Do More With Less

I’ve gotten a few questions as to how S and I are managing to keep our wedding on budget, yet still have everything we wanted and more. I hate the phrase “do more with less,” but I feel like that’s what we’re doing. We’re getting more out of very little. So for those interested, here are some ways we’ve managed to use less funds, but still get married in a room with dinosaurs.

1. Use Friends – Our DJ works for the top DJing company in Orlando. Incidentally, he’s also one of my high school friends. This clearly came as an advantage, as I know he’ll do an amazing job, and he was able to work with our budget. Of course, not everyone has a DJ as a friend…but someone else may. For instance, I didn’t know a photographer, but my friend Valerie’s college roommate started her own wedding photography business a while back. We met with her, and instantly loved her. She gave us a great deal, and we, again, know she’ll do a fabulous job. See if friends have friends who are in the business. If not, look for recommendations. You’ve probably had a friend get married prior to your wedding. Ask who they used, and then contact that vendor. Saying you’ve seen them in action before may give you a bit of break.

2. Negotiate – We loved the Orlando Science Center as soon as we saw it, but unfortunately it was WAY out of our budget. Thankfully, they worked with us. The reception area is large enough for 300 people. Since we’re only planning on having around 130, we asked it if was possible to use half the room. Luckily, it was – and the price dropped almost half the amount. Talk with the vendor – they want your business and often they’ll work with you. Of course, don’t go in saying “I can’t pay that much; what will you do for me?” That won’t work. But be nice, discuss your budget, and see if things can be altered.

3. Shop Smart – Our florist, who’s absolutely lovely, was charging $15 a table for renting his vases ($5 a vase, and we’re having three vases on each table). Instead of doing that, we decided to buy our own vases. For $13, there was a lovely set of three at IKEA. $2 less! Even better? We found perfect vases at…The Dollar Tree. Seriously. $3 a table? Sign me up. IKEA and The Dollar Tree may sound cheap, but there are some amazing options at both places. Candles, candle holders, rocks for the bottom of vases…all there, all wonderful.

4. Cut the Unimportant – We’re having six cocktail tables set up during our cocktail hour. Each table will have a tablecloth. The caterer (who we’re going through for linens) asked if we wanted ribbons to tie around the base of the tables. The price? $9 a ribbon. We decided against it because, really, it’s unnecessary. There are many things we’ve discovered that are similar. Personalized server set? Chair ribbons? Chargers? Some people love these things, but we didn’t find them essential. So, we cut them. (Incidentally, I went to Michael’s a few days later and found similar ribbon on sale for a $1. Seriously. Guess who’s having table ribbons after all?)

5. Do It Yourself – I admit it, I’m not that crafty. My matron of honor hand-made all of her wedding invites. They were GORGEOUS, but I knew I wasn’t capable of that. (If you are, go crazy!) What am I capable of? Creating programs, menus, table settings, etc. I created a template on Word and am getting them printed at CopyMax. Quick and cheap. Also – for our invites, instead of buying another card for hotel information ($83), I found the same stationary paper and am making them myself. A friend even made all of her own centerpieces – they were beautiful!

6. Local Vs. Chains – We wanted to support our independent businesses and shop local. We did for the florist, caterer, photographer, DJ and more. But certain things, like invitations, we decided to get online. Using Weddingpaperdivas.com was amazing because their prices are quite low, and their stationary is beautiful (this is not an ad, honest). Sure, others will have the same invites I had, but I don’t really care. Also, for cake? A local baker wanted almost twice as much as Publix charges. And have you tried Publix cake? It’s amazing.

6. Exchange – I have a blog. It has some readers (hello!) I’ve actually offered exchanges to certain vendors. For instance, free ads or production promotions on my blog for a discount on their service. And it worked! It’s really a win-win situation because I’m getting what I want at a more affordable rate, and they’re getting publicity. See what you can do – it never hurts to ask.

7. Research, Research, Research – I had a list of around 30 photographers I wanted to check out. Thirty. It’s ridiculous how many options their are, but researching is the only way to find the vender that’s perfect for you. You’ll learn the norm for prices in your city that way, and get a larger array of options. I have several Excel spreadsheets for this.

Planning a wedding is hard. Staying budget-friendly is also hard. But, personally, I don’t want to go broke just for a giant party. By working with my vendors and researching a whole lot, I’ve found a way to ensure our wedding is gorgeous…and still pay my rent next month.

Freaking. Out.

There’s always one point in the semester when I feel like the world is exploding. The assignments pile up and I don’t see how I’m going to navigate through everything. Yet, I always do – I always survive, make it out unscarred. I’m always okay. I know this – but every semester, the moment comes and I panic.

I’m at that stage now. I thought i’d be able to handle my hefty load (work, grad school, volunteering, tutoring, wedding planning), but it turns out I can’t. I can’t breathe. It’s overwhelming, but I hate admitting defeat. I ended up not accepting the job as a tutor – it would take too much time away from school. I have two projects due this week, two wedding vender meetings, and loads of stress.

So I’m constantly reminding myself that it’ll be okay. I can see the stars outside my window right now. They’re bright, illuminating the night sky, reminding me that if they can shine through the clouds, I can move through the semester. And this feeling, too, shall pass.

A Name by Any Other Name

When I moved over to this blog, a friend asked why the domain is my full name when, in a year, I’ll have a new name. The answer, in short, is that I won’t. Well, not completely at least.

As a child, I was a bit embarrassed by my  last name. I was called “bald” or “baldy,” which was quite ironic, considering my hair was so large it rivaled the state of Texas. I awaited the day i’d be married and have the opportunity to have a different name.

And then, slowly, I started to like it. I liked it because it has deep roots built in Italy and New York. My name has a history, a past that some text books mention, and some relatives still nervously avoid. It sounds so Italian that when booking a hotel in Italy, the concierge assumed I was native. Somehow, the name became me.

So although I’m thrilled to be accepting Samir into my life, I’ve been a bit hesitant to give it up. Thankfully, Samir is understanding and we came up with a compromise (because that’s what couples do).

Upon getting married next year, I am changing my name. I’m going to take his last name not because it’s the thing to do, but because I want to do it. I want to be his family. But, I’m not giving up my last name. While I won’t go by it anymore, I’m keeping it as my pen name. I’ve built a life around it, and more importantly, a writing resume. I don’t want to change that. Whatever I have published in the future will be under my original last name.

And I think that’s the right thing to do. It’s a way to embrace my future, but not forget my past. A memento left over from an exciting journey. A piece to remind myself of who I was whenever I forget.

The Engagement Story

Did you know there are hundreds – I mean HUNDREDS – of different bridal magazines? One for every state/city/type of bride/hair color. I mean, seriously. How does one go through all of that?

They don’t. That’s why I’m writing in my blog.

And so, the engagement story:

A few weeks ago, Samir asked if I wanted to go down to Sarasota with him to visit his parents and (most importantly) relax by the beach. Of course I agreed. And so, this past Saturday we left.

The drive was really easy up until the very end when it a) started raining and b) turned into nonstop traffic. I was getting irritated. Samir was edgy. Truly, it was forming to be the perfect afternoon. But, he still wanted to bring me some place nice, since we had the time. So we decided on the marina.

It was really pretty there, and the weather cleared up. After walking around for a bit, we sat on a bench and watched the boats we’ll never own float across the water. After a while, he started saying nice things and I got suspicious (not because he never says kind things, but – you know). Then he stood up. Then I said the first stupid thing.

“Are you really doing this?” In my mind, I was excitedly asking him. Apparently, it didn’t come out that way.

So he got down on one knee. Stupid thing #2.

“You don’t have to kneel!” Again, in my mind I was saying that because the ground was hot and he was wearing shorts. And, of course, it did not come out that way.

But he continued anyway, offering pretty words, and finally put the ring on my finger. There was shaking and tears and hugs and so on. A few minutes later he had to make sure I said yes because, apparently, I didn’t really say anything. I’m obviously great under emotional situation.

It was perfect in so many ways. It was us together with no one else really around. No spectators besides random people a few benches down. No grand gestures. No cheesy lines. It was simple – and simple, to me, is always more.

Now, here’s what I didn’t know:

Two weeks prior, while I was in New York, he had gone to my parents’ house to ask my dad’s permission.  My dad excitedly called my mom, who told my aunt, who promptly called my cousin – who I was standing next to at the time. My cousin did an amazing job of covering things up, because I didn’t suspect a thing.

A week prior, he went to my parents’ house for the ring. Here’s the story behind the ring: it was, originally, my Great Aunt Faye’s from the 1930s. She was the first person in my family to marry outside of the religion. Obviously, I’m doing the same, so I really wanted that specific ring. I was emotionally attached to it, so really, it’s perfect.

A few days prior, he got it cleaned while I was at work. At that point, my family knew, his family knew. EVERYONE knew but me. But that’s the best, isn’t it?

And so – that’s the story. We’re both extremely excited – and really stunned by all of the messages we’ve received. (We love you all!) Now, I’m sorting through wedding magazines and trying to pick a venue so we can set a date. We’re thinking late September 2011. I’m thinking pumpkins.

This is going to be one exciting year.

Engaged!

I’m moody
And I really like to get my way
My hair is huge in the morning
And I can listen to show tunes for hours
I cry during some commercials
And I can’t even look at snakes
My eating habits are horrible
And I read more books for young adults than adults
Things have to be done a certain way
And my toes are quite crooked

But despite all this and more – he still asked me to marry him.

And of course I said yes.

More details later. 🙂