Monday, August 27, 2012

Just getting started.


Long-time reader, first-time writer. My boyfriend of 2 and a half years proposed last week in Ireland. I'm ecstatic, and would love to be married in June of 2013.

The biggest conundrum I'm facing right now is where to have this event: My parents and extended family are all from Oklahoma, but I was raised in Brooklyn until High School when their divorce was finalized and I moved back to OK to be with my Mom and stepdad. My fiance is an Irish Catholic West Point graduate from Yonkers, NY. His whole family is either in Ireland, or within 45 minutes of West Point. 

We both agree that a wedding in the Catholic Chapel at West Point would be beautiful. It would mean a lot to him, and it would also honor his service and put our (foreseeable) future (as he will deploy and we will move around quite a bit in the next 15 years) in perspective for my family. And as we'll have people coming from Ireland, and friends from D.C. (where we are), it'll be easier to convene everyone right outside of NYC.

I have to admit though, it stings a little that my family will have to travel for this event, but his (immediate) family will not.  

No matter where the big event is, I really want to exchange vows and celebrate on my grandparents' property in Oklahoma. One generation up, my grandparents have set a lovely example for me in what marriage, commitment and family should be. I spent every summer there as a child, even before I moved there for H.S. Originally, I was thinking we could just do a hippie ceremony with family and friends that wouldn't be able to make it out to West Point, and then do the big shindig in NY.

But then I started pricing things out. My Mom and Stepdad are very generously giving us 40,000. I can put in another 10,000 (fiance and clan are handling the typical groom's family stuff - the rehearsal dinner etc). My Father is sick, and may not be able to contribute anything. To my shock and horror, $50,000 seems to buy extremely little in the Hudson Valley! Going with the conventional rule of only spending 40% on the reception, we have our pick of tacky bridal factory places -- and that's about it. Why spend that much for such a cookie-cutter experience??

As for what we originally envisioned, we want to boogie all night with our nearest and dearest (capping it at college friends and extended family puts us in the ballpark of 200 or so guests). Live band, open bar for the Irish folk (who apparently always drink wedding venues dry), with really heartfelt touches throughout. We also hoped for a rockin Irish rehearsal dinner, and lovely day-after brunch.

I'd be over the moon with a wedding at my grandparents' house - but I know how lovely, important and convenient West Point is. Even my parents in Oklahoma are worried about having the big celebration there - as Irish family and DC friends might not be able to come. 

Please help me make sense of all of this! A feast for 25 in NY, and big celebration in OK? Bite the bullet on the tacky stuff because that's the most convenient?



Dear Confused,

Welcome to wedding planning! It sucks.

First off, don't go with the "conventional rule" about anything. Who says you should only spend 40% of your budg on the reception? The same ppl who think you should spend 10% on flowers, 10% on attire, and 10% on a wedding coordinator.

YOU CAN SPEND YOUR BUDGET HOWEVER YOU WANT. Spend 40% on booze if you want to.

But I can't answer the where question for you. You and your future husb need to sit down and make the hard decision about which location means the most to the both of you. Either way, wherever you do the thing, there will be friends/family members who just can't make it.

Did I mention wedding planning sucks?


Lover's Eyes locket courtesy of The Met via c ktnon via Michiko M + even*cleveland


  1. We are having a wedding for 130 people in Long Island for under 20K. Buying flowers online and having the Stop and Shop florist arrange them, doing the ceremony at the reception venus, having a buffet (of hearty things like paella and mac and cheese which will hold up to a buffet) and amazing passed appetizers and a croquembouche. Covering the tacky mural with a crepe paper streamer screen. Using a conference planner instead of a wedding planner. Having it in October instead of June. Doing unlimited beer and wine and a signature drink - there's a bar downstairs for people who "need" something else. It really can be done - sounds like you want Hudson and lots of people - you can do it if you're creative! Know what you're flexible on, and what you won't compromise on.

  2. That 40% number isn't a rule, but a guideline. It gives you a good idea of what your costs COULD look like. If you did your own flowers, shopped garage sales for centerpieces, etc, those numbers can go down. Are you inviting 200 or expecting 200? There's a definite difference, especially if 70 of those might be in Ireland... will they really all travel?

    Maybe it's time to do some digging. Do any of his West Point friends live nearby? Do their families have a big enough property to host a backyard shindig? Renting a tent and some tables/chairs might be a little more work, but could be less money.

    Here's the one caveat about place: you only get married in one spot. It's either OK, or NY. You have your fiance need to decide which one feels right for you as a couple. We got married in AZ because that's where we live, and I wanted to be hands on in planning (take that into consideration, too!). So his family and friends didn't have to travel, buy my 75 family and friends came from all over the country. It was still amazing and they had a great vacation. Good luck in planning! (PS I don't think wedding planning sucks, it's training for the tough stuff in marriage!)

  3. Agreed: Welcome to the compromise known as wedding planning. As I learned when I started planning, and had similar dilemmas, sit down with your fiance and decide what location is best for YOU, in terms of budget and meaningful-ness. There will always be people who can't make it, you cannot make it convenient for 200 people. (And I think those who really want to be there, will do their best to, no matter the travel involved.)

    Also, for what it's worth, I have a very similar budget to yours, so I'll recommend my non-cheesy/non-wedding factory venue to you (It's not quite by West Point, but it is in Yonkers): Alder Manor. I did have to say goodbye to that lovely day-after brunch (too costly) and some extra guests (down from 200 to 130); but didn't have to give up much else. Look into it! And good luck :)

  4. Before making your decision, think seriously about your guests. How much more convenient is it and how much more likely are they to come. I'm from the midwest but have spent the last 10 years on the east coast and, when I decided to have my wedding back in my midwestern hometown, I knew a lot of friends wouldn't make it. That made me very sad, but for several reasons it made sense for us. If you really want an awesome party and to boogy all night with your friends, do it on the east coast so many more friends can come. I loved my wedding (in my parents backyard) but it made me sad that only a handful of my friends, representing the last decade of my life, were there. And the fiance's friends numbered even fewer. So think carefully about this decision (I would probably do it near west point).

    And esb's advice about the 40% is key. It's a guideline. Make out your own budget for the different scenarios. You are going to have to make priorities during wedding planning to make everything come in under budget. That same person who told you 40% for the reception will likely say 10% for attire. Do you need/want to spend $5000 on attire? Maybe you can cut that in half. Or maybe you have one dress which you really feel you need to wear and that is $10,000. Then you need to determine whether venue location or attire is a priority and budget appropriately.

    Good luck! Wedding planning is hard but it can also be fun.

  5. For Hudson Valley venues you should check out the Bird and Bottle Inn. Its in the Hudson Valley and is supposed to be pretty reasonable. Its defo got a very backyardy feel to it. Good luck planning!

  6. I spent way more than 40% on my reception. We had the whole thing - ceremony and reception - at a beautiful restaurant in a park. I spent very little on flowers and made everything else myself. I say figure out what your priorities are, and make the wedding work with those!

  7. My parents paid for our wedding, so at their request we had it in my sleepy little rust belt hometown rather than the Big East Coast City where my husband and I live. But one look at price comparisons for Big City prices versus sleepy town prices made it a no brainer! We were able to secure very nice, reasonably priced accommodations for guests, while also working in a rehearsal night welcome party and post wedding brunch ... all for the cost of one big city event.

    Plus, the people who want to celebrate with find a way to make it if they can. They love YOU guys, not your city!

  8. 40%? Where have I been? I'd say 75% of our expenses went toward the reception. The rest went to our outfits and the photographer and the small fee my church asked for.

    Of course, we spent 0% on things like flowers, decorations, or favors, so our "reception budget" is probably a little skewed.

    Confused, budget your money where it makes sense to you. If you can find a beautiful location, maybe you won't need centerpieces or pew decorations. Maybe you'll find a dress for $300 and can spend the rest of that budget elsewhere. Maybe you don't have favors. Maybe you want all of that, but getting married near West Point and having your 200 loved ones is more important than flowers or $300 shoes or videography, and you make tough sacrifices. <3

  9. You guys have to figure out your top priorities first thing. If the #1 priority is having as many of your loved ones there as possible, then you need to choose a location that accommodates travel and you're going to need to go low budget.

    We chose people, food, booze, party as our priorities, which meant we ditched a lot of other things, like actual plates and glassware and floral centerpieces.

    When working with a budget, there are always several things that just have to give.

  10. I know several people who have had multiple receptions in different states. While it is a nightmare to plan, it is fun to make sure that everyone who wants to participate is able to.

  11. Yikes. If I was supposed to spend only 40% on the reception then I'm in trouble.

    I will say though, that finding a venue was one of the hardest things in wedding planning for us. It started out like a load of fun, little weekend trips to check places out, seeing this awesome pictures online, feeling like a bride touring places. But it. gets. old. so. quick.

    ESB is right! Wedding planning sucks! My advice is to pick a place close to where you live. We've done SO many trips to meet vendors ( a 4 hour drive for us!) that it got to be really tiring.

    Another thing to consider: There are different attitudes and sort of, professional cultures in different places. My fiance and I live in San Francisco where we have certain professional expectations. But we're getting married in the central coast. We've run into a little bit of a culture shock because everyone there is more "laid back" or not as electronically friendly (lack of good emailers). It's definitely something to consider when thinking about location:

    "How convenient will this be for ME to plan?" It's important to factor in guests but don't forget that it will be a LOT of work on your part, so it needs to be as easy as possible in you too.

  12. What's the rationale behind the 40% number? And what's the other 60% supposed to go towards? (I mean, dress, officiant, What else?) Colour me dumb, but that number seems low. I feel like you can throw it to the wind and decide how you want to spend your dough.

  13. Why would you waste (THAT MUCH!!!!) money on a place that did not suit you, just because it was in an area that makes it convenient for your guests? I think it would be a little gross to except that much money from your mother just to use it on some tacky reception hall that isn't even close to where YOUR side of the family is. As far as heartfelt touches go, these things do not have to cost that much money- your guests are not going to feel the love because you got everyone personalized toothpick holders and had crystal mason jars and a children's choir, your wedding is heartfelt when you make it about you and your FH and your life together. Seems like your grandparents place would sum that up to a T.
    It really show that you have a lot of care and love for both families and I assume that same love is extended to you. The worst way to start out planning is to fret about people other than you and FH-it can lead down a dangerous path of being easily manipulated.You are probably going to have to start compromising on whose families you visit for holidays, whose parents get to visit you more often, all the other joys of being married with families, etc. sooner or later. You know what, before that all starts, seriously, just do what is best for you and your fella. And DO NOT let yourself feel guilty!

  14. Have you checked out any of these places yet?
    Alder Manor looks amazing, and is also on the list.

  15. um, my link didn't work.
    Sorry for the ugly:

  16. Aww hells, we're spending 75% on reception. Martha would be upset.

  17. I was going to tell you all about the amazing place where I got married in the Hudson Valley on the super cheap, for the best and most beautiful day of my life, but I am so grossed out by your enormous budget that I realize I don't want to help. Rent out a gym and donate the rest to charity. Geez.

    1. Haha thanks for saying what I coldnt!

    2. Geez, I hate people with this kind of attitude.

  18. Don't overcomplicate it. Wedding planning is already complicated, you definitely can't please everyone so start with pleasing yourselves. Where do you both want to have it, personally and not bringing logistics into it? Discuss and choose. THEN start thinking about logistics for guests, and just accept that there will be some coordinating out of town guests. Once the decision is made you can just face it head on, fine. Don't let it dictate your choice.

    My family have to fly over to England for my wedding because it is where my partner and I live, and of course it is easier for his family, but we never once considered anywhere else. Go with your gut.

  19. you have $50,000! that's crazy. do what you really want. you have more than enough funds to make it happen.

    1. 50k does not go as far as you think in NY especially if we're talking open bar for 200 people anywhere remotely near NYC. In fact, the writer said, "To my shock and horror, $50,000 seems to buy extremely little in the Hudson Valley!".
      My budget wasn't as large. I had 100 people in NYC and my wedding was beautiful!
      I would never begrudge anyone for having a large budget.
      If your budget is 500... great! If your budget is 500,000... great!