Monday, February 24, 2014

Planning A Wedding: The Dream

(source unknown)

I have been a long-time wedding blog reader and my Pinterest wedding board is a curated collection of only the most airy, light, and beautiful ceremonies. I've watched countless wedding videos in the last few years, and cried over the majority of them. To say that I have been waiting for the day that I could plan my own wedding would be a gross understatement. I have been dreaming of the grand affair for a few years.

To love beautiful photographs, styled ever so carefully and photographed exquisitely, by Jose Villa, Erich McVey, KT Merry, Bryce Covey (to name a few), is an entirely different thing than actually planning your own wedding and finding vendors that you love. And for me, on a small normal person's budget (my family will be helping with some of the venue costs), it is simply not a reality. Being a style blogger myself, photography instantly struck me as one of the most important pieces of my wedding and I was quickly brought back to reality when looking at the cost of hiring a photographer the likes of which graces the pages of OnceWed. For someone looking toward an under $10,000 total wedding cost, a photographer whose packages start at $8,000 is far beyond my means. 

And that rule applies to everything you see in gorgeous photos like the ones on the blog today. These gorgeous tents? They range in price from $3,000 to $20,000, just for a rental. And the chivari chairs, oh so gorgeous but at $5.50 a chair rental (not covering delivery fee). Those lovely plated meals, charcuterie trays and figs lusciously roasted? Maybe $80-$120 a head. Not counting alcohol.

And that doesn't even count the venues - renting a beautiful beachside home, or a spacious hall runs you about $5,000-$10,000 and up depending on the season, and that's just for seven hours of time. I could go on.

My point here is not to complain about costs or point out the atrocity of wedding planning, but to share this struggle with other future brides or disappointed planners that are trying to keep their heads above water. I know I have already shed too many tears about this and given my parents a planning complex themselves. I hope that perhaps a grain of this will make someone else out there feel better about their struggles.

My first piece of advice, coming from three weeks of planning and from a still-venue-less girl? Ditch the Pinterest board wedding.

To emulate the beauty seen throughout these pins I've shared, on a budget as tight as mine, would be folly. If I tried to copycat the photo above, I'd end up not being able to afford the long table linens and going with something off-white or not-quite-right. I'd have to forgo chivari chairs and find something a bit less glamorous (metal and folding). My flowers would be hand-arranged, by me, and hideous. My dishware? Probably plastic. The tent? Non-existent. The venue? Dark. The photographer, about $5,000 less than the one that shot the photos above, and probably struggling to capture my dark indoor wedding with plastic plates.

And even then, it'd merely look like an imitation of some beautiful wedding that was someone else's glorious execution. And so it would not be me. Or Ben. Or my family. Or his family. It wouldn't be our life together. It would be someone else's.

Trying to copycat the pastel scenes that grace Pinterest and stylish blogs all around has led me down a dangerous road of disappointment (mainly about cost and feasibility). But more importantly, it has led me to a place where I find it easy to forget exactly what Ben and I initially wanted. A day to celebrate ourselves with an intimate group (no more than forty guests). A day where we could sit down and eat, not be worried about trying to speak to 500 people, or worry about 100 floral arrangements wilting in the heat, or uncomfortable gold chairs sinking into a lawn. A day where we didn't feel like our hard-earned money was being spent on something that wasn't quite right. That wasn't quite us.

Dreaming up these orchestrated expensive weddings also led me away from those personal touches that make weddings so special and intimate. When you pull away those famous images you let yourself start from scratch. Instead of looking at photos of perfect flower arrangements, you remember that your grandmother has the most beautiful garden and can arrange flowers like a professional florist. You remember that your mother makes a perfect and infinitely more tasty lilikoi cheesecake that people cannot stop talking about. You remember that you don't like figs and Ben doesn't like charcuterie, but you both love a good barbecue. You uncover family friends willing to do a favor And you remember that having this insanely expensive venue isn't worth sacrificing having your favorite wine to share with your guests or a glass of your favorite champagne. 

I'm not yet wise about wedding planning but I do know that it's capable of driving you completely insane. I believe that's due to getting caught in a trap of envy, of wishing I had the funds to make something dreamy like the above happen, wishing I had the grace or the skill to hand-make something perfect. And those thoughts make me forget that I do have the skill to make this the perfect day for Ben, our families, and me, and those closest to me do as well. And in the middle of the teary mess that is coming to these conclusions, something even more gorgeous is starting to form. And it's absolutely us. And absolutely perfect.

My advice for you all is this:

1. Don't look at photos until you've decided what is most important to you (venue, dress, ceremony, reception, food, photography, etc.).

2. Look to inspirational photos for inspiration on specific items (what color chair, what color linens, what kind of flower for the season). Don't throw yourself into the maze that is Pinterest or wedding blogging unless you want to emerge without a clear vision and a bit more depressed.

3. Don't let convention and "what you should do" dictate any decisions. If you want a destination wedding, go. If you want a massive wedding in an open field, do it. If you want to elope, run away to the mountains or the sea and forget the mess. It will be all the more memorable when you make it you.

I hope to make this a regular series - sharing my experiences planning this wedding. I don't intend for this to become a wedding blog, but I find myself wishing I had someone to talk to about the frustration of wedding planning and think perhaps there may be others out there with the same thoughts. From one insane Pinner/dreamer/wisher to another.


  1. Reading this was incredibly refreshing-- thank you!! I'm in your shoes right now too remember that most people don't have the crazy budget that we see on online forums.

  2. While there is a part of me that really wishes I would have had Pinterest when I planned my wedding, in a way, I am really glad it didn't have it just because you are so right that it makes things SO much more overwhelming and can really make you lose sight of what you want and what's important. You have such impeccable taste and I have no doubt your wedding will be absolutely gorgeous, and most importantly, perfect for you and Ben :) Because as much as you (like me) tend to sometimes get caught up in the craziness that is blogging/Instagram/the internet, at the end of the day, you know what really matters :)

    Also, not sure if you're going to the Portland Bloggers event on Saturday 3/8? It's a speed networking sort of thing where you get to talk to lots of other bloggers (and it's at a winery here in Portland!) and I was thinking it might be a way to put some feelers for vendors that would be reasonable? (Actually, idk where you're having your wedding...ha!) Either way, I think it's going to be fun (and I'm for sure going!) so let me know if you'd like to join!

  3. This is totally up my ally, the photos are gorgeous! So much inspiration!
    Kristin xx

  4. Awwwwww these images are all so awesome!!!


  5. Thanks for all these great ideas.


  6. I got so overwhelmed with trying to plan my wedding by myself, on a budget, while we were in college...that we just went to the courthouse and had a laid back honeymoon haha! I don't regret that one bit, but I still look wistfully at pictures like these.

    You have great tips for brides on a budget and my tip is: DIY!! There are SO MANY gorgeous "pinterest-esque" weddings that were almost totally diy-ed on a small budget...and I didn't know until I read the details.

    I'm happy to be your newest follower and look forward to this wedding series.

  7. Kelsey - I totally feel your pain. My husband and I had a wedding budget of about $8,000. My parents gave us $3,000 and the rest was up to us. The first thing we did - as you have already done - is decide that we didn't want a wedding with 200 people. We had 50 guests. We knew the location we wanted (Estes Park, Colorado) and scouted locations, finally settling on a room in a restaurant that we loved. It was cheaper than a ballroom, tent, etc. and very cozy and intimate for our wedding dinner. We did not have dancing in that space (there was no room) but we did have music chosen by us and our guests (we asked for suggestions, favorite songs ahead of time) playing on a iPod. After dinner, the younger folks headed out to party at local bars and the parents and other older relatives retired to bed. I didn't have the most fun shopping for a wedding dress, because I had such a strict budget. It is nearly impossible to find a wedding dress for $500! But I did - a floor sample, the first dress I tried on, and for $350...and it was beautiful. Did I have my DREAM wedding? No, couldn't afford that. But did I have an amazing, intimate experience with my husband and our 50 closest friends and relatives that we love more than anything in the world - yes. And that is the most important thing. :) Good luck with the planning and keep the faith! You will be able to plan a budget friendly wedding that is a perfect expression of you and your fiance, I just know it! I look forward to hearing about it!

  8. Oh girl... been there.. I actually planned a wedding, miraculously.. on $7,000.. with no debt left over... it can be done... You will totally figure it out... here's my advice, (even though you sound like your doing great)... Spend money on things that will last longer than the day... ie.. dress, ring, pictures... Have a small guest list, it was hard but it helped....lastly.. enjoy the process... you will never be engaged ever again.. this is a special, hard, magical time... don't loose the point of all this.. it's about you & your man.. at the end of the day that's all that matters.

  9. All this advice is spot on, and it sounds like you're approaching the planning from a really good place now. I understand the initial disappointment - I consulted with one florist who didn't even want to see my Pinterest boards because a bouquet I had my heart set on, for example, would have cost about $600 to reproduce. A lot of what we see online just isn't realistic for most of us. You are going to have a gorgeous wedding, and I'm excited to hear more about your planning process. If you haven't already, definitely check out A Practical Wedding. It was a lifesaver for me and a beacon of sanity while I was planning.

  10. This was a great read. I'm planning a wedding at the moment too, and the costs are insane. Pinterest is definitely a black hole for me, I get totally sucked in, and it is easy to forget what I actually want and lose sight of the whole point of our wedding. I just get a bit dazzled by all the perfectly-shot beautiful images! x

  11. Loved this post! I just got married this past July, and I must say: the planning was super fun but at some points, quite the headache. You know what's funny, though? The actual day was beyond perfect. Not because of the linens, or the venue, or the decorations--but because I was marrying the guy of my dreams. That's the only thing that matters. Have fun with the planning process, but don't let it become more important than you and him. Congrats! This is an absolutely magical time... Soak it up :) xx


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  13. I've never understood the hype around wanting a "fairytale wedding" that essentially means that you're gonna freak out over tiny details most people won't notice, and that it'll put you in debt by $30k before you begin your new life. Great tips for being realistic!


  14. These are such BEAUTIFUL photos. The wedding looks so gorgeous.


  15. Come to Romania - you can get a great photographer for under $600 :)


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