All's Fair in Love and...Weddings
A Fun, Low-Maintenance Wedding.
That was what I wanted.
I thought it would be easy.
The only real rule when planning a wedding is it will be stressful. Here is a look at how even untraditional (and sometimes irrational) wedding planning can lead to a wedding to remember.
They Say the First Year of Marriage is the Hardest...
For me the hardest part was the planning period.
I had my heart set on marrying in Destin, FL, where my boyfriend (now husband) proposed.
However, I am not one for the pre-packaged, wedding-in-a-box types of things that seem to dominate the beach-wedding business-- you know, the "Ultimate Dream Package" includes 30 realistic-silk lilies, four 5x7 portraits, and some super-plaster Roman columns...but bump up to the "Ultimate VIP Luxury Dream Package" for $100 more, and you get silk ivy and six added portraits! Chairs are extra.
It's not that there's anything wrong with these packages, especially if you are going for low-maintenance--they're just not for me.
I was convinced I could piece together the perfect wedding, doing things my way, spending minimally.
But when I learned that my favorite flowers were a no-go (they shrivel and close after being cut), that my favorite seafood place couldn't cater (well, they never called me back), and that a high-quality key-lime-graham-cracker-swirl cake with white-chocolate ganache and the words to God Only Knows by The Beach Boys piped along the exterior would cost roughly the same as a Rolls Royce, I folded.
We decided to elope.
My mother, on the other hand, decided to hunt furiously for an alternative I would accept.
I didn't want a church wedding or a fancy sit-down dinner.
I didn't want an elaborate, floor-length dress or a veil or pantyhose.
I didn't want bridesmaids' dresses.
I wanted the ceremony and reception to be an accurate reflection of my fiancé and myself.
I HAD TO HAVE a bar, a band, and a dance-floor.
And I thought I was low-maintenance....
Happily Ever After...At Last!
I thought my mom and I would be mounds of limbs before agreeing on the wedding details, and I feared my fiancé would peace-out after witnessing me turn green and burst through my shirt, Marvel Comics-style.
But somehow it all came together, and we all came out unscathed.
We married in our cowboys boots on the stage at a Nashville music venue, held the reception at the bar, danced the calluses off our feet, and ran to the getaway car at the end of the night as marshmallows pelted our backs. It was The Perfect Wedding because it was perfectly us.
When my mom cast this bait, she knew she had landed a whale. The second she said, "What about the Cannery Ballroom?" I think my ears actually grew, they perked up so much.
The very idea that my mom (the woman who prefaced every wedding-related conversation conducted with anyone other than me with, "Well, you know how offbeat Morgan is....") would even suggest having a wedding in a glorified bar--let alone pay for it--was enough to make me rethink eloping.
I loved the idea of doing the wedding and reception all in one place; the dance-floor was big, bands were welcome, the bar was stocked, and any outside caterer could be used!
This was the place.
It's not that I am a food-snob (I'll eat just about anything)...it's just that I have a certain relationship with food: it's what I do.
Because food is what I do, I knew I did not want to hire an all-purpose caterer or catering company--not that the food wouldn't be good enough, but because I would be judging it the whole time, thinking about what I would have done differently, wishing I could have done it myself.
Instead of the beef tenderloin and shrimp cocktails my mother envisioned, I wanted simple, fun food from one of my fiance's and my favorite places. We kicked around ideas: hot-dogs, pizza, chicken fingers, soul-food....
And then it smacked us in the face--the obvious solution. Mediterranean Cuisine (Maryland Farms, Brentwood) was a favorite of both my family and my fiance's. We could get more food at a much better price, please the palates of both timid and adventurous eaters, and share one of our favorite places with our families and friends.
The Greek salad, chicken and lamb-gyro, mountains of yellow rice, pitas, hummus, and tzatziki sauce made an amazing and memorable spread--I only wish I would have had time to get seconds before the first dance!
So I didn't get my key-lime dream cake, but I did have several people tell me they had never tasted a better carrot cake (bride's cake) or chocolate cake (groom's cake), both of which I ordered from Publix. I looked into some more expensive options at first, but the Publix cakes tasted even better than the others at a fraction of the cost.
Because I am a food fiend with a serious sweettooth, it was far more important to me to have a tasty cake than a pretty one. Fortunately, however, I got both.
The carrot cake was spiced to perfection, filled with cream-cheese frosting, and iced in baby-blue buttercream. The amazing cake decorator not only humored me when I held up a picture of my favorite quilt and said, "Can you make it look like this?" but also recreated perfectly the quirky floral pattern.
The chocolate cake was black and moist, filled with custard and blanketed in fudge ganache. It tasted like the world's greatest chocolate-glazed donut.
My original wedding dresses (I ordered two, just in case) were from MauiShirts.com and cost less than 50 dollars each. I ordered the airy, white halter-dresses (one in hibiscus print and one in palm tree) when I believed I would elope and marry in Hawaii or Mexico or the Virgin Islands.
After trying them on, however, I wasn't convinced, so I gave in and let one of my best friends take me shopping. She knew I was light in the coin-purse, so she took me to David's Bridal.
After selling my soul to their well-affiliated mailing list, I was assigned a helper and allowed to try things on. I had never been to DB before and had anticipated only a casual look-about, not a new friend in the dressing room. If I had known what I was getting into, I would have showered, shaved, finished my coffee before brushing my teeth, and, oh yeah, bothered to put on undergarments (I was in a hurry)...but as it was, I'm sure my special helper got a good story out of the experience.
Despite the incredible awkwardness, I did find a couple of dresses to stick in the "maybe" file. My friend insisted that we check out the mall before making a decision, however, so I put them on hold and zoomed down the road.
I was skeptical because I hadn't entered (or thought of) Jessica McClintock since senior prom, but as I weaved around some unnaturally gorgeous teenage girls shopping for just that purpose, I found The Dress.
It was a bright-white, short, strapless dress with sort of an uneven, layered bubble-hem and a white satin sash. It was definitely created for the younger, unnaturally gorgeous, senior-prom-bound crowd--not the post-collegiate, working-girl brides--but it was so me.
The short dress, I thought, was playful and fun and would be perfect for a barefoot-on-the-beach wedding (still thinking eloping here). So I dropped 100 dollars (saving 200 over my top choice at DB and thousands over the boutiques) and went home with my new dress.
I couldn't go barefoot at the Cannery, however (splinters were a concern), so I fully embraced my Nashville roots and donned my grandmother's vintage cowboy boots: these truly amazing high-heeled boots with a butterfly design (and, conveniently, my "something old").
My husband wore cowboy boots, jeans, a white oxford shirt, and a black brushed-cotton blazer (interestingly, he was wearing the exact same thing when he proposed).
The entire wedding party wore jeans, black shirts, and, of course, cowboy boots. I liked the idea that they would all be matching but still able to exude their individual styles.
"I want a Beach Boys tribute band that also plays a full catalog of Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley," I told my fiancé in the beginning of the planning process.
"You'll never find that," he said.
He was wrong. What he should have said was, "You'll never be able to afford that."
This wonder-band I sought was out there indeed, and they were available to travel to Nashville (from Orlando I think) for the low, low price of way, way too much.
All I can say is thank goodness they were too pricy because The Deacons, the band we finally chose, set the perfect mood and kept guests of all ages on the dance floor all night with their energetic mix of oldies and special requests.
I lucked out when I met my photographer in a culinary class we shared. Laura and Casey of Lovely Union Photography perfectly captured the symbiotic rustic comfort and youthful energy my husband and I hoped would be embodied in our wedding. Fortunately for me, I caught them right before they moved back to their native Tupelo. Mississippi readers, be sure to check this pair out!
Just for fun, we set a picture-book out so guests could peruse embarrassing photos of me and my husband through the decades. It is now a fun addition to our coffee-table books. You can create your own at http://www.picaboo.com/
We wanted to give the guests something to do in between the ceremony and reception while we were upstairs taking pictures and our helpers were moving seats off the dance-floor and back to the tables. So we went to Hobby Lobby and bought a huge piece of cloth and several packs of Crayola fabric markers and had everyone write us a message. After the wedding we sewed the cloth to a giant piece of fleece and turned it into an amazing quilt.
My dad knew how much I wanted champagne (which was not a part of our bar-package), so he ordered a gigantic bottle of Pol Roger and arranged for the great people of The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills to assist with the handling and pouring. We had the wedding party sign the bottle with gold Sharpies, and we are now using it to house our loose-change travel-fund.
I have this occasional personality quirk that causes me to fiercely avoid the expected. Thus, instead of the controversial, bird-killing rice, or the exceedingly popular bubbles, I opted for marshmallows--and shooters! An extremely dedicated group of family and friends worked for hours cutting PVC pipe, wrapping shooters with ribbon, and attaching pouches of mini-mallows. Guests lovingly called our departure and the ensuing war The Great Marshmallow Massacre of 2009.
- Dial back the flowers. The day before the wedding, we bought several colors of gerbera daisies from Publix. The day of the wedding, we trimmed them and tied them with twine we bought at Hobby Lobby. This bouquet and the single gerbera daisies held by my three bridesmaids were the only flowers used.
- Borrow whatever you can. Instead of decorating with flowers, we borrowed lanterns from a friend and filled them all with candles from Dollar General. You may have a friend who has 200 tablecloths just lying around--it never hurts to ask.
- Consider holding the ceremony and reception in one location. Renting one venue instead of two is an easy way to cut expenses.
- Make your own invitations and programs. We got our invitations from a wonderful store called Social Graces in Hillsboro Village (they were super-cute!), but we made our own R.S.V.P. postcards to mail out with the invitations, and we printed our own programs on card-stock. I reproduced the picture of my quilt (the one I used as inspiration for the cake) as a border to add interest and cohesiveness to the programs.
- Do not assume expensive = better. I saved a bunch of money getting my cakes from Publix, and they tasted better than any wedding cake I had ever tried. Costco also makes incredible cakes. Of course, I could have saved even more money by making the cakes myself, but this is not something I would suggest unless you are extremely experienced, not only with creating cakes, but also with delivering them. The last thing you want to do on your wedding day is blot buttercream or peal fondant from the upholstery in your car.
- Research and Rethink. Call around to make sure you are getting the best deal, and don't be afraid to think outside the pearly-white box. Just because something hasn't been done before doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.