Planning that perfect wedding - in just 3 months
Sunday, February 14, 2010
NEW YORK -- Soon after I got engaged in summer 2009, my well-meaning BFF pulled me aside and said, "I think you're making a big mistake."
Her concern had nothing to do with my intended, but my intentions: planning a full-scale wedding, with bridal party, sit-down dinner, DJ and more, in under three months.
Now, I know most guidebooks and bridal Web sites insist that you take at least a year, sometimes 18 months, to pull off the perfect ceremony. Some talk about a six-month audition period for florists alone.
But with my fiance and I both in our 30s and wanting to get the whole "spend the rest of our lives together" thing started, it seemed a waste of precious time to wait a whole year.
So instead of planning to get married in July 2010, a year from our engagement, we decided on October -- 2009.
When we told people our plans, they were so shocked they often expected to hear a second, follow-up announcement -- but no, there was no baby on the way.
My friend -- that same BFF -- had just gotten married a few months earlier, in an elaborate destination wedding in Miami that took a professional planner more than a year to coordinate. She was adamant that I wouldn't have enough time to pull it off, and even if I did, I would be too stressed to enjoy it.
It was stressful, but it was stress I would have had even with 18 months to plan. Looking back, I now know you don't need a year to pull off a dream wedding.
Of course, you can't waste a day.
You have to start planning from the moment he slips the ring on your finger (and if you've been talking about getting married, maybe even a little before that).
As soon as my fiance and I picked out my engagement ring, we started scouting places for a ceremony. We knew we wanted about 100 guests, a sit-down dinner with dancing later, at a nice place but not-so-expensive price.
At a few venues, we got raised eyebrows when we said we were looking at the weekend of Oct. 9. But no one said they were completely booked. Every place we went had at least one day that weekend available, and some of the larger reception halls had more than one room. Friday nights were cheaper than Saturdays, and Sunday was an option as well.
It took us just two weeks to lock down our place, an ornate facility that also included a separate hall for our ceremony. They offered a cocktail hour, formal dinner and open bar, all for one price (wedding cake included!).
Getting a florist also wasn't difficult. I didn't start looking seriously until mid-August, and it was not until September that I chose. Again, everyone -- from the pricey florist in the famous flower market in Manhattan to the neighborhood florist in Brooklyn, where I live -- was willing to work with my short timeline.
We got our invitations done quickly and inexpensively at a local stationery store and had no need for save-the-date cards.
My biggest hurdle, it turned out, would be the dress. When I said I was getting married in three months, most bridal salons I went to acted as if I'd said I wanted a bright orange gown. One salon refused an appointment.
"We can't help you unless you are getting married in December," the person there huffed.
Of course, dresses were available for a price. I was told I'd have to pay a rush fee if I ordered a gown. And even then, the sales assistants laced the offer with anxiety, saying the dress "should" be available for my wedding, but offering no real guarantees.
With so many dress shops with samples available, I figured I would be able to find something white and nice enough for my big day. The stress came when I realized I didn't like most of those gowns.
I started to reach full-panic mode when August came and I still had no dress. Luckily, a ray of sunshine called Kleinfeld's Blowout Sale saved me: The store made (more) famous by the TLC show "Say Yes to the Dress" had offered some of their designer gowns at hugely reduced prices, and that's where I found an amazing Romona Keveza dress that normally retailed for about $4,000 for $800. It had to be altered, which cost another $700 and some drama -- word to the wise: Do not choose just any seamstress to alter your dress; I had to have my alterations redone after gambling on a bootleg seamstress first.
Instead of trying to order bridesmaid dresses from a bridal store, I simply looked online at Nordstrom, found the prettiest evening dress in a color I thought would work and told each of them to order it ASAP.
On some details we were blessed with good fortune. My fiance's cousin is a minister and did the ceremony for travel costs; my fiance's friend is a photographer who was paid only the price of his plane ticket. One of my bridesmaids made our wedding favors (personalized CDs), and my BFF's sister, an event planner, acted as my coordinator for the rehearsal and ceremony.
One friend with excellent handwriting did the place cards, and my mother-in-law designed our photo album-themed guest book and the broom for us to jump over, part of African-American tradition.
Another of my husband's friends (I married well) gave us the gift of a DJ and videographer.
We did a candy station for guests, picking up the goodies from a candy store and the clear jars at Target.
While I did have help and luck, I have no doubt that any bride could pull off what I did in less than a year.