Monday, May 18, 2015

Is Marriage About Affordability? Part 2!

Hey there! I’m following up on my previous post, to continue talking about marriage and financial affordability. Today, I'd like to touch on some very practical topics regarding engagement and marriage:

You don’t need to propose with a diamond engagement ring. Some women actually don’t like diamond rings. Other women like them. But not all men can afford diamond engagement rings. Especially with the way that much of society treats these shiny, sparkly pieces of jewelry. According to a 2013report form Jewelers of America, a trade group which used data from a variety of jewelers, couples paid an average of $4,000 on engagement rings in 2012.  To a poor couple, engagement rings can look like one big, unreasonable expenditure. I know at least three couples, two of which are happily married, who got engaged without a ring. Some couples never get an engagement ring, others wait until they are engaged. However, if you want a diamond engagement ring (and don’t have a lot of money), then you have a great opportunity to sacrifice. By cutting other expenses out of your lifestyle (sacrificing junk food, eating out, etc), you can save up money for the ring. While we're on the topic, Haley Stewart wrote a fabulous post all about rings over at her blog, which I recommend reading.  

Rock your awesomeness, and don’t worry about meeting others’ expectations. At one wedding I went to, some people at my table started gossiping about another wedding’s reception. Aside from the fact that gossip is awful, I was horrified that these people would focus on little aspects of a wedding reception and compare it to another. Each couple is individual and unique, so their wedding receptions will all be different from each other. People will all have different expectations for your wedding and reception. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the sacramental awesomeness and your spouse, and enjoy the day!

Network like nobody’s business. One of the most epic parts about our wedding-planning experience was how it brought people together-which is what marriage is supposed to do!  Reach out into your community and find people who want to join in the awesomeness. Tons of people have small, home-based photography businesses, so that—if the photographer is good, and you trust him/her—may prove to be a cost-effective option. I have a couple of in-laws who are photographers (my mother-in-law has her own business), and they volunteered to take pictures at the reception for us, so that we wouldn’t have to hire a photographer for that (also, this meant our Mass photographer and his wife got to chill at the reception, which was cool). One of our neighbors lovingly took charge of the decorating, and everything looked lovely.

Simplicity is Best. When we looked at all of the decorative items our church could rent out to us, it was a little overwhelming. I kind of felt like a kid in the candy store—“I want this trellis, and that punch bowl, and that cool curtain thing, and that other cool floral wall backdrop  thingy, and those pillars, and those statue-things, etc.” Pick a few awesome things, and work with that. Every last inch of your reception hall does not need to be adorned with lights, garlands, or fabric, so don’t worry about trying J For example, instead of putting fancy sashes on every single chair, at most tables, we only adorned every-other chair. But, I also went to a really awesome wedding where they didn’t even use chair covers and sashes, and their wedding reception was still super epic! 

Coupon-clip like crazy. For our reception centerpieces, we layered water, colored corn syrup, and vegetable oil in glasses with submersible lights underneath it all. The submersible lights added up, but we used coupons for most—or all—of them (Hobby Lobby is awesome!).  Same thing with napkins and wedding thank-yous. Coupons are your friend. And then it’s a huge adventure, because you try to hit the store when things are on sale or when there are coupons, and you’re desperately hoping that they will have enough of the given item for you. Have a blast with it and live it up! J

Research your food options wisely. There are tons of wedding catering companies who charge an arm-and-a-leg when it comes to food. Do your research and find the companies who are reasonably priced. Where I lived in Kansas, there were a couple of family-run companies in the country, which were awesome. Reasonable prices, amazing food, and super friendly people. We also had a morning wedding, so we served lunch, which was less expensive than dinner. From what I’ve been told, brunch is also extremely inexpensive to serve at weddings. Pre-meal appetizers included Chex Mix, from Sam’s Club, which was fairly inexpensive.  I’ve been to one wedding which was on a Friday evening, so they had a selection of appetizers, which I’ve been told is another reasonably priced option.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go homemade. A trend in some circles is for the reception to be a potluck. I think this is a really cool idea; though since we had about 300 people at our wedding, that notion would have been crazy (can you imagine sorting out all of the containers and utensils afterwards? Yikes!). However, at my wedding we did go homemade-you know those delicious mints for the cake table? They are super-duper easy to make, and WAY cheaper. Plus, you get to sample the candy while making it, which is a plus J

Wisely plan out your flowers. There are flower wholesalers on the internet from which you can buy flowers to make your own bouquets, your local grocer might cut you a good deal on flowers, or you can grow your bouquets. When we met with the pastor whose church we were using, he mentioned a parishioner who is a florist, and offers special discounts for weddings at the church. Not only did was this cute Vietnamese woman super nice, friendly, and familiar with the church, but she offered us really good deals. And then, we realized that, since we were having an Extraordinary Form Mass, we couldn’t have huge arrangement s on each side of the altar.

 1. The high altar is used (so no room for the flowers on either side, plus they wouldn’t be seen)
2. With five altar servers (if I remember correctly), there wasn’t really extra room for random flower arrangements, either).

This saved us tons of money, at least a couple hundred dollars. The church was gorgeous, we had awesome bouquets and boutonnieres, and the Mass was fantastic. One time, I went to a wedding that was during the Christmas season. The church was already adorned with gorgeous poinsettias, so I’m guessing that that lowered the flower cost for the couple getting married.

Don’t feel like you have to be super formal and fancy if you don’t want to.  I’ve been to some really formal-ish wedding receptions, and they’ve been great. But we didn’t envision intense formality for our reception, so we didn’t try to be too formal. In fact, since we were the first ones to get married in each of our families, we didn’t have any kind of specific outline to go off of, so we really felt like we could do our own thing. We entered the reception, cut the cake, had the toast, led everyone in praying Grace Before Meals, jumped in the food line, ate food, and hung out with people. We did a “first dance,” and we did a “Father and Bride” dance, but that was all the structure. We played music, people who wanted to could dance, people who didn’t hung out, and it was great. I didn’t even throw my bouquet, because I wasn’t really planning on it, and then I was having so much fun talking with people, that it didn’t cross my mind until someone asked me about it near the end of the reception. I know that some people want everything announced and lots of formality and structured “events” at the reception, and that’s awesome. But it wasn’t what we wanted, so we didn’t do it.

Pick what you really want with music. I love to dance, and I knew that I wanted music at the reception. I have some friends who run a DJ business, and I’m guessing that they would have cut us a really good deal for their services. But, the more Jacob and I talked about what we wanted , the more we realized that we didn’t need a DJ stand set up for the reception or anyone to announce the wedding events.

Instead, we hand-selected every single song for the meal and dancing portion (so we could completely customize it to our varied tastes), got a free 30-day premium Spotify membership (which allows you to play music offline), and plugged my laptop into the sound system. We just had one of our friends keep an eye on it, to make sure that it stayed working the whole time. After about 3-4 hours, the music died (maybe my laptop died? I’m still not sure what happened), but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves that day, and a lot of our guests did, too. We all got to talk, hang out, and relax. So if you want a DJ, go for it—I recommend finding a friend or a smaller business. But if you’re not too set on a DJ, then be free to consider other options: Spotify, an iPod, or ask some friends to play live music! (my parents went to a wedding where the couple was friends with a small band who played live music).

Don’t Have Unreasonable Expectations for Yourselves. The other day, I was speaking with one of the biology professors at Franciscan University about young married life. He remarked that many people, when they graduate or first get married, seem to think that their life will automatically look like their parents’: nice car, house, solid job, and relative ease of life. But, what many young people fail to see is that their parents had to work several years and go through really rough spots to make it to this point.

Setting up the cardboard house
at the reception hall!
When it comes to marriage, I think there is a temptation to do this same thing. You might go to a wedding of people who are older or have tons more money than you, and feel the expectation to reach their standards. You might look at other couples who have been married five years and expect your own married life to be much more matured, fruitful, and established than it is. Don’t worry about these expectations; just see where God has placed you in the present moment, and live as fully as you can there! Yes, you might have to live in your parents’ basement or a run-down apartment, but it won’t last forever. And God will bring you the joy and grace to embrace each day as a gift that He sends.

Have fun! Try to enjoy the wedding planning process! Yes, no matter how hard you try to NOT get stressed or worked up, you probably will at some point. But have a blast anyway! Enjoy the wedding ceremony, and soak up all of the epic graces.

Wrapped playing
cards with the centerpieces
on the tables!
And have tons of fun at the party! If anything random happens (like your music source dying), let it roll off and have fun regardless! Something that we implemented had been recommended to us by someone else: have playing cards out at the reception. That way, when the guests arrive after the ceremony, and the couple is getting their pictures taken, they can have tons of fun and create a festive mood. It was really cool coming into the reception hall (after our wedding party announced us on the microphone), and seeing playing cards strewn around and people full of laughter and joy. Apparently the whole “playing cards at weddings” is a thing which some Kansas families do, from what I’ve seen and been told. I like it. 

Also, since we had tons of families with small children at our reception, we set up a cardboard house. We discovered them the weekend before our wedding, while at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference, and immediately knew that we needed one. This was yet another awesome way to keep a fun atmosphere, as well as occupy the little kids and let them be crazy! So whatever you do at your reception or wedding, don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy yourself! (Also, note: alcohol is not required to have a good time. Since we were both twenty at our wedding, there was no alcohol at the reception---and everyone still had a really awesome time!) Seriously. Have fun and rejoice in the epicness of all of the graces that God is pouring down!

To quote our Engaged Encounter speakers, “A Wedding is a Day, but a Marriage is a Lifetime.” Marriage is a sacrament, a vocation, and totally awesome. Let the whole engagement and wedding-planning be a way to bring you and your future-spouse closer together (I don’t recommend pitting yourself against your fiancĂ©, just communicate about things and compromise), and keep the sacrament at the forefront. Marriage isn’t about affordability; it’s about self-gift and sacrifice. Instead of letting society’s expectations for marriages and weddings deter us from the sacrament, maybe we should focus on our vocations, the sacrament itself, and embrace God’s call joyously.

Is marriage about affordability? I don’t think it necessarily is. Each couple needs to openly and honestly communicate about finances, but I think we need to let go of the automatic assumption that poor students, graduates, or whoever else “can’t afford to get married.” You may not have a super fancy posh wedding, but you can have a crazy fun one all the same!

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for ways to have an awesome wedding and/or marriage while on a budget? Feel free to comment below! 

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