Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wedding Wednesdays: Planning from Afar

The first decision we made about the wedding was where to hold it.  It was always a given that we would have a legal ceremony in a state where it would be called marriage.  But whether that ceremony would be the ceremony was initially up for debate.

When we got engaged in November 2009 there was buzz around New Jersey that New Jersey would pull it together before Corzine left office, and we dreamed briefly of asking our friends and family to travel to our home state to hold a single celebration of a newly legal marriage.  We also pondered acting politically with our financial investment of a wedding celebration and holding our party in Massachusetts or Connecticut, where same-sex marriage was already legal.  But in the end we decided that the best answer for us was to hold the wedding we would want to have if it were legal, and not let haters dictate where or when we should celebrate our relationship.  Sadly, the Minnesota government is currently seeking to reaffirm their disdain for our relationship by amending the state constitution to ensure that our marriage could not be recognized.

In an acquiesence to political reality, we did conduct a tiny legal ceremony in Massachusetts, which you can read about here and look at pictures of here.   But for the most part, we consider the Minnesota ceremony and party to be "the wedding" and "our anniversary."  (And it was certainly the bulk of the wedding spending!)  I grew up in Minnesota and Becky grew up in Wisconsin, we both have family and friends and family friends centered in these two neighboring states, and we were able to get married in my childhood church.  Initially the decision felt like we were selling out the idea of putting our money where our politics are.  But ultimately I have no shame in financially supporting all of the wonderful, supportive vendors we worked with.

So, planning a wedding in a state you don't live in is a lot like planning a destination wedding.  Except my impression is that when you plan a Jamaica wedding or a Mexico wedding, most of the vendors are geared towards destination wedding go-ers.  Apparently Minneapolis isn't high on the destination wedding list.  So we had to sort it out ourselves.  To be fair, we had a bit of a blue print in my sister's wedding planning from five years ago, but she was primarily willing to allow my mom to be her wedding planner.  In our case we had not one but two brides who wanted to control every little detail, and also not one but two mothers-of-the- brides who also had opinions and needs. 

Our overall strategy was to do big chunks of planning in marathon wedding weekends, during which Becky and I, Becky's mom, on a few occasions other relatives, and my mom had wedding retreats in my parents' house.  This involved some quick bonding for our mothers who had only met for the first time in December 2009! 
Our first trip to Minnesota was in January 2010.  We toured four potential reception sites, were stood up at one arranged site tour, and drove by two other potential sites.  We met with six photographers and were canceled on by one additional photographer.  And even just reading that right now I feel like we were crazy.  But part of the stress of planning from afar was that we had to have lots of options lined up, because we didn't have the luxury of loving one vendor on the internet and then going in person and hating it/him/her and then trying again the next weekend.  This whirlwind approach forced us to do our internet homework and then jump in and do.  I think it was an advantage that we saw everything/met everyone all at once so we could easily compare and choose.  But it certainly felt stressful at the time!  When I got the e-mail from the photographer who canceled (she had a family emergency) I almost broke down crying, because somehow her cancellation solidified for me that she was the one photographer we were destined to love.  Crazy much?  Never fear, we picked ourselves up and loved another.

This is me diligently studying the reception contract, ever cautious to not sign away the rights to parent our first born (I'm fairly certain we avoided this, but I won't be entirely shocked if one of our vendors shows up at the hospital someday expecting that!):
I think the whirlwind version may have been good for our indecisive selves also, because at the end of the weekend....we obviously weren't going to pick a photographer we didn't interview or a venue we didn't view, and thus we had to just freaking make a decision.  And ultimately, those big decisions from weekend one were the easiest.  We loved in person the same venue we loved online.  We both easily agreed that the photographer we thought we loved online was unnecessarily expensive and not a personality click, and that the photographer we did pick was an easy personality match.  Of all your vendors, your photographer is the one whose personality you should like.  Ours felt like she could have been one of our college friends.  Win.

Our second trip to Minnesota was in May 2010.  We managed to connect it to a Wisconsin trip we were planning to take anyways.  We got a private food and wine tasting at our reception venue (special perk of long distance planning!), met with four florists, met with four bakers, took engagement pictures, scoped rehearsal dinner venues, met with the minister, shopped for invitation supplies, and shopped for wedding dresses.  Once again our selection of vendors was probably overkill, but I don't regret meeting with any of them.  I like to make informed choices!  The one thing we really could have done at home was wedding dress shopping, but we wanted to have our moms in on part of it at least.  I ended up buying mine off the rack at a boutique in Minnesota and then conning my mom into shipping it to New Jersey for me to have altered.  Becky ordered hers through a shop in Minnesota and they mailed it to her to have altered here.  Alterations was one of the most stressful parts of the wedding planning, and I would highly recommend buying your dress from a shop where you plan to get it altered.  While in Wisconsin we also went bridesmaid dress shopping with Becky's sisters and made a tentative decision.  Like the colors??
We didn't go back to Minnesota until three weeks before the wedding.  Pretty much all of the detail finalizing with all of the vendors we did over phone and e-mail, we hired DJ and limo companies over the internet, we instructed our wedding party to order outfits over the internet, and we worked on all of the paper goods and favors and all the little details from home.  We ordered box after box of stuff to be sent to my mom, who would open boxes on Skype and show us our unity candle or our boxes of dozens of bubbles.  We also asked each of our mothers to take care of buying or doing certain things for us, like sorting out only red and purple Hershey's kisses from dozens of bags, or tying personalized ribbons. Not everyone was equally enthused about ordering their outfits:
 In October the whole gang descended on Minnesota again, and we did hair trials, had a shower, re-tasted our cake (to be sure of the flavors!!), and worked on finishing and folding and organizing all of that stuff that our moms collected for us!
People on the wedding internetz talk a lot about wedding planning taking over your whole lives....  we definitely had lots of days where we didn't really have any wedding related tasks we had to complete, but that freedom was obviously created by these intense whirlwind planning weekends.  I might be a little crazy, but I liked the intensity of being forced to get so much done at once, and of having our families with us in our intense focus for just those weekends.  When my mom first warned us of how many planning trips we would need to take to Minnesota I was a doubter.  Now that we've done it I think it's a miracle that we didn't need more.

ETA: ARGH, I did it again!!!  :(  This post was written by Carrie, despite Blogger's claims that it was written by Becky.


  1. the picture of you with the moms is adorable.

    And the teeny baby in the suit?! GAH.

  2. I think the part you liked best about choosing lots of vendors to interview was sampling the cakes!!

  3. We had fun times!! And yes, great taste testing. :-)

  4. @Jo: You can't see it in the picture, but they had tails. Yes, 20-month-old twin ringbearers in TAILS. And they were just as cute as it sounds.

    @Moms: The cake testing was fun, but I still haven't forgotten how ridiculously full we were after all of that sampling!

  5. I'm catching up on blogs (my computer is dead!) and love Wedding Wednesday!!!