Lauren’s Wedding Planning: Cash Money

Before the holidays are upon us, Intern Lauren is back with another installment of her wedding planning saga… and this is a hard one. If you go back and dig through my wedding planning posts, you’ll find that wedding planning was hard for me too. There was the time I hit rock bottom (thanks to family illness and some truly awful friend behavior), the time good friends suddenly announced their divorce and after a lot of tears I realized what weddings are really about (hint, hope), and then the time that the economy melted down the money part of wedding planning hit me hard. So when Lauren sent me this post about how hard planning was right now, and how stressed she was about money, I nodded, I sighed, and I knew we needed to discuss it. Because wedding zen is real, but so are the hard parts. In fact, sometimes I think we earn the zen with the hard work and the tears. So here is Lauren, with some gritty truth:

Oh yes, the Holidays are in full swing. The trees are up (I don’t have one, but I see them on TV), the Christmas music is on the radio, the menorahs are being lit, it’s cold, I’m getting a thousand emails about sales here and there every day, and I am totally freaked out about money. We’re trying to save for the wedding, and of course I want to give every single person I know a thoughtful, lovely gift that they will adore me forever for. You’d think I was exaggerating for the laugh, but I’m really not. And what does all of this have to do with wedding planning? Cost. Money. Moola. Our savings and how because we’re focusing on saving I feel trapped by my lack of spending money.

I’ve made choices for our wedding that are meaningful and inclusive and important, and also hopefully fun and engaging for our guests. And I’m not spending money just to spend the money, I’m not trying to out-decorate anyone or have the longest train. None of that. But my wedding is happening in Seattle and I live in San Francisco, and that right there is totally impractical as far as logistics are concerned. It’s difficult and creates more cost because I can’t be prepping tons of stuff beforehand and storing it in my mother’s closet, I can’t spend a week before the wedding buying supplies and building amazing home made godknowswhats and tying ribbons on everything, even though I want to. So that means sometimes I have to pay for the convenience of having someone else make and organize it.

The truth about money is I wish we had more. I feel like it would give us more options, would allow us to afford my exact vision without compromise, and I hate it. I hate it because I feel guilty for wanting more money and I hate it because it’s paining me that I have to actually say no to things I thought would always be a part of my wedding/reception – like a photobooth, for example. And maybe it’s almost cliche at this point to want one, but I don’t care. It’s so incredibly who Kamel and I are: goofy, fun, playful. I wanted to have a book of photo booth reels of my guests, my grandma, and me acting the fool, and making me happy. But I had to say no. And I feel guilty for wishing I could spend more on frivolous things like that. Because it’s not the point, right? We’re getting married, that’s what’s important. Our families will be there, our closest friends, in a space that is important to me. But, damnit, I can’t help wanting the other things, the things that are expensive, the things other people tell me not to worry about, that they say won’t matter.

And I’ve gotten lots of suggestions and tips on how to make the things I want or suggestions to find alternative things that I love just as much, but I find that those other options cause me 10 times more stress than saying no to things we can’t afford. And I feel like the frustration of being fairly incapable of crafting it up + the broke as*ness of it all is making planning the wedding suck for me. Because not only do I have to pair down and compromise, we are also stretched incredibly thin in our every day lives trying to afford the rest of what I haven’t said no to (plus groceries and rent and car insurance). And I don’t want my engagement to be all about what we can’t afford. And I don’t want to get to a point where stuff is causing me so much stress that I just don’t give a sh*t anymore, because that’s not wedding zen, that’s something sadder.

So that’s where I am right now. Right in the middle of it all. The Holidays – where I want to please everyone (I WANT to, and stop saying I don’t have to give you a gift because gift giving is my favorite part, so just shut it), the wedding saving, an uncertain fiscal future, and normal life. I’m hoping I know that I’ll pop out of the other end of this satisfied with my choices, and still as excited as I am for that day as I am now (oh so excited!!). Right? Because right now, right this moment, I’m afraid I might be headed toward a f*ck it all attitude (which is different from The F*ck It Moment. It’s more like a F*ck All Of You Moment). And nobody wants that, including me.

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  • Cass

    1) About Christmas gifts, why don’t you bake sugar/gingerbread cookies, and give one cookie in a cellophane bag (100 goodie bags is about $2.50) and give it with a joyful “Merry Christmas!”
    2) Try an online search for DIY photobooths. You can rig up any computer with a camera to make your own photobooth.
    3) A little off topic of this particular post, but I read a blog a while back that suggested people start saving for their wedding, even before you get engaged or even meet the right person. Think about it: you save for most big purchases – cars, houses. Why not save for your wedding, too? Which is arguably more expensive (and meaningful) than a car.
    It’s a rather sensible idea, but also completely unromantic. (Unless financial security is your idea of romance.)

    • meg

      Hey guys-
      Lets try to refrain from giving Lauren advice, yeah? Money always brings out our need to tell people what to do. But the girl is plenty smart, even if she’s not making piles of money right now. She’ll figure it out. All she needs from us is support.

      So, support…. activate!


      • JEM

        Just to note, my *Exactly* isn’t an attempt to gang up on the well-meaning Cass. It is because of Meg’s comment that “Money always brings out our need to tell people what to do” because that is so true and I think money and the way in which people deal with it is a pretty personal thing.

        That being said, I would be totally thrilled with a Christmas cookie as a gift :)

      • Cass

        My comment was meant with the best of intentions!
        I was hoping it would come off as positive forward-thinking? Like a “how can we make this less frustrating”.
        I have a lot of respect for you, Lauren. It’s really hard to talk about the hard things, like how to make your hopes and dreams come to reality.

        And about saving for the wedding, it’s just something I’ve been pondering.
        What do you all think about saving money for a wedding without having one (even remotely) in the works?

        • Alicemay

          My parents have had a ‘wedding fund’ for me (and one for my sister) since I was little. Not huge amounts of money, but enough to cover a modest celebration. However, in high school, I got a scholarship to a private school in the area, and they offered me my ‘wedding fund’ to cover the rest of the tuition. I’m incredibly glad I took it then, and used it for that instead of my (as-yet-still-far-off-if-at-all) wedding.
          I know that, without having made that choice, there are other milestones (like graduations) that wouldn’t have happened the way they have, and for that I am incredibly grateful. I think of that decision every time I need to remember how amazingly privileged I am to have had that choice, and to remember that whilst I hope my wedding day will be one of the most amazing days of my life, I have so many other milestones to celebrate, which define just as much who I am, what I value, and my place within community.
          And now, whilst I don’t have a specific fund, ‘wedding’ definitely comes under the category of things I see my current saving going towards, along with ‘house deposit’, ‘kids’ etc. If it’s something you’re likely to be needing to pay for in the next few years, it makes sense to me to have it there as a potential goal in my savings.

          • my cousin was the beneficiary of a wedding fund and held a beautiful, extravagant, no-expense-spared wedding. which was over just as quickly as any other average wedding.
            I’m much more appreciative to have graduated college debt-free.

        • meg

          Agreed with what was said above. We chose not to think about engagement till we knew we had enough in the bank, which was our round-about way of saving. I’m a saver. I save and save and save. So for me, wedding was ONE of the things I was saving for. The thing with weddings is you don’t really know exactly what your personal contribution is going to be till you’re in it – and you know what other people are contributing and what you think it’s going to cost you. But saving ahead as you are able is wise.

          That said, at Lauren’s age (Ha Lauren! I just called you young!) I wouldn’t have had wedding money in the bank. I was trying really hard just to pay rent and pay for clothes at 25. I worked in theatre and lived in New York and was POOR. So, saving can work… and then sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s ok too. But if you CAN save with no wedding on the horizon? DO IT.

  • B

    I hear you!

    I’m getting married in early March (who knew it was so close to Christmas?!) and it really makes Christmas tough. I LOVE giving people presents for Christmas and it kills me to have so little to spend on them. Not that the amount you spend matters, just that all the thoughtful presents I’d love to buy cost so much more than I have! Unfortunately, for the first time my overspending at Christmas will actually affect someone else if I don’t keep it in check.My fiance and I are moving in together for the first time when we get married so if we spend too much now we won’t have money for bond …or a couch…and so on. But it’s sooo hard not to buy for other people!!!

    I’d love to give you advice Lauren or tell you my previous experience of coming out the other side. But since I don’t have that I’d just say HELL YES it sucks (no money, wedding planning in general sometimes, Christmas…all of it!), I think you’re totally justified in getting stressed and upset about it, and hang in there – I’m sure it’ll get better! You’re definitely not alone and hopefully by admitting how much it sucks now people will better understand how exciting it’ll be when you come through it! :)

  • Yay!! I’m alone in a sea of crazed money stress! Thank you for writing all this! I’m going crazy with all the thinking about, talking about, worrying about, and STRESSING about money as of late! I keep thinking if I’m proactive and make a dozen budget spreadsheets for the wedding, everyday life, student loan payments etc. that it will help, but it’s actually just creating more havoc in my head! After some heavy sighing (me) and pouting (him) my fiance and I decided to go out for a dinner instead of exchanging gifts. We went last night and it was really great and between the success of that and reading this post this morning hopefully this big o’ ball of stress in my brain will start to untangle a little!

    • I’m *NOT* alone. Not.
      Apparently I need another cup of coffee.

  • starkville

    amen sister! i get the money woes too– I think its just ingrained in some of us. whenever i start getting all panicky about cash, my husband just makes me go to bed and get a good nights sleep. it fixes 90% of my freakouts. why stress today when you can logically plan tomorrow?

    • B

      Your husband sounds like a wise man! My fiance is learning that trick too – amazing how much of a difference some sleep makes :)

  • Ellie

    I *love* this. I think there’s a lot of pressure that comes with this time of year and can compound money, family, time, etc stress that was already there.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    Oh Lauren, I love you and I’ve never even met you. I managed to pull through my “I’m neglecting this friend and underappreciating that one” phase by reminding myself that my wedding would be a kind of gift. Sure, my friends and family had to spend some of their own $$ to get there, and it really was all about me and Husband, but the party? That was mostly for the guests.

    I bought all my friends dinner and drinks, a dj and a dance floor and gave them an excuse to get together and have some fun. And they did! A lot of them spent an extra day or two in town to just hang out. In hindsight, I’d rather have a good excuse to spend a weekend with my friends or family than a nice Christmas or birthday gift. With your long distance wedding (just like mine!! bride in AL, wedding in IL) I imagine that your friends and family are a bit scattered. Time together is the best gift, for sure.

    • You’re right. This is a really good perspective because I’ve been thinking this whole time that all of the people invited to my wedding were giving me a great gift, which is true, but I need to remember that I’m also giving them a pretty awesome party.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        We ended up doing a bunch of extra photos that didn’t even have Husband and me in them because so many complete families were there that are so rarely in the same place. My godparents had all four of their kids, all their spouses and all 4 grandchildren in the same room for the first time in 3 years. That family photo is pretty much the best gift anyone could give them.

        • ddayporter

          that is such a great idea, wish we had thought of that! would make great gifts.

  • Ugh, I totally hear you. We’re not planning a wedding right now, but we’re trying to get rid of our student loans ASAP (I share Meg’s 1930s-mindset about debt and saving, I think) and while I’m proud that we’re meeting our schedule, it certainly puts the pinch on other spending, and then I feel horribly conflicted – is our being out of debt faster worth a smaller present for my mom?

    I also come from an environmental studies and sustainability background, so I have a lot of guilt issues about spending money period. Do I need stuff, when it’s all this stuff that’s contributing to the destruction of the environment? How is it fair that I get stuff and peoplein developing nations get droughts? How come I feel entitled to so much when so many have nothing? &tc.

    I can’t justify it, but the desire is still there, and I agree, Laueen – suggestions for alternatives sometimes make you feel worse (but are sometimes awesome!). All I can ever do is try and prioritise as much as possible, and try to be critical about my desires to separate what’s really important vs what’s just noise and passing interests.

    • meg

      You can do it! And it will be worth it. We paid off my student loans once and for all this year. Now, you know, there are Law School loans to get through, and those may take a while, but shhhhh….

      • Thanks for the vote of confidence! I’d been feeling some anxiety about the fact that we used a big chunk of savings that had been designated as loan-repayment for our down payment… worrying that we’d start making it a habit to buy other things instead of getting rid of debt. That hasn’t happened, though, so I’m feeling pretty good about our plan, and I’m so glad we ended up moving. 32 more months of OSAP payments to go!

    • Amandover

      I totally hear the simplifying vs. generosity dilemma. I’m justifying various Christmas limitations this year by singing meaningful, romantic Christmas carols to myself (& others). Some favorites:

      “Through the years we all will be together,
      if the fates allow.
      Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
      So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

      “We don’t have a lotta cash money,
      We get by by the skin of our teeth.
      But the mistletoe’s hangin in the doorway , honey,
      and we’re hangin out underneath.
      Outside the snow is driftin down,
      Inside the fire is bright.
      It’s Christmas Eve the world around, and we’re alone tonight.”

      • Amandover

        Clearly, this only works for the hopeless romantic types. : )

    • I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing by changing the plan on my loans to lower payments now, higher payments later (and more interest), but I can’t afford the standard plan straight out of grad school with the wedding coming up on top. It makes me a little sad that I won’t just have to be frugal before the wedding, but also after to make up for the future higher payments. Any way I slice it, getting out of student loan debt is going to take a long time and really test my frugality.

      • When I first graduated, I remembered taking the option to defer the payments for a fairly short period of time, and it didn’t work against me. If you haven’t already started making the payments, maybe see if that’s an option?

      • My student loan payments start in February (cue panic attack) and I’m switching from a 10 year plan to a 20 year plan. That way my payments are lower without going up in a few years, and if I find the diligence and extra money I can still pay them off earlier. I had to call to do this, it’s not an option on the website and I didn’t even know it existed.

  • I totally get this post. 100%. I want more, I want to give more, I want to have more…and it’s terribly hard. I have had to remind myself over and over again that we don’t have money this year, and that we can’t get the gifts for people that we want to get, and that they will have to wait. And I have every digit crossed that everyone we know and love will understand.

    I know you will get through this season and bust into the New Year with a renewed sense of self (at least, that’s what I hope for myself).

    As for the photobooth, can your photographer throw something together? Do you have a friend who has a camera who might be able to help? I asked our photog to throw in a photobooth into her package (at no cost) expecting her to laugh in my face and she said “Okay.” and that was that. It’s going to be a camera on a tripod with some backdrop and a remote control operation thing…and it will be fantastic. If she had said “no”, I was moments away from sending a shout out to all of my friends with cameras and asking if any of them would be able to help (something I’m really not good at, but desperate times call for desperate measures…).

    Either way, good luck and keep your chin up!

    • Amy

      Reason one million and one why I loved our photographer was that about two weeks before the wedding, long after I realized we couldn’t afford a photo-booth, my photographer very hesitantly asked if I would mind if she set up a photo-booth at our reception since it was a new service she was thinking of offering. Mind? mind? Hahaha, clearly she did not know how much we would rock the heck out of that photo-booth. That was just one teeny piece of wedding magic (and zen) that happened right before our wedding.
      That being said, man, I totally understand what you’re going through. We had what a lot of people would consider an extravagant budget, but heck, by NYC standards it was peanuts. And it sucked a lot of the time. So, major good vibes and hugs to you as you plan.

  • cartascartas

    Thank you for writing about this. I’m struggling with a similar issue–I am trying to save so much for the wedding, I have nothing left over to enjoy everyday life. Not that I don’t budget for it, but because I feel guilty–if I just ate the leftovers again, wouldn’t I be able to maybe invite that good college friend who is sure is getting invited to the wedding but right now I cannot even afford? ::sigh:: It’s tough. It’s tough that I cannot even afford to go to my good friend’s wedding in January, because when I’m done paying the bills 5 days after I get my paycheck, I need to make the month on less than $200 a week…for all other expenses that are not rent and student loans. That certainly does not allow for a plane tickets. It’s even tougher because I have one of those “good jobs” so even though I struggle with student loan payments and providing for my baby family it doesn’t seem believable that I cannot afford to do the things I want and buy people the presents I want and be there for them as I want and have the wedding I want.

    Beginnings–and planning for beginnings–is wonderful and exciting. But it is also stressful and full of uncertainty and involves a lot of compromising and letting go and accepting that sometimes you will have to be a wonderful friend without being able to be physically there, or being able to buy the perfect thoughtful present and while being stressed because things are still not quite falling into place financially as smoothly as you expected.

    I am the queen of long sentences today. This post is pre-coffee and pre-gym, so please take that into consideration! ;)

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I’m 100% with you on this one. A lot of my friends (and me too) have experienced a harsh awakening in our mid-20’s. We’re all over-educated and well-employed and somehow none of us are leading the glamorous, free-wheeling lifestyle of our counterparts on TV. No huge apartments with a view or designer wardrobes and certainly not enough paid vacation to take exotic trips (or even to see all the nieces and nephews at Christmas).

      I think there’s a lot of expectations about being “grown-up” and having a grown up house like your parents’ and being financially independent and able to do all the things you want to do. But the nice place my folks live now isn’t the rowhouse where my sister was born 22 years ago, and my viewless apartment is just as nice as that place. I just have to keep reminding myself to appreciate what I have *now*. This is what being 26 is like – student loans and short visits home and modest gifts. And that is totally okay.

      • meg

        Remember that TV is glamming it up for you, and it tends to be off by 5-10 years. Being 26 is about not having tons of cash… it just is. But now at 30, things are easier (and we can travel a bit internationally), and by 35 things might be a little better. But the TV perception that you’ll have that at 25? HILARIOUS. These things take time.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Conceptually I think we all know this is true (seriously, how enormous was Monica & Rachel’s apartment in Manhattan?), but it’s hard not to feel a little inadequate whenever I get a Pier 1 catalog.

          I’m thinking of framing photos of my two previous apartments as a reminder that where I am is totally a step up.

          • meg

            PS I used to live right by the Friends “Apartment” (where all the exteriors were shot). That building has million dollar plus condos inside, that are teeny tiny. It was filled with super sucessful people in their 40s and 50s. So, um, just saying.

        • Agreed. My next birthday will be thirty-five. It has only been recently that I don’t need to check my checking account account balance frequently to make sure there will be enough for when the mortgage comes due.

          • Jo from Reno

            my next birthday is 35 too, and I am still in the trenches, checking the ol’ bank balance and obsessing about when the rent check is cashed – but, by God, I am looking forward to my forties.

      • JEM

        You definitely just made me cry. But it’s a good cry of realization.

        You put this so perfectly and this is EXACTLY what I am struggling with right now. I am generally surrounded by older people and I EXPECT and DEMAND myself to achieve THEIR quality of life, even though they are 10, 20, 30, and 40 years ahead of where I am in life right now. The result? I am constantly disappointed in myself for not achieving these quite unattainable goals. And, wtf?! That just is so not fair to do to myself. I am 24, I am not supposed to have that lifestyle yet. Everything isn’t going to be perfect and sometimes I will still make mistakes and that is OK.

        So, thank you. Really.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Yeah, Husband is 15 years older than me, but dumped his life savings into grad school 8 years ago, so we’re pretty much starting out from the same point financially. All his old friends and siblings are 15 years ahead of us so I always feel like the sad, broke couple – even though no one has *ever* said anything negative to me about it. His brother can shake up 3 extra beds when he hosts family events while we have people sleeping on couches or an air mattress. I’m sure his brother was doing the same thing when he was 26, but I didn’t know them then so it’s hard to keep a healthy perspective on things.

          • ka

            Thanks Abby for putting this so eloquently, as I definitely struggle with this too – feeling like I *should* (there’s that word again) have much more financial and career success at this point in my life… (And thanks Meg for the reminder not to believe what we see on tv… I think that building is in the $5 mil + range these days. Crazy NY. Crazy.)

            My husband-to-be is 13 years older (27 and 49) and we’re definitely on even ground financially. I think most of the time he’s actually relieved when he sees all his 40-something friends and coworkers saddled with kids and mortgages that we’re not quite there yet, hahaha, but sometimes too feels like he’s “behind”, and I always feel behind, even though I’m in the middle of the pack in terms of friends success/earning power. But over the last 3 years we have made some amazing strides towards getting our act together financially as a team (which I of course don’t take much time to acknowledge in my rush to move forward to tackle the next goal and the next goal and the next goal…), and I think that’s really built a strong foundation for us…

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            Feeling “behind” totally sucks, especially because you always know that feeling is based on a societal construction over which you have no control. There isn’t a universal right time to hit those milestones, only a right time for each individual family. Knowing that doesn’t make those high school reunions any easier though.

            I always tell my husband that life isn’t a race. There are no prizes for getting “there” (owning a house, getting married, having kids, travelling to Australia) first and no penalties for getting there last. The only “winners” are people who are happy with where they are right now.

          • ka

            Yup. Oh high school reunion, I’m already dreading you. Also it’s so funny how each person’s definition of “there” is so personal – and usually completely based on what you don’t have! Using your hypothetical list – I own a house (inherited), am getting married (somewhat accidentally), am thankfully not feeling any pressure to make baby decisions that soon (although I do have a 5 year plan that revolves around the boy’s ticking biological clock), and have been to Australia (oh high school when times and money was easier). But what I don’t have? The high powered career my 16-year-old self thought would come easier than a husband. Go figure.

          • meg

            Oh, High School Reunions. David and I have nothing to fear in that regard, and it’s very freeing. We’re not in prision or homeless, so we win at reunioning (this is not a joke). So just be greatful that your old friends are doing well, yes? We’d kill for that.

            But, in all seriousness, the most we can ever hope for is to be happy. If being married and owning a home helps us in that goal, well great. But they don’t always, and if we can be happy NOW we win. (Happy and out of prision is even better.)

      • it’s sometimes a little mantra of mine that my parents’ first furniture was beanbag chairs, when they were just married.
        (they sit on _real_ chairs now).

  • Meghan

    It’s hard too, with saving and paying down debt in general. Especially since we’re in the minority amongst our friends as a married couple. They’re all very “wheee I still live with my parents! I’m saving money AND I have tons of disposable income! Let’s all go out and get drinks and tapas tonight! And pedicures!” They would never make me feel bad or purposely NOT invite me to stuff, but jeez, sometimes I just want to say fuck it all and have fun without feeling guilty about how much I’m spending. Damn my college idiocy.

    • Oh god yes…. I come from a pretty well-off hometown, and all of my friends graduated debt-free, and most still live at home. I’m happy for them, but it’s frustrating sometimes that the expectation is that social events are always about spending money somewhere.

  • Oh yes. We went from giving people gifts individually, to now giving people gifts from both of us, and that definitely made me unhappy. Plus I am pretty sure I overshot the gift budget I had set for myself regardless.

    I hear you about the little things that you can’t afford, and the DIY stuff that won’t work for you logistically speaking. I don’t really want a photobooth exactly, but I do want one of those prop up fake walls with the pictureframes cut out, and while I can probably afford it because I can make it myself, part of me knows that logistically it is one more nightmare I should probably just let go of….but I still want it. And it’s one more thing I am going to have to transport to the venue, along with boxes of flower and favours and table linens and god knows what else yet.

    My dad offered me some wise advice recently about saving. He said you should save and save and save, and then every once in a while you just have to buy something, to take care of yourself to not go crazy. So make sure you take care of yourself.

    • Other than my laziness, logistics are the biggest reason why I’m doing so little DIY. There is literally no time to set up at the reception ahead of the wedding. So most things are getting scrapped. Damn logistics.

      • I feel like this is where we both break into song ala UPS commercials.

        My venue transportation thing is a suburbs to downtown problem, so in a way its not that bad – except that all the cars going downtown will be full of my elderly relatives, which I keep forgetting. So I may have bitten off a ton more than I can chew (may is probably an understatement.)

        So much of planning the day right now seems to be tied up in moving people and things – if I schedule things to death, are people going to be grateful there’s a plan, or annoyed that it’s all set out for them? I mean, I would rather have a plan, but perhaps some people will feel bossed around if I try and be uber organized?

        • I feel like I have one of two options, tighten up the length of time between wedding and reception and then boss people that are stragglers or unfamiliar with the city around and tell them to get moving to the next place with very specific directions on how they should travel or have a long break in between to accommodate the stragglers and out-of-towners but then the punctual folks who know their way around the city will have to chill in their heels. Either way it’s a no win situation. I’m trying to split the difference, but I’m done caring about people’s opinions.

          So I totally feel you on transportation issues.

        • meg

          SCHEDULE TO DEATH. And then put someone else completely in charge of the schedule. We had very little time for set up/tear down, but my uber-scheduled self, along with my wedding stage manager, made sure that everything happened with no fuss or bother.

          • Wedding stage managers are awesome.

        • meg

          Also, we rented a cargo van to transport everything. I don’t screw around ;)

          • Jo from Reno

            Wow… that is a good idea. Drive it away, unpack tomorrow. I need a wedding stage manager. Thanks for the tip.

          • Yet another solid idea that had not occurred to me. thanks! :)

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            We did this too, we packed it the day before the wedding and unpacked it again the day after. It really helped us all relax the night before the wedding when we looked around and were like, “Well everything that could be tweaked is locked in the van. Guess all we can do now is relax.”

  • The whole wedding expenses/Christmas spending has got me thinking and stressing even more about future financial planning. Eventually we’re going to want to buy property, right? Maybe have kids who might want to go to school without crushing student loans, right? (And those kids will want to celebrate Christmas every year, right?) That all requires a LOT of saving and planning. How in the world do people ever get married/have families/have lives?

  • Oh Lauren, I feel you. We decided to have a Sunday afternoon wedding so that we could get our venue (5k) cheaper and (4 months) earlier. I’m so excited about it, but my friends just don’t get it. They want a dinner, they want to dance late into the night, they want an after party. They dont get why I would want to have dinner alone with my new husband and not 100 people. They don’t understand that I would like the standard Saturday night wedding that everyone in this area has, but I don’t want to spend the money and I’m now in love with the daylight, laid back, not exhausted after a 12 hour day beauty of a Sunday afternoon wedding. My friends have been amazing in other ways, but this part has been really hard for me.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      We were Cinderella-style booted from our venue at midnight Saturday. Husband and I knew we’d be exhausted and want to scurry off alone, but our friends would want to party all night long. We arranged with a taxi company to have a bunch of cabs at our venue at midnight (free to us) and handed out a little flyer with the address of the hotel where everyone was staying, the address a nearby club and a bar, and the phone numbers of two taxi companies. Big hit. Everyone who wanted to kept the party going and most of our guests wound up at the same place with safe transportation.

      I’d recommend doing a pre-party with your guests. Put it on the weekend itinerary “Drinks with the Bride & Groom” someplace nearby on Saturday night. You and your hubby can stay for two drinks and your friends have a place to let loose on their own dime.

    • I think it’s so unfair to get pressure from friends/family who want a party that you have to pay for. I understand that weddings are a lot of fun (and also expensive for people who have to travel/buy nice clothes/etc.) but at the end of the day, they should be about people you know and love coming together to celebrate the blending of two lives.

      • Yes! Thank you! I guess because we’re still young (26) and most of our friends are single, they just don’t GET that the wedding is about the ceremony and our new life together. The party part is fun but we have a million other nights to get super drunk and do stupid, hilarious things. I didn’t get it either until I was in a serious relationship and thinking about marriage, but it does make it hard. No one in my circle has strayed from the Saturday dinner, all night party template and its just difficult to be different I guess.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I have a lot of friends who’ve gotten married in the Bible belt at dry weddings that end early in the evening. My group has never expected to be entertained all night, we just plan our after-wedding activities for ourselves. We often invite fun people we meet at the wedding to join us. I think it’s probably a cultural expectation that varies in every community, but it is up to the host to decide what is feasible. If that isn’t something that satisfies the guest, they can choose not to come. They cannot, however, choose to make the host feel bad about it.

          That’s why rsvp’s only have a “yes” and a “no” box. There’s no “yes, under the following conditions” box.

    • meg

      Dude. Our Sunday morning/afternoon wedding was THE BEST EVER. We’d gotten to see our friends all weekend, so all we had to do on Sunday was wake up, get married, and then party. And ohhhhhh did we all party. Then afterwards everyone hopped a flight home, and we went out to a nice quiet dinner.

      So you tell your friends to shut right up. They are going to have a great time, and so are you.

      • Thanks Meg. It WILL be amazing, we’re happy with our choices and in the end, people will either be converted or have to get over it.

  • Chelsea

    Two quick thoughts…

    Give family photos of you and your fiancé for Christmas. Bonus if you have engagement shots, but even if it’s just a really nice snapshot they’ll love it. You can get inexpensive frames somewhere (there’s TJMaxx on the West Coast, right?), put a black and white picture in it, and suddenly they have a keepsake of your engagement. Parents want this, I swear, and all is costs is the cost of a print plus the cost of a frame.

    Sometimes, DIY is more expensive than paying someone else to do things. Those weeks I spent making things that I stored in my mom’s closet? They involved a lot of trial and error, a lot of wasted things I eventually decided not to use, and a lot of projects I took on because I could but I would never have paid someone else to do. So even if you can’t be crafting as much as you want, you’re probably not spending as much extra as you think.

    • ahhh!!! Thank you for this validation!

    • Also, depending on what you do for work, you have to factor the value of your time into the final price of something you DIY/DIT. For example, as a freelance translator, every hour that I spent crafting was an $X loss in wages that I *could have been* earning… when compared to what it cost to hire someone to do the same thing, sometimes it’s cheaper to hire someone!
      And of course, there’s the price you put on sanity/leisure time. Personally, my time off is worth more than most other things I compare it to! The hard part, then, is accepting/”owning” that decision once you’ve made it and not worrying or feeling bad that you’ve decided not to have or make certain things.

      Good luck with the decisions… for me that’s even harder than learning to live with it afterwards!

  • Chelsea

    Oh, and it doesn’t seem like you’re dealing with this, but there’s another whole level of guilt that comes up when your parents are paying for most of the wedding. Even thought my parents were great and appreciated all my efforts to save money, I still felt guilty EVERY DAY because I felt like with every dollar I spent (not just on wedding stuff, but on my personal day-to-day expenses) I was taking money out of my parents’ pockets, since that was one less dollar I had to contribute to the wedding, and therefore one MORE dollar they’d have to. And those times that I wished I had more money, in addition to making me feel materialistic, made me feel ungrateful. Thankfully my parents were perfect (were clear about how much they could contribute and didn’t micromanage how I spent their contribution) and we all ended up happy with how the finances worked out, but there were definitely some hard moments for me in there.

  • I did something sneaky. When I was putting away ‘wedding money’ I put some of it in a Christmas fund. Not loads. But I didn’t tell Mr Fiancé until nearly-Christmas-time. He is very happy. He gets his cowboy boots and we aren’t spending ‘wedding money’ as it was never in the wedding savings account. Huzzah.

  • Diana

    “And I’ve gotten lots of suggestions and tips on how to make the things I want or suggestions to find alternative things that I love just as much, but I find that those other options cause me 10 times more stress than saying no to things we can’t afford.”

    I found this to be totally true – it took me a long while before I realized that in addition to not being able to afford the extras I wanted, I also I couldn’t afford the time or the stress I was putting on myself trying to somehow recreate those things. Eventually, I talked to my partner and she and I had to sort of recommit to the short list of things we were willing to spend money on. Whenever I felt frustrated about lack of money, that list helped remind me where the money we were prepared to spend was going, and that we both felt secure and enthusiastic with those decisions.

    • Sullie

      I am so with you on this one. Even though I *know* it comes from a good place, it is driving me crazy to hear alternative crafty, time-consuming options every time I mention not being able to afford something. Particularly if the person suggesting it is not willing/able to provide any actual help with the project. Sometimes time is money and I can’t AFFORD to give more time to certain projects! Again, I know it comes from a kind place… but it makes me feel even worse and less qualified at planning my wedding. There are times when you are looking for advice and ideas and other times when you just want to vent to understanding/non-judgemental nods.

      A supportive hug coming your way (WITHOUT suggestions of crafty DIY photo booths… my friend suggested that last week…well I don’t KNOW anyone with that type of camera…erg)

      • Jo from Reno

        Craftiness costs, folks. I think Meg has discussed this, circa the archives. I ran into this when I thought about trying to make christmas presents. I don’t have hole punches, spare fabric, yarn, felt, etc., frames I happen to have found at a thrift shop 7 months ago for 50 cents – you know what I mean. Cookie cutters, lots of butter, flour, powdered sugar, either, for god’s sake. I moved in with a man who eats tuna from a pouch and calls it dinner. I don’t have girl roommates anymore, who had the fancy baking items (sigh, I miss my homies).

  • Just this morning I received word that the rental house we already put a deposit on (over the past summer) is being sold. This is the house that we are paying for to put up my entire fiance’s family. The house that we found a good deal on and feel confident that they will all enjoy themselves and not be too bitter about spending all the money on the airfare even though they can’t really afford it. The house that we rented for SPRING BREAK week because several of the family members are teachers and we wanted to make coming to the wedding easier. So now we don’t have any place to put up 10 people and can’t find anything even remotely comprable in price. Yes, I feel the money woes.

  • Girrrrrrl, I feel you. The thing that made me weep and go, “WHY don’t we have enough MONEY to buy nice things??” was, of all things, the cake. I love all things dessert and I wanted to have a nice mixture of vegan red velvet cupcakes and regular german chocolate cake-cake. No matter how I sliced it (heh), our very strict budget (paying for wedding all ourselves, one state salary…… yeah, it was strict) wouldn’t allow us to have these VERY SIMPLE THINGS unless we ordered for only half the people invited or cut out something else that was important, like chairs. For days I was fixated on having our cupcakes on a tower and our cakes on beautiful cake pedestals. I finally gave it up and got cupcakes of both types and we survived… in the end it was just cake and I was just happy that people enjoyed themselves.

    Good luck… you will make things work out and hopefully you will be content that it turned out the way it did.

  • Sarah

    We bought a condo together 4 years before we got engaged, and in the months leading up to our close, we tightened our belts to the point that I think we ate tuna casserole for a month. We sold a lot of our old furniture on Craigslist, and one night, so fed up with eating leftovers I treated myself to some veggie sushi from the deli on the couch (since I had sold the dining table.) My cat proceeded to knock my dinner out of my hands onto the dusty floor in about 2 seconds flat. I remember sobbing, feeling just worn out from being so broke. But now we look back on that time with amusement thinking about how hard core we are (and how it was worth it.) So I am trying to looking at the sacrifices we are making for our upcoming wedding in the same way.

    • Amy

      Sarah – I think we all have those moments. Its a funny story now, but when I was like 22, broke from paying a mortgage on my studio and not making much money I saved for 3 months to buy a new pair of jeans. Which I checked at my local grocery store before buying groceries (no outside packages allowed) and walked out without claiming them. When I realized this about 10 minutes after the store closed I swear I cried for like an hour – it was exactly that feeling of the one treat you give yourself being cruelly taken away. Happily, the lovely owners knew me and saved the package, but man, my mom still makes fun of me for calling her up and being just totally devastated over jeans.
      Weddings are like that too – its really hard to try and save so much, in a set amount of time (and its never enough time) and feeling like you have to deprive yourself of things that everyone else gets.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I’ve been kind of emotionally broke for the last 6 months with Husband working 5 hours away and us only being together on the weekends. I moved to where I am now right after our wedding this summer and have positively failed at settling in here. I don’t have any friends or family locally and I burned up most of my vacation on the wedding. I’ve worked some weekends and a lot of long hours and haven’t taken so much as a sick day in 5 months to save up my last 3 vacation days. With my office’s holiday shutdown I could spend a full week with my family and visit all 7 of my nieces and nephews.

        Then last Monday my boss dropped the bombshell – everyone’s vacation is being denied and we all have to work the week between Christmas and New Years. It just totally broke me. I’m usually the nothing phases me, roll with the punches, no use crying over spilled milk type, but I am completely at the end of my emotional reserves. Every little thing for a week has made me weepy. The change in plans cost be about $200 in airline fees and I won’t see *any* of the kiddos. I almost quit my job, I’m just a wreck.

        There’s a limit to what anyone can take, and weddings and the holidays really seem to bring us right to the brink. All the crying will probably seem silly when I get to hug my mom, but for now things just feel broken.

        • JEM

          ok, I’m just going to follow you around on here because we are absolutely in-sync right now. You’re tapped in to my brain and putting it right out there. You rock, yes.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            if you want, we can be best friends. email me anytime marlasinger84 [at]

            Hang in there, lady, and I will too.

          • Amy

            I totally know where you’re coming from with the inability to settle into a new town. I feel like I’m dating again, except with other couples/friends. I think its just really hard to meet people when you’re new to a town and don’t have kids (or dogs) to help provide something in common. Sigh.

          • Sarah

            Amy … yes, exactly. That’s totally the feeling … but without the excitement dating could sometimes bring.

            It took me a year and a half after moving clear across the country to really “make friends” … I mean, there were people I knew, but no one to call if I wanted to grab dinner. It’s just starting to turn around now. Which is so, so welcome.

            An interesting side effect? A coworker recently introduced me to his girlfriend who is BRAND NEW to the area. I liked her quite a bit, and now I find myself actually making sure to call her and invite her out, more often than I do others … because I know what it’s like to not know anyone, and then be scared the people I meet don’t really like me, when I don’t hear from them in a while.

            ::hugs:: I know it sucks. Hang in there.

        • ARGH, that sucks. Especially so late in the game!! BAH to them from me on your behalf.

          • ka

            Exactly. I mean, seriously?! I want to punch your boss in the nose. Seriously.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            The inclination towards violence was strong in a pretty large group at my office. Our corporate headquarters are in Michigan so there are a lot of transpanted midwesterners working in our office here in Virginia. It’s an ugly situation for all of us. If nothing else our misery has plenty of company.

        • cartascartas

          I was surprised to find how closely related being financially broke and emotionally broke can be. This frustrates me, since I feel I should be able to understand that what I make and what I can offer in financial terms is not a representation of my self-worth or even of how much I can truly give others. But when it prevents you from physically being there, when places you in a new city, with no family or friends, when it forces you to choose–sure, choose, but which is the higher price to pay? who knows?–to be in a LDR with your fiance or your new boyfriend, when you work 100 hour weeks to find yourself worrying about when your checks are cashed…it takes a toll, it really does. And when your parents find themselves in a similar position and when your siblings do too and when you’re supporting your baby family and you don’t get to have money or time or people’s company to enjoy… argh. And you guys are right: holidays, weddings, special events–they all make these things feel more real, which are also more painful. I have hope that things will get better…and in the meantime, I am grateful to have found this community where we can all help carry each other’s burdens. Hang in there, Abby_wan_kenobi and Lauren and Jen and everybody else.

          • cartascartas

            i meant new husband!

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            The “choosing” is such a big thing. I don’t think I budgeted correctly when I made this choice. For my baby family, both of us working puts us in a much better position both career-wise and financially. We’re both making such good money that we can afford the extras (like plane trips to the midwest) that we wouldn’t be able to have if one of us was out of work. Tragically – ironically? – I’ve lost the freedom to take advantage of those extras, and I’ve lost the local support system that make me consider them extras (not necessities) in the first place.

            Of course it’s temporary, but when you’re checking your account balance at the end of every week, it feels like the end can never come fast enough. You fear the unexpected expense (like two close friends getting into a huge fight, like your favorite aunt filing for divorce and your cousins calling on you for support, like your new husband’s frustration over not being able to find a job nearby). You want to have so much to give, but you know you’re running on empty. For a little while anyway.

            Thanks for kind thoughts, ladies :)

  • Oh Lauren, deep breath. I was right there a year ago. I pretty much skipped Christmas, one of my favorite times of year, to elope on NYE. Good for you for making the holidays work!

    Its ok to want more. Don’t we all? Its knowing what is reasonable and keeping it all in perspective that’s important. And it sounds like you know!

    Keep the sane self talk up. The F* it feelings are kind of like PMS. You recognize that everything feels too overwhelming and you start to feel irrational. But you know that at some point, soon hopefully, its all going to be ok.

    We had a photobooth at our reception/party months later. Our venue owned one so it wasn’t “that much” more. People liked it, but we didn’t end up with nearly as many pictures as we hoped for. Our financial compromise was that we didn’t hire a photographer for our party thinking that snapshots and a photobooth would suffice (we had a photographer for our elopement). Sadly, there isn’t one picture of me, my husband, and both or our parents all together. But the pictures of my 70 year old boss in a mohawk wig almost make up for it…

    • I looooove the comparison to PMS. I get frustrated and fed up with feeling so trapped. TRAPPED by not having $$ Freedom, or the wiggle room that makes me comfortable and then I get the rage and the panic. But then a few days later and I feel ok again. I think once we get through the holidays and most of our deposits are paid (yes, I want to get this done EARLY), then things will ease up a bit.

  • Alas, same situation here. I am losing my job thanks to terminal illness in May and my husband to be is on the waiting list to join the Navy (yes, there’s a waiting list), so it’s getting a little tense around our house. We are even at the dreaded point of thinking about moving back in with one or the other of our families, or perhaps friends, and that’s a very sad thought after having been independent for my entire adult life. I believe that my blog posts for the past week or so have been echoes of your thoughts, Lauren. The best thing about Christmas to me is finding that perfect gift for everyone on the list, and horror of horrors, the splurgey gift I got for my fiance got lost in the mail. :( Things have not been good, and I do realize that being stressed is not good for your health and everyone kept trying to tell me to relax and “expect a miracle” (which was a little annoying since I’m a do it on my own kind of person, not a sit around and wait for someone else to do something for me kind of person). I did get out of my slump a few days ago, but it took some really perverted fortune cookies and cheap Chinese take out to do it.

    • Mel

      People are telling you to relax and expect a miracle? Gah! That would drive me crazy!

      • Yes I’ve heard that comment many times from my future MiL (and from other people too, mostly in our church)– she just has a lot more faith than I do I think, and her family has been through a lot of dire financial situations that were solved by miracles. But I don’t feel right about just sitting around “expecting” one. It seems like there ought to be something I could DO.

        • Alexandra

          Interesting. I guess “pray-ers” “expect” a miracle. I’m betting that some hippies and New Age folks are manifesting miracles.
          Too much blind faith can be a problem, but for some people, positive thinking really does [appear to] work.
          I recognize that there are some bad situations which people can’t manifest themselves out of, but I have seen support here, I believe, for the idea that your wedding day will be joyous if you believe it will be. ;-)

  • Lauren, you totally got this. Seriously. There’s ten more days of 2010, then the madness of gift-giving will be pretty much long-forgotten and we’ll all be back to treadmills and yoga class and school classes or jobs or whatever, and you’ll be back on the wedding planning tip without this added stress of the holidays! I’m pretty sure this shit happens to most everyone, even if you’re not planning a wedding. I’ve been married a year, and my stress right now is, all these ideas for gifts will be cutting into our saving-for-our-farm plans. :) See? We all do it.

    But seriously. Everything will work out, promise. We were both unemployed 10 days after getting engaged but still managed to get married the following year. This is the first *real* christmas either of us has had in 2 years. I’m getting all wedding zen on you here and will just say, just stay on the positive. Sh*t works out. Put it out into the universe and you’ll get your photobooth. Until then, give yourself 10 days to enjoy the holidays and the madness and your friends/family and whatever gift-giving you need to do to be representative of true LAUREN and worry about the rest come Jan. 1 (or 2 cuz you should prolly be good and hungover Jan. 1).



    • This. Honestly, I’m forgetting the wedding exists until after Christmas. I just don’t have the energy to worry about both and Christmas is almost done anyway.

      • Jo from Reno

        Me too.. people say “How is wedding planning going” and I say, “what wedding planning. I am too busy trying to drink as much eggnog as possible before it goes out of the stores.” Seriously, I just told my mother this, this morning. (Ps, if anyone else loves eggnog, lives on the west coast, and has a safeway card, you can register your card online, and get both deals, coupons special for you, and extra on top of that deals. I got free eggs and eggnog last week, with this safeway card. It is my new favorite thing – to look at the bottom of the receipt and see how much I saved. So it is omelets and eggnog lattes all up in this house, this week. For free. Take that, starbucks.)

        • Sarah

          Jo, I love you.

          Now, WHY can’t my Safeway card do this?!

    • Hannah NJ

      I just want to echo the ‘put it out in the universe’ part of this comment – not just for the photobooth – but for everything you want have and want to be able to do, and can’t see your way to yet. I don’t have a job right now (though I’m not planning a wedding either, so I guess maybe they cancel each other out in terms of sanity?) – but nothing makes me feel slightly saner than saying OUT LOUD what I need or want – putting it out there means it’s not taking up as much internal space. I may not get it (or recognize it when I get it) – but putting it out there makes me feel better.

      You can do it, Lauren. I am also one of those people who loves giving gifts, loves thinking about gifts, loves wrapping gifts, loves listening to people say what they want randomly in March and remembering it in December to surprise them … and IT BLOWS to have all that love and no cashola, and truthfully – sometimes making gifts just. isn’t. the. same. (I mean, I love making gifts too. But I can’t make Jay-Z’s autobiography or a wedge of Stilton, those things can only be bought) – but G*d willing and the creek don’t rise, we’re all gonna be around for a long time – so all those dope gifts that you want to give and can’t finance right now – you can still give them next year. Or the year after next, or the year after the year after next. You can even make a spreadsheet with all of your gift ideas so you don’t forget what you want to get people once your cabbages are back in the garden so to speak. (Not saying that as advice – but I did this the last time I felt super broke and it actually made me feel a lot better – obviously don’t do it if the idea stresses you out!)

      Seriously though – ten more days and it’s a new year ‘with no mistakes in it yet’ as Anne of Green Gables would say! GO LAUREN!

  • Ah! I totally feel you. Just remember it is worth it. Despite lots of generous help from our families, we still went into some debt b/c I wasn’t strong enough to save, and I just gave up finding the cheapest option on some things (b/c of the stress). From someone on the other side – keep it up! – dealing with credit card debt from the wedding for months afterwards SUCKS.

  • This could not have resonated more with me. Being the kind of person who generally hosts dinners and parties at Christmas and exchanges gifts with everyone made it very, very difficult to ask friends to skip a year of gift-giving this December. We’re saving every extra cent for our budget wedding, and the guilt is piling up every day.

    Several people have commented that Christmas insanity will be over in a few days, and I find that’s a good mantra. By the end of the month, gift exchanges will be (largely) forgotten. I think it’s good to keep in mind that people are rarely as hard on each other as we are on ourselves, anyway.

    Thank you for writing this, Lauren. It may not add up to much, but you’re definitely not alone.

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  • Katelyn

    I’m like you, Lauren – I LOVE to give gifts. I couldn’t care less about thank you cards or gifts in return. I’ve always been the type of person who just likes to GIVE. I wish I could spend 3 months’ salary on gifts for my family and friends – but this year I’m practicing restraint, and it sucks.

    It sucks to see the tiny little package for my dad and feel like it’s just not *enough* to show him how much I appreciate the sacrifices he’s made for us kids, like not saving for retirement or buying new farm machinery to put all 4 of us through college. Or feel like I’m not trying hard enough to show affection to my older sister-in-law when I get her a gift card vs. several (small) presents for my other SIL.

    But. I can do those things by making an effort to not let these rotten feelings drag me down, and be a pleasant person at home, and actively converse with my sisters-in-law, and not hiding as I am wont to do when too many people are in a room at the same time. I don’t need to give *things* to demonstrate my love. But it’s a lot easier that way ;-)

  • Oh man, Lauren, thank you for writing this right now! I was up most of the night worrying about everything wedding cost related on top of the cost of Christmas and I had to fight with myself not to get out of bed at 3am and start researching cheaper invitations and cancel the tent. I don’t need a tent, right? Except for that rainy part… Money is hard, and the holidays are hard, and wedding plan is really super hard.
    So, thank you. I love you. We’re going to be ok. right?

    • we are TOTALLY going to be ok. I know it. I think part of what’s up is I worry about being disappointed on top of worrying about money. But the truth is, when it comes down to the day, I KNOW that it’s going to be awesome and funny and meaningful and disastrous in the best way, because I trust that all of the wedding grads speaketh the trutheth. But I def wanted to talk about this stress and money since it seems like something we all smuggle away and keep from everyone while the rest of the world is feeling the EXACT SAME WAY.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        If it helps, I felt all the disappointment about things I didn’t have at my wedding before the wedding. Afterwards I couldn’t figure out how those things would have fit into the day.

        For example, sparklers. Before: Most awesome idea ever!! What do you mean the venue won’t allow it? The wedding is ruined!! After: Woah, why did I want to set my hair on fire? Intoxicated, hair-sprayed me should not be near fire. Also, no one even went outside – sparklers would have been really awkward and seemed like we were trying too hard.

        • Amy

          Ha, there is a special place in my heart for my amazing sister in law who listened to my crazy bridal *need* for sparklers, dug them up in her town, brought them to the wedding and then didn’t say a word when we totally forgot about them.

  • Other Katelyn

    Last year, my family pretty much didn’t do Christmas. No one could afford anything beyond the groceries for a nice family brunch, but it broke my heart leading up to the day that I couldn’t afford to give presents… then, on December 25th, the presents thing
    didn’t matter nearly as much as I thought it would. We had a really quiet day, and it was lovely, and my friends understood that every cent of my money was going towards paying off debt and getting back on my feet. I can’t even IMAGINE adding wedding stress on top of that intense kind of money stress, Lauren, so you are a total champ for still having a sense of humor about it. Money stress is the worst. Keep breathing!!

    Funnily enough, as a side-note: I found APW when someone in the comments over at Get Rich Slowly mentioned Meg– I was curious enough to do some google-fu and fell head over heels with this site once I started reading archives. At that time, I was reading primarily personal finance blogs, since people there seemed to understand how tough frugality can be sometimes, and I couldn’t bear to read about people buying clothes or wine or nice groceries. APW gave me permission to be a little more gracious– just because I can’t afford X, Y, or Z doesn’t mean I need to be snippy about other people buying those things NOR does it mean I should feel guilty about not keeping up with my more financially stable friends’ lifestyles (guilty as charged on both counts). I’m me, and I do what I can, and I’ll just have to make my peace with the rest, though that might be an excruciating process.

    • meg

      Yes. And you know what else? I will get better, it just takes time (or that’s what I’d tell my flat broke and weepy 24 year old self).

      • Amy

        Oh it totally takes time to establish yourself financially, but its really really hard to tell that to yourself when everyone else seems to be living it up (or you know, able to afford a manicure every now and again when you’re trying to afford food). Sigh. I think we all need to cut ourselves a break. And my 24 year-old self would jump for joy if she knew that a few years later I would have all my credit card and student loan debt paid off. Which kind of puts the ‘feeling bad for myself because we can’t afford a house in the stupidly overpriced town we rent in’ in perspective.

        • Alyssa

          I like to think that all the scrimping and saving I did as a young’n is just prep for me being a happy and content old lady.

          I also plan on being a crazy old lady, but that’s something else entirely.

          • I too plan on being an old crazy lady that pokes cute boys with my cane.

  • amy

    Right post — right time.

    At the end of last month we were invited to host the engagement parties (two of them!) for some dear friends that are getting married just a few months after us. The requested contribution was way more than we could handle, especially during Christmas, especially while we’re saving for our own wedding. But we both felt guilty when we politely declined to participate. To make the bad feelings worse, we kept getting daily emails from the event planners asking us to send our check.

    I handled this with more grace than my fiance did, but just a few days ago, another pair of friends of ours — friends we know are going to have a big, fancy wedding — got engaged. Two days later I was crumpled on the kitchen counter, sobbing about my scrappy DIY centerpieces, and how they wouldn’t be good enough, or expensive enough, and neither would my thrifted cocktail-length dress, my wear-what-you-want bridal party, my wedding cake-less reception or the bathrooms at our parks department-operated venue.

    It wasn’t really about weddings — weddings! of people we love! so exciting! — or what people expect from weddings, or my own insecurities about my wedding. It was about money. Cold hard cash. And it made us both feel so sad. We’re both over it now, but it was a dark couple of weeks.

    • Wait – people ask you to host engagement parties?? Really? I had no idea that was a thing.

      • Alyssa

        You know what? I don’t think it’s a thing. Someone made that up.

        Amy, I have been at the crumpled on the floor point, so I feel you. But I hope that the only reason you end in that position again is because you dropped something.

        • amy

          I don’t think it’s a thing either! That’s part of what made it such a hard thing to deal with! We were like, “Wait — they want us to do what? — is this a thing? What do we do? Can we just, uh — say no?” We had couple of other friends on the host list and they all said, “Yeah, weird huh? Oh well, we just paid it, so we don’t look bad or anything.” Which would be SO NICE, right? But not honest.

    • meg

      WAIT. The contribution??????? What?

      Here is the thing, you’re having the party that you can afford. There is a level of grace and elegance in that that can never be matched by parties where the hosts requests contributions to pay for it. Hold your head up, girlfriend. You’re classing it up.

      And PS, not only did we have parks and rec bathrooms at our wedding, we had our yichud in said parks and rec bathroom. And some of our wealthiest friends and family were the ones who pulled us aside to whisper that this was the best wedding they have EVER been to, EVER. There is a lot more to parties than fancy centerpieces, expensive dresses, and nice bathrooms.

      • This happened with us as well! We had our wedding at a bathhouse that’s owned by the city of Seattle, and there was one bathroom in this entire place. It was tiny, but I stuck a cute little basket of stuff (and totally rocked the basket from Value Village for a dollar), along with some flowers. Point being, my husband’s relatives (who are wealthy and their children had VERY expensive weddings) were telling us how it was the best wedding they ever had been to, how beautiful our ceremony was, how some of them wish they thought of the things we did, etc.

        Sometimes it pays to actually NOT go over-the-top with the crazy expensive stuff. People don’t remember your bathroom at your wedding, I promise, haha. :)

      • amy

        I know all of these things to be true in my heart — and that’s how we’ve been planning this wedding all along. (Hence, not being too worried, until recently and in a vulnerable moment, about our bathrooms.) But it was so nice to read this post today, to be reminded that sometimes, you know. Even when you think you’re being all sneaky and level-headed, once in a while, you are going to face the truth and freak out.

        You guys are amazing. Way to make me actually excited about our bathrooms.

  • Jennifer

    It is so good to read all of these comments. I LOVE Christmas and usually cram my December with cookie baking and other holiday activities. This year, however, I haven’t felt like doing much. My husband and I got married in October, and although we are very excited to be spending our first Christmas together as a married couple, we are even more broke than we were before the wedding. We haven’t had enough time to rebuilt our savings after wedding splurges—not that time would help just now: we’re just getting started in our careers, and with student loans, rent, etc… our monthly budget has very little wiggle room! Our gift-giving allotment pretty much equals what we spent on thank you notes…

    I think the most difficult part for me—someone who also receives much joy out of gift-giving—is that, a mere two months after getting married and experiencing the love and support of all our family, I won’t be able to show our appreciation with the sort of Christmas gifts I’d like to give. We’re having enough trouble finding the money to get home. Ugh. Which is all to say: I completely empathize with all who have commented on feeling trapped!

    BUT: the wedding will be worth it, I promise.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      It seems like a lot of people are having a hard time getting into the spirit – this: got me from bitterness about what we won’t have this holiday season to humming carols at my desk. Truly a heart warmer in the season of giving, even if you can’t give like you’d like to.

      • ka

        Thank you. This totally did the trick. :)

      • Thank you for sharing! That totally made my week.

      • Mel

        Oh my, you’re right – everyone should click this link. How wonderful!

    • Sarah

      “My husband and I got married in October, and although we are very excited to be spending our first Christmas together as a married couple, we are even more broke than we were before the wedding. We haven’t had enough time to rebuilt our savings after wedding splurges—not that time would help just now: we’re just getting started in our careers, and with student loans, rent, etc… our monthly budget has very little wiggle room!”

      This is our life. Just add August and delete October, and you’re set. And it’s SO hard. I want to be able to show people how thankful we are … and we just flat out can’t spare the money we would like to. We’re not even GETTING home for Christmas this year (DC to California? Yah, there’s no way we can come up with $1800 required for a 3 day trip). Which sucks.

      I’m right there with ya, lady.

  • Ugh, ugh, ugh. So with you on all of this; I’m so sorry. The photobooth was my big thing, too (we got married this September). It’s so perfect for our family and friends; I would have killed for those crazy candids of everyone. During our engagement, I half-heartedly asked for quotes from a couple vendors and knew a photobooth was way, way out of budget. The worst part was when I found a vendor that chopped his price in HALF and made it so close, SO CLOSE to being within our reach. And we still couldn’t afford it. During those last few weeks of planning, that was the Dream Wedding Bit that Got Away.

    But after the wedding?? I haven’t thought of it ONCE. My photographer, for all that he usually does formal portraits, did capture the crazy buzz of our loved ones. We still got the ridiculous photos of our friends– they were just on the dance floor, instead of with props in a booth. In hindsight, I’m actually GLAD we didn’t get a photobooth, because that undoubtedly would have changed the dynamic of the night. The night we had was an EPIC DANCE PARTY with people barefoot and exhausted, and if we’d had the option of a photobooth, I think the night could have been less awesome (e.g., fewer people on the dance floor, or a photobooth that barely got used).

    I hate the money pinch. While we mostly stayed within our budget, we did have to use a little consumer credit (wince, wince) for the fun and unexpected things that came our way over the year (car repairs! textbooks! travel for friends’ weddings!). So now, even after the wedding, we’re feeling stretched thin. We’re pecking away at what’s left of our financial struggles, and I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still really hard.

  • Tricia

    Lauren, I don’t have any great wise words, but it will all be worth it. I was there a year ago. It is important to fight those ‘f*ck it all’ feelings because you know the wedding, the planning, the whole process, does mean something to you. And yes of course the important thing is you’ll be married, but its ok if the other important parts are that you want to enjoy this time, and you want to revel in tying bows around things, and damn it you want the photobooth. I’m not saying go into debt over these things, but you’ll hopefully have years and years after this to make more money and not feel quite so trapped. I honestly feel like I stressed about money too much, to the point where I didnt get to enjoy some parts of the process that were important to me. In the end, you’re going to spend this money anyway, so just try to enjoy it instead of stressing. And, it will all be worth it in the end. To you, your fiance, your parents, your family, your friends, etc.

  • i really really wanted a photobooth too… and then i realized it was out of the budget, and it’s so SAD! and everyone kept saying to have a photographer set one up, but in my heart of hearts (this is so selfish I can’t believe i’m going to type it), I didn’t want a photobooth like that. i had my mind set on one with an actual booth and photos that printed in a line. So silly, I know, but true. And if I couldn’t have that, I wasn’t going to have a different and less expensive version of it, and instead focus my limited time and attention and money elsewhere. but it was really sad. I’m still bummed when I think of it, because it had *always* been in my plans.

    because here’s the thing, I totally get you on wanting more money. or wanting shit to be less expensive. i’d really be fine with either one :) because it’s so hard when you and your fiance sit down to pick your top 3 most important things and you find you can’t even afford that, or you have to scrimp and budget in ways you didn’t think you would when you were imagining your simple, dinner-party chic wedding. it’s hard to put into words the kind of disappointment and stress it brings – your post said it so eloquently and resonated so much with me. hang in there. at the wedding, i bet neither one of us will think of a photobooth. Here’s to hoping…

  • Thank you Lauren! (And Meg).

    I’m right there with you: the economy sucks, we’re buying a house (it’s okay, we planned for it and can totally afford it), paying down all of our debt aggressively, pre-paying down student loans, and saving for our wedding. We get into this point of “we can’t spend any money”, and while we are making it, it’s all going somewhere. Granted, those places are really healthy, good adult places, but I have zero time, and my wedding will be about 1,000 times less wedding-y than most people I know in real life. And that’s what we want and it fits us, but it’s odd. I’ve had to reduce and prioritize and those are good things to do, but also difficult.

    So right on! (And yes, I’m procrastinating hardcore about the wedding. Now is Christmas, then comes closing and moving and prepping our house thru February. Then we’ll plan the wedding.)

  • AKP

    Lauren, these could have been my words just a few months ago! I hated the cycle of wanting something fun, realizing how much it would cost, being frustrated that I couldn’t have it for our guests, and then the inevitable guilt for wanting something so frivolous. The guilt was the worst part, and the part that I wish I had let go of earlier in the planning process because it was totally unnecessary and just brought me down. But as soon as the day of the wedding rolled around, I didn’t even remember all those things that I wish I had had the money for, and looking back, I think I would have regretted spending the extra money on some of those things more than I ever would have regretted not having them. I stressed a lot about whether our wedding would be “good enough” for our guest because so much of it was diy or bought on the cheap, but on the day of the wedding, I felt this totally rewarding sense of ownership over the whole day knowing that I had prioritized my wants, searched for discounts, and used my own creativity to shape every part of it. So wedding budgeting is the worst (terrible), but your wedding will be so much more meaningful because you know how much you’ve put into it!

    • meg

      Yes. Your comment reminds me of the fact that weddings are SHORT. We didn’t have a bunch of stuff, like sparklers, and guest booths, and photo booths. And all of that stuff sounded great before the wedding. But the thing is, we had a couple of hours to get married, eat, drink, chat with people, and dance. We didn’t have TIME to clutter the party up with a bunch of distractions. We really only had time to focus on the basics (marry, eat, dance) and do them well. It’s hard to realize that before hand, while you’re looking at wedding blogs PACKED with extras.

      • meg

        Oh, and we armed two friends with Polaroid cameras (doing it now we’d use a Fuji). The resulting polaroids are so much cooler than photoboth pictures ever would have been. And they are hands down what I’d grab running out of the house in a fire.

      • Jo

        This this this this this. Your wedding will be amazing, because of what it is – you getting married with all your peeps present to cheer you on. You and your guests can only handle so many details, so much fun, in that one evening. The basic content (ceremony, party) alone is rich and filling. I bet you won’t miss one bit of what you’ve decided to cut out. And I bet you won’t regret for one minute the things you decided to keep in. So know that you will be glad you spent the money you did, and don’t worry too much about the things that didn’t make the cut. It’s inevitable, and honestly, probably a good thing, that you can’t do everything you can dream up for your wedding day.

  • I had to stop looking at every single pretty wedding website when I was planning. (With the sole exception of APW.) I was going a little cray-cray knowing that I just didn’t want to put forward the cash for some things that I really wanted. I had to stop looking at other people’s weddings altogether and just focus on mine. It helped me see what I did have rather than what I didn’t. It might not help everyone, but it kinda saved my sanity.

  • merryf

    I felt the money disparity acutely during wedding planning. My husband and I are in our early 40s but since I’m in a business that doesn’t traditionally pay a lot, I have never made the kind of money that other people my age have. I have tried my whole life not to be jealous of them. It mostly worked, until wedding planning. My new husband was out of work for 6 months before our wedding and we had to cross a lot of things off the list. Like Flowers, and a Band or DJ. And a Wedding Cake. And centerpieces and decorations for the tent. And, no honeymoon. All crossed off the list. I’d like to tell you I was sad for 5 seconds and I got over it, but that would be a lie. I was pretty d*mn sad because I thought people would judge me poorly because I wasn’t having a wedding that seemed “normal.” Like, at my age I should have enough money to do what everyone else does… My now-husband and I scrimped and saved for an entire year to pay for what we were able to have.

    I also wanted a photobooth, the kind that has the pictures in a line. But I couldn’t afford it. Instead, I went to some party supply stores and got a bunch of silly props/costumes on sale and then took a deep breath and let that dream die and had my photog bring a friend who set up a big wingback chair in an empty room at our venue and took photos.

    And they rock. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it worked out just fine. And the photos are priceless. I thought people would think it silly, like a half-a$$ed photobooth, but someone told me there was a line of people waiting to do it. And Lauren, I would love to send you all of my costumey goofy props (including a plastic Viking helmet and wizard hat).

    The end result of my budget wedding was that I got emails from people afterwards, saying that it was one of the most friendly and accessible weddings they had ever been to. I don’t think anyone noticed I didn’t decorate the place, or have actual centerpieces, or didn’t have a cake-cutting. I don’t think anyone said, “poor Merry, she doesn’t make a lot of money and her husband is unemployed and this is a second-rate wedding.” I think people loved to see that I did was was feasible, and was practical and didn’t want to go into debt for this and made some hard choices. They enjoyed themselves and had some laughs and it was a nice afternoon. And then it was over.

  • Ms. K

    Thank you, Lauren, for your post, which is *so* true, and also made me really sad; I realized this week that I’m not actually excited for this wedding anymore. The most I can muster is wanting to get it the heck over with- and it is still 8 months away.
    I hope this is a phase, and the excitement comes back but I can say that you are COMPLETELY right to draw the line in the sand before you get to this point. Whatever is keeping you excited and happy about this wedding- hang on to that. Good luck!

    • meg

      That’s SO NORMAL at the 8 month mark (and probably again at the two month mark). Part of why I’d do a three month engagement if I had to do it over again, but I digress. You’ll get it back. It’s just hard to sustain excitement for that long.

      • I totally agree with Meg. I had a huge 8-month slump about a month ago. I didn’t want to think, look at, or touch anything wedding related. But now we are almost 6 months out — holy crap! — and suddenly things are happening. They are still big scary things that make my stomach into a nervous knot, but they are also good. And they mean this shindig is going to happen. So just hang in there. We all go through ups and downs.

      • Amy

        I loved having a long engagement personally (about 14 months) because we got to do a flurry of stuff in the first 3-4 months like find our big vendors and book them when we were still all excited and wanted to plan. Right around when I got sick of that, I had time to take the next 6 months off from wedding planning. Then about 4 months before the wedding I checked back in again and got stuff done without being too overwhelmed. It worked for us, and I totally advocate either Meg’s engagement approach of get it done fast and angst free, or give yourself enough time to just check out for a few months.

    • I am exactly there too!!

      • Ms. K

        Thank you, ladies. Very worth de-lurking today. :)

  • Jo from Reno

    Hi guys. It is comforting to read this post, and the comments, and I will join in – Lauren, I am in a similar situation over here (You are not alone). I live in Reno, and moved here for my fiance.. left a full time job in the City (working for the man, every night and day – sing it!). Bang. hello, 14.5% unemployment rate in Nevada, the prospect of having to take another bar exam (I am a lawyer… trying to figure out another gig, but for now, lawyering is what I do). These things cost money – and the bills keep coming, and my paychecks stopped. Add the holidays to this mix (and the first time I will ever have to navigate a baby-family-to-be holiday sharing/”lets go see your family at 11, and mine at 1pm” kind of arrangement) , and I am trying desperately not to break into the Rebel Yell bourbon at 10am these days.

    We are getting married in Southern California.. a parks and rec wedding- 500 miles away. This thing has turned into what I like to call the Pinata and Taco Truck Extravaganza 2011, in Which We Get Married. Because, that is what we can afford – and damn it! I like Taco trucks. I am all alone out here in Reno. and though I am storing wine bottles in my basement for centerpieces at the Taco Truck Extravaganza, I haven’t really conceptualized how I would get them to San Diego. Sigh.

    I am navigating a part of a relationship where money is a touchy subject for me – My man has a job, I don’t. I can’t, for example, purchase any of the “What to get for Your Mother in Law to Be” presents… (Yes, I googled, I am truly at a loss.) Money, I find, weighs on my mind a lot, and keeps me up at night. I feel your pain.

    The point is, I think, of all this for me – is that I am starting to feel more and more like I am part of a team. Maybe I will get a job one day, and he won’t have a job – and as he does things for me, like buy me snow tires for my southern California car, I try to think of this future, and vow, internally that it will come back around, and I will have the chance to do these things for him. This is what I discovered in the middle of the night last night, and boom! Here is this post!

    I asked for money for the wedding for Christmas, and wooden spoons, because those are the things I really need. My family may give me a $40 check, instead of a sweater, and I will merrily stow it in our ING direct account. Both fams know that we are putting on the Taco Truck Extravaganza, and paying for it ourselves. I hope that the ol’ fams and will be ok with a holidays, with a little less emphasis on the bounty, more on the trying out a new family, for size. Because that is the most important thing for me now.

    Phew, I had to work that all out in this comment. Sometimes, it is not so easy, and maybe “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” doesn’t make you all fuzzy and warm, but fills you with spiraling panic. We can make it! And we will! Bring on January.

    • Jillian

      Can I just say your “Taco Truck Exravaganza” sounds AMAZING!

      And I totally get what you were saying about feeling like a part of a team, even a struggling one. I work right now, but my fiance is in school, so I’m basically supporting us. But I know one day he’ll probably have a job making much more than I do and with this economy, those roles could reverse at any time. It’s just comforting to know that you’ll take care of each other.

      • Jo from Reno

        Thanks Jillian – no one has ever commented on my comment before!!! THANKS!!! . Mexican food catering in San Diego – so prevalent(hi, regional cuisine!) so delicious (happiness, for me, is carne asada) so much cheaper than feeding everyone a 3 course meal. Tacos for everyone! My guest list keeps growing, because I am in my mid-thirties, and all my friends keep having babies – god help me. I want them to come, so hence the park-pinata-truck idea… more of my peeps, kiddo’s like tacos, and dammit, I can whip out the bocce ball set, because my fam is Italian, and that is how we roll. (ha!)

      • Jo from Reno

        By the way, Jillian, I know it is not easy to support someone in law school – financially, and emotionally – I freaked out on a regular basis back in the day. Way to go!! (is that appropriate? I just wanted to say – that is rocking – I know it is not easy)

        • Jillian

          Aww thanks! Yeah, you law people are tough to deal with… kidding (kind of.)
          Bravo to you for making it through law school. More nights than not, he doesn’t even sleep because he’s up studying/writing briefs/writing papers. I know I couldn’t handle it.

          And we haven’t decided on a reception venue yet, since we have quite a bit of time, but if it is even somewhat outdoors there has to be bocce and horseshoes! I’m also Italian, and every family gathering involves those games. So yeah, to add to my earlier post, your wedding sounds super fun!

          • Jo from Reno

            HA! Horseshoes.. excellent. We did bocce on the beach when I graduated from law school (with bocce set purchased from Costco), and I have a technicolor memory of my uncle diving into the sand to figure out whose ball was closer. It got SEERRR-IOUS, and was seriously fun. This is what I am channeling right now. All your man may want to do when he gets done with this semester is SLEEP. That may be the best present – some R&R – for both of you. A full on sweatpants day with nothing to do but watch TNT movie marathons. :)

    • It does, it sounds truly perfect.

  • Jillian

    Lauren, I feel your pain. The fiance and I are planning on getting married after he graduates law school. As he still has a year to go, obviously our fiscal future is also up in the air (I work full time now, but obviously we lack any kind of supernatural powers that would allow us to predict his job prospects a year and a half out).
    I’m already having similar freak-out moments to you (HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO AFFORD THIS??!!) but you just have to remember: you’re marrying your best friend, and that is amazing in itself.

  • april

    Hang in there, Lauren. As someone who had a long engagement (almost 4 years) and lived together for a good long time with my guy and planned, and saved and just waited until we were in our late 30s to wed (because that’s what just worked out) so we could have the wedding bonanza we both wanted and not worry about the cash, just let me say: there’s really *never* enough $$$$.

    We spent what was comfortable for us and had a great wedding and honeymoon but oh, I could’ve spent more. And that scared me. I felt twinges of guilt for what we’d saved and could (and did) spend. I felt twinges of guilt for still wanting to spend more on things that were only important to me (fancy flowers, designer shoes and a couture gown – which I didn’t get after all). It was unrelenting and stressful and I did have that “F*ck it ” moment and after that I was (mostly) fine, but in the midst of the planning it was super hard to be content at times.

    I think it’s a completely normal way to feel, too. Don’t let it get you down. Big hug to you!

  • Rachel

    I’m echoing everyone when I say this, but this is absolutely the perfect time for this post. I don’t even feel like I have the Christmas spirit this year. I’ve been bumming all week about Christmas and how my gifts are measly-peasly. That makes me feel really bad, because I love to show my appreciation with gifts. ESPECIALLY for those that have been so helpful through the past year of wedding planning. The added Christmas/Holiday pressure just adds to the already lurking sadness about the things we can’t afford and goddamn-it-why-am-I-going-through-so-much-school-why-can’t-I-find-a-good-now-NOOWWW crap. Yeah – I know – I feel guilty about having aspirations that require a decade of college and post-college studies – dumb right?

    Thank you to all of you who are commenting from the other side, because I know we’ll come out the other side but it’s always nice to hear it (or read it). When I sit back and look at what we have decided/bought/made for our wedding I smile because I know it will be wonderful and absolutely what we wanted – but I still hate those hiccups where I compare ours to another’s or wish we could afford x, y or z.

  • Lindsay

    Oh Lauren, I’m so with you. I was completely blindsided by the holidays this year even though we’ve been planning our trip back east for months. I just didn’t add up how much wedding deposits and holiday gifts and plane tickets were going to be all together. And come January we lose our main income as my fiance will now join me as a grad student. I know our families are happy that we are traveling across the country to spend the holidays with them, but I am stressed about gifts. Particularly about gifts for my fiance’s family. They are amazing gift givers that always seem to shower me with the most thoughtful things. I am a crappy gift giver to begin with and this year being strapped for cash is not helping. I’m most worried about bowing out of the huge extended family yankee swap that happens at their holiday party every year. I am meeting a lot of the family for the first time and I feel like I will have to announce how broke we are so that the family doesn’t think I’m not participating because I’m too snobby or scroogey or something. And that sets me off towards the F*ck All Of You Moment. Maybe you and I can hold cyber hands and make it to the other side of the holidays together?

  • Am I the only one who’s a little . . . happy that we have less to spend collectively? I mean I’ve never been flush — partly why I’m so persnickety about money, probably — but I think now that everyone is experiencing the pinch in various, often long-lasting, ways, it’s a bit easier for everyone to understand why we just cannot give and give and give (materially, of course!!). We’re being forced to scale back as opposed to sometimes feeling obligated to buy a gift for someone just to get them something . . . or equating ‘how much’ and ‘how big’ with how we feel about others, even though we know in our heads that it’s not about that. The money! The pressure! The money! Ack!

    I feel ya, though; it ain’t no joke, being broke. And when saving for a wedding, it sucks so very hard, especially when it’s that lovely get-down-to-business time of reconciliation between what you want and what you can’t have. Which, of course, we do every day, but when it’s a wedding, suddenly we up the ante. There is a silver lining though, and when you know it’s there, it’s easier to kind of grin and bear it.

    (Or, should I say, grimace and bear it . . . )

  • Money makes my stomach ache. When I think about it I get super anxious and then my insides twist themselves into knots. This time of the year is particularly bad. Also whenever I think about the fact that we have to come up with a lot of money in a short amount of time to pull of the wedding. But for better or worse it’s happening and I need to get on board the frugal express.

    Lauren, I’m in the same boat as you with a wedding in a different location than where I live. That means very little DIY and scrapping a bunch of stuff that I’d really like to have. I always pictured drinking champagne all night at my wedding, but the reality is that I’m probably not going to be able to have it at the reception. There’s other things too that just make me sad and make me want to yell eff it.

    But the motto I’ve been trying to follow as I plan this wedding is this: “We may not have the wedding we want, but we will have the wedding we need.” Maybe that mantra could help you too when you get really upset with money. It helps me a bit.

    • Alyssa

      “We may not have the wedding we want, but we will have the wedding we need.”

      I love this. Lady, where were you and your great attitude about two years ago?!?

      • I was around these parts but too shy to comment because I wasn’t engaged yet. Nor did I have that attitude yet (I was still firmly rooted in pretty wedding blog land).

        • Alyssa

          We totally need the Delorean to go back in time and hand ourselves a beer, a smack and a hug. Possibly in that order.

  • Alyssa

    I’m not worried about Lauren. Or any other bride in this position. Because at the very least, y’all know the path you could go down and know you don’t want to go there. THAT is what makes the difference between y’all and the crazy stabby version of yourself.

  • Christy A.

    Oh, honey, I think you’re singing every bride who doesn’t have millions to spend’s song right now. Heck, I don’t think any bride ever has the money to spend on their wedding that they’d like. I can imagine those socialite chicks calling their hotel mogul daddy, complaining because they can’t give diamonds as wedding favors. Still, just because we’ve all been there doesn’t mean it’s any easier on you. You’re not a bad person for feeling this way. I’ve been there, believe me. People will still love you and have a great time. Years from now the only thing they (and you for that matter) will remember is how they felt on that day. And I bet they’re going to feel grateful that they were included in such an awesome wedding.

    I do have some advice. Sorry! I’m a big sister, it’s my nature, I can’t help it. (My husband says I’m kind of a dude that way) We borrowed a polaroid and told the cousins in charge of the guest book to take a picture of everyone. People got to act up, get together, and write on their pictures and put them in our guest book, which was a scrapbook I got for ten bucks and had a crafty friend decorate. Simple , cheap, and a great memory to this day.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      My husband’s brother did a poloroid guestbook at his wedding and it resulted in my favorite picture of me and my hubby ever. It’s drunk and smoochy and so us :)

  • Hope this isn’t too advice-y, but in general lately I’ve been realizing that it really helps to focus on the things you do have. Yes, it sucks to give up the photo booth. But it’s because the money is going to something you wanted more. I’m not sure what that is for you, but in my case I’m giving up a pro photographer in favor of a larger guest list (it wasn’t a specific trade-off like that, but you get the idea). And it’s going to be amazing to see all of those people in one place to celebrate with us and support our marriage, and looking back I’ll be much happier with the memories of my family and friends’ faces and words than I would be with perfect shots of the place settings and the dress hanging in front of a window. And between all those people and their own digital cameras, there are bound to be a few good shots, and I’ll probably ask one or two friends to be sure to snap some shots during the ceremony just to make sure there’s at least a couple of the important moments. So it helps to think more about what you do have than what you don’t. There are bound to be things that you would like to have but just can’t, for whatever reason, but if you remember all of the wonderful things you do have, somehow the things that are missing just melt into the background.

    I just got into my parents’ for Christmas, and I asked to look at their wedding album. There were a few nice posed shots. And there were a lot of photos that at least looked like they were taken by guests. And the album was full of great pictures of all of their friends and family, and certainly gave a sense of the event, and clearly reminded my parents of the day just as well as any blog-chic photo set would.

  • ka

    Thanks Lauren for shining some light on these kind of moments. Good god, I have been there. (Like last xmas when our heater broke and all the gift money went to fixing it.) And I don’t doubt that I will be there again (maybe sooner rather than later, as I’m waiting for a phone call from the auto repair shop telling me how much $$$$ my shitty car will cost to fix). But we’re pretty OK right, and reading everyone’s comments is helping me to realize and appreciate that. So, in a horribly ass-backwards way, thank you?

    Short of volunteering to hand out some $30 gift cards a la Abby Won’s awesome link (, all I can think to do to give back right this second is to try to blast some gift-giving shame!

    So to all of you who love giving gifts but money’s a little tight right now – that’s OK! For the love of Christmas (and Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, etc.), stop guilting yourselves! Everyone has good years and bad years, and those people that have been receiving your awesome gifts year after year WILL understand. And if they don’t? Screw em. They don’t deserve your generosity anyway.

    Ahem. Hope that helped. Pew. Pew.

    • Rachel

      YES pew pew! Shame Blasters! <3

  • Morgan

    Last year my now-husband went back to work three days before Christmas after being unemployed for 8 months. It was a frugal Christmas. This year? We’re on the other side, and last night we sat in the living room of our house – our HOME – and admired our tree and the big pile of presents. Last year sucked, I won’t lie, but it does make me more grateful for the ability to splurge now.

  • About 3 months into the planning of our wedding I literally stomped around like a toddler in my own head screaming waah, waah, waah, about money and how it was giving me a heart attack. My parents gave us $5k but still wanted things like white tablecloths, plated dinner and real flowers. PLUS we couldn’t slash the guest list. ACK! ACK! ACK!

    I’m not going to go into a whole speach about what I did and what I didn’t do (mostly because we probably have already chatted about this over margaritas) but I will say that it’s OKAY to hate money during the planning process AS LONG AS you are happy the day of the wedding with the choices you made and the money you spent.

    Love trumps money any day and that’s something that you and Kamel will always have an abundance of.

    • meg

      That’s the worst by the way. Been there. When the family contributions don’t quite mesh with the family expectations? ARGH.

      • Yeah that was probably the hardest part! I became the queen of saying “if you want (enter item here) then we need more money” and when my mother (who eloped at 19) actually saw what things COST these days she was okay with home made pies, a fake flower corsage and paper napkins because that meant more money for booze and mariachis!

        • Sarah

          That moment came for my mother when we left the seamstress’s shop after being quoted $200 for a hem/take-in/bustle. My mom looked at me and said “is that a good price?”

          She just about fell over when I explained to her the other quotes I’d gotten for the same work had been around the $800 mark.

          Sometimes people just need a reality check. The last wedding my family put on was 15 years ago. Things have … gone up a bit … in price.

  • Lauren, I feel your pain (last year was the same for me – wanting to put money towards wedding/honeymoon, but not wanting to give up the rest of our lives). The money stress for me lasted far longer than I wanted it to. We went slightly over the budget we had planned for ourselves (and thanks to generous parents we had planned to use less than we had, so we didn’t do something stupid like charge anything) and after the happiness of the wedding was over, I had some moments of regret on spending money on things. I felt like emergencies came up (in our case they really did – tornado touched down at the outdoor wedding, so paying for a ripped tent wall etc) and the money just got away from us.

    I think you should be proud of yourself for keeping a handle on what you really want. I don’t think that you will regret the things you aren’t splurging on, the day will be joyful without them – and if anyone else laments their absence, just refer them here and everyone will call them D-bags.

    What you might regret (like I do, just a bit) was spending money unconsciously. If I had kept as careful an eye on it as you are doing, I could have avoided that. So, good on you!

    As an aside – as a very crafty person (made the invites, felt flowers, accessories, cake toppers, blah blah blah) who no longer has a project since my wedding is over – I would be happy to make something for you! You said that there were cool things you wanted but didn’t have the budget for, and perhaps not the aptitude/time to craft them for yourself. Let me do it and send it to you! I would consider it my karmic APW gift (because I would give my dress away to an APW bride for all the amazing things this site has brought me, but I didn’t have it cleaned and some bride doesn’t deserve a messy train). Email me and tell me what you were wishing for.

    • You had a tornado at your wedding?????

    • seriously – whaaa???

      • Kari

        Yep, I had a tornado. 2 miles from the outdoor wedding. There is a picture of me in my Nick and Nora PJs, veil on, watching the weather report. There was hail.

        There was also: my dad didn’t come, our trumpet player had a heart attack, a small kitchen fire, ringbearer (our pet rabbit) got sick so my husband put the ring box in his pocket – nice bulge in every picture, the band didn’t rehearse the song my husband composed for our first dance (it was really bad), I didn’t get a picture with my mom, didn’t like my hairdo, and my husband and I both had to go into the hospital afterwards for IVs because of the stomach bug someone gave us at the rehearsal dinner.

        But through that, it was still pretty cool.

  • I wish I’d seen this post back when we were planning our wedding. I feel your pain like you wouldn’t believe and reading this would’ve given me the feeling that I wasn’t alone in feeling like there was never enough money to get ths things I really wanted.

    Like the photobooth? I wanted to have that, since I have an obsession with photobooth photos, but had to give it up due to budgeting.

    It only makes it ten times worse when other people have this absurd expectation of what you should have at your wedding. “Oh, so where are you going to get your hair and make up done? You should go here and do this!” I remember feeling awful because I sat there and thought, “Okay well to save money I was going to have my sister do my hair and make-up.” but couldn’t say it to my friends at the time because it was like a big group all against me, like clearly the norm was to do it their way.

    It was made even worse when my husband’s mother didn’t like our initial idea for the wedding and started to tell people it was a “picnic” and very casual. Don’t get me wrong, Matt and the groomsmen didn’t wear tuxes, but we also didn’t want people showing up in a t-shirt and shorts either!

    Money is such a hard thing when it comes to planning your wedding; things add up SO quickly and before you know if, you’re having to let go of certain things that you really wanted at your wedding. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s fine, because I know that isn’t what you want to here. If anything, I’m just here to let you know it’s totally okay to feel how you feel and really just to let it all out… and that I totally understand how you feel. :)

    • meg

      Oh god. Budget and people’s lowered expectations are THE WORST. I remember when I told people dress was “sassy semi-formal” and I got told, “Well, I think you should re-phrase that. you don’t want people to think it’s dressy, considering.” And I was like, “IT IS MOTHER F*CKING DRESSY. IT’S MY GODD*MNED WEDDING.” Or the time I said we were having at in a Parks & Rec venue, and I got asked if we were decorating with crepe paper streamers and balloons (slams head on table).

      In the end though, people that made those comments had their come-to-Jesus moment at the wedding (Awkward for the Jews? Kidding.) When they gushed over how it was the best wedding ever. Best wedding ever with no crepe paper and with dressy dresses, thank you very much.

      • Jo from Reno

        First of all, I saw your wedding grad post, and your parks and rec venue rocked. Second of all, sassy dresses in the park just LOOK good – so you should wear them, “considering” all the sunshine and green grass and blue skies. I am glad you had that everyone come to Jesus moment.. I hope to have one too! I actually have had it. I WANT my parks and rec wedding.. this was a big decision point for us, when we got there.. we had strayed to hotels, and reception sites with packages, etc. , and then a month ago, my fiance just looked at me, and said “but there are no trees at any of those places.” And we went back to our list, and “Tree” was number one on our venue wish list… and by Jove, I have trees. Mission accomplished. We are both happy, and on our wedding day, I think that happiness will just come through – I mean, this is a common theme of the Graduate Posts that I have stalked, by the way. At the end of the day, you are MARRIED. Woohoo!

      • Sarah

        Hahahaha. This is exactly what is going on with me at the moment. My future MIL keeps telling her friends our wedding will be extremely informal, as if to manage their expectations, and it’s driving me nutso. Yes, we are getting married in a state park, with the reception in a rustic chic venue nearby, but in all other regards it will be very similar to many of the more country clubby weddings she’s attended. There will be gin and tonics aplenty, flowers, linens, food, dancing and so on. For some reason the “rustic” aspect has her thinking we’re going to sit there under florescent lights and wear jeans.

      • Morgan

        I had a come to Jesus with my mother in the planning phase when she questioned something (me wearing a long strapless fancy white dress maybe?), implying it was too formal for my wedding, which, after all, “wasn’t a *wedding*wedding.” Like, it wasn’t a REAL wedding because it didn’t involve dinner or something. That was a fun talk.

  • Sarajane

    Lauren, this is exactly what I was feeling when I was in the trenches. I got married in August 2009 and was planning it in Atlanta with the wedding in Madison, WI. The photobooth was a major hangup for me and I tried to DIY it, but it wasn’t very well thought out since I had many other more important things to cover (like taking my finals and changing the caterer 2 weeks before the wedding, ugh). I still tried but there was definitely a section off to the side of the reception area entrance that looked completely random – a large old-fashioned chalkboard that my mom had transported from MN and a card table with tablecloth. Neither seemed to have a function, but it was the skeleton for my DIY photobooth. Nobody cared or made any comments about how random it was, I told the photographer to really try and take photos of the guests at the cocktail hour, and then let it go (like I should have long before).

    Logistics can kill you mentally. The things I wish I had done: at least looked into how much a Day of Coordinator costs, bought more extension cords, taken more people up on their offers to help. Keep things SIMPLE. Really. Too many details made me crazy and often were not appreciated or even noticed. The wedding blog world had me convinced otherwise, but I could have had just as much fun (and less stress) with fewer of the details.

    • meg

      Less details, more extention cords. That’s pretty much my motto.

  • Renee

    I could not agree more. I moved to a new city to be with my fiance and am now unemployed. I have no option of saving for our wedding since I’m spending my savings on less romantic things like groceries and car insurance. Luckily he has a job and we have lovely, generous parents, but it’s hard to be completely unable to contribute to my own wedding. Or get everyone the awesome Christmas presents I want to give them.

  • Sarah

    People keep saying “I’ve moved to a new city and don’t know anyone!”


    There has to be at least 2 of us SOMEWHERE… ::winks::

    ::big collective hug to everyone who’s lonely right now::

  • Sarah

    Indeed. Being underemployed right as the holidays hit and many of our wedding deposits are due has been really humbling. My fiance and I are paying for the wedding, and this means that he (being solvent) has had to write a lot of checks lately, which in turn stresses me out. Even though we agreed to this together and he is on board and mostly chipper about it all, I wish I could take on some of the burden. It’s also been a challenge reining in my impulse to buy a gazillion gifts for my bridesladies, to people who are hosting brunches and dinners for us. If I were making my usual income this would be one of my favorite parts of the whole shebang, but right now it just feels like an added pressure — getting my friends drunk and fed somehow doesn’t seem as adequate as making adorable welcome bags filled with local honey, wine and so on. I get that those little things aren’t the point of it all, it’s just hard to know where to draw the line.

  • Kathryn

    This post really hit home for me. I just got engaged two weeks before Thanksgiving, and soon after I sat down with my fiance to get real about our combined budget and figure out a wedding savings plan. Sure, we’ve shared a family-plan for our cell phones but have largely managed our own finances in the past. It was not a pretty conversation as we both realized that we had been living beyond our realistic means especially considering we have some other seriously large projects going on (home renovation, we have NO walls). This was harsh news with holidays on the horizon, and we have tried to drastically reduce our gift spending by being creative. But as someone pointed out, even crafting costs money. But at least now we have a team budget, and that is a big hurdle. The next one will be seeing if we can stick by it.

  • Lauren,

    You may not live in Seattle, but some of your APW sistas do (myself included). I’m sure there’d be a heap of ladies just waiting to craft and organize, set up and maybe even tear down for you…if you needed it. Like local, friendly, wedding elves just for you! I’m in!

  • Class of 1980

    From my older perspective, I think ya’ll are the unwitting victims of the layers and layers of extras being marketed for weddings nowadays.

    And I don’t know what to say to you about that. It’s not your fault that you are living at a time when prevailing standards emphasize “more stuff” and less “heart”. And then too, most of you are young adults at a time of serious economic crises where former expectations and current reality are colliding.

    I find all the comments to be a reflection of all this. Reality isn’t matching up with WIC marketing for hardly anyone on this forum! Yet, you tend to be more highly educated than the general population. If you are feeling the stress, imagine how less accomplished brides and grooms are feeling.

    I read trend predictions from a researcher named Gerald Celente, and he is actually predicting that we will see college students take to the streets in protest (hello Sixties!) over the bind they’re in from being highly educated with no prospects.

    Seeing where things are going, here’s my take on it all …

    What Meg said about only having time to do a few things WELL at her wedding is the truth about all entertaining I think. I have a circle of older friends with expensive houses who love to give parties – some very big parties. Even though most of them have the space, time, and money to do so, I am seeing a shift occur in their consciousness.

    Lately, they have been hosting smaller gatherings than before. It seems that every time this happens, everyone ends up raving about how much more fun it was. Everyone says it was so great to be able to really talk and pay attention . . . and we end up LAUGHING so much more at these smaller parties.

    How can it be that all the crowds and expense that was supposed to lead to FUN rarely works for us?

    APW talks about how elopements are sometimes the perfect answer to the stress of weddings and it’s true. But I have often wondered why there seems to only be a choice between elopements or large weddings.

    Why aren’t small “Family and Close Friends Only” weddings more popular? It could be like a fancy dinner party.

    Could this perhaps be one anecdote to wedding stress in today’s circumstances? Of course I don’t know if it’s the answer for any of you as individuals, because I don’t know enough about you. But it’s worth opening up for discussion.

    At the very least, paring things down to the essentials and doing the essentials VERY WELL is surely what is needed. That works for weddings large and small.

  • Abby C.

    Oh, ladies, thank you all for your posts and your wonderful comments. This post hit home for me so hard that I had to stop reading halfway through, and come back 24 hours later to re-read.

    I am too deep in the hard stuff right now to have anything wise to add. I just want to say, ladies, I’m here with you in spirit. We ain’t the only ones.

  • Anonymous

    Wedding spending is effed.

    When my fiance and I got engaged, we realized our folks might not be able to help us pay for our wedding. No big deal, love is all that matters, right? So we decided to save up $X and put our love-filled wedding together.

    Then we discovered the average wedding in our area costs more than 6 x $X.

    But then our folks heroically stepped in with a showing of generosity neither of us could have anticipated, and all of a sudden we could feed our guests dinner, buy a(n albeit cheap) wedding gown, etc. Joy joy joy!

    Except that this stuff is **effing expensive**.

    Never in my life has someone tried to sell me a roast chicken breast for $100 (with a straight face) until now. And I look at that and I break down in tears. Because at once I feel royally ripped-off and also like I need more money. How can I want more money??? So many people have saved and given generously! Our budget is way bigger than before! But we can’t even afford effing chicken breast.

    Which is to say “I feel you.”

  • good on ya lauren.
    I was determined to give everyone I knew a thoughtfully handmade little thingamajig, as part of wedding-related “austerity measures,” but I’m just not a terribly austere kind of person. and time ran out. and there are still several months during which I can fully martyr myself to the cause, wearing holey old underpants and eating ramen.

    … so I spent a little money on my loved ones, dammit! not a ton. but enough, and for meaningful things. and it felt good.

    do what you gotta’ do, girl.

  • cynthia

    I’m a bit behind on my reading, but I completely understand your post. How can I be greatful for what I have, while accepting what I can’t have, and at the same time, not hyperventilate when I look at what we’re spending to celebrate our marriage, which will happen with or without all the expense, and not be a cheap, stingy friend and relative? Tough to reach the “zen” moments when the budget spreadsheet is open. Good luck.

  • Alexandra

    My mom’s being generous with ~60 people worth of catering, but I’d love to have a photo booth, and I don’t know if we can afford it, or if there is even venue space for a DIY one; I’m thinking not.
    Reading the comments reassured me that my friends will get up to enough shenanigans on the dance floor! (Although my more introvert, less dancing friends might get silly in a booth.)
    GL, Lauren and all planners. It’s a bit dizzying sometimes. ;p