• A quick hi from the road

    Why hello there!

    Things have been a little nuts over the past few days. We’re in Kuala Lumpur and will be until at least tomorrow.

    Consider this a wee check-in to assure we’re alive, that we haven’t killed each other yet, and that a meatier post will be forthcoming.

    Gosh, time flies. At this rate, six months will be over in a flash. As T just pointed out, we’ve been married a week today. Speaking of which, I’m finally able to share a couple of photos. Here you go.


  • Bullshit-free bride: Post wedding thoughts

    post wedding reflections - nzmuse bullshit free bride

    I want to talk honestly about the journey to this point. Specifically, I want to talk about expectations, disappointment, reality.

    The whole dialogue around engagements, weddings, and marriage is imbued with notions of magic and happiness. Life, however, is far more complex and sometimes uglier. As humans, our dreams often don’t quite match up. Relationships are messy. When money and other people and popular culture and expectations become involved, there are bound to be moments far less than ecstatic. And that’s normal.

    The ring

    For one, I didn’t love my engagement ring. I didn’t even particularly LIKE it at first. It’s a family ring that has untold emotional value, very old-fashioned, and for a long time it looked as if I wouldn’t even be able to wear it, as we couldn’t find anyone who could resize it to the extent I needed. As I was about to give up, though, I found a boutique jeweller who took on the task with aplomb, and started wearing it.

    You know what? It grew on me. It’s gold, and old, but has a lovely silver filigree, and the three-stone bridge is super cool and has an awesome side profile. I love that it’s unique, and that it has so much history and meaning.

    The people

    You might remember how I agonised over whether to have a bridal party at all, and if so, who should be in it.

    I’m glad I did ask my girlfriends to be part of it (even if only one ended up being able to come), and I’m glad I also asked two of my guy friends to be bridesmen. Friday was girls’ night (my first mani/pedi ever) and Saturday boys’ night (food, food, and more food), and instead of doing my own makeup I was powdered, lined, and curled by friends in the morning. It was a ton more than I would have worn on my own, but it looked good in pictures, I think…!

    It wasn’t completely smooth sailing, but I have no regrets.

    Sweating the small stuff

    Despite being very certain about the kinds of things I did and didn’t want at this wedding, as the day got closer, every little thing started to weigh on my mind. Would I be judged for having cheap table covers/no centrepieces/no fancy vehicle/a kickass shabby-chic rustic reception nook that is about as far from a typical pristine wedding venue as possible? OH, THE DOUBTS.

    Do you want to know what nearly broke the camel’s back? Flowers. Yes, fucking flowers. Everyone was on my case about flowers; apparently not having flowers is un-wedding like and absolutely unthinkable. I do not like hewing to tradition for tradition’s sake, but it got to the point that I asked a coworker – who edits a bridal magazine – for ideas. She had some great ideas for alternatives, but assured me I didn’t have to carry anything if I didn’t want to.

    In the end, I did the flower thing, though ended up ditching my bouquet over a bridge toward the end of our couples photos. Speaking of which, I’m hoping there were a handful of good ones. This face was not made to smile. I reserve the right to exercise bitchface for the rest of the month to make up for it.


    Our proposal story isn’t anything incredible. There is no grand gesture here – no tale of an elaborate operation designed to broadcast a proposal upon descent from a skydive. Just us, doing something we love (travelling for a music festival), in the privacy of the bathroom of a Wellington B&B. It’s a story we are both more than happy with, but there was definitely a slight twinge flavoured with a hint of envy whenever I heard about other people’s epic proposals, despite knowing how embarrassed I would be in such a situation.

    And despite being one of the first couples we know to get engaged, we were beaten to the altar by a few others. I wanted a long engagement, but yeah, I felt a little usurped at times. On one hand, I was glad to NOT be the first to actually tie the knot. On the other, I worried that those other weddings set a standard that we wouldn’t measure up to.

    Cold feet

    The most heart-stopping part of all came less than two months before the big day.

    There’s nothing harder than hearing someone you love voice soul-shattering doubts about the way forward. It cuts to the bone.

    It’s doubly hard when that person has always been the one who loved more, the one who pursued you, the one who pushed for marriage, the one who patiently waited for you to catch up. When, after several years, you’ve finally reached the stage where you feel ready to take the leap, to hear that person retreating. To watch the tissues pile up in the middle of the bed, to put aside your own feelings, to try to determine whether that fear is simply cold feet or stemming from a much deeper problem that you didn’t realise existed. To envision a million alternate paths for your life in the silent spaces between words.

    No matter how busy you are and how happy you think you might be, pre-marital counselling is probably a damn good idea.

    With all that said …

    I don’t know about everyone else, but I had a cracking time overall on Sunday.

    I mean, I did not have high hopes to start with. Saturday dawned bright and clear, then dissolved into some serious rainstorms by mid-morning, with forecasts for more of the same until Monday. Things looked amazing on Sunday morning – I was overheating on the way to the venue – but by the time we arrived, a sullen grey drizzle set in. Yet, unbelievably, it more or less cleared by the time we started, stayed sunny throughout photos, and didn’t return to hardcore rain until later on (it hailed at one point after we left).

    Nothing went too badly wrong: everyone managed to find the place; I got to see a few people I hadn’t seen in months; friends mended a rift in the course of the afternoon; nobody got out of control; I didn’t cry or suffer dire hayfever symptoms; I only caught my feet in my dress a handful of times (another one of those things I gave in on – having a little bit of a tail on it).

    It was by no means perfect, but I didn’t expect it to be. As everyone told me: “Enjoy it while you can – it goes so fast.”

    Most of all, I’ve been so surprised – and so touched – by the support and generosity of others. I’m so grateful to everyone I know, from those who helped pull things together to those who sent messages from afar and yes, even you, internet friends, who liked my Instagram pics/favourited my tweets/sent good wishes.

    There might even be a tear in my eye as I write this. What a sap.


  • Bullshit-free bride: Thinking out loud

    bullshit free bride nzmuseWhen I was younger, I couldn’t imagine ever getting married. I was adamant I was going to be a spinster all my life – a word that didn’t yet have the connotations to me that it does now –  because I couldn’t imagine wanting to spend my life with one person, or (the horror!) kissing somebody in front of my parents.

    You know what? I still can’t, but I guess a wedding is a good enough excuse.

    My parents first officially met T when they took me out to dinner shortly after graduation. We’d been together over four years, and I was petrified. So was he. But it went as well as either of us could have expected.

    (How do you get to be 21, and in a serious long term relationship, and not meet your girlfriend’s parents until then? Here’s one word: Asian. T is everything they’re not. He’s from a different world entirely in pretty much every aspect. Then again, I’m not quite the daughter they hoped for, although I think they’re happy enough with how I turned out. But despite all that, their opinion DOES matter to me, and I wanted them to like him. I was hoping that we could at least all get along, if nothing else.)

    I suppose I’m lucky in that I’m with someone who’s not afraid of commitment. In fact, he wanted marriage sooner rather than later. I always found it frustrating that everything written about relationships on the internet features a woman who wants to get married and a reluctant male. Where were the women who weren’t so sure, with partners ready to commit? I had nobody to relate to.

    As a chronically indecisive person, an over-thinker, a second-guesser, I’ve asked myself many times about this. We’re still really young. How do I know this is the right time? The right move? What if, what if, what if?

    Nothing is guaranteed in life (except death and taxes, yadda yadda). The degree of risk may vary, but ultimately, everything is a gamble. In taking this leap, I don’t know what the future holds for either of us. I think that I am as certain as I could possibly be.

    When doubts start clouding over my sky, I remember one crucial point: I could never – no matter how hard I tried – picture a long-term future down the track in my last relationship. This time, I can.

  • Bullshit-free bride: Budget breakdown

    bullshit free bride nzmuse

    I’m not going to have a final total for a few more days (heck, probably not until the day itself), but now is probably as good a time as any to check in.

    Here’s what has been spent/is projected to be spent. As a refresher, this is for a casual 40-person BYO bash.

    • Dress – $300 (made by T’s mother)
    • Shoes – $30 (which I will probably get tomorrow)
    • Makeup – $0 (used a gift card to buy new eyeliner + lippy)
    • Flower girls’ dresses – $175 (this actually includes a few table covers, which were bought in the same transaction)
    • Suits for groom and his entourage – $725
    • Rings – $365 (though I didn’t actually end up liking mine, so will be just using my engagement ring)
    • Marriage licence – $123
    • Celebrant – $300
    • Venue -$322
    • Flowers – $135 (I’ve given in and ordered some bouquets online, so I have the option on the day. I think this is one of those battles where principle < hassle)
    • Photography – $1000
    • Catering (Malaysian food) – $775
    • Catering (Euro side, homemade) – estimating about $300
    • Cake (3x cheesecakes – sadly the Cheesecake Shop does not do giant cheesecakes) – $100
    • Miscellany such as napkins, disposable plates, cups, juice, etc – $100? Not sure… T’s mother is, thankfully, overseeing operations for us
    • Hotel – $185

    So with any luck, we’ll squeak in at just under $5000.

    Budget aside, I’m starting to freak out. While I really love all the choices made so far (except, maybe, the table covers we got, which are a bit rubbery and weird feeling – I wonder if I can find some nicer fabric coverings for cheap?) I’m starting to worry that I’m going to get judged for them.

    I didn’t want a tall, elaborate cake – I wanted the kind of cake that I would fight you to the death over for the last piece.

    I wanted to feel like myself on the day, so I’m literally doing my own makeup and not doing anything special with my hair.

    I wanted a mix of cuisines, from my favourite dishes from my birth country to T’s mother’s potato salad, even if the end result may be a little wacky and incoherent.

    I wanted a venue with character in spades, and I love the raw, grungy former wine cellar that’ll house our reception lunch (it even has GATES!) though I know most people probably won’t get it and may well think it’s less grotto, more grotty.

    If I really dig into all this, I think what it comes down to is the fact that this event is ALL ME. I’ve picked out things I like and eliminated things I don’t. In many ways, it’s going to be a a bit of an anti-wedding (a lazy girl wedding?) and I’m just not sure everyone is going to appreciate that. And if they don’t, well, then they’re basically passing judgement on me by default.

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  • Guest post: Bullshit free ways to save money on your wedding

    Easy ways to save money on your wedding

    Seeing as I’m currently in that last stretch before the wedding and struggling to hold onto the “no bullshit” mantra, today’s guest post is a timely breath of fresh air. I especially love the bit about sticking the finger to the Pinterest curse (if like me, you couldn’t care less about the ‘pinnable factor’, you might find it hard to survive the pervasive WIC out there). Take it away, Steff Green, Auckland-based writer, blogger and alternative wedding celebrant. She writes about wedding planning on the WeddingWise blog – part of the WeddingWise directory where couples can find, review and rate their wedding vendors.

    Having been through the wedding planning process myself, and then on the other side as a wedding celebrant for others, I wanted to add some of my own tips for bullshit-free wedding planning.

    I believe the modern wedding has gone totally out of control. The average cost of a New Zealand wedding is about $30,000 – and that would make a sizeable deposit on a first home. And what are we spending that whopping sum on exactly? Chair runners and centrepieces and wedding favours and designer stationery and an “it” band for the reception-

    And yes, these things are all gorgeous and will make our wedding look like a spread from a bridal magazine – but when was that more important than starting our life with our new husband/wife in a financially secure and abundant place?

    For me – and the couples I’ve officiated for – the solution has been to abandon any pretext of creating a “pinnable” wedding – that is, a wedding that looks like an editorial shoot that would be pinned 1000 times on Pinterest. My own wedding in 2008 was at Spookers at Kingseat hospital, we had swords and heavy metal music and a Lego cake topper, and it came in well under the expected “average” cost of a 100 person wedding.

    How do you adopt this attitude? Well, you start by abandoning the wedding magazines and Pinterest “wedding porn”.

    Focus on what’s important

    When we started planning our wedding, I asked my husband to list three things he wanted for the day. He said, “I want to wear something comfortable, I want to carry my sword, and I want everyone to have fun and not say it was boring.”

    I then had to come up with a list of my own. It ended up being: “I want a red dress with an EPIC train, I want the ceremony wording and vows to be really personal, and I want everyone to have fun and not say it was boring.”

    We made those 5 points (since two were the same) the focus of our wedding planning, and anything that didn’t factor in to those points we ignored. We didn’t pay for any decorations, wedding favours, or flowers. I found my dream red dress online for 1/5th of what it would’ve cost me to buy it in a store, and my husband wrote the ceremony and chose his outfit of black jeans, black boots, a white tunic, and a cloak he made himself.

    Here are some ways you can save money and hassle on your wedding day:

    Repurpose and Use What You’ve Already Got

    Have you been given a bunch of your grandmother’s jewellery that you’ll never wear? You can have the metal and stones remade into your wedding rings, often for a fraction of the cost of a new design. Talk to a jeweller (I can highly recommend Guthries Jewellers on Queen Street in Auckland) about what they can do for you. (Ed: And if you happen to need an antique ring shrunk to about half the size, I recommend Carats – the only place I could find that would tackle mine.)

    Many other items you already own can be used for your wedding. My centrepieces and “unity candle” were candles and holders I already had around the home. You can use clothing, jewellery, shoes or other accessories you already own to complete your wedding outfit.


    I recently went to a Elvan Lord of the Rings themed wedding, where the whole bridal party wore costumes they rented from a local store. Rental for costumes is significantly cheaper than buying or renting a suit or dress, and omigod did this wedding party look awesome. Theme and costume weddings are not for everyone, but I’ve been to a few in my time and I tell you they are definitely the most fun.

    You don’t need it

    Nothing about the wedding industry makes me angrier than wedding favours and Save-the-Date cards. Both are – in my eyes – pointless expenses designed to do nothing more than part couples with more of their money. Save-the-Date cards might be useful if you’re having a destination wedding, but a simple and personalised email to all the invitees would be equally effective.

    Do you need wedding favours to thank your guests for coming to your wedding? Surely that’s what your personalised thank-you card is for? Your guests aren’t attendees at some corporate conference – they’re your family and friends. They WANT to come to your wedding. They don’t need chocolate treasure chests and little sand pails emblazoned with your monogram as an incentive. (Ed: THIS! Although … if I’m taking off overseas straightaway for awhile, I can put off the note writing, right?)

    Think carefully about each decision before you spend any of your hard-earned money on wedding accessories – think how many hours you’ve worked for that money and if you really need this item, or if you could put the money to better use elsewhere.

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    Order a Gown Online

    I’ll tell you a secret that many wedding dress retailers don’t want you to know. Most wedding dresses – even the ones reportedly made by big-name designers – are made in workshops in China. Unless you’re ordering a truly designer gown, or having one custom-made by a local seamstress, the chances are high that it’s coming from somewhere in Asia.

    The only real difference is the mark-up. Bridal salons need to pay to rent shop space, employ staff, buy advertising, etc. All these costs are built in to their mark-up on your gown. I’ve heard tales that some bridal salons have a mark up of more than 700%.

    I bought my dress from an online store based in Australia. It was exactly the same dress as one I saw in various bridal salons in New Zealand, for 1/5 the price. The quality was exactly what I would expect from a salon, and it only needed minor adjustments.

    Not all brides have the same stories – there are definitely a fair amount of horror stories about ordering dresses online. The trick is to use a site other brides have recommended, and make sure you are explicit about the detailing you require on your dress (the bridal salons have built up a relationship with their suppliers, so they can give strict specifications about the quality and detailing on their dresses). Order in plenty of time to enable you to have alterations done if the dress doesn’t fit right.

    Don’t be afraid of ordering your wedding dress online – for every horror story there are a hundred satisfied brides who got a bargain.

    Cut down on food costs

    Filling the bellies and quenching the thirst of your guests will probably be your biggest wedding expense – usually around half of your budget. You can cut down on food costs by catering your own wedding. That sounds like a huge amount of work (and it kinda is) but if you’ve cut back on all that other wedding guff, you will have more time to organise it.

    Ask a few close friends who are excellent chefs to supply a signature dish for the night – offering funds for ingredients, of course. After you’ve got a few main dishes sussed, decide on an assortment of menu items you can make in advance. Organise a team to heat things up on the day and keep the table well stocked, and you’ll be surprised how many guests will ask you for the details of your catering company.

    If your wedding is in the summer months, you could even have a good old-fashioned kiwi BBQ in the Mint Springs Farm. Think sizzling sausages, BBQed mushrooms, and a huge array of delicious salads and breads. Cheap, simple and always a winner.

    You could even have a potluck wedding (where guests bring a plate to share in lieu of gifts), but this won’t go down well in many social circles, so tread with caution.

    Friendly Helpers

    Ask friends to help with different aspects of your wedding – anything from providing photography services to altering your dress. Friends are usually only too happy to help out, and they can offer their services instead of a gift. I perform celebrant duties for all my friends – it is an honour to be able to marry two people you love and admire, and it helps them save money on their budget and get a truly personalised service – so everybody wins.

    These are only a few of literally hundreds of ways you can save money on your wedding by adopting a “no bullshit” attitude. Cut out the details that don’t matter and focus on the one thing that is truly important – celebrating your union with your beloved with an awesome party, surrounded by the support and love of your family and friends.

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  • Bullshit free bride: Something had to go wrong eventually…

    bullshit free bride nzmuse

    It was inevitable, really.

    I was initially wary about the whole bridal party schtick. I was thinking about roping in the people I consider my closest friends, all of whom are guys. Much as I love my girlfriends, we don’t really see each other all that often, and I know that I’m not a huge priority for them, as they all have much larger social circles than I do (they tend to be flakey, and I’ve been disappointed by them many times). One in particular got booted from bridesmaid privileges in another wedding previously, though in her defence, she was preoccupied with law school at the time.

    But for various reasons, finally I decided I would ask two of the girls to be my bridesmaids, my two oldest friends of the lot. All went well. They were super excited, and insisted there had to be a hen’s night (bachelorette party). That was maybe 3 weeks ago?

    This weekend one of them told me that she’d been accepted for a year-long paid internship overseas – an AMAZING opportunity for her, especially as she hasn’t been able to find work in her field since graduating. She leaves next month. And she is most likely not going to be at the wedding. (I told her we’d stream her in through Skype or FaceTime or something on the day, if she wants. We also have two other friends getting married within the year, which she may miss as well, given that it’s both expensive and inconvenient to come back. I totally get it. I wouldn’t, either. But if she ends up coming back for any of the others, let’s be honest: I’ll be pissed.)

    Disappointment ensues. I haven’t yet talked to the other (and I’m hoping she isn’t going to bail on me – I can’t help but worry something is going to happen, even though she assures me her hospital has her rostered off for that day).  This leaves me with a couple of options: incorporate T’s nieces into my bridal party (which is cool, as I wanted them to play some kind of role) or recruit my dude friends. Probably not both, as that would make for too many people. Either way, given it’s a small event (<50 people) we’ll have photos taken with all our friends anyway.

  • Bullshit-free bride: Boiling it down to the essentials

    Small is beautiful.

    That’s my wedding philosophy, which follows on nicely from the BS-free motto.

    bullshit free bride nzmuse

    The wedding journey has been interesting so far. Reaction to our engagement ranged from “oh yeah, about time” to “uh, so you’re engaged? But you haven’t set a date? YOU’RE NOT PLANNING A WEDDING YET?”. My guy friends got it (unsurprisingly). Bless their hearts.
    I’m pretty sure we come off to others like the kind of people who would elope or just do the registry thing. I wouldn’t have minded eloping, but T would insist his mother attend. We would have to pay for that. Then it wouldn’t be fair to leave my parents out. And I personally did NOT want a wedding only attended by the parentals. So that led into the next logical step – a full blown wedding.

    A registry wedding would certainly be cheap, but I’m not ashamed to say that I would actually want the photos and the gathering of friends all in one place. To do it “properly”, as such. And unfortunately we have no family property as so many brides on forums and in magazines seem to have, sadly – so we marched onwards with the knowledge that we’d be starting from scratch.

    To keep myself from going insane, I think of it this way. At the heart of it, there are only a few key expenses. The core things are:

    Venue. Done.

    People. Done.

    Photography.  Budget weddings often skip this but getting a pro or semi pro is important to me. T and I have very few (good) photos of ourselves together so I’d like our wedding to be documented. The lovely Amanda will be shooting us. Blogging FTW!

    Dress. I know what I want – now I just need to GET ON IT.

    Food. (We’ll get to that).

    My plan is for a $5k wedding. $1800 is already accounted for by venue, celebrant, photographer (our amazing venue is also ridiculously affordable, costing just under $500), plus of course official paperwork costs (which I think will be about another $150).

    Here’s what we’re NOT spending on:

    Flowers. I see budgets recommending to set aside 10 percent of the budget on flowers. Are you effing kidding me? Personally, I plan to have zero blooms at our wedding. I have no patience for things that make me sneeze and serve no practical purpose. There’s zero romance in that. People are probably going to find our lack of decor a bit plain, but that’s how I roll (and that’s why I chose a sweet venue with character). They don’t have to like it.

    Music. I don’t want a live band, and I’m not sure there’s one in the world that could do justice to my, erm, eclectic playlist. I’ve got all the songs in a YouTube list – now to work out the hardware logistics. Also, I have no idea where we would FIT the band in our venue.

    Then there’s the smaller things.

    Rings. I know roughly what I want;  it’s just a matter of finding it – a vintage ruby ring along the same lines as my antique engagement ring. It doesn’t have to be a three-stoner, but it does need to be subtle and rounded off (no remotely sharp edges, thanks). I don’t wear any other jewellery, so it needs to earn a place in my life. I don’t want a plain band, but nor do I want anything I’ve seen new in stores … I’m more or less the opposite of a magpie. I hate bling and secretly find your super shiny ring repulsive, while you probably think mine is pathetic. I’ve already been to a couple of antique shops and not found anything – I’m not sure what I’ll do if I don’t find a ring I like before the wedding.

    Guest book. As life would have it, I recently ran a sweet Moleskine/Milk Book giveaway through work, and was offered a free one for myself. So I made up a swish photo album with all the semi-decent photos of us as a couple that I could find.

    Decor. As I said, I’m nixing flowers. Any centrepieces will probably be something edible, like chocolates. Not sure if I’ll bother with table linens. (I will need to double check that they’ll have enough furniture at the venue for us.) I quite like the idea of getting colourful disposable plates/cutlery (the less cleanup the better, even if I do overstep my daily landfill contribution in the process).

    Celebrant. We found a lovely, salt-of-the-earth type West Auckland woman who’s also very affordable and has sent us through a bunch of short and sweet ceremony examples. Win.

    One thing I am struggling with is the culture thing. Old-timers probably remember it’s always been a fraught issue of identity for me. My auntie surprised me by offering to hold a traditional tea ceremony the day before the wedding – I’m such a banana that I only heard about these in the past year thanks to other Asian bloggers getting married themselves; I knew my parents definitely wouldn’t be suggesting any random cultural traditions. Anyway, we’ll probably do it, and laugh a lot at ourselves along the way (I have NO idea what to expect, and I’m guessing jeans are probably not appropriate dress).

    But the one thing I do hold on to is the food. Oh, the food. It took me about 20 years to realise, but nothing will ever top Malaysian food in my book. This is the only ethnic thing I care to integrate into the wedding. At first I agonised over this – just because all the mixed race weddings in blogs and in magazines incorporate something cultural doesn’t mean I have to. But you know what: I want to, and I also kinda FEEL like I should. I spent so much of my life denying my ethnic/cultural heritage as a first generation immigrant and insecure teenager and while I want to have an otherwise very white wedding, having it be totally Euro would be a bit of a disappointment if for no other reason than I’d really like to eat my favourite cuisine on the day. My mum has suggested one place not far away, so I’ll need to check them out (hopefully over the holidays – they’re presumably non-Christian immigrants, so I’m sure they’ll be open throughout).

    Still haven’t decided anything re: my bridal party, but seeing as it’s really not a huge deal – really, whoever ends up being in it, all they’ll have to do is turn up, which they were going to do anyway … and maybe stand up the front instead – I’m okay with leaving it a bit longer to get sorted.

    Am I missing anything vital?

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  • Bullshit-free bride: Curating the guest list

    bullshit free bride nzmuse With a wedding venue found and a date set (May, and luckily I was flexible – i.e. had trouble choosing a date – as it wound up being dictated by availability), the next step post-booking was rallying the troops.

    We’re limited to 50 people at our chosen wedding venue (a deliberate choice we both rejoiced in).

    I honestly did not think this would present much difficulty. Our nearest and dearest do not add up to a huge number.

    But once family, plus ones, and group dynamics were taken into account, I was forced to pare down.

    Even with only very immediate family included, that still added up to almost 20 (damn his large brood!) and there are certain friend groups that come as a package. You know? Inviting one means inviting them all. The issue of plus ones was also a struggle. Those who had invited us to their weddings obviously both needed to be invited to ours. Other long-term relationships, likewise.

    I think we’ve finally nailed it, though – and if there are a few declines, there is a vague B-list waiting in the wings to be called upon.

    I also stuck to my guns on online invites. This is 2012, after all. I work in online media. And digital RSVPs will make my life SO much easier. Saving trees and cash are just the icing.

    Figuring out the best way to go about it wasn’t so easy. I started a Weddingwire website, but couldn’t see an obvious way to send out direct email invites (and the RSVP function on the site was incredibly awkward; I wouldn’t subject anyone to it by choice). I then signed up at myinvites,  but I wanted to personalise my emails with names, and send out some to couples/families rather than to each individual. Again, I couldn’t see a clear way to doing that. So I finally turned to mywedding.com, which thankfully has a much more straightforward RSVP function. It also has more intuitive website building (though both sites are very 1990s in their back-end builders) and the option to email guests from within. DONE.

    Also, I’ve hinted at this before, but we were planning on a dry wedding. Not dry as in weather-wise (this is Auckland, and this will be Auckland in autumn) but alcohol-free. Neither of us are big drinkers, and I most definitely will not be drinking on the day – even if I wanted to, vanity alone would stop me.

    But the sole reason behind that is the fact there are certain family members it would be unthinkable NOT to invite – people who cannot drink like civilised humans.

    Not as in ‘get pissed and crack inappropriate jokes’ as I understand awkward uncles often do (so I hear). Not as in ‘a few too many glasses of wine and get overly maudlin or fall off the chair’. No, as in ‘get drunk, start fist fights with anyone around you, punch holes in the wall, drive off and total your car’. It is guaranteed. I’ve seen all this happen at family occasions – granted, not all of the above happened in any one night; I’m consolidating multiple disasters into one example – but you get the idea.

    This is not joking stuff – this is bypassing all jolly social norms and going straight to Unacceptable Town – and I was not prepared to tolerate even the possibility of such behaviour at my wedding. Sorry if I sound like a pompous schoolmarm, but it’s not only a matter of ruining a once-in-a-lifetime day, but possibly racking up a large repair bill in my name to boot. And it’s not like you can allow *almost* everyone to drink, but ban a couple of people specifically from doing so.

    As I say, these were immediate family, and therefore not optional when it came to the guest list. But with other, very recent circumstances taken into account, they have in fact apparently been blacklisted to the point that they don’t automatically qualify an invite. I have mixed feelings about this, as you can probably imagine, but there’s a lot of relief in there. It’s not impossible that they’ll sort their acts out and earn a place in the next six months, I guess. But in the meantime, I now feel safe in loosening up and making it BYO.

    On a slightly less heavy note, I now have to figure out what to do about my bridal party (I think we have decided that we WILL have them).

    I originally planned to ask my three closest friends (all guys), but in a recent catchup with my best girlfriend, she volunteered to possibly organise a hen’s night for me (horrendous term … SO much worse than stag do, and one case in which I definitely prefer the Americanised ‘bachelor/bachelorette party’) after I said I wasn’t planning on having one. In which case, maybe I should ask her to be in my bridal party. Maid of honour, even? Now that she’s finished with university and has a lot more free time, I’m confident she can commit to it – not that there’s really anything to commit to, in all honesty. I can’t think of anything I would ask her to do, aside from show up on the day.

    In that case, do I have a mixed bridal party? Scrap the guys entirely, and ask one of my other closer girlfriends to partake? I also have to factor in T’s two nieces, whom I said could be flower girls. I’m not planning on having flowers, though, so might have to think of something else for them to do.

    Anyone have fun guest list anecdotes to share?

  • My guide to finding a wedding venue in Auckland

    Bullshit free bride: my guide to finding a wedding venue in auckland

    I used to keep a mental tally, when I was younger, of all the mature things I achieved that day vs the stupid things that let me down. For example, I might have come up with a witty retort to someone insulting me (unlikely, I’ve never been quick on my feet, unlike some of the silvertongued out there) but managed to trip and fall flat on my face in front of a crowd of people.

    Well, if I was still doing that, I could definitely add crying on the streets of Avondale to the latter column. I can’t remember the last time I cried in public, and this was quite humiliating. We’d just seen our first possible wedding venue, which I had high hopes for (FIRST BIG MISTAKE). It wasn’t quite what I thought – smaller and dimmer than the stunning pictures I’d seen suggested – and the proprietor was both intimidating and reticent.

    Interviewing is the worst part of my job, for me, especially in-person interviews. Love the writing; not so much the dealing with people. And it’s been a long time since I dealt with someone so … not forthcoming. Someone I had to drag every word out of. Not the kind of person I want to be dealing with when it comes to wedding planning.

    We left, crossed the street to where T’s motorbike was parked, and I melted into a hot, teary mess. I think I was PMS-y at the time, and blubbed for about 10 minutes. It was a totally disproportionate reaction to the situation, but that’s what went down. Bridezilla, stay your ground.

    So, not the most auspicious start to wedding venue recon.


    The next place,  while there was a bit of a kerfuffle to get there (a bit of phone tag, T having to work late and throwing our appointment into jeopardy, etc), was an entirely different experience. The staff at this affordable wedding venue in West Auckland were friendly but laid-back and instantly made me feel at ease. The deal was sealed when I learned the onsite chapel is being de-sanctified. I may have said this before, but neither of us is religious, so a church wedding didn’t feel right to me. A church that isn’t a church? So very, very us.

    So it’s official: the Corban Estate Arts Centre is the place for us, with its little chapel, and its ex-wine cellar that’s now a function room.

    Of course, it wasn’t as easy as that. We may only have visited two places, but before that came countless hours spent on Google, wedding forums, and so many venue aggregation sites.

    Finding a wedding venue in Auckland

    I excluded so many Auckland wedding venues that didn’t advertise prices on their website. It’s pretty obvious which ones are swanky and beyond the budget. I emailed a couple more and got slammed with sticker shock. And of course, any venues that I’d seen in the pages of NZ Weddings (copies of which I sneakily browsed during my lunch hour at work) were automatically out. (Same for any business seen in that magazine, really. If they can afford to advertise in there, I can’t afford them.)

    For anyone who’s interested, some other Auckland wedding venues I considered and discarded for various reasons were:

    Aside from price, the other major issue was finding somewhere to hold both ceremony and reception. It was friggin’ impossible. Another two places I was seriously considering – and that would have been next on my viewing list – are Beaufords Totara Park and the  Botanic Gardens, which would have catered for both parts of the wedding and had reasonable all-inclusive per person rates.

    Choosing Corban means choosing DIY over convenience. The thing about choosing a wedding venue that is all about hosting events and has its own staff and does its own catering … is that much of the work is taken care of for you. Going the other route may be cheaper, but it means YOU have to take care of all the logistics. The former sounds appealing in many ways – I’d quite like to peel off into the sunset at the end of the day and have that be that – but at the same time, I’m really happy with this choice. It sets the whole tone for the wedding and reflects who we are – down to earth, unfussy, casual. T suggested having a backyard hangi for our reception many moons ago, which I promptly quashed. But we’re both definitely more homestyle BBQ than we are get-dressed-up-and-visit-a-five-star-restaurant. This feels right.

    And so it begins. There’ll be posts in the future, no doubt, about my adventures in planning a BS-free wedding. I don’t have the time, energy or headspace to deal with any drama, and that is going to be my guiding principle.

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  • Guest post: Ways to save your wedding dollar – whatever your budget!

    Blogging isn’t as big in New Zealand as it seems to be in the US, so I’m stoked to have a fellow Kiwi blogger on here today! Sweet Mama M lives in Auckland and blogs about her life as a newlywed and her love of books, food and travel at sweetmamam.wordpress.com. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.How to save money on your wedding! - NZ Muse

    According to New Zealand Weddings magazine, the average cost of a NZ wedding is $30,000 and that’s a figure from 2008! Wedding funding can be a tricky minefield and it can often feel awkward as adults to negotiate whether your parents are contributing at all – or maybe that’s just me, fiercely independent since 2003. My first tip is to make sure you HAVE a budget. Big, small or somewhere in the middle, know how much you have to spend! With the first big step out of the way, here’s a few ways in which you can make your wedding dollars stretch further:

    Get married off-peak

    Papa M and I got engaged in May 2011 and decided to get married in a year, on the 1st of June, 2012. We didn’t want a long engagement but planning for a winter wedding gave us the entire year to save. In addition, many vendors are willing to consider a discount for using their services in the off-season – we managed to negotiate with our reception venue, our photographer and our videographer.

    There was an added bonus in this choice of date – people genuinely seemed really excited to have an event to go to in the middle of winter. If you are anything like us, your summer season is usually packed and everything goes into a little bit of hibernation in the cooler season. We selected indoor venues for both ceremony and reception so we were prepared for the worst weather eventualities – turns out that June 1st was one of the finest weather days New Zealand has had this year!

    If you have your heart set on marrying under cherry blossoms or on a particular holiday or anniversary then marrying off-peak may not work for you. It definitely is something to consider, however, especially if you can find the right venue – ours had an open fireplace! Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s leeway on prices, the worst they can say is no.

    Caring communities

    (Accent Photography.co.nz)

    Papa M and I are Christian and are lucky enough to attend services at a beautiful stone church. Once we’d ruled out having our ceremony at the reception site (the onsite chapel being too small) the most obvious choice was the church that we attend. Being members of the church community was a huge boon for us – we had free use of the church, a free celebrant, a free sound tech and use of the church portable PA system and no shortage of hands to help us to provide an informal afternoon tea while we took formal photos.

    Church might not be your particular cup of tea and that’s cool, each to their own. Think about other communities that you participate in that might be able to assist. I’ve been to a reception in a school hall that had a beautiful view of a lake. My cousin was married to an Air Force man and was subsequently able to have free hire of chairs for their outdoor ceremony. I’ve also known of members of classic car clubs being able to utilise other members’ vehicles as wedding transport. This is a case in which it is truly who you know rather than what you know.

    Decide what your priorities are and then be OK with “Good Enough”

    Our wedding budget wasn’t small but it definitely was finite! Funding about two-thirds of the wedding ourselves meant that we had to be judicious about where we spent our money. We bought Papa M a proper suit (although we hired the groomsmen’s suits) as he didn’t own one but is getting to the stage in his career where it made sense to invest in formal attire. On the other hand, I spent hours on a local auction site trying to find a second-hand dress as I didn’t want to spend huge amounts of money on something I would only wear once. Foiled in this plan only by the fact that I am giant and all these dresses had been altered to fit people 5’4″, I ended up going for a simplistic but beautiful dress from the basic line of a local bridal salon and plan to sell it on to recoup some of the cost.

    Decor wasn’t a huge priority and we had no additional decor in the church. Our afternoon tea was served on purple plastic plates purchased from the supermarket and you know what? I don’t think anyone noticed. They were far too excited about getting a cup of tea and a cookie. On the other hand, we spent about a quarter of our total budget on photography and videography – with a terminally ill parent, having a great visual record of our last big special occasion was really important.

    Looking back now, I don’t regret a single one of those “Good Enough” decisions that we made. Our guests had a great time and we have great photos and video memories of what was a day that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Remember that it is your wedding and your priorities – as long as you provide the basics (food of some kind, liquid of some kind, somewhere to sit), your guests will be happy!

    Think outside the box

    sweetmamam guest post wedding costs

    (Accent Photography.co.nz)

    Thinking about the cost of flowers in midwinter was giving me a little bit of a heart attack. So we did without! Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers! We have a bunch of them on our dining room table right now. With the cost of centrepieces, bouquets and corsages, however, the costs definitely start adding up. Thinking outside the box, we decided that the bridesmaids would carry lanterns and that the groom, groomsmen and father of the bride would adorn themselves with a simple pocket square. I carried a bible down the aisle, which was used by my mother for our bible reading in the ceremony, and this left my hands free during the ceremony to hold my darling husband’s hands. While brainstorming and throwing around ideas for centrepieces I came up with something that was peacock-coloured (colour theme), wintery and faux-floral – our yarn pom pom centrepieces were born! Our guests loved the scattered little poms as well – many a bracelet was made and many fun games played with them throughout the night. Don’t be afraid to go a little different, it can totally work!

    We also felt that we couldn’t justify the additional cost of getting our rental cars to come and fetch us at the end of the reception but we both wanted to be relaxed about how much we had to drink. After hearing horror stories of taxi pricing in our area, we contacted a companion driving service to see if it would be something that they would possibly be able to do. BEST DECISION! They made the end of our night so special because they were so excited to be involved. Our sweet getaway driver arrived with tin cans attached to the back of his little Mazda, an ice bucket with bubbles in the back seat for us and we drove up the drive and away from our reception with Bruno Mars’ Marry You on the stereo. The night could not have ended more perfectly and I’m so glad that we thought outside the regular options.

    When you are coming up against costs that seem way too high (or that you are just not willing to pay), think outside the box for creative solutions. Both of the above saved us a significant amount of cash and ended up being a couple of the entertaining highlights of the evening. Don’t be afraid to take your time and come up with a solution that works for you – and employ your family as slave labour to get those pom-poms done!

    What wedding planning tips have you got to share? Any novel ways you’ve seen people personalise their weddings?