Category Archives: budget

if not caring is wrong, i don’t want to be right

This past weekend the beau dabbled in the fine art of flower-arranging. By which I mean: he took apart a bouquet of flowers from the farmer’s market and spent seven or eight minutes jamming the flowers into various vases on whim. Then he sat back and said, “These look pretty good.”

And they did.

Here’s all of the test vases together:

I mean, I may be biased, but I think that for the amount of effort that went into these, they look fucking awesome. Of course, the alluring morning light helps make them appear, uh, alluring.* But seriously. For having no theme, no specific flower type or color, no matching vases, and absolutely zero desire to take flower arranging seriously, somehow it all works.

Which makes me happy, because we’ll need a lot of these vases. About 70, to be exact. Our loose plan is as follows: We’ll have long eight-foot tables for dinner seating, and each table will need three centerpieces. We’ll use at least two or three vases per centerpiece, depending on size. Each centerpiece will be comprised of vases that contrast each other, whether it be in terms of tall/short, thick/thin, round/square, or a combination thereof. The final effect will be something along the lines of this:

Except that for the actual wedding, the vases will not be sitting atop a side table in my living room. Also, fun fact alert! The little glass “vase” in the photo above is actually an old oil and vinegar bottle I found inside the built-in ironing board closet in our house. End fun fact alert.

For the number of vases we need to fill, we’ll probably end up spending a grand total of $100 – $120 on flowers. Of course, the fact that we’re not doing any bouquets or boutonnieres helps keep the cost down. Yeah, I actually did just type that. Permit me to repeat it in boldface: We are not doing any bouquets or boutonnieres. I do not want a bouquet, either made of real flowers, found objects, or otherwise, because I am 1) batshit insane, 2) not actually a woman, or 3) all of the above. I don’t know why I’m not interested in bouquets, I’m just not. And if there’s anything other blogs have taught me, it’s to concentrate only on the wedding things you care about the most. This is why I spent roughly four days trying to figure out how to get custom fonts to display on our website, and a few minutes figuring out what to put on the tables. Hence, our poor man’s centerpieces above; born of a burning desire to decorate for the least amount of money and labor possible. The takeaway? You can do whatever the sam hill you want with your wedding. Trample The Rules and make your own! Damn the torpedos, and damn the man! Or something!

Speaking of rule-trampling, let me just say I am not wholeheartedly opposed to the idea of carrying a bouquet at my wedding, of course. I’ve heard some people say that their bouquet gave them something to do with their hands, which is fair enough. So I figure that if I decide at the last second that I need to distract my evil, nervous hands from doing evil, nervous things, I’ll pluck a few stems from a nearby vase and grasp them tightly in my sweaty fists until the ceremony begins. I am also not wholeheartedly opposed to the idea of boutonnieres for all the guys, because I think they would look nice. But I am too coarse and cheap to go to a florist, too afraid of DIY to make them, and whenever I go on Etsy and look at the alternative boutonniere options, my eyes sort of glaze over and I feel the overwhelming urge to click away, CLICK AWAY! So. Since they are near the bottom of my list and very likely to fall off any second, I am already assuming we won’t have them. Feel free to make fun of me heartily in the comments, for I’m certain our marriage will not survive our ignorance of these details.

What’s on your “do not care” list?

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* I was 20 minutes late to work yesterday because I decided that I absolutely had to take pictures of the vases right that very second. You’re welcome, internet.

in which i get all crazy-bride on you

Yesterday, Becca of A Los Angeles Love posted about wedding articles and the people who comment on them, specifically in reference to this wedding budget article on Jezebel.* Later on, my friend sent me a link to yet another subpar wedding budget article on Jez. If you haven’t read it (please do), what basically happens is that two women get together and make fun of stereotypically insane brides and their massively inflated budgets.

I read that article last night. And I got mad.

The ugly caricature of a bride is so utterly pervasive in our society. Television has a special way of exploiting the worst of the wedding industry for the purpose of our entertainment. And I understand why that is — who’s going to tune into a show about a normal couple balancing their budget and making rational decisions? But there’s something more at work here than just media.

What is up with the woman-bashing?

Yeah, you heard me. I said woman-bashing, because men are never implicated in this role. Oh, right, that’s because we’ve cajoled, manipulated, or deceived them into their reluctant walk down the aisle – or at least that’s what every beer commercial and sitcom implies. Ah, but that’s an argument for another time. Right now I’m focusing on common discourse about brides, and moreover, about women.

We’ve established guidelines for discussing what a woman chooses as her career, whether she chooses to have children, whether she chooses to stay at home. No, they are not always followed, but they are there, to remind people to respect the choices of others. But weddings? No. Weddings are the last frontier. Weddings are one place where lambasting women is the norm — is actively encouraged, even. Mention a wedding around the average person and their eyes reflexively start to roll. Their heads shake solemnly. “Those brides,” they smirk. “They are so crazy.”

Confession time: I used to do this, after I first got engaged. Many of my first posts made fun of the “typical bride,” caught up in a frenzied flurry of tradition and unnecessary consumption. But now, I’m just so, so over it. Maybe I’ve submerged myself so deeply in the blogs of actively awesome, actively sane people that the — I’m not going to say the B-word — MonsterBride image has become but a blip on my radar. In fact, I don’t feel like I’ve ever actually even met a MonsterBride in person, even though our mass media insinuates that I should be tripping over them at every turn.** I know they do exist, but it’s my understanding that they thrive only in their natural habitats; popular cultural evidence seems to suggest these are Kleinfeld’s, bridal expos, and Orange County, CA. Point being, MonsterBride feels like a tired myth gone completely awry. Why are we actively participating in perpetuating it?

This image is so entrenched in our culture that normal women — women whose values don’t align with MonsterBride’s — go through this process of initiation after getting engaged where they feel like they actively have to prove that they aren’t, themselves, a monster. I was all over this. There was a period of several months after our engagement when I overreached. I actively cornered people and tried to show them, hey! I’m OK! I’m getting flowers from the market! I don’t care about bouquets! I don’t want a white dress! Then I absolutely flipped out when my mother decided to email all the pictures from my dress-shop visits over Christmas to my entire extended family, because — OMG — there were pictures of me trying on ridiculously poufy, traditional dresses, and what if my family now thought that’s what I wanted? What if they thought I was one of those?

Is this perhaps what the women at Jezebel are going through? Are they simply trying to sever themselves from the myth of the insane bride? I don’t know, for I am not them. But this is what I do want to know: HOW is promoting the MonsterBride stereotype helpful in advancing the station of women? HOW have budgets become a ruler for evaluating a bride’s individual worth? Instead of wasting their time doing a self-congratulatory dance, these ladies should be at work examining why the stereotype exists, why the discrepancy in budgetary criticism exists, and how we should go about breaking these things down. For shame, Jez. For shame.

Let’s flip the fucking script. End this fucking nonsense. WE are the typical bride. Moreover, we are not just brides, we’re people. We are people planning a wedding. More or less with our partners.*** We have various goals, various budgets, and various options. We have our heads on straight and our eyes wide open. We are millions strong, and we count, too.

And we are awesome.

This is the only I will type this wretched word here, but: You know what happened to Bridezilla? We killed her. We murdered her and then we went to a bar, and we drank booze. Sweet, sweet booze.

Now, let’s stop talking about her.

Word.

***UPDATE*** Annnnnd Becca has just posted an email she sent to Jezebel (we are not the same person, I swear), in which she spells out her troubles with how Jez and the rest of mainstream media aren’t giving women and weddings a fair shake — and so much more eloquently than I have here.

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* For those unfamiliar: Jezebel is an online publication based out of New York that focuses on pop culture topics from a feminist standpoint.

** And that, because I have a vagina and all, I should be one.

*** Individual mileage may vary.

the other b-word

You guys? I kinda hate money right now. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to talk about it.

… Thus spake the girl who just dropped a wad of cash on brand-new undies. I just couldn’t continue girding my loins in rags any longer, yafillme?

AND YET. The mind. It dwells on the money. And verily, the money remains on the mind.

Let me give you a rundown of my typical mental trip.

First, I’ll stop by one of those slick inspiration blogs that feature impeccably-styled weddings. You know the drill. There is a hip swanky hotel; there are a million unique details. There is a retro photo booth littered with all kinds of zany props. The hottest club DJ-of-the-minute is on the ones and twos, sending guests into a frenzied, unholy trance. The bride is wearing a gorgeous dress custom-made by a fashion designer.* And for about 25 seconds, I am jealous. Jealous. Why can’t my wedding be like that? Why is my budget so tiny and impossible?

Then, I laugh it all off, because they are fools. Fools. Spending all that money? On just one single day? Yeah, it looked neat, but they should have focused on the things that really matter, which sure as hell aren’t the centerpieces fashioned from antique cameras. The beau and I don’t care about how the wedding looks. Our minds are in the right place. Our hearts are in the right place. We’re sensible people who are focused on the marriage, and not pretty crap.

We are so much better than that.

I win. Ha.

Next, I’ll cruise on over to the “budget” wedding blogs. And there will be a post that talks about a quiet, beautiful, soulful, sincere wedding that was put on for a total of $3,000. And for about 37 seconds I hate. Haaaaaaaaate. Oh sure, I’ll think. Sure. Of course. They probably have, like, 20 graphic design and musician friends. They borrowed their uncle’s cute little Victorian home with a large backyard. Their 3rd-grade teacher volunteered to make a buttload of tiramisu. Their cousin redesigned their grandmother’s wedding dress to suit the bride. Of course they did it all for so little.

Then, I click away feeling like I’ve just been punched in the gut. Oh, God. Their budget was so small. Oh, shit. I am clearly the world’s most irresponsible person for not having a budget that small. Maybe if I just searched harder for resources? Leaned harder on my friends? Maybe we really can make this a community effort, despite the fact that 90% of our community lives out of town? I am failing, failing. I am a wasteful bride who is flunking Do-It-Together 101. I want to throw my money away on frivolous things like a DJ and a day-of coordinator, when it’s the sentiment that matters!

What is wrong with us?

I lose. Hard.

And this, my friends, is where the needle skids off the record. Skreeeeeeeep.

Money, to each and every one of us, is not just straight numbers. Money is class.** Money is opportunity. Money is worth. And so we involuntarily assign an ethical value to our budgets. Whether we like it or not, we assign an emotional value to what we’re spending for our weddings.***

And that’s where budgets, and talking about them among ourselves, can be insidious. People have vastly different ideas of what constitutes “reasonable.” Reasonable is a highly personal decision informed by individual experience and systems of belief. I might think my budget is sensible while others would insist it’s ludicrous. You’re spending what on what? OK, crazy lady.

Our corner of the wedding world attracts like-minded people. We tend to believe less is more. We (mostly) value substance over style. We’re often working within limited budgets. Ours is a world quite inverted from the norm (hello, tradition and ostentation!), and somehow, somewhere along the line, we all seem to have agreed that the smaller the budget, the better the wedding. There’s an assumption floating around that big, pretty, spendy weddings are devoid of meaning. That they are emotionally fake, that they are a fabrication. I admit that I’ve been guilty of insinuating this. But I submit that this is a sort of knee-jerk reaction to our lack of disposable incomes. We can’t have all the prettiness, so we shall dub it excessive.

Ellie of Wedding for Two put it best in a recent post: “I don’t think big weddings are better than small weddings, but I think that big weddings get derided in the BIC because people equate big wedding with magazine-worthy wedding, or brides who become so obsessed with the wedding that they forget about the marriage.”

You know what? If the beau and I won the lottery tomorrow, I can’t say that I wouldn’t spend more money on our wedding than absolutely necessary. I highly suspect that my hypothetical, suddenly-rich self would hire the high-end DJ. I would invite more of my friends. I would fashion some centerpieces out of antique cameras. But I also believe that, despite the magazine-ready resemblance, our wedding would still be a significant, emotional experience between us and the little community that will have gathered to witness the start of our marriage. Money can’t ever take that away from us. Prettiness can never trump that.

Spending less money on a wedding does not automatically generate more meaning (and vice-versa). The people who are involved do.

My budget is my budget. This is what we can afford.****

I need to keep my head down and focus on that.*****

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* She also does not have flabby arms, which just kills me.

** Last year, A. of Accordions and Lace wrote an exceptional post about class and weddings. Please go read it if you haven’t yet.

*** Well, what we spend for everything, really.

**** Um, what we currently cannot afford, but we’re working on that.

***** A Cupcake Wedding posted last Friday on ignoring others’ opinions of your budget. You should go read that too, if you haven’t.

to-do list for march: find magical mystical money tree

Last night the beau and I tallied up all the wedding quotes and estimates and were subsequently rewarded with our first “oh shit” budget moment. We came up with the kind of number that makes you go all BLUH?! and want to immediately lie down on the floor. The beau wondered what we should do about this number. “Cry,” I suggested, but he didn’t seem to think this was a particularly practical or useful activity. So. Hard decisions time it is.

We had been toying around with doing an Asian fusion-style menu for our wedding, but now that’s just sort of like pffft. And I mean, is putting on a pre-wedding rehearsal barbecue for our friends and family really necessary? And why should I worry about buying an expensive dress when I can wear a burlap sack practically for free?

Ha ha, I am just kidding about that last part. Sort of. And you can rest assured that I am not considering selling a kidney to help pay for the wedding. That’s utter nonsense. I need that kidney for the wedding night Drinkfest very mature social gathering in which we will all wear turtlenecks and discuss Russian literature.

Fun times.

I kind of hate this part of the planning. I am good with my own budget. So good. I balance it. All. The. Time. I know exactly how much of my cash is flowing, and where it’s flowing to (I am not looking at you anymore, Modcloth). But this wedding is the first shared budget between the beau and I. And to be brutally honest, the beau is shoveling a lot more money into it than I am. My job pays less and most of my scrilla still goes to student loans. I feel guilty about entering into our marriage on uneven footing.

Some stubborn part of me is just plain embarrassed that our wedding contributions aren’t equal. Even though I know there is nothing truly egalitarian about relationships, ever. Somebody is always paying more or putting in more effort or investing more time. Yet I still feel like I don’t own our wedding budget, not like I own my own. In my mind, that money is mostly his.

No, this is our money, he tells me sincerely. Part of me, whenever I hear that, wants to make some juvenile declaration like well then I am taking “our” money and going to Brazil for a month, smell you later! But I don’t. This is a good first lesson in thinking beyond myself and my own means. A good exercise in adjusting to this new concept of joint finances.

HEEEEEE I said “joint.” Oh lawd, maybe I am not quite cut out for adulthood just yet.*

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* Further evidence to support this: I make “your mom” jokes all the time and none of my dishes match. I think this is a prerequisite for Adulthood 201?

where the money is going

Because I apparently have nothing better to do with my time, I made a pie chart depicting the (estimated) distribution of wedding budget funds. By no means is this comprehensive, but at least all the main elements are covered.

From this chart I am getting the sense that — for us — food, booze, and photos are the most important loos down which we intend to flush our money in the name of formally celebrating our commitment to one another.

Where are you focusing your resources?