So this was supposed to be our big challenge as a newly engaged couple? Planning a wedding? I’m insulted.
Sure, it took my fiancee and I nearly two months of searching to find the perfect venue, and we accidentally ordered 950 return address stickers that it turns out we don’t need, but if that’s the worst of it, this wedding planning thing is a friggen joke.
For those of you who have successfully planned a wedding, I can see you reading this and bursting into laugher.
“Just you wait,” you’re probably saying.
Fair enough. It’s true that we’re only scratching the surface with the planning. We haven’t yet had to tackle the details of a wedding day timeline, seating arrangements, which of our many vendors are going to forget key things or show up late and what the contingencies are. There’s a lot of planning to go, and I’m sure it’ll get harder. But I still don’t believe it has to be stressful.
So what have we done so far? We’ve locked in our venue, hired most of the major vendors, designed a save the date and finalized the guest list.
Let me take you on a brief stroll through these past few weeks.
I have to imagine this is the most frustrating part of the early-on wedding planning for many couples. You’ll find that no two venues are alike, specifically in terms of what services are included, which services you’re required to use one of their “preferred” vendors for, what restrictions they have on timing, noise, decorations, what type of toilet paper you’re allowed to wipe your ass with…
And when choosing a venue you can’t think ONLY about the venue. You have to think about how close or far hotel accommodations are, how curvy the road is to get to the venue for your fiancee’s side of the family who apparently all get car sick very easily, what the weather’s going to be like, what part of the sky the sun sets in compared to where you’ll be standing as you say “I do.”
All of that is going to bother you a little bit, but it’s the photos that some venues put online to demonstrate how awesome their spot is for a wedding that will really make you scratch your head:
Oh look, this venue allows for appetizers to be passed around on wooden platters! And there’s a perfect place for the bride’s shoes on a random bed at the venue! AND…OH MY GOD…this venue is so good that the bride & groom are actually smiling during the ceremony! BOOK IT, QUICK! DO IT!
I just want to scream at so many of these pictures: ZOOM OUT!!!
I know. Weird thing to be so passionate about. But when you’ve looked at 50+ venues and each of their websites has roughly 30-100 photos to browse, it gets pretty obnoxious to have to deal with these pointless images that do absolutely nothing to enhance the attractiveness of the venue.
You probably think I’m about to complain about the apparent 900% mark-up that all caterers charge just because it’s a wedding. I’m not.
Instead I want to talk about an important lesson learned.
One of the bonuses of the caterer selection process, so I’ve been told, is the opportunity to do tastings. After reading reviews of the two catering companies we were considering, we felt pretty confident the food would be good. But one friend who recently got married said he had an awful tasting experience so he highly recommended doing it to be sure of the quality. And another friend has been talking for years about how the tasting was his favorite part of the entire wedding process.
For those of you who don’t know, my fiancee and I live in Los Angeles. We’re getting married in San Diego. From an efficiency and logistics standpoint, we decided to load up on as many vendor visits as possible on our last trip to San Diego. This resulted in our first tasting happening on a Friday morning at 10am, and our second tasting happening at 12pm on that same Friday.
This turned out to be a major misstep. While people told us about tastings in the past, they didn’t really tell us ABOUT tastings. We didn’t realize that each caterer would roll out multiple hors d’oeuvres followed by three entrees for each myself and my fiancee. We didn’t share each of the three entree choices. We each got served all three entrees. This would have been an absurd amount of food if we were only meeting with one caterer that day.
I ate salmon, beef, shrimp and crab cakes at 10am and washed it down with sliders, short ribs, summer squash ravioli and more salmon at 12pm. The tastings themselves were awesome. The 10 hours immediately following them were the worst.
My recommendation is to limit yourself to one tasting per day.
My final question about the caterer experience: Which of these is more awkward?
- A romantic table for four is set up in a conference room and the owner & his assistant join you at the table for the 45-minute tasting. They eat the full meal with you, never leave you alone and make forced small talk the entire time.
- The chef & his wife leave you alone while you taste their food, only entering the room to clear your plates or bring you the next dish. But at the end of the tasting, they both sit down with you and go line-by-line through the full menu to get your opinion on everything you tried. Intimidated because the guy who made the food is sitting right there? Don’t worry, they assure you, he doesn’t have an ego. Really? So when I tell him, “You almost nailed this salmon. Almost. I think you just need to take it easy on the mustard sauce,” that’s not going to be awkward at all?
I’ve made several suggestions for saving money throughout this wedding process (you’ll see some more ideas that got shot down below), and one of them was to just have an iPod playing music and cut the DJ out entirely. Well, that didn’t gain any traction with my bride who is solely focused on the dancing aspect of the reception. When we met with our DJ, he assured me that beyond being a glorified iPod, he also has the ability to “read the room.” I’m intrigued to see what this means and how valuable I think it is compared to the money paid for his services.
His one example of reading the room: “If I’m playing Michael Jackson and no one is dancing, then no one’s ever gonna start dancing.”
Well played, DJ Nik.
Only one note on this particular vendor. My fiancee was not on board with scrapping a photographer and instead having all of our family & friends take pictures all night on their phones and send them to us after the wedding. I can’t imagine how that idea wouldn’t have worked perfectly.
This is by far the most absurd vendor of the bunch. I understand flowers are a necessary evil for any wedding, but you can’t price your flowers out as if they are the very last flowers on earth. That’s not fair.
What’s worse is that I know how much flowers should cost. Every time I fuck up in my relationship, I buy a nice bouquet of flowers because I find it’s a better solution than showing actual remorse. Those bouquets generally cost $20-$30. The bouquets that each bridesmaid will walk down the aisle with at my wedding? Four or five times that cost! Atrocious.
OK, so maybe the bouquets are needed. Fine. But can’t we skimp on the centerpieces? Why do those have to be flower arrangements? You know what’s a better and cheaper idea? A bobblehead doll of a different Boston athlete at each table. That way you can even name the table after the athlete who’s occupying it.
“Oh, Matt, I noticed you’re seated at the Carl Everett table. That’s a good one.”
Just know that if the wedding doesn’t happen, no matter what excuse we make, it was because we could never compromise on the flowers.
- I had one more brilliant idea. In order to get to the partying portion of the reception as quickly as possible, I proposed we create a seating plan where no one sits at a table with anyone they’ve ever met before. This would cause all of our guests to get dinner over with as quickly as possible, which is my main goal with this entire wedding.
- The concept of paying for a honeymoon when also trying to wade through the costs of the wedding seemed daunting at first. But then I realized if we pay for the entire wedding on a credit card, the points we’d earn from those charges would probably pay for most of the honeymoon. And then we started getting the contracts from the vendors, most of which included the fine print of a 3-5% fee if we wanted to pay by credit card. Why are my vendors in cahoots with the credit card company?
- I’ve found that if you manage your parents’ expectations extremely well, you’ll only get…25 or so people invited to the wedding that you never had any real interest in inviting! Isn’t that some great news?
- Registries always seem to have such serious adult stuff on them. Stuff we’ll never use. Stuff we’ll return without telling you that we realized we have no use for your gift. Can I put fun things that I’ll use on my registry? Beach chairs, a bike that has gears, a new 3-wood? All those things would get used. Oh, and maybe a new couch is in order?
- If you’re the man in the relationship, and you tell your fiancee you don’t want to be involved or that you “don’t care” about the details of the wedding, you’re kind of a douche. And really, you’re only making it worse on yourself because I promise your fiancee will be 20 times more stressed and not awesome to be around if she’s taking on the entire wedding planning on her own.
- First of all, why wouldn’t you want to be involved in the planning of what should be a kick-ass party in your honor? Second, what kind of asshole says, “Yes, let’s get married. Let’s invite 175 of our closest friends & family to our wedding where we’ll need to line up about 10 vendors who have clear-cut instructions from us on every tiny detail, and hey, let’s have the logistical challenge of getting these people all to the right city, then to the right venue at the right time and then herd them from the ceremony to the cocktail hour to the reception and then safely home…but you go ahead & do all that because I don’t really care about the details.”
- I told my fiancee early on that I will give opinions on everything, but for the decisions I truly don’t care about, I will tell her, “I really don’t have a strong opinion or preference so if you’re leaning one way, go for it. But if you need to break a tie in your head, here’s what I think.”
- And really, as long as there is an open bar for every minute I have to be around these “family members” and “friends” then I’m satisfied.