This installment will discuss some smaller details, and then I’ll talk a little about the menu–which is, I think, one of the most exciting and money-saving parts of our wedding. Most of the wedding was planned by Christmas (the five-month mark). Many of the other details that popped up were minor or just required a call or a check to make them formal.

Ceremony Details
We had already met once with Kathleen, the friend we had initially wanted to perform the ceremony. Since she is not a Lutheran minister, the minister of the Lutheran church we reserved wanted to talk to her. So Kathleen called the minister and reported that, based on the initial conversation, there will not be a problem with her performing the ceremony, although it will not be final until after she has formally met with the minister in mid-January. So the ceremony we had originally sketched out can be used.

The rehearsal is scheduled for the night before the wedding at the church. Because we have a sizeable wedding party, the rehearsal dinner will be large. Doug and I started tossing around ideas about where to have the dinner. The church is on the Minneapolis East Bank campus, and there are several eating establishments within walking distance of the church that might have a room available for us. Most of the managers were out for the Christmas season, so we have yet to formalize this detail.

I have already started to design the invitation and program. I have clip art of a grape vine that will appear in both the program and the invitation. I want to get the invitations done before spring break (mid-March) so we can spend part of that week getting them addressed and ready to mail around the first of April. Technically, six weeks before the wedding puts the date at April 15th, but we decided to mail early to avoid the tax return rush!

Other things to get for the ceremony (NOT a complete list!):
◾A unity candle. The first thing I bought after we got engaged was a set of candles with which to light the unity candle, so we won’t need those!
◾The marriage license. I imagine we will get that the week before the wedding.
◾Wedding bubbles!
◾Baskets for the programs, bubbles and flowers that Doug’s niece and nephew will hand out at the ceremony.
Reception Details
I called around to several places looking for a bar service. The prices varied quite a bit. We decided outright not to have a fully hosted bar. The cost is prohibitive, and we don’t want to encourage over-indulging. We decided that we will pay for soda all night, and we will pay for the first keg of beer. After that, the guests are on their own for alcohol, though we might purchase a few drink tickets to give to our families. The company we will hire will provide free bartending service if they are able to sell over a certain dollar amount, and they assured us that with the size of the wedding we are planning, this should not be a problem. The soda and beer we are planning to pay for will cost about $150, and there will be an additional cost if we want to buy champagne for the head table and the families. This is a savings from the $400 I’d originally budgeted.

Town Square Park, the reception site, informed us that if we wanted to have alcohol available at our reception, under St. Paul ordinance we had to hire a security officer. The hall manager provided the name of a St. Paul police officer who had performed security for the hall before. One phone call booked him for the evening, to the tune of $150 I hadn’t planned for but that was covered by the savings on the bar.

Around Thanksgiving we had made a trip to Sam’s Club and purchased table coverings and paper and plastic service pieces for the reception dinner. I had a lot of angst buying paper and plastic products to serve dinner on–I feared that it might look tacky. But a few phone calls to rental places and caterers made me feel somewhat better: rental places charge quite a bit to rent dinner plates and silverware, and even some of the caterers use paper and plastic, especially when the meal is a buffet. There is the added problem of transporting the rented dishes to and from the rental site; no one has a car large enough to carry everything. So I bit the bullet and bought nice heavy Chinet plates, plastic knives, forks and spoons, and plastic cups for punch and soup. We will be renting large platters and roasters to serve from, and I’ve been assured that no one will even blink an eye at what they’re eating off–they’ll be too impressed with the food to even notice! The bill for all the paper and plastic products, table coverings, and a few spices and other little things was about $300. This is part of the food budget.

Other things to get for the reception (again, NOT a complete list!):
◾ Favors. I love crafts, and I picked up a kit from Michael’s to try sponge-painting a faux patina on a few little flower pots. They turned out great. Now I’d like to buy a bunch of little tiny flower pots, patina them, toss in a few Dove Promises and wrap each one up in tulle. Depending on how much we’re able to save on the food, we might go this route. I had originally planned to make little booklets up with the recipes we used for the reception dinner, and we could do that more inexpensively.
◾ Erlenmeyer flasks for the centerpieces. My parents gave me a bow-making kit for Christmas, and now I know I’m going to go nuts decorating those little flasks! Michael’s often has ribbon on sale, and I think I can get some inexpensive stuff to make into decorative bows for the head table as well as the centerpieces.
◾One-use cameras. I’ve heard a lot of people comment that they got some fun photos from these cameras, and we can get two-for-one from our tuxedo rental place.
The Food
In the next installment I’ll discuss the menu in depth. However, I’d like to begin talking about this great cooking adventure we’re about to embark upon. It’s my guess that this will be the area that we can save the most money while still providing a lot of great food for our guests.

When I’ve told people we’re doing our own reception cooking, I usually get one of two reactions: (1) “Are you out of your mind?” (2) “What a great idea, but are you out of your mind?” Most people think that cooking a meal for 250 people is far too big a job for a bride and groom to take on, and we agree: if we didn’t have a cadre of “worker bees” we could depend on to carry more than their weight in cooking and serving the food, there is no way we would try it. Both Doug and I love to cook, however, and we believe that, with our friends’ help, we can provide a feast for our guests that will be different from most standard wedding fare and that won’t break our bank account