Wednesday, June 30, 2010

blog subscriptions

I just counted up the wedding blogs on RSS feed reader : more than 45! And that's after purging Martha Fucking Stewart Weddings and a couple others that weren't doing it for me. I sense a few more are on the chopping block soon, but it seems like as soon as I cut one wedding inspiration blog I find some other more realistic wedding blogger to read.

I am all for sanity in wedding planning.

Engagement Mistake #1

A part of my challenge here is that I tend to freak out about everything all at once. If I panic about one thing, all other issues are quick to follow until everything is overwhelming and awful and I call it quits. (Hence, no wedding plans.) H likes to call me out on this one when I'm being a stubborn grump ass who hates the world (lately, pretty damn often).

Really, I just need to be able to break things down to a more managable freak-out size, try to focus on what I can really accomplish.

The good news is that I'm starting to feel like I can start talking about the wedding again. I've started reaching out to potential venues here and there to test my comfort zone a little. So far it still feels scary and impossible but I remind myself that this is just research and I'm under no pressure to commit to anything. There are still so many other things going on outside of the engagement that H and I haven't discussed much about potential wedding plans and find that its still too sore when it does come up. So we'll get done getting settled in the Haus (so many boxes!) and working out our personal budget issues and employment issues and home repairs before we take on another financial obligation.

Also, there can be no moving forward on the wedding until the parents have officially met. Okay, the parents have sort of met each other but only briefly and never at a time when they could just hang out. This lack of an official meeting led to a lot (a lot!) of miscommunication and misunderstanding that left me and H in the middle of what felt like an old-fashioned shoot-out. I don't even think my parents think that me getting married is even a good idea anymore so I have to tread extra careful and try and mend things. Also, I'm trying to avoid becoming the super bitch controlling fiancee to H's parents (long story) so there will be compromises just to keep the peace even though it will probably cost us money.

Really, I think that was one of the biggest mistakes going forward. Our family's are very, very different in the way they interact and they have different expectations and both our sets of parents are strong-willed and opinionated. We never gave them a chance to find common ground before we let loose the Wedding Monster and got torn to shreds. I'd really like to know what others' experiences with the family dynamics have been post-engagement. Does this happen to everyone? Does anyone out there have sane family relations during the wedding planning process?

Which leads me to The Mothers - but I'll save that for its own post, wherein I can tell you all about how I effed up my relationship with both my own mom and my future mom-in-law all in one go!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wedding Lesson Number 1

Less than a week after H & I got engaged, the pressure was on to decide on a date, make up a guest list, and start finding an appropriate venue.  We had lots of ideas about what would be awesome wedding venues and no idea what to expect as far as costs.  Also, the way my family deals with money is different from the way his family deals with money - so The Budget was the crippled purple imaginary mutant elephant in the room that was begging to be put out of its misery.

At first, the venue search began as a broad search that we approached with the "it can't hurt to ask" attitude even if I was sure that I wouldn't feel comfortable with the price and the excess and the prettypretty debutante bridalness of it all.  I didn't expect the sticker shock that I got for every venue we researched.  This is where things got messy.  When one of our favorite venues came up to a nearly $17,000 minimum (this includes catering) for 100ish people I nearly called off the wedding then and there.  But I didn't get the all-stop signal from my mother or any indication that such a wedding would be out of my price range.  I had no idea what my price range was but I got told to keep searching.  The cheapest venues I could find (all including catering because this is New Orleans, after all, and food is everywhere) would run me $9000 - $11,000 at the cheapest.  This is before the dress or the cake or tuxes or the anything else.  I kept getting the okay to get proposals and hash out details still with no idea of what my budget would be.

Let me pause to say that this is partially my fault.  I knew better than to assume that my parents would pay out a penny and our conversations about who would pay for the wedding where vague.  I was clear that the wedding I knew that I could afford with no financial help would involve a keg, a crawfish boil, and a sunny afternoon in the park (I still kind of want this wedding) with no frills.  I believe the conversation with my mother went something like this:

Madre: Who do you expect to pay for this wedding?
Em: I don't know.  I certainly don't expect you to pay for anything but if I'm paying it'll be a crawfish boil on The Fly because that's all I can afford.  (Aside: and this is before I left my job.)  I'd appreciate any help I can get.
Madre: Okay, well, keep researching.

Insert crickets here.  That's the thing, my mother is a researcher.  She likes to know her options before she commits.  My parents are careful with their money.  They've taught me to be pretty careful with mine.

So I researched.  I found venues I really liked.  I found venues my fiance really liked.  I found venues my mother really liked.  We all seemed to agree that these were great venues.  They would make for an awesome New Orleans wedding.  I kept sending pricing and proposals to my mother.  At some point during our wedding conversations, she told me that she and Padre wanted me to have the wedding I wanted and that they would be willing to pay for the reception at the venue of my choice but nothing else.  The money fights began in earnest.

The Wedding Let Down had begun.  To my family dropping $20,000 on a big wedding is pretty ridiculous.  They had an idea of what they could afford / would be willing to spend but I didn't know what that was and I was too big of a wuss to talk about it directly so I ended up disappointed and fighting with my fiance over whether it was fair or not.  (He thought that I should have whatever I want - I couldn't justify demanding that kind of money.)  For H's family, money wasn't an issue.  It's a wedding and the bride should get whatever she wants.

So why did it make me so miserable that people wanted me to be happy?

I would like to reiterate for the record that my guilt over wedding spending has nothing to do with feeling like I don't deserve a nice wedding.  Everybody deserves a nice wedding.  But I certainly felt guilty about the idea of blowing a lot of money on a big wedding with all the fixings because it felt extravagant and I'm not extravagant.  It felt like I was planning someone else's dream wedding and it was making me feel like crap because of course I want a nice wedding and of course I want pretty flowers and of course I need a sparkly ring and of course I deserve a designer gown and of course I want to get married in a mansion on St. Charles Ave because anything less would be less than I deserve and anything less would not be a nice wedding.

Except wait - I don't want any of that stuff!

I sat around at my fiance's apartment one night while he was at a friend's bachelor party and I read wedding magazines and watched bad wedding TV shows.  And I felt like shit.  I hated everything in the magazines and I didn't have anything in common with the brides who bought $10,000 wedding dresses.  I couldn't afford all that stuff and what's more I didn't even WANT that stuff.  So why did I feel like such a lame-ass out to spoil my own party?

On the one hand, I'd feel guilty if I spent too much money and on the other I'd feel guilty if I didn't have enough money to spend.  This is all depending on which family (read: his mom or mine) I spoke with that day.  So now my family thinks H's family is unreasonable and H's family thinks my family is unreasonable and I'm sitting in the middle wondering when the hell my happy little life with H was blown to fuck all and why we shouldn't just get married next week and tell everyone else to bite our shiney metal asses.

Believe it or not, it was more complicated than that - but if I have to sit here and hash out the whole story again I might just kill something so we'll leave it there.  Which brings me to this:

Wedding Lesson Number 1: Don't start planning your wedding until you know what you want and what you can afford.  If you need to take a couple days or a couple weeks or several months to calm down post-engagement and get your brains in order then do it.  And don't let anyone tell you what you should want or what your wedding should look like or dictate how quickly you should be planning.  Immediately after announcing our engagement, relatives wanted to know where and when we were getting married.  Honestly?  How on earth is anyone supposed to know that stuff a week into their engagement?  Props to those who have that figured out so fast but for the super-spazzes like me who freak out over stupid crap take my advice: take all the time you need.  I didn't know what I wanted and I definitely didn't know what I could afford and it led to sadness and let-down when I started imagining the wedding we would never be able to have at venues we would never be able to afford.

I still wonder what an awesome rock star wedding we could have had at the House of Blues in the Foundation Room or The Parish.  (And if you can afford it, I totally recommend HoB - they were super awesome to me and my favorite to work with of all our prospective venues.)  But realistically I realized that I'd be putting on a show for the sake of wedding appearances and putting my family on the spot for money they don't feel comfortable spending.  Guilt and uncertainty made me unable to commit to anything.  Don't fall into the same trap.

No Pissing Contests

So I've got a lot of issues I want to talk about over the course of this blog, the most pressing of which are outlined in my first post.  They're issues and common themes throughout weddingverse and nothing original to me or my life.

That said, my experience is my experience.  Everybody has to deal with their own life in their own way and maybe reading about others is helpful and maybe it's maddening.  My number one goal is to avoid Wedding Judgement.  Which will be difficult for me because I've got a big old wedding-shaped chip on my shoulder and I'm good at resenting people for no good reason.  So I've got to work through that.  Okay, so I may continue to have engagement/wedding resentment but please, no one take this personally.  I'm fully aware that I've got my own screwed-up notions of "should be" while I rage against what others tell me "should be."

The only way things really should be for everyone is right for you.

Part of the reason I stopped wedding planning was this overwhelming feeling that I was planning some other person's wedding because it was the wedding I should have.  And while everyone kept telling me that they just wanted me to have a "nice wedding"--that I deserved to have the "wedding I want"--issues arose when my idea of a nice wedding and the wedding I wanted didn't mesh with what I should want.  If I wanted a simple, no frills wedding that was only because I was worried about money and that wasn't fair to me and I should have better than that.  I kept hearing that the wedding that I really did want wasn't good enough for me, that I must be settling.  In the end, I realized that I'd never even stopped to consider what kind of wedding I really wanted and everyone else just assumed that deep down in my secret fairy princess heart I wanted a big, fancy traditional wedding - I just didn't want to admit it because I didn't want to rock the boat.

Three problems here:
  1. I didn't (and don't) know what I want.
  2. This whole bride-centric wedding thing makes me really uncomfortable.  Where's the groom?
  3. Everyone was talking but no one (including me) was communicating.  Communication FAIL.
Hard feelings all around.  And I don't think that's fair or right so I don't want to be a contributor to hard feelings out there on the interwebs.  I don't pretend to know better if I pretend to know anything at all.  And no one else should be making you feel like shit about your wedding either.  If they do, tell them to shut up.

Leave the "shoulds" and "oughts" at the door please.  I am not a fan of the wedding pissing contest.  This game is hard enough as it is without being jerk faces.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Rough Start

I'm engaged.  We're engaged.  (This is usually when everyone goes "squee!")

We've been engaged since January and that first night was great.  The first week was pretty good even.  But since then it's been rough.  "Being engaged" has been the roughest, suckiest part of the Em & H relationship.  Which says a lot about all the crap that being engaged stirs up around a couple and a little about our relationship, too, I suppose.  We'd been skipping along happily for nearly two years being generally awesome so all the drama that brews around impending nuptials was a big disappointment and a really big stressor in an already stressful time.  I thought being engaged meant we were supposed to be even happier - not yelling, crying, moping, unhappy Mr. & Mrs. Grumpy Pants. 

Okay, mostly Mrs. Grumpy Pants.

That's me.

I present to you, the Interwebs, leading causes of the general State of Stress that has been our engagement:

  • The Ring.  Which I really could've cared less about at the time because I was too busy crying.  But it's become An Issue, much to my sadness.  We'll get back to this at a later date.
  • Parents.  They've got their own ideas about how things should be done.  And they're not afraid to guilt you about them.
  • Family Expectations.  This is a separate category because it needs to include people other than parents.
  • Tradition.  You don't think it matters until you're having a fight on the phone at work where everyone can overhear you acting like a lunatic.
  • Money.  Which is tied into a lot of the above.  Assume nothing.
  • Wedding Magazines/Blogs/Shows.  Otherwise known as the Wedding Industrial Complex.
  • Happily Engaged Friends.  I hate and resent them for their rings and their money and their wedding planning ease.  Even if they're only pretending.
There are, of course, lots of other factors contributing to the tough year that has been 2010 so far.  My job was very stressful and I was forced to leave.  Finding a new job was difficult while at the same time managing budget woes, bad renters, and trying to move in together.  I have not felt very wedding friendly even as I've been secretly wedding obsessed.

Wedding planning sped out of control quickly for us.  Our family's have very different expectations of what our wedding should be and what is an acceptable amount to spend and who should be responsible for things and blahblahblah.  Turns out H & I had different ideas, too.  I think our number one mistake was not taking more time to stop and think and talk before announcing the engagement, before jumping into setting a date and planning.

We set a date.  We started planning.  The clashes began.  The situation deteriorated.  I put a stop to the whole process.

Stop the engagement--I want to get off!

No, no - we're still engaged.  I just told everyone that all wedding talk would be nixed until further notice.  I told all my prospective vendors/venues that they didn't need to worry about keeping our January date because the wedding's been put on hold.  There is an official Moratorium on Weddings.  Because our wedding was making me cry and not in a good way.

And this, dear interwebs, has brought me here.  Because my story is different than the fairy tales they tell you on the wedding blogs and in the magazines.  Because reality has been such a big let down.  Because either everyone else is lying or there's something wrong with me and I'm going to set the record right.  And even though I've started to find some good, down-to-earth wedding advice out there I haven't heard from anyone who's had the time I've had.  It seems so easy for other people but I'm not convinced that that's true.  I think it is difficult, it's just that we're expected to make it look easy and happy and fun and marvelous.

So here's my story: engaged but engaged otherwise.  Planning a wedding or maybe not.  Getting married in style or maybe not.  I've got a dress and fiance.  All the rest is just clutter.  Or maybe not.