Tangled Up in Wedding Blues

After my last post, I was feeling relatively calm and zen-like. I thought about writing another post and then realized, huh, I don't really have anything to say. Well, after selecting a venue and a date and putting down EIGHT HUNDRED NON-REFUNDABLE DOLLARS, guess what. I have more to say! 

So, the venue. The first decision you will make, and one that influences pretty much every other decision after that (the date, the catering, the look and feel of the wedding). So, you know. No pressure! Pretty much immediately after we arrived home from Chicago after getting engaged, I fired up the computer and my Google spreadsheet and got started with my research. At first it was fun, looking for inspiration and imagining all the different kinds of weddings we could have. Oooh, we could get married at a winery! Or we could get married by the bay! In a barn! In a ballroom! Friends, did you know you can even get married way down below the surface of the earth, surrounded by one hundred thousand year old stalactites? Well you can, and it's spectacular. 

This and every other halfway affordable venue within about an hour and a half of DC went on the spreadsheet, which at press time numbers 59 (FIFTY-NINE!) venues. 

Don't even try to read this, it's insanity

I did a little bit of research, is what I'm saying. Simon and I spent every weekend in October driving all around DC and MD visiting venues, and together we saw ten of our(?) ((my?)) top choices. I took a day off work and looked at three more on my own. Most of them were immediately ruled out for one reason or another. Too far away from DC/the airport/any convenient hotels, one had a beautiful ceremony space but the reception space was a tent essentially in the parking lot, or whatever other aesthetic offenses might cause me to tell Simon, "I will absolutely never be married here." From the very beginning there was really only one serious contender that had the right location and aesthetics. 

Isn't she beautiful?

There were a couple downsides, including the price, which was more than we really wanted to pay for a venue, and the fact that they hold two weddings a day on Saturdays, which means you're stuck either having a morning wedding, which we didn't want, or an evening wedding taking place after the sun has already gone down, which defeats the purpose of having a venue with such beautiful gardens and river views. On Sundays, however, there is only one wedding scheduled a day, and you can have it whenever you want. Having our wedding on a Sunday was less than ideal, but we decided it was an acceptable compromise, especially since we were quickly running out of time, in that every venue we had looked at had Saturday dates that were either fully or nearly completely booked for 2018(!!!!!) Apparently there are people out there who plan their weddings 18-24 months in advance. That is...not me. As I told Simon when he suggested moving our wedding to 2019, "If I have to spend 730 days devoting brain space to place settings I will kill myself." I mean, it's joyous, happy, exciting and all that, but also, let's just get this thing over with and move on with our lives, right? 

Anyway, I saw the venue by myself the first time, I went back with Simon, he was fine with it, we picked our Sunday date in October, all was well, and then I got the contract. And there was this extra fee tacked on ($715 extra just to have your ceremony outside? the hell? plus an extra $400 if you want a dance floor if you're too precious to dance on a brick patio) and then plus the security deposit, and suddenly the already pushing it price seemed even more menacing. It had teeth. And they were sharp. I had a brief breakdown over text, Simon assured me that it was less than ideal but we would make it work, and EIGHT HUNDRED NON-REFUNDABLE DOLLARS LATER we had a date and a signed contract. Woo hoo! Woo...I mean, this is what we want, right? We should be celebrating...right?? But somehow it all felt off. 

And then I started getting proposals back from the caterers. And, holy shit, did I not have any idea what I was getting into. When I was forming the guesstimate version of our wedding budget, for the catering line I googled Washington DC caterers, found the cheapest, bare bones, per person price for some BBQ joint I could find, multiplied that by 100, and called that our catering budget. Not knowing that a) most venues, and in fact every venue we looked at, have a set list of caterers you can choose from and therefore you can't just pick any random caterer that you've googled, and b) the prices I found were just for food and didn't include things like, oh, servers and linens and forks and glasses and bartenders and OH MY GOD, I'm sorry, I'm new at this! What this means is that our catering costs are effectively 300% of what I had budgeted for AND our venue is about 50% more than we had allowed for in our already not-small wedding budget. 

In every wedding-related article, blog post, and book I have read, they all say that you will reach a point in your planning when you say, screw this, let's just elope. I think I have reached that point. 

Simon has been wonderful and reassuring and says that we will make it work somehow, and I'm sure we will, but what I'm thinking is, ok, we will have a wedding, but we will never renovate our bathroom, and we will never go to France, and we will never replace my eleven year old car, and we won't even be able to go on a honeymoon. I mean, sure, maybe we will be able to do those things one day, but right now that day seems so far away it's not even worth thinking about. 

There is one other venue option that we both liked and that might help lower our costs significantly, depending on how their catering proposals come back, but of course it comes with one major cloud over it, that I will have to discuss at a later date, and have I mentioned the EIGHT HUNDRED NON-REFUNDABLE DOLLARS I already paid to the other venue?   

As it is, I have already written 1,071 ridiculous words on this subject, so I will end this with TELL ME WHAT TO DO. I mean, if you were me, and you found yourself in my situation, which of course you never would because you are all much smarter and savvier about weddings than me. (Also, I am just kidding about eloping, I really do want to have one day to celebrate together with both of our families and all of our loved ones. But holy cats, why is it so hard to do this reasonably?)


  1. Okay never give them the link to your blog, feign illness/death to get the refund, elope. I'm so serious, why start off in debt or sad about spending too much money? After our Jamaican wedding some friends of ours threw us a lovely party at their house with snacks and drinks and people brought presents and I didn't have to wear anything frilly. I mean do what makes you happy--I can't tell if this is mostly funny stress or legitimate stressy stress!

  2. The important thing to bear in mind is that you have never planned a large scale event like this, and it is an actual job. Professional wedding/party planners spend a decent amount of time making mistakes and learning from them. If you plan your own wedding, you are going to make mistakes. My biggest mistake wedding planning was in our dance lessons. The first lesson was free, and then you sign a nonrefundable contract for "private" dance lessons. The first lesson is scheduled at a time when there are no other lessons, so you think you'll be able to practice your own dance for the whole hour. Then when your lessons start after you sign your nonrefundable contract, you learn that your lesson is "private" because you have your own instructor, and there are other people taking "private" lessons with their own instructor. Since everyone is rehearsing different music, you have to take turns playing your music and that means that 3/4 of the time is wasted since you aren't learning to your own song. So don't beat yourself up about not knowing about the required vendor list.

    What you need to do is price everything out at your second choice venue, and then compare the two (factoring in losing your $800 deposit). If it is close, you can go to the original venue and explain the situation. You can tell them you didn't understand about the costs of the catering, and that you might need to walk away from your contract. They might not help you at all (they're certainly not obligated to help) but if they think they can't fill your slot easily they might be willing to be flexible. If they won't help then you need to look at the cost analysis of the two venues and decide if it is worth walking away from your original venue. And yes, you can walk away from the deposit and have a nice destination wedding that will be really easy to plan (the hotel does this every week, and they'll show you pictures of the 6 choices you'll have for cake, flowers and other things and you'll be all set).

  3. oh, sorry - just wanted to make it clear I'm not pushing you to hire a wedding planner, I'm just telling you to forgive yourself when you make mistakes because it isn't your fault and it will happen because you're not familiar with event planning.

  4. Ugh, this sounds soooo annoying - this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life and you shouldn't be feeling sick of all the planning a year in advance. :(
    Maybe this shows how little I know about prices, but: I get that 800 Dollars down the drain feels bad, BUT is that amount of money less than what you'd save by going with the other venue option? Then I'd go with that other option if it's truly something you guys like (and not just something you could live with...).
    I agree that starting your life together off with debt is horrible BUT your wedding will probably be something you look back at for quite some time, so compromising is a tricky thing. (Which you talked about in your last blog post.)
    So, yeah... my advice would be to see if counting those 800 as a loss is totally fine if it means you'll be happier down the line - sunken cost fallacy is a bitch, don't give into it. But that only holds if you're actually happy with the other options.

    [Sorry for the rambly comment, I'm just very happy you're back. :)]

  5. A very long time ago (it seems) i was once a participant in one of these things and not that i have any sound advice about it but here goes... when it's all said and done it's just a day, yes it's an important day but don't let the meaning get lost on planning and expenses and don't go Bridezilla cuz after all it's about you and Simon and you can make the same commitment at the JP as you can in front of 100 or so people at an exorbitant price... these things are really more for the family (see parents) than for anyone else, your friends just look at it as a chance for free booze and a possible hook-up and could care less about the actual wedding, when i see people going into hock over this day it drives me crazy, and already you're right- the money would be better served taking you two to France or Bali (i won't talk of bathroom renovations cuz that's more expensive than a wedding, trust me on that one) or any number of other things you two could do together, weddings are a gigantic pain in the ass and people put way to much emphasis on THAT day, that day is just the start (of what we all hope) is a very long journey and will soon fade while other more important and every day things will fill your memory, so don't sweat it girl, all this too shall pass (the wedding planning crap that is), there is no use having a nervous breakdown or getting payday loans from Montel Williams to pay for the thing, do it as inexpensively at possible, like say look into a hotel banquet room and get married in the same room you'll be eating and dancing in, it's cost effective and most hotels can cover it all for one price, my gig was at a Holiday Inn and guess what? no one even remembers, what they remember is that it was a good time, the only thing you really need is an open bar ;) the rest will take care of itself... El Kono

  6. I would totally push the date of the wedding to 2019.
    More time to save money, more options, less headache!
    Maybe do something special in 2018 to compensate.
    I hope that when I get married, I'll have a friend with a big garden that will let me have my celebration there!

  7. We changed our venue location at the last minute to a more expensive venue (which changed the date of our wedding and caused us to lose a deposit and meant that I didn't get to get married in the place I literally always dreamed of getting married) and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. It ended up being cheaper because more was included with the venue, and more was included with the venue which meant I also had to do fewer things. (I'm lazy, so doing fewer things was a big win.)

  8. Also I still sort of wished we'd just dressed up and gotten married at the courthouse, but our families legit might have disowned us for that (even though they would have been invited and we would have taken them out to dinner after, sheesh).

  9. I have no advice... only sympathy because making decisions is hard and spending money is impossible. I guess I'd try and figure out if 'wasting' that $800 on the deposit and moving to a new venue will be cheaper and less stressful in the long run I'd seriously consider doing it.


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