I How I Planned a Hassle-Free Vow Renewal in One Week for Only 22$*

Well, it’s now been a whole five years since Mr. Strange and I were married. And for almost all of that time, I’ve been grumbling bitterly about our wedding. I won’t bore you with the details but let me just say I wanted a do-over. I mean a second do-over, because the two sides of my family are like oil and water and I needed a chance for my dad to be included, too. Well, it happened, and the ironic thing about weddings is it’s the kind of thing that you really do get better at with practice. Now that we’re at #3 I think it’s safe to say we’ve gotten pretty damn good at this.

It started a week before. Our fifth anniversary was coming up, and we wanted to make it special, though our finances were hardly improved since we did the real deal. On that quiet Saturday at work I got into the planning mood, and just out of curiosity I Googled “cheap wedding venues in Winnipeg.” Literally the FIRST suggestion to come up, on Yahoo Answers, was a place I’d never heard of called Pineridge Hollow just outside of town. It’s a restaurant that also includes a clothing and furniture shop, and gorgeous outdoor surroundings specifically intended for weddings. I looked up the place online and really didn’t need to look any further. We made a reservation at the restaurant for 15 people, and didn’t ask for any set-up. A Facebook event was made and that was about it until the day of the event itself. Let me dissect the rest before I go on to describe the evening.

Invitations: None = 0$. We just created a Facebook event like all the kids are doing these days.

You gotta like free.

Rings: We’re already married, so we already had them and didn’t need a ring pillow either. Free again! But if this is your first wedding together, here’s where you can get some unique and affordable options.

Decor: Nothing but nature, baby. And centerpieces? Nah. 0$.

Mr. Strange’s clothes: Nothing but what he already owned; nice black pants, a blue button-down from our real wedding, and a nice hat that he wears often. 0$.

Wedding dress: Years ago I saw a beautiful pale pink cocktail dress online going for just $108. Things sell-out often on that site, so I couldn’t afford to put it off. Because I owned this for so long before the big day, had worn it twice already and will definitely wear it again, I’m not counting it as an expense. It couldn’t be more perfect for the occasion, but in the end I just pulled this out of my closet. 0$.

Veil: I didn’t wear one then, and I didn’t wear one now. $0.

Shoes: It takes a mighty special pair of shoes to not leave my feet beaten and bloodied by the end of the day, and when I find them, I stick with them. Who wants to pay for pain? I’m not a masochist. I wore my everyday shoes, even though they’re black and didn’t technically match my pastel dress. 0$

Hair and makeup: I did this myself instead of visiting a salon, and accessorized my hair with a gold hair vine I wore on our wedding day. I bought nothing new. 0$.

Jewelry: You guessed it, I didn’t wear anything new here either. I wore some “diamond” studded fake tapers (I bought them before I actually started stretching, and if I didn’t wear them now I probably never would) and a key necklace my brother made for me many years ago.

DJ: Music wasn’t involved in this particular vow renewal, but if it had been I would have DJ-ed myself with the help of an iPhone. 0$

Photography: Mr. Strange brought his fancy camera along and we all took turns shooting each other with it. More time would have been nice for this, but oh well. 0$

Food and alcohol: We were at a restaurant and all ordered for ourselves. As a gift, my dad covered the two of us on his bill. So with that, 0$

Wedding cake: We could have ordered dessert with our meal, but we were all full. If this had been a bigger event, I would have bought a lot of cupcakes. But as it stands, 0$

Venue: It does get used for “real” weddings frequently, but as far as our small group was concerned this was little more than some people going to dinner. We also didn’t ask for any special set-up, so the venue fee was 0$.

Officiant: As ours was not a legally binding ceremony, we printed our original wedding ceremony, changed a few words, and had it read by a very good friend. 0$

Other: Vow renewals don’t have wedding parties, which means no bridesmaid’s dresses, groomsmen’s suits, and other various things. While real weddings usually have these things, they’re not a necessity. If you’re broke, consider keeping the wedding party to a minimum and letting them wear their own clothes.

Flowers: this was literally the only true expense in our entire event. They came from the grocery store, and I tied them with gold ribbon from the dollar store. total cost: $22.

That’s it! Sunday morning we got up and went to the Pancake House for brunch, and while we ate Mr. Strange Googled on his phone (he’s such a rude fuck) for an open florist nearby. None were open, so, we headed to the grocery store. I had a small pink and white bouquet in mind, but grocery stores are not usually known for their wide flower selection. What they did have, I think since it was Pride day and it’s huge here, were half-dozen bouquets of rainbow-colored roses for $20. At the dollar store next door I bought two little spools of gold ribbon. When we got home I slightly shortened the stems and wrapped them tightly in the ribbon. DIY florist-ing, bitches!

They're gay, and they're spectacular.

They’re gay, and they’re spectacular.

If you’re curious how this is done and/or want to make some for yourself (of course you do), you start with white roses. Split the bottom of the stem into as many pieces as you want colors, and put each piece into a separate vessel of water, each with a different color of food coloring. As the roses drink up the water, they’ll soak up the color too, and 24 hours and some unicorn farts later, you’ve got yourself the coolest damn roses ever and a whole new way to honor Pride.

So anyway, I did my own hair in a very simple earthy style with just loose curls and a couple pieces on the sides pulled back with my hair vine pinned across the back, and did my own makeup with a little more care than usual. Mike got dressed too and we drove to the venue where we met up with my dad and the rest of our guests.

Pre-event selfie!

Pre-event selfie!

Pineridge Hollow is such a charming little place that I was a little bit sad I hadn’t known about it years ago. It was perfect, exactly what I’d always wanted. Simple, pretty, rustic, full of character, and with a huge outdoor element. Someone else was having a full-on wedding reception in a large tent behind the main building, but it was somewhat tucked away and none of us were in each others way – the area we were in had nobody in it but us. On the lawn and among the scenery we were able to spot no less than 7 wedding arches where a ceremony could be held, including stone steps, beautiful benches and chairs, and a small artificial pond with a little waterfall and a bridge crossing over it into a small space enclosed by… what would you call that? It was like a room made of branches with a couple lanterns hanging from the ceiling. It was the perfect size for our little group, and made it feel wonderfully intimate, so that’s the spot we chose. Theresa, who was my maid of honor at our wedding, read our original though slightly edited ceremony. It was meaningful but it was pleasantly short, just under 10 minutes or so. When it was over we high-fived. It was great.

We all goofed off with the camera for a bit, and at 6pm we headed in for dinner. We were lead upstairs to a minimalist room with hardwood floors, exposed rafters in the high ceilings, and huge windows. The food was gorgeous and delicious, and it felt amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were close to us, knowing they were there to help us celebrate our anniversary. It meant the world to me. My only complaint was that the food was painfully slow to arrive. It took an entire hour and a half. WTF! oh well, if that was our only complaint I guess the whole thing worked out pretty damn well.

Me and the girls

Being surrounded by some of my best friends in the world: Priceless

If I didn’t have such a difficult family situation, which pushed us into eloping, I can honestly say this is exactly what I would have been looking for the first time around. The guest list would have been bigger, we would have sent out proper invitations, and we would have been the ones in the big tent pumping awesome self-DJ-ed tunes. But essentially this was perfect. It was so simple and relaxed we could just focus on how it felt to enjoy each others company. My dad finally got to see us take our vows. It was awesome. I would totally do it again.

Now of course I realize that the chances of anyone recreating this down to the last cent are slim to none, but I hope there are still some ideas in here that you may find helpful. The most important thing about planning a wedding is to prioritize. Think about what really matters to you, focus on that and don’t sweat the rest. Your wedding is over so damn fast, but hopefully your marriage lasts forever.

IMG_1898-Edit

 

 

*Goddamn, that Asterisk makes this look like a shady sales deal. I promise it’s nothing sinister. I just need to mention that if yours is a legal ceremony, there will be some fees involved with that. Then probably rings, and maybe your dad won’t buy you dinner. Plus our guests paid for their own food. Really though, when you consider the cost of the average wedding, this amount is quite negligible.

Advertisements

Mirror, Mirror, Off The Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at it For a Year

Omg I can’t believe I read this so long ago but still haven’t written a word in review. Well, since my blog has been a big stagnant lately it’s worth a shot trying to remember this one.

I first heard about this book when the author was interviewed on The Daily Show. This is a sociologist who challenged herself to not look in a mirror – or any reflecting surfaces – for an entire year. A year which just so happened to include her wedding day. Now while this may come across as a nice fluffy little self-esteem booster book, the author is well-educated enough to take this subject deeper, and we’re not left without a good dose of accessibly written psychology and sociology. I can’t remember all of the points she made, but the most fascinating one to me was exploring how mirrors almost serve as a form of companionship when we’re alone. We know it’s only the illusion of another person sitting there, we’re not beta fish, but we get a small amount of satisfaction that there is either way. Mirrors also have a way of affirming our existence. It sounds silly, obviously we know we exist, but it was interesting to note how Kjerstin started to feel after some time, almost doubting that because she couldn’t see herself, she wasn’t really there. She could only see other people.

The biggest message I got out of this book though was not that she suddenly started feeling physically beautiful – she was forced to focus more on her emotions, deep within herself, and her loved ones around her, those outside of herself, as opposed to the body in between. She learned to trust those around her more because she relied on them to make sure that she didn’t, say, have a booger hanging out of her nose, and she learned to pay more attention to her emotional self-esteem rather than her appearance. She didn’t feel beautiful because she knew she looked beautiful – she felt beautiful because she felt loved by those around her, and that’s what really mattered. Her appearance still caused her anxiety, especially as she had no idea what she looked like, but she gradually learned not to care. It simply wasn’t important. I think that’s a very valuable thing to take away here. Some people are ugly. Yep. While it’s nice to want to make ugly people, or yourself, feel physically beautiful, I felt the most important thing here was to learn that it just plain doesn’t matter. It’s such a tiny part of life. What matters is your mind, and your soul, and your relationships. Looks are a thing, but they’re not anywhere near being the most important thing. We have so much more to get our validation and happiness from. And while learning these important lessons it was nice to hear about these soul-searching thoughts and every day experiences from a very educated, sympathetic, real-life person. This wasn’t philosophy, it was real. We get to read all of her insecurities, all her learning experiences, and how all her relationships evolve. It was enlightening and it was fun. This was a great book, but it was great in a way that I didn’t expect. I feel that it could easily prove to be an important book for a whole lot of us, women, men, or anybody else.

Why I Kept My Last Name

I’m married. Contrary to what some people might assume, I didn’t marry my brother. I just kept my last name. To me it’s not a big deal that I kept it, I wasn’t trying to be oh so progressive or anything. But it does bug me that so many people have that “that’s just what you do” attitude about changing it and don’t think twice about it. It kind of reeks of brainwashing, no?

I don’t mind if a woman takes her husband’s last name, but I do feel it needs to be an active decision and not a thoughtless assumption. You could even go a whole different route and choose/invent a whole new name for yourselves. I once heard about a couple who chose the name Dragonwagon. How cool is that? Anyway, it just doesn’t make sense to me for any person’s identity to take precedence over another’s. And yes, your last name is *usually* a pretty big part of your identity. I feel like to take Mike’s last name would negate my own family history and where I came from, and instead label me a German. But I’m not German. It’s weird enough I have an Irish first name and I’m not even Irish. My Grandma actually said she wished she could have kept her name (it was law to take the husband’s back then) because she got so irritated at people assuming she was French. And nationality is just the most basic, easy-to-write-about-and-explain part of it. It’s your whole history. If you’re adopted and you don’t know your family’s history, or you’re ashamed of it or whatever, you still may choose to keep it as a label that represents YOU as a person. I’m not at all willing to have part of me erased or ignored, even just as a word on paper. Especially so it can be pushed aside or covered up by somebody else as though they’re somehow more important. My husband is not above me, and while I joke about him taking my last name, I’m not above him either. We are who we are, it’s not going to change, so why make any move to show that it did?

Now the kid thing, well, people often argue that kids feel all insecure about having a different last name than their parents. Maybe that’s true for some of them, but personally it’s never been an issue for me. My mom went back to her maiden name when I was really young, and then changed to a new married name very soon after that, so I can hardly remember a time I had the same last name as either of the parents I lived with. And I totally did not give a shit. I never thought twice about it. It was the 90s, divorce was looking more and more like the in thing, and it was absolutely normal. And guess what? It’s still normal. It’s more abnormal to have a lasting marriage. So don’t start worrying about ridiculous things like people assuming you’re not really a family and you’re a bunch of slutty weirdos. You should have learned this when you were 6, families come in many forms. Mine is 2 people with different last names, and 3 cats each with their own fake last name. We’re the Bergeron-Dyck-Sawchuckson-Candide-(…Oh crap Mouse doesn’t have a last name! Let’s call her Haus)Haus household. Mouse Haus. Hehe.

Anyway, also on the subject of kids, it also irritates me when it’s just assumed the kids have to have the father’s name. It’s not a rule you know. That should also be an actively made decision. The mother is just as much a parent as the father, and she’s the one who had to carry the kids in her body for 9 months. Makes sense to me for them to have her name. But whatever you choose, you need to be actually choosing it, for an actual reason, not just doing it because hey whatever. I think that’s really insulting yourself. It’s a good thing me and Mike aren’t going to have any kids, because I know for a fact this is something we would majorly fight over. Unless we just agreed to call them Haus.

3 Dresses 3 Times

After reading My Wedding Dress I felt maybe it would be interesting to write my own story. I have three wedding dresses, and I wore the official one three times. Most people definitely don’t do that. And maybe it will turn out to be good luck that I did.
It certainly wasn’t something I did on purpose. When we first decided to get married we thought we were going to have a wedding like everybody else – a ceremony in front of family and friends followed by a party. Unfortunately my family is not normal, so neither would be the wedding. After a long time resisting, we gave in to everyone’s wishes and eloped, to “prevent fall-apart”.
We were frustrated already even before we planned a single thing. We were planning on visiting Mike’s dad on the west coast early in the summer, and thought about what such a thing would mean to him. He never gets to see his own son on Christmas, and my own family was giving me a hard time about potentially having to be in each other’s presence. So we decided to bring the wedding to him and his family.
This left us with just two months to plan. Sure, it’s really all we needed, but dresses with all the alterations you’re expected to have take much longer, and I just didn’t have the kind of money normally needed for such a thing. I’m not a very fussy person and didn’t feel like wearing some sort of huge frothy ballgown in a tiny ceremony anyway, so we hit up the Le Chateau outlet to see if we could find any pretty formal dresses on sale.
And indeed we did. I found a very simple white dress for no more than 20$. It was strapless with a pleated bust and empire waist, straight to the floor with a ruffle and some ruching down the side. I was fairly satisfied and I bought it.
But it wasn’t long before I wasn’t so satisfied anymore. I was already giving up so much of what I would have wanted, and suddenly the dress felt too simple and boring, and even unflattering. If I could have just one thing right, I wanted it to be the dress. I knew I could do better. But I still didn’t have much money. So next I went to eBay.
I can’t say I don’t regret not having the typical wedding dress shopping experience, with mom and girlfriends attending in a beautiful salon going through all the spectacular dresses they have to offer. But at least on eBay, with my shopping savvy, I could at least look like I did.
It wasn’t long before the most absolutely perfect dress showed up in the search from one of the asian sellers who sell knockoffs direct from the factory. Again it was long and strapless with an empire waist. But this time the skirt was fuller, there was a ribbon under the bust, and the top and bottom were covered in the most beautiful gold embroidery. I had always wanted a gold and white wedding dress. It was only 200$ after shipping and I had to have it. I was so excited.
Just a few weeks later I got a horrible email from eBay. The store I had bought my dress from had been shut down. I think they got in trouble for listing the dresses at 50$ and the shipping for 150$. I know it’s wrong for sellers to do that but any intelligent buyer looks at shipping BEFORE making a purchase, so it wasn’t something that bothered me. Suddenly I had no idea if I was ever going to see that dress. I cried for days. And with only a few weeks to go there virtually wasn’t any time left to buy a new one, at least online. Terrified I would end up getting married in my pajamas I took a couple friends shopping in the local boutiques the next day. It was my last chance, and I knew it wasn’t going to be what I had originally hoped for.
In one of the little boutiques, I found dress number three. It wasn’t a wedding dress at all, even less than the first one. It was a semi-formal cocktail dress, but it was gold, and had beading all over the sheer top. It was beautiful. My friends absolutely loved it, and even if it wasn’t what I’d planned, I had to admit I did too. I could be happy in this. I felt much better as soon as I bought it. Things were starting to work out.

You can imagine my surprise when barely 2 weeks before the wedding, my dream dress from eBay showed up in the mail. It must have already been shipped when the store got shut down, even though I hadn’t received any notification. I couldn’t believe it! Sure it wasn’t the one from the photo, but a cheaper, stiffer version, but I had expected that. I invited over my grandma and we went downstairs to visit our caretaker/house mother Janina, who was as excited as any mother could be, for the very first fitting. Janina even did my hair and posed me for pictures.
A few days later we took the dress to my grandma’s tailor for the few adjustments it would need. The loose embroidery was reinforced, a loop of ribbon was sewed to the underside of the train, and snaps were put on the inside of the bodice and on my corset so the dress wouldn’t slip and expose it. This was especially important since I didn’t own any white or gold corsets and would have to suffice with a black one. I had to admit that my body type was a little curvier than what the dress called for, so being held in was important. So there unexpectedly, I had three wedding dresses.
The day of the wedding was a very hot one. Everybody was uncomfortable and very hungry. We decided to take the formal pictures as quickly as we could before going to supper, and the next day we got all dressed up all over again to take the more artistic ones. The atmosphere was so much more relaxed, and I hadn’t attempted to curl my hair again, so I was very happy we did it that way. A local friend joined us, and it was the first time I had actually met her. That was the second time I wore the dress.
At the end of June, my mom held a reception at her house so family and friends from her side could celebrate with us. She wanted us to recreate the wedding for the guests, and I wore the dress for the third time. I walked down the isle for the second time, and did it to a string quartet version of Love Cats by The Cure, partly to honor the precious fur babies that couldn’t be there. When the quick ceremony was over, I changed into the gold cocktail dress, which I considered a perfect casual version of the Big Dress.
The story of my wedding and my dresses is over for now, but after experiencing both an elopement and a wedding at home, I’m tempted to have as many different experiences as I can. One day maybe we’ll have a Vegas wedding, and who knows what dreams may come true in the years ahead if we decide to renew our vows again for a special anniversary. Maybe there will be even more dresses in my future. I have to say it beats only having one!