If any bride can handle throwing together a wedding in a few months, make chocolates and cheesecakes for it, and entertain and feed out-of-town guests the morning of the wedding before her hair and makeup get done, it’s Julie. She had a packed house the morning of the wedding on Sunday, and we stopped by for a little bit for some of the breakfast she made and to see if she needed to put us to work. And she did–we got sent to the venue with a car full of food, wine, and anything else we hadn’t taken over the day before that needed to be there. So Paul and I drove over and hauled in a few boxes of things, then sat down and enjoyed more beverages. This time, I went for a raspberry chai.

Emily and Chelle had left the house around the same time we did and had some time to kill, too, so they joined us at the coffee shop for about an hour before we all parted ways again to get ready for the wedding.

When we all saw each other next, we were all prettied up, and we tackled the last-minute prep in the final hour before the wedding–Katie and I were steaming things again, this time tablecloths, and final decorations were put up. Some of us, and by that I mean me, even took the last 15 minutes to paint our nails.

And pretty much right on time, Michael and his groomsmen lined up while my father-in-law went up to a little loft area and escorted Julie down.

Katie and I were excited to watch and kind of felt more emotional than we did at our own weddings, maybe even each other. I can’t speak for her, of course, but for me, marrying Paul was just kind of the next logical step. We’d been together for several years at that point–and in fact, this summer marks nine years together, despite only two of marriage–and it was more a matter of making it official. Even watching Jacob and Katie get married, it was exciting, but they’ve been together just a smidge longer than we have, to the point that the four of us have basically been around as couples the same amount of time and there’s no real clear point marking, like, before we were dating and after. Katie was there the night I met Paul, and I’ve pretty much been around ever since. And Paul and Jacob are the two oldest, and we met at Jacob’s high-school graduation with my brother, when Julie was still in high school. Katie and I may have shown up around the same time, but we’ve pretty much watched Julie and Michael’s relationship go from the early days of dating to moving up to Erie a few years ago to now.

And, of course, there’s a difference between seeing the boys in their tuxes and seeing Julie come down the stairs in a beautiful wedding dress with her dad on her arm. I have so many mixed feelings about the wedding industry and the whole concept of marriage, but man, you can’t beat that image.

The ceremony was short and sweet, with Jacob officiating–Julie asked him to do it earlier this year and he got ordained online. We’ve been joking for months about him wearing a slutty nun Halloween costume. But him officiating was another really sweet part of it, and it didn’t hit me until he was actually having them recite vows. We’d been asked (by Jacob on behalf of the couple) to put our cellphones away, but Katie slyly filmed the whole time and I can’t blame her.

And then they were married!

Since it was a pretty small wedding with immediate family and close friends in a small coffee shop, there wasn’t really any dancing, just food and wine, but that was fine. There was a pretty simple seating arrangement and us two already married couples were together next to Julie and Michael’s table, and Katie and I took the opportunity to chant “One of us!” at Michael. He hated it, and he said so.

We had great food and homemade wine, and I think I tried a little bit of each kind they had. Michael also had a bottle of tequila he’d brought back from a recent trip to Mexico, and fearing it would be strong, the four of us did a tiny, tiny tequila toast to Michael and found that it was actually quite smooth. And we may or may not have given a tiny bit to the family’s youngest sibling, who may or may not have hated it. That’s how you can tell the seasoned drinkers–we all went, “Ooh!” after we finished it and talked about how smooth it went down and had just a slight kick to it.

Everything wrapped up pretty early, so we decided to head back to Emily and Chelle’s Airbnb a few minutes away but, like our hotel, over the New York border. Paul and I waited around awhile while everyone else was with Jacob and Emily, who had to sign the marriage certificate as witnesses, and then I guess it was somehow hard to figure out where to sign and also totally different than Katie and Jacob’s marriage certificate, so after a while, I guess they gave up.

Mostly, we hung around bullshitting all night. You still can’t get us together without some degree of swapping stories and complaints, but things have been really calm and really good for a while, which we were sure to tell Chelle so as not to scare her off. Emily had also bought a cigar from a store across from the coffee shop, so she wanted to smoke with Jacob, who almost always has cigars on-hand at special events. Paul joined, and that’s how all of us significant others ended up sitting on a dark porch in an unusually cold night while the three siblings all smoked.

Katie and I were also pretty wound up and had each other, but perhaps most of all ourselves, in tears laughing. We started calling ourselves plus Michael The In-Law Club, which somehow escalated to a very formal, British-esque organization with code names, and we thought everything we came up with was hilarious. Even Paul the next day was like, “Well, you two certainly had a good time.”

As with all late nights with good company, it was hard to pull ourselves away, and we ultimately left around 1 a.m. I kind of enjoyed all the driving through the back roads of the two states, too. It’s not like I was homesick, but it felt like home all the same, and there’s something about summer nights driving through the countryside that just feels good. I’d say nostalgic, but it’s not quite that.

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I feel like time is getting away from me, like last week was an endless succession of intending to tackle certain parts of the to-do list and never getting to any of it. Things just kept coming up or taking up more time or attention than I expected or wanted.

But Saturday, we got to enjoy a wedding. Paul’s work friend Andrew and his now wife have been together about as long as we have–about eight years for us–but also like us, waited a while to get married. We started hanging out with them after our wedding but during the course of their planning, and it was enough to get us and a couple other familiar faces from their work group on the guest list. It was a tiny wedding down in West Virginia, and we had a good time, as we always do at weddings. And I was smart enough to realize a week or so prior that we were not gonna feel like driving back home, even though it’s less than an hour, so I decided the smart thing to do would be get a hotel room. It turned out that the wedding did not last as long as we expected, and therefore we were not as drunk and tired as we expected, but still, a night in a nice, big king-sized bed away from home was nice. I feel like most people need a long, far-off vacation to recharge; I just need an overnight stay in a place that’s not mine.

The day after the wedding was mostly recovery and aftermath. We had the family who stayed in the hotel come over to our room to our presents–when my brother got married last year, we served leftovers at my parents’ house and had his in-laws and a few other people over, but in a hotel room and with both sets of parents living an hour away, that wasn’t really feasible. So we did it all in our room, making sure to open Julie and Michael’s dirty gift they’d warned us about before anyone got there.

I was relieved that we didn’t get a lot of stuff, you know? I know I’ve been saying this for months, but we really, really don’t need anything else, so the less we got that takes up space, the better. We did get some pretty things that are gonna be really nice to put up in a house one day, or even a bigger apartment by next year, but for now, most of it’s getting shipped off to my parents’ basement until that point.

We also got a good bit of money, putting us back to where we were before we made final payments the day of.

Between unused mixers and alcohol and our gifts, there was just enough stuff that it didn’t all fit in our car, so Brandon and Kelly volunteered to help haul it back. Everyone else brunched with Jacob and Katie before they flew home, and of course we were starving by the time we were done. Paul’s tux needed returned, too, so we did that out in the South Hills and had some lunch while we were out there.

I slept like shit on the wedding night, so by Sunday, I’d gotten about eight hours of sleep in two days and was feeling rough. Paul and I both took Monday off to recover, and finally, that was where I recouped my sleep–I didn’t sleep in as late as I wanted to, but I did end up taking a two-hour morning nap. Over the next couple days, we gradually handled whatever post-wedding tasks we had, like returning alcohol and mixers and slowly starting on thank-yous. We’ve changed our benefits at work, opened a joint bank account where all the wedding is or will go when we’re done with thank-yous, since I’m depositing money as I write them out so I can be thorough and not miss anyone.

And then it was back to work. It was kind of funny Sunday how we just threw this wedding a night before and then it was just like…back to life as usual. We went to work on Tuesday, showed some pictures and told the highlights when asked, and came home like usual.

When my boss asked me how married life was a week or so later, I was like, “It’s pretty much the same,” and she told me how once she read this article about when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married, someone asked her how married life was, and she commented on how difficult and what a big change it was. My boss–and even myself when she told me–was like, “What? Why?” I mean, you’re together for years, have kids together, and marriage is still that huge? I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, it’s just that I find it strange that couples who have been together for a long time and were already living together find marriage to be a big adjustment, and the only reason I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s the sense of permanent commitment. One of my own issues with marriage as an institution is that I don’t need a big ceremony to commit to someone, and I’ve always loved the stories of how Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell never married. But commitment itself has never bothered me, and the thought of getting married and even now of being married isn’t at all scary. Like I said, nothing’s changed. People talk a lot about how hard the first year of marriage is and I can see that if that’s the first time the couple lives together, but so far, I’m not seeing how. It was more of a challenge when he first moved in and we were learning how to live together, but the marriage itself? Easy. I mean, so far, the hardest thing has been figuring out how to deposit checks made out to his last name when I’m not changing it.

I had a small to-do list for before the wedding, the main ones being buy myself a case of Angry Orchard or Redd’s, clean my engagement ring, and do my nails. But the day got away from me, and none of those things happened.

I did manage to throw together a slideshow for rehearsal, though, and Mac’s slideshow feature is pretty cool and super easy to use. We were able to export it as a video file, throw it on a flash drive, and just let it play for the whole time we were there.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this at the time, but rehearsal dinner was on track to become an issue with his mom before we squashed it. At some point, she started talking about wanting to have dinner in Uniontown, an hour away from actual rehearsal, so that was when we fast-tracked choosing a place and settled on President’s Pub–they charge you to use the private room, but combined with the price per late compared to other local restaurants, the price ended up being about the same and for better quality, and they did a really good job. We tried to avoid food that was too similar to what we were serving at the wedding, so we got a pasta, lemon chicken, salad, and a veggie risotto, plus a selection of pies they put out for dessert. And we could take our time and hang out, plus it’s probably the place we got to the most often in Washington, so by then, we’d seen and talked to the events coordinator a few times. And she’s awesome.

In the early days of planning, we weren’t sure how to approach gifts for our parents–and since Katie and Jacob didn’t get any, we were off the hook for it if need be. My biggest concern was not finding things for my dad or his mom, as sappy, sentimental gifts would be awkward and insincere, so I figured if we found something, great, and if we didn’t, it didn’t matter. And this is where Etsy is kind of amazing, because I found beautiful hankies for both mothers, big wooden beer steins from the fucking Ukraine for Paul’s dad, plus Paul and Jacob, too. My dad doesn’t drink, so instead, I found him a “father of the bride” coffee mug and gave him two bags of Harry & David coffee to go with it. It was funny to watch everyone carting around their mugs all night, so they seemed to really enjoy them.

Mother-of-the-bride gifts are way easier to find, so my mom ended up with a little extra that I gave her privately after rehearsal–a mug to match the one I got my dad and a figurine of a mother and bride, which she loved. And with that one, I even asked if they had one for the mother of the groom, and they don’t even make one, which I have to admit is bullshit. She would’ve loved one, and honestly, I would’ve happily bought it. But nope, all about the brides.

After we ate, we girls snuck out to gab in the parking lot, mostly to get to scoop on what his mom had been complaining about behind our backs–the biggest stories were she was saying I’d regret having a shower and that she wasn’t included, and I can’t deny that one. In fact, it was straight-up intentional, but we did what we had to do to have the wedding we wanted without fighting over ever little thing the whole time. Later, when I asked my mom what the two of them had talked about while they were sitting together, she said Paul’s mom started going on about how Jacob and Katie didn’t include her in their wedding planning, which is bullshit, and how hurt she was by that, and my mom was trying to gauge what she wanted out of the conversation, whether it was a warning or to see if my mom had been included more. She tried to play it like she wasn’t, saying she didn’t know what kind of flowers we were having, for example, but she knew a lot more than Paul’s mom did.

We went in when we realized we’d been gone a long time, but turns out while we were gone, all the boys went down to the bar for beers. The next time we saw Paul’s mom after the wedding, she thanked Paul for including his brother Josh and taking him down to pick one out, since Josh isn’t the most social. The verdict is still out as to whether Josh cared as much as she did, but I say we take what victories we get.

One of the things I forgot to do earlier in the day, or more like couldn’t finish, was pack an overnight bag to stay with my parents…and then I ended up having to go back into my apartment twice because I realized I forgot something. Then I finally went to my parents’ house, hung out with Duke a bit, and slept for about four hours because I started to get too nervous.

When Priests Are Also Assholes

So, obviously, the wedding day was hectic. At rehearsal, I’d expected to pay the choir, organist, etc. because at some point, that is what I’d been told, but none of them were actually there. So while I was sitting all done up waiting for my cue to go down the aisle, I was writing out checks to whoever I needed.

I forgot a check.

I remembered just a tad too late–after we’d left after the ceremony–that we still owed the church $150. “Whatever,” we thought, “we’ll take it to the office next week.” And we kind of forgot about it plus had other things going on, and on top of that, getting to the church office before it closes is tough. It closes at 4, and typically, Paul works until 3:30 and that’s when I’m just getting home, but lately, I’ve been working until 4, 5 the past two nights specifically. Paul can be home within 15 minutes, but then you have to truck it up to church fast. So it just wasn’t working out, and we had the post-wedding chaos of returning alcohol and mixers and taking care of anything else we needed to. The church check, honestly, slipped our minds, but the business manager did remind us. I asked him the best way to get it to him, he took a couple days to reply, and by then, it was the weekend. Paul even asked me in the pew this past Sunday if we could put it in the collection basket, and I said no, it has to go to the office. That or we could mail it, but why waste a stamp when we can just walk it up?

I’m not thrilled about the fact that we weren’t prompt with it. It’s one of our shared faults. I won’t deny we dropped the ball on that one, or that I should’ve replied to the business manager to let him know we’d be taking it to the office. However, the way it got handled after that is…unfortunate.

The main priest at the church e-mailed me this morning–not the one who actually performed the ceremony as he was transferred in July and came back for the wedding, but the main priest in charge at the parish now. When my phone pinged, I thought, “Oh, fuck, he’s probably not happy, better shoot a text to Paul to tell him to take a check up.” And honestly, all either of us needed was just a little prod. If you want to argue we shouldn’t need that, fine, whatever, but people forget things, shit happens, and that was honestly all it took to jog my brain right to, “Tell Paul to take a check.” So I’m expecting displeasure but otherwise civility, and what I got was pretty rude.

In retrospect, it’s not that bad, but it’s…not great. It’s a bit much under circumstances, especially between a priest and parishioner. The basic gist of it is the business manager forwarded our correspondence to the priest, who said, “I am disappointed that you continue to delay this process. Your casual manner in dealing with the payment due to the Church is ill-mannered,” and as a sort of PS, “This is the first time in 45 years I have had to send a ‘Second Notice’ regarding a Wedding.”

I won’t touch his questionable use of capital letters.

For starters, I take issue with the business manager going to the priest at all. To me, that’s something that should be a last resort, something you do when we’re not responding at all or we keep saying, “Yep, we’ll bring it tomorrow,” and failing to do so. I feel like the business manager couldn’t handle it himself and went whining to the priest, when all this whole thing needed was a simple, “Hey, you still owe us.” That’s a whole bitchy e-mail chain avoided right there.

As for what the priest actually said, I take issue with that, starting with the implication that I’m intentionally not paying them or dragging this thing out for, what my health? Entertainment? What, like all I do is sit around at home thinking, “Huh, how long can I drag this out?” I feel like I was being spoken to like a child, like I was being reprimanded, and on top of that, like the priority is money. We owed them. I get that. They have expenses to cover, and the diocese is evaluating which churches to close over the next year or so. But it comes off a certain way when your e-mail reads like a Catholic version of, “Bitch better have my money.” Frankly, with his word choice, it felt like he was attacking my character and had zero compassion or understand regarding, you know, life.

So I sat and stewed over it at work–it came in about quarter ’till 11, I was stuck there until 5, got home at 5:30, and that whole time, I was fucking pissed. I felt like he took a tone with me because he’s a priest and he thinks he can. Terra thinks he didn’t think I’d respond. My sister-in-law Emily thinks if he’d been communicating with Paul, he wouldn’t have used that tone at all.

So with the help of my mom, I crafted a reply. I mostly used her as a proofreader and Bitch Editor–you know, someone to look at it and say, “This sounds good, this is too much, use this word and not that one.” And the basic gist of that was just about what I said here, just more concisely and worded very directly and concisely. I apologized for the delay but said I hoped he understood that it’s a busy time and we lost track of some things–he clearly didn’t, or else he wouldn’t have sent that e-mail, but hey, I figure he deserves his own smidge of passive-aggressive condescension. I went on to say that despite this, the tone of his e-mail was disrespectful, condescending, unacceptable and uncalled for, that it was particularly disappointing coming from a priest and going to a parishioner, that it made it seem like all he cared about was the money, that I didn’t appreciate his unwarranted criticism based on how he interpreted the situation, that the business manager should have communicated with me directly rather than involve him, that I felt it was blown out of proportion over a relatively small amount of money.

There was a time when I never would’ve sent that e-mail and would’ve let it go–deleted it, sent the check, felt shitty, and moved on, but man, fuck that. I’m not gonna let a priest be an asshole to me about 150 bucks. Sure, I’m dreading getting a reply and I freak out a little every time my Gmail pings and I’m having worst-case-scenario imaginings of him making his sermon about me, but shit, I’d rather make it clear that I won’t be spoken to like that than just take it. I mean…really? Of all the ways you could’ve said we owed you money, that was what you chose?

I need to call my shrink, but that could be weird because he goes to that church. Whatever.

Going back to the week before the wedding, it started off fine, then got increasingly hectic.

I went to work that Monday and Tuesday and threw in what errands I could in the evening, like picking up our marriage license. And with my days off, I did a lot of the same, plus some baking to add to the cookie table. I took off from Wednesday on and Paul started his long weekend on Thursday, so we used that day to take recycling into Pittsburgh and have a nice, calm lunch at the Cheesecake Factory before we got too busy for the rest of the week, and that didn’t take long–buying alcohol and mixers took up a large chunk of our evening, on top of having to return phone calls to the church wedding planner and get final details to the photographer and florists and all that fun, last-minute stuff.

Our apartment was a disaster. I mean, it kind of is normally, but we’re already limited on space as it is and didn’t want to leave hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol and mixers in the car overnight, so we hauled everything up and let it sit in the living and dining rooms just to be hauled back down again the next morning to take it to the reception venue. In the end, we carried shit up and down every day except Saturday for something like four days in a row, between buying it, taking it it home, taking it to the venue, bringing back the leftovers, and returning those unopened leftovers.

After everything was ready to go in the venue, I got suckered into buying a guest book. I’d been looking at some of the neat alternatives online but ultimately decided not to get one at all, because I figure it’s just gonna sit in a box for the rest of our lives and we’ll never look at it again. At some point, I got pretty practical with wedding planning and did my best to avoid getting anything we’d be stuck with afterwards, and a guest book fell into that category for me. People bring gifts and cards, and to me, some other record of who was there is pretty much useless. Paul told his mom this one night when she asked, and initially, she thought when he said I didn’t want to spend the money that we meant we were pinching pennies and offered to buy one, so he explained that no, it’s gonna sit in a box for the rest of lives–which, by the way, every time I told another married couple this, they all said, “Yeah, I’ve never look at our guest book.” So there ya go.

Paul’s dad had cookies to take to the botanic gardens on his way to/from picking up Jacob and Katie from the airport, which actually worked out perfectly since it’s nearby, so with them and Josh in tow, we all met up to drop things off. When we were done, he encouraged us to get a guest book, saying their mom was really pushing for it, and I did learn later from one of Paul’s sisters that she was pretty aghast that we didn’t want one. The logic was mostly that the older relatives would be looking for one and therefore we must have it, but I was (and still am) of the opinion that just because people expected it didn’t mean it needed to be there. And I really, really stood my ground, saying no to all the arguments, but in the end, Paul won, and his own argument was admittedly hard to argue–even though he was on my side in terms of it being unnecessary, it would shut her up and keep her happy, and it was a pretty easy, small, and simple compromise to make. The fact that we were on the tail end of wedding season helped, as Hobby Lobby’s wedding stuff was all 50% off.

From there, it was rehearsal.

Post-Wedding Thoughts, In No Particular Order

  • Weddings and wedding planning both are entirely what you make of them. Things don’t need to be perfect. Do what you want.
  • If you hate a tradition, don’t get pressured into doing it. Just because the universe has been doing bouquet tosses forever doesn’t mean it’s a good reason to have one, and I’m glad I scrapped everything but the bridal dance. But…
  • Compromise a little. I didn’t want a guest book. His mom did, and by extension, to appease her, so did he, and since we knew she was gonna hate just about everything else, getting a guest book for 50% off the day before the wedding at Hobby Lobby wasn’t the worst idea ever. I mean, I still think it was a waste of money and I’m never gonna look at it, but that’s one thing I won’t have to hear about later, I guess. That said…
  • The logic of, “You have to have a guest book because everyone will be looking for one” is stupid. You can’t ask a couple to plan a wedding around what everyone else wants or expects–it’s unfair. It’s their day and their celebration, and yes, they’re asking other people to celebrate with them who might think they’re gonna see certain traditions played out, but don’t keep doing them just for that.
  • Going back to wasting money, be practical. All those super cute things on Pinterest were great ideas until I realized I’d be spending time and/or money doing it, and unless it’s something you really love and you think it’ll make the day memorable, don’t do it.
  • No one on the planet needs me or anyone else to tell them how things can change in a year or so, but bear with me–if you had told me the day we got engaged, New Year’s Day of 2016, that I would invite friends and cousins I was not on good terms with at the time and that I would do so willingly and that all but two would come and that those two only didn’t come because one’s living in Arizona and the other was on the outskirts of Hurricane Harvey, I would’ve said there was no fucking way.  Yet here we are.
  • I should probably feel like a bitch for deliberately including my mother-in-law in as little as possible. I don’t. I did what I had to do for us to have the wedding we wanted without having to fight for it.
  • Married life so far is exactly the same as it was before. Nothing has changed between being unwed Friday to wed Saturday. We went back to our normal lives. I think we feel closer to each other, but in terms of relationship dynamics, exactly the same. I will admit this probably has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve now been together for seven years, two of which were spent living together–I mean, we’ve been together longer than some couples who got married before we did.
  • We waited until we could afford it. Some couples have the attitude of why wait when you know it’s right, but I was a little more, “Why rush if you’re together regardless?”
  • My mother-in-law has been insisting to her daughters that I will regret not having a bridal shower. The sense of relief I have that she didn’t plan one behind my back and the apartment full of presents and unopened mixers that are getting returned beg to differ.
  • Not everything turned out the way I expected, but I’m happy.
  • I don’t know what I did for the four hours we were there, because I don’t feel like I danced much and I don’t feel like I socialized much.
  • My favorite part of Jacob’s best-man speech was the end where he said, “May your children be 5’9″.” I’m 5’4″, my new groom is 6’5″. We’ve been joking about how when we have kids, they’re all gonna be tall like him and then there’s gonna be like one runt that curses getting their mother’s genes.
  • The shoe game was fun, and I’m glad we did it. For those who don’t know, it’s when the couple sits back to back and holds one of their own shoes and one of their spouse’s shoes and answers questions by holding up a shoe–stuff like who has the bigger family, who has the crazier friends, who said, “I love you,” first. I enjoyed watching the video later and seeing where we disagreed, but we were almost entirely on the same page.
  • It’s weird being the bride in the bridal dance. And people said a lot of nice things to me, and I remember approximately three of them. One was that it was like an episode of “Four Weddings,” another was one of my cousins yelling that her boob was falling out of her dress.
  • One of my all-time favorite moments was my Uncle Vince, almost definitely drunk, getting in the middle of our dance circle during “Shoop” and actually dancing. My mother says she’s never seen him do that and I don’t think anyone filmed it, so I’ll have to sear the image into my brain forever.
  • The choir in church was so worth their price.
  •  I’m glad we didn’t come home with a ton of gifts, and the ones we did get are generally pretty cool. Some people got pretty sentimental and creative, which I love. And we have some really nice things to put in a house, but for now, a lot of it’s probably going in my parents’ basement.
  • I’m working on preserving my bouquet, which I never really thought I’d do, but it seems a shame to just let them wither and throw them out. So I’ve gone to Michael’s twice for silica gel, then to Target for something to put the silica and flowers in, and tomorrow I’ll probably go back out for a shadow box when the whole thing’s done. The flowers held up beautifully before I started–it’s now Thursday and they’re only just starting to look wilted. One white rose did completely fall apart when I touched it, but that’s it. The ones I dried out before I realized I needed a second box of silica turned out pretty nice, too. It’s a simple process, yet I’m proud of myself for not fucking it up, at least not yet.
  • Food was one of my priorities. Our caterer came recommended by the venue staff, and I liked his menu options–as Julie’s boyfriend said later, it was something different from the fried chicken and rigatoni you see at almost all the weddings around here. When we saw he does bigos, a Polish hunter stew, we knew we had to serve it because both families would love it. We also went with shrimp pasta, mashed potatoes, salad, grilled vegetables. I wish I’d had more of an appetite, because I ate small servings of the pasta, potatoes, and salad but that was it. Still, it was really good. The photographer said it was the best wedding food she’s ever had, and people from both families asked the caterer about his recipe. He got it from a little old Polish lady.
  • It’s weird to go from talking to all these vendors and people regularly to just, like, nothing, and even though they were doing their jobs, I feel like we need to reach out and thank everyone. And we will.
  • We returned $500 worth of liquor, plus some mixers. I feel a little bad because apparently, even though it’s unopened pop, the store just throws it away, but…I really don’t need like 10 bottles of diet Coke, three bottles of ginger ale, and five bottles each of tonic water and club soda sitting in the apartment.
  • I can’t wait to dump these empty boxes at my parents’ house.
  • We spent about $24,000. Jacob and Katie, who spent a good bit less last year, got what they spent back in gifts, and although we didn’t make up that large a number–it would probably be impossible to–we are on track to have our bank accounts back up to where they were before we paid the caterer Saturday night.
  • It’s a lot of money, but we’re not really in debt–the only things on credit cards are wedding rings, which we got no-interest financing on, and the rental company, which is on a no-interest cash-back card. All in all, it’s a small fraction of what we spent total.
  • And we were actually under budget. I thought $20,000 on a wedding was unrealistic–it can be done, but for what we wanted in terms of venue, it wasn’t doable, mostly because even though the cost of renting the place wasn’t huge, we had to rent all the tables, chairs, dishes, linens, etc. So things added up. So I set the budget at $30,000, which means we came in about $6,000 under budget. It’s easier than you might think. Which leads me to…
  • Weddings are expensive, and people will jack up prices just because they know couples will pay. So if you have friends, family, or acquaintances who can help with things, definitely take advantage of that. We turned to family for cookies and made a few dozen ourselves, and I only bought another few dozen to round out the table and because I saw some really cute decorated cookies online I wanted. My maid of honor’s sister-in-law who’s starting up a catering business made the cake. My aunt knew someone who did real flowers, centerpieces and all, for a fraction of what you’d pay a full-time professional florist to do, and they looked great. My sister-in-law did favors. There are talented people out there willing to pitch in without charging a ton, so don’t think it has to be expensive to be good.
  • The day really was a blur. Going back to normal life afterwards was weird. Like, you throw this big party and publicly make a commitment, and then, what, you come home the next day, nap because you’re tired, and watch some Netflix? Pretty much.
  • Wedding planning is work, and we joked plenty about how we didn’t want to ever do it again, har har. That said, having this whole day where everyone’s there to celebrate with you is pretty damn cool, and while I still have some non-traditional ideas about the nature of marriage, it is something people ought to get to experience. I mean, everyone’s there for the two of you, and that does feel really good.
  • We’re excited to not have to spend any more money, beyond paying those debts, and to not have anyone to meet with or to-do lists to tackle now that it’s over. We have thank-yous to send, sure, but our free time is back!
  • We’re happy. Still probably working with sleep debt, but happy.

Obviously, basically all my time the past couple weeks has been wedding-related–a few other things here and there, sure, but it’s been dance lessons and talking to vendors and final payments and details like picking readings and deciding who’s doing them.

We did get a night out with a Cheap Trick/Foreigner concert, exactly two weeks before the wedding, and the funny thing is when we bough them, I can remember talking about how it would be two weeks away from the wedding and my mom said it would be like a bachelor/bachelorette party. Terra said the same thing about camp and neither was really like that, but that’s more than okay. I wasn’t really into the whole bachelor/bachelorette thing anyway. It’s kind of stupid when you’ve been together for seven years and living together for two. They say everything changes when you get married, but I feel like we already are, so I expect to get back to our regular lives Sunday/Monday and have it be like usual, just with legal documents involved.

But I digress.

The concert was a good, fun night out. I swear that Cheap Trick was the best band on the bill, for one, and still fantastic live and a vastly underrated rock band. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. I mean, I’ve seen bands have their age phone in live shows, and then there’s Cheap Trick, slaying it.

We had our last dance class during the week, and our instructor had us perform it for everyone else in the studio, which was kind of nerve-wracking, but I’m glad we got a small taste of what it’s gonna be like in front of people. We’re used to just the two of us, our instructor, and whoever else is around that’s usually not even paying attention. It was good practice.

Otherwise, it’s been work and wedding prep. I’ve been trying to juggle wedding stuff with other shit that needs done, too, and I actually managed to tackle a good few things off the to-do list the last couple days. I spent part of the weekend baking, wanting to round out the cookie table, so I picked some simple Pinterest recipes and went at it. Paul did his usual chocolate-chip cookies, too, and when I’m off Wednesday through the rest of the week, I plan to try some more.

My original plan was to take off for the whole week, but even with a lot of little things to wrap up, a week was a bit too much–the closer we got to this point, the more it looked like it would be a waste of vacation days, where I’d be sitting around doing very little. So I’m taking off from Wednesday on instead, plus next Monday to give us both some time to actually relax and recover. The more I thought about it, the more I thought Sunday’s going to either leave us still very busy or very tired or both, with no actual downtime. So Monday off it is. We’re talking about a trip up to the mountains, but we’ll see how exhausted we are. I wouldn’t be surprised if we decide to skip it and sleep.

Once again, like we do every summer, we ran off to the woods for Terra’s birthday.

The past few weeks, it’s been getting difficult to really do much other than wedding stuff. All our plans are squeezed in around things like dress fittings and meetings with vendors. I needed more dress fittings than I thought, mostly because it’s small in the boobs and too long, and I ended up needing to schedule one for the weekend of camp. Originally, I thought this was gonna mean missing camp altogether, but it worked out–Terra and her boyfriend went up Friday night and had a night alone, which was probably good for them, and I had my dress fitting Saturday. Paul and I made it up by the afternoon.

There are places up there that Terra used to visit as a kid but we’ve never gone to, and Farmers Inn is one of them. We pass it on the way in since it’s right down the road from their property, we just never go. But Terra had a great time with their goats before we got there, so she insisted we go. And that’s how we spent a lot of time feeding goats. The great thing about my apartment laundry no longer requiring quarters is I got to spend them all on handfuls of corn for the goats, and we went so far as to save some quarters so we could come back and do it again the next day.

We also got in a visit to Beartown Rocks for a bit, then went back, had a light dinner and alcohol around a campfire, and went to bed.

Normally, we all sleep in the trailer, but that thing is turning into a mess. It smelled really musty, which means it was probably not the best place to be sleeping, so we slept in tents outside. I wasn’t expecting that or I would’ve brought more blankets–the ground underneath was pretty uncomfortable, plus it got pretty cold at night, although it wouldn’t have been much warmer in the trailer. Somehow, most years we’ve gone up, we’ve ended up with cool weather and not a nice, hot summer night that would make for ideal outdoor sleeping. Plus it’s been too cold to go down to the river. I think we did it once last year, but that’s probably it.

With wedding stuff still needing done and my unwillingness to put any writing on hold for the last few weeks–when I 100% probably should have–I wanted to get back with at least a few hours left in my evening, so we aimed to leave by noon Sunday. The running joke is that Terra and I essentially manage to go shopping in the woods, which is totally true. There’s a string of gift shops we like to hit every year, and we come back with jewelry and blankets. This year, I even found homemade bath bombs. Camp shopping is awesome.

It was a nice getaway, but I think because we didn’t spend the whole weekend up there like we normally do, we didn’t get the full impact and mental reset we normally do. We really enjoyed it, of course, we just didn’t come back feeling as refreshed as we normally do. And maybe that’s the wedding–it’s not as though we’re not looking forward to it, but from about the one-month mark on, it’s felt more like the day is looming like a deadline than anything. It’s like we have all these little things that need done and we’re running out of time, and I think it was hard to totally relax when we were both thinking of the to-do list we had to tackle when we got home.

When we did get home, we at least treated ourselves to dinner out before we focused on what needed done.

Like I said, wedding stuff has started to dominate our time. I had another dress fitting Saturday and need one more, basically because my boobs are too small. Mom had a fitting at the same time and barely needs anything done.

We followed it up with dinner at Roland’s, because nothing says “my dress is a bit snug and I want to drop my waist measurement a tad” like ordering a plate full of rigatoni. I’m great at health and fitness, guys!

I followed that with brunch Sunday morning with Paul’s parents. We decided on President’s Pub for rehearsal dinner because the cost is similar to other local restaurants for better quality, and since his parents are paying for it and his mom has a tendency to want these things her way, Paul invited them out. I’ve actually never gone to the jazz brunch and have heard very good things, and it’s probably become my go-to brunch spot now. Live jazz music with a pretty typically brunch menu with locally sourced ingredients. I honestly don’t know why there aren’t bigger crowds at this place, like, ever, but they seem to be doing okay. We plan to go Tuesday for a fundraiser to benefit residents of an apartment building that collapsed downtown, and I’m kind of hoping this place sets itself out as a community staple.

Anyway, the point is as usual, I went in preparing to have to defend our choice to have it there and lay down the law about how it’s our wedding and we won’t accept financial help if it means the final say isn’t ours, and she ended up loving the place. I’d say it was a smart move on Paul’s part, but I’m not convinced he knew it would go that way. I think maybe we got lucky.

Meanwhile, at work, I’ve been promoted! I had a very positive review with nothing but praise for the good work I do and how reliable I am, and it comes with an 80-cent-per-hour raise that’ll kick in at the end of the month, just in time to focus on paying down credit-card balances from the wedding–which, fortunately, isn’t a lot. We have a couple expenses we put on cards, in some cases to take advantage of no-interest deals, and I’ve been steadily paying things down after all other bills are paid. Paul got a raise, too, so it’s great timing all around.