The Final Countdown – 4 weeks to go!

I must admit, I’m slightly stunned as I type the words four weeks to go. We’ve been engaged for just over a year now, and I cannot believe that the wedding, MY wedding, our wedding, is in one month!

Since my Ultimate 2-Month Wedding Checklist was such a hit, I have decided to follow up with another: How to get everything done in the last month before your wedding without losing your sanity or your grip on the budget. Or, The Final Countdown, for short.

(please note: I am not an expert on this matter, nor a professional wedding planner. I have however, been involved in throwing large-scale live events and festivals before, and I value authenticity and affordability over “perfection”- which is hugely subjective. Just sayin’.)

First order of business is to (ahem) finish everything that you haven’t got to on your two-month checklist.

Confession time: I still haven’t made our cocktail reception iPod playlist, compiled a list of responsibilities for our key players and wedding party, finalized the timeline and itinerary, or sent our rehearsal dinner invites. So, all those tasks are being pushed to the front-line now, since every day (tick-tock tick-tock) time is running out.

Similar to the Ultimate 2-Month Wedding Checklist, continue to use the optional add-on of “or get some else to do it” as necessary.

Gotta look good

  • Your dress might be ready to go, or you may have a final fitting. If you do, leave yourself enough time (2-3 weeks) before the big day just in case further alterations are needed.
  • Go to your hair and make up trials, if you have them. Or, DIY to figure out your “bridal look”.
  • Lots of brides whiten their teeth. Well, there’s all that white to compete with! Two weeks is sufficient time for the at-home process, or if you are going all out, visit the dentist.
  • Start breaking in your wedding shoes if they are new, wearing them inside the house. Your feet will thank you.

Ceremonial Matters

  • If you haven’t bought your marriage license yet or met with your officiate to finalize the ceremony, now’s the time. (This applies less to church weddings that provide the license and have a standard ceremony)
  • Talk to your signing witnesses and let them know what they need to do and when.
  • If you aren’t going to do a “dry run” of the procession with your bridal party, communicate the basic outline of the ceremony, the processional order and who they might be paired with, etc., so everyone has a good idea of how it’s supposed to go.
  • Talk to your parents about whether you will be doing a receiving line after the ceremony, what that will look like, and where that will happen.
  • Who is cueing your pre-ceremony and processional music? What format do they want it in (CD, mp3)? Or if you are having live musicians, touch base with the band leader a few weeks out to go over the details.

Getting organized

  • Usually you have to confirm your numbers with your venue and caterer 3-4 weeks out. Make sure they are clear on your expectations, and you are clear on theirs.
  • If you are having one, make plans and invite people to the rehearsal dinner.
  • Communicate with your photographer about the timeline for the day, when formal portraits will be taken, if any, and give them a list of “must have” photos if you so desire (I am!)
  • Speak with your wedding party and key players and confirm their day-of tasks and responsibilities.
  • Since you’ve already double-checked and confirmed your honeymoon plans (right?), you should now make a packing list. If you are leaving within a few days of the wedding, you’ll definitely want to pack beforehand.
  • Confirm with your venue when you can come in to decorate, when they want your guests to leave, all your stuff gone, etc.
  • If you haven’t already, make sure you have gifts for everyone you want to have gifts for: your fiancé(e), wedding party, parents, out-of-town guests (welcome bags), guests (wedding favours), maybe your officiate too.
  • Who’s looking after your place/plants/pets while you’re gone?
  • Know when your day-of deliveries are happening, confirm the addresses with them, as well as who is greeting them at your venue(s).
  • Make sure you’ll have a couple of emergency kits handy on the big day, one with each bridal party. This is a great task to ask your Maid of Honour, Mom, or fiancé(e) to do.
  • A couple of days before the wedding, prepare your tip envelopes and designate who will be in charge of them.
  • Confirm the day-of transportation for everyone in the wedding party.

Money Matters

  • Cheerfully make all your final payments on time (difficult, I know).
  • Don’t overspend at the last minute. It’s like impulse buying at the checkout. You don’t really need those extras.

The Tiny Print

  • Read your vendor contracts. Yes, I know it’s boring.
  • Know when your final payments are due, and how you’ll pay for them.
  • Inform your credit card company if you’ll be traveling for your honeymoon. No fun to have your card frozen when you’re in a foreign country.

As cliché as it sounds, the best advice for any bride who is four weeks away from her wedding (like I am as I write this) is BREATHE. That, and do the best time management and multi-tasking of your life. You/We/I will get through this! And no matter what happens (well… almost) our weddings will be beautiful, full of joy and love.

If you’re reading this, that means you are likely days away from your wedding– congratulations! I wish you the best. Let me know if this checklist helps… 🙂


Your Ultimate 2-month Wedding Checklist

*This post consistently gets the most hits. Please, if this checklist helps you out, let me know about it in the comments!*

I’m not usually one to sing my own praises, but seriously folks, this checklist is one of the most complete and kick-ass references you’ll ever find on the interweb. 😉

Necessity is the Mother of all invention, as the saying goes, as I am now at the two month mark. How did we get here already? Seems like not so long ago that I was thinking about this far-off daydream, and now I’m waking up and realizing this is happening in eight weeks!

Here I get to brag and report that my fiancée has been so supportive and helpful in this process even when she had to focus on her studies. If anyone reading is a bride with a partner who is not pulling their weight in this- kick their butt already! Clearly delegate some tasks to them, ones that they show interest in or can do easily. Think of this process as a metaphor for your marriage! Weddings, like a lifetime together, require people working together.

Well enough of the banter, here is the:

Ultimate 2-month Wedding Checklist!

Please note: to make this checklist even more awesome, you have the option of adding on “or get someone else to do it” to almost every item!

Gotta look good
• Schedule your dress fittings. Remember to bring stockings, shoes, the appropriate bra, hair accessories, jewelry, a camera, and your mom or best friend
• Personal wedding accessories; have them decided or if you’re going to order anything, do it now (hello, Etsy!)
• Finalize list of must-have photos. Give a copy to your photographer(s)
• If you want to start something new, begin pre-wedding beauty regimen now (milk baths? teeth whitening?)
• Go to your hair and makeup trials, or start doing your own
• Confirm hair, makeup and any other appointments on or close to your wedding day

Ceremonial matters
• Write your own vows, if you are. Let the officiate know of any readings or other special requests
• Meet with your officiate to finalize the ceremony, including attendant’s names and processional order
• If you haven’t already, confirm your ceremony music plans, as well as pre- and post-; whether that’s booking musicians or making iPod playlists
• If your venue is outside or has an open floor plan, think about how you want the seating arranged for the ceremony, and where the aisle/altar/chuppah/arch will go if you are having one
• Will you be making your own programs? Get started on that job now, or make your print order

Getting organized
• Assuming you have already sent out your invitations, you can now begin to keep track of your RSVPs, stalking your mailbox or your inbox every day (squeee!)
• Finalize list of responsibilities for key players and bridal party. Have a friendly get-together with everyone and delegate who is going to do what
• Make plans for rehearsal dinner
• Invite selected guests for the rehearsal dinner
• Confirm honeymoon plans with travel agency/hotel/airline/etc.
• Make checklist of items to bring for the honeymoon
• Finalize receiving line, timeline, and itinerary of the day/weekend
• Begin writing thank-you notes for bridal shower and early wedding
gifts you receive, and update your registry at the same time
• If not already done, purchase thank you gifts for your wedding party
• Are you doing favours? Figure that s#!t out

The Tiny Print
• If your venue does not provide it, find out where to get your marriage license, and purchase it
• Tackle outstanding legal matters if applicable (e.g. name change, pre-marital counseling, blood test, etc.)
• Do you want something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue? Lock that down
• If you need a passport to travel on your honeymoon, get that application in now

There. Now you are armed with the most comprehensive second-to-last-month-before-wedding checklist. Use it wisely, young bride-to-be, and all will be well. And before you get overwhelmed, remember to use the optional add-on: get someone else to do it! Weddings should be a team effort, even if it’s a team of two.

Let me know if this was helpful, and good luck!

Making “practical” your wedding theme

I think most of us start with the best intentions to be sensible in our wedding planning. Not many of us have an unlimited budget or sugar daddy, so us practical brides-to-be set the budget, make the spreadsheets, tackle the DIY challenges, and search for the best deals on everything.

Despite these goals, it can be surprisingly easy to get carried away by that nasty creature: desire. 21st century brides have it bad. We are overwhelmed by images of other people’s weddings online and in magazines, so we naturally begin to compare our future wedding to theirs. Some days, it may feel like you will never live up to your own expectations! But trust me, it’s not the burlap or bird cages or patio lighting that will make your wedding special (although they can all, admittedly, make your wedding LOOK awesome), not the “perfect” dress, or chivari chairs or the most expensive flowers, but the incredible love between the newlyweds and their family and friends.

I am glad that I discovered some excellent, down-to-earth websites and blogs early enough in my planning to keep me grounded. I’m talking about offbeatbride, apracticalwedding, intimateweddings, and even weddingbee. Sure, I looked through all the wedding dress images and used the timeline feature on theknot, but the advice on there seems to be for women who are nothing like me. And stylemepretty? Oh please.

In the last few weeks I am proud to say that I have made some practical decisions that left me feeling liberated! With little more than two months to go, I am finding that I can more easily discern what is important, and what is not. Confirming your numbers and catering order with your venue/banquet manager? Important. Having your bridesmaids’ dresses match the table overlays? Not so much.

Speaking of bridesmaids dresses, that was one area where practicality was paramount. I knew early on that I wanted them in different dresses, one that they chose that flattered their body. My partner and I eventually settled on coordinated mismatched, asking them to get a dress in shades of purple. We went shopping together one weekend, and couldn’t believe the prices! What started out as a reconnaissance trip to look at styles and see what was out there, ended up being a reality check.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve worn second-hand clothes all my life. I still buy new sometimes, but I have no issue with consignment and thrift stores. So I suggested that my ‘maids go that route, and continue looking on their own free time. Within 10 days they had both found dresses: one for $32 (silk chiffon!) and one at $7!!! My third bridesmaid, my sister-in-law, already owns some great dresses in purple so I think she’s set. Hooray!

Next was shoes. I had started a pinterest board of some possibilities for my feet. I discovered that Sears (a big department store in Canada) carried a lot of the brands I had been looking at. I immediately fell in love with one of them (really comfy Clark’s- strappy 2.5 inch heels), but they only carried them in brown or black. If I wanted the white, I would have to order through their website (meaning I wouldn’t get the 30% off sale that day).

To be clear, I don’t wear white really, ever. So why I was even humming and hawing over this seems silly now. I walked around Sears, considering the implications of not wearing white shoes. Huh? I finally got over myself, after talking to my sweetie, when I realized that if I bought the white pair I would probably never wear them again after the wedding. And for the good money I was about to spend, I wanted to continue to enjoy them. So I bought beige. Scandalous, I know.

Another area that my fiancée and I are trying to be really practical is decor. We naively under-budgeted for this initially, and had to eventually accept that we were going to spend more than we first intended. I’m planning to offset this extra expenditure after the wedding by selling as much as I can through craigslist. This fits with my “green” wedding M.O. that everything we use must be already second-hand, recyclable, biodegradable or edible, and/or have a life and purpose post-wedding. If that purpose brings some money back my way by another bride-to-be, all the better.

Now, let’s talk briefly about money. Oooohhh, such a touchy subject, I know. And certainly one in which to value practicality! Be very clear with yourselves and each other what you are willing to save, spend and go into debt over for your wedding. Early on, discuss with your parents (both sides) to determine whether they are willing and able to contribute anything. That way you know what kind of budget you have to work with before you book any vendors. Budget high, and try to come in under. Know that things will change (usually going up, unfortunately!).

Make lists: what is absolutely important to have, what would be nice to have, and what you are ambiguous about having and could let go. Don’t waste any energy and time on things that you don’t care about, even if every wedding you’ve been to had a, b, or c, or your Moms think you really need an x, y, or z. If anything feels like it’s more trouble (or money) than it’s worth, it probably is. Axe it- without guilt. At the end of the day when you aren’t starting your marriage in a ton of debt (whether you are actually carrying it, or it’s emotional debt for one of your parent’s carrying it) you will be glad that you didn’t waste the extra money on things you could care less about!

Ultimately, I feel that 21st century brides have more choices- and this can be negative and positive. It’s negative when, like I described above, we get sucked into thinking we “need” things for our wedding that we DON’T. (off the top of my head: air-brush make up, white limos, $150 bridal bouquet, dove release…)

But it’s a positive when we realize that we have more choices than ever before: meaning almost NOTHING is “required” anymore unless YOU want it. Don’t want to wear a white dress? Cool! Rather have burgers and beer and a backyard wedding? Awesome! Want to save your money for an extended honeymoon? Opt for a small courthouse ceremony and dinner at a fancy restaurant. Lovely.

So think outside the box! You can be imaginative and practical at the same time- in fact, it’s required. Tell me, what practical wedding decisions have YOU made?

Dress me up in your love

Happy Valentine’s Day! The day we celebrate l’amour, in all its forms. And today I’d like to discuss one of the great loves that every bride-to-be (hopefully) feels. No, not for her betrothed- for her wedding dress!

Ah, the pressure brides feel over finding the perfect dress. Maybe they place it on themselves, dreaming of their wedding day since they were little girls, imagining what they would wear. They search high and low, online and in every bridal store, seeking “the one” that will fulfill that fantasy. Or maybe the pressure comes from media, as we see celebrities in visions of satin, tulle, organza, lace… And the choices! So many styles, fabric selections, designer names. It’s enough to make you dizzy. Or give you a stomach ulcer.

Personally, I never really thought about what kind of dress I’d wear at my wedding. In fact, I never really daydreamed about getting married much at all, so I didn’t have my expectations built up too high. In truth, I do drool a little over medieval-inspired dresses, like in Lord of the Rings. But a quick internet search popped that bubble pretty fast- that kind of couture is WAY beyond my university student budget.

But last week, I fell in LOVE. With a dress. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I went back to the bridal shop a second time, and I felt… that feeling. That feeling brides-to-be talk about when they find the one. (cue happy sigh)

Wait a minute, didn’t I already buy a wedding dress?? Yes, it’s true. I did. I am officially (gasp!) a two-dress bride.

I have learned a lot in the wedding planning process. So I’d like to now share
My Top 5 Pieces of Advice to Budget Brides In Regards to The Dress.

1. Don’t buy your wedding dress online. Well, to be more specific, do not buy your wedding gown without trying it on first. Trust me, you really don’t want to skip this step (my first mistake). Remember, this will likely be the most expensive and most photographed outfit you will ever wear. I thought I was saving money by purchasing during an online sale, but with all the extra I paid in shipping and border tax, not to mention the extra I’ve now paid to buy a second dress, I now realize that it wasn’t a smart move and I didn’t save anything. I’ve read many a sad tale of brides who tried to save money by finding a dress they loved in a shop, and then buying online from a discount retailer, or some Chinese knock-off site, only to receive a dress that did not live up to their expectations. So, buyer beware.

2. Take your time. Ok, if your wedding is a few months away you should probably get on it, but with the average length of engagements being 12-16 months these days, you have time. Time to browse (online and in bridal stores), time to save money, time to decide what dress you really want. Since I knew I had to buy a cheap dress (in the wedding world, anything less than $500 is considered “budget”), I rushed one of the most important decisions. I was excited, I was eager, I was naive. So be patient, young bride-to-be. You’ll be happy that you did.

3. Try, try again. You may think you want one style of dress, but find that on your body another is more flattering. A-line, Ballgown, Trumpet, Sheath… keep an open mind during the process. The lesson here is that you should try on LOTS of dresses before making your decision. ‘Nuff said.

4. Be thrifty. There are a lot of ways you can save. Peruse your local Craigslist or ebay ads for pre-owned gowns; it’s a great way to get your dream dress at a fraction of the original cost. Find out if there is a bridal swap being organized in your city, or local bridal shops having a trunk sale, blowing out last year’s styles at steeply discounted prices. Buying “off the rack” from a shop is another great way to save (and how I could afford my second dress), since the “floor model” can’t be sold at full price. Or go the custom route. Can you or someone who loves you sew up a storm? This is a great way to save money AND get a unique wedding gown that fits you perfectly.

5. Just be yourself. If you’re a budget bride, you already know that your wedding won’t be chandeliers, chivari chairs and limo chauffeurs. Don’t get caught up in what you think you “should” wear on your wedding day. Whether you wear a short cotton summer dress, or a white linen pant suit, or a 30-pound satin ballgown- you will still be the center of attention and you will still achieve the same goal (marriage). Remember, it’s your day, your way. Vintage romantic, spunky rockabilly, edgy Steampunk, or trendy and modern… your wedding should reflect who you and your partner are. Express yourself!

Your guests will be your closest family and friends anyway, right? So why stress over trying to impress those who already love you? It’s not the dress (no matter what it cost) that will make you happy on your wedding day- it’s all the love you will feel as you marry your beloved, and sharing that moment (ideally, at least. If a dress makes you happier than your future husband/wife, well, that’s another situation altogether).

So, to re-cap my mistakes lest you repeat them: I bought online, thinking I was saving money. I didn’t try on enough dresses to know what style looked best on me, and I didn’t check out my options in the local bridal shops. Months later when I realized I was very disappointed in the dress, I shopped locally and found a lovely strapless, sweetheart lace with a sweep train, on sale “off the rack” for $200. Here she is!

If I could turn back time, I would have waited, and saved myself the expense and hassle of buying two dresses. Hopefully, I will be able to re-sell my original dress, or else it will end up being the most expensive Hallowe’en costume. Ever.

To other budget brides that have walked the aisle, what advice would you add to this list?

Christmas vs. Wedding (or spending vs. saving)

Well it’s December already (how did that happen so fast?) and with it comes the Christmas overload. Merchants everywhere all desperately trying to get your holiday dollars, advertising insisting you must buy this or that latest gadget for someone on your list, and holiday music, everyone’s favourite, now fills almost every store you enter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas- and I’m not even Christian. My belief system aside, I just like to celebrate the season with family and friends. I grew up where there was always snow at Christmastime, and those fond childhood memories of making snowmen, drinking hot apple cider, going for horse-drawn sleigh rides, trimming the tree, and expectantly waiting for Santa Claus, will forever live on in my heart.

Currently however, I live on the West Coast, where there is no snow, or sleigh rides, and I don’t expect Santa will make a visit to my apartment this year (there’s no chimney after-all). As an adult I’ve come to enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them, but this year I have a dilemma. I’m trying to save any extra money I earn for, you guessed it, my wedding.

Of course, my immediate family is aware of this situation, so I don’t think they will have high expectations of me that I fall short of. In fact, I don’t think my parents have ever had high expectations of the gifts they would receive from their children, that’s just not how we roll in my family. What makes the season special is spending time together, sharing meals, singing carols (we love that stuff) and getting out into that winter wonderland for some variety of ice skating, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, or just a magical walk in the snow. I can repeat all this to myself a hundred times a day, but I still feel bad.

Normally I spend a few hundred dollars getting gifts for all my loved ones. I’m also still a fan of sending Christmas cards to my extended family. This year however, between saving for the wedding and living on a student loan (that has currently run out entirely, next installment January) I have exactly zero dollars to spend on gifts.

What does this mean exactly? Well, Captain Visa to-the-rescue for one, but it’s also forcing me to be more creative with my holiday spending and constantly remind myself that it’s not the gift that counts as much as the giving.

I am actually really looking forward to the holidays this year, all my self-consciousness aside. Firstly, I get two whole weeks off this year because I’m a student, and after four months of six days a week, I need a break. Also, my brother and his wife are flying home from Philadelphia, and we haven’t spend Christmas together for eight years. In fact, I will be celebrating with all my closest family at some point over the holidays, and all with my fiance.

I am also looking forward to sending out our save-the-date magnets in our Christmas cards. Thankfully, we got an incredible return customer deal from Vistaprint (and the cards are on recycled paper) so we could easily afford to do it this way. In this way, we are combining our wedding with the spirit of Christmas and sharing it with all our friends and family across the country.

On Christmas day, will it matter to my Dad that his gift only cost me $10? Or will he just be happy to have me there for dinner? I think the visit means more.

I know I’m not the only bride-to-be struggling with this, what’s your story?

The Dress!!!

For many women “the dress” is a HUGE part of getting married. It’s like every gal’s princess moment. In fact, historically, it has been only in the last 150 years that brides have tried to emulate a royal look at their weddings- all started by Queen Victoria wearing all white. Before that, it was your “Sunday best” in whatever colour you chose. But this ain’t a history lesson. I think I have my dress!!

I took a risky route; not one I necessarily recommend. I spent days, ok I’ll be honest- weeks, perusing online, especially David’s Bridal. I knew I wanted a mermaid silhouette, since I am getting married on a BOAT after all, and that’s the style I was most attracted to. They say it’s for confident women who want to show off their curves and have a little glamour on their day. Sounds about right to me!

Remember, I’m on a seriously restricted budget here. No $1000 and up gowns for me. So David’s Bridal seemed perfect. I tried to wait until I could make the road trip to Seattle, but my life is crazy busy, and then their October online sale came up, with really affordable dresses…. and before I knew it I had ordered two. Yes, not just one, but two. A girl wants to feel like she had SOME choice!

Luckily they both fit and overall they were exactly what I was looking for. Light, comfortable, floor-length (no long train for this dancing girl), and mermaid. I got on Skype with my Mom. I met up with my two Bridesmaids to try them on and get their opinion. And everyone, including me, liked the ruched strapless with the draped bodice and skirt.

I can’t believe the wedding is 9 months away and I already have my dress!! Now I get to stare at it in my closet. Yeah, life’s rough. 🙂

Please share your stories about how (and when) you found your dream wedding dress!