Wednesday, September 24, 2008

we have a celebrant!

Yes, we have found someone and booked them and I can heave a sigh of relief.

(Note to non-Australian readers: apparently this is not a common term in other countries? It refers to a civil celebrant, which means someone who is licensed by the State to carry out marrriage ceremonies.)

I don't want to name her because I feel a bit odd about including identifying details in this blog (plus, what if she ends up being awful? I won't be able to complain in case she sees this!) but hopefully I will be able to recommend her highly after the ceremony. I immediately clicked with her on the phone. After my unfortunate experiences with other celebrants, I realised that being snubbed by these people was the best possible thing, because it meant that I saw immediately that these were not people I wanted associated with my wedding. When I told this lady that I was interested in a quote, and that I had had a hard time with other celebrants, she was shocked and sympathetic, and immediately talked me through her prices. We arranged to meet at her house on the 22nd, and I dutifully wrote "Tuesday 22nd" next to her address on my notebook.

Of course, you might have noticed that the 22nd was Monday. I didn't! And so we rocked up at 7:30 on Tuesday evening to be met at the door by a surprised lady in her dressing-gown.

She was very nice about it, went and changed and sat and talked to us for nearly two hours. We talked about all the things that were important to us, the kind of wedding we wanted to have and the kind of people we were, and we really clicked with her. We were planning to meet with a couple of other people but we were so happy we decided (through silent eye-talking) to sign up with her right away.

Her prices were around the same mark as the other quotes we had been getting, but when I mentioned that we didn't want a rehearsal, she offered to take some money off. We were really grateful for that-- we'd talked to her about being on a budget, and she was very understanding. I even talked about not feeling comfortable with the ideology of weddings and over-consumption, and she agreed.

It was really exciting talking about the ceremony and the vows. I look at a fair amount of so-called 'wedding porn' on the internet, but I hardly ever see anything about the ceremony. It's all about the 'details': the letterpress invitations, the gorgeous red shoes, the origami centrepieces. And while all of these things are nice, it was good to talk about what we're actually doing all of this for. It's starting to feel very real, and I can't wait.

So the venue and the celebrant are both booked, which makes me feel pretty good! I don't think there's anything else which urgently needs attention, so we can relax (well, concentrate on the massive amounts of artwork we're supposed to be working on) until later in the year at least.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I just read an article in the New York Times about 'party peer pressure'. I found this really interesting, because it's about the way we think about 'events' and how we plan them. Coming-of-age events like bar and bat mitzvahs, quinceaƱeras and 16th/18th/21st birthday parties are becoming frighteningly elaborate. The author of the article blames her tension over her son's bar mitzvah over "tension between following custom and putting one’s stamp of individuality on the affair" and her desire, "subtly, of course... to outshine everyone else." But I think there's more to it than that, and it's captured in this quote from a doctoral student:

Patricia Arend, one of Professor Schor’s students, is writing her doctoral dissertation on women’s fantasies about weddings and how consumer desire works. One reason for the high cost (the national average is $28,704, according to the Wedding Report, a research firm Web site), she said, is that “the wedding industry has been extremely successful in inserting shopping into the wedding ritual.”

For example, for some, making an outing of looking for a wedding dress is now as much a part of the tradition as the engagement ring and bridal shower. Women will go to a high-end wedding boutique with their mothers and friends to try on dresses, with the intention of buying a less expensive one somewhere else, Ms. Arend said.

“But then you try on a really nice dress with the fine material and craftsmanship,” she said. “and the salespeople say, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to spend this for the most important day of your life?’ ” And suddenly the bride is paying two or three times more for a dress than she intended to.

“As more and more of these things become normalized, it’s harder to resist them,” she said.

These events, which exist because they mark and celebrate important moments in life, are strange and difficult to plan because they are once-in-a-lifetime events. (Hopefully.) People don't want to 'get it wrong', but unfortunately the people they turn to are the people who make their living feeding off this anxiety. So we hear things like, "It's worth it to make your day perfect!" and "You'll regret it if you don't splash out!"

Of course, I don't think that everyone who makes their money from weddings is awful. People want pretty dresses and shoes and suits and flowers, and it's fine that someone provides that. But there is a whole industry devoted to making you feel utterly inadequate. It amazes me that there is even one wedding magazine, let alone hundreds. Seriously, is the world of weddings so fast-paced? Are we making constant strides in napkin technology? No, those magazines exist to make money but selling advertising space, and so it is in their best interests to expand the influence of the Wedding over every part of your life. Forget ordering a cake and buying cute shoes: you should be getting regular facial scrubs at the skin-care clinic for the six months leading up to the wedding! Experimenting with different kinds of self-tanners! Investigating different make-up looks! Don't talk to your partner about which kind of cake you like best: these are the hottest cakes right now! These are the colours you should use! ARGH!

This post has turned into a rant and I'm not sure where I started. Oh yeah, anxiety!

I have noticed that many women on wedding forums ask questions about tradition. Can we have a chocolate cake instead of a white one, or do we have to have both? How much of our budget should we spend on flowers? Since I don't particularly want to set myself up as yet another authority, I want to stress that this is my opinion. (But seriously, I am right and everyone else is wrong.)

Your wedding consists of two parts: a ceremony, where you marry your partner, and then a reception, which is a party to celebrate this. In neither of these do you have to have any particular traditions, except those required by law. There is no "right" way to have a wedding: there are only things that seem right/fun/meaningful to you, and things that don't.

For example, I am going to ask my dad to walk me up the aisle. Yeah, I know it's a tradition rooted in patriarchy. I don't really care. It means something to me that my dad will have a special part in my wedding. My mum will be a big part of the preparations with me; I want him to be involved, too.

I won't be having my wedding in a church, because that has no meaning for me. I won't be wearing a veil over my face, because that doesn't seem like much fun. We won't fill the house with flowers, because it's not important to us. We won't be doing a first dance, because we can't imagine anything more excruciatingly awkward.

Don't listen to people who tell you that you "need" their product or service for your wedding. And don't think that because this is a momentous, sacred, beautiful occasion that you can't say, "Nah, I don't want to pay that."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

why i need a stranger at my wedding

You might have noticed that we have budgeted $400 for a celebrant. If you live in the US, you might be thinking, That's crazy! It only costs $5 and a stick of gum to get married in my state, and anyone can perform the ceremony! Well, lucky you. Unfortunately, in Western Australia, we prefer people to live in sin, and even just getting married at the registry office costs $340. That's why they call it the Sexy State! (Not really.)

Anyway, you are required by law to have a proper marriage celebrant and it seems that the absolute lowest price you will pay is $350, so we budgeted for $400 because we want to get someone we like. Today I have been calling celebrants to get quotes, and it sucks.

It turns out that it is a gigantic faux pas to call a celebrant, introduce yourself and say that you are calling around for quotes. I have been greeted with a freezing silence by all but one of the people I have called. When I explained that we don't want a rehearsal, one of the women was openly disdainful. On another call, the woman took the opportunity to tell me that the most important part of the wedding was the ceremony (really? I thought it was mostly just an excuse to eat cake) and that the money wasn't really important (when ever someone says this, they are trying to sell you something) and the most important thing was that we found a very professional person and "if you pay peanuts, you may end up with a monkey!"

To which I should have replied, "Holy shit, really? I can get a monkey to perform the ceremony? Fucking sweet!"

Anyway, I wanted to write about this because I was surprised at my reaction. I felt awkward and embarassed. I know that I have a right to ask for quotes. I know that treating a wedding as though it's so sacred that money doesn't matter is ridiculous, and that you can be very serious about your relationship without being obsessively serious about your wedding. But it still made me feel like crap to be talked to as though I was kind of trashy to be considering the issue of money. And that makes me angry.

The thing is, I've been to a few weddings, and I've almost always found the celebrant to be a bit rubbish. They're soppy and false, or they crack jokes, or they talk about themselves, or they forget the names of the people they're marrying (seriously). So I'm not necessarily expecting the ceremony to be the most wonderful moment of my life. It will be special no matter what, because it is the moment when I marry the person I love. But it's not necessarily going to that much more special because I paid $600 for someone to rehearse the wedding beforehand, or because we get to sign the certificate with gold-plated pens in chairs with matching organza ribbons.

Now that I think about it, though, it really would be more special with a monkey.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

my engagement ring

Engagement ring

This is my engagement ring. It belonged to my maternal grandmother, and was made around 1930. It has one diamond and several diamantes in the setting. I am surprised to find myself with a diamond ring on my finger, because I've never been interested in diamonds. When Robert started hinting that he wanted some help finding a ring, I looked around a lot, but nothing seemed right. I asked my mum if she had any old family rings, and when she showed me this one, I immediately knew it was the right one for me. Robert paid for it to be resized and fixed (there was a microscopic break in the setting) by a lovely local jeweller and the entire thing cost $60.

Buying a diamond ring new from a jewellery store is an incredibly wasteful way to spend money. Most large jewellers don't make their own stock: they travel around the world picking up cheap stock and then come back to their stores and sell it an outrageously inflated prices (often more than 300%). Once it has been sold once, it is instantly worth much less. If you really want a diamond ring, consider buying second-hand, from a reputable pawn shop or antique dealer. You might also want to consider the source of the diamonds you're buying, and whether they've been ethically mined. Buying second-hand means that you are not adding to the environmental cost of mining, as well.

There are also lab-made diamonds which are indistinguishable from mined ones. These are much, much cheaper, and for that reason have a stigma attached to them. The stigma attached to lab-made diamonds, like the status accorded to diamonds in the first place, is based on price and conspicuous consumption, not use-value.

But there's no law that states that you must have a diamond engagement ring. You can find some really beautiful rings on Etsy, with beautiful stones and interesting designs. Best of all, you're buying directly from the creator.

How about a unakite stone, like the ring above (from TreAnelli)? Or garnet? Or moonstone?

Or you might decide not to have both an engagement and a wedding ring, but one ring which serves for both. You might not even want a stone in your ring, but it doesn't have to be boring.

This lovebirds ring from Shere Design is so adorable!

If this baby octopus ring (from the incredible VeraMeat) had been available when I was looking around for rings, this could very well have been The One. I LOVE this!

This is a ring that you'll be wearing for the rest of our life, so of course you want it to be the right one. But beautiful doesn't have to mean expensive, and expensive definitely doesn't always mean beautiful. Ignore what's expected of you and find something that you love.

Monday, September 8, 2008

budget item: food

Okay, so I probably should have been more clear when I put down $100 for food. I got quite a few gentle comments asking if I planned to provide dinner for 8 or crackers for 80. We will not be having a sit-down dinner but a buffet, and we will be asking people to help out.

Asking people to help with your wedding seems to be a touchy subject in some circles. (Actually, when it comes to discussing your wedding on the internet, everything seems to be a touchy subject. I am scared of wedding forums! Even the "cool" ones like Indiebride's Kvetch seem to be minefields of drama and judgement.) We're not going to be putting "Bring a plate!" on the invitations. But a lot of our friends and family have offered to help, and we're accepting that help gladly. We'd much rather have friends bring cupcakes and curry puffs and fruit than have them buy us wedding presents. It's much more practical, it costs them less, and it's also really special to me that our wedding will be the product of so many people who love us. I was really inspired by this lovely potluck wedding featured in Offbeat Bride. The idea that our close friends won't just be turning up and watching, but will be an integral part of the process, makes me happy.

So yes, there won't be a "theme" to our food, and it's all be piled up on a big table for people to pick at, and there will be not enough of some stuff and too much of other stuff. People will probably be eating off paper plates with plastic cutlery (although I haven't cleared this with my mum yet; I might be pushing it too far). But everyone will have enough to eat; the food will be delicious; it'll be fun and casual and relaxed; and no-one will be going into debt over it.

Actually, the nicest wedding food I ever had was at a little wedding where there was no sit-down dinner or buffet, just a (seemingly never-ending) stream of finger food. I ate sushi and spring rolls and samosas until I was grateful I'd worn a skirt with an elastic waist! It was delicious, completely satisfying and so much fun. I've been to other weddings where I've sat at the last table looking enviously at the other people being served, eating, and finishing their meals before the staff even got to our table. The food is always 'safe' (meat, fish or bland vegetarian) and made en masse so it's always fairly average. A sit-down dinner just isn't worth the money, in my opinion.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

budget breakdown

Okay, on the weekend Robert (Grug) and I went over the budget for our wedding. While my parents have offered to pay for the alcohol (a huge relief, since this would be the most expensive part of the whole thing), we are trying to pay for everything else ourselves. Here is how we broke it down:

Venue: $200
Celebrant: $400
Jessica's clothes: $200
Robert's clothes: $200
Rings: $100
Decorations: $50
Food: $100
Invitations: $65
Wiggle room: $185

TOTAL: $1500

Our wedding is in late April, so we have 15 fortnights (we are both paid fortnightly) to save up. We added the wiggle room because a) it made it a nice, neat amount and b) we want to be prepared for surprises. We both have debt which we are paying off, and we are determined not to let this wedding add to our debt. So, from now on, we are each putting $50 a fortnight into our wedding fund. This may sound like a laughably small amount, but as most of our spare income goes into paying off our debts, it's the most that we can spare. If we get some extra money from other sources, we'll put it in there too. (That sounds rather sinister, like we are running numbers in our neighbourhood. I just mean money for Christmas or from selling comics.)

We have an extra incentive to stay inside our budget (and undercut it wherever possible) as we will be using whatever is left over for a little honeymoon. If it's just $150 left over, we'll get a nice hotel room for the night; if we have $400, we'll have a few nights in a bed and breakfast.

I'll post on each of the budget items over time, but this is essentially the plan we're following. Please tell me it's not crazy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

venue = booked!

Well, I just booked the venue for the ceremony. This feels very real all of a sudden!

We're having the ceremony at my old University. Since I now work for them, we get the venue at half price. It's still $200, which feels steep, but it also really feels like the right place to have it. We were considering public parks, some of which would have been free, but we wouldn't have been able to stop people having a barbeque or a game of football next to us. And this particular location is one that is special to me. I spent many hours there, usually reading alone. It's my favourite place on campus: it's quiet, shaded by trees, and it feels a little like an outdoor cathedral. Since we're having the reception/party at my parents' house, I'm happy to spend a little on the ceremony venue. I really want to be standing outside, under trees.

Monday, September 1, 2008

um, a wedding blog?

This feels weird. I am not the kind of person who writes a wedding blog.

I've never dreamed of a big, white wedding. I've never sighed over diamond rings. I've never clipped pictures out of magazines for the future.

Now, I'm engaged, though, I need to plan a wedding. And it's kind of hard! There are so many people telling you what you need to do and buy and plan. And a lot of them want you to pay them money. My fiance and I don't have a lot of money, and neither do our parents. We'll be paying for most of this ourselves, and so (of course) I've turned to the Internet for help. I've been looking around for wedding blogs to read, but almost all of them are so crazy! Even the ones who talk about budgeting and doing it for a reasonable price say things like, "We saved so much money having the invitations printed instead of getting a calligrapher! And I got my dress on sale for $7,000 so I saved $3,000!"

Um, apart from the alcohol, I'd like to do the whole thing for $1,500. Am I crazy to think that this is a pretty large amount of money to spend on what is essentially a party?

So I've started a blog. Partly because it helps me to write about things. Partly because I hope people will give me feedback and help and ideas. And partly because I want there to be one more place on the net that doesn't encourage the idea that a wedding without hand-dyed linen napkins is no wedding at all.