Another book I'm thinking of writing, although I'm certain other books have probably already been written on this very topic, is a book of tips for putting a wedding together super-fast, on a microscopic budget, and long distance. Because that's exactly what I'm doing.
At this wedding, there will be no $10,000 Vera Wang dress. No $200 per head 4-course sit-down dinner with butlered hors d'oeuvres, open bar, ice sculpture, and a 17 piece jazz orchestra. Not even a DJ. No big fancy flower arrangements or $175 bridal bouquet. No seven bridesmaids in long gowns and matching groomsmen in rented tuxedos. No flower girl and ring-bearer. I am not even bothering about wedding "favors". Or a wedding cake which we would cut and then smash into each other's faces (I never liked that latter part anyway).
Don't get me wrong... I've been to plenty of very lovely weddings that had some or all of these elements, on some scale. And I think if you've got the resources and the desire for some or all of these things, then why not go for it if that's your dream wedding? It's just that my idea of a "dream wedding" seems to have changed. A lot.
Once upon a time, like most girls I'm sure I dreamed of a fancy, traditional wedding. But now I can't seem to recall that dream at all. I guess I've just moved beyond the need for all that. I do want a lovely wedding so that Georges and I can celebrate the significance of that moment, but at this point in my life, I'm much more interested in having a lovely MARRIAGE with him. In other words, I am far more excited about the life we are building together, than I am about whether or not I should offer two entrées with the dinner, and having the entire room blanketed in red roses at $100/dozen.
Also, the cost of our airfare was so astronomical that really, it ate up more than 50% of what we decided to spend on the entire wedding + travel costs. So we had to cut corners... like eliminating a cold London broil from the menu and sticking to just Champagne chicken as a main course at the dinner buffet. (But it's very good Champagne chicken, I'll say that!)
With the plans I've made -- and with the help of my mom and very artistic sister -- we are managing to create a tasteful but relaxed wedding day celebration that is in keeping with our personalities, beliefs and our budget. We'll be "dressed to the nines" in clothes and shoes we picked out just for the occasion. We'll have a nice party with wonderful people around us. And what will be most memorable is that we stood together and promised to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives, building a new life together. And then, we'll go and start to LIVE that new life, which is the most important part anyway.
So here are Nine Tips for putting a small, tasteful wedding together in record time and an ocean away. Just in case you find yourself in the same (deliriously happy) situation some day.
- Email your invitations, and save on the fancy printed invites and the ever-increasing cost of postage. I took a photo of Georges and I, superimposed our names and the wedding date on top, then added one page of the "invitation" and a second page with directions to the wedding, packaged it all up in an Adobe Acrobat file and emailed it to my guests.
- Keep your guest list to a minimum. Only invite the people you really, really like, and don't worry so much about hurting the feelings of that great-aunt you never see, or the boss you don't even like. My guest list is now firm at 24 people (including me, Georges and his daughter) and I adore every single one of them. There were a few others I would have loved to invite but I had to make sacrifices to stay within our small budget.
- Have the wedding (or at least the after-party) at the home of someone you know, or even your own home. I'm having mine at my sister's house, and to spare her and her husband a lot of work, I hired a caterer and will pay for a cleaning service to come in and clean the entire house the day before so we're all not exhausted. This was still cheaper than paying for a hall, and by keeping the guest list small, what we'll have is a nice intimate party in the comfort of my sister's beautiful home (which happens to be new and also great for entertaining). Plus, having it at my sister's house is very personal and meaningful to me, much more so than if I had rented a hall somewhere. We are renting a few extra tables and chairs from the caterer to provide extra seating when our guests want to eat. And I even already have one of those fold-up "tents" in storage we can use to create some extra shade on the deck (if it rains, we'll move a few tables indoors instead.) We skipped the rental of the "big" tent for such a small party, but I'd guess that if you needed a tent, it would still cost less than renting a hall.
- Flowers: skip the big bouquet and fancy floral arrangements. I'm ordering a small bouquet which will have about 6 roses in it instead of 2 dozen, a flower for Georges' lapel and maybe a corsage for my mother, all to be delivered the morning of the wedding. My sister came up with a really GREAT idea for the rest of the flowers: to order a quantity of LOOSE flowers of the types and colors I want, and go to the florist to pick them up the day BEFORE. She and I will go to the local Dollar Store to buy vases and florist marbles, and do arrangements ourselves to put all around the party area in the house. Voila! Loads of flowers for a fraction of the cost of the florist making up the centerpieces. Also, my very creative sister bought a silk garland at Michael's (that craft chain store) with a coupon she had, and she'll put that on the staircase to dress up the room a little bit more. I'm sure Michael's has tons of other wedding decorations as well.
- Honeymoon: right now we have neither the time or money for a big honeymoon trip; that will come later. What we decided instead was to book 2 nights at a B&B at the Jersey Shore, right on the beach. It gives us a little alone time immediately following the wedding, plus we'll do other things together like touring around New York and elsewhere in New Jersey.
- Champagne and wine: we can pre-order our champagne (we're having enough for one glass per person as a toast plus one bottle for us to take on the honeymoon) and wine online through our local discount liquor store, and they have even bigger discounts when you order it online. The caterer will serve it all (it's what I'm paying them for) but we'll provide the champagne, beer and wine. No tacky plastic beer coolers... we've got some nice small metal tubs to put some ice in, along with a few bottles of beer and white wine, placed strategically and the caterer will make sure people have what they need. The caterer also provides soft drinks and is bringing the ice.
- Keep the menu simple. In the end I decided to set up a full dinner with a few appetizers and dessert, instead of just all appetizers (which I also could have done, and it really would have been fine for this small party), but even with the dinner I kept it simple. After our champagne toast, we'll have just cheese and crackers and crudites for starters. Then for the dinner, Champagne chicken and new red potatoes for the two hot dishes (but this being in July we ONLY wanted 2 hot dishes in case it's 95 degrees like it was YESTERDAY in New Jersey), a cold asparagus platter and tossed salad for veggies, and of course French bread. Then we'll have a post-dinner cheese course, French-style. For dessert, I'm skipping the wedding cake and instead we're doing a fruit salad, a brownie/blondie assortment, and these miniature stuffed cupcakes of various types, arranged on a tier almost like a cake.
- Do it yourself music and entertainment. We're bringing a CD or an iPod playlist with some of our favorite songs on it to play during the ceremony (music from Amélie, which I love because Georges plays it regularly on the piano and it's just beautiful) and otherwise whatever my brother-in-law has programmed into their stereo system will be fine. Georges and I are doing our little performance of La Vie en Rose for one another. One of my friends is a lovely piano player and if she feels like tickling the electronic ivories, she can go to it. I went to another friend's wedding recently where a friend and the groom did some songs together with a guitar, so asking your talented guests to provide some of the entertainment is a great way to shake things up. We may or may not do any dancing, depending on how we feel at the time.
- Either skip the wedding gown, or buy one used. I, of course, have opted not to go for the traditional poofy dress, as you know. I like the idea of being able to wear that dress again for some special occasion, and with this dress I can do that. However, years ago one of my best friends found a beautiful wedding gown she just loved... and she paid about $125 for it, USED, at a place that specializes in selling all those "only wore it the one time" wedding dresses. Check your yellow pages or online, I'm sure you can find something similar. Maybe even on eBay!
If you don't count the cost of our plane ticket and rental car, I'm proud to say we'll probably be bringing this wedding in at around the $2,000-2,500 mark. And that includes our wedding clothes. With the money we're NOT spending, we'll be able to take a great honeymoon later this year or next spring, buy some things we want for the house, and start our new life together DEBT FREE (as opposed to how many people go into debt to finance the big wedding... and really, is it worth it?)
So there you have it. I've done all this in under two months, on the other side of the world from where the wedding will be held, and I've done all the plans by phone and email. I didn't need to visit reception halls or caterers for tastings, I used a caterer I already knew something about and just decided to trust that they'll do a great job. I didn't need to listen to wedding bands, or go to five different shops for dresses or tuxedos. Keeping it simple means we will be able to actually ENJOY our wedding and focus on the fun and romance of it, instead of stressing about "will the limos be on time?" (another benefit of having the entire thing at home is there is no need to drive from church to reception!)
What we might be giving up in terms of "fancy", we're gaining in peace of mind. And in the end, what we will have is each other: in love, and together forever.