Sunday, July 07, 2013

Cheap Weddings Part 2

More thoughts on what and how weddings should be.  A wedding, in the olden days, was a community event.  You didn't really need an invite to a wedding because the church announced you were getting married and the whole village responded.  You know that part where the minister asks if anyone knows any reason why you should not be allowed to be married?  That was in there because everyone was allowed to attend and anyone who knew you were secretly married to someone else could stand up and say so.  

But I digress.    I feel the need to express some more thoughts about weddings.  Specifically, who should be in the wedding party and who should be invited.  And who should plan it and such.

To have a semi traditional wedding you need a best man and a maid of honor.  Everyone else is optional.  The best man takes charge of the rings and is generally there to make sure the groom is supposed to be where he is supposed to be.  When your cute nephew walks up to the front of the church he should be directed to handle the pillow thing to the best man who will be in charge of it.  The groom will soon need to be holding hands with his soon to be wife so the best man hands out the rings at the appropriate time in the ceremony and is generally, along with the maid of honor, in charge of making sure people like small children are where they are supposed to be. The maid of honor holds the bridal bouquet.  When the bride reaches the altar, her Dad or other giver awayer if she has one, withdraws and hands her over to the maid of honor who takes the bouquet and makes sure her dress is okay and what have you.  

Whom to select.  This is a BIG ISSUE.  I have heard reports that some people select bridesmaids et cetera based on how attractive they are.  SHAME ON YOU.  This is a family and community affair in which your family and his family and all of your friends are getting together to help you form a marriage.  Whoever is your best friend should be your attendant,   Period.  Put a nice dress or good suit on him or her and they will look fine.  Yes they will.  If you are worried that other people are going to think your best friend is too fat, SHAME ON YOU.  You should not be putting looks before relationships.  The person who is your attendant at the wedding should be the person you confided in when you fell in love, whom you turned to for help when the caterer fell through at the last moment et cetra.  That person.  

Having said that your bridesmaids, aka attendants should also be your friends with one exception.  It used to be  customary to ask any sisters of the groom to be bridesmaids.  This is a good practice and one which helps to form a new family unit.  And we can at least all pretend to be friends.  Some people do not want to be bridesmaids or be in weddings, but at least extend the invitation.

A wedding is a family formation event, not just for the bride and groom, but for their families and friends as well.  So, again, my preference, weddings should be held where people can get to them without much expense I have been invited to weddings at distant places and I hardly ever go because it costs a lot of money and I can't afford it or don't have the time to travel.  If you both live in some big urban area where all your friends are but have family elsewhere, that is a problem.  You have to choose a place where most of the people you love can come.  In the hard choices area, I say pick family over friends and hope for the best with regard to travelling.  Your family will always be your family.

I think flower girls and ring bearers add a lot to any wedding and most of them (especially the girls) really love being in weddings.   Wow.  You are the princess that day and the flower girl  gets to be princess junior.  Mostly, because little girls like to dress up, being a flower girl is a very special memory for a girl.  Flower girl dresses can cost a hundred dollars or so even at David's Bridal, so I say encourage the mom of the flower girl to shop at Penny's or elsewhere for a pretty white dress (or whatever color.)  Weddings shouldn't break anyone's bank.

If you choose wisely and kindly who will be part of your wedding party, your wedding will be a happy memory for your whole extended family and long time friends.  So remember, that is what the choice is all about.

With regard to wedding vows, what can I say.  I'm an Episcopalian.  As one of our priests not so delicately put it to one couple who were agonizing over writing their vows, Not to worry dear, we already wrote them for you. You will find them in the Book of Common Prayer.  The priest continued that "if you want to be married in an Episcopal Church, you will have an Episcopal wedding."  Even if you are not an Episcopalian, it is a very lovely and traditional ceremony.  I especially like this part

The Celebrant then addresses the congregation, saying
Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your
power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?
People      We will.

It is a strong reminder that this isn't just a piece of paper or a big party, it is about two people comitting to spend their lives together, loving and caring for each other. 

Because it is that, turning it into an exercise in statuts seeking or excessive spending or an occasion to be bridezilla are all inappropriate.  A very wise priest commented at one rehearsal I was at that all the fithts and all the distress and conflict were really not about the things people were saying they were about.  They were about two whole big families coming togther and becoming connected.  That is what a marriage is really about.  So have a beautiful wedding, but use the occasion to build up your family and your community.  And have fun.

How to Have a Beautiful, Relatively Cheap Wedding

An article in National Review  has moved me to write this.  First of all, unless you are very wealthy it is STUPID to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding.  You need to spend that money on buying a house and furniture and setting up your life together not on flowers and expensive venues.  Second, all you really need for a wedding are the following:  a husband, a wife (now modified if its a gay marriage) a marriage license and a priest or justice of the peace, a witness (in some states).  All the rest is bling and party.   Really.  As a member of the altar guild who attends other peoples weddings as a representative of the church, I've had to repeat these words many times to anxious mothers of the bride and anxious brides.   Your marriage Should NOT be founded on what kind of party you have.

Having said that, and as a total party lover, I move on.  Of course you want to have a party and dress up for it and have a good time.  The last part is the important part.  Have a good time.  While the bride and groom  are the honored guests at t he party, they should plan for it to be fun for those they invite.  This means good food, and a comfortable place to eat it.

Rule number three, figure out how many people are important to you and whom you want to be there so share in your founding the most important relationship in your life.  Figure out how much you can afford to spend for the food.  Divide the latter figure by the former figure.  That is the price you should be working with in ordering the food and finding the venue and everything else. You are starting our very badly in life if you cut people out of this experience because you can't afford to buy them the fancy feast you think you need to serve.

Getting these preliminaries out of the way.  Here is my advice:

Decide if you want a religious ceremony or someone special to marry you. This is an actual necessity.  Having someone to perform the ceremony.  The three calendars that are the most important are the two people getting married and the person who is marrying them.  If so, consult with that person on the next priority-- time and place. consult with your parents and friends as well.  Once you pick a date, stick to it. My preference is a religious ceremony by someone who actually knows the bride and groom. Many religious organizations require a counseling period before the marriage so do this first!!!.

Set a date and Find a place:  You need to do this second.  You need an address and a time for the wedding invitations and just about everything else.  You do not have to be married in a church just because you are having a religious ceremony but it is often convenient and cheap.  You need a place for the ceremony and a place for the reception which can both be the same place if you have friends who will help you move the furniture around. Church parish halls are often a good value because they are next to the church, they have chairs and tables and kitchens and people don't have to drive.  IF you choose someone's back yard then you need to find a rental agency unless you are planning a very small wedding.  Chairs and tables and wedding arches can all be rented.  We had my daughter's wedding in a back yard and by the time we had set up the chairs and decorated the wedding arch and made a moveable altar out of someone's butcher block table, we had a very beautiful place.  It may sound silly, but one, not very expensive thing we rented really dressed everything up--  white chair covers with gauze ties that matched the wedding colors, made the rows of folding  chairs look very elegant for about 2.00 per chair.  An arch gives a focal point to the ceremony if it is outdoors and makes the place look very festive.  In my experience you can easily decorate it yourself with  floral ties, fresh flowers and a lot of tulle all of which you can buy for not too much at floral supply shops. This is a perfect job  for the mother, or mother in law or aunts who want to help.  Fresh flowers and tulle bows tied to an arch look like wedding and you don't have to have a lot of skill to do it.

DRess:  I have helped to plan three weddings recently and have come to the conclusion that David;s Bridal is it.  The prices are way more reasonable than most other stores.  They have a lot of variety, You can pre-shop for your wedding dress online and have an idea of what's available before you go.  For the attendants, they are terrific too.  Many, many dresses for under a 100.  The best strategy that will make your bridesmaids happy is pick a color (they have quite a variety)  and tell your bridesmaids they can pick whichever dress they like in that color.  They will really appreciate you for that.  It may not be a color they like, but at least they can pick a style they think is flattering.  And on your wedding day, the unity of the color will look terrific and the different styles will all seem to blend.  And as a bonus, David's Bridal coordinates with Men's WEarhouse so the men  can get matching ties or vests.  Everyone will coordinate and you will all look terrific and you will not totally bust the budget.

Obviously, it is better if you plan ahead for a long time but a couple of months is plenty of time if you are not dealing with jerks.

Food.  Food depends on the place and your pocket book.  My best advice is figure out what you would serve to your friends if you were throwing a party and then serve that.  For my tastes, buffet is best, whatever the content.  It allows people to mingle and talk and move around.  It also allows them to select what they like and as much as they like and to sit where they please.  All of this seems quite better to me than more formal receptions, but that's me.  Yes you want to have a table for the bride and groom so that everyone can come up and shake their hand.  for the rest, I say let people make their own seating assignments.

On the food issue-- if you are looking for catered I suggest you go for an ethnic cuisine-- it can be made ahead and delivered hot and tasty for not too much money.  Approach a restuarant you like or look at some ofthe chains that do food you like or ask your friends to cook ahead and bring it for the party.  All of these approaches can lead to tasty food and fun.  But if this is an informal wedding burgers and hot dogs are a great idea too.  It's a party to celebrate an important event, not a dress rehearsal for Downton Abbey.  Having your party at a church parish hall (depending on the church) or in a backyard can also solve the booze problem.  Paying by the drink at a hotel is VERY EXPENSIVE. You can provide a very nice experience in someone's back yard with sodas wine and beer you can buy at Costco for very cheap.

Wedding cake-- probably best to buy it from a bakery and have it delivered the day of.  Doesn't have to be fancy.  Remember you need a table and stuff for it.

Utensils and such:  you can buy nice looking plastic at party supply stores, COSTCO, Walmart, Target and Smart and Final.  Or you can rent from a rental place.  If you rent, you should hire someone to wash them and put them back in the delivery cartons.

Invitations:  You can order them from a printer and wait several weeks and pay a lot or you can buy the fancy blanks at Staples, Target, Office Max, Office Depot and so on and print them on your ink jet printer.  They will look very nice, really and will cost you less than a dollar per invite depending on which blanks you choose.  Invitations should, ideally, be sent about from 4 to 6 weeks before the wedding.  If you are planning far ahead you should send a save the date post card that gives the time and place so people can plan around your date.  But you should send a more formal invitation a few weeks before the wedding so they have something in hand to find the place.

Programs for the wedding, same deal -- buy the paper from an office supply store and print them yourselves.  Nice looking programs make all the keepsake you  need for people to remember your wedding.  I mean, seriously, did you save the little doohickeys people handed out at their weddings to remember their weddings?  I don't think so.

Photogaraphs.  In the age of digital photography you don't have to have a professional take your pictures.  I used to be favor of handing out those throw away cameras to people to take pictures but these days, everyone has a camera on their phone.  Just ask a couple of your friends to take lots of pictures and give you the disk.  But on the day of you need to have a designated picture take for the group pictures.  You need someone who not only snaps the photo but rounds bpeople up to pose for the pictures that you will be still looking at 50 years from now.  Yeah.  Group photos with the whole family will gain value over time and will end up being some of your favorites.  So designate a cat herder and ask everyone to cooperate.  Must do photos-- bride.  Bride and Groom.  Bride and Groom and parents.  Bride and Groom and wedding party.  Bride and Groom and priest or officiant at the wedding.   Bride and dad walking down the aisle.  Wedding dance.  There are a lot of variations.  These are the basics.  If you have a friend who is a semi pro pay him or her $500 and ask for a disk of the photos.  A lot of people will do it for free, but it seems like taking advantage.

Here is one hint I learned from my church and I applaud it greatly.  Have everyone come early to the church and take a lot of the shots BEFORE THE WEDDING.  Then you will not have to keep your guests waiting for an hour for the party to start.

Flowers:  Flowers can cost you a ton of money.  Most large urban areas have wholesale flower markets which not only sale fresh flowers but also floral supplies for less than half what you would pay at ordinary retail shops.  Bouquest are easy to make if they are kept simple. No one knows six months from now what will be in bloom and reasonably priced on any given day, so you need to stay flexible and select what is available .  If you are doing it yourself, or someone is a friend doing it for you.  You can buy the flowers the day before and keep the arrangements in vases or such.

I suggest hiring a hair dresser or cosmetologist to come to the church to do everyone's hair but some people discourage that.  If you are doing fancy dress, get dressed at the church.  That reduces the opportunity for accidents to happen between getting dressed  and getting to the wedding.  Another hint, from a minister.  That little pillow thing that the ring bearer is supposed to carry down the aisle?  Tie the rings to it and give it to the wedding coordinator or other responsible adult.  Do not give it to the ring bearer until he or she is standing in the aisle of the church ready to walk down it.  6 years olds are not responsible people.  Just remember that.  Same goes for whatever  flowers you give the flower girl.

with help from friends and family and the right attitude you can have a beautiful and memorable wedding and a great party after that will cement your relationship and be a fond memory for less than $5,000.  And for most people, that is what they should do.  The wedding industrial complex should be for people with lots of money who don't care how they spend it.  Not for common folk.