Friday, February 25, 2011

a word about Fat Tuesday

For those of you who do not live in or near New Orleans, you may not be aware of the madness that begins to take over the city in January after Twelfth Night (hey, isn't that a Shakespeare play?).  For me, it's difficult to imagine going back to a world where folks don't celebrate Mardi Gras.  Life without Mardi Gras, after all, would be just plain boring.  No King Cake, no cheap plastic beads, no parades for two weeks straight, no excuse to start getting boozed up on Friday night and stay that way well into the following Tuesday.  Mardi Gras Day is one of the few times in a year where it is acceptable to start drinking at breakfast (screwdrivers make for excellent MG breakfast food) and continue to imbibe until you simply can't walk another step to another bar (because your feet are tired, not because you're too drunk - okay, maybe because you're too drunk). 
Mardi Gras, however, is also one of those times in the year where I spend a lot of time reflecting back (to previous Mardi Gras days, to friends long gone, etc).  For myself and some other New Orleanians, Mardi Gras is the unofficial new year - it is how we measure how the time passes from year to year.  The cycle of life in New Orleans really seems to revolve around Mardi Gras.  It's the ultimate party, the ultimate celebration of everything.  It's the end of a period of festivities that starts around October and Halloween (which is just a rehearsal for Mardi Gras, really) and it is the beginning of the period that kicks off Jazz Fest season.  It is a marathon of celebrating and remembering.

So even though January 1st is our technical New Year, Mardi Gras is my personal New Year.  And I'm hoping that this one goes more smoothly than the last.

Last year, as you may know, The Saints (otherwise known as the only football team I will ever love) WON THE FRICKIN SUPERBOWL.  New Orleanians continue to reflect back on this proudly as our symbol of success, validation, and civic pride.  Because that happened so close to Mardi Gras, there was an enormous parade thrown for the team (starring the team) in addition to all the regularly scheduled Mardi Gras parades we have every year (there are A LOT).  Mardi Gras was dubbed Lombardi Gras.  And it was good.  It was fan-fucking-tastic even as everyone reveled in their black and gold and shared the love (in a place where there can be so much animosity and in-fighting).  H and I got engaged and we enjoyed it for a time.

A short time.  When I count out all the shit that went terribly, terribly wrong last year it is completely mind-boggling to me that I've come out the other side with my sanity (somewhat) intact.  I won't bore you with the details (but let's just say that unemployment was only the tip of the iceberg).  I'm really shocked that H still wants to hang out with me - I think we're getting a good dose of our "for worses" in early.  Time for some "for betters," please.

So, with a renewed wedding optimism I've resubscribed to some wedding blog feeds (just a few) and I've started contacting vendors again and thinking about realistic wedding prettiness.  This is all so much less daunting now that I have a budget number - I have guidelines.  I highly recommend knowing your budget number before you EVER look at a blog or a magazine.  It was way too stressful for me to work with unknowns but maybe that's just the Taurus in me.  But now the brainstorming has begun in earnest.  H even bought me a copy of the DIY Bride the other day ('cause he's awesome).

And I will totally start working on crafty wedding projects...just as soon as I've made my Mardi Gras costume and partied my butt off with all the people who are in town for the occasion.

Monday, February 21, 2011

City weddings ain't cheap

After several months of thinking evil thoughts about those happy couples whose parents pay for a $20,000+ wedding or who have the money themselves to fund such an event, I've become one.  Just a few days ago, I was trying figure out how much H and I could save between now and October for a wedding.  And then I was thinking that if we saved that much money we should not throw a wedding and use it for something we really need (like fixing the duct work in the Haus or new insulation or painting or refinishing the stairs or renovating the bathroom or fixing the roof).  I was honestly starting to talk myself into selling my wedding dress and forgetting the whole damn thing.  It was disappointing to think about missing out on the wedding love fest for monetary reasons but I also couldn't reconcile our financial future with a one-day party.  I don't know if that swayed my parents at all, but I hope so because I learned from them.

Having my parents foot the majority of the bill doesn't make the huge cost of a New Orleans wedding any less, nor did I ever feel entitled to such a wedding.  It's what I want but we all know you can't always get what you want so you better learn to like what you've got.  So I feel really lucky right now. 

Let's be clear that my parents are not just going to open the check book and give me whatever I want.  That's cool.  This is fine.  It was stressful not to have any sort of direction but now that I can see what they are willing to do, the rest is chump change in comparison.  H and I (mostly H because I'm still a broke-ass) will probably still cover photography, invitations, and cake (which H's sister may bake...?).  The venue, booze, and catering appear to be on the 'rents' tab because it's all wrapped up in one vendor.  I suspect (based on my dad being a NOLA music fiend) that they will also be willing to cover a band but we'll get there when we get there.  I don't want flowers so I don't need a florist (and besides that, my mother and her her garden club already have been making plans without me).  The venue needs little to no decoration and whatever we do can be done over time and DIY.  The dress is already done.  We have a lot of favors that we can call in and a lot of friends who have already offered.  Our personal expenses can be kept reasonable and I will not worry about choosing between our wedding and a home repair (90-year-old houses constantly need repairs).  So the budget negotiations are still on and I don't think any of us are interested in spending money on extraneous stuff.

Let's be realistic, people: in the city $20,000 is a "budget" wedding even though the number looks enormous to me who's barely making much more than that in a year right now.  A year ago $20,000 seemed outrageous.  In some ways it still is.  But it's not much to work with if you want to have even a small wedding (and in New Orleans, 100 people is small).  Just suck it up and accept it.  And yes, I have to have at least 100 people because we have that much close family and good friends and I couldn't live with the guilt of not inviting some of them.  It's all or nothing.  I am thankful that I get a wedding under the circumstances.  But after all the research I did, I am no longer under the illusion that I can make a wedding happen for less.  Some people can, maybe, but that's not me.  It sucks but it's reality.

On a side note, I think that this weekend was the first time that I actually felt engaged for real.  Not just playing but really engaged with a wedding at the end.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Folks, I think we have a wedding (I think)

It would appear that my father has tipped the wedding scales.

Wait.  Let me go back.

Remember back in October when my mother was telling me to call a certain wedding venue?  And I put it off.  I almost deleted the lady's number from my phone but I didn't.  And my mother persisted that we should call the place and go look at it.  With our self-imposed wedding deadline of Fall 2011, I started to cave in to the pressure if only to appease my mother and prove that this venue was going to be out of the (questionable) budget.  And since Madre was in town this weekend to help Padre move into his new apartment, I scheduled a look-see yesterday afternoon with the family.

It's fucking gorgeous.  French-Quartery without being obscenely opulent.  A beautiful courtyard centered around a giant old magnolia tree and a great upstairs space overlooking Royal Street.  I immediately know that we cannot afford this.  I smile and nod and I start to freak out on the inside because I really don't want to go through this shit again.  I cannot handle another wedding let down.  Just let me accept my frugal lifestyle and walk my ass to the courthouse without getting my hopes up.  I managed not to cry and start screaming at anyone (lately, that is a real accomplishment).

Meanwhile, my mother is talking about how perfect it is and my father is doing this thing that he does when his mind is made up but he doesn't want to show his hand.  He just chills.  After last year's budget meltdowns, my father keeps shrugging non-committally and talking about how all we really need to do now is set a date.  The venue's coordinator and my mother are discussing how to decorate the fireplace mantels and where to put the band and all I can think about is who the fuck is paying for this imaginary shindig and where the hell is my stiff drink?  If I'd known they were so set on this place I would've put myself out of my misery months ago.

We walk out of this place like it's a done deal.  We go back to Padre's apartment and I have three vodka tonics for lunch while we start crunching numbers around the patio table and my parents appear to commit to a wedding that is at least twice as much as my mother even wanted to contemplate a year ago.  To paraphrase my father: Let's just get this thing done.  But I knew the deal was sealed when my father said to me privately that I should not worry too much about Madre's number crunching.

That's what we were waiting for: Dad.  I suspected that his word would be the final word, that he wanted a New Orleans wedding, that he would step in when he liked something enough to say so and make it happen.  But then he didn't.  After all the drama of the Aborted Wedding Plans, Padre never intervened so I thought then that it was over.  That was it.  But yesterday he made clear that he wants this wedding at this place and let's just stop stressing out about it already.  Just do it.

It took a fucking year of being engaged and I don't know what changed between then and now, but my parents seem to have come around to the truth that I accepted months ago: if you want a wedding in New Orleans you've got to be willing to shell out at least $20,000 or else you might as well elope and save yourself the stress.  I'd accepted that I couldn't make that happen (okay...maybe I was still in mourning) but the 'rents must've been working some background negotiations that I was not party to (they do that - they're private folks even with me).  Because now we're booking a venue.

All this is to say: THIS WEDDING IS ON.