Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sticker Shock

I have been engaged for nearly 9 months now, but we didn't really start any planning until about 3 months after the proposal.  My groom was out of town, but in that time I did some research on my own, and to say I was overwhelmed by everything I came across is a gross understatement.  I have lived in Spokane my entire life and am very aware of different local options for events, so it wasn't like I was going in blind.  What I wasn't prepared for was when you add "wedding" to anything it's like it's suddenly become gold-plated, with a price tag to match.

Only it hasn't.  Your wedding is no more special to most business than, say, an anniversary party held at the same venue.  Sometimes when it's a wedding they throw in a "day-of coordinator," as if you will need help with cues and timing and props like you're stage manager at a production of Wicked.  And if you go the traditional route, with all its grandiose glory, it's likely you will.  But I digress.

When we finally were ready to pick a venue, we visited Trezzi Farm on Green Bluff.  I had purchased food from the Trezzis for my half-Italian Grandma's birthday some years back, and I'm a sucker for anything authentically Italian.  The farm is gorgeous, with its 360 degree scenery and on-site vineyard.  We discovered that Trezzi had catered an event for my FH's (future husband) Army unit some years back, so he was endeared to them from the moment we walked in.

Stefanie gave us a thorough tour, and I could see my wedding forming before my eyes.  And then we talked money.  They are the required caterer, which makes sense, since half of what they do is make food.  The other half is make wine, of which you are mandated to purchase at least 1 glass per adult guest.  This works out to about $25/person for the least expensive menu and $5/glass for the wine (2011 prices).  Unlike other places, you don't pay a venue fee, but they really had no contingency plan for rain other than a roof-only structure which guests could huddle under in the event of rain, but would cost you another $1000 to use.

Compared to what I had seen online, these prices were fairly reasonable, and I knew it.  It's likely we'd have booked then and there if we'd had the means for the deposit at the time.  Boy am I glad we didn't.  It's a rare day indeed in which we go to a restaurant and spend $25 for entrees for the two of us--but because we want family and friends to witness our union, we're supposed to do so for 100+ guests?  It just wasn't logical.

I work with the public, and when I speak to newly-married people I was, for a time, asking them where they got married.  They thought I was being conversational when in fact I was being self-serving.  I had one girl tell me of a venue in Deer Park whose name escapes me, and gush about how reasonable it was.  I excitedly looked it up--only to discover it cost $3000 just to have your wedding there.  That's pre-catering, pre-drinks (more on that later); 3 grand just to hang out on their property.

During this same time I began seeing ads for Davenport weddings described as "surprisingly affordable" with packages starting at $30/guest.  Unless I'm charging admission to my wedding, that is not affordable.  (Need I point out how outrageous it is for a multi-million dollar company to decide what is affordable for me?)

I guess you could say sticker shock is what lead me to create this blog.  It was hard to find venues that were alternative and wouldn't break the bank, when all Google (and our 2 local independent blogs) is dominated with is the fancy, packaged, fees-and-fine-print venues who want to make "your special day" "unique."

If I can help even one couple plan a wedding that reflects them, helps them celebrate their love and union with friends and family, and doesn't break their budget, I will consider my job done.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bridal Burnout

For the longest time, I thought I was the only bride-to-be who cared more about building a strong, enduring marriage than what will adorn the tables at the wedding.  I felt jaded after buying stacks of wedding magazines (or what Jacobina Martin refers to as "bridal porn") because so much of what they contained just didn't make sense to me.  I'm supposed to hire a calligrapher?  I need to give my guests a program?  HUH?!

So many of today's wedding usuals are something that only registered on my radar because I was mentioning them to my groom to tell him I had no interest in doing it.  I am doing most of the planning, not because I am the bride so much as I am a planner by nature, but as I see it as our day, I am involving him in as much as possible (but certainly not the dress shopping!).  I don't need a calligrapher--I have a printer, the post office prefers readable envelopes, and the large majority of guests won't notice or care.  Programs seem silly when attendees should know at least one of us, our invitation will have the time listed, and hopefully they know they're there to witness our nuptials.

Other things we elected to omit were favors, because a) they're usually cheap and cheesy and get left behind anyway; b) the guests aren't coming for a chintzy little present; and c) the day is not about stuff.  Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to get a gift that is approximately equal to the amount it cost us for your attendance.

When I got engaged, I did what I thought I was supposed to do and immersed myself in bridal magazines.  I wasted no time--2 days after our engagement I flew, and I bought a Brides magazine in the airport.  For the longest time after that, for the first time, I wasn't even sure I wanted to get married because of everything I needed to do in the next 13 months, pay for, and create.  I knew I wanted to marry my guy, we were in agreement that we wanted our friends and family to witness said wedding, I knew I wanted the traditional white dress and him in a tux, but was it just going to be a huge headache?

Divorce runs in my family like hair color, so I was (and remain) more focused on what comes after the wedding (and I don't mean the wedding night) than creating a production of a wedding.  I felt like a fish out of water, and the reactions I got from a few girl friends when I announced that I was not having table toppers were like I'd just told them I was an axe murderer.  Then I picked up Miss Manners' book and knew I wasn't alone.

This isn't to say I'm not enjoying planning--I am, but only because I have allowed myself to do what works for us and say to hell with the rest.  I want a sweet, simple day that is rich in family and love.  If you find yourself floundering in a sea of modern-day wedding commandments, do not fear--you are not alone, and you now have a partner-in-crime and resource.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Welcome, dear readers.

Hello and welcome!

This blog came about as a reaction to the oodles of overpriced, outlandish, and distasteful options available to today's bride-to-be, and as a direct result of my happening upon The Miss Manners Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding.  I highly recommend the book to every engaged woman, but I could devote a whole post to what I've learned from it, and I will at a later date.

In Spokane, specifically, we have approximately 852 places who'd just looooove to help you create "your special day," exactly two bride blogs, and a biannual Bridal Fest that is basically a localized, real-life version of a wedding magazine's glossy pages and oodles of advertisements.  For the woman who is planning her "perfect day," as the industry has mandated it to be in recent years, that is absolutely enough resources, and she should probably read no further.

For the woman planning a wedding that isn't formulaic, who realizes that the day is about her but only insomuch as that she is exactly one half of the wedding's focal point, who cares more about building a life with her partner-to-be than spending hours making (and requiring her attendants help make) centerpieces--this blog is for you.