the savvy bride
A Bridal Diary
We parked in the empty lot facing the ocean under a moonless sky. The headlights stayed on so that we could see part of the pitch black view. He had said later that he planned for us to sit on the sand watching the waves, but alas Mother Nature had not been wise to his plan of ambiance. I could hear the waves but not see them. And I sat there with the overwhelming silent tension that SOMETHING big was about to happen…but still, I told myself, it was just another night.
Earlier that summer evening, we had gone to dinner at a local haunt we frequented. It was a night like any other. Yet, while we dressed for dinner, my boyfriend was just a tad more giddy than usual; donned a nicer shirt and pants than was typical; and acted imperceptibly with all the butterfly nervousness of our first date two years hence, as we dined. But there was nothing over the top or demonstrative in his actions, nothing special about time or place. It was just the steady accumulation of little things being slightly off, that made me start to wonder-“would he? No.. he couldn’t! But still…”
I noted the plastic champagne glasses in the back of his truck, as we drove for the beach, a ten minute drive; but still my mind wouldn’t believe what was about to happen. The rest of the night was a dizzying flurry of events…He produced a bottle of champagne and two plastic champagne glasses. We toasted and giggled on small talk. Then he was reaching in his pocket, withdrawing the black velvet box. Would I? Yes! Yes! I would… and we were laughing and I was crying… and his relief…and so happy and in love. It was magic.
Picking the Venue
In my lovely dream walk of newly engaged bliss, I found myself conjuring up images of the perfect wedding-not complicated or high maintenance mind you, but-a romantic priceless day filled with my favorites of everything. In this unreal interlude, price didn’t seem to announce itself. I was wrapped in some gauzy white princess dress, walking hand in hand with my father along the beach to meet my handsome bewildered prince. The guest list was large, the cocktails free, dinner mildly formal, and the honeymoon a grand paradise retreat at some honeymoon suite at the edge of the world. I didn’t expect the finest of everything. I just wanted it to be magical.
In eager anticipation, I started my research online, seeking out various resorts and restaurants on the ocean. I knew that hosting my ceremony and reception here would be one of the wedding economics indulgences; but as I had been told, you spend more in one area, spend less in another; and the ocean was my favorite place in the world.
Well, the more I researched, the more I realized that the wedding rates for an ocean venue were not within our modest budget. I couldn’t assume that our parents would pay, but I could think of no other location that would be special to me. My fiancé who had not surprisingly given me the reigns on planning, offered his parents’ house as the location.
He didn’t care, he would’ve just as well have gotten married at city hall. With no other options in sight, I considered the landscape: Northern N.H., surrounded by mountain views, and 26 acres of land. It had a lot of positives. The guest list was relatively limitless. The scenery provided most of the decoration. There was no check-out time, so we could have guests camp out after the reception. Most importantly, it was FREE! So it was settled. Surely, our parents would be grateful that we had cut costs on the most expensive part of a wedding.
Though I started right away searching the Internet for prospective wedding gowns, I really didn’t start getting that serious about it, until I had been to forced to physically shop gown stores with my Mom and best friend. Forced because I didn’t want to try anything on until I was twenty pounds lighter…the picture perfect bride. My best friend who had gotten married two years hence, pushed and pushed until I realized I couldn’t put it off any longer. She reasoned, while rolling her eyes that alterations could be made as much as three sizes down from the initial try-on. Good thing too, because everything seemed to stem from the design and tone of the wedding gown, from bridesmaid dresses to the formality of the decorations and invitations.
After careful research online, I had narrowed down a couple styles, necklines, and designers. There were two types of bridal stores in my area that I could begin with. The first carried one of my favorite designers exclusively, was self-service, and considerably more economical. The other, in contrast, carried all the latest collections and designers, offered full-service attention, and came with a matching ultra-expensive price tag. Since my mother was paying for the dress and I preferred to browse on my own, I chose the former.
Food & Drink
After having found my dress, I realized that another one of the big to-dos was how to feed and entertain the guests. Luckily, a friend of my fiancé had gotten married in that general vicinity a handful of years back. I was of extremely good fortune to have her personalized advice on my side. She even produced a list of where she rented the reception tent, a local justice of the peace, a barbecue buffet-style caterer, and a quaint B&B where she had stayed with her bridesmaids the night before her wedding. Moreover, she gave me phone numbers, price estimates, and tips. I couldn’t have asked for better recommendations. I reasoned that since our wedding would be relatively informal, a barbecue buffet would be just the thing. It was easy and less costly, as well.
Everything was coming into focus. With all the large things taken care of, I started putting down deposits on the dress, caterer, and the tents and felt less and less overwhelmed. I chose my bridesmaids and my fiancé choose his groomsmen. The guest list was finalized. Next was choosing their dresses and tuxes. And invitations. Decorations. Place settings. Favors. Flowers. I was finally starting to PLAN my wedding in earnest. The more I did, the better I felt; it was more fun than it was stressful. Not only would the day be all that I had ever wanted, but the remaining 10 months before it would be spent remembering why my fiancé and I were doing this in the first place. I could now-with a sigh of contentment-spend my remaining engagement dreaming up things borrowed, blue, old, and new.