Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Big Stuff: A Wedding’s Taking Shape

It only took us about, oh, two weeks to book most of the big stuff for the wedding. For all the worrying and research I subject myself to, when I find *it*, whatever it is, I take action – and fast. I have no real interest in shopping around or weighing my options. Thankfully, Mr. Ladyfingers approaches life in much the same way.

Here are some of the big things we knocked out just in the first month:

The venue

In the days after we got engaged, we researched probably 50+ venues in and around the Tampa Bay area. We looked at banquet halls and hotels. We looked at museums and garden clubs. We looked at outdoor and indoor venues. County buildings. Historical buildings. Mansions. We considered a backyard wedding, or a city hall affair — more than once.

The speed with which we settled may have been a little unorthodox, but many of the venues were just either out of our price range, or didn’t offer us enough time ($1,500 for a 4-hour block that includes setup and breakdown time? Uh… no thanks). So when we finally found a place we could afford, we sped down to look at it.

And… it stunk. I mean, literally. The place smelled a little like, um, pet smells. The lady helping us walked us through the main room, told us there were waterfalls out back, and went to turn them on. Little streams of water came out of rocks as we awkwardly stood around listening to the the main street traffic whiz by right outside the ceremony “garden” and giving each other silent “let’s go NOW” signals. The lady never reappeared, so, we left.

But! Bridesmaid Preggo had told me about the place where SHE was married a few years earlier, and it was only 20 minutes from the stinky place we’d just bailed from. So we gave them quick call, and headed over.

And we found this:

The front of Palma Sola Botanical Park

Image via Palma Sola Botanical Park

There’s a back lawn (ceremony), and ponds and trees and plants, and a covered deck, and an open porch… oh, my!

So. Exciting. The best parts of this venue, other than the obviously adorable and charming setting:

  • We get it for the entire day. Like, from 9 a.m. to midnight, it’s ours. For the price that most places were quoting us for 4-5 hours.
  • There’s plenty of parking out back, with an on-site parking attendant to guide guests to their spots.
  • The price included an on-site coordinator who will handle all our problems for us during the ceremony and reception.
  • The price also included a bridal room with plenty of space for us to get all gussied up, cry, freak out, and get away from it all.
  • We can bring in outside caterers! And our own alcohol! Yay!
  • For just like $65 extra, we got to rent an attached county pavilion which, A. guarantees the county won’t book a child’s birthday party there that day, and B. gives our guests an extra place to go smoke, use the bathroom, and get away from the merriment. Though, why would they want to?

Total cost: $2365

The officiant

This search was also short — while some may say I’m throwing money away, I say I’m saving my sanity. Honestly, I have a really difficult time making decisions. I prefer one or two options, max.

So again, we researched a bunch of officiants in the area who were recommended by fellow brides-to-be and recently married ladies from around the Interwebz.

I sent out requests, and got back one lady who wanted to charge $425 for the ceremony and the rehearsal, so… no.

Another wrote back he’d do it for free/a donation to his ministry, but since he was in St. Pete and our wedding is in Bradenton, about 45 minutes away, we wanted to look still for somebody closer, both for his sake and for my comfort that he’d get there on time.

So finally, we settled on the Rev. Charles Shook (Rev. Chuck), who gave us a very good rate for both the ceremony and the rehearsal combined, and sounded so warm and nice. His wife talked in the background, and he sent us a lovely choice of ceremonies. They made me cry, in a good way. Sold.

Total cost: $175

The DJ

Another score from Bridesmaid Preggo! This guy did their wedding at Palma Sola a few years back, and works with her hubby. He’s great, super available, and non-cheesy. He was also very flexible with the deposit situation, which was useful in those early days of check-writing frenzy and bank account brow furrowing.¬†We booked him for ceremony music and 4-5 hours during dinner and after dinner — you know, for the par-tay music — for just over $500.

Total cost: $550

The photographer

I love my bridesmaids. This one came courtesy of my MOH Ginger, who is just generally awesome. But this is a good time to bring up a point: When you’re on a budget, or if you just love a great deal, talk to EVERY-BODY-YOU-KNOW about your wedding and the specific things you’re looking for. You want to be sensitive not to gush about how fun it will be to people you have no intention of inviting, but the best way to get bargains and the insider scoop is to get word of mouth referrals from those who have done it before/know people who have/know people who know people.

So Ginger has a boyfriend, and this boyfriend has a friend, and this friend’s wife does wedding photography. And she’s awesome! Her stuff has great style. She’s just not yet at the “uber-professional, I have a super well-known busines”s stage yet. She’s done a few weddings and is trying to jump-start her career. So she gave us a rate of $100 per hour, plus a free engagement session! Nice. Done.

Total cost: $500 + $100 travel fee = $600


We have an awesome friend who works in graphic design who has offered to do our invitations as a wedding present! God, we have amazing friends. We’ll meet to go over options, and we may end up reimbursing her for any costs of super-fancy stuff. Then again, I’m not a super-fancy girl. Aside from the adornments I planned to add and the postage, the invitations came in at…

Total cost: Roughly free

The dress

Oh, yeah — almost forgot about this! Exactly one week and two days after our engagement, I went with Bridesmaid Esquire to Alfred Angelo, just to look. They were having a sale, and I wanted to get a sense of what looks good on me, and what does not.

I outlined my requirements: Simple, not huge and poofy, and under $500.

I tried on one dress, and meh. Then I tried on another, and TOTAL EFFING WATERWORKS. I felt weird that this might be the dress – it was the second one I had tried on ever. So I tried on a third. Pretty, but not #2. And a fourth. Meh. No.

Did I mention I’m a decisive girl as long as I have few options?

I discussed it with Esquire, and asked for her candid opinion: Would it be ridiculously dumb to buy this dress before I’d had a chance to look elsewhere?

And her response was: “Absolutely not.” And I am a follower, so there you have it. I put down the deposit. And, I bought an AWESOME headpiece with feathers and stuff on it. Because I really don’t like veils.

Sorry, no picture of the dress! But…

Total cost of dress: $480

Total cost of headpiece: $80

So there you have it! With the majors out of the way, we just had the catering and the bakery to knock out. Then, it was time to focus on the details!

How decisive were you on the big stuff? Did you shop around? Did it result in some excellent pricing? What other benefits did you find in taking your time — or not, as it were.

Wedding related

We’ve booked our venue and DJ, and chosen our photographer. We’re coming close to finalizing a caterer, and I’ve ordered The Dress. We booked our officiant. I have a color palette (spring-in-fall-vintage-fun) and a theme (modern vintage). We know what type of dessert we’d like (three types of filled cupcakes plus a small cake in one of the flavors for us to cut). We know our first dance and father-daughter dance songs. I know the song I’ll walk down the aisle to. I know what flowers I’d like to use (hot pink roses for the bridesmaid’s bouquets, hot pink roses and white hydrangeas for mine, a white hydrangea bout for the groom, magenta squares for the boys, white hydrangeas in the centerpieces). I can exactly visualize the space.

Oh, did I mention we’ve been engaged for three weeks?

Yeah, I’m slightly insane.

First, please allow me to explain myself. It’s what I do best/worst.

1. I work full time. Like, whoa full time. Like, I’m kind of a workaholic, but work also ticks me off and stresses me out to the max, and often leaves me tattered and burnt out for the rest of the day. I love. My job.

2. I go to school part time. As much as I love my job, I’m not sure about my long-term prospects in this career field, and I’d like to have something to fall back on. That something, potentially, is interior design. Or set design. Or styling. Or writing for/editing/starting an interior design magazine. Whatever the end result, I’m in the interior design program of a local design school. I love. My school.

3. I have a pretty active social and spiritual life that leads to a lot of my nights being dedicated to gathering with close friends, helping out a few girls in need, and generally just forcing myself to slow down and enjoy life, for the sake of my own sanity and those around me. I love. My life.

4. Oh, yeah, there’s that whole keeping the relationship alive thing. I love. My fiancee.

5. And then there’s housework-eating-sleeping-taking time for myself. I love… nah, I just wish there was more time in the day.

So there you have it. My completely jam-packed day. I also freelance a bit, so I’m at what I’d like to call capacity. Throw wedding planning into the mix – as in planning a wedding with no wedding planner and a bit of a budget that’s a blast and charming and memorable within 10 months – and you have the makings of a crazy person.

I decided it would behoove me to knock as many big-ticket items off our list while I still could, so in that lull between Christmas and New Year’s, we researched-researched-researched and went to look at places. We’re more than halfway there on the Big Stuff. Then it’s just time to focus on all the details.

And that’s what you’re here for. To check out all my details.