Tag Archives: Rogue Bride

How we’re crafting the ceremony: Opening thoughts

As I write this, there’s just a little over three months to the wedding. How did that happen so fast? Combined with the fact that my very first bridal blogger-in-arms, Rogue Bride (you never forget your first), already had her wedding a few weeks ago, it’s starting to feel kind of serious. I’ve suddenly spent less time wedding theorising, and less time wedding fantasising via other blogs than I have since…oh who knows how long, and more time making spreadsheets, putting together a playlist, researching beach games to have at the reception, and thinking about the ceremony. The other day I had my first two official wedding nightmares of things going wrong on the day. A rite of passage, folks! Anyway, let me talk about how we’re approaching the ceremony.

First of all, Miss Manners’ take on it is that personalising your ceremony, especially if that means making it less solemn, is an affront to the dignified tradition of wedding ceremonies. She’s all for just going with whatever traditional wording your belief system/culture has always used. Once again, Miss Manners is halfway right.  Tradition is a strong way of imparting meaning (I also discussed that here). And that’s all well and good for people who readily identify with a given belief system. But for those of us who don’t, we’re forced to reinvent things, one couple at a time.

For instance, I don’t believe in the supernatural (including souls/spirits/ghosts, any kind of higher power, and the idea of fate). But I was raised in a Protestant community in South Africa, and between M and I, the majority of our extended family have this belief system. The customs associated with the culture are still my customs, and they can still have meaning for me even without the supernatural beliefs. I am very fond of Christmas, and damned if I’m not going to participate in giving presents just because I don’t consider Jesus my saviour. I just leave out the praying and the church-going (singing carols is still fun though). So what I want to do is adapt the Anglican, or really just general western, wedding ceremony, by leaving out the religious bits, thus rendering our wedding recognisable, traditional, and hence meaningful to everyone, while also not feeling like a charlatan.

Part of this is about the general tone the ceremony will take. Sometimes, I think the tendency towards ceremony is like a personality quirk. Kiwis tend to be  irreverent about these things, while South Africans tend to the opposite. I often read online about couples that wanted to make sure their wedding ceremony wasn’t serious and stuffy, and they consider it a success that their ceremony was filled with lightheartedness and laughter, and vows like “I promise to buy you chocolate when you’re upset”. I think it’s to do with feeling comfortable, and maybe if you’re not raised in it, ceremony is not something you feel comfortable with. The way I grew up though, in order to acknowledge that getting married is a big freaking deal, it’s serious, there needs to be some solemnity to it.

Then on the other hand, just secularising a religious ceremony isn’t going to cut it, because there are sentiments we want expressed that aren’t included in the traditional texts. Or are even the opposite of the traditional themes at weddings. Like, our love is not unconditional, and I don’t aspire for it be. I also don’t buy the idea that a successful marriage is about sacrifice, or is an exercise in tolerance. And I want to talk about being each others’ highest priorities, and how we are going to be a team in everything in life. So I need to find readings that reflect this stuff, without being publicly mushy, which I think is also a personality quirk that some people have and some people don’t.

And then we also need to acknowledge the fact that by the time this ceremony happens, we will already be legally married. I don’t want to mislead people about what is actually going on. So I need to find some wording that talks about that while still saying that actually though, its this emotions-only ceremony that is the one that matters to us.

Finally, on that note: some dress news. I went three times to try on that Karen Millen dress. The second time, some embroidery was coming undone on an elbow. They sent it back to be fixed, but it wasn’t fixed properly, but it was fixed enough that people wouldn’t notice. The third time, I took the fiance with me, and some embroidery was coming undone on the chest. Plus it became apparent we’d need to remove the shoulder pads, and then M said it looks like a doily. He says that about anything involving lace or embroidery, but he had a point that maybe I didn’t look my best self. And of course, that sucker was expensive. So I’m not getting it. The hunt resumes.

Podcast: Me talking wedding budgets with Rogue Bride and Hindsight Bride

I’m not saying this is exactly what went down, but when I remember recording this podcast with Rogue Bride and Christie from Hindsight Bride, these are the words I recall being said:

Christie: Lindsay writes an angry, righteous blog…
Me: What? No, I’m a nice person, I swear!

Me: Wedding budget calculator. Income. Wedding budget calculator. Percentage. Calculator.
Them: You’re a massive nerd.

Them: Wait, is it REE-dill, or rye-DELL?
Me: What the hell are you guys talking about.

All of us: Sha-vari chairs? Key-uh-vari? What is that anyway, frikkin Italian or something?

Christie: Rainbows and sausages.

Rogue: I’m going to punch myself in the face.

Them:*giving me compliments*
Me: You guys are the nicest people ever!
Them: What? No, we’re badass, we swear!

Shorter version:
Them: It’s nice that you’re badass.
Me: It’s badass that you’re nice.
(Thank you Robyn Sherbotsky and Ted Mosby.)

According to Rogue and Christie, my South African – Kiwi mongrel of an accent sounds sexy to the American ear. I’m not sure I believe them. Certainly I don’t think either saffas or kiwis enjoy my deviations from their norms much. So it’s possible they were just being super nice to me again. They’re tricksy like that. They keep saying nice things to you and offering to do nice things for you, and then also doing them, and then the next thing you know, you really really like them and start to feel like doing nice things back. It’s how they suck you in. They’re selfish like that.

You can listen to the podcast and assess my accent for yourself here.

This month in wedding blogdom: Honest monetisation, and having the guts to criticise

Commentary from the frontlines of the wedding blog world

Figuring our how to monetise successful blogs in a way that doesn’t compromise their spirit is a perrenial issue. Plenty of wedding blogs that are fundementally about consumerism and selling the the WIC dream, either exist as adverts (Martha Stewert Weddings), or bring in the cash via adverts, without any moral dilemma. But what about the blogs whose entire message is that you don’t need all this stuff?

This month A Practical Wedding kicked off its money-making Vendors Directory project, where vendors will pay a fee to be listed. Shortly after, APW announced there will also be a Venue Directory, where couples who have married will submit personal reviws of the venues they used. It’s interesting that these are operating completely differently.

For instance, right in the announcement for the Venue Directory, Meg notes that it is not a revenue generating project, as if expecting kudos, and as if the benefit of user-submitted reviews doesn’t directly negate the benefit of the Vendors Directory, where vendors will just review themselves (also known as advertising).

The thing is, the nature of business is such that adverts are never trustworthy. In this case, supposedly because APW is filtering the ads (for instance, vendors must support same-sex couples), we can therefore trust these vendors a little bit more. The glaring question then is: if this is so awesome, why not incorporate the venues thing into this model? Or: if the Venue Directory is so awesome, why not have a the vendors incorporated in that model? They contradict each other.

The reason, of course, is that Meg is trying to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean she doesn’t get to receive kudos for saying one the projects isn’t about making money.

But then this isn’t the first time Meg has dealt with a little controversy around monetisation. Last year, the results of an APW reader survey revealed some dislike of the ubiquitous posts-that-are-actually-ads, aka sponsored posts, that are the first thing you see 2 out of very 5 days you check APW. Meg thought the criticism was about women’s lack of support for other women making money:

I think as women we do a really good job about shaming each other about money. When was the last time you saw a guy tell another guy that because his new creative project was making money, he was a sellout? I mean, basically never, right? Guys say things like, “DUDE. That’s so awesome that you’re doing so well.” And women say things like, “Have you thought about how you’re selling out and destroying the soul of your endeavor by making this much money?” Because, you know, we’re ladies. We’re supposed to give things away for free, because we’re nurturers. Nurturers of the world, apparently, for free.  So I need to learn how to turn those voices off, and see success as an ok thing. And yes, see MONEY as an ok thing. Even for me. As a woman. As a wife.

(Read more: http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/04/reclaiming-wife-women-money-and-self-worth-part-ii/#ixzz1WaKUZNvD)

Of course, what Meg missed is that the dislike of heavy use of ads is not about anyone’s personal feelings towards her. In fact we can assume anyone who took the survey is probably a big fan. Here is what it’s really about: People look at blogs in order to read something interesting and/or entertaining. Sponsored posts are neither interesting nor entertaining, especially when they’re about a random unaffordable photographer that’s in a different country from you.

In other news, Ariel at Offbeat Bride launched a new blog under the Offbeat umbrella, and this one is about the business side of her blogs. She’s explicit that Offbeat Bride was launched as a marketing tool for her book, and I have no qualms about her use of sponsored posts and ads because a) she’s never promoted anti-consumerism as a key message, b) they’re not the first thing you see half the time, and c) she’s never begged readers for donations (*cough*). She still gets complaints though. Her take on it is ‘Read the disclaimers, people!’

Meanwhile Hindsight Bride and Rogue Bride have collaborated to produce a podcast they call the Bridal Koolaid Cocktail Hour. Among other things, they make fun of a photo in which a bride poses in the squat position, and I thought a hearty ‘hell yeah’ to myself throughout listening to it. Hindight and Rogue seem a little hesitant about the criticism they dish out, but I say screw that. For as you can see, even APW is not sacrosanct in my book 🙂

Can we rid ourselves of our photography addiction?

Wedding photography is like the black sheep of DIY wedding blogs. There’s a lot to fight when it comes to wanting to be able to afford your wedding, starting with getting past the idea that rich-people parties are the only ones good enough. Once through to the other side though, there’s a growing tide of people campaigning for weddings that aren’t a recipe for financial insanity, and they even make an affordable wedding look charming and covetable.

For each expensive and/or crazy wedding thing, there is someone out there telling you that you can do without it, and your wedding will still be fabulous.

A crazy expensive white ball gown -> someone will tell you short dresses kick ass

Paying a crapload for a fancy-ass venue -> you can find people who say its awesome to just get married at your house

Custom-designed stationary suite -> Miss Manners says it’s cool to just straight-up handwrite your invitations

Elaborate centrepieces -> plain ol’ jars are downright fashionable now

Ridiculous wedding cake -> I will personally explain why that’s bullshit

And so on for virtually every wedding thing you can think of. Except for photography. Because even in the world of “DIY weddings, hear us roar!!” you won’t find anybody saying it’s badass when an amateur takes your photos.

At A Practical Wedding, which serves as a bastion of wedding sanity, expensive photography gets promoted like it’s their job. Which it kind of is, because the sponsors are what bring in the money. There was one time, now lost in the mists of history (2009 people!), where cheap photography was discussed, but barely a peep since then.

Et tu, APW?

And then DIY wedding queen, Hindsight Bride, was so disappointed with her cheap photographers that a year later they literally did a re-shoot of the wedding.

And let’s not pretend I don’t have Moment Junkie linked on my sidebar.

So amazing wedding photography is something EVERYONE has drunk the Wedding Koolaid on (thanks, Rogue, for that term). Why is it that this is the one thing that will not yield? Why is there no website saying “these wedding photos are amateur and awesome”?

I guess it’s because photos (and videos) are the one major artefact of the wedding, the one thing that can be kept to preserve and show a little of what it was like to be there that day.

I certainly get why people see it as non-negotiable to have really good (expensive) photography, and I covet it myself. But can we afford it? This trusty wedding calculator is a fun way to gauge what a reasonable expense for each item within a given budget is. We see that a $10k wedding has room for about $980 worth of photography. Or maybe stripping out a lot of the sillier stuff, you could have $1467 on photography. And let’s not forget, to comfortably afford a $10k wedding, you’re looking at having an annual income as a couple of about $100k, as I explain here, and saving for a year.

But it seems like great photography starts at about $2k (from what I can tell reading other blogs. I haven’t researched photographers in Auckland). This translates to an overall wedding budget of about $15k (with a lot of extras removed), which means you’re ultimately looking at an annual income of $150k. I feel pretty sure this is way above median for marrying age couples*. In other words: only rich people can afford it.

So we have a conundrum. Does anybody know a source of Wedding Koolaid that extols cheap photography?

*Incidentally, I would love to know that statistic.

A philosophy of wedding cake

Wedding cake is nuts. Sure we all like eating it. Sure it’s pretty. And sure, it’s a ritualistic centrepiece of wedding decoration that helps your wedding feel more legitimately weddingy. So, when a lot of people find out its going to cost $5 or more a piece, or $500 for a 100-guest wedding, they get over their initial horror, and suck it up and pay the price, because that’s what it takes.

Now obviously, a good bit of this price is the infamous wedding mark-up. But even lopping off 30% (or whatever the wedding mark-up is), wedding cake and its price still retains a high level of ridiculousness. I don’t know what the hell it’s doing as an expected part of the The Standard Wedding – you know, the wedding that even non-rich folk are supposed to have. As always, I say if you’re rich and can afford it, go ahead. If you’re not rich, maybe it’s still important enough to you that you want to devote that much money to it. We all have our quirks. But first, consider what you think you’re getting for that money:

1. We all like eating it

At the last three weddings I’ve been to, we all ate a huge 3-course dinner, and often struggled to finish even that, before the cake was attended to. At some of these weddings, I was so over eating that I had no cake. Are you flabbergasted? No, you’re not. In fact lots of people ate no cake at these weddings.

2. It’s pretty.

My tastes don’t always run mainstream, but has anyone else noticed that the typical wedding cake doesn’t look that good? I mean, for starters, only a tiny portion of them are pretty. So, good luck with that. (For example, look at these uninspiring exemplars from an Auckland bakery. Prices are included for extra fun.)

Then there’s the fact that most, nay, practically all wedding cakes don’t even look edible (even if they’re very pretty). They don’t look like food. In my book, a good looking cake is one that makes me want to eat it. (Expect to drool if you follow that link).

3. It’s a ritualistic centrepiece that makes a party feel more weddingy.

It wouldn’t feel like a proper reception without a multiple-tiered, white fondant-covered cake on display? The thing is, most people just don’t care about it. They will wonder past it, and if they’re really interested, spend an entire 10 seconds looking at it. And maybe out of lack of things to do, take a photo, which they will then never look at again.

Wedding cake is such a emperor-has-no-clothes situation. Even blogs that are devoted to living a life on the cheap, will, as Rogue Bride says, foster a culture of incompetence, and go for the old “how to fake being rich” kind of advice. For instance, Living Richly On a Budget has 7 tips for us on how to have inexpensive wedding cake. Tip 3: Don’t go homemade.

Why not go homemade? So much can go wrong with baking. If you leave it too long in the oven, the cake will burn. Getting layers even can be tricky. Stuff can go wrong when you’re decorating. And what about keeping the cake cool so the frosting won’t melt? Plus, the person making the cake will have to deal with the pressure of delivering a “perfect” product, because after all, this is your wedding.

Wow. Do you have any idea how hard it isn’t to whip up a decent cake? I’ve been doing it since before I was a teenager, as have many others. The ingredients are cheap – milk, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, baking powder, vanilla. Maybe you’ll go all out and spend a whole extra $10 to put some cherries in there or something. They have this handy thing called oven-timers, or failing that, the ability to tell time and do basic arithmetic, to ensure you don’t leave it in there too long. And this new innovation, called waiting, that allows it to cool before you do the icing. Also, no one is judging your wedding based on the perfection, or lack thereof, of the cake.

But seriously, making your own cake is really sensible, and really cost effective. You can make it in advance, you can try out recipes for months beforehand to tweak the oven timings and temperature if you want. Really, anyone can do it.