Some news I have been holding out on: Steve and I got engaged at the Grand Canyon. Hooray!
A little side note on how we met (seven years ago!) to give you a background of who we are. I was thinking about going to culinary school after my position as a managing editor of Washington news at a trade publication was "eliminated" - always a nicer way than saying "fired." After seven years there right out of college, I thought if ever there was a time to try something different, it was now. On the advice of a chef, I was told to ask other chefs on their opinions on schools and working in the kitchen. I asked one at a French restaurant when I was dining there with my parents, and he offered me an apprenticeship where the banquet chef just happened to be my heart's desire. I was drawn to him immediately. He does look so handsome in that chef's uniform, although my dad teases me I'm like the World War II brides who fell in love with the uniforms of the GIs. Steve's moved on from that restaurant and after extremely grueling hours with low pay and no benefits, I couldn't justify $25,000 plus for tuition at the New York culinary schools. After some temp jobs, a short waitressing stint (please never be ashamed of taking any honest job even if it's totally out of your field if you're reading this and are unemployed), I now have a cubicle job. Not a "dream" job saving the world with my political science degree, but a job I'm pretty grateful to have. Ultimately, I love what Robert Kincaid said in the film version of The Bridges of Madison County, "The old dreams were good dreams. They didn't work out, but I'm glad I had them."
While I gained a relationship from my job loss, I also changed my relationship with money as a result of my unemployment and times living on my very limited restaurant salary. Steve's very careful with money too. He's worked hard his whole life. He still does with one full time state job (which he often worries about losing amid our budget cut crisis times) and has a part time job at an Italian restaurant. We're about to move into another two family home (he's keeping the one we're in now as an investment). We're still waiting for our mortgage to arrive and right now the words "bank," "mortgage" and "mortgage broker" make my blood boil! But ultimately, a home, not a one day party, is really our top priority. Even if that wasn't in the picture, we'd still have a thrifty wedding. Here's what's in store so far.
I told Steve DON'T buy me a new ring when we were talking about to get engaged. I definitely wanted something secondhand, preferably vintage. I don't want to contribute to questionable sources for diamonds (see Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond!) and we just don't have that kind of money. He proposed with an IOU for a ring! When I got back from the trip, my mom showed me my grandmother's ring from my father's side, and it fit perfectly. It's very modest and totally me. I grew up with my grandparents in Switzerland who I saw occasionally on summer vacations there, but with the distance and language barrier, I didn't have the same experience other children have, so I love being close to my grandmother in this sense, and that it's the ring my grandfather picked out about eighty years ago. I never did get to meet him.
With great pride, I'm telling people happily: I got my dress at the Goodwill! I went to the Paramus, New Jersey location on another mission, and happened to see a display of wedding dresses. I had already made my purchases, but a gut feeling told me to go back into the store. The girl took the dress off the mannequin, and it fit perfectly. A customer passing by came up to me and said, "Get it" and when I told her the price, she said, "Definitely get it!" Since I was shopping alone, I thought she was one of those guardian angels at just the right time. I'll reveal the dress and the shocking price (two digits!) after the wedding (sometime this summer). It's from Hartley, an upscale boutique in Westwood, New Jersey. About a year or two ago, I admittedly was fascinated with the TLC show, "Say Yes to the Dress" where brides try dresses on at Kleinfeld's in New York City. First, I can't believe their "budgets." If you're spending $2,000 on a dress, that's not a budget in my book. Also, I wasn't about to make anyone pay for my dress. Even if my grandmother was alive, I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars of her money so I could get some retail high off a dress shopping experience. My parents are retired and their financial security is more important than a few hours at some catering hall wearing a dress I'll have on once for a few hours. I have some nice savings I've built up and have no intention of using so much of it for this one day.
Readers here know I am a big advocate of the reuse market, especially for clothing since almost none are made domestically, and am thrilled to have found a secondhand dress. Angela Barton has a "Thrifty Threads" column where readers show off their secondhand clothing on her "My Year Without Spending" blog and she featured a bride, Alyson, who got her dress on eBay for just $100. Angela also shared this site, Recycled Bride, which says more than 20% of brides bought gently used gowns last year.
Rehearsal dinner dress:
At the Goodwill again! On the same mannequin! A navy blue Jessica McClintock dress for just $30. Admittedly, I need to lose 5-10 pounds, which is my goal anyway. My wedding dress has more of a 1930s feel, but this is more 1950s. Very Mad Men!
The rehearsal dinner:
We have a restaurant in mind, and it's a BYOB which will save a ton of money. I think my parents will be picking up the tab.
We aren't having one. Really, we just want money toward a honeymoon or the house. Steve and I are on the same page with consumerism. We both will tell you we love stuff and are constantly acquiring things (for me: homey stuff, books, and vintage clothes and such, him tools and odds and ends), but we get it almost entirely second hand. Our "new" television - from the trash. We feel ill at ease giving anyone's money (our own or our loved one's) to corporations for all their (mostly) Chinese made stuff when we can buy things already produced for a fraction of the cost. We're supplementing our household needs with finds at charity thrift shops and estate sales. I even rescued a nice white wicker nightstand minutes before the garbage truck was going to bring it to a landfill.
If we ever get into our house and I don't have to hear Steve's "patience is a virtue lecture," we'll have an intimate dinner in our backyard. Steve wants to get married in his Catholic church (I'm Protestant, but neither of us are deeply religious). Since our new home has a tiled patio with a private backyard that looks out to a wooded area, this seems perfect. I keep thinking about the garden dinner party Juliette Binoche's character hosts in the film Chocolat with amazing food, candlelight and close loved ones, although we don't have a French farmhouse - it's a suburban home built in 1970. I love in that scene even the dog is savoring the food.
I also thought of the great backyard wedding scene in another Juliette Binoche film, Dan in Real Life, or when Rachel McAdam's character got married in the film The Vow in an unconventional pink dress in a rouge ceremony at a museum. Who says you need to spend money on a pricey catering hall?
Honestly, I started looking at locations and got getting queasy thinking about the costs. All of my relatives are in Switzerland which is too far to travel, and his are in Iowa (they have a family reunion every other summer there so we can celebrate later). We definitely don't want the gluttonous amount of food: big cocktail hour, four course meal, dessert buffet. It's too much! Only the catering sales manager really believes that much food is wanted by your guests.
Local flowers from the farm or even our garden or my mother's garden. I'd love to have a Lily of the valley bouquet since it grows in her garden.
So that's where we are so far. While I love sharing things about American culture and history, I also seek to challenge what's presented as the norm in our society in my blog about the American Dream. You don't have to live the life corporate America has spent so much time laying out for you. You can follow your own path. I don't make the best choices as a consumer all (or even most) of the time, but I am proud of the wedding we're planning, as it reflects us as a couple.
Did you know the average American couple spends $27,000 on their wedding?
Did you have a thrifty wedding or attended one? Frugal wedding tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments section on weddings in America, including your own.