Category: Getting Hitched (Page 2 of 3)

Not So Sweet Dreams

Oh no. They’ve started.

The wedding nightmares. The moments of sheer panic when I wake up in a cold sweat because I’ve shown up to my own wedding and I’ve forgotten a critical piece.

The other night, I had a series of (sort of) nightmares consisting of me forgetting something for the big day,  me running around feeling stressed, and me not being able to pay the bill. Subliminal messaging much?

My body is clearly telling me something. I need to slow down. I need to take a deep breath and relax. I’ve got some time to figure things out and anything can happen between now and then. I need to chill. I need to stop over-thinking everything. I also need to remember to be rational.

This is the part of wedding planning they didn’t tell you.

I consider myself to be a mostly practical, if not overly analytical, bride. I’ve weighed my options thoroughly. I have a clear idea of some of what I want and what I don’t want. I refuse to go into debt to pay for the big day. I’ve researched, researched, and researched some more. I’ve laid out my choices so that it’ll be easy to make them as I go along. All of these things I’ve known from the beginning – so why am I now falling prey to the craziness?

There’s a part of me that thinks that this an anticipation quirk.

Maybe it’s a buildup where nothing is happening so I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything.

Or maybe it’s the reading I’ve been doing after hours, looking at DIY tips and ways to save money while still having a kickass time.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve got pieces already figured out, like rings and a dress, bridal party and venue, my bouquet.

Getting married is feeling more real – and it’s a good feeling.

I feel good when I think about tying the knot with Brent, because there’s not another person on this little blue and green planet that I’d rather spend my time with. I’m not scared of our future.

What I’m finding myself to be frustrated with is the expectations and overwhelming amount of options. Everyone has been so great and so helpful, but with so many opinions, it’s hard to determine which way I want to go.

I need to practice those mantras I set down for myself when I first got engaged.

C’mon, Mandy. You’re smarter than this. You know that you shouldn’t be stressing yourself out.

And you know what? By the end of writing this, I’m already feeling better. I’m not feeling so scatterbrained. I know I’ve got this. It’s going to be a great day, no matter what.

Who gives a damn about what the ceiling looks like in the venue? Or what color the invitations will be. It’s. just. not. important.  (Yet everything around me keeps pushing and pushing saying that it is, even though I know it isn’t.)

I have to remember that despite what I see all over Pinterest and wedding blogs and everywhere in between, the details are great – but they’re not what makes the day. It’s about love and the future and all of those good things that make life worthwhile.

Let’s shift our focus to that, shall we?

We Picked a Venue! Now What?

Wedding planning fell to the wayside as soon as we started in on the house buying thing.

But before all that jazz, we made a huge leap in the wedding planning process: we picked a venue.

When Brent and I sat down to think about what we wanted in our dream wedding, we imagined getting hitched in something that looked like this:

 

When we looked at how much it would cost to coordinate a barn wedding (within a reasonable drive), we decided to look at other options. Maybe a unique venue like a museum or something could work?

But, that’s didn’t work out either.

We’re sticking to a modest budget when it comes to our wedding plans, as we’ve both resolved that we absolutely do not want to go into any debt for the big day. Thankfully, our parents are helping out, but we still wanted to keep costs in check.

When I started to run numbers for these sorts of occasions, it ended up being a lot more than those photos make it seem. A barn wedding? That’ll be $4K+ – just for the empty barn. For a day. Really.

So, we started getting creative. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many different venues I researched. I tried empty floors of old buildings, loft spaces, gallery spaces, airport hangars, museums, storefronts, historic sites, parks, picnic groves, country clubs, hotels, B&Bs, gymnasiums…you name it and I probably considered it. It all came down to three things:

  1. Would we be able to fit and host our guests comfortably?
  2. Would it be in our price range?
  3. Would it fit with the type of wedding we wanted?

Meeting all three criteria? A handful. Maybe. And that’s being optimistic.

One of the biggest challenges, I found, was finding a venue that was going to be within our price range and able to accommodate our projected guest list.

Thankfully, we did.

Appletree Terrace was a venue that I wasn’t sure of when I first started looking, but once I toured the facility (I had been there before in high school, so I hadn’t seen some of their updates) and discussed their pricing and capabilities, it was going to be a good fit.

Is it the venue of our dreams? No, but I’m sure that it met all of our criteria. Our guests will have great food, plenty of parking, and it’s easily accessible. We can get married right in the same place as the reception (another point on our checklist) and we know that it’ll be a great venue to work with.

Fun Fact: My aunt got married and had her reception at this venue! I’ve also dined here for sports team banquets (yes, I did that at one time) and can vouch for the food: it’s delish!

We committed to our date – 10/10/15 – and now…we wait and plan a lot of the other stuff. In January, we’ll go to meet with our venue to talk about menu and the schedule of the day. You know, the deetz.

In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the feeling of having a date and a place. Thank goodness.

I Said “Yes” to the Dress

I wasn’t on the TLC show, but I did have my very own moment of saying “yes” to a garment that I’ll wear over a year from now. Not just any garment, though – a very, very special one.

Finding a wedding dress ended up being a breeze, which I’m thankful for. I’ve heard horror stories about countless dresses, scary fitting rooms, loaner bras, and a constant feeling of overwhelm.  I’ve also heard about all of the craziness that comes with being a bride, bringing anyone to an appointment, and having to make a decision. Wedding dress shopping sounded like it was going to be like a reality show, for real.

Thankfully, nothing like that happened to me. Sure, I had the loaner bra, tried on a bunch of dresses, and felt defeated when I left my first appointment feeling like nothing looked good on me. Those three-way mirrors, man. They get ya!

My first appointment, back in December, was at a been-there-forever bridal shop in Dunmore called Head to Toe Bridal. I made an appointment with them after going to my first wedding expo and wasn’t sure what to expect. My prep work for the appointment consisted of watching Say Yes to the Dress and reading up on “X Things to Know Before You Try on a Dress” or “Know Your Body Type: Choosing the Perfect Dress” and whatnot. What can I say? I’m a nerd who likes to research everything.

I walked in with a larger than average entourage in tow: my mother, my grandmother, two of my aunts, my maid of honor, and a gaggle of cousins. It was delightful for me (because they’re all important to me) but I’m not sure how the shop staff felt.

We got a brief tour of the stock, I got to walk through and flip any dresses I wanted to try on, and then the attendant assigned to me got them all spiffed up. She was super nice and very encouraging. I was petrified that I was going to get someone who was going to make fun of my purple tights (don’t worry – my family did) or express disapproval at my style preferences. Sorry, no P’nina Tournai sheer stomach panels or spilling cleavage for me. My kingdom for a neckline that doesn’t plunge!

I pulled a handful of dresses on my own – a couple tea length, one or two long ones that were non-traditional, and one that the salesperson recommended. My family browsed alongside me, pulling dresses they liked for me, which was an adventure to say the least (but in a good way). I tried on satins, ruffles, and some things that made me look preggers. See some photos below for your viewing pleasure. Don’t mind my awful faces. These were candid and taken on a cellphone.

Dresses

A lot of losers, and only one left me feeling slightly pleased (the one with the tan belt). The worst part of trying on wedding dresses, for me, was finding out which cuts were unflattering. Heavy dresses made me feel heavy. If there wasn’t enough structure, I felt like an aimless blob draped in some manner of polyester or chiffon. If there wasn’t enough support, I felt…just gross.

Worst of all, I had my heart set on finding a tea length dress. It was what I pinned most frequently to my Pinterest board. When I thought about the dress I wanted to wear in my head, it was tea length. It was playful and elegant all at once. I wanted to be Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelley all in one (a slight departure from my normal Liz Lemon-dom). I wanted to be a real lady, dammit! And so, with every failed tea length, I felt my dream of pretty shoes and showing ankle slip away.

It’s an emotional roller coaster ride. On one hand, you’re feeling excited and hopeful about finding that magical dress that you slip on and don’t want to take off. On the other, you’re forced to get to know your body and see what looks good on you and what doesn’t. You also encounter some really shitty dresses that you fell in love with in the photo but try on and just want to cry. It’s a lot of emotional extremes – no wonder brides are shown going bonkers during this experience!

And there isn’t an article or an episode of a style-focused TV show that can prepare you for that. It’s an interesting dynamic for sure. There’s a lot of pressure and focus put on the dress, but it’s just that: it’s just a dress. Sure, it’s a dress you wear on a special day and it makes you look and “feel” bridal, but man, people laser in on it.

I decided to wrap things up and try again later. After all, I was buying a house – I had a lot going on and my mental energies needed to be put there. I promised to make an appointment again in the spring, once things had settled and I was in a  better frame of mind.

And I’ll admit, I was feeling discouraged. Trying on 15 or so dresses in my first appointment was a bit of a daunting task. Nothing was fitting right. I didn’t feel comfortable in anything. In my sane frame of mind, I knew that it was just the first appointment. I reminded myself to not lose hope and to remember that I would eventually find the right dress.

But doesn’t it suck sometimes? All the pressure? The build-up and expectations over finding a single garment that is supposed to reflect you on one day? I’ll be honest, it does.

I took a few months off. I focused in on paint colors and unpacking boxes as we settled in to our first home together. I didn’t think about the dress at all until a few weeks before, when I remembered that I should probably make an appointment so that my family and friends could plan around it.

I picked a date – May 3 – and started planning. It was going to be a busy weekend. A yard sale, the Dirty Girl Mud Run, and family visiting all in a few days. After the mud and grit was rinsed out of my hair, I headed down to David’s Bridal for an appointment with my mom, mom-in-law, grandma, and maid of honor.

We walked in and instantly I was pleased at the selection – it felt like there were more options within my budget already. We started pulling dresses, some of which I had found on the website when I was browsing a few nights before. The attendant, who was a firecracker personality, coached me through the picks.

We started off with a beautiful dress that was way too heavy. Then through a few unfamiliar silhouettes, some picks from the website, and a dress my family chose for me to try on.

 Dresses 2

I tried on 8 in total before it came down to the final three.

The first one was empire waisted with little cap sleeves, a bit of bling at the bust, lots of lace, and a flowing a-line silhouette. Very pretty. Then, there was a lace and tulle confection that I liked and was similar to the one I had liked best at my first appointment. They became maybes. I figured I would end up trying them on another time before deciding if I wanted to take the plunge.

But then, oh, then there was THE DRESS. It was the last one I tried on. It was tea length (SWEET MARY MOTHER OF GOD, THANK YOU!) with lace and an illusion neckline. It was a find from the website and I was in L-O-V-E. Game over. This was it.

I pranced out of the dressing room with a smile on my face. To seal the deal, they added a belt, shoes, and headpiece. Every time I looked in the mirror, I just blushed and glowed like a Christmas tree.

Everyone wanted to hate it, but they couldn’t. They signed, shrugged, and said, “It’s you, alright!” I got a little teary, but it wasn’t the earth-shattering emotional breakdown they make it out to be. I felt light and happy. I didn’t doubt my choice. This was it. This was exactly how I wanted to look as a bride.

And so I said, “yes”. It’s now hanging in my upstairs closet, waiting for next October to arrive. (not pictured anywhere above, for the sake of tradition, superstition, and the fact that Brent said he wants to be surprised)

Let’s hope finding shoes and headpiece is less monumental!

DISCLAIMER: Don’t worry, my Mister knows some details about the dress and has seen all of the photos above before, but he won’t see THE DRESS till the big day. I have to admit – we had a lot of fun looking at the dresses that were absolutely hideous together!

The Wedding Vendor Dance

Photo By: petuliadanner

 

It starts off slow.

You scan for friendly faces, those who can be perfect partners.

You make a mental note of their names. What you like about them. What you think they can bring to the floor.

You take a deep breath. You approach and you ask.

A positive response! How exciting! You smile. It’s all falling into place.

You ask for more. Details. Details. Details.

Then it begins. One step forward, two steps back.

Now one to the side. And back the other way.

A spin, a twirl, and the sting of disappointment.

Then the burst of happiness when you’re perfectly in step.

Dancing through the wedding planning process sounds easy, right? What they didn’t tell you growing up or what you haven’t seen on Pinterest boards of all of your friends is the daunting task of choosing vendors. Above all, the negotiation. OH MY THE NEGOTIATION.

It’s overwhelming enough to be planning a wedding with so many choices, but when you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of vendors that you think you want to work with, it becomes a part-time job to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

From my own experience, I’m an exhaustive researcher. I look at everything from a hundred different angles before I make the decision. I have spreadsheets on my Google Drive that list all of the vendors I’ve looked at, those I’d consider working with, and those who I’m on the fence about. I read reviews. I dig for dirt. I check Facebook pages and Yelp pages and everything in between. I’m the bride who fixates on knowing every possible outcome, every possibility, before I make a decision.

It can be crippling.

Then there’s the sense of going back and forth between:

Yes, let’s be practical. Let’s just pick something and focus on what’s really important.

OR

Wait – do I really want this? Is this going to be right? What if it’s not right? TELL ME IT’S GOING TO BE RIGHT.

Sweet Jesus. I’ve never had trouble selecting flavors of ice cream, but when it comes to choosing wedding vendors, suddenly I’m pouring over countless cells of data in a frenzy. It’s like I’m a female-version, less moody, and cutting-cheekbone-less Sherlock.

I got engaged in May. It’s now November and I’ve finally picked a venue and a date (after much poking and prodding).

The date was the easy part – Brent and I went back and forth between May and October, but something about October felt right. Serendipity and subconscious sentimentality led me to October 10. I didn’t consciously select the date ahead of time – I looked at a calendar, saw 10 and said, “Yes, this is perfect.” My cousin’s 21st birthday and my recently passed on grandparents’ anniversary. Being the scatterbrain that I can sometimes be (I’m horrible with dates and birthdays), I forgot about both, so it was a happy and heartwarming surprise to find those out. It’s going to be a great day.

The venue journey I’ll save for another post. I promise it’s a good thing, but I did have my share of anxiety.

Ah, yes, anxiety. Which leads me into vendor negotiation. The dance that I started this post with. I’ve gotten my first few tastes and I can say that it’s definitely my least favorite part of wedding planning so far. The waiting, the back and forth, the lack of follow up or response that causes you to throw your hands in the air and say, “F*ck it. I’m eloping.”

Here are some things that have helped:

  • Studying up on some articles for helpful advice.
  • Having a firm idea of your budget and a rough idea of your guest list.
  • Asking for recommendations for vendors who have a reputation for being good to work with
  • Thinking rationally. Seriously – you have to keep yourself in check and remember to approach it from a logical point of view. Yes, it’s emotional – but you can’t make your decisions solely based on that.
  • Taking a breather before responding to emails.
  • Being patient.
  • Remembering that the peak of wedding season isn’t going to yield the fastest response times
  • Recognizing that you have time and this is not a fire drill
  • Being gracious and direct.
  • Knowing what you want before you start talking.

It gets better. No, really, it does. Once you get past the initial communication hurdles (I can write books on this, I swear), it gets easier. But if you want to be successful in the negotiation, you have to be prepared to negotiate. Don’t accept everything at face value. Come in with a plan. Compare and contrast. Be firm and decisive. It’s okay to ask questions – and don’t be afraid to. If you’re not happy with something or aren’t satisfied, voice that concern – it’s not going to help you to stay quiet. Be polite, but also don’t be a pushover. Remember – you and your vendor stand to have a mutually beneficial relationship. You can be emotional – but don’t let your emotions steer you toward a decision you’re not happy with.

What I’m trying to say with this one is that I need to remember to not fixate and obsess (and if any of you readers are brides, this one is for you too!). I’m in flux between sweating small stuff and throwing tradition to the wind in favor of practicality. It’s a dizzying mix, but it’s one that I know will get easier with time. I just have to remember my footing and keep repeating my mantras. It’s going to be okay.

And hey, spazzing happens. It does. If you’re by nature a worrier, it’s going to happen. And if not, congrats! You probably have a much longer lifespan than the rest of us!

Just stay cool, don’t obsess over details, and don’t feel the need to throw hours upon hours into vendor research. Having done it, I can say that I did waste time because I knew going in what I didn’t want in a wedding. I didn’t want a hotel reception. I didn’t want something ornate. I didn’t want something rigid and overly traditional. I also knew my budget. But, I still looked at those venues and vendors anyway because there was a sense that I had to – how could I not know ALL the options?

Knowing all the options doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be easier.

Forgive yourself for not knowing all the options – and go with your instincts from the start.

Stand your ground when you negotiate. Go in with a budget, a rough guest list, and an idea of what you want. Stick to it.

No matter what happens, the outcome is the same: you’re ending up married to someone wonderful and that’s what matters.

Braving Bridal Hoards

A glimpse of the expo. I do have to say that the Scranton Cultural Center did a wonderful job with the atmosphere.

Oh, my. Well, that was interesting.

I’m talking about the NEPA Bridal Expo. It was overly warm, overly crowded, and all kinds of awkward. Normally, I’m pretty positive about everything – but this? I sort of make a cringey face when I think back to it.

Sadly, I didn’t win anything. The whole reason I went was to try for door prizes and to get ideas. I wanted to check out vendors and learn more about some possible venues. I only walked away with one idea that I thought was really unique.  I was disappointed to only see a couple of vendors there that I had remotely considered for services. The rest were either way out of my price range or just not my thing.

Like, there had to be an entire row’s worth of hotels. Some were venues, others were just offering specials for couples needing rooms for out of town guests (which is great and all!), but I would have liked to see more diversity of vendors in that department. What about the event centers? The restaurants? The picnic groves? The non-traditional spots? The barns, taverns, and country clubs?

I would have liked to see more caterers present, too. Weddings are so much about the food and I would have enjoyed sampling or at least seeing more menus. I only saw one dedicated caterer (which is one that I’m considering) and a specialty candy and ice cream buffet provider. Sadly, there were no bakeries to be found.

There were some photographers, some travel groups, one limousine company, some DJs, one florist, a couple of spas, and a dress shop. Where was the diversity? Where were the untold vendors I hadn’t heard about yet? Was I expecting too much? Perhaps.

I also would have liked to see more budget-friendly options. So much just screamed…excess. Like, really – who needs a frigging laser light show or light up furniture? Or not one, not two, but THREE DJs for one evening? Seven open bars? I get it – it’s your big day, but can the brides who don’t have much to spend get the same attention? Can we have more budget-friendly vendors? Pretty please?

Okay, enough with the ranting. Maybe it’s limited for a reason. Maybe it’s expensive to get a booth. Maybe the vendors don’t see a great return and that’s why there are so few. I don’t know the reasons, but what I do know is that I really wished there could have been more options.

The whole thing wasn’t bad. The fashion show had its moments of hilarity, particularly with a little boy hamming it up as the featured ring bearer model. I got a couple of interesting swag pieces and a few coupons I might use. I made an appointment to try dresses in December to test the waters in that department. I spent time with my Mom and took advantage of whatever free food samples were present. You can never go wrong with chocolates, fruit, or mimosas bubbling over in a fountain.

But he entire experience reaffirmed that I’m really not like most other brides. The amount of vapid conversation I overheard was just incredible – it sort of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So much vanity. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was all sky high heels, perfectly coiffed locks, bitchy attitudes, and a disregard for budget. Rubbing up against each other in overcrowded aisles. With purses. OH MY GOD THE PURSES.

It’s sad that weddings have become so focused on appearance, rather than what the event is really about: the coming together of two people with those they love in celebration, community, and hope.

When I think about the best weddings I’ve been to, I think about how great of a time I had. I don’t remember the bride’s gown or what lighting concept was present. I never can think of what the wedding cake looked like. My biggest priorities as a bride fall in line with what I remember about weddings I’ve been to: good food, good music, and a good time had by all. And I know that my priorities aren’t the same as other brides – and that’s okay because it’s your day and your dime. I do, however, remember if the bride was acting like a jerkface or if the couple looked totally in love.

Thank goodness for my Mom. She spent the day wisecracking with gems like, “What’s with all this your mother crap? What happened to those days when they thought I was your sister?”, “Is that a booze fountain? We need one of those. We’re all about the booze fountain.”  and of course, my favorite, “Look at that action. Hot. Mess.”

She sums it up perfectly. This event was kind of a hot mess – but at least I feel better knowing  what I want and don’t want as a bride.

 

 

 

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