Monthly Archives: March 2012

Confessions of a Yard Sale Failure

I am a yard sale failure.

I’ve been purchasing other people’s crap for 14 years. You could call me a bit of an addict. Estate, moving, yard, rummage, tag, garage… no matter what you call it, there’s a certain thrill in perusing the lives of others, spread out among a couple of tables, priced at a bargain basement price that shows no shame from those desperate to unload. It’s even better if it’s an estate sale, because you’re combing through dead people’s things. I’m not gonna lie, though, divorce sales are really depressing.

I’ve held a few myself. My first was in high school, with my friend Katie. We printed “GARAGE SALE” in big bubble letters on hot pink posterboard and put them up at 6 in the morning. I don’t remember if we sold anything. Most of it wasn’t even ours. I do know that we had fun. There may have been lemonade. I certainly wasn’t upset when nobody bought anything.

Not so with our last sale. This one was solely for the purpose of unloading some stuff. I had it in my mind that the whole city would be throwing punches to buy my crappy painted picture frames and “vintage” plates. I started the day with high hopes. We did sell some stuff. Unfortunately, I had purchased three garage sale signs the day before for $40. So, we broke even.

The ironic thing is that 90% of the stuff for sale were things I myself had gotten secondhand.

The circle of life.

I suddenly became so offended at the yard sale practices that I myself had perpetrated time and time again: The slow drive-by, followed by the quick speed-off. The 5-second browse. The picking up and putting down, picking up and putting down, picking up and putting down. I may have even yelled at a few people. You know, in that “passive aggressive ear shot” kind of way where I’m not necessarily talking loud enough for them to hear me, but loud enough so that they might. Hopefully. But not. But yes.

Turns out, I am highly offended when nobody wants to become the third-or-fourth-hand-owner of my discarded garbage.

Seeing as how we’re moving in 3 weeks (oh yeah… we got the clear to close… more on that later), I figured we need to unload a lot of our stuff. Over 100 books. A guitar. A computer. Some of the antique bottles from the wedding (I kept most of them). About 50 pieces of additional miscellanous glassware. Some crappy vintage luggage. A board game. Weird kitchen shit.

An hour before the sale began, we had somebody pull up to the house and sit in their car for 15 minutes. When I started setting stuff up 30 minutes before, and had about 7 items out on the table, a lady came up, and when I told her the sale wouldn’t start until 8 (because I wasn’t going to race back and forth with her standing there waiting for gold, rifles, military items, or tools), she angrily walked away.

Once we opened, we had 8 drive-bys, and one guy who perused for 5 seconds before saying, “Interesting…” and getting back in his car.

HIGHLY OFFENSIVE.

Thankfully, we had a pop of traffic. The guitar went, as did the computer. Some books. Some re-gifts (sorry…).

OK, so enough exposition. What have I learned?

1. Advertise early and often. Post pictures. Get descriptive. I started posting on Craiglist on Wednesday, again on Friday, and listed some individual items Saturday morning. I have no idea if it drew a crowd, but it sounds like good advice, doesn’t it?

2. Post signs. Lots of them, at busy intersections, and enough to get people there. Last time, I think I put one sign up pointing left, then no sign pointing right, so people just aimlessly drove past our street. Whatever. Also, don’t write in pencil on a paper bag. Commonsense.

3. Price fairly, but not too low. Come on. Your stuff is worth more than that. Also, don’t try to give stuff away for free. I felt like maybe that would help build word of mouth. But I think people find it offensive when you don’t let them pay 50 cents for a muffin tin. They feel homeless and dirty, like somebody who can’t afford a secondhand muffin tin but desperately wants to make muffins.

4. Don’t take it personally. Seriously. If you’re having a garage sale, you probably go to garage sales. That’s a fair assumption, because only people like us could accumulate so much shit that they in no way want. Nobody wants to buy your grandmother’s stained pillow for 25 cents. Honestly? You knew that when you put it out there. So when somebody scrunches their nose up when they look at it, it doesn’t mean they think that your grandmother was a racist whore. It means they’re grossed out that you put a stained pillow outside on the ground and have the audacity to want a quarter for it.

5. Get comfy. Nobody wants a sweaty hawk with a fanny pack hovering over them while they pick through a pile of 1950s cookbooks. Get a nice chair, some coffee, some water — and please, some sunscreen. Get your laptop and blog and listen to weird indie rock. Don’t pay any attention to people. Trust me, your stuff will sell like hotcakes.

Also, I’m having a moving sale. Come buy my stuff. No… really.

Online Window Shopping: No Better Distraction for the Closing Delay Blues

I’ve decided — somewhat prematurely — that buying a house is among the most foolish things we Americans crave. We haven’t had an experience nearly as complex or devastating as some homebuyers, yet I’m sitting here pulling my hair out because we can’t figure out when we’re actually closing until about 8,000 things are coordinated. Things that should have been coordinated weeks ago. I’m not known as the world’s most patient person… we’ll just put it that way.

So, in order to distract myself from the nausea-inducing uncertainty of purchasing a house in enough time to ensure we are not homeless, I have wisely decided to do a bit of window shopping on Ye Olde List of Craige. Because the smartest thing to do when you are not sure whether or when you will be in your new digs, is to shop for furnishings for said digs.

First up, this piece billed as a “nautical-type wall mirror with small drawer” going for the bargain basement price of thirty smackeroos.

I’m not sure I would have considered this my style had I seen it at, oh, a place that rhymes with Schmestoration Mardware for like, $300. But $30? Dude, this might be just the thing for “our” new entryway.

Then, we have a “very nice” oak dining table and chairs for $225.

OK, here’s the thing. That table is really fugly. And $225 is a lot of money for me. But those chairs are just fantastic. I can picture some kick-ass cushions on them, and sitting them on “our” new front porch, and dude, the mental picture looks awesome.

I’m so tempted by this next one…

I’ve seriously seen this thing listed for like, over a month. There must be something wrong with it. Does it not look as awesome in person? Is it because it’s just the headboard? It’s so fly, though, and only $50, and it would be perfect for the full-size bed that I have owned since 2002, and which, in all that time, has sat lonely and bare with no headboard.

For under $200, this one is kiiiiinda screamin’ my name.

This is a “high quality, antiqued painted finish … waterfall design, solid wood credenza, buffet or TV stand with storage.” Dovetail joints. Drawers. Cabinets. Dude… you belong in “our” dining room.

Finally, we’ve got these twinsies.

I can’t tell if these are awesome, or awful. I think it goes without saying that they would be subjected to a paint treatment. I doubt they’re real wood, despite the description that includes the word “wood.” The flowers on the front are kinda what stop me from driving out there right now. You would think I would also be horrified by the fake diary locks on the bottom of the door, but… no, that’s just what kind of awful taste I have.

Oh yeah, they’re $10. Like, for the pair.

This might be a ridiculous rhetorical question, but have you ever tried to calm your nerves by engaging in some self-destructive and poorly timed shopping? Do you also think that buying a house is the most ridiculous thing anybody on this earth could do? While you’re answering my questions, cross your fingers and toes for us. Whatever that means.

A Ladyfingers Farewell Post

I can hardly believe I’m writing this post. Back before I became a blogger Bee, I would read these teary farewell posts and, while I was always sad to see these ladies go after following them throughout their planning journeys, I didn’t understand the idea of literally putting off a goodbye post because you didn’t want to leave.

Turns out, I totally get it. I’ve been so honored to have been able to share our wedding planning details, our ups and downs, my worries and fears, and everything in between. We’re rounding the corner on four months of marriage — a mere drop in the bucket — but today, I have all the emotion of the day after the wedding. At that point, it had been 11 months of my life poured into one day. The day after, it was all over. Family and friends were on planes back to their homes. Life was beginning to get back to normal. Practically everything I had crafted fit into a shoebox. I cried that day, not because I was unhappy, or sad, but because 11 months of adrenaline had come to a screeching halt. And now, there was just us.

I have been so blessed to be part of this community, and hope to be able to participate more than ever on the boards. We have so many exciting things happening in our lives, and I hope that you’ll join me back at my blog, Talking in Your Sleep, for the adventures of this fairly newlywed couple.

Until then, happy wedding planning. I’ll miss you all so very much.

Photo by Shorts Shots Photography

Wrapped Around Your Finger: Money — It’s a Drag

Ah, money — the core of almost every wedding-related conversation and decision. We started fighting over money almost right away, reading through the lists of how much things “should” cost… and how much we were actually able to put away each money. We did not have a wedding fund — nay, even an emergency fund — and panicked that perhaps we couldn’t afford this shebang after all.

Then, as they tend to do, things began to work out. I got a better, and better-paying, job. I picked up more freelance work. Some family members offered to help out here and there. We figured out areas we could cut. But along with all that, priorities changed, and some things came in over budget. Here, then, is the Ladyfingers Wedding Budget Breakdown Extravaganza.

Our original overall budget: $10,000

Venue: $1,950 + $250 refundable security deposit  $86 for rental of adjoining gazebo (on county property in adjoining park, so could be rented out to others during our event, unless we claimed it)

Original venue budget: $1,500

Included:

  • Exclusive use of grounds from 9 a.m. until midnight
  • Exclusive use of adjoining gazebo
  • Ceremony lawn
  • Back deck with occupancy of 150
  • Indoor room with occupancy of 80.
  • On-site venue coordinator and parking attendant.

We were actually pretty comfortable with our venue outlay even though it was over our initial budget. We really didn’t know how we were going to do it, after pricing about a bajillion places.

How we saved: We looked far and wide for something small enough with everything we wanted. We cut out guest list so we could get into smaller spaces that didn’t cost as much as places that held 150 — or more. We asked around — this particular venue was where BM Prego and her hubby had been married a few years prior. We got a place with the ceremony and reception space in one, so that we wouldn’t have to negotiate separate pricing or deal with transportation.

Catering: $4,386

Original catering budget: $4,000

Included:

  • Passed cocktail hour of four hors d’oeuvres ($267.30)
  • Buffet service, including served salads, chicken parmesan, pasta, vegetables, mashed potatoes, rolls and butter ($1215)
  • All-night coffee station with creams and sugars ($87.50)
  • Well bar package with domestic and imported beer, wine, sodas, an all mixers included, ice, bar garnishes, and disposable cups ($775)
  • Two vendor meals ($39.50)
  • Operating fee of $2.50 per guest ($135)
  • Tax (7% Florida state tax) ($176.35)
  • Labor ($1,164)
  • 20% gratuity ($476.86)
  • Catering manager gratuity ($50)
  • Comprehensive planning meetings to create our detailed wedding-day schedule
  • Ceremony consultations
  • Setup, decorating, breakdown, and cleanup
  • Rehearsal and ceremony coordinator
  • Goodie basket
  • Passed chocolate-covered strawberries during dessert

How we saved: We randomly stumbled upon our caterer after pricing three others who ran more than $5,000 — sometimes way more than $5,000. We got pretty darn close to our budget here, and got way more than we anticipated getting from our caterer.

Rentals: $1118

Original rental budget: $0

Included:

Chairs, linens, table service, serving trays, chafers, bus tub, additional tables not furnished by venue, additional glassware

How we saved: We didn’t build rentals into our original budget just because we blanked out on realizing we’d need them. However, we did manage to save money anyway! We got two quotes: One from a “preferred” rental company and one from a different company who came in lower. I asked a friend in the event business in the area where we were getting married, if she could recommend one over the other. She said, hands down, the preferred (more expensive) company was the way to go — but that her employer used them all the time for events, so she’d reach out and see what she could do. Bam! 25% discount.

Flowers: $1572

Original floral budget: $400

Included:

  • Bridal bouquet
  • 4 bridesmaids’ bouquets
  • 7 boutenniers
  • 2 wristlet corsages
  • 10 centerpieces
  • Floral arrangement for escort card table
  • Scattered flowers for cake table
  • Bridal toss bouquet

How we saved: Basically, we didn’t. I was originally going to do DIY flowers and decided against it once I realized how much work, hassle, and worry would go into it. We booked our florist even though they weren’t the cheapest around, because I had seen their work and knew they were superior. We ended up very happy — even with the added expense. I also added bouts at the last minute, and I’m really glad I did.

Photography: $900

Original photography budget: $500

Included:

  • Engagement session
  • Eight hours of wedding day coverage
  • Travel fee
  • Exclusive rights to photographs
  • High-resolution disc of approximately 250 photos

How we saved: Even though we went a little over our original budget, we still went way under the national average. We wouldn’t have been able to afford more. Our photographer was a recommendation from our maid of honor.

Officiant: $175

Original officiant budget: $150

Included:

  • Pre-wedding consultation
  • Rehearsal
  • Ceremony
  • Filing of marriage certificate

How we saved: I found our officiant online by Googling “wedding officiant” and our area. He was the third one we priced: The first officiant was way too expensive (and it turns out she’s apparently nuts, so, bullet dodged); the second officiant was free with donation, but lived about 45 minutes from our venue; our officiant was nominally priced and lived 10 minutes from our venue. We felt more comfortable with that distance, both for him and us.

Music: $550

Original music budget: $700

Included: Four-and-a-half hours of music, including ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and remainder of reception

How we saved: Again, asking around. BM Prego had used this same DJ (a friend of the family) at her wedding, at the same venue.

Hair and makeup: $160

Original budget: $100

Personal photo

Included:

The bridesmaids who chose to do hair and/or makeup paid $65/service ($40/service was the bride’s price). There would have been a $30 wedding-day travel fee but we booked enough services that it didn’t apply.

How we saved: Nothing fancy here — I knew of this vendor through rave reviews, and adored my hair and makeup artist at the trial. She tried a bunch of different stuff to make sure I was comfortable, and tweaked things as requested on the day of. It helped that she came to us, rather than us having to go to a salon and rush around. It was really comfortable being able to get almost entirely ready at the hotel.

Invitations: $100

Original budget: $150

Personal photo

Included:

  • Design, invitations, reply cards, and envelopes
  • Dinner for the invitation designer and her husband as a thank-you gift
  • Paper for lining envelopes
  • Ribbon for belly bands
  • Postage

How we saved: A good friend of mine is a graphic designer, and she graciously offered to do our invitations as a wedding gift. Yay friends!

Miscellaneous expenses $600

Original budget: $600

Included:

  • Wedding website
  • Shipping and printing fees
  • Lunch for bridesmaids the day of the wedding
  • Cake knife
  • Other expenses marked as “wedding” in Mint that we quite frankly cannot recall what they were for!

Additional decor and DIY projects: $1160

Original decor budget: $500

Included:

How we saved: Uh… well, we didn’t really. We went way over budget. But! I probably spent more than I “would” have. I DIY’ed everything and used coupons when possible. Lots of expense went to buying either too much of something, or something I did not end up using.

Honeymoon: $3500

Original honeymoon budget: $0

Personal photo

Included:

  • 7-night cruise
  • Items bought especially for cruise
  • Items purchased on board like spa treatments and a night at the steakhouse, shore excursions
  • Items bought at port

How we saved: Obviously, we didn’t. However, we went with a cruise because it was a really cost-effective way to travel around to different places while relaxing. It succeeded on all acounts and was a great experience — I’m so, so glad we were able to make it work financially.

Cake: $265

Original cake budget: $300

Included:

  • Three flavors of 7 dozen cupcakes
  • A 12-inch presentation cake
  • Rental of 7 cake stands
  • Delivery and setup

How we saved: We googled “cupcake vendors” in our area, and they were the first ones we found. We went to the tasting, and the price was right. We were actually almost exactly at $300 with our initial quote, and as our guest list went down after RSVPs, we were able to order fewer cupcakes.

Wedding insurance: $200

Original budget: $0

Required by venue; covered any damages or casualties occurring on the property as a result of our negligence or the negligence of one of our guests.

How we saved: We didn’t — it was an unexpected expense and we couldn’t shop around because we had to use a specific vendor. It wasn’t a huge cost, though, and it worked out.

Marriage license: $94

Original budget: $94

Personal photo

How we saved: We didn’t — it was an expected expense we built in after researching Florida marriage license fees. It would have cost less with a pre-marriage course, but the cost of the course made it economially unviable to go that route (I could see how it would save money, though, if you were required to do a course through your church, etc.).

Bridal attire: $1011

Original budget: $550

Included:

How we saved: I went over budget, but I still think I saved based on national averages. I shopped at a chain and got a sale dress. I opted to go to an independent seamstress rather than through the dress shop. The bracelet was my only piece of jewelry. I bought underwear at a plain old department store rather than a fancy schmancy lingerie shop — and didn’t require any Spanx or a bra.

Groom’s attire: $50

Original budget: $100

Included:

  • Tux rental (free)
  • Cufflinks as a present from me ($50)

How we saved: We rented through Men’s Wearhouse, where the groom gets a free tux rental with a certain number of rentals in your party (in our case, we had 6 rentals in addition to Mr. Ladyfingers — four groomsmen and the two dads).

Rehearsal dinner: $1937

Original budget: $0

Personal photo

Included: Site rental and food and drinks for 25 guests

How we saved: We didn’t, really, but we felt the price was fair based on what we wanted to do for our guests (a beach dinner with seafood, us being in Florida and not doing a beach wedding), and they ended up only charging us for 25 guests even though their policy was a minimum of 30. We didn’t originally budget for a rehearsal dinner because we didn’t think we could afford one, but we were able to.

Groom’s cake: $95

Original budget:$0

Personal photo

How we saved: We didn’t — I decided to do this later in the planning process. I went through our cake vendor — and I’m so, so glad we did! Mr. Ladyfingers just loved it, and so did everybody else. Well worth it.

Bridesmaid gifts: $535

Original budget: $100

Personal photo

Included:

  • 4 custom clutches
  • A thank-you dinner
  • Shower thank-you gifts (shower gel and loofahs for each girl)
  • Mani/pedis the day before wedding

How we saved: We didn’t, but these were things I wanted and was able to do for my girls.

Groomsmen’s gifts: $150

Original budget: $100

Personal photo

Included: 4 engraved beer steins

How we saved: N/A

Wedding rings: $600

Original budget: $100

Included: bride and groom’s wedding rings and insurance on both.

How we saved: We knew we weren’t going to make our budget number on this, so we just kind of looked around until we found the right price. We happened to walk into Kay Jeweler when they were having a sale, so everything worked out and we both got our perfect forever rings.

Accommodations: $200

Original budget: $120

Personal photos

Included:

  • Pre-wedding-night stay for me in a suite at the room-blocked hotel
  • A wedding-night stay for me and Mr. Ladyfingers at a waterfront hotel where our friend works and was able to score us the employee rate!

How we saved: We went over budget, but we still saved by booking the pre-wedding-night room at the hotel where we had negotiated a group rate, and went through a friend to get an awesome rate at our wedding-night hotel.

So, what’s the damage?

GRAND TOTAL: $21644

ORIGINAL BUDGET: $10,000

AMOUNT OVER: $11,644

NATIONAL AVERAGE: $26,542

AREA AVERAGE (LOW END): $20,156

Did we go over budget? Yes. Are we still happy with what we spent? Absolutely! We feel like every penny was well-allocated, and in all, we came in well under the average (which, let’s be honest, really makes you feel like you got a deal!).

I hope this was helpful, but above all — spend what you’re comfortable with, not what others are spending, and be willing to give things up. We had no videographer and went with a little lower cost DJ and photographer rather than established professionals. Know what you want and be OK with it! And most of all, don’t start your married life in debt (please).

Photos by Shorts Shots Photography, except where noted

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is

We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party

We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents

We partied like it was 1999

Somebody caught my garter with their teeth

We exited to bells as our wedding day came to an end

I shared our wedding day details

I discussed our awesome decisions

I discussed our not-so-awesome decisions

Wrapped Around Your Finger: What We Regret

Even though there were so many things we were super pleased with, there are a few nagging things I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now. Disclaimer: None of these things ruined the day. Nobody even noticed. The wedding was still a total and complete blast. And we still ended up married — bonus! But here are a few things that, in hindsight, we might have considered a bit more.

1. Having a dance floor. We were adamant that we did not need a dance floor. We initially brought it up to our caterer, mostly because of the way our space was defined. There wasn’t enough room in the main room for guest tables, food, and dancing, but we didn’t want to plan to seat guests outside because we didn’t know what the weather would be like. So instead, we decided to seat everybody inside and have the dancing outside on the deck. We asked about a dance floor, butthe price was totally ridiculous. The caterer said we wouldn’t need one, they’d done weddings there before, and it was fine. People would dance. Then, our DJ expressed concern over the lack of defined dance floor. He said people might not dance. I pish-poshed. And it’s not that people didn’t dance, but they didn’t dance in the CENTER, where the dance floor sorta kinda was. They danced over in their little individual groups, skirting the edges of the deck. The important thing is they all had fun, but sometimes I felt kinda lame dancing in the middle by myself. I tried to set the tone, but it usually didn’t catch. There were songs I loved that I sat out because there wasn’t any central dancing. And we don’t have the “Dance Party USA” shots that I love so much from other brides’ recaps — we have some nice slow-dancing shots, and a couple of dancing shots that make it look like nobody was dancing. Maybe we could have swung a dance floor, or rearranged the space. It wouldn’t have been so terrible to have everybody sitting outside. But it is what it is.

2. Been more clear with the DJ about our “big moments” and what we wanted to hear. Our DJ was a friend of one of my bridesmaids, and though it’s not a hobby, it’s not his primary job, either. He moonlights, and he had all the equipment, and he was super affordable. So we went with him — and he did a great job! He wasn’t cheesy or embarrassing and he didn’t play loads of country when we told him not to, or the “Chicken Dance” or the “Macarena” or anything. But he did blank out on playing our cake-cutting song — “Pour Some Sugar on Me” — during the cake cutting. This may have been because we did the cutting about a half-hour earlier since dinner ended sooner than expected, and perhaps the catering manager could have communicated better with him. But it was weird hearing it 30 minutes later, on the dance floor. He also started out the dance sequence with a song dedicated to my bridesmaid and her husband — his friends — which was either Flogging Molly or the Dropkick Murphys, which are two bands that not a ton of people are familiar with, so the only people dancing were my bridesmaid and her husband. It didn’t really set the tone very well. And he played a decent array of songs, but I felt like so many awesome tunes were missing. I shied away from making a blow-by-blow playlist and figured he’d get the hint when we listed a few “must-plays” like “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” But he didn’t really, and I wish we had been a lot more specific.

3. Set better expectations with regards to photographer. Our photographer was great, but I wish I had gotten a clearer picture of the timeline and what would happen post-wedding. I didn’t realize she was editing more than our initially agreed-upon 15 per hour (the flat package that we were able to afford), so when we got to 119 photos and I still didn’t see 90% of the “big moment” shots, I panicked. She also opened our gallery early and added shots gradually , to the point where more than four weeks went by between the first pictures we saw and the CD being sent to us. It would have been a lot more stressful if we had set expectations up front and been clear that we didn’t need to see anything until they were ALL done. I would have saved myself a lot of time throughout the work day obsessively going to the gallery and reloading-reloading-reloading to see if there were more shots.

Well, three ain’t that bad, right? These regrets are super minor, but something to think about nonetheless, especially if you’re working with less-established vendors. Everybody told me I was being ridiculous giving our photographer a detailed shot list that included “ring exchange,” “father/daughter dance,” and “bouquet toss” — but I’m glad I did, because you never know. And everybody told me it would be overbearing to hand over a long list of music to the DJ — but there may have been a happy medium I could have struck, had I been more courageous.

At the end of the day, everything should feel perfect — and with the right mindset, it will! None of these things cast a pallor over the day, or hang heavy in my mind when I look back. And that is the true important thing of the day.

Is there anything you might have done differently looking back? Anything you’re worried about going in?

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is

We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party

We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents

We partied like it was 1999

Somebody caught my garter with their teeth

We exited to bells as our wedding day came to an end

I shared our wedding day details

I discussed our awesome decisions

Wrapped Around Your Finger: What We’re Glad We Did

There are many things you hope will go “right” on your wedding day, and regrets you hope you’ll never have. In the end, if you have the right attitude, everything will have worked out swimmingly, even if it didn’t work out the way you’d expected it to. This was the case for us: The wedding was perfect. People are still raving about it. The love in those rooms was stunning, and nobody wanted to leave when the night was over.

However, there are a few shining choices that we are especially happy about. What are those things we’re glad we did?

1. Splurged on food. OK, nothing was really a “splurge” in the strictest sense of the word — our wedding budget, minus honeymoon and rings, came in at just over $12,000. But so often, I hear about people spending the heftiest chunk of their budget on photography, or entertainment, or the venue. We had a split that felt just right to us — about $5,500 of our budget was dedicated to the entire catering experience (25% of our total budget). This included a full open bar (which we are so glad we added at the last minute!), food, service, and rentals. Growing up Italian, food was a central part of all of our lives. We could have done pulled pork, or finger food, or a cake-and-punch reception in order to pay for expensive photographs or a first-class DJ. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those choices — and not that we had a fancy 5-course fine dining sit-down meal, either. We had a buffet with chicken parm and pasta, potatoes and veggies. But when we saw full-blooded Italian Uncle Ladyfingers go up for seconds and heard potato enthusiast MOH Ginger rave about the mashed potatoes, we knew we’d hit the jackpot food-wise.

2. Decided against a photo booth, videographer, and any other number of fun wedding “add-ons.” I admit, I did some last-minute digging into photo booth and videographer prices. We had about $,1000 left after paying our obligations, so could I pull it off? OK, #1: I’m glad we didn’t, because a week later, before we were about to drive my car four hours to the port where we’d leave for our honeymoon cruise, I took it in for an oil change and walked out with a receipt for $900 worth of new brakes and new tires. And #2: I’m really not missing a video or photobooth shots or anything like that. I’m not stuck with a twinge every time I watch a video, like I was before the wedding. I’m totally cool with the fact that we don’t have those extras. Again — personal choice. Not right for everybody, but right for us.

3. Went low on our guest count. I panicked a few weeks before the wedding because we had a roughly 40% decline rate. I thought our friends hated us. I thought I didn’t have enough family or friends there. I wondered if perhaps we should have allowed children, or invited my dad’s two friends I’d never met, or opened the list up to a few more people. I thought it would look chintzy, only having 50 people there. Wow! I am so glad we stuck to our guns on that guest count. The room was so much airier without the two extra guest tables. We were able to move the buffet table into the room rather than risking it outside. We got to hang out with everybody. We got to have actual conversations with our guests. And while 80 is still a manageable number, and we would have had quality time even with a 100% acceptance rate… I’m so happy that we had 50 people at our wedding. For us, it truly was the perfect number.

4. Stayed at a hotel far from the rest. I read accounts of people hanging out with their guests back at the group hotel, or kicking it at an after-party. I thought, is it lame that we’re not doing that? Is it un-hospitable? But our friend had gotten us an oceanview room at the luxury hotel where she works, at her dirt-cheap employee rate. Because we had eaten dinner at 4:30 p.m. and it was now 10, we were starving. So we ordered room service and I peeled off my gown. I took a 45-minute shower where I rinsed all the hairspray out of my hair and used about 28 cottonballs full of makeup remove to de-gunk my face. I ate half my room service burger and promptly fell asleep. Did I wish we were hanging out until the wee hours of the night? No, man: I was exhausted. Oh — and it was nice to hang out with my new husband. Yeah, there’s that.

5. Chose to have flowers professionally done rather than DIY. I toyed with the idea of ordering and arranging all the flowers myself. A few months into planning, I chose instead to hire a professional florist to do the deed: another Grade-A decision. I barely had time to breathe, much less rush to the venue trying to keep flowers alive and arranging them amidst all the additional hustle and bustle. We arrived at the venue, and our bouquets were waiting in the bride’s room for us. Our coordinator took the bouts and wristlets to the dudes and moms, and handled that. Our centerpieces weren’t the biggest, lushest things in the world, but they went perfectly with the antique bottles and vases I’d collected throughout the year. With the garden setting, it was perfect — and I didn’t have to do a lick of it myself.

6. Chose a caterer who did all the decorating, setup, breakdown, and cleaning for us. See #5, above. Granted, it was less of a choice and more of a, “Holy crap, the first caterer we looked at has great food, great prices, and does all this? Sold.” So I guess I’m just glad we found them. Yay awesome caterers!

What about you — what went especially right on your big day?

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is

We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party

We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents

We partied like it was 1999

Somebody caught my garter with their teeth

We exited to bells as our wedding day came to an end

I shared all our wedding day details

Wrapped Around Your Finger: All the Small Things

When all is said and done, the result of months and months of planning are a handful of snapshots. But although most of my DIY efforts only survive in the form of  few remnants rescued for a scrapbook, I look fondly on the nights and weekends I spent creating them, the shopping trips to buy supplies, the excitement and tears (yes, tears), the Internet research, the tries and re-tries, the bridesmaid crafting parties, and more.

Here, I present to you, all our small things: The details.

Our venue’s entrance sign

The wedding sign borrowed from our caterer

My custom bracelet from Etsy seller tattychic

Our rings pinned into my crinoline along with a bit of ‘bee luck…

My shoes and bridesmaids’ bouquets

My lovely bouquet

Programs

Engagement photo endcaps

Guestbook sign

Card sign and bird cage borrowed from caterer

Paper flower initials

Escort cards

Just married banner

Love is sweet cake table banner

Custom cake toppers by Etsy seller peanutbutterbandit

Our table setups

Table numbers

Favors

Farewell bells

One of our favorite detail shots from the whole day

All photos by Shorts Shots Photography

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is

We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party

We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents

We partied like it was 1999

Somebody caught my garter with their teeth

We exited to bells as our wedding day came to an end

Wrapped Around Your Finger: Exit Music

As the DJ played our last few songs, I saw MIL Ladyfingers going around the deck, passing out our farewell bells. I didn’t really think much of it, until our catering manager went rushing after her, intoning, “Nonononononoooo!” I guess she’d seen the trays of bells and just thought it would be nice to hand them out to people.

Eventually, though, it really was time to ring our bells as we left the venue. Our farewell bells. As in, farewell, because we’re married… and the wedding, it’s over. Just like that!

It wasn’t until I saw these pictures that I realized we didn’t even really make our big exit together! Apparently Mr. Ladyfingers got caught up talking to his mom on the way down — and I was too self-absorbed to wait!

How do you plan to make your big exit?

Photos by Shorts Shots Photography

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is

We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party

We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents

We partied like it was 1999

Somebody caught my garter with their mouth

Wrapped Around Your Finger: Oom Bow Bow — Chick, Chicka Chicka

There was a time when I didn’t want to do a bouquet or garter toss. Something about it felt forced. I think mostly it was because I had been to weddings where very few of the single people — if there were any — were willing to get up there and give it their all. But now, I’m so glad we did, because the tosses represented two of the funniest, favoritest moments of the night.

Mr. Ladyfingers dug away…

While I appear vaguely embarrassed as the two fathers look on somewhat disapprovingly…

Our DJ invoked a Zac Brown reference to describe MOH Ginger’s boyfriend, who prepared for the toss along with my dad and BM Esquire’s boyfriend.

Photo courtesy of family member

And Zac Brown catches it — with his teeth!

Then, it was my turn. My three single ladies and dad’s fiancee, P, gathered on the deck( and apparently found something funny… I’m unsure what…)

And P did this kind of amazing stagger-push-reach move that demonstrated just how clearly she wants to catch the bouquet. I think she really likes my dad 🙂

Photo courtesy of family member

Photos by Shorts Shots Photography, except where noted

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is

We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party

We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents

We partied like it was 1999

Wrapped Around Your Finger: Shout!

One of my favorite parts of any wedding is the grooving and moving and bumping and grinding. We had opted not to have a dance floor installed on our back deck, which I regret a bit. But even though it seemed to me at times as if nobody was dancing, a quick look at these shots shows that they were, indeed, grooving and moving and bumping and grinding.

Photos by Shorts Shots Photography

We made final preparations, visited with family members, rehearsed, and ate a miniature Mr. Ladyfingers

The girls and I got gussied up and headed out to the venue

I got all verklempt, the people took their places, and I waited quietly, alone

We kinda got a little married

We stood for portraits

We twirled together as man and wife to the most perfect song there is

We ate, toasted, cut cake, and prepared to party

We had some musically heartfelt moments with our parents