An Engaging Engagement Story
If you are reading this, then that means your life has just taken an amazing and wondrous turn: you just got engaged. We’d like to be the first to say CONGRATULATIONS! And as you begin your wedding planning efforts, we here at 0 To Bliss In No Time: Your Complete Guide To Planning Your Perfect Wedding are so pleased that you have chosen us to be your guide to help you through the fun times, the hard times, and the down-right exhausting times. With this book and your bridal glow, we’ll have your wedding from unplanned mess to perfection before you can say, “I do.” Each chapter includes a simple checklist so you make sure you get it all 100% right.
While you admire and giggle over that beautiful, glittering new addition to your left hand, don’t forget that you need to act fast to make sure your big day is as perfect as you deserve it to be. Don’t let the thought of planning the perfect day scare you: millions of women have succeeded in planning their perfect nuptials, and you will be no different. But before the wedding comes the, dun dun dun, ENGAGEMENT PERIOD! This is a very special time for you and your fiancé. You are declaring to the world that you love each other enough to spend the rest of your lives together, so you had better be ready to make that declaration ring loud and clear for years to come. So, first things first:
1. Getting your engagement story right: We’re willing to bet that you have already told the story at least a dozen times, but you’ll be expected to recount your romantic story again and again. We recommend you and your fiancé discuss what happened and sketch out who says what in your story, that way you aren’t stepping on each other’s toes and stealing each other’s punch lines. We want your engagement to be a happy one, and staging it all is the only way to really ensure that happiness stays intact.
2. Make sure you put the announcement in the papers of every town that is important, including but not limited to:
a) Hometowns of both the bride and the groom
b) Hometowns of the mothers and fathers of the bride and groom
c) College towns of the bride and groom
d) any other city or town you or your groom lived for a period of more than 1 year.
Why so many newspaper announcements? You need to make sure everyone knows so they can all share in your joy. Get the photos taken, the announcement written, and send, send, send! The entire world will love to be a part of your happiness; they just need to know about it! Announce it on social media, write a blog about it, and call all of your friends. This information is strictly for the people who need to know, and everyone is on that list!
3. Get a manicure. Trust us on this one. Everyone and anyone will be looking at that hand over the next few months and your cuticles are looking a little shabby if you ask us. And don’t think you can just one-and-done those finger nails. You should make sure to schedule in a manicure a week to keep those tips in top shape. What are you doing? We just gave you a to-do list and we expect you to go do them! Vamoose!
“Chris!” I yelled from the living room. “Chris! We have to discuss our engagement story, stat!”
Chris leaned around the corner from the hallway. “What are you talking about? Have you forgotten how I proposed already?” he asked, skeptically.
“No, it’s just that I’m worried when we tell people the story we might wind up talking over one another and stealing each other’s punch lines, and if that happens who knows what kind of wedge could be driven through our engagement happiness?!?”
“I’ll tell you what, you can steal all of the punch lines, and I’ll just let my anger fester quietly until ten years from now when I resent you so much that I just can’t take it anymore and go all Lizzie Borden on you. Deal?” Chris extended his hand, waiting for me to shake it as if we were business partners.
“Ha … ha … very funny. I just want to make sure that the stress of the wedding doesn’t wind up driving us apart and make us miserable for the next few months, okay? Is that so much to ask?”
“Melanie, I love you. I want to marry you. And short of you becoming one of those insanely controlling, cry all the time brides on those ridiculous reality shows I will always love you and want to be married to you. So you can have all of the punch lines of the story, okay?”
“Okay, but you still have to help me sketch out the entire story and what parts you are saying and which parts I get to say. It’s the only way to really get it right every time.” My voice started to rise little by little as I began to speak with more and more passion in my words. “Imagine if we were in a crowd of people that hadn’t heard our story, but one person had already. Then if we miss something or say something was different from what we said the last time we told the story they might discount everything we have to say and not take any of our stories seriously! This could lead to such issues as them not believing us when we announce we are with child, or we are moving, or some other huge life changing event along those lines. We need to get this shit on lockdown!” I brought my left fist down into my open right hand for emphasis. He needed to know how serious I was about this, and gosh darn it; I was going to make sure he did.
I realize listening to one of these super cheesy books is probably not exactly a good life plan, but I can also tell you with complete honesty how entirely and utterly terrified I was of planning a wedding. If there is one thing I have learned from being a twenty-something it is that no matter what you will ever do, no one will ever actually think your wedding turned out perfectly. I had been a bridesmaid for 4 different people in the year prior to us getting engaged, and I had heard every complaint every single guest had: the food tasted awful; there wasn’t an open bar; the napkins were scratchy; the DJ had acted more like a guest than an employee of the bride and groom. I was bound and determined to do everything in my power to make sure that people kept their traps shut about all of those little opinions at my wedding, because there wasn’t going to be a single thing anyone could find fault with if I had anything to do about it.
“Okay, I’ll let you map out our engagement story on one condition,” Chris said.
“Fine. What is it?”
“You consider the possibility of us just eloping. And before you just shoot down the idea I want you to think of the thousands of dollars you haven’t even budgeted yet but know you will once you start planning this. Think of our student loans. Think of how happy we will be with or without a huge party. Think of the stress you’ll avoid by not having to create the ‘most perfect day ever.’ Hell, think of the cruise we could go on with that kind of cash,” he added.
“I will consider it... briefly. But I make no promises,” I said.
“That’s all I ask.” And with that, he kissed me on the forehead and headed for the kitchen.
He really is the sweetest man ever. I might be saying this only because he just proposed a couple of hours ago and I have the newly engaged goggles on, but I am fairly certain that I am right about this.
When I saw the ring I knew right then and there that this next year was going to be the best of my life. Not because I was going to be planning a wedding, but because I was going to be planning a wedding that would result in spending the rest of my life with the perfect guy. I mean, how often do you—
Oh crap. I need to write the engagement announcements for all of the papers!
“I thought it was just your average, every day picnic. I mean, we don’t go on picnics every day, but you know what I mean.” Wait, that’s not what I meant. “Actually, we don’t really go on picnics ever, so I guess I should have realized something was up when he was like, ‘let’s go on a picnic, sweetie.’ Plus, he never calls me sweetie.” Oh god, oh god. This is way harder than the book made it sound. And all these people are looking at me like they are expecting me to tell them the greatest love story ever told. “I mean, he does sometimes, but it’s not like it his normal term of endearment or anything like that. You know, what with feminism and all!” WHAT THE HELL AM I TALKING ABOUT?!?
I could feel my face turning red. I was screwing this all up, and I had practiced for hours the night before. We were at a party for a guy in Chris’s office that was retiring and since we had just gotten engaged the day before it was the only thing anyone wanted to hear about, naturally.
Or maybe it was that it was the only thing I wanted to talk about. Either way, I had rehearsed the story over and over again, getting the timing right and the facial expressions down pat in front of the mirror in my bathroom. And now I was getting all flustered and screwing up my perfect fairytale proposal story in front of all of these people that were going to wonder what on earth it is that Chris sees in this ditz that can’t even tell a simple engagement story. What was wrong with me???
I swore to myself that I would do better next time. I would plan it out, write it all down, maybe even have a notecard with a prompt or two on it. I was going to be the best bride ever. I would be prepared, insightful, and a pro at this whole perfect wedding thing. I would break out of my normal boring self and be the super bride. I would be perfect, as would my wedding.
And with that, 0 To Bliss In No Time: Your Complete Guide To Planning Your Perfect Wedding became my bible.
“Oh my, that is a beautiful ring. It’s so different, so perfect for you,” the manicurist said.
“I know, isn’t it just the greatest thing ever?!?” Looking back on it, I have no idea what basis the manicurist’s opinion about my ring was from seeing as how I had never been to this nail shop before. It was just the only clean place that had an opening within 72 hours of our engagement.
In fact, I’m pretty sure she didn’t even really speak English, because after that she didn’t say another word except for, “You want pedicure?” and after I said “no” she went back to watching her Korean soap opera. But I didn’t care. I was just happy she appreciated my ring the way I did, even though it wasn’t your typical diamond engagement ring.
“It’s an emerald, because they absorb things like oil and other stuff, so they deepen in color over time like they are growing with you. This pale emerald will darken over the years as our love ages.”
Chris isn’t normally that much of a romantic, but man, when he hits it, he hits it right on the head. I wonder if he practiced the proposal the way I practiced its retelling.
Since the manicurist wasn’t all that interested beyond what little English she knew, I decided to rehearse my story on the lady that sat next to me.
“I just got engaged,” I nonchalantly mentioned.
“Oh, congratulations! When did it happen?” the redhead responded politely.
“Just yesterday. That’s why I’m here, getting my fingers engagement ready.”
“Well all the happiness to you.” Then she turned to the television on the other side of the salon.
I suppose this was a hint that she wasn’t all that interested, but it was like the words just kept bubbling up inside of me and had to be said. I had to share my story. Otherwise, how was she going to be able to share in my joy?!?
“He did it in such a romantic way,” I began to recount the story I had rehearsed so many times and now had down pat. “He surprised me with a picnic, which should have been the tipoff right away, since we so rarely go out on picnics.” The redhead turned toward me with a close-lipped smile and slightly glazed over eyes, but I figured that was just because she hadn’t really been focused on the TV, so she needed to be told a story.
“Then just before dessert, he pulled out a photo album of pictures of us. As we got about halfway through, there was a picture of him, kneeling on that very blanket in that very spot, holding out the ring.” I lifted my hand a bit to draw her attention to it. “I looked up, and there he was, kneeling like a gentleman, in exactly the position as in the picture. And he said, ‘Melanie Sandra Fenton, will you make me the happiest man in the world and marry me?’” I paused for dramatic effect 1, 2, 3 seconds. “And I said. ‘Yes.’” NAILED IT.
“How nice,” she responded.
Nice? I thought. NICE? I told that story perfectly. I had every punch line right. I had the dramatic pause. I had the ring lift to draw attention to the rock. AND ALL SHE SAYS IS NICE?!?!?!?
“It was just so romantic. You know, some men just don’t have a romantic bone in their body. But not Chris. He is just so perfect,” I said knowingly.
How could she not have anything more to say than “Mmhmm?” There was so much more I wanted to talk about and she was denying me that right, especially when I was spot on with the re-telling. It had taken me two days to finally get it right after the work party debacle.
You know what, clearly she doesn’t deserve to share in my wedding joy. I’ll just freeze her out and show her.
And with that decision, I spent the rest of my manicure glaring at the redhead. I’m not sure whether or not she noticed, since she seemed to have learned Korean very quickly since she was watching the soap opera so intently, but I’m sure that she looks back on that day and remembers how incredibly rude she was to that newly engaged bride. I’m sure of it.
“I can’t read your handwriting. Where was it that your mom lived during middle school?”
“Do you really think that you need to send engagement announcements to every town my parents ever lived? I mean, my mom was an army brat. They moved every 18 months from when she was born and through college. Even after they would up settling down for her dad to work at the Pentagon she still never lived anywhere for more than 2 or so years,” Chris said.
“I just want to make sure that everyone can share in our joy! By the way, we need to make sure we have a variety of engagement pictures taken so they are appropriate for the different places. What size cowboy boot would you wear?” I asked.
“Why would I need a pair of cowboy boots?”
“You’re family lived in El Paso, Texas, for a couple of years, right? We need to make sure they feel like we identify with them. We need to be cowboys,” I explained.
“Mel, El Paso isn’t like the rest of Texas. I mean, there are a couple of TEXANS, but for the most part it was people from Mexico that lived there. And again, we were only there for 18 months. I hardly even went off post.”
“So…what size hat would you wear?”
“I am not wearing a cowboy hat. I draw the line at that.”
“No, I am looking at sombreros online. I can get us both customized ones for less than $30 a piece. AND IT COMES IN PINK!”
“I swear on all that is good in this world….” Chris sighed. “I am taking away your credit card so you can’t order these things.”
“You’ve forgotten one very important thing,” I said.
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Paypal continues to exist, and they have my card number stored to help ease my future purchases,” I said with a smile.
“No hats.” And with that, he walked away, leaving me with a list of no less than 30 cities or towns that he or his family had lived in over the years, many without the name of the biggest newspaper to contact. I would have been googling for hours, but I had to have my manicure touched up, so the list that seemed like it went on forever was going to have to wait.
Color Me Obsessed
The Color Scheme and Theme
This could be one of the most important details of your wedding: your color scheme and theme. Looking at the word theme probably brings images of castles, fairies, and other crazy themed weddings. But when we say theme, we don't mean some off the wall party theme like you think. We mean something a bit more classy but that will define your entire wedding.
Think about whether or not you want a garden, beach, or traditional wedding. These are the kinds of themes we are talking about. How about a classy chic wedding? Full-on traditional? Or would you rather have a modern wedding?
We all want our wedding to be unique, but this doesn't mean you need to choose a theme that is dungeons and dragons, or a night at the movies, or something weird like that (unless you want to be a fairy princess on your wedding day; in that case, go for it!) but not all of us are that kind of bride. In fact, only about 5 percent of weddings are true "themed" weddings. But you can choose a theme that fits you. The theme you choose can also affect your budget greatly, which is why this chapter comes before the big B-word section.
Here are some ideas:
Breakfast at Tiffany's: go with Tiffany Blue and have a brunch wedding.
Diamond White: have everything really sparkle.
Winter Wonderland: have the event in the dead of winter and bring on the snowflakes.
Floral: have flowers EVERYWHERE.
Another thing you need to consider greatly is the color scheme. Obviously if you choose a Winter Wonderland you don't need to go with pink and yellow for your colors. Instead of having a theme, you could always choose colors that go well together and more or less let them be your theme. Get a color wheel (hint: if you bought the "0 to Bliss in no time" expansion pack it comes with one for your convenience, along with other great tools like a measuring tape, charts and checklists, etc.) and find colors that complement one another in the way you are going for. It’s also a great idea to go to the hardware store and pick up paint chips, those little strips of paper that have 4 or 5 different shades of paint colors for when you are redecorating. We can do wonders with colors in the right shades and hues, so as long as what you choose goes well with the theme you are going for we can make your wedding bliss in no time, just like we promised you before you even bought this book.
Some great color combinations include:
Dark purple and pale yellow
Midnight blue and silver
Hot pink and black
Dark green and lavender
Or you can go with a group of colors that complement each other like:
All neon colors, have each of your bridesmaids in a different bright and fun color
Choose four different shades of the same color, again, put the bridesmaids in different pinks or purples
We recommend avoiding some of the more brash color combinations out there, like darn green and bright yellow, dark blue and orange, etc. As much as you may love the way they look, those colors are claimed by NFL teams and really should belong on the muscled masses that wear them so well.
I rushed out and bought the kit. Three hours later, I got home with the kit and a stack of 100 paint chips in a variety of different colors from the hardware store. It took going to four different bookstores, but I finally found it. I had no doubt that this expansion kit would be the best $20 I had spent in a long time.
I sat there surrounded by colors ranging from dark to light, bright to mellow, and every shade in between.
My favorite color since I could remember having a favorite color was neon green, but I could really see how that would work without making an entirely neon colored wedding, which I had a feeling might be enough to put Chris on the defensive when it came to wedding plans because it would have to include hot pink. So instead, I let go of my love of neon green and looked to the other colors I had spread out on the floor.
Pink was more or less out of the question, which is why I hadn’t even bothered to get the pink paint chips unless it has a nice red or other feasible color along with it. I really liked the blues, but I felt like it would have to be a darker blue with a lighter color to offset it. The same problem came with purple, unless I used a lighter purple and had a darker green paired with it.
I sat there for hours, mumbling and muttering to myself and putting paint chips next to each other. At one point the fuchsia and red combination I had gotten made me so angry that I ripped it up and threw it into the trash can, only to then walk across the room to get it out and put it in the recycling bin like any normal person would. The colors all started to run together in my mind. I was seeing spots of blue, yellow, and periwinkle when I closed my eyes. It was like a box of crayola crayons had thrown up all over the insides of my eyes and there was nothing I could do to make it go away.
Chris came home to find me sitting on the floor surrounded by paint chip upon paint chip, all spread out in some kind of organizational system I figured out half way through the pale green debate I had about an hour in. I was almost in tears, because the colors either didn't go together or went together too well, which took my wedding vision from unique and beautiful to just like every single other wedding anyone had ever been to.
"Mel, Mel are you okay? What happened in here?" he asked in bewilderment.
"These are the colors. Here is the wheel. HELP ME." I said in a monotone yet pleading voice.
He looked around the room and sighed. "Okay, let's get out of here and go grab a cup of coffee or something. I think you need to get away from colors for a while." He added, "Where do we know that is in black and white? Oh, I know! We can go back in time to the fifties when the world hadn't discovered color yet and you could just freak out over different shades of grey. Would that be better?"
"This isn't funny, Chris. I don't know why you would joke about my pain like this." I said. I was probably being a bit melodramatic, but I was in way over my head.
"Do you have any idea how many colors exist in this world? A LOT is how many. I have at least 60 shades of blue in the west corner of the living room alone. And those are the blue blues. The violet section has a whole part with hints of blue in it too. This is probably what hell looks like."
"Yeah, I hear Dante left out the tenth ring of Hell meant for betrayers of fashion. They just live in an over stimulating mix of colors for the rest of eternity, never to have two colors that actually go together in their sight," he said.
I couldn't help laughing so hard that I rolled over on my side and he joined me on the floor.
"Why don't you walk me through it from when you got our wedding sponsored by Sherwin Williams and we can go from there, okay?"
We spent the next two hours poring over colors and combinations. We ordered pizza and laughed about how if we chose to have an all black wedding his mother would kill me.
As I reached for a second piece of pizza one of my pepperonis fell onto a pile of paint chips. “NO! Rescue the pepperoni!” Chris screamed.
“Screw the pepperoni! MY PAINT CHIPS!” I exclaimed. But as I reached over to pick up the sauce stained paint chip I saw the red on the violet and realized that I was looking at my color combination.
“Purple and red. Red and purple. IT’S PERFECT!”
“I thought purple and red weren’t supposed to go together. It’s even on the little color wheel thingy… ‘Some colors are too bold for each other, such as blue and orange, green and yellow, and purple and red.’” Chris read.
“Yes, but think about it, if you do it right, and I would do it right, they look great together. And it is a combination that not many people use because they are so afraid of doing it wrong! It’s exactly what I want,” I said.
I could see Chris thinking about what he knows about color as he slowly said, “I guess it isn’t pink, so I’m cool with it. But what will my mother say?!?”
“I’m sure she’ll say nasty things, but hey, I don’t care. It’s my wedding!”
“Right, our wedding,” I said. “But let’s face it, this whole thing is pretty much mine.”
“Yeah, I know. I just like to pretend like I have something to do with the magic.”
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers
Setting the budget is one of the most daunting tasks you’ll come across, but it is also one of the most important. Sit down with your fiancé, parents, and future in-laws so that you are all on the same page when it comes to who is paying for what, how much everyone is contributing, and how much certain things should cost. The handy chart in the back of the book will be very helpful in this endeavor.
Some things to consider when making the budget:
Who is on the invite list? How many people will you have? And will those people actually come?
You don’t have to invite every single cousin, coworker, or acquaintance, but you do need to consider how it will look if you invite 6of the ten people in the office and not the other four. Or how do you think that first cousin will feel when she finds out that you are having a second cousin come to the wedding?
As much as we hate to say it, you have to take into consideration the cost/benefit ratio of whom you are inviting. If you are spending $25, $40, or more per person to come to your wedding, you need to consider whether or not that person will bring you a gift that is worth your investment in their invitation. This is not to say that you shouldn’t invite your great-grandmother that is living on social security and most likely isn’t going to spring for that $150 blender you want, but you should consider whether or not your Aunt that is known for being a cheapskate that you aren’t that close to anyway will happen to have her invitation “lost in the mail.”
To help cut costs but not cut the benefit of an attendee, you can always choose one of these cheats:
Choose a date and location that is “inconvenient” for most of your guests. If you plan your wedding within a couple of days of a big family holiday, such as Christmas or Easter, you’ll have less people willing to make a trip out of town. You’ll also reap the gift benefits because people will feel sorry that they were invited but unable to come.
Don’t add plus ones. It may seem like you have to make sure to pay for dates of every person attending, but you don’t. If you know that second cousin is kind of sort of dating a guy but you’ve never met him and can’t quite remember his name, don’t bother inviting him. It’s a different story if you are talking about your best friend’s fiancé that you may have only met once or twice. In considering the plus ones, always make sure that it is worth it to you to potentially upset the first party.
Put out the word that you are going for a small wedding. Small can be defined in whatever way you want (25, 50, 150 people), but when someone hears that and they don’t get an invite, they understand and will generally still send a present.
Places to cut costs:
The food. Go with a buffet and only one option instead of chicken or beef.
The bridesmaids’ gifts. These are your friends and they are working hard, but you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on the thank you gift. Go with something cheap, yet thoughtful.
The Decorations. Use fruit in the center pieces to help cut the cost of the flowers, borrow that antique birdcage from your aunt for the gift table, cut back on the cutesy favors. Don’t feel like this means you can’t have all the things you need, like table runners and proper cloth napkins. This just means that you trim a couple of things here and there to make the other decorations not break the bank.
Places not to skimp on:
The liquor. Two key words to remember to have a successful party are open bar. End of story.
The ring. You’ll be wearing that thing the rest of your life. It’s a symbol of the love and promise you’ll be sharing with your husband. Don’t think of it as just another piece of jewelry, because it’s not.
The dress. This is by far the most important part of the wedding. After all, all eyes will be on you and no one wants to be seen in an off-the-rack dress on her wedding day. Your dress should generally be about 20-30% of your entire budget. You are worth it. Invest in yourself for your perfect day.
You may not be a millionaire, but you need to consider how much money has to do with your big day. If you are too frugal, all the planning in the world won’t be able to help you. You need to make sure that you have tapped all of your resources: savings, parents, godparents, and personal loans are a good start. Just make sure to ask people for money in a nice way: take them out to dinner, have a bottle of wine, then direct the conversation to the wedding and how much they are willing to contribute. You don’t want your friends and family to show up to your wedding and think that you don’t care about yourself or what this day means. Whatever you decide your highest amount is, add another $5000 and go through upping things in order of importance. Trust us, we are the experts after all!
I told Chris we needed to have a talk.
"Uh oh. Am I in trouble?" he said jokingly.
"No, we just need to talk about some serious things," I paused. "Like the budget and our wedding."
"Okay, I guess that is a pretty important thing to talk about. Let me grab a beer and we can sit down and hash it all out."
The fact that he wanted a beer made me instantly go on the defensive. Why would he need to be drinking for this? How are we supposed to have a serious discussion about something as important as our wedding finances while he was going on a bender?!?
I tried to stay calm. I had written out some preliminary numbers, but I knew that he wasn't going to see things the way I did. I mean, how can you expect someone like Chris, someone as sweet and naive as to think that being a high school teacher would be rewarding enough to make up for $80,000 in student loan debt, to understand the enormity of a financial situation as our perfect day?
He sat down next me at the table. I hadn't planned for that. I had sat at the part of the table with my back to the wall so he couldn't see my notes as easily. Why hadn't he just sat across from me like a normal person would have?
It wouldn't have been that big of a deal except for the fact that I had written some of my negotiating notes down. Things like, "could go as low as $2000 for centerpieces, but would rather spend $4000" and things like that. I looked up how to get a lower price on a car deal and kind of reversed it so that I could use the same tactics you use with a used car salesman.
"Okay, where do we start?" he asked, innocently. Too innocently, if you ask me.
"Well, we need to figure out what it is we can afford overall." I reached that panic moment and just started to talk really fast instead of the calm, cool, and collected tone I had rehearsed in my mind all day. "If we combine our savings, decrease our spending by an extra $200 a month, save our tax returns, and stick to a really tight budget with our disposable income every month we can put all of that plus whatever we get from other people, like our parents, and we can have as much as $25,000 towards the wedding, but that's estimating we get $5,000 from both of our parents...Then we can get another $5,000 or $10,000 in loans, and we'll have $35,000 and we'll be able to get almost everything we need, with the exception of a honeymoon and gifts for each other." I paused for a breath. "What do you think?"
"Uh, I think that is a lot of money to spend on one party."
Party? PARTY?!? This was our wedding we were talking about. HOW COULD HE THINK IT WAS NOTHING MORE THAN A PARTY?!?!
I decided to take the innocent and needy route instead of raising my voice like I really, really wanted to.
"Chris, this is important to me. It's probably one of the most important things in my entire life. I just want you to be with me on this."
"Mel, this is $35,000 you are talking about. I know that this is important, but I just don't think we should go deeper into debt for this. Plus, I know that my parents aren't going to be able to help us with $5,000. They might be able to scrape together $1000, but I'll be surprised if they could even come up with that. You know my dad just got laid off."
The book hadn't mentioned what to do in this sort of situation. How would we ask his struggling parents for money? I mean,
"I do know that, which is why I only wanted to ask them for a small amount."
"$5000 is a small amount? Who are you and what have you done with my fiancé?" Chris said, almost jokingly. Almost, but not quite.
“Chris, I’m serious. I have already gone through my list of people to invite and it is super long and nearly impossible to cut down at all. I’m sure you’ll add even more people to it, and unless you want to have the wedding the day before Christmas or something you need to accept that we are going to have to tighten our belts and get down to business preparing for the wedding.”
“Woah, woah, woah. When did having our wedding the day before Christmas become a last resort?”
“It’s the only way that we won’t have 400 people showing up to our wedding! And we have to have it somewhere that isn’t near anyone, like Nebraska or something, that way no one will want to travel that far out of the way to come to our wedding but they’ll still send a present. And that is the only way we can have a wedding that isn’t $35,000! And that’s before I add the extra $5,000 I am supposed to throw on top of it all!”
“Okay, how about we try to trim the fat a little bit. Let me see your list you’ve got there,” and with that, he reached over and took the preliminary budget I had fiddled with. I felt stripped of all my power. I had sat where I was supposed to sit, and he had foiled my power position. He had screwed up my even tone I had worked so hard to prepare. And now he had taken away my “dealing with a used car salesman” notes. I WAS POWERLESS.
“Melanie, why do you have $10,000 down for your dress?” I froze. Every muscle tensed. “That seems like…well, it seems like a lot.”
The dress of my dreams was slipping away. I had no idea what the details of it were, but I knew that it was out there, waiting for me. And I knew that if I had to limit myself to less than $10,000 I would be a laughing stock. Have you seen a perfect wedding with the bride in a thrift store dress? No, you haven’t, purely because the dress is part of the perfection!
I decided to play it cool. “Well, it seemed like a reasonable amount considering, you know, that dresses go for as much as $20,000! I just wanted to go for the middle ground and ten thousand seemed reasonable.”
Chris had a blank expression on his face. At least, that’s what I thought it was. In all actuality, his mouth was agape.
“Mel, for that kind of money we could get a car. I understand that your dress is important to you, but you have to remember that you’ll only be wearing it for one day.”
What he was saying was so shocking to me. He didn’t understand. He didn’t understand at all! And I was marrying this man?!?!?
“Chris, I just…I know this can all work out. I know it. And if we take out a bit more debt, I think it’ll be worth it,” I argued.
He looked at me quietly for a few minutes. Those minutes felt like days. I had been prepared to negotiate on a few things down to a minimum of twenty thousand dollars, prepared to talk him around to what I was trying to explain to him, but I wasn’t prepared for silence.
After those day-long minutes, he sighed and said, “I really don’t want to fight about this. Let me look this over and we’ll come back to it in a couple of days, okay? That way I can have as much time to think about all of this as you did, okay?”
“Okay,” I said quietly while envisioning my wedded bliss melting away.
When we came back to it three days later, I was worried. I was very worried. What if he thinks I could wear an off-the-rack dress? I only recently found out what that means, but still. Having a one-of-a-kind dress is important. I can't be seen in the same dress as my best friend or something?
"Okay, I've looked at it, thought about it, and decided that we can get this down to only 15 in a reasonable way," he said.
“Fifteen? ARE YOU INSANE?!?” We couldn’t even get a marriage certificate for $15. What was he thinking. I was ready for $25,000,maybe even as low as $23,000, but FIFTEEN?!?!
“Well, yeah, I think the things I cut are things we can live without,” Chris said calmly.
“We can live without a wedding at all?!?!”
“What are you talking about? $15,000 is still a reasonable amount of money to spend on a wedding.”
He had meant $15,000.Oh thank god, he wasn’t going all “let’s just hit up a judge” on me. But wait a second…
"FIFTEEN THOUSAND? WHAT DID YOU CUT?" I screamed. I couldn't help myself. I just blurted it out.
"Well, for starters, I don't think we will have four hundred people. And I don't think it will cost us $55 a plate to feed them all."
"But, that is what a decent prime rib will cost, Chris."
"Yeah, since when do we need prime rib? Let's go with a reasonably priced chicken dinner and cut it back to around $15, okay?" He seemed to be genuinely concerned with how I would react.
I mean, the book had said that the food was a place we could cut back a bit.
“Let’s just cut to the chase, how much am I allowed to spend on my dress?”
I braced myself. I was sure he was going to say some ridiculously low number, like $800 or something.
You can barely get a decent veil for $800 these days.
“Well, I did some searching online,” Oh god, online dresses? I might faint. “And while there were some nice worn-once dresses…” Worn once? WORN ONCE?!?! I could not wear some pre-worn wedding dress. I might as well buy it at goodwill! How embarrassed does he want me to be? I could not be expected to buy a dress online and just hope that it isn’t falling apart or loaded with bedbugs or worse: ivory. “But I figured you wouldn’t want to do that, so I looked around and found some dress shops and forums that talk about how much a reasonable dress would cost…and I really think you’ll be okay with some of their suggestions…”
“Just come out with it. How much?” I asked, steadying myself for the shock.
“Two-th…Have you ever watched Say Yes to the Dress? They look at girls who come in with that budget like they are paupers. It is so hard for those girls to find a dress because they are scraping the bottom of the barrel.” And the book had said the dress should be 20-30% of the budget. $2000 was not 20% of $15,000.
“Mel, I think we need to be realistic about this and keep our budget under what we can afford.”
“But if we get people to help us, and a loan or two…”
“I think we both have more than enough debt to last us a lifetime, and I’d kind of like to start thinking about buying a house or something within the next couple of years…”
How cute. He was thinking about our future.
"I guess that's a reasonable want." I mulled over the paperwork he had come up with for a few minutes. "Okay, I think I can work with this. But if our parents can help at all, can I add it into certain areas? Just to beef up a couple of sections that I'd like to expand, like my dress...and the centerpieces..."
"I think I can agree to that. But let's not be too hard on them. I think we should ask for no more than one to two thousand from either of our parents. But you're with me on not getting a loan for this?" He asked.
"Yeah, I think I can handle that. This just means that I'll have to be a bit more creative. Maybe I'll do the centerpieces myself, or we can just find some photography student looking to make a buck and to beef up their portfolio." That's when I saw it.
In tiny script he had written next to the line item of liquor: first $1000 on the house, cash bar after that.
"Chris, we need to have an open bar. That is, like, a non-negotiable."
"Mel, we can not afford to have everyone getting drunk on our dime. I think we need to have it be one drink per person or something. But if we are hiring a bartender and all, or getting it from a hotel, that gets expensive fast. Let's see if we can get a keg or something and go from there, okay?"
I figured I would let him think this was an okay idea, just to keep the peace. But I would find some way out of that horror.
"Okay, we'll figure something out. Some nice in between. I'm going to go call our parents and figure out how to approach them for money. But one thing..."
"Can you please agree not to leave me alone with your mother at all during dinner?
"Why do we have to have dinner with them? Just call and ask my dad-"
"No," I cut him off. "If we're doing this, we're doing this by the book and taking them out for a nice dinner to bring them around to the idea. That way they don't feel like we only care about them for their money but that we also want to spend time with them."
"But, you don't. You and my mother hate each other. Can't we just avoid any kind of interaction with her until Christmas? I mean, I love my mom and all, but I really hate the way she talks to you.
"I just want to do it right, that way she has less of a reason to hate me."
"Okay, I'll go with that. But let's have your parents with us to help ease the tension."
"Ugh, your mom never stops flirting with my dad, Chris. It's like she thinks she is some teenager that can just flirt with some other girls boyfriend even though hers is sitting right there. And your dad doesn't even notice it's happening!"
"Yeah, this is why people need to be more open to divorce.
I scheduled the dinner with my parents and Chris's parents for that next weekend. I knew that this was such an important step that I needed to make it happen soon. My mom was so excited to be asked to dinner with Jackie and Bert that she didn't even think of the potential reason for my calling the meeting. I never would have thought about doing something like this if it weren't for something as important as my wedding. I mean, this was the most important day of my life! How could I let something like money stand in the way?
Here's the thing: my parents aren't exactly poor, but it's not like they are well off either. And between Chris's dad's layoff and his mother just being a terrible person, it's not like I was honestly thinking there would be some grand amount they were able to contribute to our wedding. I just thought that maybe the fact that her son had chosen to marry me and spend the rest of his life with me would mean that she would back off a little bit.
It definitely didn't.
"And there I was, stark naked in the middle of the woods, wondering how I had forgotten to bring some extra clothes," she reached over and laid her hand on my dad's arm, "But then again, I tend to do that more often than not," she said in a disgustingly innocent voice.
And cue my humiliation. She had been telling us about the time she went undercover with some Wiccans in Great Britain and had been almost sucked in to their lifestyle and blah blah blah. Why in the hell was she touching my dad.
I decided right then and there that I needed some wine to be able to deal with this woman for much longer.
"Mom," Chris said, "We can hear about your nudist days some other time. We wanted to talk to you all about something very important."
"Oh, of course Chris, what is it?"
"Well, since we have started the planning of the wedding and such-"
"Are you sure about this, Chris?" she interrupted. "Don't get me wrong, Melanie is a nice girl, but she's not really the type of girl you marry. I think you are still on the rebound from Samantha." She turned to my father and said, "She broke his heart the day before they graduated from college when she told him she wasn't ready to move to California with him so that he could do Teach for America. He left two weeks later all by himself and I swear he has just never gotten over it."
"Mom, Melanie and I have been together for 4 years now. This is the real deal, not some horrible rebound that I just can't shake. And we are getting married no matter how much you seem to think this is just a phase."
"I just want to make sure you aren't rushing into anything."
"Four years, mother. I think that's long enough for me to know what I want from life," he calmly added. I swear, I have no idea how that man keeps some a calm head. I mean, I guess when you teach a bunch of rowdy inner-city high schoolers every day it takes more than an evil mother to rattle you.
"Okay, okay. I don't want any ugliness today. It's very bad for your aura," she said while glaring at me like I was the one that was being rude.
"Alright, Melanie, do you want to take the lead on this one?" Chris asked me.
Oh crap, I thought he was going to do this. I'm not the one that does these kinds of talks all that well. I mean, I just get all tongue-tied and start to talk too fast.
"Uh, sure. I guess so." Where to start. Where to start. "Well, we were going over our budget for the wedding, and we realized that we don't really want to go into debt for this, but we were wondering if your guys would be able to help us pay for part of the wedding to help us be able to afford it all."
My dad sprung into action. "I think we can contribute a little bit."
"Really? But mom, I know it's not like money is just everywhere..." What was I saying? I was almost talking them out of contributing.
"We've been setting a bit of money aside each month since you two hit the one year mark, just in case a wedding came out of it. We just love CHris so much and kind of figured we should be prepared. It's not all that much, I think that savings account has about $1800 in it, but we can probably scrape together another couple of hundred dollars before the wedding. Will that be enough?
She looked at me slightly wide-eyed as if I was going to shoot her down and demand more. My mother is the sweetest woman ever.
"Mom, that is perfect. Thank you so much for having thought about this ahead of time.
Victoria cleared her throat.
"Well, I can certainly say that I never expected this of you, Christopher." She said. "My parents paid for our entire wedding. The groom's parents are only responsible for the rehearsal dinner. So we really shouldn't be expected to contribute any money other than what that costs."
Why that little...Fine. I would just plan a very nice rehearsal dinner they got to pay for. That would suit me just fine.
"I'll handle all of the arrangements for that the evening before. And don't worry, I already have the invitation list thought out."
Chris's dad interrupted. "Vicky, we can help them a bit as well. I mean, I did just have that interview with John Deere and that could be a great job for me. I'd be making even more than before I got laid off. How about we say-
"No, I think they'll be fine. It's not like they are poor or anything."
I looked at her and she started to have this green tint to her. I wonder if that was her aura.
“By the way, I have a list of people for you two that you have to invite,” she reached into her purse and pulled out a packet of papers. “I thought about sending it to you in the original spreadsheet, but then I figured it would be better if you typed them all in yourself to make sure that you are familiar with all of the names of our guests. It’s only polite to know who you are inviting, after all.”
The packet of paper was at least 15 pages of single spaced, three in a row addresses. There were over 400 names of people to invite.
“Victoria, this is a lot of people. We were trying to keep the guest list to under 200 if possible.”
“Melanie, we get to invite people too. You can’t just pretend like only people you know are the ones that matter,” she said. “Plenty of my friends saw Chris grow up and they deserve to be invited to this milestone in his life.”
I spent the next three days typing those names into the invitation program.
“How can one person know fifteen people whose last names are Allen?” I yelled from the bedroom.
“None of my mom’s friends have the last name Allen. Are you sure you’re reading that right?”
I looked down at the sheet. Sure enough, half of the first page were all Allens.
“Pretty sure. Would you like to have a go at it?”
He came into the room and looked at it. “Okay, we aren’t inviting all of these people. This is insanity. How many of these have you put in already?”
“All of them. I put all of them in already.”
“Oh. Well, I guess it’s good to have the list?” He said, trying to make me feel better about how much time I had spent on this fruitless project for that vicious harpy. “How about we appease her by sending out announcements to all of these people?” I must have looked at him like he was a talking rock because I was utterly amazed that he knew about announcements. “That was one of those things I read online, about how to cut costs of a wedding, I swear!” he paused. “Don’t judge me. Oh, wait, I think you missed these two pages.”
I swear that woman put a voodoo curse on me. How else would you explain the fact that Chris just happened to find the last two pages I had balled up and thrown into the garbage can?