Elisabeth: It’s All Really Happening

Today you guys are in for a rare treat. It’s Intern Tuesday, times two. This morning we have Elisabeth, she of the conversion to Islam and super super long distance wedding planning, giving us her once a month long form update on her wedding. (She has a date! Congratulations to Elisabeth! Clang the bells of glee!) Then this afternoon we have Madeline here with a post so lovely it will make your eyes and heart fill. I’m in love with today. Let’s begin our mediation on distance.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Amin and I sat down to take the first step in planning a wedding: creating a guest list. This was the first wedding planning thing we ever did. We did it before we were even engaged. It was exciting. Look at all the people we love! Think what a great party this is going to be! That first day, we put down over 300 people, but over the intervening months we have, without too much bloodshed (yet), narrowed it down to something closer to 220, and we know that many of those will probably not be able to make it. So, from a mammoth list, we have entered the realm of sanity. (Don’t get me wrong. I know this is still a huge list. But Amin has more than a hundred family members, so there are limits to what we can chop off.)

We knew the next key task would be to find a venue, so once the engagement was official, that was where we started. And quickly discovered that there’s not so many places in London that accommodate more than two hundred people. Who knew. So while all through the Christmas holidays I trolled through wedding websites for venue options in London, we also cast the net a bit further afield and began to look at Dubai and Pakistan, where we hoped we could find something closer to our perfect imaginary wedding.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is too far, and politically tricky, for my American friends and family to be willing to brave it, plus we knew we were going to have a walimah there anyway (a sort of post-wedding-reception reception), in order to accommodate the Pakistani family who won’t be able to make it to the wedding proper (and to make sure we get to fully enjoy as many different cultural traditions as possible). Dubai turned out a) tough to arrange when nobody lived anywhere near it and b) almost as expensive as London if we went with the easy options. So after months and months of looking at options all over the world (we even checked out possible destination events in Greece) we ended up coming back around to London, which at least had the virtue of being geographically intermediate and a place where one of us at least had a home base.

Of course, the above paragraph simplifies what was actually a grueling months-long process where we seemed to come up with ideas again and again, only to find reasons they were impossible. Increasingly we talked about just inviting twenty people and doing something small, because it seemed like we wouldn’t be able to have the wedding that we wanted and also invite everyone that we wanted. But one of the very very first things I ever said was that I wanted to be able to have everybody there, so cutting the list more than we already had seemed like too much of a compromise, and I resisted vigorously. There must be some place in the world that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and can hold enough people for a rockin’ party.

And time dragged on and on, and I wrote a frustrated post for APW about how bloody hard it is to arrange anything through long distance, and three days after that post went up Amin left London for a twelve-day ten-country whirlwind business trip, and lost both his phones, and suddenly we weren’t communicating at ALL except through business-like email exchanges with vendors and venues in the UK.

But! Last week, by the grace of God, we finally managed to cross the invisible line between nebulous “planning” with nothing to show for it, despite the hours and hours and hours of angsty discussion, and “Holy crap, we’re actually going to throw a wedding!”

Yes, folks. We have a venue. Which means we also have a date! Which means that the wedding, such as it is, will happen!! Suddenly everything seems a lot more real. And by real, I mean exciting. Haha! Now I just have to hold on until the ninth of September, and, knock on wood, the wedding will happen, even if it features me, in jeans, serving peanut butter and jelly to a room full of irate guests with no chairs to sit on.

Ninth of September, ninth of September. Remember, remember, the ninth of September.

Of course, this decision also means that the wedding is happening in less than six months, and we have the following things to arrange:

  • Invitations
  • The ceremony!
  • Photography
  • Music
  • Clothing
  • Decorations
  • FOOD
  • Hotels for guests
  • All other relevant things I am currently forgetting about

Now my excitement takes on an edge of hysteria. But at least I have something concrete to hold on to. You have no idea what a relief it is (or maybe you do) to have found a date. At the very least, I can hold out the hope that, on the tenth of September, I will wake up and the wedding will be over and I can laugh and say, “Haha, wasn’t that fun? Just kidding, we are NEVER THROWING A PARTY AGAIN.”

It also makes it so much easier to make decisions. I’m not living in fantasy perfect-wedding-land, where I get married in a forest under the weeping willows on a carpet of four-leaf clovers. Nor are we getting married in a Tudor Palace. Nor (and this is a real tragedy) have I managed to convince Amin to throw a traditional Punjabi wedding and ride in on a horse, wielding a sword, to whisk me away from my family.

But, and here’s the (happy happy) kicker: it’s actually happening. Which somehow means I am free of the gluttony of choice that paralyzed me over the past months. This thing is real. And gosh darn it, even if I can’t have silk-wrapped hand-designed invitations personally delivered by pirates, at least the invitations will say the right thing: COME TO OUR PARTY. IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING.

Photo by: Studio Mathewes Photography

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  • Erica

    Woohoo! Such a relief! Congrats!

    Enjoy the next six months, because as stressful as they will be, it’s all for the purpose of bringing your loved ones from near and very far around you while you pledge your devotion to the man in your life. And that’s going to be wicked cool.

  • PA

    It’s happening!! *huge hugs*

    Um. That’s mostly all. Also, I remain amazed at your wedding planning fortitude. You are handling so much with such grace!

    September 9th, September 9th! *high fives*

  • Ake

    This is brilliant. CONGRATULATIONS! We got married in London too, with a similar sized guest list, and had the same problem of venues just not catering for that number of people…or the ones that did being like, “Yes, no problem, you can invite 200 people” followed by “and on our bargain deal that will only cost you *insert laughable sums of hard-earned money here*”

    So well done! Also, please don’t worry about the next six months. I mean, I know you are doing this long-distance and cross-culture which makes it really hard, but I really think that the logistics of date and venue are one of the hardest bits to sort, especially for a guestlist of that size. I personally found the following bits the hardest of wedding planning:

    * guest-list (painful)
    * finding a venue (as you said, how hard can it be? I honestly was happy to just have it in our local park or someone’s back garden, but the parks said “no go” and who has a back garden that big in London?!)
    * setting the date (shouldn’t be hard, but combining finding a venue with a date they can do, with a date your family can do, and bingo problemo)
    * choosing bridesmaids (but that’s a whole other story and an unnecessary one, as Meg and many others of the Bridal Brigade have demonstrated)

    I completely remember the sheer elation of setting a date so I’m thrilled for you. We were engaged for just over seven months, of which I think three or four were spent finding a venue and one was spent out of the country having other un-wedding-related adventures. Despite that, everything else was fine. Easy, almost.

    You’re going to be great.

    • Sarah O

      So what are these magical London venues that accommodate more-than-one-busload but don’t break the bank? The last I saw was £3500 for venue hire (exclusive of EVERYTHING else)…

  • faith

    Oh! The date! Yes, i know the difference and relief a date brings you. Congratulations!

  • Erin

    Yay, congratulations! Six months is fast, but sometimes better – fast forces you to be decisive and makes it easier to look forward to things, because they seem within reach instead of foreeeeever in the future.

    We were 13 weeks from engagement to wedding, and even then I found myself anxious to see the centerpieces, the church, the reception hall, far-flung friends and family. I was so darn EXCITED!

    Here’s hoping the rest starts to fall in place now that you have a date and venue!

  • Peabody_Bites

    What a huge relief to have a date and to make everything feel tangible. I found that once we had a date, the worst of the co-ordinating across three continents phase was over, because at least all the key people had committed to be present.

    Years ago I helped my mother plan and execute her DIY back garden, self catered (peeling >1000 quails eggs!) second wedding for 300 to my Pakistani step-father in London. I highly recommend asking for a great deal of help from Londoners (including all of us) because so much of London (like Pakistan) operates off personal relationships that it is amazing what can be achieved by tapping into the right seam.

    Its going to be fab.

  • DanEllie

    Congratulations! September 9th will be my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary and the 45th anniversary of their first date. May you have as much happiness as they have had :)

  • Natalie

    Oh wow, do I ever relate to this post. This is exactly what I went through, though my city choices weren’t quite so intercontinental. We have very dispersed family and friends, and we were living near none of them so I could go to grad school and we knew we were going to get married after I graduated and had no idea where we would live after that. Add to all that the fact that my brother was enlisting and I wanted to find a date when it would at least be a possibility that he could come and wouldn’t be deployed. Picking a city and a date was a doozy. Gluttony of choice is the perfect way to describe it! I planned at least five weddings in my head while trying to sort out the date. Once you have the when and the where it all gets so much easier!

  • Paranoid Libra

    Yay it’s really happening!

    For me that seems to becoming in waves. It happened with venue and date. Then when MY dress came. And now it’s really hit home with less than a month to go. Actually it hit full on last night in a benedryl induced comma dream. Dreamt it was our reception and we still didn’t figure out our first dance song.

    Holy crap to it really happening for all of us undergrads!

  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

    Yay, you have a date!! Thats awesome, and you have two huge items all taken care of! When you get all stressed just remember “You’re doing it right!”

  • daynya

    This is very exciting! When we *finally* nailed down the date and the venue, everything else became so much easier. I was suffering for months with how many options there were. But man, once a few big ones have been made, everything else seems much less complicated. People keep asking me now, “How’s wedding planning?”, and I say “Well, everything is mostly done.”. Huge lie, seriously. But it feels that way! The biggest stuff is done. Working on invitations and decorations now…seems like cake. Mmmm, cake. Best of luck, I hope your smaller decisions come with ease!

  • KatieBeth

    The last line of this post reminded me of my friends’ save-the-date cards featuring a lovely photo of them laughing with “We’re getting married! No, seriously. We are.” :-)

  • So happy for you! yay for finding a venue!

    Nail in the big things first — food, photography, and maybe music depending on what you want. We found that was easiest. Once we had the large pieces in place, I then had the luxury of time, even in 6 months, to figure out the smaller pieces. We did a glosite, so that made our invitations fairly simple (I designed them myself too — they weren’t my top priority, so simple worked fine for me). I locked in a few big things then slowly worked out stuff like playlists, the ceremony, etc over time. We mostly wrote our ceremony in the month before the wedding.

    You will figure it all out, and you will get it done. 6 months is actually a pretty long amount of time for everything except booking the food and photography. You can definitely get everything done in that time, and the key now is just finding folks available to work the day.

    Enjoy the process!

  • No to the traditional Punjabi wedding? That is sad. :(

    That’s awesome that you’ve got the date and the venue figured out though! Two big steps down. :D

  • Tegan

    Aw the rest is the EASY stuff! Congrats and good luck. And don’t knock the PBJ ;-)

  • Zeph

    Oh congratulations! Our wedding is the 2nd of September, so I completely understand the excitement/hysteria that now surrounds the planning. As stressful as it can be, enjoy it. There have been so many times when I will be stressing out over creating a beautiful reception space on a tight budget and then I will stop and imagine all my nearest and dearest occupying that space and filling it with laughter and conversation…and there is such an upwelling of joy and giddy anticipation.

  • Kaiti

    Yahooooo!! Congratulations!

  • Yay! It’s happening! You can totally do all that before September. We’re having a 14-month engagement, but all the big things were planned within the first 3 months. I’d start out with the big things (food, photographer, dress bc that usually takes a little while to get in) and then concentrate on the smaller tasks. You can do it!

  • Gloria

    Yay!! I know you can do it! My parents had a 3 1/2 month long engagement. It can totally be done. And be fabulous.

  • H

    oh man, the relief of having the venue/date is indescribable.

    Congratulations! Enjoy every moment that you can!!

  • Jen

    yay September 9th!! me too!!!!!! :)

    I have complete faith in you – you will pull off all of this planning stuff and have the best party ever!!!

    …I’ll be thinking of you on all of my planning journeys!

  • Zen

    Congratulations! Your wedding is gonna be super amazing, and also woohoo, weddings in September high five!