Invitations need to go out by Friday.
Now, to us it seems like the wedding is still sort of forever from now. Six weeks? Seriously? You're talking to two people who are very tired of living in two different places. Six weeks might as well seem like six months.
But to everyone else, that's the bare minimum for getting an invitation to a wedding. So they're expecting them round about next Monday.
It turns out the biggest thing about sending out invitations is not actually picking out the invitations (we're not all that picky) or putting them together or even gathering the addresses...it was getting everything completely settled for the church and the hall for the reception so when we sent invitations we weren't saying, "Hey, come to our wedding. Time and place to be determined. We'll be in touch!"
We've had a guest list since July. That part was actually easy too, though we found it had a disconcerting ability to keep growing indefinitely. We've had a couple of months to think of everyone we might've forgotten. We've had to keep close tabs on the list too, since the family budget is including two weddings in one year. It's a good thing the family business is in good form this year, but Dad has had a few moments where he's said, "I have FIVE daughters!!" like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
We've gathered almost all the addresses, set up an invitation (Elizabeth does beautiful work if anyone's interested in a good invitation designer), printed lots of test copies ("Nope, we like the watermark fainter than this - but that font is great"), decided to do most RSVPs by Internet form (it's an interesting innovation...we'll see how it works!), and gotten all the stamps. But the real effort this week - and the major items we're very relieved to check off our list - has been finally settling on what we were going to do for a church and a reception hall.
It's not really a big surprise to any of us that we decided to go to Macomb Christian church and that we're having the reception at Crank's Catering's hall. We've been pretty much expecting to do that for weeks, but we had to sit down with the family and make the final decision and somehow that kept getting put off. Then there was a last-minute suggestion Ben's home church River's Edge Fellowship might actually have their building open on Monday the 28th after all (they originally told us - correctly - that it was unavailable on Mondays). We spent a week trying to find out if that was true or not and it turned out that because the building is being shared by three churches, it's pretty tough to find a free day.
We also were setting up details of the reception with the folks at Crank's. Since we're doing a dessert reception, we had to think about things a little differently than if we did a tradition dinner. We didn't want to just have cake and cookies and call it a day: we're doing dessert instead of dinner because of the time, not because of the budget. I think what we came up with (thanks to Aaron, Elizabeth, Mom, and Joy for all the research!) is going to be pretty neat. But the details were pretty much only settled on this morning right before heading over to the hall to put a down payment on it. After that we drove the five minutes over to Macomb Christian and settled things there, which means that...invitations need to go out tomorrow and we are certain today that the information on them is accurate.
Now if we can take care of the photographer, we'll be doing good.
When Benjamin and Leah got married, the process of getting ready for their wedding felt like a big tutorial on what to do for ours. Not that we looked at everything they did and said, "Oh yeah? WE'RE gonna do better than that!" because we didn't. But they sure made a whole lot of things easier for us just by having to do stuff first.
Take the bridesmaids dresses, for example.
One of the biggest things we learned about bridesmaids dresses is that everyone always wants to pick the perfect color and there are lots of designers that cater to that...for a price. You can pick any color and any style in the rainbow, but all dresses labeled "bridesmaid" seem to have a few things in common: they're expensive and they take a long time to arrive.
Leah and Benjamin picked white dresses with blue sashes. Seemed simple enough at the time, but it turns out when you want something really specific, sometimes it can be really hard to get. When you see the dresses, it's hard to believe it took so much work to find them because they really weren't all that complicated in and of themselves. However, having a bunch of girls with different ideas on what they should have in a dress means hundreds and hundreds of pictures. I remember coming home one day and finding both Elizabeth and Anna practically cross-eyed from looking at dresses and Leah ready to have everyone wear a bathrobe. "This decision isn't supposed to be so hard!" she said.
We looked at that and realized something: it's easier to find a dress and then pick the colors rather than pick the colors and find a dress. I don't think we would've thought of that otherwise, but what that one little realization did was save us all a whole lot of time. When we were looking for our wedding, we had a few restrictions of our own, but they most revolved around one idea: Kim is pregnant. We need a dress she can wear and look good in and match with the other girls who aren't; and the other girls don't want to look like they're pregnant too!
I also didn't want black, although I think that mattered more to me than to Ben. Black is elegant; but in bridal parties sometimes I think it looks sort of like a funeral more than a wedding.
So in the end Joy discovered and sent a picture to us of a JCPenney bridesmaid dress (JCPenney has a bridal collection - who knew?") that actually resembles my dress fairly strongly, is a beautiful lavender color, isn't strapless, does have the right sizes available, looks beautiful, and is even on sale. We ordered two last week and they arrived promptly. They do everything needed, even fitting Kim without needing alterations because of the style. We basically have to get some shawls (they're not really warm enough around the shoulders!), hem everybody's hem (they're way too long!) and we'll be set. It's so beautifully simple we all were smiling. Except those who were laughing when Jenny stuffed a pillow inside the dress to see if it would fit Kim. Kim says, "Looks like it'll work great unless I'm having triplets - how big did you think I was going to get, anyway?"
It's fun when things go so smoothly.
Whenever people told me in the past they were very busy with "wedding plans", I always wondered what was taking so much time. I mean, a wedding is essentially a big party wherein most of the elements are actually prescribed and the choices that need to be made basically revolve around what colors you like and what kind of meal you want to have. How much time does that really take?
As it turns out, if other people are anything like us, the big preparations are not actually about the party. If you think about it, there's a lot more that goes into creating a new family than just the ceremony that makes it official. The philosophy of marriage all on it's own is gigantic; but after that there are a lot of physical things to make ready. There's the creation of a whole new household to consider. There are some big ol' time-consuming decision-making study-requiring things that come into play that have nothing to do with a little couple-hour event called "a wedding". Some biggies in our case have been finding health care, learning how to buy a house, getting ready to move, changing names, and setting up how life together should work. There are some deceptively small tasks involved in these things. Finding out about healthcare can take hours and hours of research, questions, and phone time. In order to buy a house, we had to find out where to sign a purchase agreement. It's a little like being a kid again, where every task you are asked to perform requires you to start from scratch learning how to do it!
There is, for instance, the matter of gifts intended to start a new family off in life. I had no idea it would take so much thoughtful consideration to prepare for the fact that people actually want to give us gifts. Gifts were never big on my radar when I pictured getting married because in my mind, the fact I was getting married at all eclipsed the details of the wedding itself.
Then Mom Turner said firmly, "There's going to be a shower at the beginning of October." And our friend Bonnie called us up a month ago and said, "We have decided to give you a shower. Which means we need you to get busy and make a registry."
We were initially going to skip the shower. It was a lot of work, fuss, and time, especially as everyone was just resting up from Leah and Benjamin's wedding. Ben and I looked at each other and said to our families, "Don't do this to yourselves, guys: we don't need a shower! Just having everyone be able to be peaceful and rest for a few weeks seems pretty nice to us."
Our wonderful friends and family said, "Sorry guys, but you need things and we're going to arrange for you to get them."
It's a uniquely humbling thing when you realize people love you enough to insist on taking care of you. Somehow, I've become used to being a person who takes care of things and gives people gifts, not one who is being taken care of and given things. The least we could do was fulfill the one request being placed on us to get a registry ready!
Now, a registry is a really funny thing. At what other time in your life do you create a complicated, itemized list of gifts someone might consider getting you? Most of the time it seems hopelessly self-serving. In the case of a wedding, however, it turns out people are actually grateful if you sit down and create a wish-list of items you foresee needing to begin life as a married couple. Still, when Ben put me in charge of creating a registry and I sat down to begin filling it out, I was overwhelmed. Starting just with the choices of what stores to focus on and heading right into needing to sort out what colors would go with our currently-nonexistent house! Then there was the ethics of the whole thing. How in the world can a person justify asking for things that just plain cost so much money? I wondered.
I talked through email with some sensible friends who got married a few years ago about making the registry and they gave me a lot of helpful advice beginning with basically this straightforward point: people want ideas of what to give a couple getting married. That's what a registry is. Don't ask for chintzy things because then folks feel bad getting them and besides, he who asks receives. People want to be able to give nice gifts. Pick out something they'll be happy to find out you like.
Okay, I thought. It's a wish list. Not a demand list. Not a list of what we absolutely positively have to have in order to begin life together. Simply a list of what interests us if anybody is interested.
Even with that in mind, it took me a surprisingly long time to make that registry. I think because I took it very seriously. If I was going to put something on this "idea list", it better be something it would be worthwhile for someone to spend money on. Not silly stuff. Not stuff that was going to break or wear out right away. Not stuff that was ridiculously expensive for the use it would actually get (who knew it'd be considered an essential part of bridal registries to get LUGGAGE, for goodness' sake?). Not stuff it was too boring to give as a gift.
Bonnie said, "If you're going to pick out every day dishes, pick out something people will have fun buying. If you pick out just plain white stuff, it's not much fun to get for someone else."
Mom said, "Look for good sheets. Out of all the nice things that were given to us at our wedding, those were the best."
Turns out the first thing to do wasn't actually to pick out dishes or sheets but to figure out what style and color of things to look for. It was a big weird to do this because we didn't have a house at the time. Ben knows what he likes and doesn't like when he sees it, but he couldn't describe it to me; so in the beginning I had to start showing him pictures and say, "Thumbs up or down?"
I wasn't expecting Ben to be the pickier of the two of us, but as it's developed, I like lots and lots of things and Ben has a much narrower "like" factor. Because of that, he became the deciding vote in picking something out. I would find pictures of something that I thought would be nice and then run it by him for final approval. It was exciting when I could start predicting what he would like and not like before he actually commented. I knew I was starting to get it when I finally showed Ben a picture of some dishes I was pretty sure he'd like and he said, "Ooh, wow, I really like those!" I almost felt as victorious as the few times I've managed to scrape by a victory over him at chess.
Amid all the bits and pieces that comprise normal household goods, it turned out that what mattered to Ben the most was how things felt. He wanted things to *feel good*. Comforters, for example, were "too noisy and scratchy" for the most part. I can now proudly say we have personally felt all the comforters in stock at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. That was fun; except by the end I was starting to get a bit worried we weren't going to find one Ben would like. That was another victory moment when we did.
I also spent more time reading reviews on nice sheets than I ever thought to devote to the subject. Turns out high thread counts do not always equal nice sheets or ones that will make it more than a handful of times through the wash without tearing. When you're making out a registry online, reviews become a life-line to common sense: there are a million choices out there, but only people who've actually used these things know if they're any good.
Mom kept asking me if I was having fun. I honestly said, "Well, right now it just seems like a lot of work and research." It wasn't until one day when Ben and I unexpectedly had time to go into the store and take a look at some stuff I wasn't sure he'd like that I suddenly felt excited. Maybe it was the moment when I walked up to a kiosk and typed our names in and saw there really was a wedding registry all ready to be printed out. Or maybe it was when we decided to buy a set of the dishes just to see if we really did like them. Or maybe it was the moment when Ben felt all the blankets that were on the shelf, found one he liked, and said, "This one! I like this one."
Whatever it was, it seems like making the registry is one of the things that has made it seem real that Ben and I are truly getting married and really are going to need to outfit a new house and people really do want to get us things to help us out (although...may I say that it feels pretty weird to pick out bedding before getting married?). Even if no one gets us anything off the list, the process of thinking it through and carefully picking what to suggest (if anyone's interested!) ultimately makes me look forward to being married more than I had before. For one thing, I sure know a lot more about Ben than I did when we started; and if you'd told me that before we got busy on the registry, I would've pointed you to the 400-plus pages of our emails and said, "Yikes...what's left that we haven't talked about?"
So. This is an account of just one of those "little" details I didn't realize when I listened to other people talk about getting ready to be married. One of the things that goes into "planning a wedding" that I never thought about...and has turned out to be one of the more time consuming and ultimately interesting parts of this whole procedure.
Oh yes. About healthcare: that's going to have to be the subject of a whole new post.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
Please don't be shy! If you're reading the blog updates, we'd like to hear what you think. Click on the "comments" link to send us a note.