Posts in the 'Planning' Category

Signs of the All-Dreaded “Bride Brain” & What You Can Do To Squash It

Heeeyyyoooo!!! Now that the insanity of the holidays are safely in the rear-view mirror, you’re rockin’ that sparkler and all you newbie Broke-Ass Brides are starting to look ahead to your big day, I think it’s important to sit you down and talk about that horrible monster that is sure to rear its ugly head at some point during your planning process …

BRIDE BRAIN. *cue suspenseful music*

But Christen!, you’re saying, I’m totes rational and there’s no way, ever, EVAR that I’ll succumb to Bride Brain. I got my shizz together and I GOT THIS.

Darling, it’s OK. Bride Brain is nothing to be ashamed of … unless you let it get the best of you. And please, for the sake of your friends, family and your hubz-to-be, don’t let it do that. Otherwise you’ll have a lot of grovelling to do.

How do you know you’re getting conquered by Bride Brain? Well …

– Instead of wearing rose-colored glasses, you’ve started rocking Wedding Color-Scheme Glasses. Everything you see is suddenly twisted into wedding context. Would that rad vintage beer sign work with your Champagne fountain? Is that Creature from the Black Lagoon statue work with your centerpieces?

– You can’t have a conversation without bringing up your wedding … even with the customer service rep from your bank or the gas station attendant.

– You find yourself more stressed over whether you have enough baby’s breath for your bouquet than the fact that your car’s radiator is about to fall out.

– Your last 20 Facebook/Twitter posts are wedding related.

– You live on Pinterest and have pinned 7x more on your wedding board than any other of your boards.

– You now picture your wedding in terms of how good it’ll look on a blog.

– You’re having wedding nightmares … every night. Getting strangled by your veil, your MIL turns into Ursula from “The Little Mermaid,” your groom shows up naked (though that may not be so bad).

Fear not, you rockin’ BABs! This too can be fixed.

First, step away from your computer. That’s right, take that finger off the mouse and and power that bad boy down. WAIT!!! Not YET … finish reading this, first.

Talk to your fella about setting up at least one night per week that has absolutely, positively nothing to do with your impending nuptials. Go catch a ball game! Hit up the mini-golf course. Have some fun and blow off some steam.

Plan a mock-wedding full of the ugliest shizz you would never imagine having at your big day. Poufy sleeves, baby-puke-colored bridesmaid dresses. All the hideousness to your heart’s content. Make a Pinterest board for it, sketch it, whatevs. Just make something that is so far from what you want that you can’t help but bust a gut laughing (or gagging).

Tackle one big thing at a time. For serious. You don’t play in the NFL, so don’t think you’re capable of taking down more than one linebacker at a time. Make a list of your priorities (Venue, photography, cake, bar, dress … etc) and number them. Then devote a week to the first one, the next week to the second, etc. Limit the list to your top five or ten, and don’t start working on the small deets until each one of these big ones is donezo. Once all the big pieces are in place, the little stuff will either come easy or no longer matter.

Fine yourself every time you mention your wedding plans during an arbitrary convo. Kind of like a swear jar, throw a quarter into a vessel every time you bring up your special day during an irrelevant chat. Gas Station Gus will thank you.

Finally … KEEP CHAMPAGNE IN YOUR FRIDGE. I can’t stress this one enough. It doesn’t need to be a baller-ass bottle of Dom. But make sure you have it on hand for stressy wedding moments. There’s something about those tiny bubbles that will put you in a happy fog and remember the celebratory aspect of this whole deal. Don’t drink? Keep whatever special, treat-yo-self kind of bev you lurve on hand.

With this, I set you free to tackle the wedding road ahead of you. Please, make sure to keep your brain straight and don’t hesitate to freak out in the comments if you need to. We’ll love you regardless.

Now off with you! Go get some other stuff done and don’t even think about picking up that guest list. Go on, BABs, and be the amazeballz chickadees you are!

Welcome, all you newbies! And if you found us through The Listserve, an uber-awesome high-five for you! Woot!



{Real Bride: Carrie} The Whole Cheesy Story, Part 2

Finally, the end of the “how we met” saga! If you missed Part 1, just click here! (Editor’s note: And check out Carrie’s hippie-tastic backpacker proposal story here! It is seriously one of my favorite proposal stories EVER.)

When we last left off in my long, drawn out love story, Zach and I had finally said the big “L word”, and the next day I got on a plane to start my two years of Peace Corps service.  I went off to Tanzania to learn Swahili, live in a village, and do my best to contribute something, and he stayed in Ohio, working on his degree.  We left our relationship undefined and I had no idea what would happen.  I honestly expected him to forget about me and find a new girl who wasn’t an ocean away.  But he didn’t.  And the trouble was, I couldn’t forget about him either.  I did my best to adopt a “whatever happens, happens” attitude to the situation and focus on the present.  But I couldn’t stop dreaming about the future, imagining us ending up together.  Every time I got an email or a letter or a super-expensive phone call from Zach I would smile all day.  I had never wanted to be in a long-distance relationship while in the Peace Corps, as I imagined missing someone would make it even harder than it already was to be so far from home.  Well, even though our relationship was unofficial, missing him was still incredibly hard.

So, when my bestie got engaged and told me I had to come back to be MOH in her wedding, I was unbelievably psyched!  Not only would I get to be in her wedding and eat American food I’d been missing, I’d get to see Zach!  So I booked a round trip flight home.  I’d been away for nine months and despite the ups and downs of Peace Corps life, I had every intention of sticking it out and returning for 17 more months.  In the weeks leading up to my return, I couldn’t concentrate on anything besides counting the days and wondering if Zach and I would still have the same chemistry.

Boy did we.  The sparks flew so intensely during that whirlwind two weeks.   The morning after the wedding, I suddenly found myself sitting in a Tim Hortons, hours before my return flight, sobbing that I didn’t want to go back.  Thus began the most difficult decision I have ever had to make.  I was an emotional wreck, and Zach was amazing.  He never once asked me to stay.  He told me that all he wanted was for me to be happy.  After a few gut-wrenching hours, crying conversations with my family and best friend (yes, I called her the day after her wedding, I’m horrible), and general stress over the prospect of ruining my whole life plan, I realized that I just couldn’t leave again.

I swallowed my pride and I quit the Peace Corps for a guy.  Honestly, there were other reasons why I wasn’t super happy in Tanzania, but Zach was definitely the biggest one.  If I hadn’t met him, or if I had never come home for the wedding, I’m sure I would have stuck it out for the whole two years.  Like I said, this was the hardest decision I ever made.  Life was all of a sudden full of uncertainty, and I was plagued with guilt and feelings of failure for quitting.  To this day, I still feel badly for leaving.  I never, ever envisioned myself becoming the kind of person who would give up her life plan for a romance.  But, Zach was the first guy I was ever with who I was willing to do that for, and maybe that’s how I knew it was right.  Looking back, I don’t regret any of my Peace Corps service, and I don’t regret my decision to quit either.

Anyway, all of a sudden I had the man of my dreams, no job, no plan, and a scarily insecure feeling about the future.  “What should we do now?” I asked Zach.  “Let’s drive to California.” he said.  So we did.  And the rest is (recent) history.

Did anyone else make an impulsive/irresponsible-seeming/risky/life-changing decision for love?  How did it work out?

A Little Tough Wedding Love

Courtesy of Third Eye Open

Sometimes, you just have to do it. To make it to the end of the aisle without losing your mind, sometimes you have to be firm with other people. And sometimes you have to be firm with yourself.

Start at the beginning: Your budget. If you have a budget,and you know you have to stick to it, Stick to it. Stop looking at the Vera Wang gowns and the letterpress invitations. You will only make yourself feel bad about what you know you can’t have, instead of embracing what you’re able to do. Once you get through most of your expenses, you should definitely upgrade where you want – after you’ve met your goal. You did it, you Rockstar, you!

The same goes for your guest list. If you can’t afford to feed 150 people, then you can’t do it. If you haven’t seen or heard from them in a year, they have to be cut off the list. What will the cost their meal cover? Maybe the upgrade to the letterpress invitations? And that’s one less person you have to worry about RSVP’ing.

And that goes for extra people your family wants to invite. If you can’t afford it, or the room won’t hold them, take a stand. If they offer to pay for the extra guests or to get a larger room, that’s one thing. Otherwise: NO. Practice saying this: “I’m really sorry, but we can’t do it.” Full stop.

When your mother or mother in-law insists that you must have something that is completely contrary to your taste or style, say no. You don’t have to mean and tell her that you don’t like whatever it is, just tell her that you’ve chosen another alternative that you’re really happy with. Say it effusively. And then move on. Like, literally? Away.

Your bridal party is grown, and they should  get their dresses and tuxes when they need to,  and show up to the rehearsal like they said they are going to. Your guests are grown, and should show up your wedding on time. If they don’t, it’s on them. There is a difference between accommodating and coddling, and you might as well learn it now. Here’s a hint: if you’re about to change your plans or deadlines for the second time because of someone else’s schedule? CODDLIING.

No one likes to say “No.” It’s true.  You’re afraid that you’re going to hurt their feelings (even though they had no problem hurting ours), and cause untold conflict. So you avoid, you stew, you capitulate, and then you resent having backed down. So, don’t back down. And you never have to be a bitch, you just have to be clear and firm about having the wedding you want. You’ll feel a lot better, trust me.

So, when was the last time you had to show some tough wedding love? Or are you in the middle of a situation where it’s required, but you don’t know how to pull it off? Let me know in the comments!


See you at the end of the aisle,





Day-Of Planning Tips: Surviving the Wedding Day Photo Shoot

No matter how you break down your wedding day schedge, there’s almost definitely going to be some time that is solely dedicated to photography. For some camera-shy people, this is a nightmare, but a necessity if you want to have a Christmas present for Grandmammy this year.  For other people, posing for photos is a fun side adventure on the wedding day where you can circuit through nifty locations and explore unique photo setups.  For complete lunatics, like your humble blogger here, posing for photos is a fun way to spend a random Saturday afternoon.  My insane hobby of amateur modeling gave me a huge advantage in organizing and executing the photo shoot portion of my wedding day, and now I pass that wisdom on to you.

Logistics, logistics, logistics

The first thing you need to figure out is your timetable.  How much time do you have to devote to posed photographs, and at what point in the wedding schedule will you be taking these pictures?  Talk to your photographer about how many shots she thinks she can get within this time.  Once you’ve worked out time, you need to work out your shot list.  Again, talk to your photographer about her usual shot list, and sit down with your partner and make a list of every iteration of family and bridal party you want together in photographs.  Is the number of must-have shots you have way over the figure your photographer gave you regarding your timetable? If so, begin the brutal cutting process (no, you don’t need solo picture with every single member of your wedding party, especially if there are eleven of them).  Or are you lucky and have oodles of extra time?  Well you, my friend, can start to think about LOCATION.

If you are going on a photo tour…

Brides who hate the idea of a wedding day photo shoot, brides who don’t have a lot of time with their photographers, and brides who like keeping things simple can all ignore this section and move on to the next.  For the lunatics who remain, who are planning on being photographed in multiple locations on their wedding day, I have one suggestion I URGE you to follow: Do a dry run of the whole location circuit.  On the same day of the week that your wedding is, at the same time of day.  Get a feel for the traffic.  Actually driving from place to place will give you a much more realistic idea of how many places you can go in your timeframe than the Internet will.  Figure out where everyone will park.  Assess the crowds.  Will you spend a lot of time waiting for the background to clear before the shutter can click? Are you going to be one of five bridal parties vying for time in front of [insert photogenic landmark here]?

Here’s another pro tip: pay attention to the sunlight.  This is where doing your dry run at the same time of day you will on your wedding day becomes important.  The weather was fantastic on my wedding day, and I’m not complaining, but boy was the sunlight intensely in our eyes when we went to the Mount Washington overlook.  It was basically impossible not to squint, and when our photographer suggested we close our eyes until the moment he took the picture, the results were even more terrifying.

Enlist a whip

Ok, so you’ve worked out a realistic, doable schedule of shots and locations.  Now you need someone to keep you on that schedule.  Depending on your photographer’s personality, it could be him.  But some shooters get lost in their art and forget that you have, you know, your own freakin’ wedding ceremony to get to soon.  You need someone to make sure that things keep moving.  If you have a wedding planner or a day of coordinator, they’re an ideal candidate for the job.  If you don’t, get someone in the bridal party to be the task master.  Just don’t leave it up to yourself to keep things going smoothly.  It’s too much stress to take on, and few bridal ensembles include a watch.

Even with a whip to keep things moving, you should be prepared to cut locations or shots if things run long for reasons outside of your control.  Which means you need to take care of the most essential shots first!

Keep it light

Ok, so you know the ridiculously ubiquitous wedding shot of the bridal party mid-jump?  I have some strong love-hate feelings about the jump shot.  But something that must be said in its favor is that it gets people laughing and loosened up.  This makes them look better in photos, and it also makes the photo shoot portion less of a drag than it would otherwise be for your less hammy bridal partiers.  You don’t have to accomplish this by making everyone jump for a photograph, but try to break up the monotony of “Mom you stand with the Groom. Ok now Groom and Dad. Ok now Groom and Mom and Dad.” ad nauseum with some goofy and irreverent photos or even just with JOKES in between the posed pictures.  It’s your wedding day, have some fun!

[Photos by Lou Stein]


Do you have any tips for how to make a wedding day photo shoot go smoothly?


Ask Liz: Doing it Your Way

Reception venue of your dreams?

Hey, Liz! Crazy question.

My fiance and I have decided to get married next month and hold off on having a big traditional ceremony and reception until next year. We’re not doing it because of illness or he’s in the military or anything, we just really want to.

My question is, what is the wedding etiquette for that? Can I still have all the showers and gifts? Is it ok to still go through all the regular motions? Also, I have found there is almost NO info for people like us, of course all our friends have said it’s our wedding and we can do whatever we want, but any advice would be so appreciated!


Twice Celebrated

P.S. I’m changing my name after we get married – should we use his last name on the invitations, or just use our first names?


Dear Twice,

Yeah, you’re right, there isn’t too much out there, but I love breaking new ground, so let’s do this.  The funny thing, it happens all the time – couples get married legally, and then throw a reception later, or even vice versa, for whatever reason. And they also have all the fixings – the shower, the gifts, all of that, because you’re STILL celebrating your marriage, whether it’s tomorrow or in 2015.  Your friends are right, you should do what you want. Don’t feel guilty, just enjoy it.

But as far as the pre-wedding festivities go, you probably shouldn’t take the lead on those. Once you announce your reception date, let your friends and family take over plans for the a shower or bachelorette party, if they’re willing and able. Odds are they will be, but don’t push it.

And totally use your last name on your invites if you want: “Twice and Hubby Smith cordially invite you to a celebration of their marriage…” Something like that. But first names work, too.

Dear Liz,

Both pictures courtesy of Sun Dance Photography

We knew where we wanted to have our reception, but I want a church wedding, and it took a little longer to find that! As it is, it’s a little farther than I would like. It’s  a half an hour, indirect route to get to dinner. But I love both places – should I go for it?


Lost Expectations


Dear Lost,

It is a truth universally recognized in Wedding World that there are two things (in your case, three) that you can never change a bride’s mind about: The Dress and the Wedding and Reception Sites. You’re in love, obviously, so yes, go for it. There are a couple of things you can do to help your guests get from point A to point B. Tip them off on your wedding website that it’s a convoluted trip, and give them directions, plus phone numbers for the church and reception venues. Print them out and leave them at the hotel on the day of the wedding, too. The hotel should be happy to slip them under your guests’ doors, too. You can also look into renting a guest shuttle from the hotel to the church to the reception, so they don’t have to worry about getting from one place to another.

Your guests don’t necessarily have to be hand-held, but you should tell them what to expect. Tell them a couple of times, just to play it safe. :-)

So, what do you think, peeps? Did you get married before or after your wedding, and how did you work it? And how far is your wedding from your reception, and how did you work that? Share!

See you at the end of the aisle,





Minding The Gap: When Your Ceremony is WAY Before Your Reception

Five Hours To Go Before Your Reception? Huh. Now What?

So this couple I’m marrying in October (yes, I perform weddings too)  is holding their ceremony at a park near their house, a nice hour long ceremony that’s going to end about…4 hours before their reception can start. What can they do to help their guests fill up the time, they asked me?

Ah, one gig, two hats. Gotta love it.

Since they only have about 50 guests, the first thing they could do is take group shots at the ceremony site with everyone. One big picture of them and all their guests.  Maybe even some small friend/family group shots too. This would work with larger numbers too. Guests love being included in the wedding details like this, they really do.

You're welcome!

Definitely provide a list of local places they can hang out, a mall, or a nearby shopping district. Or, as wedding favors, give them Starbucks cards with each wedding program (with directions to the closest one), or a gift card for a local bookstore or cafe?  We’re not talking about a lot of money, just enough for a coffee and muffin, or enough for a magazine. You an even pull in your wedding date, if it works,  and give cards in the amount of $6.09, $10.22, $4.18, etc. If you’re lucky, it  might be less than any other favors would cost per person!  And people love food favors -they’re the only kind I don’t have to pick up and throw away at the end of the night.

What other suggestions would you add? Or if you had this challenge, too, what did you do to help your guests kill the time? Share below in the comments.


See you at the end of the aisle,





The Wedding Stress Mantra

No, not her. But isn't that bouquet gorgeous? (courtesy of Studio EMP)

True story: It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. My first stop is my bride’s house…where everything is in a complete panic. Bridesmaids and family members are missing,  so hair and makeup is going to finish late. My girl is  still in curlers, and I’m following her around the house as she finds her place cards, her table numbers, etc. so I can take them to the reception site. I’m the only one who’s not freaking out, because I know that it’s all going to be fine. She will find her cake cutter and her Maid of Honor will show up and we will get to the church on time. Everything is all set and just waiting for her to arrive.  But what concerned me the most is when she says to me, “This is not what I thought my wedding day would be like. This isn’t what I wanted, or how I wanted to feel at all.”

Well, yeah.

Look, you’re going to get stressed out. There is going to come a point, and probably not just on your wedding day, when you’re not sure if you can make it, you’re not sure that you can handle it, it isn’t going how you’d planned, and there you are, in curlers, hyperventilating because 150 pairs of eyes are going to be staring at you in a few weeks/days/minutes. And you just. Can’t. DEAL.

But here’s the thing. You HAVE been dealing. This whole time. You got through finding your venue, got through cutting the guest list, found bridesmaid dresses, took two weekends to assemble your invitations, and you’re still sane. Why would you think that would change? And the day is here. So, I’m going to tell you the same thing that I told her:

“I know that things are going a little nuts right now, but in a few hours, you’re going to be married. In a few hour after that, you’ll be eating a really great meal that you picked out, and dancing and laughing with your friends, and having a fantastic time. This is going to be a really cool day. Watch for it.”

Feel free to repeat that in your head, as many times as you need to. And, seriously, look for it. Look for yourself having a really good time. Enjoy the fact that all the people that you dig are in one room, and that doesn’t happen very often. You worked really hard for this. And you made it. Enjoy.

And at the end of the night, after I spent some time grinning at the sight of her on the dance floor, usually with a cocktail in her hand, she slid over and hugged me.  “You were right,” she said. “This was amazing!”

I know I’m right. This is why they pay me the big bucks. :-)

So, what happened to make you reach your stress limit? And when was the moment that you realized that it was all going to turn out okay? Because it is, you know. Share below.

See you at the end of the aisle,




{Sponsored} Traveler’s Joy – Register…for a honeymoon!

Traveler's Joy Honeymoon Registry
Let’s face it – you don’t really want another set of monogrammed napkin rings, what you really want is an amazing honeymoon vacay, and now you can forgo the traditional bridal registry (or supplement the one you have) with a Honeymoon Registry from Traveler’s Joy! Whether your only prerequisite for maximum relaxation is a beach or mountain getaway, or you have a very specific destination in mind (Thailand, anyone?!), Traveler’s Joy allows your wedding guests to treat you to a bottle of champagne, a night’s stay at a B&B, a lavish evening on the town, or even a new digital camera!

{Up for Grabs} Giveaway Round-up!

It’s time to announce our very first giveaways of the new year! A special note to those recently engaged brides who may be joining us for the first time  – EVERY WEEK we woo you with the salacious promise of kick-ass content, gorgeous real wedding coverage, and awesome FREE swag!   As a new bride-to-be, we know you’ve got a ton on your mind.  You’re probably anxious to iron out every detail of your glamorous (yet budget-friendly) wedding, but FIRST – have you perused any of the titles on our suggested reading list?

You’ve probably already made the giddy phone calls to all your bff’s asking them to be your B-maids. They were ecstatic for you, no? But as you float high above the earth on your comfy cloud of bridal bliss, don’t forget that signing up to be a bridesmaid is a major obligation. Any gal who’s ever carried a small bouquet knows what I’m talking about. You love your bff to death, but being a bridesmaid has its own set of woes, not to mention its own price tag!

Bridesmaid on a Budget by Sharon Naylor

Whether you’re a bride-to-be, or a bridesmaid-to-be, you’ll definitely be able to put Sharon Naylor’s Bridesmaid on a Budget to good use! And now THREE LUCKY READERS can snag a FREE copy, just for being a stand-out recruit of the Broke Ass Bride Brigade!

Where do you enlist, you ask? Well, if  you get our newsletter in your inbox every week, you’re already a recruit! If you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter… click here to sign up!

And now, a special shout out to all our DIY brides! Looking for loads of crafty new wedding projects to beautify your ceremony with? Well look no further, because we have one copy of The Paper Bride by Esther K. Smith to give away to one lucky reader!

This adorable tome is packed with all manner of gorgeous paper projects! Not super crafty? Never fear! Most of these instructional how-tos only require paper, scissors, and tape.

To enter, just leave a comment on this or any post on the blog this week, and BAM. You’re ready to get yer craft on!

And of course, we have to take a minute to salute our previous winners…

Shannon M. snagged our Greenvelope wedding invite package!

Emily M. won our trio of Beach Body workout DVDs!

Chanelle R.  was the lucky gal that scored the Literati E-reader!

And Ellen B. scored not one but two great gifts from Clarisonic – one for her amazing Aunt Mary (who we hear gives amazing hugs) and one for herself!

Congratulations to all of our lovely Broke-Ass winners!!!