Sweet Moments During Deployments: Planning a Wedding Over Skype

Last week, we had several conversations about making and owning our life choices. Lauren talked about grappling with her choice not to have children. Clare talked about choosing to take in their tiny nieces in their first year of marriage. I talked about choosing to work for myself. So we thought that this week we’d talk about the things you can’t plan for… how wedding planning and marriage can make you come face-to-face with the fact that you’re not actually in charge. We’re starting with a lovely post about wedding planning during a deployment; it is both deeply personal and truly universal.

Deployed fiance overseas skype wedding planning

I want you to try to read the following without laughing out loud: my life is very stressful right now, and to try to relieve stress, I have started planning a wedding.

I’m guessing that, at the very least, your eyebrows went up.

After all, part of the reason we’re all here on APW is that we’ve found that wedding planning is not the simple experience we thought it would be, and that even though we’re all very strong-minded individuals, we wanted some affirmation that we are not crazy for not wanting to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single day. Subverting the expectations is stressful. Planning a wedding, under the best of circumstances, is stressful. Nonetheless, the wedding planning is my stress release.

Let me explain. A year and a half ago, I would have told you that I expected to be single (or, at least, not find The One) until I was into my thirties. That was how it worked for my parents and for many of the people with whom they associated when I was little. My mother gave me books like A Wrinkle In Time, Alanna, Dealing with Dragons—the heroine went off and saved the world, and weddings rarely figured in. I had not planned my wedding out, and to be frank, the idea of settling down with someone was something I wanted in a very abstract way.

I’ll spare you the story of how my fiancé and I met, save to say that it was akin to being struck by lightning (or, as we both put it later, like being smacked across the face by an emotional 2×4). It was charmed, it was romantic, it was heady and sickeningly cute: from the night we worked up the courage to tell each other how we felt, we did not spend a night apart—until he deployed.

Yes, about eight months after we started dating, his deployment began. During the training, before he shipped out of the country, we talked about eloping on his four-day pass, maybe flying my parents out so we could all be together, then doing an engagement (and ceremony and reception) when he got back.

We decided not to do that, but since then we’ve been quasi-engaged, and a lack of a bended-knee proposal and an engagement ring hasn’t stopped us from discussing houses, gardens, travel, child care, careers, and wedding planning, all conversations which have happened over Skype, either at 5AM my time (oh, godddd) or 5AM his time (likewise).

I would spare you the details of the deployment, but I’m not sure I should. Deployment is happening all around you; it is affecting thousands of families. There’s a new term now, “geographically single parent,” to describe raising children while a husband or wife is deployed.

Deployment is neither easy nor especially pleasant. It is sleep deprivation, it is worry, it is helpless tears of disappointment and frustration and fear on the day that you realize you need to take a pregnancy test and he’s gone on mission and out of contact. It is crying at four in the morning and feeling that, despite the fact that everyone said, “call anytime,” they probably didn’t mean it. There are moments every day when you feel incredibly alone, when the tears start welling up and you duck your head down and hope no one will notice. There are horrible feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and resentment.

A wedding, on the other hand, is a beacon. It is a symbol of being together once more, of knowing that distance and stress did not win. It is a time to be celebrated and enfolded in love. My parents are ecstatic, and my fiancé’s mother has been so warm and welcoming and excited that it brings tears to my eyes. We have both been blessed with families that had small, DIY weddings on limited budgets, who do not expect extravagance from us.

In fact, given that and the fact that both of my parents are ministers and perform weddings regularly, I thought that I knew the ins and outs of them. I thought that I wanted a simple, elegant wedding, and that I could eliminate the over-the-top bits and… well, wave a magic wand, and voila! Wedding. Oh, how very wrong I was.

I had seen the now-famous infographic from last year on what the average wedding cost in 2010—$28,000, give or take—and I thought I was going to skip all of that very easily. My conscious thoughts were that I did not want to do what my friends’ friends had done to them: throw a wedding and make everyone else spend a lot of money. My friends are, mostly, starving grad students, and spending $300 on a bridesmaid dress and $100 on shoes and $150 on hair and $50 on a manicure—well, it’s really not going to happen, because it can’t happen.

I set a budget of $5,000 for myself, not talking to my fiancé because he was just the littlest bit stressed and I felt like I was turning into the trope of the wedding-obsessed girlfriend. I doodled reception centerpieces at work and pored over Pinterest in the evenings. I collected photos of things I loved. I looked at budget sites, which advised things like a wedding brunch instead of dinner, or a winter wedding instead of a summer wedding. It all seemed very reasonable.

After a few forays into online research, however, I found myself googling things like, “Is it okay for bridesmaids not to wear matching dresses?” and, “Is it okay not to have an open bar?” I read articles that told me that the guests were coming to see the bride and the cake, and I could absolutely not skimp on the cake—everyone would be Disappointed. One of my good friends laughed in my face when I told him my budget of $5,000, and I remembered my father saying, “Oh, no, $10,000 is not a strange amount to spend for a wedding.” You all know the sort of pictures and articles I was seeing. It was pervasive, and, in short, I doubted.

Two things happened at once. First, I brought the idea of a wedding budget up to my fiancé, asking him slyly how much he wanted to spend and then asking him how much he thought the average wedding cost, adding, “and no Googling!” To the former, he answered, “Whatever it takes to make it a memorable day,” and to the latter, “Um. Eight thousand dollars?”

“Twenty-eight thousand, my love.”

“Twenty-eight—wait, what? How did they—what—how?” Bless him.

I shyly floated my idea of $5,000, and he said, positively, “I’m sure when we sit down and plan it out we’ll be able to make the day be anything we want it to be, and $5,000 sounds very reasonable.” Again, bless him. He’s amazing. So that was the first thing.

The second thing that happened was that I found this site. I found a post that said, in short, that my guests will not be there for the cake or the sit-down dinner, that I do not owe them a four-course meal because they flew into town—that my guests are coming to celebrate the wedding. When I found that, I sat at my desk with tears pouring down my face. It was exactly the affirmation I needed.

Since then we’ve talked times of year, we’ve talked themes and foods and how we feel about a big cake (or a replica of the cake from Portal, for all you geeks on APW), and I’ve tormented him by reminding him that he won’t get to see the wedding dress until the Day Of. We’ve laughed, we’ve shared some righteous indignation about the Cost of Things, and—the best part—I’ve seen him smile when he thinks about it all. It’s part and parcel of our house-decorating and child-rearing discussions, and it brings some joy into our life every day.

Is there a take-away from this story? Well, there are three main ones that I think apply to every couple out there:

  1. Talk to each other; communication is the lifeline, even when it is very pixilated and the sound is wonky
  2. It is totally okay to need affirmation that your budget and wedding ideas are valid
  3. Wedding planning can actually be a fun thing, a positive thing—not a downer
  4. Okay, I said three, but this one is important, too! If you know someone whose SO or family member is deployed, give them a hug. Or a call. Tell them you’ve been thinking of them. They may start crying, but it’s okay. It will mean the world to them.

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos from the APW Flickr Pool

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  • I remember thinking when I saw that infographic: $28,000, YIKES! Unfortunately, things are not much better here in Spain. The average is around 18,000€, but when you factor in the average salary (much, much lower than in the US) you realize it is a lot of money. In my area in particular, I cannot for the life of me find any place where the lunch or dinner is less than 100€ per plate. (Without VAT). And it’s more like 150€-200€, actually, when you factor in drinks.
    The worst part is that everything is a fake, since guests are expected to give a monetary gift that covers at least their plate. Invitations often include a bank account number where you can deposit the money (ugh). Which often results in guests groaning when they have a wedding.
    So what are we doing to avoid all this? We’re getting married on our own terms. Self catering the wedding in our patio or a social hall. We’ve already gotten a few raised eyebrows, but honestly, neither of us cares.

    I like what your fiancé said in response to how much he wanted to spend. Mine said something very similar! We both just want to get married and have a good time with all our friends & family. That’s more than enough, I think!

    • PA

      *waves* Author here. I really admire your choice to buck convention on that one – whenever I get raised eyebrows, I try to think to myself, “I hope there’s someone here at this wedding who is going to remember this when they plan their own wedding, and I hope it’ll be that much easier for them to do their own thing!”

      Good luck with planning (and cooking)! Maybe we’ll see a picture post here on APW?

      • Thanks! I try to think the same thing. And good luck to you too with the planning. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you both. Hopefully everything will turn out perfectly!

      • Katie

        YES! I thought the same thing at my wedding. It was the first wedding my younger cousins were attending (ages 9 and 12), and I just kept thinking that maybe by this being their first wedding they’d grow up to realize there are no “rights” or “wrongs” to weddings. It actually brought me a lot of joy to think of them sharing in it and my non-traditional wedding being a part of their wedding knowledge for years to come!

  • You can definitely have a nice wedding for a lot cheaper. I got lucky in that I live in a small town (usually hard since I’m a city gal), so everything was much more affordable (think $14 per plate sit-down dinner with midwest portions). I did do a winter wedding, and it was beautiful. It’s about finding the right people to work with you.

    Oh, and I love your goal for bridesmaids. I had the exact same goal! The one wedding I was in was expensive, and it was far cheaper than what I’ve heard from my friends (I just had to get my dress and shoes — I did my own hair). My bridesmaids had mismatched dresses (both grey and with similar styles, but not the same). Our groomsmen just wore grey suits. I let our ushers wear what they wanted, which ended up being dress blues for one. I found not micromanaging my folks helped quite a bit, but I did have to be prepared for a little stress. My two attendants didn’t find their dresses until roughly two weeks before the wedding.

    I love your approach, and know that it can definitely be done! Also, thank you to both you and your fiance for his service and your dedication. Best wishes!

    • PA


      It’s all about the people you choose to listen to. The people at work who are shocked about the lack of X, Y, or Z? Not listening to them. We are truly blessed with low-key family, which makes it all much easier.

      I am trying to find my wedding zen around things like, “what do you mean, you don’t have a dress yet?” Deep breaths!

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, and for the best wishes! They mean a lot!

      • I totally agree with both of these comments. I had the same goal for my bridesmaids. Three of them really appreciated it and one was a little concerned about a lack of professional hair, makeup, etc. At the end of the day it all worked out and we had a beautiful wedding. Ignoring those people with pre-set conceptions of how your wedding should be is really important!

  • First: YES, PORTAL CAKE! We played the second one together this year and talk about a marriage-builder.

    Second: I have been right where you are. Especially this, “It is crying at four in the morning and feeling that, despite the fact that everyone said, “call anytime,” they probably didn’t mean it.” Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of people on our side when we went through our first deployment together and it was awful, though I so hope it’s not as awful for you. I can totally understand how planning your wedding is a symbolic gesture that gives you hope for the future and his homecoming. Stick by the things that work for you, lady. :)
    Oh, and if you really want someone to talk to anytime, you have my full permission to email me at any hour. (routinelyyours@gmail.com) I will give you long-distance hugs. I don’t think advice really helps in these situations but story-swapping will at least make you feel less alone so if you can, search for some kind of military support group in your area. There are military families EVERYWHERE and all of them can relate to you.

    I hope your wedding day is exactly what you need it to be and you better come back and share it with us!

    • PA

      The couple who tests together, stays together! (Also, the portal proposal video? So very sweet!)

      I’ve cultivated a few friendships with military wives and girlfriends in the area, and I’ve been endlessly (pleasantly) surprised by the community response. When I’m with him and he’s in uniform, people stop to thank him, buy our gas at the gas station, all sorts of things that make me tear up.

      It’s such a paradoxically difficult time – it’s the sort of test that can strengthen a relationship because it’s precisely the sort of test for which you want your S.O. at your side…and it’s difficult because they’re away. It’s difficult to describe, but I think you understand what I’m saying!

      And a picture post will certainly be submitted once we collect all the photos from people!

  • Nicole

    Thank you for this. Deployments suck. When my partner leaves next month, I’ll be living alone in a house we haven’t even had time to furnish yet. I’ve threatened to get a dog, paint a mural on our kitchen wall, and, most recently, plan our wedding. He just smiles, and says, “Do what you’ve got to do.” When we first discussed marriage, I swore up and down that I would never be stuck planning a wedding on my own while he was deployed. The idea of choosing colors and DIYing decorations while he was over there seemed like the stupidest thing in the world. But you know what? Deployments are really, really hard. And if planning this wedding keeps me sane…gives me something positive to work towards,then I’m doing it. I don’t have a ring. I don’t have family or friends nearby. I have only the prospect of a year of tough times and the surety that marriage is the right choice for me and my partner. So I will plan. And he will deploy. And when he gets back, it will be a celebration of the best kind.

    I’m sending good thoughts your way. Stay strong, and keep your fiance smiling over there.

    • Girl, get that dog. I can’t tell you how many times I used my dog as a living kleenex when I didn’t have family or friends available. She was the best thing in my world when my now-husband deployed (and that’s why she’s spoiled rotten but…that’s another story).

    • PA

      *waves* Author here!

      One thing we’ve done a couple of times is get home decorating magazines and cut out pictures of things we like, paste them into little murals with explanations (“I don’t like this rug, but look at that fireplace!”), slip them into those plastic binder folders, and mail them to each other. It helps us plan and get on the same page.

      Also, if you have a smartphone, you can download a little countdown app and put it on the main page. I’ve really enjoyed watching that number shrink. It gives me tiny “goals” by looking forward to the 9s – 240 to 239, 220 to 219, etc. I go between the 9s on the deployment counter, the leave counter, and our monthly anniversary date. It’s a pretty manageable thing because it’s just a few days each time!

      I wish you so much luck, and a gorgeous wedding. Send an email if you want to share stories, have an e-hug, or even a Skype wave – pkanastos at gmail dot com.

      • Countdown app/widget/thing. YES.

  • Richelle

    May your wedding day be a brilliant and beautiful beacon for you both. With hugs and admiration from me

    • PA

      I tried to reply, but it’s not showing up! Sadness.

      In any event – thank you so, so much!

  • Amanda

    I hope you can use your wedding planning to focus on togetherness in the future instead of stress right now. An inexpensive wedding is possible – we managed ours for a bit under $5000 – and in a big city! A place that lets you bring in your own food and alcohol (or use the catering of your choice) is a great help. And saying no to extras that don’t mean anything to you is a great stress and money saver. Best of luck to you!

    • PA

      Thanks! Always good to hear from someone who’s DONE it. We’ve been a bit stymied by local law (the laws have changed to be very, very restrictive as to who can bring food to events), but have found an amazing local caterer who does stellar buffet food! Whee!

  • I totally understand what you mean about the wedding lessening the stress. I can’t begin to comprehend your particular situation, but I’m currently in the home stretch of a 14-month cross-country separation. We got engaged shortly after he moved away and planning a wedding and life together has definitely lessened the sadness and difficulty of being apart. Having such a tangible thing to look forward to and make spreadsheets for (spreadsheets are such a great anti-stress tool!) has been a big optimism-booster.

    But how grateful are we for the internet?? My fiance often says “Can you imagine how different our communication would be without the internet?” It’s so true. Thank you, internet, for making long distance relationships so much easier.

    • PA

      “Planning a wedding and life together has definitely lessened the sadness and difficulty of being apart.” This! Also, the spreadsheets. You can usually tell how stressed I am by how many lists I have in my purse on little scraps of paper.

      And definitely a big thank you to Skype! It is wonderful to be able to see his face.

      Good luck!

  • Kelsey

    Oh, yes. As a military member and military wife, I TOTALLY understand about deployment and all the feelings you mentioned. I’m so glad wedding planning gives you both a bright spot and opportunity to dream and plan your future together. Congrats on finding each other, for staying strong through deployment, and for staying practical throughout wedding planning! BRAVO!

    • PA

      It’s really nice to know that you aren’t entirely alone in your feelings! Makes me feel a bit awed, actually – so many people going through this, and they carry on very bravely!

      Thanks! *e-hugs*

  • Emilie

    When I opened APW this morning, I paused and thought, “Wait, did I send in something about deployments and weddings? Wait, there’s more of us?” Sending you lots of long distance hugs, and hopes for a homecoming that is soon. For the moments when you wonder if you can take someone up on the “call me anytime,” please feel free to email whenever you need to vent, worry, or talk about wedding pretty because if you talk about anything else, you might not make it out the door in the morning. During the deployment, I moved away from post and my family for grad school, and it was hard trying to balance life, the deployment, and a small support system.

    My husband just got back from his first deployment, and planning our wedding truly kept us sane, both in the months before he left, and in the time he was gone (I have never seen a man so excited to try cake). A wedding *is* a beacon, “It is a symbol of being together once more, of knowing that distance and stress did not win. It is a time to be celebrated and enfolded in love.” Wishing that you both may feel enfolded in love, today and so many days in the future. Big hugs from me to you.

    • Gabi

      Holy cow, Emilie, we literally have the same life. I moved across the country for grad school right after my now fiance enlisted. He’ll be deploying at the end of the year, and we’re planning our wedding for when he gets back and I’m done with school. It is so, so, so comforting to know that someone else made the same hard decision I did. It makes me feel a little less crazy.

      • Jenni

        Count me in as another girl going to grad school while her boyfriend is deployed. I’m with you Gabi, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only crazy one. ;-) Unfortunately this deployment is so removed from my grad school friends’ experiences, and I don’t know anyone at the base (which is across the country …), so my support system is pretty small. I cherish the few who let me know they care … and the reminder from PA that there is a beacon at the end of all this darkness.

    • PA

      It seems there are indeed a lot of us lurking! (I do a lot of lurking about that, it’s such a conversation changer, it can be quite awkward.)

      What is your email? You can send me one at pkanastos at gmail. I’ve certainly been doing a lot of morning skype about wedding pretty – and a lot of “choosing happy.” In short, I sit there sniffling and then realize, “Oh, this day is going to be so awful if I’m miserable.” Circular, but it works!

      Thank you so much! I hope to see a picture post of your wedding!

      • Cassandra

        “and a lot of “choosing happy””

        My partner and I are living in different countries for grad school these days (and with no definite end in sight) – and it’s all about choosing to be happy. I find if I get up and make the conscious choice that I’m going to have a good day, it does wonders for my ability to take a deep breath and pick myself up.

    • My Marine was THRILLED to be given the task of dealing with our caterer. Cake mattered less to us, but he put off actually booking the caterer until he could be there in person to taste everything. I must have heard “FREE barbecue!!” a million times while he was deployed!


    The cake is a lie

    • PA

      Assume the part escort submission position, or you will miss the party.

    • What, the cake is a lie? NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

    • I, personally, am hoping the Portal Replica Cake is a cardboard cut-out. You could make it as fancy as you wanted, if its a lie…

      I love how this post has brought out so many women sharing their stories and contact details- I hope Meg is super proud of the community space that’s been created here.

  • Sara C.

    “A wedding is a beacon” – so wise, and so true! Thank you for being the voice for us that enjoy wedding planning as a stress-relief and beacon of hope! Over the past year -12 months since our engagement – I’ve had 3 uncles pass away unexpectedly, my older brother start going through a divorce while assuming the full-time care of his three young children (she left him and them), and my mom call me to tell me that family added to her job (public school teacher at one of the bottom 5% schools in the country) was causing her to think she was suffering through depression . That added to the fact that I’m a grad student feeling terribly guilty that I’m hours away studying instead of closer to home and helping my mom, and all I really want for my wedding is a time of joy, hope, and renewal (if that’s possible!) for my family.

    • PA

      You get the biggest batch of e-hugs, e-cookies, and e-tea! I am so impressed that you are coping with so much, planning, and working through graduate school as well!

      Best of luck to you!!

    • carrie

      It will be a day of joy for you all, and you all deserve it. Much love to you and yours! :-)

      • Sara C.

        Thank you, Carrie & PA :-)

  • Red

    First of all… HUGS!!!!! Thank YOU for your scarifices while your loved one is deployed. And I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his service to our country.

    My boyfriend is a Marine and while I met him after he got out of the service, just thinking about his two deployments (knowing he is home safe and sound) make me nervous so I can only imagine what it’s like to be in the moment. It’s partially because of him that I took an active part in volunteering with Soliders’ Angels… I get a soldier’s name each week and write them a letter. It’s not much, but it’s something within my control that I can do to make sure I am thanking as many deployed soldiers as I can, so that they know their efforts are appreciated. I wish more people did thank those who serve our country.

    And honey, I feel for you and will be thinking of you. May he return home soon and safe! The Portal cake sounds awesome and I wish you the best for creating the wedding that is right for you two as a couple, whatever the budget ends up being.

    • PA

      And thank you! And your boyfriend. Being with them through re-integration, and helping build a strong community – that is hugely important.

      Don’t ever feel like, “it’s not much” – letters from home, knowing someone is thinking of them and hoping they are safe, that’s worth so much. I’ve seen faces as they unpack care packages and open letters!

      Thank you so much for your kind wishes! I’ll be passing them along to him!

  • Thank you for such a wonderful post. Although neither my partner nor I have ever been in the military, we did spend at least two months each year for the first three years we were together in different countries, which was incredibly difficult– so I can only imagine how hard it must be to have your partner in another country, AND in the military, AND for much longer than two months. I think it is wonderful, that you are treating this wedding- and wedding planning- as something to bring you closer together, even while you are so far apart.

    Also? The ‘national average cost’ of a wedding is a cost put out by the wedding industry, so you should in no way feel any pressure by that $28,000 figure. (I would recommend the book ‘One Perfect Day’ by Rebecca Mead for more about this.) $5,000 is plenty to throw one hell of a party, and one that is truly meaningful to you and your partner. We did ours for right around $2,000, and while we live in the midwest (more affordable), cut out everything we ddin’t care about, had it at a social hall and self-catered, I didn’t miss any of the things we decided not to have at our wedding and loved what we did. It was perfect, and yours will be as well. Congratulations, and best wishes.

    • PA

      Thank you! I’ve been sat down and told not to tell myself the stories of, “but other people have it so much worse,” and it’s good advice! Starting a relationship with long-distance takes patience and courage!

      Good to know about that infographic! I see their game… (And thanks for the book recommendation!) We’re stymied by some unexpected complications (local law turns out to be quite restrictive on who can bring food to events, no matter the venue type), but things have been falling into place beautifully so far! *crosses fingers*

  • Hope – that’s what gets you through deployment and what gets you through a wedding. We didn’t plan our wedding until he was on his last shore tour and was getting out, but it was hope that carried us through. Hope tells you in the sixth week of no communications that he still loves you and is missing you just as much as you miss him. Hope tells you that your mother will still love you if you don’t have gold chargers in the plate settings. From the other side of deployments and weddings, I can tell you that hope realized is a stronger, more resilient version of yourself who saw what she wanted and made it happen.

    • PA

      Oh, dear, now I’m crying at my desk. But it’s good crying – thank you so much!

  • carrie

    So much love and joy headed your way and to all our folks with deployed partners. My friend and one of my bridesmaids has a husband in the Marines and she is my hero for her strength. All of you are! Thanks for such a great post and I am SO glad to hear from brides, “Wedding planning can actually be a fun thing, a positive thing—not a downer” because YES! it’s hard to see it when you’re in the thick of it, but it all ends up worth it. Good luck and congrats!

    • PA

      Thank you! Give your friend a hug from me!

  • Katharine

    OMG! The Portal cake!! YES!!

    And Skype, I hear you. There’s a giant hug heading your way through the electrons. Thank you for this beautiful post. You are not alone!

    • PA

      So pretty! I’m thinking of slipping, “Still Alive” or the turret opera into the playlist and seeing if anyone notices!

      Thank you so much!

  • “Whatever it takes to make it a memorable day” sounds like the perfect budget.

  • Claire

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    A couple things stood out for me. First, good for you for having the important conversations and moving forward with planning your lives together – bended-knee proposal and engagement ring not required for that! My husband and I also decided to get married and started planning our lives together long before we had a ring or a proposal story (he decided to make my ring, so that took a long time) and it made me mad when people acted like a ring is a prerequisite for communication and life planning.

    Secondly, it is totally possible to make your wedding be what you need it to be and still stay within your budget. And of course it will be memorable, it’s your wedding! We set a budget of $6,000 for our wedding (including international travel costs for some family) and I don’t think that detracted from it in anyway. From a practical perspective, the following things helped us keep the cost low:
    – purchasing your own drinks and/or alcohol (hello, Costco). Limiting the beverages you serve.
    – finding reception venues that let you choose your own caterer or bring in your own food. We just used the party room of a friend’s condo – $150 bucks.
    – finding food options outside the conventional wedding caterers. Our favorite Mediterranean restaurant brought in food buffet-style for THOUSANDS less than any wedding caterer would have charged.

    Best wishes!

    • PA

      Ohhh, the “…ring?” comments are so eyeroll-worthy. I commented earlier (on another comment) to say, “I just hope that someone at this wedding remembers things and feels a bit more free to plan their wedding however they want.” What we expect from weddings is what we see – I really like that blogs like OffbeatBride and APW are putting real weddings out there for people to see!

      A party room at a condo, that would be great! We’ve booked the church, but no regrets there – it’s beautiful, and I’ve found churches to be very hidden-fee-free! And yes, we found a local restaurant that caters things like company lunches; they have some very interesting options that should be excellent. Thank you for the encouragement! I had a friend laugh in my face at the budget, so it’s nice to hear people say, “I did it! It can be done!”

  • k

    You can totally have a fabulous wedding on $5K! That was our budget for our wedding last August, in Seattle, which is not an inexpensive city, and in the end we spent maybe $150 over. By far the largest expense category was buying thank you gifts for everyone who helped out. It was kind of shocking to me how excited people were to help. May the time pass quickly for you until your love comes back, and may you have the wedding of your dreams.

    • PA

      Ha! I am loving the success stories and affirmation. You guys are awesome :)

      People do seem really excited, and I’m trying to come up with a good way to thank them! Right now I’m thinking a hotel suite and gift cards for dinner so they can unwind and relaaaaax after the wedding.

  • KateM

    So first thank you, the sacrifices you and your family are making for the rest of us go unnoticed so often and the generic although true “we support the troops” doesn’t go very far in terms of emotional comfort. My FH did three tours before we met. He got out, but still would wake both of us up with nightmares. He can’t watch big firework displays, because it is too much like mortar fire. The day I was bringing him home to meet my family, one of the guys in his unit was killed. It was a tremendous wake up call to me to be marrying into a military family and as a culture, how different it was from the way I grew up. I am thankful everyday that I met him after deployments, because I don’t know that I would have had the strength especially in the early stages of our relationship. I applaud your outlook and optimism. I know everything will come together for you and you will have an amazing day!

    • PA

      It is a VERY distinct culture, and what’s interesting is watching the patterns of it emerge independently in small communities that aren’t on bases. I wish you and your husband the best as you heal together, and thank you so much for your affirmation and good wishes! *hugs* Email if you want an e-shoulder to cry on (or someone vent at, or just talk to). You can get to my contact info through my blog.

      • Amy

        Hey there – My FH had just returned from his second deployment and was nearing the end of his enlistment when we met. For the first year or two he seemed fine and once I asked him point blank how he managed to be okay when so many others had trouble with reintegration. He just shrugged and said “I don’t know.” But then…. the PTSD became apparent. Temper problems, yelling, getting nervous in crowds…. We have since learned that PTSD often gets worse the more time that passes (when left untreated). He has been seeing a therapist and it has made a huge difference. We both HIGHLY recommend Somatic Experiencing Therapy for dealing with PTSD issues. It is really fast and incredibly effective. Just wanted to put that out there for all the military families – it can be a great tool. And this style of therapy is specifically designed to help heal trauma – it is totally different than talk therapy – and has been really, really effective for us.

  • There was a recent BBC programme about a choir for military wives. A song was composed for them using phrases taken from letters to their husbands/partners. Very moving song and great programme – here is the song:


    • PA

      I am so excited to watch this when I get home!

  • I am absolutely dreading the first night we don’t sleep together, and I keep putting it off and finding ways to avoid it. I have no idea how I’d handle anything like a deployment. Bless you and your fiancé. My prayers are with you both.

    • PA

      Thank you for your prayers – they mean the world to us. All I can say regarding the nights apart is to make sure you have an action plan for things you like to do (paint your nails? Scroll through pinterest? Go for a run?) and make your night an awesome, relaxing one.

  • Noemi

    I don’t have time to read all the comments now, but I certainly will later. My husband is currently in boot camp for the Marine Corps, and this is easily the most difficult thing I have ever had to endure. I know it is very hard for him and it is hard for me, too. The only communication we are allowed right now are letters- no phone calls or skype or emails. When he moves on to his next parts of training, I will be able to email and call, which will be wonderful compared to waiting days for letters. I have considered writing about my experiences, and I am so glad that the author wrote about deployment. I know I should try to mentally prepare myself for the eventuality of a deployment, but I’d rather pretend that it won’t happen. I am so proud of my husband, but most of the time I feel that life sucks. I can’t wait to see him again after his graduation in March.

    • PA

      Author here! Oh, I wish you so much luck with boot camp – that’s an experience I haven’t had to go through. A tip for you – if you had a horrible day but are feeling better, lead with the, “I’m feeling alright now, but…” in case the Skype cuts out. *nods emphatically *

      Time apart lets you cultivate the little parts of your life that make you smile. For me, some of those things are cooking new and interesting things (and taking awful food photography of the process), martial arts, and Pinterest. Focusing on the moments and the bright points of every day have helped me get through this. I *highly* recommend working out a lot as well, it will get good chemicals going in your brain and give you a stress release.

      Um. Can’t think of much else right now, but shoot me an email if you want to talk? (You can get to my blog from here, leave a comment or send an email from there!)

    • Linda

      Basic training was awful…and my heart’s with you, because I remember running down to the mailbox every day to check for something – just anything – and hanging onto my phone for dear life in hopes of getting one of his 2 minute phone “I’mokayIloveyouandmissyou” calls. It will get better once he moves onto his next part of training…still hard, but it’s amazing how good it feels to be able to call your hubby whenever you want.

  • Kathryn

    Although my fiance got out of the Marines in June 2010, he’s on assignment 500 miles away from me for work. Planning a wedding remotely is tough. I’m with you!! *Virtual hug*

    • PA

      *virtual hug also * I wish you awesome Skype time and some excellent letters!

  • Thank you for this. :) My husband left for his deployment less than three months after our wedding, but I can absolutely relate to your thoughts. And yes, despite pixelation and wonky sound, I cannot imagine how we would have done that year without Skype. Keep on keeping your head up and looking forward to that wonderful wedding day!

  • Shoot. This just really humbled me: in having been totally ungrateful for living walking distance from my fiance for most of our engagement, and for all the days I groaned and wished the wedding-planning would justbeoverNOW. Thanks for the dose of perspective. You’re going to have a really incredible wedding.

    • PA

      Wedding planning can be stressful, no matter where you are! Thanks for your good wishes!

  • Thank you for this post! I love what you said about deployment happening all around. My husband is almost halfway through his 1st deployment, and it has been very difficult. I don’t live on or near an Army post, so I’m surrounded by people living “normal” lives. Sometimes I feel like my very real struggles are very invisible to those around me.

    I wish you and your soldier nothing but love and happiness!*

    • I feel you, man! My husband’s a Marine stationed in Austin (WTF, right?), and I live in Denver, so his most recent deployment, which was my first experience with it, was very similar. I have military friends around here, but none of the women whose guys were with mine were nearby. Facebook helped a lot, surprisingly. I was part of a group of women from all over Texas and (sort of) the country whose men were deployed together, and we talked to each other regularly. It ended up being a safe place for us to vent our frustrations/fears/various emotions to people we knew would understand. I highly recommend it. And. I promise your struggles aren’t invisible to everyone. If all else fails, I’m here, we’re here on APW!!

    • PA

      I empathize – so much! I’m not on a post, either, and I think people forget a lot (it’s a conversation ender for one thing, so I don’t bring it up too often). Sigh. I wish you so much luck – and like Madeline said, we’re here on APW!

  • I hate how “tacky” this always sounds, but whatever. My life. My first husband was military and I’ve been there-done that. Three deployments and a myriad of other things broke us (but I often think we were broken to begin with). Deployments, regardless, suck. I remember those times vividly, and I remember the friends who suffered just as well. I am still in contact with many of them and I still get teary-eyed when their husbands finally come home. So this is me sending you a cyber hug. I know how much you can need it.

    Our budget was also $5k – though we kept it as “$5k for OUR contribution” and this included our rings & attire, etc. We totally nailed it. We also had a killer negotiator for our venue & family who wanted to help. When all was said & done, ours was probably around $8k. But we held firm to OUR budget and OUR money and seriously? Our wedding was (a) more gorgeous & (b) more fun than the $20k wedding we went to a month beforehand. It’s not about the money, it’s about what you do with it, girlfriend. And I’m so happy you can get affirmation of this very fact.

    Happy planning – and I hope the last bits of his deployment (if he is still gone) fly by <3

    • PA

      Thank you for the cyber hugs! They are MUCH appreciated.

      Yeah, we’ve been doing some of the, “wait, no, not feasible – budget!” thing, but strangely, far less than I expected. I try to repeat to myself every day, “We could have this in a gymnasium with formica tables and it would be JUST FINE.”

      Thanks again!

  • Paige

    I know this totally wasn’t the point of this post, but I too was given Dealing with Dragons as a young girl and LOVE it (and the rest of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, yes, still love them at 27 years old). No one else seems to have ever heard of them, so I got so excited when I saw you mention them.

    Cimorene would have totally fit in around APW — she’s a very practical lady who was fine without a prince (she turned all the silly ones away).

    • Teagan

      that was my thoughts too. I wonder sometimes if my Mum gave them to me deliberately to make me a independent minded woman.

    • PA

      I love those books so much! I may have to go find them on kindle… (where I may just have done a re-read of the Alanna books)

  • I totally relate to the idea of wedding planning as stress release (though my situation pales in comparison to yours). We got engaged in April, a couple of weekends after I finished student teaching. To become a teacher, I had to quit a decent job with no way of knowing if I’d get hired the next school year. We lived on my husband’s grad school stipend while I sent off resumes. Spending the whole summer not knowing whether I’d find a teaching job was very stressful, and gathering ideas, looking at wedding blogs, making lists, making phone calls, and checking things off lists made me feel useful and productive. It all worked out (I ended up getting hired one week before the school year started), but I’m so glad I had wedding planning to get me through the months of waiting.

    • PA

      Two people living off of one grad school stipend is pretty incredible! It’s so good to hear about people’s wedding planning being a bright point, and a happiness!

  • MDBethann

    I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that the wedding is a beacon. While I am lucky enough to have my fiance at home with me every day, I have some exes who are military and deployed while we were dating so I know the feeling – finding anything you can to give you something positive in the future to look towards is the right thing to do and I’m glad that yours is your wedding day. I wish you both all the luck and happiness in the world and a wonderful celebration of your commitment and dedication to one another.

    I agree that wedding planning doesn’t have to be stressful. If you know what you want, what you can realistically do (and afford), and take the time to plan, it can be low stress – it has been a stress relief for me at times this fall when there were issues with my grandmother and stress at work. People complain about their guest lists, but I found sketching out the seating chart for my reception to be extremely relaxing on several occasions (despite the site’s WIC mentality, the Knot’s seating chart tool is incredibly helpful).

    I’ve also kept myself from stressing by knowing my limits – I remind myself that I am not crafty nor do I live where I’m getting married; therefore I must rely on the talents of small business people who listen to what we like, giving us a simple but (hopefully) elegant and helping us stay pretty close to our budget (which was lower than what we saved up, so we have buffer room for small cost overruns).

    • PA

      Thank you so much for your good wishes!

      Good to know about the seating chart tool (although, like you, I treat the site with extreme caution)!

      I think it’s really great that you’re working with small businesses for your wedding. It could be tempting to go with larger companies during a long-distrance planning process, and I bet the people running those local businesses are over the moon about helping you out! (That’s one of the things about working with small businesses, I think – it’s so personal that they get genuinely happy and excited about your wedding!)

  • Jen

    Just have to say – heck yes Dealing with Dragons! That was one of my favorites!

  • loren

    I love the way you explained a wedding as “a beacon.” I hadn’t realized it, but I use wedding planning to de-stress too, even though I’m usually stressed out by…wedding planning! But sometimes it helps to step back from whatever I’m doing and focus on all of those great parts you described. Thank you for articulating it so well.

    • PA

      You’re welcome – thank you for taking the time to comment!

  • I always love when there’s a post involving the military! And this one just really hit home for me. My husband and I spent plenty of time talking about our upcoming wedding during his deployment last year. And it’s interesting how hearing someone else describe the way it feels to be the one back home during a deployment brings it all rushing back. Thank you for writing this post, PA! It was sort of cathartic for me, and I always appreciate being reminded that I’m not alone in the military-significant-other situation!

    • PA

      You’re welcome – and thank YOU for stepping out of the woodwork to say hello! There haven’t been many people I’ve had to empathize with during this process, and it’s incredibly comforting to hear that there are people who understand!


  • Linda

    Wow. I love this post.

    My husband is in the Army, and we’ve probably spent around 30 days together in the past 9 months so far – which is actually a whole lot of time in the military world and makes me a lucky girl compared to most army wives I know…and what’s more – we’ve paid thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars in airfare, rental cars, and hotel rooms to make most of those days together even happen. It has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, to say the least. We ended up eloping during the last months of his training after finding out that he could deploy before ever coming home to visit. Luckily, we had both of our mothers with us, and it was truly the most romantic and magical day of my life.

    This paragraph got me, right in the heart:
    “Deployment… is sleep deprivation, it is worry, it is helpless tears of disappointment and frustration… It is crying at four in the morning and feeling that, despite the fact that everyone said, “call anytime,” they probably didn’t mean it. There are moments every day when you feel incredibly alone, when the tears start welling up and you duck your head down and hope no one will notice.”

    From one military loved one to another – thank you. Thank you for the reminder that I have not been alone, that I’m not the only one who has been breaking down and picking myself back up every day since our soldiers have been gone – and then promptly chugging down wedding blogs and pins to give me something to look forward to.

    Read more: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/01/wedding-planning-with-a-deployed-fiance/#ixzz1jmI1va9G

    • PA

      You’re welcome. And thank YOU for taking the time to comment and let me know I’M not alone. It means the world! *HUGE e-hug*

  • This post rang so true. Sometimes it does seem that planning for the future together is what makes a long distance relationship work. I am a geographically single wife, fortunately not through deployment, but just general visa dependent -living in different countries-waiting for papers to come through kind of way. I’m glad you’ve found more people in your situation and support for the estrangement, I wish I knew people in my city that I could talk to or hang out or have coffee with and complain about how hard it gets sometimes. You are making the right choices, and planning a wedding to celebrate the union of two people who love each other is time very well spent!

    • PA

      *e-hugs* I wish you the best while you wait – waiting is NOT easy. Email if you need!

  • Kaiti

    I loved reading this post and comments, simply to see that there are so many others out there doing the same thing. My fiance isn’t deployed yet, but he’s in flight school 1300 miles away. We’ve been separated since June of 2011, with 13 weeks of it being unable to communicate, and man oh man has it been rough. Since our engagement a month ago, however, this wedding planning has become a safe haven and a source of joy in our lives. I didn’t quite realize how to phrase it or why it was not stressing us out and why it really did mean so much to us…but you said it perfect: it IS a beacon of hope. We’ve had to spend so much of our lives apart with his training and getting ready in the past few years and finally, we actually get to be together. For good! (Minus the future inevitable deployments.)

    He’s not big into planning or all the wedding hype, but when we sit down to Skype and we talk about it…we both light up, not because of the wedding. Because of the marriage that this is all leading to and the life we finally get to lead together as a team.

    So good to see all the others out there in similar positions, supporting and loving one another…can’t wait to read more from you!

  • Kamille

    I just read this post as it was linked in the post from today. I can’t believe I missed it as I read this blog just about every day and I am in a very similar situation – only I’ve been the deployed one. Last year, it was him (we’re dual military). And now my deployment is over (finally) but we’re still separated by over 6,000 miles as I’m actually stationed in Germany.

    Anyway…all I really wanted to say was how much I love your description of wedding planning as a beacon. Even if sometimes the details get stressful, reading this reminded me that there is that point in the future where we are going to be together again (and married! yay!)

  • Alma

    Wow. I nearly cried reading your post. You very accurately described the feelings I had when my fiance (then, boyfriend) was deployed in Iraq a few years ago. He left 5 months after we started dating and it was just as difficult as you described. Now, there are no plans for deployment, but I am absolutely terrified that he will be called in for a deployment with little notice and we will have to cancel the wedding and change it to a court wedding. Fortunately, we’ve talked it out and if we really needed to have a court wedding and have a make-up reception when he came back, I would be okay. But it does make me really nervous that we’re not sure about a wedding date. Reading your story and APW in general has been helping my nerves lately and I just wanted to thank you for writing this. Unless you’ve been through this experience, no one can imagine what it’s like. Thanks again!