A Muse Gets Married, Ch. 5: Save-the-Dates

A Muse Gets Married, Ch. 5: Save-the-Dates

Sending save-the-date notes can be a strain on a wedding timeline, but there are ways to make sure your guests receive the correct information while not going completely bonkers. Angie provides insight into how she approached this for her wedding.

The Wedding Basics, Step Two: The Budget

So, your guest list is finished! Now you have to start thinking about the money.We know, that almost made you close your browser, right? This is no one’s favorite topic. But we promise you’ll feel so much better once you’ve got all the numbers nailed down! Here’s how to land on your final budget without running away screaming.

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Who’s Paying for This Party?

If you and your partner are solely funding this event, then this step is easier. Take a look at what’s in your bank account, and figure out how much of it you want to spend.

…Okay, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Some things you might want to take into consideration are how big you’re imagining the wedding to be and what you can’t live without. Maybe it’s a great photographer or a top-notch meal. But whatever it is, start getting some quotes from local vendors to figure out what’s feasible with what you’ve got. And no matter what things are most important, it’s also good to start getting an understanding of the things that will probably cost the most no matter what, like the venue and catering.

But let’s talk for now about if someone else is paying for your wedding. You may know right off the bat if your family is willing to contribute, but if you don’t, please borrow our script on how you can non-awkwardly ask them:

“Hey [Mom/Dad/Aunt Betty]! We’re so excited to start planning our wedding, and are sitting down today to get the budget figured out. There’s no pressure to contribute, but we wanted to find out now if there’s anything you felt strongly enough about having at the wedding that you’d like to help pay for it. If not, then we’ll just look forward to celebrating with you on the day-of! Can’t wait!”

Obviously feel free to adjust this as needed, but what we hope to accomplish here is both to find out if anyone wants to contribute and also to set the clear ground rule that if your family really, really, really wants you to have flowers at the wedding, and you personally don’t care if there are flowers or not, then they can either offer to contribute them or accept your final call on where the money gets spent. Which leads us to…

The Payments and the Power

If you’re paying for the wedding entirely on your own, you may wind up having a smaller affair, but you also get to completely decide every detail. If someone else is paying for it, then like it or not, their opinion matters.

Obviously, this is still your wedding, so you’ll need to decide how much control you’re willing to give away. If someone offers to, say, pay for your wedding outfit, but then will only pay for it if you pick the one they like, maybe that’s money you don’t want to take.

The best way to work with the people paying for your wedding is to start laying down ground rules from the get-go. What are you willing to compromise on? What absolutely has to stay the way you’ve pictured? Try to have a conversation with the person who’s funding the wedding about what accepting that money means and how much of a say that person is now expecting to have. Getting these big, hard conversations out of the way early on will mean a much more relaxed wedding planning process down the line.

Where the Money Goes

Once you’ve got your budget all figured out, you have to decide where to spend it. Let’s get back to talking about where you want the money to go. What’s most important to you? Being able to invite whoever you want? Decor? Hair and makeup? Narrow it down to three things that are really important to you so that when you have to start making hard choices, you know what’s been important to you from the get-go.

One of the things that was most important to my husband and me was inviting the guests we wanted to invite and making sure they felt comfortable. That meant arranging shuttles to and from their hotels, hosting a brunch the day after the wedding so we could spend more time with them, and putting together lists of things they could do if they were traveling from out of town and staying a few extra days in our city. Overall, this meant more of our time and money went to our guests than to many other parts of our wedding, but that’s what made us happy.

So, what will make you happy? You may not be able to have everything on your list in just the way you pictured, but by picking a few key things that you want your time and money to go to, you’ll still wind up with a wedding you can happily tell stories about for the rest of your life.

Lifting the Veil: The History Behind One of Our Oldest Wedding Traditions

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Wearing a veil to your wedding is a tradition with roots so deep that it predates white wedding gowns. And like many other wedding traditions, this one exists because of the patriarchy. We’re all surprised, I’m sure. That said, I still wore a veil to my wedding. I’ll get to my own reasoning why, but first, let’s ask a much bigger “why:” why do we wear veils at all?

Origin of the Bridal Veil

From Judaism to Christianity to Hinduism, wedding ceremonies have involved veils for thousands of years. Ancient cultures used veils to hide the bride from evil spirits, but as time went on, veils became a symbol of purity and chastity – yet another way to signal to everyone present that the bride was a virgin. There’s some speculation that in the cases of arranged marriages, the veil was lifted from the bride’s face so she could be presented to the groom either right before or after the ceremony for approval. The “right before the ceremony” lore says that the groom and his family had to make sure they were being given the right daughter and weren’t the victims of a bait-and-switch. The “after the ceremony” lore says that the veil is lifted after marriage in case the groom doesn’t like what he sees. Then the marriage is already finalized and he can’t back out.

And these are all lovely traditions surely designed to make women feel wonderful about themselves.

Sheesh.

A funny side effect of those long-ago veils from Ancient Greece and Rome? They were floor length and flame-colored, and while they definitely obscured the bride’s face, they also obscured her vision. That’s why brides were walked down the aisle by someone. They couldn’t see and someone had to make sure the bride wouldn’t trip and fall.

The Veil in Everyday Life

Veils weren’t just a symbol of the bride – they were (and in many places, still are!) a symbol of being a married woman. In Ancient Rome, wearing a veil signified that you were under your husband’s control. Conversely, not wearing a veil meant your marriage was dissolving. By the Middle Ages, this had evolved into a married woman covering her hair, but not her face. Christianity and Judaism continued to slowly eliminate the veil as a mandatory item of clothing, replacing it with hats (sometimes with a short piece of lace attached) or head scarfs. But the veil is still used in many religions as a symbol of purity. Consider, for instance, the last time you saw a statue or painting of the Virgin Mary. She was wearing a veil, wasn’t she?  

For remaining such a staple in wedding culture, and for having such deep roots in religions around the world, the veil has become a controversial topic, particularly in regards to Muslim women. Some countries have gone as far as to ban veil-wearing by Muslim women, including France. It’s the subject of a lot of heated discussion across Europe, the UK, and the US. Who would have thought that such a small piece of fabric would cause such a ruckus?

So, Do You Want to Wear a Veil to Your Wedding?

I did. My husband is Hindu, and for the Hindu portion of our ceremony, I was required to wear a veil to show my respect to the deities as well as to the elders present. My mother-in-law had a veil made for me, and my sister-in-law put it on me at the appropriate moment.

And since our wedding was all about combining worlds (I am not Hindu), I decided to wear a western-style veil for the western portion of our wedding. For me, it was about celebrating the traditions of both of our cultures. Though I will mention that I lifted my own veil from my face before the ceremony started. It felt like a nice way to honor the past while embracing a more independent, feminist future.

If you’re considering wearing a veil, you might want to ask yourself what’s important about it to you, and how much the sometimes-troubling history of the veil means to you.

Either way, the same rule applies to veils as well as to everything else on your wedding day: your wedding gets to look however you want it to. Wearing a veil can be wonderful, but not wearing a veil doesn’t make you any less married.

Did you or are you considering wearing a veil to your wedding? Why or why not?

Wedding Planning Basics, Step One: The Guest List

So you got engaged, you and your fiancé have spent a couple weeks basking in the glow of happiness, and now you’re coming out of the haze and realizing you need to plan a wedding (did anyone else just think, Oh, sugar?) While I’m sure there are five dozen different ways to take a concrete first step, I’m going to definitively declare a clear winner here: make a guest list. Knowing who, and how many, folks you plan to invite gives you and your sweetheart a jumping off point for what your wedding looks like. So, how to go beyond putting together a comprehensive list of your family and friends? Read on…

Call your mom (or dad. Or other important/influential parental figures).

Close family will likely have an idea of who you should invite, and if you’re thinking about a guest list of over 20 people, it’s good to ask for their opinion (opinion being the operative word).

Doing so will will give you an idea of exactly how big or small your relatives are envisioning your wedding will be, which gives you a great excuse to start practicing loving but firm conversations tempering those expectations. It won’t all be rough conversations, though; their input gives you an extra set of eyes to make sure you didn’t accidentally leave off anyone important.

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“Hey, stranger at Starbucks. Want to come to our wedding?”

If you’re my husband, you don’t just call your parents and grandparents for a list. You involve everyone, like  siblings and great aunts and make an enormous list of people who could be invited. That third cousin you’ve only met once? Absolutely they should come. Your siblings’ ten best friends? How could the wedding even happen without them! After a couple weeks of gathering names, you look at an Excel spreadsheet with five different tabs for various branches of the family plus your friends, and you add up all the names, and you discover there are 600 people listed there, and then you invite them.

Yes. All six hundred of them.

Why did we do this? Simple. The guest list was, easily, the thing my husband cared most about. He wanted absolutely everyone we wanted to invite to get invited.

Calculating out who would realistically come to our wedding, my husband and I were left with a grand total of three venues where we could host our nuptials. And then we could move on to deciding everything else.

What is that magical everything else?  

Maybe you’ll draw a lot more hard lines than we did about how many people ultimately get a save-the-date, or maybe you’ll do what we did and start inviting people we’d met the week before. But in either case, it’s going to be the first big discussion you have with each other and your family about what this wedding might look like, and it’s going to determine everything that comes afterwards: the venue; the catering; the size of the dance floor. It will also, most importantly, give you an idea for about how much you should budget.

And hey, maybe you’ve always dreamed of getting married in the same church your parents got married in, and it seats 20 and so that’s how many people are going to get invited. Great! But unless you already know of a solid reason why the guest list shouldn’t be the first thing you knock out, then officially consider this your first step.

How to elope: four steps to making it happen without hurting everyone’s feelings

My older brother and his wife considered eloping. They talked to their families and friends about it, and everyone had pretty much the same reaction: we’d all understand and support them, and we’d all have our feelings hurt. They weighed the pros and cons, and wound up combining some ideas so they could still have the small, intimate ceremony they wanted while also giving their friends some space to celebrate them.

If you’re thinking about eloping, my guess is that one main question is stopping you from just getting a license and doing it tomorrow: how many people are going to be mad at you?

We’ve got some tips for getting through the process with the most care possible.

Step one: creating space for feelings

Whether you elope and then tell everyone afterwards or tell everyone you’re going to elope before you actually do it, people are going to be upset that they can’t be there. Maybe it’s born out of genuine love and desire to celebrate your union, or maybe it’s one really opinionated relative who’s going to be mad if you do anything but the exact wedding they’ve pictured for you.

In either case, your friends and family are going to have feelings to express. And you don’t have to change your plans to accommodate their feelings, but you really should listen to them and acknowledge you’ve heard them. (I say this on the assumption that these are people you love and want to maintain a relationship with. You do not have to listen to your toxic friends/family members unleash their anger on you. Self-care, folks.)

Step two: draw some boundaries

Develop a sense of what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. Would you be okay with a party somewhere down the line? Dinner afterwards with a few people? Sending out cards/emails to announce your union? Figure out what you feel comfortable doing to include others while maintaining some amount of privacy. If you have some ideas up front, great! You can tell your friends/family exactly how they’ll be included when you tell them you’re eloping. If you don’t, also great! When you tell the above-mentioned awesome people in your life about eloping, you can also tell them you know they’ll want to be included somehow and get their thoughts about what they’d like to do that doesn’t essentially mean “having the big wedding you don’t want to have.”

And then — here’s the hard part — don’t let people talk you into something you know you’d hate.

You can’t preserve everyone’s feelings. But you can show some love to the people who love you so they don’t think you don’t care, and then stick to your plan.

Step three: make it awesome

Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have some of the traditional wedding stuff if you want it. Get your hair and/or makeup done if it would make you feel special. Hire a photographer. Send out cards.

As someone who loved the idea of eloping and couldn’t do it for a myriad of reasons, please steal my plan to wear a flower crown and get married at the Ventana Inn in Big Sur, CA. And send me pictures, maybe.

Step four: you only get one wedding, unless you want to have more of them, and then you get as many weddings as you want

If you really want to elope, and if your friends/family just can’t handle it, remember that your options aren’t “elope OR having a wedding.” You can elope AND have a wedding.

My cousin and her husband secretly went to a courthouse and got married, had photos taken, and went out to a kickass dinner. And then a year later, they had a wedding. By that point, they’d been married a while, they were happy, and their families still wanted to do a big celebration, so when it finally didn’t feel stressful or like a huge financial burden, they went ahead and had that huge wedding.

You get to design whatever kind of wedding works for you. Going into it with your eyes wide open and plenty of space to have emotional conversations will make a world of difference.

Anyone out there who wants to elope or did elope? What are your best pieces of advice to those still wondering how they’ll manage it?

The great compromise: wedding planning

Every once in a great while, I hear about engaged couples who have the exact same vision for their wedding. For them, planning just means getting all the vendors booked (no small task in itself). And then there’s the rest of us.Wedding planning, in my experience, is a giant series of compromises.

I now pronounce thee overwhelmed

My husband and I think about almost everything in exact opposite terms. We’re on the same page for all the really important stuff — what we want out of life, what joy we find in new adventures, whether we want kids, and how much Netflix is too much Netflix (answer: no amount). Generally, it’s something we both enjoy about our relationship, but the wedding brought into focus how much we could differ on really simple questions. Here’s a partial list:

Big or small wedding?

Long or short ceremony?

Religious or non-denominational?

Get married inside or outside?

Should we have a first dance?

Should we see each other before the ceremony?

Do we want flowers as centerpieces?

Are we fine with the black folding chairs the venue provides or should we rent different ones?

Write our own vows or not?

How many people in the wedding party?

And here’s the complete list of things we agreed on right off the bat:

Do we want cake? (Yep.)

How many flavors of cake? (Three.)

Cake tasting was definitely our strong point in the whole process.

But outside of dessert, we knew right away we’d need to have a lot of long, emotional conversations about everything in the wedding. Around the point that we got to “wow, we both have really strong feelings about chairs,” I was so. Done.

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How to compromise when you both have strong opinions

Our saving grace as we moved through the wedding was this question: Who cares most about this?

He cared most about chairs. I cared most about centerpieces. Sometimes the small details meant the most to our families; my mom definitely cared most about whether or not I walked down a traditional aisle, and his cared the most about having a brunch the day after the wedding.

It didn’t mean we were suddenly able to relinquish the things with grace and let someone else handle it since it clearly held more meaning for them, but it got easier with time, and eventually, it even felt great to let go of some stuff, and to give myself permission to let someone else care about certain details instead.

But sometimes, the simple truth was that we both cared exactly the same amount.

“And” instead of “or”

I’m not religious. My husband is.

I tried really, really hard to get comfortable having a religious ceremony because it was important to him.

But about six months before the wedding, I realized I was never going to be okay with it. I felt like I wasn’t being represented, because even though I don’t have religious beliefs, I still have beliefs about our life together and our relationship, and I wanted those to be discussed, too.

So when it became clear that I’d be unhappy having a religious ceremony and he’d be unhappy not having a religious ceremony, we just…decided to have both.

A lot of couples in our situation wind up having two ceremonies, usually accompanied by a break between them and an outfit change. But we had this vision of one ceremony with two officiants, combining everything that was important to us. That’s actually how I first met Vow Muse, and we sat down with them for a couple hours outlining everything we needed to have happen. They worked with our religious officiant to blend things together seamlessly. When I first read the ceremony draft they’d created, a weight lifted off me. I felt so much better, and so much more represented, and overall our ceremony just really felt like us.

It went so well, we wondered why we hadn’t just been doing what we both wanted all along. Though, admittedly, I’m not sure this strategy would have worked as well with the chairs situation. Overall for us, it meant a less traditional wedding, but also a way more personal one, and in the end, that’s what really mattered to us: that we felt like ourselves.

What are the big compromises you’re making or have made? Was anyone else really surprised that their partner cared so much about chairs? (I just really didn’t see that coming, guys.) Give us your best tips!

DIY Edition: How To Actually Enjoy Your Destination Wedding

Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com
Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com

Destination weddings aren’t for everyone. The sun, the umbrellas in the cocktails, not to mention hanging out with your friends and family nonstop for a few days — ugh, sounds terrible! Ok I’m (mostly) kidding. But seriously, if you dream about picking the right texture of frosting for your caramel frappuccino chocolate cake and are excited by the challenge of finding a third gluten-free, vegan appetizer so your second cousin will have something to eat, then the laidback vibe of a destination wedding might not be for you.

If, on the other hand, you’re down for an adventure with your besties that might not go exactly as planned, but is sure to be memorable, then you might be a candidate for a destination wedding! I chose a destination wedding in Hawaii to save money,  keep the guest list short, and get an affordable, intimate weekend trip with our closest friends. We hung out on the beach,  grabbed food together,  took hikes — it was like we were at summer camp, in paradise and with our BFFs.

So how do you enjoy your destination wedding and not get drawn into the drama and details that can accompany any wedding?

  1. Decide (early) what’s important

My fiance and I talked  extensively before the wedding about what mattered. We even settled on a theme to guide us: love is the greatest adventure! We wanted a meaningful ceremony, so we spent time and got help (thanks Muses!) writing our vows and ceremony. Quality time with our guests was key, so we planned shindigs before and after the ceremony. And we really wanted money left in the bank when it was all over. So for something like food, we looked for great Yelp reviews and moved on with our lives. (And ended up with delish Hawaiian BBQ , without agonizing over the exact menu — time and money saved!)

  1. Don’t compare your wedding to a traditional wedding

You can’t compare a destination wedding to a detailed, super-planned hometown wedding — it will only lead to disappointment because something will inevitably go “wrong.”

For example, we didn’t account for the tide, so our beach wedding got moved from the sandy shore to a bluff with the ocean in the background.

Let go of that image in your mind, of the other wedding you could have had. The sooner you stop comparing the two, the sooner you can enjoy the wedding you’re actually having!

Photo by Justin Bench of 1takewonders.com
Photo by Justin Bench of 1takewonders.com
  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Regardless of if you’re going with a package wedding at a resort or a complete DIY on the beach, there will still be decisions to be made once you arrive. But if you already decided what you care about, everything else can be handled by deferring to your proxy.

This part is worth repeating: defer to your proxy.

My elementary school teacher friend  (read: organized, action-oriented and great at wrangling people) stepped up and fielded the questions I didn’t care about. Eventually, I realized I was redundant, looked her in the eye and said, “Thank you, I trust your judgment,” and then left to do some yoga before the ceremony.

Decide ahead of time who is making the decisions you don’t care about and then let them do their job!

  1. Pick your battles

Weddings equal at least a little bit of drama. People will ask you if the decorations are just right, if the bridesmaid dresses are all the same amount of wrinkled, if there’s enough food. Remember, everyone means well: they just want everything perfect for your big day.

Does your soon-to-be mother-in-law have really strong feelings about how the tables should be set up, and you couldn't care less? Let her win this one, because it’s really a win-win. You don’t have to make the decision and she gets what she wants.

If you did step one, you know what the most important aspects of your wedding — focus on those, try to let everything else go and practice saying “I trust your judgment” while smiling and walking away from the drama.

Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com
Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com
  1. Enjoy!

Do what you need to do before your wedding to be present and relaxed. The morning of my big day I started off trying to do too much — prepping food, consulting on decorations — instead of letting my wonderful friends handle all the things, thus stressing myself out. I eventually left the prep area, and made time for myself to get excited about what was happening: marriage!

My advice: Decide ahead of time what you want to do before the wedding, instead of micromanaging the details, so you can pack any necessary supplies like a yoga mat or running shoes.

Last thoughts

Half the fun of a destination wedding is that the fun doesn’t end after the ceremony. We scheduled a brunch, beach time and another dinner for the next day. What do you and your fiancee love doing? Rock-climbing? Surfing? Treasure hunting? Plan activities that reflect both your personalities (and  consider your friends’ lifestyles). Just make sure to give your friends and family a heads up on all the extra activities so they can come early and stay late!

Are you considering a destination wedding? What questions do you have?

Tami Weiss is a writer, photographer and environmentalist living in Santa Cruz, CA. Her favorite hobbies are brunching, reading, organizing and yoga-ing.