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Molas! January 10, 2011

Molas are a type of folk art from Panama!

I knew when I started this planning I wanted sort of a Central American, Latino feel to my wedding.  I’m serving Mexican food.  I plan to play Buena Vista Social Club and other Cuban music during the cocktail hour and dinner.  I picked out bright, bold colors.  My signature drink is going to be margaritas.

But I didn’t want to do a Dia De Los Muertos thing (even though I LOVE Dia De Los Muertos) because I see that done SOOOO much lately.  So I wasn’t really sure how to tie the whole thing together.  I’ve been feeling like no one understood my vision (except my co – maid of honor, who, upon hearing my colors – and no other details – said, “Are you going for a Mexican theme?”).  My mom, who is doing my invitations, had this idea about pressed flower invitations since before Jeremy even proposed.  I keep saying that it sounds too stuffy, formal and girly, but she wouldn’t let it go.  She’d say “flowers aren’t formal” (no, fresh ones aren’t, but to me, pressed flowers say dusty old Victorian stuff) or “weddings are formal”.  Well, not mine.  My wedding is going to be fun.

The other night, my mom asked me again, “What do you want to do with your invitations?”.  My mom has been a graphic designer for over 20 years.  She’s won tons of national awards, and she’s done an amazing job at designing paper stuff for our family in the past.  She’s done wedding invitations, baby shower invitations, birth announcements, funeral programs, you name it.  I have every confidence in her abilities to make some kick ass wedding invitations.  I just haven’t liked her vision so far.  She brought up pressed flowers again, which I shot down, and she looked disappointed.  I tried explaining “Look, I’m wanting to do a sort of Mexican theme.  We’re doing Mexican food and margaritas.  I want to stick to that one theme, and not be mixing stuff up too much.”

She looked perturbed, but un-muted the tv and stared at it for a few seconds.  Then she pressed mute again and laughed “I just got an idea!  What if we did molas?”

Molas are a type of folk art created by the peoples of the region from Panama to Columbia.  My family is familiar with molas because my father grew up in Panama, and my grandmother and grandfather have a great deal of mola artwork around their house.  I loved my grandmother’s mola pillows as I was growing up, and her mola jewelry.  This seemed like a marvelous idea to me!

Molas aren’t Mexican, but I don’t feel the need to stick to one country.  It’s the entire culture of Central America that intrigues me, and what I’d like to showcase during my wedding, even though neither myself nor my fiance has a drop of Latino blood in us (my father grew up in the Panama Canal Zone because his father piloted ships through the canal as a Merchant Marine, not because he’s Panamanian.  The Stones are very likely Irish, though we don’t know for sure – that’s a whole other story for another day).  All my life, I have felt drawn towards that world, I can’t say why.  But I spent a year in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and I grew up hearing stories of Panama in the 60’s, and I was born and raised in a state with a huge Mexican influence, so maybe it’s natural.

Of course, mola invitations would be hard to make, we’ll be doing a lot of paper cutting, but I think it’s well worth the work.  I love the mola idea so much, I think I’m going to use it throughout my decorating.  Maybe a mola ring bearer pillow?  Mola placemats at the tables?  Mola purses for my bridesmaids?

Now, traditional molas are quilted.  It’s very intricate quilting done with little strips of fabric, which I don’t think I could do (especially not with my old sewing machine), and I don’t think I’d want to take the time to do if I could.  I can purchase molas pre made on fabric, which I might do for my ring bearer pillow, but that would get pricey if I did that over and over again for all the placemats, fabric, etc., that I might want to use a mola on.  However, I think I could easily paint or batik molas onto paper or fabric.  Though they wouldn’t be a true mola, I think that they would still be beautiful and compelling.

My mom really is a great visionary when it comes to creative stuff.  I’m very excited about this new development.

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DJs and DIY January 7, 2011

Well, I found a DJ I like better than the home birth woman.  Okay, I don’t know if I like him better, I like him about the same, but he charges significantly less, so we can afford to have him during the entire reception.  It just goes to show that it pays to put out feelers on Facebook to see if your friends have any recommendations for vendors.  I asked about DJs and got a few suggestions, including one from a friend from high school who suggested a local DJ who spins regularly at area gay bars.  I wasn’t going to contact him, because I had my heart set on the home birth DJ, but I have another friend getting married next year, and she’s looking to hire only LGBTQ friendly vendors, so I thought about this guy.  After looking at his website (and learning he recently graced the cover of Westword!), I knew I just had to see how much he charged.  So I gave him a call, and found out he was far more reasonably priced than the home birth DJ, or any DJ that responded to my Craigslist posting.  My friend is also hiring him!

I like that I too am hiring and LGBTQ friendly vendor.  And I secretly, deep down inside, like that this pink mohawked, makeup wearing DJ is likely to freak out the more conservative members of my family and Jeremy’s.  I feel bad about not going with the home birth DJ, but I have to think practically.  I can hire this DJ for a longer period of time for less money than what the home birth DJ would have charged.  I wish her all the best, but I’m going with Rockstar Aaron for my wedding music.

Other than that, I am compiling a list of DIY projects I want to create for my wedding day.  I made my first wheel of cheese two weeks ago, a simple gouda that is aging in my basement at this very moment.  Currently, I am working on a banner that will read “Jeremy and Jessica, 8-13-2011”, out of scraps of fabric in our wedding colors.  It makes me feel so happy to be crafting for the wedding.  This is the part of wedding planning I’ve been looking forward to!  This is the part that’s going to be fun.  I’ve got tons of decoration ideas for my yard, and I’m thinking about little bridesmaids accessories, maybe little purses?  I can’t wait to start learning about flower arranging.  I looked into making my own cake, but decided that I’m probably going to be better off having a professional do that.  I’m so, so, so excited!!

Here are a few projects I’m thinking about for my wedding

Fabric Flower Garland

I really like paper and fabric flowers, I don’t know why.  They’re so bright and cheery, sort of like if flowers and stuffed animals had babies.

DIY Pinwheels

Who doesn’t love a pinwheel?  They’re so fun and whimsical!

Rock Candy Chandelier

Oh man, I can think of about a million cool things I could do with rock candy on a string.  Not only that, but it will be a fun science experiment for me to do with my son.

Pom Pom Vines

Can you see these hanging from all the trees on my property?  I can!

 

 

Things are coming together now December 20, 2010

It’s almost Christmas and I’m about to put wedding planning on the shelf for about two weeks.  I’m feeling pretty comfortable with where I’m at right now and happy with how things are looking.

After much searching, I found a photographer I just love, Clara Images.  They do fantastically artistic and unique work for a really reasonable price, comparatively, I am actually able to purchase their unlimited package, which is more photographic coverage than I ever dreamed of when I started planning, and sure to be the number one thing that will make me feel like a princess all day, and help me to be happy with my wedding for the rest of my life.  Pictures are the one part of the day that lasts.  Oh yeah, and the commitment we’ll make to each other.

I also had someone from Butler Rents out to look at our yard and estimate what we’ll need.  We’re getting an assortment of tables, some with umbrellas for the sunny parts of our yard, and we’ll be getting tables for food and cake and bar and just to place around the dance floor (our patio) for people to set drinks and whatnot on if they’re standing.  We’re also getting keg coolers, how cool is that?

Jeremy is excited to build a small deck to place the head table on.  We’re using the deck to cover my son’s sandbox, and we’ll place the head table on top of that.  Meanwhile, I am excited to start cheese making, which I will probably do tonight when I start my gouda.  Gouda has to age 6-9 months, and I will be making several batches over the next few weeks, because I’ve never made hard cheese before, and I think making a few batches increases my success chances.  If we have too much, well, then we’ll be eating cheese for a while after the wedding.

Tomorrow we are going to try on wedding dresses.  This is my second trying on of dresses.  I’m being sort of secretive about the dress thing.  I’m not sure why.  Rest assured, I will never, ever share pictures here.  Okay, maybe I will after the wedding.

 

Finding services for cheap December 1, 2010

When Jeremy and I decided on our budget, I thought it was pretty lavish.  It is really close to the median price that people spend on weddings.  If you read the book Bridal Bargains (which I highly recommend) you will learn why a median is a more accurate way to judge what most Americans spend on weddings than an average is.  Basically, an average can be easily thrown off by one or two big or small numbers.  So, imagine you want to figure out the average amount a group of ten couples spend on their wedding.

  • Couple 1 – $10,000
  • Couple 2 – $12,000
  • Couple 3 – $2,000
  • Couple 4 – $10,000
  • Couple 5 – $9,500
  • Couple 6 – $10,000
  • Couple 7 – $1,000,000
  • Couple 8 – $9,000
  • Couple 9 – $50
  • Couple 10 – $10,500

What would you say the average couple spent?  Well, probably around $10,000, because that’s right around what most of the couples spent.  Sure, you have two couples who spent way less, and one couple that spent way more, but on average, most spent right around 10k.

But that’s not how a mathematical average is figured out, and when you read that the average American wedding costs $24,000, you’re looking at a mathematical average.  The mathematical average that this group of couples spent on their wedding is $107,305 (this is determined by adding up all the numbers, and then dividing by the number of numbers added up, in this case, 10).  Would you say that in that group of people, the average amount they each spent on their weddings was 100k?  Of course not.  That’s why the current figures that The Knot puts out for wedding cost averages is misleading (also, The Knot surveys mostly people who tend to spend more on their weddings, so that throws their average up as well).

A more accurate way to determine what most Americans pay is to look at the median.  You determine the median by lining up what every person pays in order from least to most, then finding the number right smack dab in the middle.  In the case of my hypothetical group up there, it would work like this

  • Couple 9 – $50
  • Couple 3 – $2,000
  • Couple 8 – $9,000
  • Couple 5 – $9,500
  • Couple 1 – $10,000
  • Couple 4 – $10,000
  • Couple 6 – $10,000
  • Couple 10 – $10,500
  • Couple 2 – $12,000
  • Couple 7 – $1,000,000

And $10,000 is the median.  Ta dah!

So I thought it would be pretty safe setting the budget at what the median cost of the typical American wedding is.  Now that I am looking at vendors, I’m not quite so sure.  It seems to me that most vendors must look at The Knot’s average to determine how much they should charge.  Using The Knot’s budget calculator, there is no way I’ll ever be able to afford any kind of reception hall, professional photography, alcohol, food and a DJ, for example.  Here’s what the budget gives me

  • Reception Venue and Rentals – $800
  • Food – $3000
  • Beverages and Bartenders – $800
  • Music – $600
  • Photography (including all prints) – $700
  • Dress (including alterations) – $600

This didn’t seem so nuts to me, until I started looking into average prices for these things.  I couldn’t find a reception hall under $1,500.  I can’t find a photographer under $1,200 (and none that I actually like under $2,000).  I can’t find a DJ for less than $150 an hour.

I’m getting my food for significantly cheaper than the budget, probably around $1700, so that frees up some money.  I can probably keep my dress costs close to $600, since my grandma will be making it for me.  And since my reception hall (which costs $1800, including linens and set up of tables and chairs) lets me bring in my own alcohol, and I only plan on serving beer, wine and margaritas, that means I can keep that tab down to the budgeted price too.  But I have a feeling I’m going to go over on DJ by at least $120, over on photography by $1,600, and I know I’m going over on my reception hall by $1,000.  Not to mention all the other little things (invitations, flowers, hair styling, accessories, gifts for bridal party and parents) that I can’t see keeping within their miniscule budget either.  Even my ceremony fees at the church I grew up in are going to go over what The Knot has budgeted for me.  Thank God I’m not hiring a professional videographer (no matter how much The Knot keeps telling me I’ll regret that choice, I think they’re just trying to scam me out of money!)

Seriously?  Is a low five figure budget not enough to throw a one day party anymore?  What the hell has this world come to?  Its enough to make me want to drop a big F bomb on the whole wedding industry and elope.  I know photography is hard work (I was a photojournalist in the Army, for God’s sake), but $2400 for six hours of work is $400 an hour!  HOLY GOD!!!  Okay, fine, say they spend four hours photoshopping, that’s still $240 an hour.  Who makes that much?  Who, I ask you?!?!  Lawyers and doctors, that’s who.  And not your every day, shine a light in your mouth and tap on your knee general practitioner.  More like heart surgeons and OBs.  I’ve done photography work and I’ve attended births, it’s not worth the same pay, I promise you.  Don’t get me started on $180 an hour to play music and announce cake cutting.  Holy crap!  Can someone pay me $180 an hour to play music?  Because I do it for free every day.  Okay, fine, they have to cart all that equipment around and set it up, and it does take a lot of charisma to be a good MC, even for an event like a wedding, but I still don’t know if I really think it’s worth $180 an hour.  I’m just sayin’.

Compare this to doula work for a minute.  As a doula, I do three meetings with my clients before the birth of their baby, about 1-2 hours a piece, then I’m on call for them 24/7  for five weeks before their due date until they go into birth.  I then stay with them throughout their entire birth, on average 12-18 hours.  I do one or two post birth meetings, 1-2 hours long, on average.  This about 16 to 28 hours of work, most of which cannot be scheduled.  And it’s hard work, anyone who’s ever been a birth partner for a laboring woman (most of my clients do not use pain medication, either), knows that it’s pretty demanding work, both physically and mentally.  You know the going rate for doula services?  About $400 to $700 dollars, in the Denver area.  That’s for EVERYTHING.

A wedding photographer gets paid for an hour and a half of work taking pictures what a doula gets paid for 20 hours of strenuous work.  This just doesn’t seem right to me.  I mean, I appreciate fine art, I do, and I’m willing to pay a photographer more than what a doula charges, I am.  But that much more?  That’s just insulting, really.

So I think I’m going to look into what I can do to customize packages and barter for services.  I posted an ad on Big Day Barter that looks like this:

I’m getting married in October, 2011 and I’m looking to barter for various services and/or goods.
My fiance and I can trade:

  • raw honey and bees wax from my backyard bee hive
  • home made cheese
  • kefir grains
  • kombucha mushrooms or fresh home made kombucha
  • home made vinegar
  • home made hard cider or hard cider starter
  • doula services/child birth education
  • lawn and garden work
  • various home repair
  • help with DIY projects
  • baby sitting
  • copy editing/help with English homework
  • baby clothes
  • old Army uniforms
  • excess produce from my garden (come summer time)
  • Home chemical safety evaluation (basically, I go through your home when you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or have a new baby, and help you identify the presence of chemicals that might inhibit fertility or cause developmental or health problems for you and your family)
  • I can serve as a day of coordinator for your wedding, to help get things set up and put away
  • Photography – I was a photojournalist in the Army, and I can certainly take photos of an event. The problem is that I don’t own a very nice camera, so I’d probably be using yours. You probably don’t want me for a wedding, but a less formal event I can totally do.
  • Designated driver for parties – You provide the car, I’ll stay sober and drive you some where.

Or make me an offer

We need

  • Photography
  • DJ
  • Bartender (we’re only serving beer, wine and one signature drink)
  • Day of coordinator
  • Hair and makeup
  • Transportation

I’ve also posted ads on Craigslist for a photographer and a DJ and gotten lots of responses.  I’ve not liked 90% of the photography responses I’ve gotten (since I’ve worked as a photographer myself, and I was raised by an artist, I reserve the right to be snooty about wanting my wedding photos to be artistic), but I’ve gotten so many that a few gems have been in there.  Still outside of budget, but if they’re willing to negotiate a custom package (say, give me a few more hours of coverage instead of the custom album and prints), and maybe barter for a reduced fee, I might be able to swing this.  I’ll let you all know how it goes.

 

 

Success! Venues and other news November 23, 2010

So, I’ve found a reception site.  It’s nothing special, beauty wise, but it has plenty of space, is handicapped accessible, it’s open until the wee hours of the night and it allows me to bring in an outside caterer and my own booze.  Score!  Really, it’s not nearly as important to me to have a beautiful venue as it is to make sure my guests have a really, really good time.  That’s just not possible in a beautiful but small space, or a place that makes us be out by 10:30 (as my runner-up choice did).

It does some nice features for a reception hall.  A fire place and a large, pretty patio space chief among them.  It’s next to a golf course, which doesn’t exactly thrill me, but you know what?  Who cares?  We’re going to have yummy Mexican food, open bar (well, only beer, wine and margaritas will be served, but that’s enough) and good music.  That’s all that matters.

The reception venue is also just a few miles away from my church, so I’ve decided to go ahead and do the ceremony there.  I got all the paperwork and now am overwhelmed with options I hadn’t even thought of before.  Do I want my guests to sing hymns during the service?  Do I want our mothers to light the unity candle for us?  What order will our attendants be walking down the aisle in?  Will we be serving communion during our services?  Hmmmm …. probably not, that sounds kind of cool, I don’t know, and maybe?  I didn’t even know that was an option in a Lutheran service.  We do serve some kick ass yummy communion bread at my church.  Not those lousy wafers Catholics eat.

My church offers the services of two wedding coordinators to help me with these planning issues, which is awesome.  They’re also cool with interfaith marriages, which, if you count non practicing Catholic / vaguely agnostic as a faith, our wedding will be.  But it’s costing more to do a church wedding than I thought it would.  We have to pay for our pre wedding counselling, which I didn’t expect, and I don’t know how much the donation to the church in thanks to God for our union is expected to be.  Even if we didn’t get married actually in the church, though, we’d still have to pay these things if I want to use my pastor.  Which I do.  I don’t want some stranger to marry us when the guy who confirmed me and baptized my son is right here.

So now I have to start thinking about decorating and vendors.  My mom works with a photographer who does really cool work, and I totally planned on hiring her, until I looked at her prices.  She’s about $1000 over our budget.  So now I’m looking for someone else and feeling pretty disappointed because I’ve already fallen in love with her stuff.  I also found a DJ I really like, but she’s kind of expensive.  She had two home births though!  I know, that’s not a good reason for hiring a DJ, but she also has an extensive collection of indie music and that’s hard to find.  I promised I’d look at other options before hiring her though.

As far as decorating goes, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this wedding.  If I could add a Mexican flair to this type of decor, I’d be all over it.  Don’t know how my family would feel about such a shin dig.  They’d probably think it was cool, for any other event but a wedding.  Why does everyone think a wedding has to be so super formal?  It doesn’t have to be.  Why can’t it just be a big, fun, comfortable party for everyone involved?  I mean, if I’m going to be spending this much money, I want my wedding to be really enjoyed, not just appreciated aesthetically.

Something I really love about this wedding is that the couple made almost everything all by themselves.  It is my instinct to DIY as much of my wedding as I can, but all I hear from everyone is “Don’t do too much DIY, you’ll drive yourself crazy.”  Well aren’t you equally as likely to drive yourself crazy trying to control every little detail that you’re depending on someone else (who you ultimately cannot control) to provide?  Doesn’t it make more sense, if you’re going to drive yourself crazy, to do it on your own terms?  This couple inspires me.  I don’t think I want to be building my own dance floor, or anything, but I would love to make my own napkins and thank you cards.  Come on.  I have a year.  I just need to time everything.  I’ve already plotted out a timeline for cheese making (which reminds me, I need to buy the stuff I need to make the gruyere – I’ll bet Jeremy could make me a cheese press for cheap!)

In other DIY news, I harvested honey and wax from my bee hive over the weekend (and got stung once!  It’s the first time I’ve been stung in 8 months of bee keeping!  I have a welt the size of my palm, and it’s super itchy).  I have so much wax, I’m going to attempt to make my own unity candle out of it.  It might be the ugliest candle in the world, but it will be super meaningful, having come from the bees that my mom and I raised in the hive Jeremy built.

 

DIY Wedding Resources November 10, 2010

As a bit of a crafter, I’ve been really drawn to the idea of a DIY wedding.  I know it’s not always cheaper and it’s not always more environmentally friendly, but it is more unique and more fun on my end, and I think I’m the type of person who can get creative and make it cheap and green.

But I need some kind of inspiration to get into crafty mode, usually.  I suffered from a bit of a wedding magazine obsession for a while, but all that inspires you to do is feel like you have to spend more and more money, sometimes on things that other people DIY’d.  I mean, I love Etsy as much as the next person, but I have no desire to buy a faceless, clothespin cake topper for a hundred dollars, thank you very much, when I know for a fact that I could spend a whopping $5 on two clothes pins and a hot glue stick to make the exact same thing (I already have the paint and scrap fabric).

Wedding magazines also cost a fair amount of money, and, much like I discovered about Cosmo’s sex tips when I was 19, you quickly realize you’re reading the same crap over and over, and half of it is so unrealistic (or frightening) for real people it might as well be science fiction.

So I’ve been looking instead for inspiration to websites and books, which I check out from my local library (nothing’s cheaper than free!).  There are some really good websites out there, my favorites include DIY Bride, Offbeat Bride and Ruffled.  ReadyMade, my favorite DIY magazine, even has a Wedding Wednesdays portion on their website.  For more traditional ideas there is of course Martha Stewart Weddings (I love her classy alternative to Jello Shots), and of course, one cannot over look Instructables for any kind of DIY project, just search for weddings on their site, and hundreds of projects will pop up.

Books can get a little more tricky.  I’ve checked out just about every wedding craft book at the library and looked at every wedding craft book at Barnes and Noble (then requested those books at the library).  Most of the wedding craft books out there are super lame.  Maybe if you’re planning a super frilly wedding in the 80’s, you’d like these books, but for the most part, there’s nothing to be gleaned from most of them.  My favorites so far have been The Paper Bride, DIY Bride, DIY Bride Countdown and The Artful Bride.  Martha Stewart’s wedding books are okay, if you’re super traditional (which I am not).

But honestly, I’ve gotten more inspiration from regular craft books, so don’t over look them at the library if you’re looking for DIY ideas.  If you’re planning a holiday wedding, holiday craft books are going to give you some great ideas.  While I’m not super big on Martha’s wedding stuff, her holiday stuff is awesome.  I’ve had a good time with books like AlternaCrafts, Handmade Home and 1001 Ideas for Creative Reuse.  There are tons of books out there on crafting cool things out of things you would otherwise throw away, incorporating those kinds of projects into your wedding would be both green and cheap.  Seriously, ReadyMade is the best source of ideas for those kinds of projects, I think.  Not only does it have a million ideas for recycled DIY projects, but their projects are hip and modern.