I've given a lot of advice in this series: things I'd do, things I wouldn't; do's, don'ts, and if I'm honest a couple of serious laundry lists. So where'd that all come from and is a 20-something really qualified to give all this advice? Well, to answer that question today I thought I'd tell you my story, well - I guess it's our story :)
Our Story: From Far-Away Glimpses To First Dates
My fiancé (or Guapo as I affectionately call him) and I spent our high-school years admiring one another from afar. A quick glimpse from between crowds on Sunday morning. A stolen moment between after school activities to watch a wrestling match. We were crazy about each other but he never said anything. Maybe it was because it was too real for our age, and I was content for the moment, to play wedding at prom in a fancy dress. Or maybe we were just making sure, whatever the reason we found ourselves in a Chipotle four years after we met trying to sum of four years of meaning in one word: "Hello."
A 3-hour coffee date and 4 painful long-distance months later and we were official. Of course there were several gateways: asking my dad for permission, asking me to date him officially, while downing about 6 pots of coffee at our favorite breakfast place, the Egg'lectic Cafe. Then he transferred to the college I attended and "his" and "mine" started to become "ours."
Two years later we were engaged Christmas Day 2010, to be exact. The trees were covered in lights and the snow swirled, the diamond sparkled and loved ones held us and we cried. We were out of our minds with excitement and we were scared. After all we'd both just experienced difficult trials in our extended families and had a lot of questions: Do we lose our families? How do we become our own family? Will we make it financially? How will we make it financially? Will we make it? Is this real?
And then there were these things called…expectations. They had set us up for failure before and we'd worked through it - but how many expectations would we fall short of, including the day that was supposed to be "the best day," "the big day," "the ball and chain."
Reorienting Expectations: From The Dream To The Day
Because I was 1,000 miles away from where our wedding would be, I had to reorient my expectations. I wouldn't be able to make every decision, in fact I was going to have to rely on my mother, an opinionated Texan, to make most of them for me based upon our conversations. There was also the reality of our budget.
My parents were paying for the wedding, inviting 400 people from our town and as the oldest of four girls my parents were stuck between throwing the best biggest bash ever and realizing they had at least two more weddings to do fairly soon.
I was in my junior year of college, I was the RA to 45 amazing girls, desperately maintaining a 3.9 GPA while trying to squeeze in all the girl's nights I could with my five best friends because we knew the clock was ticking. I just physically couldn't add planning a wedding for 400 people to that list. So I made a list of things that mattered and learned to let go of the things that didn't.
Deciding What Matters: Priorities vs Preferences
What matters to me won't be what matters to you, it should also be determined in part by your budget. My flowers for one, were really important; I also I wanted an outdoor wedding in a big white tent. Food is important to the guests but I didn't need to decide the menu, so I crossed that big ol' time suck off my list and let my parents figure out how not to spend $10,000 on food for 400.
My bridesmaid's dresses were also really important. I wanted them to be unique, one of a kind, not something you'd seen in BHLDN or J.Crew, so my mother made them for every bridesmaid. I decided my color scheme: coral, gold and pewter, but had to change to coral, green and white because our DIY efforts to help the budget were easier to find in those colors.
It was also important to me that the event be environmentally friendly. So, we used an eclectic collection of antique plates, and collected fabric scraps according to our color scheme from local craft stores so we could have cloth napkins which saved money and trees so that was a double rainbow! ;)
I am going to be honest, at times it was really hard to let stuff go, but like any creative effort with lots of people making it happen, the original idea evolved and turned into a wonderful celebration that, when looking back, was more of a celebration than a right to brag.
The Art Of Compromise: When What You Want Can't Happen
I wanted a Daddy-daughter dance with my dad. In fact, it was something I'd dreamed about since my first fantasy wedding as an 8 year old girl. But, my husband's family and my family aren't big dancers, so I was a lone goat on that one. It also added about $5,000 to the event and I just knew that I would be forcing something my parents were willing to do, but didn't' need to.
My dad gave an amazing speech, a tear-jerking, nose-wiping zinger that celebrated my new life but also told how much he'd miss having me around. So did I need to know my Dad loved me? Yes. Did it need to be with a dance? No. Was it still hard when I went to my best friend's wedding and saw her dance with her dad - man-o-man - yes it was.
The second thing I really wanted that didn't happen was a cheesecake wedding cake. I don't like traditional cake and my parents knew that and were prepared to do anything to get a cheesecake, but the place we held the reception had a weird rule about having to make the cake and they refused to make a cheesecake one! So, I let that go. The cake was big and tall and exactly like the Martha Stewart one I'd picked out - and doubled really well as a decoration, something the cheesecake couldn't have done.
The Wedding March: Moving Forward One Step At A Time
So why am I telling you about all the things I didn't get to do on my wedding? To prepare you and encourage you. It was one of the best days in my life, second only to the day Guapo finally talked to me :) andit wasn't perfect. Or, it was perfect because of its hiccups and imperfections. My husband and I have a great marriage, we're crazy about each other, but we're not perfect either. Hear a pattern? :)
Planning a wedding is such a great initiation into marriage. You and your "to-be" are figuring out how to problem-solve, prioritize and you'll make sacrifices based upon realities and desires and that will be stressful. So will be deciding what house is in your price range or how you will afford the twins you just found out were on the way. The most important thing to Guapo and I did was remember our story, and our hopes for the future; in that light this beautiful, wonderful, epic day, was in the end only a blip on the radar screen of happily ever after.
I've so enjoyed sharing my story with you and I hope you enjoyed the pictures :) I'd love for YOU to share something with me:
- If you are engaged, what is the one thing you're most stressed out about when planning your wedding?
- If you've gone through a wedding, how did you prioritize things? Were there some things you wanted that didn't happen?
Be sure to check out these other posts in our Frugal Bride Series:
Bridal Bootcamp: Everything You Need to Know About Getting Married
The $50,000 Lie: Why An Overly-Indulgent Wedding Hurts More Than Your Wallet
His and Hers: Who Pays For What and How Coco, Kelly, and Monroe Can Help
I’ve Waited For You My Whole Life: 6 Tips to Find the Perfect Wedding Dress
DIY Bride: The Cost-Efficient Way to Be Unforgettable
And don’t forget our Frugal Bride Pinterest Board!