Monday, June 13, 2011

I Hate That I Want a ‘Wedding’

How I went from “Let’s get married in an antique train car!” to “I wish I could afford this hotel ballroom.” in 11 neurotic steps.

Step 1. Immediately post-engagement, I know that I don’t want a traditional wedding. I’m not a traditional girl, I don’t want to limit my decorating choices to 2 matching colors, and I just don’t get chair covers. I used to have pink hair- I can’t have matching pink bridesmaid dresses! I’m joining Offbeat Bride!

Step 2. OMG I love all these crazy creative ideas I’m finding- especially for venues! People get married in caves! In bookstores! Underwater! They have 5 total guests and wear handmade leather bustiers and use tin can centerpieces and it all looks awesome! I’m so amped to plan my alterna-wedding!

Step 3. Max out on non-traditional ideas like getting married in the heart of a bird sanctionary, in a hot air balloon, an antique bike shop, a discovery museum, an abandoned roller skating rink, etc. Adjust food choices thematically from hot dogs to custom grilled cheese sandwiches to fancy foodie strolling dinners to cake on a stick.

Step 4. Notice lots of other brides start off with ‘cool’ ideas (a mountain top! A fishing boat! A grungy rock club!) and end up at catering halls. Wonder briefly why they ‘quit’ and continue to research airplane hangars and medical-oddity museums.

Step 5. Realize that I do want: to hold the reception on a Friday or Saturday night; to serve dinner (or at least a lot of food); to have said dinner be yummy and of a good quality; to have seating for elderly and, well, everyone; to have everyone in the same room; to have normal, plentiful bathroom facilities; to have a dance floor and lots of rump-shaking dance music; to spend no more than the national average; to invite a reasonable but not especially small number of family and friends; …basically, I want a lot of things found in ‘typical’ weddings, afterall. Hm.

Step 6. Chic little art galleries, local bars and cramped historical homes do not offer enough space for the whole guest list. Also, when reviewing said guest list, the mantra “I’m alternative and my wedding will reflect that, damn it!” fades a little when I try to picture our 80 year old grandmothers seated inside large industrial blinged-out shipping crates, or perched on teensy mod stools placed precariously above indoor lakes in riotously neon nightclubs. Or my north Jersey, Coors Lite-loving cousins settling in at the test kitchen of a renowned (by me, anyway) liquor store to sample cocktails with no fewer than 11 ingredients each. Most weddings are ‘typical’ because when you’re dealing with 125+ people of different backgrounds and tastes, the few things the majority of them all agree on are that they want decent food, plentiful (normal) drinks and good music (and a comfortable place to sit). Hence the prolificacy of catering halls.

Step 7. Begin to absorb just how much effort would need to go into a lot of these unconventional wedding locations.

{Here is an incomplete list of things I would need to find, pay for, and coordinate myself: tables, chairs, linens, cutlery, glasses, bar set up (mixers, mix-ins, fruit, garnishes, shakers, blenders, ice, places to keep ice, portable refrigerators etc), liquor, permits, insurance, bathroom facilities, clean up/trash collecting, security and staff, food, drink, cake, servers, people to place centerpieces, hang decorations, bring out the cake and coordinate dinner time… oh, and each of these things has its own fee, plus tax, plus often a 20% gratuity. So sure, the rooftop of a former piano factory turned loft apartment building is cheap on it’s own, but when combined with everything else, it becomes more expensive than the nice restaurant next door. And that hotel in New Jersey is a lot more feasible for our guests than the base of an Icelandic volcano. Also, the hotel and restaurant have in-house event planners included in the price who do all the worrying for you. Read that last part again “ …[person] who will do all the worrying for you.” A designated worrier. Where have you been my whole anxious, OCD life?}

Step 8. Realize that while I haven’t exactly been dreaming of my wedding my whole life like a David Tutera worshipping pouf princess, I have had a picture of it in my mind, and radically, it involves me wearing a white dress and walking down the aisle of my mother’s church. It also definitely included me being nervous about nothing but saying “I Do” in the right place. I did not dream I’d be worrying that the bathroom trailer got dropped off in the caterer’s spot or that the DJ booth won’t fit through the ancient front door or that the pigeons haven’t been completely roused from their winter roosts in the ceiling. 

Step 9. Wrestle with my opposing visions of getting married in an architecturally beautiful but probably impractical former Carousel House (without heat or A/C, kitchen facilities or bathrooms), and my vision of enjoying my wedding day without being my usual bundle of nerves multiplied by being my own defacto wedding coordinator. Decide that maybe if I want to have a cool, weird wedding that only I and a few friends will truly enjoy, I should just do that with them, and not try to squeeze 100 of our unwitting family members into a tugboat. But if I want 100 people to come out and have a good time with us, in this case, compromise is best. Finally beginning to see that many of those offbeat ‘quitters’ were probably just smart girls who wanted to make their guests happy, as well as avoid giving themselves an aneurysm.

Step 10. Remember that personality is all in the details. By choosing a venue that takes care of the large but tedious parts (tables, chairs, food, liquor etc) you can focus on the cool, fun stuff, in smaller and easier ways. In high school, wearing green velevt Doc Martens was not enough for me- I had to pair them with, say, outfits constructed entirely of vinyl. As an adult, I am pleased to say I have tempered my propensity for excess. (I’ve found that many other people are pleased to learn this about me, too.)

Step 11. Step 11 is yet to be completed but involves fully committing to my resolve to make a compromise between what I want and what’s best for everyone, and will culminate in choosing a middleground venue. Which in a way, I think, makes me even more offbeat, because I’m not falling into the MeMeMeMeMe/It’s MY day/Bridezilla mentality, which to me is like subtley or not-so-subtely telling everyone from guests to your fiance to SUCK IT. And choosing to be practical is also Offbeat- at least when you contrast it with insisting you enter the reception on wires descending from the ceiling, or arriving in a fake pumpkin carriage, or spending a year's salary on one day. In the age of bridezilla, being reasonable is revolutionary.

I want to add that I LOOOOVE so many of the offbeat ideas I see on Offbeat Bride, and in fact love a lot of the ideas I mentioned above, and give mad props to anyone who pulls them off. Unfortunately I’m realizing that many of them, location-wise, are just not feasible for us, both financially and for the sake of our guests- and my overthinking worrywart personality. Low stress trumps originality in this case. {A message from my mental health advisor.}


  1. This was a treat to read, as someone who's had a hard time ever imagining herself as a bride. Recently I have to admit the thought has crept into my brain--for a second or two, that is!--and I've wondered what it would look like if I did. As such, it's fascinating to read about this journal. Also, it makes me glad I'm not planning a wedding at this juncture, because I think I might experience brainsplosion if I had to juggle all these considerations! Good luck finding the right balance for you and the attendees. :)

  2. hi suzanne! love your blog! i am also planning for my 2012 (summer) wedding and this post certainly resonated with me :p

    soley based on internet research, i like the berkeley. i've left a message for their events while i wait could you fill me in on what their prices are like? it says you can byo outside caterer..does that mean anyone i want or someone from their list?

    thanks and happy blogging!

  3. I absolutely cannot tell you how much this post is exactly what's going on inside of my head.

  4. Thanks guys!

    Adeeba, you must choose from one of their approved caterers, who run from $75 (absolute lowest buffet) to about $95+ a head. The choices are Falco's, Merrimakers and Kitschen's Caterers, who own the Langosta Lounge nearby. Personally, I think their food is the best (I'm sick to death on uninspiried MerriMakers) but Falco's had the cheapest possible package. Then, you need to use the Berkeley's liquor package, whichis around $30 - $40 a head + 7% tax and 20% grautity. SO it adds up.

    You can use their tables and chairs, but your caterer must provide linens and chair covers, if you want them. (The chairs were cool but might not fit every color scheme.) The event coordinator STefani was really sweet to work with and i would've loved the opportunity but in the end it just wasn't for us- the price being part of it. But i hope it works out for you, it is a gorgeous place- AND PLEASE SHOW ME PICTURES!!!

  5. Hello Susanne,

    Congratulations on your engagement and selecting a venue! I loved reading through your blog because my fiance and I are looking at Asbury venues for our wedding. We love the Berkeley but think it might get too expensive.

    I wanted to ask what other information you may have on the Carousel House. I already contacted the site for their rental fee ($1,500 for 4 hours) and contacted restroom trailer rental companies for quotes ($1,500). Besides the obvious: open tent feeling, cement floors, no restooms, no kitchen, no running water, no heat, no AC... and the extra work: Hiring security, getting insurance, clean up and city fees, table & chair rental, lighting, etc. What did you learn that ultimately led you to check the site off your list? I was hoping that there would be an opportunity to save on the catering bill by price shopping and providing our own alcohol (beer, local NJ wines, and maybe a signature drink). Savings that could be passed on to hire a "Day of" wedding planner to make sure everything arrives.

    There's a reason when I google "Asbury Park Carousel House wedding", that there's no photos. I did see one charity event set in the space.

    I'm feeling that, "Don't give in. Don't settle for less." My mom has told us to just have photos in front of the Carousel.

    My fiance and I grew up in the area, Ocean Grove and Wall Township. We each remember riding on the carousel as children.

    Should I give up on a dream because it would be too difficult and stressful to organize?

    Thank you for your time!

  6. Hi- so sorry I;m responding so late! The costs for the Carousel House started adding up the more I looked into it. I hoped to save by providing our own alcohol, but they provide the bartenders and liquor. Also, they didn;t know if my date would be available- they contract with a performance company, and didn't have a schedule yet. I figured there were only a few weeks you'd want to use it without having to worry too much about the weather- too cold OR too hot, and they couldn't guarantee me a date in time. Also, since they don't usually do those types of events, I was nervous about having to do a lot of the work myself and hiring a planner. They didn't seem very eager to work with me, probably because this isn't what they normally do there.

    In the next couple months I am going to post about my original plan and I will share more then! Good luck with your plans and please report back on your venue!

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  9. I'm so glad to have come across this.  I've also been struggling with the "I'm born and raised here, too funky and  cool for a banquet hall" bride syndrome.  I've received the same info regarding the carousel.  They also mentioned that it floods out when it rains.  A friend of mine said someone she knows had a function scheduled there last year which was cancelled the day before.  But even with knowing all of that, I still can't stop thinking,"but it'd be so cool and beautiful!". I've been photographing that carousel forever.  If I had it my way, I'd get married in the casino, in September, with an abandoned fall breeze whipping down the boardwalk, when all the boys of summer have gone.  See, totally delusional!  
    To top it off, I know better.  You see, my daughter just got married 10 days ago, at the church across the street.  We like to refer to it as the most Pinteresting wedding ever.  Reception in the yard, 2 tents, rented chairs, tables, dishes, linens, celebrity portajohn with running water etc..., servers, ball jars, milk glass, lights, lobster bake, infused vodka, home made pies, chalk paint frames, ice cram man, taxi service, impromptu jam sessions, wedding planner for the day (that left before we got back from getting our hair done.)  You get it.  The perfect balance of cool but not not carnival.  The bash now referred to as "the best wedding ever" will go down in history.  I can't wait to see the photos so I can see wait a good time everyone had!  
    Don't get me wrong, it was everything she wanted and more.  Every time I looked at her, she was beaming!  I wouldn't change a thing (except the wedding planner who brought her husband to help her set the tables,and thats seriously all she did, so she could get out of there so they could go to a concert that night(no, really, I'm fine about it). So, and I'm sorry to ramble, I just need someone to talk me out of this.  Why would I want to do another DIY wedding when all my fiancé wants is for me to relax and enjoy it this time?
    Not sure if it's because I feel the need to tweak the couple little things I would redo from the last one? 
    Perhaps my ADD needs a new project?
    Thinking maybe I'm just really not comfortable in center of attention ball room setting?
    I think when it comes down to it, I just really had a blast planning and preparing for my daughters wedding.  That was my favorite part of it!  I think I'm scared to turn it over to someone else because the only 3 things that went "wrong" at my daughters wedding were the things I let someone else handle.  The wedding planner, having my hair done and make up done. Let's just say, never again with the make up.
    With that said,  I'm starting to come to the realization that I'm pretty controlling for such a laid back chick.  I'm also starting to come to the realization the the carousel, as awesome as I could be, it could also be disastrous.  But then again disastrous with the right people could be awesome as well, right??  We could always just head to the Wonder Bar...which I'm also considering.  How much fun would that be?!  At least they have bathrooms and a kitchen. Oh great, I think I just talked myself back into it.  I clearly need help considering not only the happiness of my guests, but my own mental health!