Investing in our home instead of a wedding venue Sunday, Mar 6 2011 

Friday we attended a wedding that was at a lovely manor house. I checked their website and saw that Friday was less expensive, saving the family $800. Still, it cost $2000 and that’s not uncommon as a venue price.  We can’t pay that much.We’ve got seven more daughters and two sons to marry off, so we’re thinking hard about how to minimize the pain to our wallet. We’ve thought about wedding locations since they are one of the big three expenses along with food and photography. Why not build equity by doing improvements around our home instead of renting wedding spaces?

If for each child we invested even a thousand dollars, we could add a patio, fountain, gazebo and landscaping and still have money for renting a party tent and buying dishes, glasses and table linens. We could clean and paint as needed to make everything nice for the ceremony and the money we spend would be seen around us instead of passed on to a business. For a wedding at home, it helps that we have a beautiful piece of land in a country setting, but even if we didn’t I’d try to find a pretty venue that wasn’t expensive. Maybe a park, flower garden, community center, church or open field.

We could use the church we attend for free, but there’s a problem. The stage/pulpit area is ugly. There again we could spend money and energy on what’s “ours”.  As members we could invest in the facility we use by donating wood paneling and moulding as well as our labor to make the church more beautiful. We could make speaker stands so that instead of being a prominent eyesore the speakers would visually disappear. We could also move the antique church pulpit we use as a hall table from our foyer to the church and bring in large flower arrangements. Several bolts of tulle and lots of twinkle lights might help out with the fellowship hall. I happened to get those bolts of tulle free when I helped at a wedding and the hosts didn’t want to store them. We’ll have to get a creative genius to give us advice and then get to work. Yeah, more work. When you don’t have money, you usually have to invest time and effort to get what you want; but it’s better to pay as you go and have no debt.

A little rant about weddings Monday, Jul 12 2010 

I’m doing my part as mother of 8 girls to challenge the culture’s thinking about weddings. Sure, it’s an important day and I want my daughters to feel beautiful and to enjoy the ceremony and the reception, but I think it’s getting out of hand. Regular working Americans are spending too much on fancy weddings that are over in an evening and being paid for for a year. We gave our oldest daughter a laughably low budget and she made it work for a lovely wedding. A groomsman was stunned when he heard what the wedding had cost, he thought it was four times as much!

The most important reception planning idea is to remember that “it’s just a party”. Maybe the divorce rate would be a lot lower if people cared about the marriage more than the wedding. Maybe if we’d lower the impossibly high bar on what makes a great wedding, we wouldn’t overspend on them. Maybe if we didn’t let girls think that they were the princess of the world for their wedding day, there’d be fewer bridezillas. The only real essentials for the day are a groom, a bride, an officiant and a witness. Everything else is extra….everything. If a bride absolutely has to have more than her groom in order to be happy, I’d question her commitment to him. Sure, it’s fun to throw a great party. It’s even important to building up the couple as part of the community of married people to have a public ceremony. But at the core of the whole wedding process there needs to be a steady, calm relationship. The groom isn’t the prop necessary for a great show. The bride isn’t the center of the universe. A new household is forming, better it be a realistic and sane one.

Besides a new way of thinking of weddings, maybe there are some better ways to do things at weddings. Every time we go to a wedding we think about what we’d do similarly or differently since we’ll be hosting seven more of them. One thing we keep seeing is that the photo session after the ceremony leaves the guests waiting and bored. There’s got to be a better way to handle that. Maybe it means skipping the “nobody sees the bride” tradition and taking the portraits before the ceremony. The good thing about that  would be that the wedding party would all be assembled early! I’m open to suggestions on this one.

One family friendly wedding we went to had kid activities to keep them happy at the table. There were little buckets of crayons, paper, stickers and candies sprinkled down the table.  Another great idea we saw recently was the wedding favor at an outdoor wedding in full sun…parasols! It was fun and clever besides being thoughtful. Keep in mind your guests and their comfort, not just a beautiful or impressive reception. I’m collecting ideas and speaking to brides to try to bring down the expectations, all in hopes of improving the way weddings are done.