Planning a wedding has its heartaches and headaches as well as its triumphs. Although there are many "how-to" books and collections of tips on how to throw a lovely wedding on a reasonable budget, to our knowledge there has not been a piece dedicated to following one wedding from engagement to honeymoon and documenting the designing and accomplishing of one of the biggest events in a couple’s life together - The Wedding.
Together with WedNet, we are presenting an eight-part documentary called "The Story Of A Wedding", a monthly serial that traces the development and execution of one couple’s wedding. We got formally engaged last month, and this first installment will introduce us, talk about our engagement, and outline our first attempts at planning and budgeting the biggest party either of us ever expects to throw.
The Bride: My name is Genelle Belmas, and I’m a 31-year-old graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. This story will be told from my point of view. I’m about two years outside of a Ph.D., and I hope to find a teaching and research position in a university or college somewhere when I’m done. I love teaching (I’ve taught Mass Communication Law several times and expect to broaden that spectrum in the next two years), and I also enjoy researching topics in mass comm law as well as in other areas, including the developing law and policy of the Internet. I’m originally from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and I received my undergrad and masters’ degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where I met Doug.
His name is Douglas Bornemann, and he’s 34 and also a graduate student at the "U" here in the Twin Cities. His Ph.D. will be in cell biology and genetics, and all he has to do to finish is write his dissertation. His program is more flexible than mine, so he can plan to finish around the same time I will be getting done. His research area is in Drosophila (fruit flies!). He’s originally from Appleton, Wisconsin. He got his undergrad and law degrees from Wisconsin, and we met in 1984 when I was 19 and he was 22. He was just finishing his undergrad and preparing for law school. When the firm he was at in Chicago closed, he moved to the Twin Cities. He also plans to look for a teaching and research position in a university or college. We own a house in St. Paul, Minnesota and have one cat named Kali.
We did get formally engaged last month, but we had actually been informally engaged since the end of April. We were packing to go to academic conferences (his in San Diego, mine in Madison, Wisconsin) and had previously agreed that we would decide in April how permanent we wanted to make our relationship. We got engaged sitting on the couch very late on the Thursday night before I left. No rings, nothing formal just "Let’s do it." (Doug kept saying that we weren’t really engaged until he had asked me with ring in hand...that story follows!)
Since it takes about a year to plan a wedding, I made a few phone calls about halls even before I left on Friday. I stayed with a friend in Madison, and she and I went shopping at the "old haunts" on Saturday night. I made the first wedding purchase: a pair of off-white candles for the unity candle ceremony. When I got back to town, I made more calls. And more calls. And more calls.
We had the hall (and thus the date of May 31, 1997), the photographer, the DJ and all the rings purchased/reserved before the formal engagement took place. Doug and I went to the Minnesota State Fair with some friends, who wanted to leave before we got to the midway. I love Ferris wheels, and I asked Doug if we could ride the big Ferris wheel before we went home. He agreed, and at the top of the Ferris wheel under a full moon, he pulled the ring out of his pocket and asked if I would agree to "inextricably intertwine my life with his!" (He was a lawyer, after all!) I was laughing and crying and saying yes, and then I remembered that we were sharing the "gondola" with a mother, grandmother, and 10-year-old daughter! I told them that we had just gotten engaged and showed them the ring, and they were all smiles and congratulations. The daughter said that she was looking forward to telling all her friends at school about it.
Planning and Budgeting
Because both of us are grad students and on a budget, one of the first things we did was to sit down and determine what things were important to us and what we could either skip or scrimp on. Our goal is to keep the wedding costs below $7500, and below $7000 if we possibly can.
We didn’t include the rings in our budget because they are a long-term investment and expense. We will also not consider the honeymoon, if we have one, to be a wedding expense; it will be a vacation, budgeted accordingly.
Both of us are music aficionados, so we decided that music was something we wanted to splurge on. We hired a DJ for six hours of music, and we have even found a woodwind quintet at a reasonable price to perform for the ceremony. Since we also wanted to do our own cooking and thus save money over expensive caterers, the hall we chose had to permit us to do that. We decided on a hall that was one of the more expensive in the Cities, but again permitted ourselves to splurge here in anticipation of savings later.
That said, here is our (somewhat flexible) budget for 250 guests (* indicates a best guess):
Big Ticket Items
Gifts for attendants and others 500
Rentals (serving pieces, linen, etc.) 300*
Rehearsal dinner 200*
Other decorations 100
Ceremony centerpiece 60
Hotel after wedding 100
One-use cameras 100
Marriage license 75
Park rental (if we go this route) 10
Guest book 10
(Tentative) TOTAL : $7150
How are we keeping these costs so low? More on that to come!