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I’m Louise. Blogger. Wife. Designer of TruLu Couture Veils + Accessories.  If you’d like to know more, check out my bio.

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Entries in Engagement (2)

Friday
Dec022011

Dear T30SB: Wedding Pre-Planning Advice

Today I’m going to shell out some unsolicited advice. Please note that no one wrote me for this. No one sought out the oh, so sage wisdom of T30SB. (*cough*) There is no “Dear T30SB” anonymous bride looking for help. Nope, there’s none of that.

I recently commented on  an East Side Bride guest  post over on 100 Layer Cake that posed the question: is it acceptable to un-invite guests? The Southern Woman in me had herself a little internal hissy fit at the mere thought of a social faux pas this extreme. In my world, something like that would be considered très gauche. My grandmother Nanya would roll over in her grave. No, I take that back. My grandmother Nanya’s soul would float down from the heavens above, grab me by the scruff of the neck and march me out to the backyard to pick my own switch, with which she would promptly whack the hell out of the back of my legs.

The 100 Layer Cake post reminded me of  a very young bride I knew not too long ago who made some wedding planning mistakes. She paid a $500 deposit on a venue without realizing that an outdoor wedding in August in Tennessee might not be the best idea. Hello, humid! She hired a vendor too quickly, signed a contract and found herself in a pickle when she realized she didn’t gel with that vendor. The same bride sent me a Save the Date for which I never got an invitation (not that I expected one, mind you).

All of this comes down to poor planning. Yes, planning. And you know what? Had it not been for The Candyman, I probably would have made some of those very same mistakes. We got engaged in December, right before Christmas. When we were driving from his dad’s house to my parent’s house, I was writing our guest list on the back of a napkin. I was firing questions at The Candyman so fast, there wasn’t even time for him to answer. I was mentally adding and subtracting bank account totals while simultaneously discussing  a Nashville versus destination wedding. I took a very fast trip to Crazy Town and The Candyman could see I was about to set up camp. In his brilliance he said this:

“Can’t we just be engaged for a while?”

“Uh, what?”

All signs said NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I would NOT be one of those chicks who got engaged and stayed engaged for like, ever. No. You get engaged, you get married. Soon. Not too soon, but you don’t just sit around on your keister either. Uh huh. No way, Jose.  We needed to set a date, STAT.

The Candyman stood firm. He didn’t say we couldn’t plan, but he simply didn’t want to make any decisions.

That ended up being like, the BEST THING EVER.

Why? Because it gave us a little wiggle room. By not setting a precise date immediately after engagement, we got some breathing space from friends and family. We didn’t commit to vendors. We went to a bridal show together and walked around with our jaws on the floor the whole time. I saw brides with clip boards and folders and pre-printed name and address labels to give to vendors. I, uh, brought my purse.

While everything in my being SCREAMED to throw myself headfirst over the edge into wedding planning, The Candyman calmly held fast to my collar while my little legs spun in place, like a cartoon. That man was NOT going to be roped into anything he didn’t want to do (this remains a character trait, often times much to my dismay).

What ended up happening was that we talked more about our vision, about what we each saw in our mind’s eye for our wedding day. We both saw a little Southern church. We saw good food. We saw simplicity. We saw family.

That original guest list on the napkin? It was cut almost in half. What we saw as our mutual vision came to fruition in a way I never thought could happen.

So I bet all y’all (yes, “all y’all” is a perfectly acceptable grammatical phrase) are thinking, “So Louise, what’s the freakin’ advice already?”

Well, with December upon us (it’s the most popular month of engagements) and Christmas right around the corner, with it will be a whole new crop of freshly engaged couples. There will be brides who know EXACTLY what they want. There will be clueless brides (like your truly was). There will be future in-laws demanding face time as well as significant real estate on your  guest list. You will want to dive head first over that ledge. You are excited. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE! YOU ARE ENGAGED! Be excited. Stay excited.

My advice is to give yourself just a smidge of time to be simply engaged. Even if you know the date, keep it on the down-low so you have time to investigate and think through what you want, who you want and how you want…everything. Talk about your budget and research before you commit to anything. You just made a giant commitment to get married. Let it sink in. I encourage the binders and the clipboards and pre-printed labels. Organization is good. Knowing what you want is good. But so is just taking a little time to yourselves as a couple. Think. Talk. Love. Have a lot of sex.

It’s a wild ride, the engagement/wedding planning thing. Enjoy it for a while.

Thursday
Jan062011

The Engagement Party

Recently I have gotten a slew of emails from readers with the most intriguing questions and ideas. I so love when y'all write me. I do really enjoy interacting with the people who read this little blog. One reader in particular sent me a question that gave me slight pause on how to answer. Reader Kristine wants to know:

If we are having a wedding with around 100 guests, can we invite people to the engagement party that we don't intend to invite  to the wedding? (childhood friends, parents' friends, etc.) And when it comes to the wedding, how to we handle families? For example, if I invite my childhood best friend, and I want to invite his parents, do I have to invite his college-aged sister also? And does she have to have a plus-one? I don't want to make decisions now that are going to bite us in the butt in 18 months!

OK, first of all - CONGRATULATIONS! You're engaged! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Now, down to the nitty-gritty of things. The fact that you're concerned with this means you're thinking ahead (good for you) and have concern and consideration for the multitude of friends and family you'd like to share in your celebration. This means you are a Good Person and everyone here at The Thirty-Something Bride (all three of us, Less Kitty included) really like Good People. However, you will find that being a Good Person means zippo when it comes to wedding stuff. Wedding politics can turn into a very slippery, unhappy slope if you don't set ground rules NOW. And by ground rules, I mean expectations. You probably have an idea of who you want to invite, an image in your mind's eye of what you will look like, the vibe of your day. If not, don't worry - it'll come. Just make sure that these expectations are something that you share with your immediate family and fiancé. This includes who will be in attendance at the plethora of parties that can happen surrounding your nuptials.

The engagement party is traditionally the place where families meet and get to know each other. The engagement party is not a requirement, even by traditional standards. Common sense (and Emily Post) says that you should throw an engagement party 30-90 days after being engaged and at least 6 months before the wedding. Protocol also says that it is indeed very bad form to invite people to the engagement party who you do not plan to invite to the wedding. Look at your engagement party list as you would your invite list. But you can't think about your invite list without thinking about your budget. And you can't think about your budget without first sitting down with all parties involved in the budget contribution. It's like the Circle of Life - all things lead back to The Budget in wedding planning. Always. It's infuriating, so be prepared. If you're paying for the wedding, the guest list is really in your capable hands, with absolute consideration for who all the parents want to invite. Note that I said consideration. If it's a combined financial effort, everyone has a say but keeping in mind that it is you and your fiancé's wedding. If just the parents are paying, the same applies - it's still your gig, but the parental units have more leverage.

"Protocol" also states that a couple shouldn't throw themselves an engagement party - generally it's the parents of the bride or groom who host. This doesn't mean you don't contribute though, particularly when the outcome of who is invited to the engagement party affects who is in attendance on your wedding day. So does that mean that you can't celebrate your engagement with your childhood BFF? No, it does not. The great thing about weddings these days is that you can occasionally flip the big, fat finger at protocol and do what you want.

Ask yourself some questions. Do you really want to have party that celebrates your engagement? Do your respective parents? Would you rather save the money and apply it to your wedding so that you can invite a few extra distant friends? You can throw a small engagement party for family/close friends only - those people you know for sure you want to invite to your wedding. Keep the "maybe" people off that list. If you want a bigger soiree for everyone else, I'd consider just throwing a regular ol' party and invite everyone. Don't call it an engagement party. Have it around a holiday and disguise the party that way: a Groundhog Day Bash, a Memorial Day BBQ, a Fourth of July Fiesta. Keep it casual and flash your new ring as often as possible. Just remember that this will add to your budget woes (if you have them). Even a BBQ can end up costing an arm and a leg if you've got 100+ people there.

As for the college-aged sister of the childhood BFF? No, you do not have to invite her or a plus one. In fact, you don't even have to invite the parents unless you really want them there. You're not throwing a huge wedding - you'll be surprised at how 100 people can add up super-duper fast - keep your invites for the people in your life who are there for you through thick and thin. These are the people you want at your wedding, not the peripherals of people who are related to your rock-steady friends (unless they are spouses of the rock-steady friends). 

Very soon after I was engaged I attended a party for a friend who was releasing a book she wrote. I was definitely planning on inviting her and her husband to our wedding. I also know her parents. At the book signing, her mother congratulated us and said she couldn't wait to see me all dressed up on our wedding day. I think the look on my face said exactly what was in my head: OH MY GOD. I TOTALLY WANT YOU AT THE WEDDING BECAUSE I THINK YOU ARE WONDERFUL, BUT YOU ARE NOT ON OUR GUEST LIST. My friend's mom graciously let me off the hook (Southern women are so classy) but I felt terrible. However, it didn't change the fact that it was her daughter and husband who I would invite and not the parents.

So in case my ramblings are unclear, here is a final synopsis:

Engagement party? Keep it small. No friends of friends or plus ones or anyone you do not plan to invite to the wedding.

Wedding? Inviting a friend does not mean you have to extend an invitation to the friend's entire family. Additionally, plus ones should be reserved for spouses or people who are in a committed relationship, particularly if you're having an intimate wedding.

Sadly though, lots of people don't get this. I didn't get it when I was younger. I actually had the audacity to ask for a plus one once so I could bring a date. I know, I know.  I was so lame. I just didn't get it. I didn't understand anything about weddings. In hindsight though, I think it was probably OK because that couple is now divorced and the groom (my friend) is now living with his male life partner. *Ahem* I think everyone involved probably wants to forget that wedding ever happened at all....

The answer is that there is no solid answer. There is a lot of bending and swaying that you will have to do. You'll be maneuvering around the guest list up until the last minute too - verbal invites a la the groom, distant relatives who think they deserve an invite even though you're closer to your hair stylist than them, people who refuse to RSVP or change their answer every other minute....the invitation thing can be a bear. Hold fast to your wedding intentions, but also be a little flexible - it will save you stress and hair pulling. Choose your battles carefully and with thought.

Having said all this, I'm sure Kristine would welcome any additional advice on her engagement party invitation issues. Discuss....