or groom says "no, we're sorry, that won't work," don't whine or pout or bad-mouth the couple to your friends. You're a grown-up. Deal with it graciously, and either go alone or politely decline.

And for pete's sake, don't call the morning of the wedding and ask if it's OK that your new girlfriend is planning to "tag along." #1 also applies to asking about dates.

I'm a bit cranky. Can you tell? I think it's the giant pile of boxes I'm staring at right now. Moving is not fun.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Budget, Part III: Things I might have done differently

Every couple has a few wedding-day regrets, I'm sure. I may have more to report after our actual wedding, but at 3 weeks out, these are some things I wish I'd done differently, budget-wise.

Choices I wish I'd made differently
* The dress. Yeah, I know, I just said this came in under budget. But I feel like I could have spent even less and been happy with what I had. I also wish I'd looked into having a dress made. I think this could have come in even further under budget without compromising anything that was important to me, but I got a bit swept away with the idea that my dress had to be THE BESTEST MOST PERFECT DRESS EVER. It doesn't. It just has to be special, and pretty, and something you like, not something that changes your entire worldview.

* The invitations. I like them a lot, I really do. But to be perfectly honest, I don't love the card stock-type paper the printer used (I'm a paper snob), and the stressful communication problems weren't exactly barrels of fun either. Had I increased my budget in this area by 15-20%, I could have gone with a more experienced and reputable letterpress vendor, one that would have used better materials and wouldn't have had me tearing my hair out. But you get what you pay for.

If I had to do it again, I'd probably go with my first love: White Aisle flat-print invitations. Yes, they're flat printed, but the luxurious paper and stunning designs more than make up for it, and I would have saved a fair chunk of change over the letterpress set. The lesson here: don't let anyone, especially wedding magazines and wedding blogs, talk you into thinking that something you love somehow isn't "good enough" for your wedding. If you love it, go for it! And the second lesson: if something is really important to you, it's OK to splurge a bit on it, rather than stress yourself out by trying to find the "perfect look" for less. Cuts in cost almost always come with a corresponding cut in quality or service. (Caveat emptor and all that.)

And really, that's it. I'm completely happy and at ease with everything else we chose, financially speaking. Econo Boy and I set our original budget based on what parents said they wanted to contribute, and on what we felt comfortable contributing from our own coffers. I'm happy to say that we're still cool with the final numbers (even if the catering bill does give me hives).

What about everyone else? Any advice to pass on to the newly-engaged?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Budget, Part II: Sticker Shock

In Part I of my budget recap, I mentioned that we're right on target to be within $100 of our initial budget. I then went on to list a bunch of areas where we saved moolah. So where did all those savings go? Read on to find out.

BiE's Budget, Part II: Where the savings went

* Catering. By far the biggest sticker shock for us was the food and service. Part of this was due to lack of information. We drew up our original food estimates based on the prices a popular Denver caterer listed on their website -- and it turned out those prices didn't include any labor costs. Part of the cost increase stemmed from our decision to do a plated, seated dinner instead of a buffet (due to lack of space for a buffet table, and my mother's surprisingly intense dislike of buffets -- long story).

Add it all together, and the per-person cost of food and service ended up being nearly double what we estimated back in summer 2008. Fortunately we saved enough in other areas that we're still within budget, but I still feel a little woozy every time I look at our catering contract.

* Rentals. We had to bring in our own plates, glasses, linens, chairs, and even some extra tables to the venue, and while my mom and I were cost-conscious in picking them out, we didn't go with the least expensive options either. Our final rentals bill is about 20% higher than we'd budgeted, based entirely on choosing slightly fancier china, linens, and silverware than the absolute lowest-cost items. ($0.10 per piece adds up fast!) Also, in my original estimate, I left out some items, like plates for the cake.

The lesson here: think in advance about things like labor costs and where your guests are getting their plates!

Another excellent cell phone picture from yours truly.

* Items we didn't plan for. Our initial budget didn't include any ceremony or reception stationery (menus, programs, escort cards) or decorations (candles and menu card holders). We've managed to find good deals on these items, but all of it added up. Our original budget also did not include a day-of coordinator, but 2 months ago, Econo Boy and I decided to hire one. Fortunately, the pennies we'd pinched in other areas enabled us to not blow our budget when surprise costs came up!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Budget, Part I: Savings (aka the fun part!)

A while back, sera at broken*saucer wrote a great post about budgets, and the sharing of them online. In the comments, I said that I wasn't planning to share any budget information on my blog. The last thing I want to do is second-guess myself, or make someone else second-guess their own budget choices. In addition, it's incredibly difficult to compare costs across regions -- my budget would really only be useful to a fellow Denver bride. And on top of that, people tend to get a bit judgy when it comes to money, and I wasn't really in the mood for reading comments like "I can't believe you spent so much on your wedding, it's only one day!" or, "only $X? Wow, it must have been pretty rustic/casual/other pseudonym for 'cheap' or 'awful.'"

Then earlier this week, I was adjusting our budget spreadsheet to reflect some new costs, and I was delighted to realize that we're within $100 of our original estimate. I was also interested to see that there were very few individual items where our original and final budgets matched up -- we either ended up way under or way over on most things. So after thinking about it for a while, I decided to share a percentage-based breakdown of where we saved, and where we went over budget. I thought this kind of breakdown might be helpful for anyone who's in the early stages of planning their own wedding, both as tips for saving some money and as a heads up about places where costs might take you by surprise. Plus, as a numbers geek, I'm really fascinated by how it all evened out in the end!

Ready? OK, let's get started!

BiE's Budget, Part 1: Where we saved
* Photography. Initially I budgeted a lot for photography because I wanted a pro album. But as other estimates started rolling in, Econo Boy and I decided to DIY the albums on iPhoto (for parents and grandparents) and (for us, and one day, to embarass our children). This enabled us to hire an amazing photographer while still coming in substantially under our original budget. And I have to admit, I'm completely psyched to design our own album! Savings: 20%
* Cake. Econo Boy and I aren't huge fans of large, elaborate wedding cakes, so we chose to buy a small, very simply decorated 3-tier square cake for the cake-cutting ceremony. Meanwhile, the caterers will be cutting up a sheet cake (from the same bakery as the tiered cake, with the same flavors, icing, decorating, and fillings) so dessert can be served as soon as the cake-cutting ceremony is over. We went with the sheet cake option because we didn't want people to have to sit around and wait while a giant cake got cut up, but it ended up being a cost-cutting move as well. Savings: 30%
* Ceremony musicians. My dad has connections in the Colorado classical music world, and through them, he found out about a terrific group of music students just graduated from the University of Denver, who charged *way* less than the numbers we'd seen for other string quartets. Savings: 45%
* Dress. My initial guess on the dress was just that -- a guess, based on several hours of online photo surfing, estimated dress costs from, and little else. But after trying on some gowns, I couldn't quite reconcile myself to spending that much on something I would only wear once, and I mentally slashed my budget. Once I finally chose a dress, my alterations came in way under my estimate -- I was lucky enough to only need a bustle and a little taken in up top. Total savings: 25%
* Rings. Our initial budget reflected the cost of platinum in June 2008, which was astronomical. One economic crash later, and platinum fell down to much more reasonable prices. Plus, we scored my ring on a clearance sale. Savings: 20%.

So that was our savings. Where did all that saved money go? Find out tomorrow! :-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling

Several weeks ago, I wrote with great sadness and regret that I had to break up with a longtime friend -- Pacific Rim Dry Riesling. I think PRDR and I could reconcile if it said it was truly, sincerely sorry for the flabby, metallic wine it delivered at our last cookout, but in the meantime, I needed a distraction. A gorgeous, sleek, vibrant Dry Riesling to make me forget my bruised heart.

Enter Sweet T, CaitStClair, and their mutual recommendation: Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling. (Think of it as a blind date set up by friends.)

Image from

I picked up the 2007 vintage the other week, and I can give it an unreserved rave. Guys, this is an awesome white wine, especially for the price (I paid $12). The Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling is seriously juicy, with flavors of pears, green grapes, and just a little bit of peach. But it's not overly sweet or syrupy; it has that wonderful lean, crisp taste that I adore about dry Rieslings. Serve this to dinner guests at cocktail hour and bask smugly in their praise for your good taste. Pour this for yourselves one night with scallops, or salmon, or grilled veggies and pasta with olive oil, and glory in the good life. In short, this dry Riesling has gone on my "great buys" list, and I look forward to a long and rewarding friendship with this Washington vineyard!