February 27, 2008

Choosing a Color Scheme

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 5:55 pm by Jess

Do any of you run into this problem? You pore over design and wedding blogs, happily bookmarking-away all the inspiration boards and color scheme articles that draw your eye. You only bookmark the ones that make you squeal with delight, of course. But then something horrible happens: You open your bookmark file and discover that no less than eighteen color schemes made you squeal. There are a dozen marked as “the one.” If you are like me, picking a color scheme that pleases you is a piece of proverbial cake. But picking “the one”? Hopeless.

image from flickr.com

For me it was fun to imagine colors, but it was also stressful. It’s a heavy weight commiting to a certain color scheme, if you don’t already have one 100% favorite. I was stricken with worry and uttered crazy questions like, “Since when do I like eggplant?” “Are you sure that this would not clash with the grass?” and “Why the hell does Celadon green only truly exist in my head!?”

I quickly became aware that I was drifting in between color schemes. In one email to a friend I would describe the gray, eggplant gala. In another to my mother: hot pink and orange. I just could not choose, so I chose not to.My solution: I decided not to have a color scheme – at least not to pick one directly, not RIGHT AWAY. This decision had one key factor: Not caring if the invitations matched my eventual color scheme. I wish I could have a whole magazine-quality paper line for my day, but it just ain’t happening.Since I was going to be DIYing my invitations anyway, with very very limited paper resources here in Switzerland (Paper Source, I dream of you…), I wanted to take some of the stress of myself by not following a particular color scheme all the way through. I will show you the invitations in a later post, but suffice it to say, this is one of the best decisions that I made concerning my wedding. Why? Not only did I not feel rushed and pressured to pick a color scheme, then go scouring this city up and down trying to make it materialize in pretty papers, but I ACTUALLY ended up making a color scheme loosely based on my invites, but with tangent, compatible colors. Surprisingly, I simultaneously COMPLETLEY NIXED the one color that I was “sure, sure, sure” I would use (first as my own gown, then as a bridesmaid gown): Chocolate Brown. It is the base color of the invitations, but that is where it ends now. I like this. I like the ability to alter my ideas when the event is four months away.

I suppose it is a coincidence that my ultimate wedding colors are the ones from my invitations. But subconsciously, I am sure that I gravitated towards a paper that was in a favorite color, and then when I kept receiving such compliments on the Invites I decided, “Let’s go with these colors…if we can.” (I am always wary of commiting here, because I cannot be sure things are available just because I want them, or just because I have the money, like in America).

Now I realize that some of you want to nail donw a color scheme, and want all of your stationary to match the day. That’s great. It will look beautiful, and for you it may be less stressful to have this out of the way. If you are still struggling to pick a color scheme, here are a few helpful suggestions:

Look at your wardrobe.Your closet holds the key. You may not realize it, but the same colors you buy would make a great color scheme, precisely because they look good on, or around you. It’s the same advice that interior decorators give to clients about choosing paint and fabric. Choose what colors look good on you. However, since you most likely will not be wearing a violet wedding gown, but asking your gals to wear violet, do take into consideration if that color looks good on them. If it truly looks horrid (like yellow looked awful on my two bridesmaids because they are both really, really pale) then maybe switch it up, or try a darker or lighter version of the color.

flickr.com (wish I had those shoes!)

Don’t be shy, ask the groom. He may not be able to name the range of orange tones you are looking at, but that doesn’t mean he cannot tell what he does and doesn’t like. His reactions might shock you. My fiance had – shock to me – quite a bit to say about the colors I was considering. And why shouldn’t he? On the other hand, you might just get a guttural, cave-man-esque reaction, but listen to it. If he groans and sticks out his tongue, listen to that. It might just mean “I cannot articulate why I dislike this color in more than monosyllabic grunts but it makes me want to vomit and will probably make the Y endowed portion of our guests want to vomit too.” He has a point.

Look at paint swatches. My mom and I did this. We went to Home Depot and picked up swatches of colors that we liked. This is so good because you not only get to seeee all the ranges of orange you were trying to explain to hubby, but you get names. Just don’t go crazy. Don’t go home with eighteen swatches. You’ll be no better off than with your twenty “this is it” Inspiration Boards. 🙂

For you expats, you might find my organic take to the color scheme works well here. Choices can be limited. I’d love to hear if anoyone has had an interesting approach to picking their wedding colors.


February 26, 2008

Setting the Mood of Your Event

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 5:07 pm by Jess

In tandem with choosing a color scheme, it behooves you to define your MOOD. A mood is not a theme. A theme is a guiding image, like “Underwater” or “Fourth of July.” A mood is a series of adjectives and describing words that sum up your vision of your day. Having a mood can change your color scheme. For instance, it would be difficult to pull off a blue-orange color scheme with a “romantic” mood (though possible). If you find your ideal mood clashes with the color scheme you have chosen, you’ll need to choose which one is more important to you.

This happened to me. I had some pretty bright colors in mind.  I spoke the words “romantic, soft, victorian” and then I even went out and bought ribbon and paint in colors that would match this mood. I looked into light, lacey bridesmaid dresses in rose and violet. I was moving right along and yet all the while there was this color of blue STUCK in my head. Every time I saw it -once on an album color, once on a pull and once on the scarf I found, bought and am wearing as I write this – I would scream and grab Mr. M’s arm shouting “That’s it!! That’s my color.”

What was I thinking!? I had already picked the colors and the mood and this blue does not go with them at all. It would be like putting oreos in your tea. So what happened? One night I was online and I stumbled upon a line of dresses made in the very same blue I stalk: I promptly threw out the entire “romantic” mood. Within seconds I had pulled out all the photos of ramanticy, lacey dresses and trashed them. Out went the peach and cream bouquet. I wrote a letter to my mom saying: “You know that wreath we made? Be prepared to change  the ribbons!”

Choosing a mood is a great exercise if you pinpoint the exact words to define it. When you have the words, write them down clearly and tuck them into your file. You can now use these words to direct and give clues to your hair stylist, florist, makeup artist and photographer. Trust me, they will appreciate that you can articulate what you want to see. It makes their job easier, and ultimately then makes the final product look better.

February 20, 2008

Choosing a Reception Location

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step, Wedding Locations at 12:46 pm by Jess

To help things go as smoothly as possible in planning, contact your vendors A.E.A.P. That’s As Early As Possible. Whether you are opting to hire someone for every aspect (Photography, Video, Lighting, Food, Music, Floral etc) or doing a mix of Vendors and DIY/Generous Friends, it helps to look early at the possible vendors. Here are a few of the reasons why: 

~There are many, many other couples out there, and a very specific, limited number of dates. Getting to a vendor early means that you will get closer to your heart’s desires, and hear fewer Nos. Probably. You will here many “We are already booked” and more the longer you wait, which spurs a particular sinking of the heart that one doesn’t wish to endure on a daily basis.

~The vendor can help you set up a realistic time-frame for when things need to get done. From the Expat perspective, I can share that I do not have access to unlimited number and type of flowers here. The florist told me over the phone that I could come, but that the flowers to pick from won’t be ready, or available for viewing, until April. So I can mark down April for the time-frame that I need to go back in and have a more detailed meeting.

~Perhaps you are torn between hiring a Musician and asking a friend. We had a similar experience with Photography, and we are currently leaning towards asking friends. Our budget is very limited due to the incredibly high cost of food and wine in Switzerland. Photography is a priority, obviously, but we do have a talented friend. Still, we scoped out Photographers as Vendors, and it pays to do so: The information you gather helps make some decisions for you. Photographers here seem to be less expensive than in the United States, but are nowhere near as stunning. I will get into this on another, more personal post, but suffice it to say that researching the Vendor options has quickly made up our minds that we want to ask our friend.

Bottom Line: The more information you have, and the sooner you have it, the more options you have.

Now, for those of you planning a destination wedding or living as an Expat and planning in your new country, you are probably going to learn that things run on a different schedule than in America. For you expats, you know that all too well with daily life, right! Consider that the Wedding Industry is truly an American Brainchild – something created and propelled by America. On the one hand, other countries are beginning to see Wedding Planners (there are 4 in Geneva that I know of). The UK has an accredited program for Wedding Planners specifically modeled after the US style. Nonetheless, you may have fewer options, less flexible budgets, and an entirely different take on Customer Service. I can say from real experience that Customer Service is Bad if not Nonexistent in Switzerland (except for the odd exception which makes my whole month), so I am none too thrilled to be starting to meet with vendors this year. I anticipate friction, or fewer options, and I may just have to live with that – with what they have. You may too. I don’t mean to suggest that it will be a negative experience. You simply must be aware that a destination wedding is not in America and thus you will have to adjust your expectations a bit. (On a positive note,  perhaps you will be surprised in positive ways. I hope that through my personal journey documented here you will see some of the happy, surprising sides of a destination/expat wedding too)Here are a list of questions that I recommend asking the manager of the location and/or figuring out on your own:

What does the price include (Cleaning, preparation, serving food etc)

If it is outdoors, what is the Rain Plan? What are the indoor options?

What time can you have the location, what time must you be out of the location

Is there a working, or caterer’s kitchen? *You will want to organize a visit with the caterer to assess the equipment on site

What kind of dishes do they have on site already?

What kind of musical/electronic options exist?

What is the lighting situation?

Is there a microphone, projector screen?

What are the site of the tables, what are the shapes of the tables, what do the chairs look like?

Will someone be on site, or will you need to return the keys to someone afterwards?

What is the liability policy?

What are the handicap options?

How far is it from Ceremony, Hotels, Airports?

Take a Notepad, Two Pens and a Camera. Take MANY Photos and notes while you are there. Trust me, this will be key. You will forget so many of your detailed thoughts when you are visiting multiple places. The 2nd pen is your backup 🙂

Lynda Barness, via Style Me Pretty has this absolutely NECESSARY list for destination weddings, and general vendor questions also.

February 15, 2008

Wedding Planners – A conversation

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 4:33 pm by Jess

BeSpoke Blog recently wrote this post concerning brides who try to plan their own weddings. I found that post so interesting, along with this one.
She makes such a valid point – that brides who have never before exhibited skills in crafts, baking, interior lighting, managing and so on, suddenly don the hat of “wedding planner” for their own wedding, thereby essentially appointing themselves master of all these areas. Not just master, expert.

I think her blog makes this point and I agree with it, but I cannot quite agree with the sentiment that we should all “suck it up and be brides” and therefore hire a wedding planner. Simply put, there are many exceptions to the ideal situation where a bride who lacks exepertise in the hundreds of needed areas could and should hire a planner. For starters, what if there aren’t any planners? Some of us live in countries where the Wedding Planning Industry hasn’t quite hit. There are a couple planners here in Geneva, but if you know anything about Swiss prices then you can imagine that this really is not an option.

So that’s another thing. Prices. A wedding planner, no matter the price, is another price added to the budget. So here is the clincher – is this one of your priorities? Because if you really aren’t capable of juggling all of the details of an event, and you are adimant that the results look professional, then you should hire a wedding planner and drop something else from your budget, if need be.  

Also, there are some select few brides who set out to plan their own wedding and succeed. Some of them, ahem, go on to be successful, creative, well-known wedding planners in the industry. I am planning my own wedding, and it remains to be seen if I will be successful. I know that if I could, I would probably hire a wedding planner. But, there are none in Jon’s hometown – a town of about 20, 000 people. And even if I could find one, I could not afford it. But add to that the fact that I thrive on lists, I’m anal, I don’t work am bored constantly need a project, have insane attention to detail, am passionate about design, art, culture, history, creativity, inspiration and manifestation, and I’d say, I’ll at least make it look presentable. It will be stressful, but I personally will derive immense pleasure from the stress, the headaches, the insomnia and the hot glue gun wounds. I know, I’m sick like that!!

So really, if you are considering planning your own wedding, and you have the budget to hire someone, please do a self-check first:

Do you have the time? If you are working already, have at any point in the past you ever considered working two jobs at one time?

Do you have the backbone to fight and finagle with vendors, over a period of months?

Do you enjoy making lists, color coordinating them, and carrying them with you everywhere? And I mean everywhere. 

Are you anal?

Do you understand the staggering amount of details involved? (Have you made the Master List? Mine is about six pages).

Will you need to speak foreign languages for your destination wedding? (I’m now fluent in French so I can make the phone calls, except to the florist, who is ten minutes over an imaginary line in Switzerland so she speaks a garbled dialect of German!) 

If you have answered No to any of the following (ok, I’ll exclude the last) then Yes, you need to call a Wedding Planner stat!!  🙂

I read some of the comments in these posts and they make really great points too. A wedding planner has YOUR BACK. I loved that! (I don’t actually have anyone arguing with me about my choices, so far. I am dropping a lot of the things involved also, because I don’t feel it is all entirely necessary here. Like the shower, the rehearsal dinner, and more.) I also thought it was a fantastic point about the gas to and from vendors. Gas is expensive here. Try 12 dollars a gallon. But, I have that handy train pass. Moohaha.

I don’t have access to these books that the two post authors mention. Actually, I had never heard of them and have never seen one. I simply think I want to do something in this genre as a living (I have for a year before moving to Europe) and so this is my baby-step into it.

There ya go, that is my two cents 🙂

February 13, 2008

Planning Your Own: The Registry

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 10:32 am by Jess

Ah, the Registry. I am not quite sure how to approach this subject. It might sound silly to you, but I am a little emotional about the subject.
It started when I mentioned the Registry and its need to be accomplished to Jon. He looked at me with the blankest of stares. He had of course never heard of a registry. I had to go through the process of explaining the most couples open a registry, and it is a way for people to give gifts to the couple. Sometimes it is only given to those people invited, sometimes it is given to a slew of people that you announce the wedding to, but don’t actually invite. “That seems a little squirrly,” he said. I have to agree. Then I explained that registries were typically for household items, fifty percent kitchen items, but big items like a bed, or a dresser too. “But we already live together. We already have a bed, blender, toaster, Dyson and Kitchen Aid.”

He makes a broader point: Many of today’s couples have lived together before the marriage, sometimes for years. They often have most of the essentials between the two of them. On the other hand, a friend once said to me, “We had all of our parents hand-me-down China and other appliances. It just felt good to get our own set of everything, to mark our new life together.”
I showed Jon a hypothetical list, and the suggestions, on WilliamsSonoma.com. Crafty girl that I am, I chose this site as my “demo” because he loves this store like he loves a good Swiss cheese. And still he was not swayed, “We have all this. And we don’t need a nut chopping machine. You just bought me knives. I am the nut chopping machine (True).  We don’t need a new Vacuum cleaner – the Dyson I pulled out of a dumpster with the faulty cord works perfect now.” And on and on. He shot down, with good logic I have to say, all of my excited ideas.

So what do the Swiss do? They ask for money. I have heard that registries used to exist, but they were in-store only, and have really faded out because the Swiss tend to not even marry anymore (like so many Europeans) and if they do it is well into their thirties and after they’ve lived together for years, sometimes a decade. So, they just ask for money.

This really surprised me because the Swiss are the world’s most discrete and private culture when it comes to money. It’s the whole anonymous bank accounts being the linchpin of their natinonal security thing. Given that, how is it that we received an invitation and inside there was a BILL? A bill with blank spaces where we could put our account info (it’s safe to give out here) and the amount we wanted to donate to the couple’s honeymoon!? In the invitation!?

Jon’s only explanation to these seemingly paradoxical facts was that it is simply logical to ask for money, and since you are not asking for a specific sum it is alright.

We compromise. We decide to ask all of the Swiss to donate to our wedding, but not in the invitation.  I built a wedding website, and wrote up a post specifically about the registries. In the French version we asked our friends to donate to our dream of going to Australia and Tasmania. For the Americans – mostly because they would expect it, but also because we hope to move back to America and buy a house soon – we opened up two regular registries.

So this is when it gets emotional.

Jon left me to do the registry myself. At least I assumed, because after the first discussion he never mentioned it again. I spent a whole week searching, filing and debating products, all of which I did on the internet for the obvious reasons, and finally on Friday I presented him with the final registries. He scrolled about two seconds and said, “We don’t need that stuff.” He hadn’t even really looked. And when I urged him to take a deeper look (Please Mr. M, because I might just throw this computer at your head if you don’t pretend to be interested), he immediately disagreed with my choice in colors and quantity for things. He flat our refused to let me put flatware on the list, and when I wanted to know why, the real answer to the whole thing came out: “Because Americas make crap!”

“What?!” I yelped like a dog who has had its tail stepped on.

“Yes, crap. It all comes from China and the breaks within a month so that lo and behold you can call up some service man to fix it who arrives late, doesn’t fix it the first time, or the second, and charges you half what the thing cost for his time and labor.”

“So where do you suggest we register? For whose products?” I asked.

“German products, Italian….Swiss. I’m getting MY flatware here in Switzerland.”

I had to remind myself that my fiancé is probably more American at heart than I am. He loves my country. He pines after it. He searches it with GoogleMap as a morning ritual. He worships it. But, the wedding stress touches us all a different way, and here he was, spouting off about the crap quality we produce and how he was not going to be had by it.

I stormed off. But later, I went back to the registry and I let my eyes gaze down the list. My eyes passed over at least five things in succession that I instantly realized that we do not need. We do not need a giant cookie spatula. Not for ten bucks. Not for two bucks. My normal spatula works Just Fine. My eyes came to rest on the Slow Cooker next. What makes me think that I NEED a slow cooker? The fact that I saw one woman who had it and she made me one dish from it that wasn’t even spectacular but seemed reasonably good and it was clear that the appliance did work and…and suddenly it is on my registry. And I bet it has a warranty too.

Over the past few months I have been slowly, methodically taking things off our registries. I closed one entirely, realizing that my Dad could hand me down the entire registry of camping stuff we had made. Every last item. For daily plates and such, I agree with my friend, having our own set is a must,if only for the psychological reasons, but when it comes to camping gear, hand me downs are no problem for us.

I have also been reflecting on the powerful industry that is the Wedding Industry. The Registry facet of it is just one facet, but it is a good example, and one that strikes me the most poignantly: This is a business, designed to make money off of you. I do want my day to be special, and I am spending enough money to buy an automobile or a round-the-world trip. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be that way. I am consciously and freely following many of the industry’s must-do’s without much thought behind them. I’m okay with that, to a point. But I am sort of tired of receiving these emails that show me the “Made Just For Me” list of “Often Forgotten But Totally Necessary” registry items that I must just run and sign up for toute de suite. I feel that I am being marketed to, and played. Played because they know I am a bride, and that if I think that it is supposed to be done, that I will do it, probably without thinking.

As I am simultaneously making non-wedding related strides to de-clutter and re-center my personal life and space with Mr. M, we have finally decided to trim down our registries to the bare essentials plus one splurge item on each list. That something we want that we are sure we would only use once. We are trying to live our lives by the motto: Less is More. And we are moving countries often, it seems, so there is really a pragmatism behind that. I secretly feel that I am winning something. Like I’ve seen the trap, and avoided it. We are also now asking our American guests to give money instead, if they prefer. Of course a trip is just a one-time thing as well, but the memories will last for a lifetime and we hope to add a volunteer aspect to it as well.

So, now that I have spilled my heart out to you, I am asking you: How do you feel about registries? Is there anything about planning your wedding right now that has you feeling a little taken advantage of?

For any brave souls out there: Try giving your list a second look. And, look to see if you can tell where the products are made. As I clarified to Jon, it’s completely illogical to say that Americans make crap products if they all come from elsewhere. I support buying local and buying American, if you can.

Here are just a few tips for opening your registry, so that you get the most out of it:

~ http://www.myregistry.com is a service that allows you to open a registry across many different stores!

~Check the expiration date of your registry

~Find out if there is an incentive program that gives you a discount if you buy all the unpurchased items in bulk after the wedding.

~Look around the site, there should be a box to indicate whether or not you would like to receive gift certificates.

Postscript: I wrote this at Starbucks. When I got home I had an email from my registry company that said “You’ve chosen the perfect gown, but will it help you dress up the table?”

Le Sigh

Planning Your Own: The Guest List

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 9:46 am by Jess

I  have a song stuck in my head and it goes: “Who do you love? Tell me, Whoooo do you love?”
I also have another song stuck in my head. “I’m too sexy for this shirt,” but that is another story.
Back to the first song. Who do you love? Those are the people whom you are inviting to your wedding, right? Oh wait,  Aunt Bernadine is your Aunt, but she’s not exactly a “loved” one? What about your ex-boss who did so much for you but you secretly hate? What about those two teenagers you tutored in Spanish for a year? What about the babysitter?

The subject of who all you should invite to your wedding may be one of the most stressful that you encounter. There are the people you want to invite, the people your fiance wants to, the people his parents want to, the people your parents want to, the people you are 50/50 about, the people you just met but totally love already and are sure you should invite anyway, and then there is the number of people that your budget says you can invite. (Because that’s what your budget rolls up to: Cost per head). And what about children. Do they count as a head? “NO! They don’t eat a quarter of what I eat. I refuse to pay for them like adults.” says one groom-to-be. Well, we’ll see what his caterer says about that.

I wish I could say that there was a formula to follow here, or a sure guide to making the right decisions. I don’t think there is. For some people you are just going to have to make a gut decision. Piss someone off and invite her anway…piss someone off by not inviting her. But you can take into account a few things:

~ Don’t get too worked up about this. Please don’t. There are so many other, much more fun, much more beautiful things to think about.
~ If you can, leave yourself a little wiggle room in the budget, for in case you end up having more guests. This could happen because the entire set of second cousins who have always been low on money and are currently living in a nomadic tribe out in Utah decide to show, after you crossed them off, because there was no WAY they would come. Or, because you invite more people.
~Leave yourself a couple invitations, in case of the latter. We are at or near our budget already, but we have three invitations as spares. They are not back up invites. If half the people we invited show, then we aren’t going to start inviting more, just to have a bigger turnout. However, there are a few people who we like but we feel we are only in the middle of getting to know. In four months our relationship could be strong enough that we really these people to share our day with us. Back in September I could not know that, and could not have asked them. In April, I will know.
~ Also, leave a spare for the inevitable Forgotten Guest. You know, that really well-known person who you completely forgot on the list. I sent ours off this morning, I kid you not!
~If your parents really insist that you invite certain unheard-ofs, talk to them maturely about offering to cover the cost of these individuals in the budget. Let your fiance have that talk with his parents.
~Take into account the venue. A small church tha you picked out for the amazing garden but does not fit 250 people, will have a direct effect on your guest list.

To give you a little example from our wedding planning, consider this craziness: I am inviting someone I have never met, and her family. Jonathan is inviting a “good friend” who he has met, spent time with and maintained email contact, but whose name he cannot remember.

Jonathan slso invited everyone that was dear to him from all over the earth. We aren’t surprised to receive the Nos from people oceans away. He invited about forty people total from Switzerland, and we imagine they will all come. He did not invite his Uncle, and then his Grandmother was offended, so he sucked it up and invited the Uncle and the new wife.

Being the expat, I had the task of inviting people to spend thousands of dollars to come to my wedding. Gee, awesome. Gobs of fun, let me tell you. I finally decided that I would invite the family members that I had an actual relationship with. This was cause for concern between my mother and I, becuaes she felt that I would be offending the vast majority of her side of the family (My father’s side has four people. Easy Peasy.) I explained that if I did not know their names, or their children’s names, or what they really looked like; if I had not had direct personal correspondance with this person in the last five years – or ever – I was not going to ask them to spend the money to come to Switzerland, and I did not want the day to be of that nature. I stuck to my guns on this one. We have a low budget, we have travelers: Intimate is the key word.

February 8, 2008

The Budget, The Strategy

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 8:15 pm by Jess

So the budget number is out there, looming closer than that raincloud over Eyeore’s head. It’s hard to be cheerful about the budget. The budget is not your BFF.  The budget doesn’t want you to have mini-cupcakes at each plate. The budget is a real stick in the mud. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot work with it. Try to shift into thinking of it as a challenge. Every planner loves a good challenge. At least that is what I feel about planning. And to meet the challenge, you have to strategize.

The best strategy is to figure out what your priorities are. This is HUGE!  Your wedding budget might be exactly the same number as another couple, but the money will be allotted in a totally different way depending on what is important to you. If you are a level-headed person, who doesn’t want to bankrupt anyone in the family, or lose the last five year’s savings, you won’t be able to have all that you want. I know I might sound a little harsh here, given that it is your special day, but consider that hopefully you are embarking on a happy life, one of many special moments. Consider that in a few years you might be buying a house, or stocking up on baby supplies. You may want to finally trade in your ancient clunker for a nice ride. Do the mini-cupcakes seem so important now? Your day should be special – Memorable – but it should also be reasonable to your lifestyle and means.

Take an hour with your fiancé at a local coffee shop. Bring with you a copy of the list from this post. Now list the top five priorities for your day (or ten, if you’d like, or go crazy and rank each item if you have had extra caffeine) . Do it separately. No peeking!

This is a really great exercise because not only do you two discover what really matters about this day to each one of you, and then where to put the money accordingly, but you are having a lesson in the fundamental truth about marriage: You are still two people, with two different minds, and possibly two different sets of priorities. Life together as a married couple will be about meshing those together constructively, with success.

What’s a six letter word for buzzkill?

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 8:02 pm by Jess


You could argue that the budget should be step numero uno, but why depress yourself right from the get go? Planning a wedding should be fun. So make your master list first. You don’t know any numbers yet, so it won’t matter if you do your budget second. However, everything on your master list has to fit into your budget. You have to find out how much you have, and from who, before you can go any farther. That’s right. Peel yourself from theknot and finish this chore – I promise you can go back later.

~ Check out this video from event planner extraordinaire Sasha Souza, when the bride did not have a specific number in mind. Think tears, many of them, and threats of cancellation!

To help you, here is a list of some but not all of the things on your budget. Your budget should be really specific. There should be a line for the dress, and a line for the invitation stamps too.


Location Usage fee, Musician, Fee for Officiant


Ceremony flower, Reception flowers, Bouquets, boutonniere, Ushers boutonnieres, parents flowers, petals for throwing, petals for ground, petals for flower girl

Wedding gown, tiara & veil if wearing them, Shoes, Purse, Man’s Suit or Tux, Man’s Shoes, Tuxedos for any groomsmen if offering, Clothes for rehearsal dinner or luncheon

Engagement ring, Wedding band, Bride’s day-of jewelery, any jewelery purchased for bridal party as gifts

Save the Dates, Invitation Fee (or ink, paper and accessories for DIY), stamps, Thank You cards


Videography, Formal portraits, Prints, Album


Food, Alcohol and Drinks, Cake, Rental Fee, DJ or band, MC, any Professional decorator fees and/or cost of all decorating that you do yourself


Limo, Taxi, Rental Cars, Transportation for Travelers…plus tips!?


Favors for guests, Bridesmaid gifts, Best men gifts, Parental gifts

Wedding night (and any nights preceding for a destination wedding) , any hotels for out of town guests that you will be paying for.
Other Get Togethers

Bridal lunch, Groomsmen Night Out, Rehearsal dinner

Miscellaneous  (completely depends on you)

Photo booth, bubbles, polaroid camera, toilet kits (for example)

**I will be posting about all of these things in the future (well, most. I opted to scratch a lot of the hoopla too) and in those posts you’ll find ways to slim this list down,  make it more manageable, and have some budget friendly ideas

Grab your Book: The Brain Dump

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 4:18 pm by Jess

If you hire a wedding planner, he or she is going to make a Master List of all the details of your wedding. I am my Wedding Planner, and thus, I need to make this list myself. If you are planning your own wedding, or a friend’s wedding, I recommend that, after preparing yourself accordingly (sorry, had to drop the pun)*, you do the Brain Dump.

The Brain Dump has its roots in my fifth grade after-school club. (It is probably the only happy remnant of that year – I was having quite the awkward phase.) I was part of a group called Future Problem Solving, where we were given a problem and asked to brainstorm and list all of the possible complications and solutions. So in fact, you will need to do two Brain Dumps. 1) Everything that needs to happen to make my day happen how I envision it and 2)All the things that could go wrong, and their possible solutions. We call the latter a Backup Plan, and we’ll get to that later.

The Brain Dump is truly an exercise in getting all of the ideas out on paper. It does not have to be in chronological order in the first draft. The trick is: Just Start Writing. No matter where you start you are apt to feel overwhelmed by the number of details involved. I recommend, then, that you try this scheme:

Draft One: All things High-Level. You don’t need it to be chronological, or even clean. Just write down all the high level things that need to happen.

My example: “Dress. Caterer. Music. Florist. Wine. Invites. Website…” etc etc….for two pages.

Draft Two: The Details. Here you should take each High-Level item and blow out all of the details involved. If you feel overwhelmed by the growing list, shirk the task and skip steps, you will suffer in the long-run. Write out every detail, painful (or as enjoyable if you heart lists) as it might be.

My examples:

“Find dress styles. Make dress appts. choose and buy. fitting and alterations.buy shoes. buy lingerie. buy purse. get jewelery from mom’s on next visit.


“Call Bernard about white wine. Pick 5 reds to try. Blind tasting with jon’s parents. Buy red. Take wine to __ for storage”

Draft Three: Getting things in order. Here is when you put things chronologically. Rip out Draft Two and find a few consecutive clean pages in your book. Write one header ONGOING and the rest of the headers by Month, leaving a decent amount of space under each month. Now, start copying the list onto the clean page by what needs to happen when. Cross out each item on draft two as you transfer it, to avoid confusion.

My example: I knew I was going to America in November so the Dress Searching and Buying needed to happen then. I also needed to get the jewelery in Nov. too. Shoes and Purse don’t have a specific deadline, so they go under Ongoing.

Now you might be thinking to yourself: “I’ve never done this before! How am I supposed to know where things go!?”

Go to one of the popular wedding websites, such as theknot.com or weddingchannel.com and click on or search “Wedding Checklists.”

These checklists are written by people who have experience planning. They have a good gauge on what goes where. However, don’t think that you must follow these to the letter. Your list, and your planning should be organic.  It will also depend on where you live, and your priorities. Booking the location is probably a key first step everywhere, but here in Switzerland, I am not going to be choosing the flowers until a month or two before the wedding. Likewise, I have got to get people squared away on flights and hotels at least four months in advance (the town is small, rooms are limited) so other things are waiting until that is done.

Once you have your list in relative Chronological Order you can get started. And you can re-work it as needed. I just set up a pick-up date for the white wine, and so I mark that under May. When you meet with vendors they will give you more concrete deadlines as well.

I can’t bear to leave you without some sort of visual stimulation, a bride has her cake made in the likeness of, who else? Herself.

photo curtesy of current.com

Don’t Go There…

Planning: Necessary for Planning

Posted in Budget Friendly Ideas, Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 4:04 pm by Jess

The very first thing that I did when I realized I had an entire wedding to plan, was buy a Blank Book and an Accordion File. Just about every person who has done a wedding would recommend that you buy an accordion file for your wedding. They ain’t lying. You spend hours looking through Bridal Magazines, researching online, and then you have this big stack of messy papers to deal with. Or, you could file them away tidily in separate pockets for separate issues. Mine happens to go chronologically, starting with Hair and Makeup Ideas, and ending with the stack of Miscellaneous Ideas that I would like to do, which are filed under “If I have any budget left…”


The Paper Source has this red Accordion file for 36.00USD. Very practical, but a little steep for a folder on my budget.


I went to a local crafting/scrapbooking store and found the “Accordion Album Kit.” You are intended to cover it with your own hand-picked papers. This is a great option if you wan to pick a pretty paper that goes along with your color scheme. Personally, Color Schemes and I have an ongoing battle, so I left the file Cardboard, labeled them in Black Marker (very unchic, and yet oh-so un-distracting to the eye) and tied it all up with a huge ribbon in a base color that I liked.

Total cost: 7USD

If this is too plain for you, Thoughtful Day has already posted a nice assortment of different Accordions.

I am less of a paper collector and more of a list maker. I knew that lists would be critical so I went to Barnes and Noble and spent a good hour looking through their journal and Blank Book section (a favorite past time of mine, wedding or not). I finally selected a hardcover book with large pages so that I could sketch out ideas and even paste in invitation ideas, and strips of ribbon. It also has perforated edges, in case things get messy and I want to tear something out. My only complaint is that I wish I had gotten something spiral bound. A normal spiral sketchbook would work, and you could certainly cover the outside.


I found this pretty sketchbook by BlowfishDesign on Etsy.


Here my cat shows off my book, purchased at Barnes and Noble.


Here you can see that I pasted in examples of invitations that I picked from all over the web. I was able to see clearly what styles I liked (not having a favorite color means less focus on color, more on style for me) and what some of the consistencies were.

The book is also where I sketch out plans, and keep all my lists, including the Brain Dump.