Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Minnesota Chic!

Hello, lovelies!

From here on out, all posts will be shifting to Minnesota Chic, which will allow me to keep blogging on the same account after I am married (without feeling weird about my username). Check it out!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's What You Make Of It ...

Perception: We keep running into road-blocks and snags.
Reality (according to people who have planned weddings): This is actually going fairly smoothly.
Truth: Wedding planning is like everything else – it is how you choose to approach it, and what you choose to make of it.

Here’s the thing: it’s not so hard to plan a budget wedding. It really isn’t! I am planning a wedding with a budget that made friends (good friends) laugh in my face, a wedding that I worried would, no matter what I said, not be elegant or classy. I worried that it would end up looking like junior prom with streamers and balloons, that the appetizers would be awful and the guests would hate every second of it.

When the first venue was not what I hoped it would be, C (my Maid of Honor) and I launched into floor plans and brainstorming, we found all sorts of ways to make it an amazing reception. I truly think it would have been a good time for everyone. But when it happened that the first venue did not work out at all, we rolled with that punch, too – again, C and I started brainstorming, and my fiancĂ© and I also brainstormed, coming to the conclusion that what we really wanted was a series of smaller, more intimate parties.

We found another venue, and this one did not work, either – the prix fixe menu started at $45, before tax, before drinks, before gratuity. I was bummed. I crunched numbers. Then, at the perfect time, our favorite date-night restaurant in the area responded to my email to let me know they could offer us something within our budget. Another restaurant, swanky in the extreme, turned out to have really affordable brunch (and who doesn’t love brunch? Mmm, eggs benedict!).

We were left trying to find someplace for the wedding itself, but within three days I had managed to find an historic mansion that would host the wedding for half the price of a church. (Yes, most mansions and beautiful homes will only agree to host the wedding if you’re also bringing the catering/reception dollars, and some will charge you outrageous fees – but the point here is, it never hurts to ask.)

At this point, at most, we are looking at

$2800(food)+$1200(photography)+400(venue)+165(cupcakes or cake) = $4565

Yes, we have to factor in my dress, and a hotel room the night before, and gifts for the wedding party. This puts us over $5000 by a smidge. BUT … at lowest, we are looking at:

$2100(food)+$900(photography)+150(venue)+165(cupcakes or cake) = $3315

…and that, my friends, is quite fine.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Eye Candy: Cake Alternatives

The cake is a fairly iconic piece of the traditional wedding. In fact, in this era of ballooning wedding costs and complexity, the cake is one of the only pieces that is actually traditional. (White dress? Church? Sit-down dinner? Bridesmaids? Bouquet? Nope.)

But does that mean you need a cake? Absolutely not. If you're staring, horror-struck, at a piece of paper telling you that tier cake is $3.75/guest, or you're feeling overwhelmed after trying 53 varieties of chocolate cake, or if you just don't like cake - whatever your reason, you absolutely do not need to have a cake.

And so, without further ado, I present you with an eye candy buffet of alternatives! There are actual candy buffets...

Cookie buffets ... (for an adult twist, have Bailey's and Kahlua out for those glasses of milk)

There are also all-purpose dessert bars, for when you just can't choose ...

There are pie buffets...

And for a retro (and wonderful!) twist, there are Sundae bars!

Questions? Thoughts? Pictures of your own alternative dessert? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oops: The Things I Didn't Think I'd Have to Worry About

When one abruptly about-faces and ponders a different strategy for a wedding reception, details start to creep out of the woodwork. With an appetizers-and-sweets reception, I did not need to worry about seating charts. Or placecards. Or centerpieces. Or menus.

Suddenly, all those things I pinned to pinterest with, "Well, we aren't doing ___, but wouldn't this be lovely if we did?" are things that are actually quite relevant. Do we want place cards? Do we want just to give people table numbers? What should the place cards look like? (Luckily, it looks like I can find quite respectable-looking place cards online at $4 for a pack of 60 - that's far better than I was expecting!)

Then, seating charts! My thought is to have people in "pairs" at tables, but a group that can mix well - i.e., two of the groomsmen who may not know each other well but who can strike up a conversation, two cousins, two family from one side, two from another? It's best to try to mix people, yes? Or is it better to separate the families out? I don't know these things!

And then, menu - I think it would be best to send the menu to people ahead of time so they can choose their menu option, and then perhaps just print a menu board and put that by the gift table, or at the entrance to the room. It seems silly to print menus for everyone if they already know what they'll be eating (although it does look quite nice folded into the napkin!).

In short, new and exciting diversions! What are your thoughts?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Planning: And Now For Something Completely Different

Well, after my exciting little melt-down last week, we've started brainstorming for other ways to do this. Because in the end what we need is the officiant, the witnesses, and the two of us!

I forget how it even came up, but one of us said something like, "if only we had a really tiny guest list, we could do something like rent [neighborhood cafe] and give everyone a super amazing meal." And then we both stopped, looked at each other, and went, "Ohhhhhhh...."

It seemed like a huge weight was taken off my shoulders. A tiny wedding! What was my emotion when people said, "well, there were only 30 people at our wedding"? Envy. That was my emotion. A reception intimate enough that we could give toasts without a microphone, laugh together, spend meaningful time with everyone... That would be nice. REALLY nice.

And, because this IS a budget blog? Let's look at a budget breakdown.

Say we now only need brief use of a chapel, and we want to keep our food budget to $3000, INCLUDING sales tax (6.875%) and 15% gratuity. Assume 50 guests (rounding up), and say:

$3000 = 50X(1.06875) + 50X(.20) = 63.4375X, X = $47.29

This means we could arrange a pretty amazing prix-fixe menu and arrange for a couple or three glasses of wine apiece!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Freakout (the First Major One)

The first curveball showed up today, right as I got home from work. It turns out that if we book this venue we've been looking at, not only can we NOT do a midday wedding, we can't start anything in the building until at least 7PM.

Wait, what?

I tried to stay calm, but the freakout escalated very quickly. One moment I was freaked out because this wonderful, ideal wedding spot wasn't working out and my one-and-done approach was in ruins, the next moment I passed through the territory of it's-all-going-to-fall-apart-and-maybe-we-should-just-elope, and then I was off (off!) into the land of why-does-any-of-it-matter-anyway-because-I-suck-at-throwing-parties-and-no-one-will-want-to-come.

So, that was exciting.

The fact of it is, no matter how hard you work to separate yourself from perceived norms, those norms are still there, lurking, in your head. There are only so many layers of stress the human mind can take before it begins to freak out, and there's a layer of stress that comes with expectations. In fact, double that - because you're dealing with your expectations, and other people's expectations as well (both real and perceived). Add to that the fact that weddings are a huge event that could be described as a turning point, a rite of passage, or a major life change, and you have three layers of stress.

I don't know about any of the rest of you, but when I'm stressed it helps me to make lists, isolate things into discrete parts and figure them out. (Divide and conquer?) However, the sheer amount of lists and details inherent in wedding planning can really be overwhelming. Very overwhelming. And then the lists don't help as much as you hope they will.

So, let's go back to an earlier post where I blithely assumed that I would just roll with the punches and adapt my wedding to what came up, because it's totally that simple. As naive as my assumptions were, however, there was a definite grain of wisdom in them:

Your wedding will not turn out the way you plan it.
Things will come up.
Curveballs will get thrown.
It is all going to be okay anyway.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reception Ideas - Appetizer Reception

So, as we discussed earlier, our choice of venue has created some changes in our reception structure. There is not enough space for everyone to sit at once to eat, which means that refreshments should, ideally, be things that can be eaten while standing up. Our soup-and-lasagna buffet now seems...unsporting.

So! We are shifting more towards the salad-and-sandwich end of the spectrum OR appetizers, and now the questions are:

  • How to do that?

  • How much food do we need?

First, how do we do this? Well, we are hoping to steal an idea from Meg Keene over at APW and borrow the Jewish tradition of yichud - basically, the bride and groom take 15 minutes alone after the ceremony to be together and reflect on everything. (In less elegant terms, "Holy crap, we just got married!")

So after the ceremony, we will process out through the sabre arch, and then my fiance and I will duck down a side aisle and go off on our own for a few minutes. After that, a few posed shots with family and wedding party, and then we will congregate in one of the two rooms for toasts and cake-cutting. People can have hot chocolate, punch, and desserts in the parlor room, where there will be music, or they can go out to the Narthex and eat at the tables, perhaps playing board games (Scrabble, Clue, Parchesi ... come on, that would be fun!).

And how much food do we need? That depends on whether we want sandwiches or appetizers!

For appetizers, conventional wisdom says to expect people to have 4-5 apiece, and more if there are several kinds of appetizers. If we say 7 apiece, we're at about 100 appetizers. This would be a good place to bemoan the fact that almost every catering menu I have come across switches units across the menu, "feeds 15-20" in parts, and then in other parts, "priced per piece," or, "$35.99 for two dozen." Makes it difficult to estimate things!

Nevertheless, I've whipped together a few sample menus:

  • Two bruschetta baskets (25-30 people) at $32.99, three Spinach-Artichoke baskets (with bread, serves 20-25) at $39.99, two fresh vegetable platters at $39.99, two fruit platters at $69.99 apiece (holy cow!), two apple-cranberry brie-en-croute at $46.99, two meat-and-cheese snack platters ($64.99) plus three cracker baskets ($12.99), and 60 cocktail meatballs at $23.99. This adds up to $652.84.

  • 4 orders of 50 wings at $39.99 apiece, 2 antipasto tasting platters at $59.95, 3 EACH of Pancetta-and-green-onion and spinach-artichoke-and-feta dips at $29.95, 4 orders of sliced fresh fruit at $39.99 apiece, and 4 orders of caprese salad at $47.95. This adds up to $811.32.

Thoughts? Is this adequate for 100 people?