I'd probably get disowned if we went to the courthouse and told them about it later...
January 3, 2013 2:19 AM   Subscribe

Weddings for Dummies filter: We got engaged in July and are now slowly realizing that if we want to get married in, say, June we have to, like, do something about that. I want to be *married* but am sort of ambivalent about the wedding itself and am kind of dreading this project. What basic resources (checklists, books, etc.) would help make me feel a little more in control and organized at this point? How do people even begin this process? Bonus points for great wedding venue suggestions in Anchorage, Alaska.

If it matters: this is probably going to be between 50-150 people, depending on the venue we end up with and who is up for an Alaskan vacation; at least half the guests will be from out of town. Eloping is, tragically, not an option, and budget is not going to be a huge problem. Neither of us is religious, but his family is culturally Jewish and my family is Mormon, and not making our combined families deeply unhappy is a concern. We are both more into the being-married part than the getting-married part, but it is important to our family and friends that they be a part of this somehow. I am hoping for something relatively low-key, but I don't know how to make that happen with, say, 100 people involved, and I am the opposite of the crafty DIY-er that many of the low-key wedding ideas seem to be aimed at.

I don't even know where to start, but it's time to stop quietly flipping out and start taking some concrete steps in the right direction...wherever that is. What do my first 10 steps need to be?
posted by charmedimsure to Society & Culture (35 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
#1: decide on a budget.
posted by Salamander at 2:20 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

#2: Do Not, for any reason, exceed that budget.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:36 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

#3: pick a date, send out the Save The Dates, and see how many people tell you from the get-go that they won't be able to make it. It's not an official count, but it'll give you a starting point for the venue.

(We had a tiny 30 person wedding planned in 6 weeks and I can't recommend it highly enough. It was fantastic and a low-key way to keep the family happy while achieving the end result, which was rings on our fingers)
posted by third word on a random page at 2:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

#4 - pick a location (Alaska, yes?) Is this high season? Do you need to let guests know they need to book accommodation early?

#5 - pick a date (this will depend on what locations are available)

#6 - (which comes with#5) pick venues
- do you want to get married at a reception place (I don't know what American weddings look like) or in a park or church?

#7 - pick a celebrant. (Find one who is happy to marry you on your chosen date at your venue.)

Let everyone know (invites, save the dates etc) and sort out the other details as you get closer.

You say "low key wedding" - make sure you mean this. A friend got married recently- the wedding was low key, but she was very fussy about some details, which ultimately took some joy from the day.
posted by titanium_geek at 2:41 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check out Real Simple's wedding issue. I think they put it out every year and it should be available at any book store or magazine-selling venue. It has a pretty simple checklist by month, and though I think it is aimed at people who want more traditional weddings, it should be easier to discard the parts you don't need but be sure that you are covering all the details that you do need.

Other than that:

1. Decide on a budget. Don't exceed that budget. Don't be afraid to use that budget as an excuse to reject demands by external parties to add things to the wedding.
2. Plan your guest list. Write it down. Then, if you need to, share with family to see if you are horribly offending someone by not inviting a great aunt or something.
posted by aaanastasia at 2:42 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Small but important things to think about:

Dress? (and accessories: veil, shoes, jewelery)
Suit? (shoes, tie)
Dress code? (casual?)
Bridesmaids/groomsmen? (yes/no, if yes how many, what colours etc.) Much money can be saved by getting them to wear something nice they already have- does not have to match unless you want it to.
There are some tricky friend/sibling politics here, so think through your choices. You might want to involve other people in other ways if not as the wedding party (readings, prayers, MC, etc)

Some anecdotes: can be a bit stressful to have to buy what you need on the day of the wedding- pick out a tie before, yeah?

Friends got married recently, they are definitely not 'center of attention' people. They had a lovely wedding that was organised so they were not too embarrassed- low key ceremony and then a very chill reception.

Remember that the marriage is yours alone, but the wedding is yours and also a celebration for other people. So, if there are some important traditions that are going to make Grandma's heart warm, then try and include them (the wine glass breaking tradition?). Since you have a 'multifaith' wedding, it might be worth getting the celebrant to explain what is going on.

Weddings, to me, are definitely the celebration of the marriage, and you can tell when couples are stressed about the wedding (and it being perfect) versus the people who are celebrating a marriage with their family and friends and just roll with the little disasters that happen.

Congratulations! You'll get through this fine, just remember to communicate with each other and figure out what will make you happiest, whether that's doing your own thing or placating the relatives. Ask for help if you need it.
posted by titanium_geek at 2:56 AM on January 3, 2013

Check out theknot.com. Ignore 98% of it and click on the planning checklist. Also, my advice is to find vendors and a reception site early, and make it very clear to them that you want them to make all the decisions and no, you really don't care exactly what kind of flowers or what color the napkins are, just make it happen.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:36 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hi, getting married in April, not interested in DIY or bling or flashy fancy things for my wedding.

A couple bits of advice:

(1) Avoid Pinterest and most wedding magazines, blogs, and websites (especially The Knot). I do like A Practical Wedding, but every time her sponsors and vendors talk about their great low-key packages and deals at what I think are exorbitant rates, I get annoyed.

(2) There exists an entire industry of people who will do all the hard planning and organizing work for soon-to-be-married people that just want to envision all the pretty things about their wedding day. For those of us who prefer the organizing and have 0 aesthetic vision and have not been dreaming about their wedding day since they were 2, there is no one for us to do all the aesthetics and decide on our Colors (TM) or choose our bouquets because of COURSE you must have an opinion on this and can't possibly let anyone just freaking decide it for you! Be prepared to be frustrated by this. I have found the easiest thing to do is decide to just not have 99% of the things that require aesthetic vision.

(3) Do not necessarily equate "low key" with "inexpensive." It is not always low-key to DIY centerpieces, chair covers, favors, invitations, flowers, and all of that madness, even if it is inexpensive and budget-friendly and apparently fun for some people. My partner and I are not planning what most people would perceive of as an expensive wedding, but some costs are higher than we originally planned because we are able to solve some logistical problems with money. An extra $100 to get envelopes printed with our return address instead of addressing them by hand? Fantastic. Several hundred for a rented bus to get everyone from the ceremony to the reception so I don't have to spend the day freaking out about how I'm safely getting all the guests used to driving on the other side of the road through 45 minutes of windy narrow English streets between venues? Totally worth it. So as you budget, consider your "problem-solving" budget in addition to the "dress and flowers" budget. It will make things feel more low-key for you -- as long as you're not going in to debt to do it!
posted by olinerd at 3:44 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Decide on a budget. Add 10-15% to it as contingency. It's all well and good deciding on a fixed budget but pick a higher number you can cope with that includes a contingency so you don't find yourself short nearer the day.

Discuss with your other half what is important and what is not. Be really clear on this. No two weddings are the same. At mine, for example, we looked at really fancy custom cakes and then went for a shop bought one that cost 1/4 of the price and was just as good. But Mrs MM wanted really nice flowers, and we had to compromise. We went all out on the food though.

Remember that nobody apart from you really, truly cares about the small details - the exact make up of the flowers, what flavour the cake is, the brand of beer or type of wine you choose, the car you arrive or leave in, the music you play or the band you choose etc etc. These things are worth considering and choosing carefully, but not worth getting stressed about. You and your guests will be too busy talking and having fun to notice everything.

Don't get stressed. Be conscious about this. It is your wedding day, and any stress you have planning or paying for it detracts from the day. It is your wedding day, not your marriage. It does not define your relationship, who you are, whether you'd made it or not. It does not signal your sophistication, your entry into adulthood. It is a day to mark the first day of your marriage and everything else is secondary.

On stress: a good tactic is if you find yourself arguing with your other half about something, concede. I did, and with hindsight, nothing that seemed like a big deal at the time was a big deal. No hill is worth dying on.

If, as happens with lots of people, you find yourself having to invite lots of people you don't much care for then take stock. The advice here, traditionally, is it's your day. But I think this oversimplifies the family element of weddings. Draw up some ground rules on who to invite/not and apply them. But be flexible, within reason. On ours, we did not invite anyone we hadn't both met nor anyone we hadn't seen in two years. But my parents also sensitively broached two couples whose children's weddings they had attended and who they would, ideally, have liked to attend. It was important to them, but they left the decision to me with no pressure. We invited them. 4 people out of 100 guests was no big issue and did not change the feel of the day, nor radically alter the cost but made life a lot easier for my parents.

Plan. Get stuff done early so it's done. Have a checklist. Book what needs to get booked. Order what needs to get ordered. Leave 2 weeks, ideally, before your wedding where your activity tapers off and you can look forward to your big day without thinking about it in terms of a bunch of things you need to do. Be your own project managers, divide the labour, talk, talk, talk and don't burn emotional energy stressing about things as if it were anything other than a big party.

Ask for help. If you need help, ask for it. Ask early. You'll get it. If you haven't done so yet, you'll help someone else. It's how these things work.

Have a basic op order on the day. Distribute this to close family and friends, groomsmen/bridesmaids, where appropriate. This means everyone else gets less stressed and also allows them to plan properly, stops you getting tons of last minute questions and allows you to delegate on the day.

Delegate on the day. The day is yours to enjoy and other people will want you to enjoy it. Delegate. If something small goes wrong if the x is in the wrong place or hasn't turned up then, assuming it's not a catastrophe, let someone you trust handle it.

Take time out on the day to take stock. It will be busy. 100 guests @ 5 mins per couple talking to you = 4 hours solid of small talk. Take a minute or two each hour just to check in with your other half and consciously enjoy the day.

Speeches. Nobody remembers anybody's speeches unless they are too long, offensive or super funny/poignant/whatever. You're not Churchill raising the morale of a wartime nation. Your audience wants to laugh with you and come along on the journey. A short speech with a couple of funnies and acknowledgements where they are due is all that is required.

Failure. You can only control the things you can control. Everything else - the weather, your drunk second cousin, whether the food arrives on time. These are facts of life. Try and mitigate for eventualities but treat failures, disasters and mishaps as part of the tapestry of weddings. These are your future anecdotes so see the funny side.

You. Don't be afraid to put your personality on the day. Don't forget to take time out to enjoy it or drink it in. But recognise also your family and friends have taken the time to come to your wedding, dress up, buy gifts etc. You are their host. Stamp your personality on things but also remember you will probably enjoy yourself more if your guests are enjoying themselves.

Finally: treat all wedding magazines like you would beauty magazines. They are selling you a dream. Don't gear your wedding towards how good the photos will look. More specifically, they sell you the pernicious idea that your wedding defines you, your future etc. Your wedding is a big party on a significant day. Your marriage is something else entirely. Remind yourself of this when you are trying to work out where to focus your emotional energy.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [13 favorites]

I would highly recommend the website A Practical Wedding and the associated book. I've been reading it since before I even got engaged simply because the writing and comments are so good.
posted by peacheater at 4:59 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hey, congratulations! I'm getting married in three weeks and I think my fiance and I approached the whole thing with the same attitude you described. We're basically going through with the day for our families, and not really so much because we want to have a wedding. That said, our wedding is a 22-person family-only affair, which we've started planning 6 weeks ago, so I can't offer advice on doing things on a huge scale. However, I did pick up a few non-organisational things things:

- It's really hard to "envision" your wedding when you haven't ever given it much thought. But try to create a vision of your wedding day with your fiance, so that when it comes to well-meaning, and perhaps forceful suggestions (which will be legion), you have somewhere firm to stand your ground. This vision will also help to keep the wedding centred on what's important to you two and what reflects your relationship and values, and not just others' expectations.

-Hold on to the fact that the marriage is way way more important than the wedding day. This has helped me to avoid getting stressed or overwhelmed about trying to please everyone and make the day "perfect".

-The most fun I've had planning is thinking of jobs for people who are closest to us: readings, filming, ring-bearing, ushering/herding, signing the registry as witnesses. This takes some of the focus off the bride and groom, gives others incentive to make your day great, and weaves your nearest and dearest into the day.

Best of luck to you guys!!
posted by sundaydriver at 5:06 AM on January 3, 2013

Here's a minor detail that gets overlooked - all that wonderful food and drink at the reception? It's tough to get near it because literally every step you take you will be stopped by well-wishers. Designate runners to get both of you whatever you need, especially water, as you tend to get dehydrated.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:18 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Determine your "give a crap" threshold. Anything that goes beyond that level, you go with the easiest option. I cannot stress how important this is.

During my own wedding planning, we had two or three cake bakers fall through. So we ordered a dozen pies from the pie shop across the road. I didn't care about flowers, and the price is ridiculous, so we did pillar candles (ordered in bulk) with coffee beans. I'd planned on making my own invitations, but we couldn't find the right size and color envelopes so I picked up some pre-designed print-your-text ones from the craft store. Skipped the bouquet and garter tosses, didn't have a bridal party. I don't regret ANY of those choices.

Second best advice is to get a day-of coordinator. And then make sure you eat.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:53 AM on January 3, 2013

Hi, you were me nearly 11 years ago.

Husbunny's family is fundamentalist Christian, my family is Jewish. I belonged to the UU church, which hosted a reform temple, so we went with our UU minister and the Rabbi from the Temple. My Mom said, "I hope Husbunny's family felt that it was Christian enough for them because it was sure Jewish enough for me." Can you ask for anything more than that? The good news is that you can find plenty of reform Rabbis who are comfortable with mixed-religious ceremonies. What can you expect from your Mormon elders by way of a mixed-religous ceremony? Is there even such a thing?

As for the party, that's all it is. A party. It's not your one and only special day, it's not the day you get to be a princess. It's a really big party, and that's all.

If you can, get a venue that will take care of everything for $X per head. One thing that ended up holding down costs and making it really easy to get any place we wanted was having our wedding on a Wednesday. If they can provide an area for the ceremony, so much the better, one less place to reserve and deal with, less fuss and muss for your guests.

Go with the most traditional, quickest ceremony you can. I've been to weddings that were more like coronations. A traditional Jewish ceremony is very quick. Aim for 30 minutes or less. Married is married.

I've been to Anchorage, and as I recall, there aren't a lot of choices for venues that will accomodate that many folks. We had our reception at our favoriate Cuban place in Ft. Lauderdale. They had a dance floor and a bar.

Since you're having a destination wedding (of sorts), talk to some of the larger hotels. They can do the whole thing as a package, special room rates, the ballroom, the menu, etc.

The more you can farm out to other people, the happier you will be. Also, the simpler the better. My sister was my only attendant. That exed out a WHOLE lotta drama. She asked me, "what dress should I get?" I said, "You're a grown woman, buy one you like."

Rather than a full formal thing, go for more informal. Buy a pretty gown, have your husband-to-be wear a nice suit. Tuxes are expensive and a hassle.

To this day people say that they had the most fun at my wedding. Even my aunt and uncle who threw elaborate weddings for my cousins. Sure they had fancier food, and more elegant clothes, but I wasn't a stressed out mess because the only thing I wanted out of the day was to end it married to Husbunny. The rest of it was just crepe paper and cake. And Dulce de Leche pina coladas.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:58 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you're seeking minimal fuss and planning on your end, and have money to throw at this problem, look into some of the resorts in your area and nearby and see if any of them have destination wedding packages. No one will care that it's not a destination wedding for you, they're prepared to go 1-2-3-wedding whenever. All the stuff will be included, lodging will be taken care of, etc., and you'll get a dedicated planner.
posted by juniperesque at 6:01 AM on January 3, 2013

Here's what I personally am using for my First Things:

#1 Tentative guest list. You don't need every single person, but make a draft and agree on a set maximum that you'll invite.

#2/3 Book a date and venue. Easier to happen together since your favorite venue may be booked the date you want.

#4 Caterer or food plan. Maybe the biggest chunk of your budget.

#5/6 Officiant / photographer. Probably the next biggest-ticket items. In my research, officiants cost more than you think, unless you get a friend to do it. We may not use a professional photographer, but I at least want to figure out who's going to do it.

All the other stuff, to me, is secondary to all these. You can get cakes/flowers/dresses/etc. with pretty short notice.

Also, The Knot's wedding budget calculator is the best tool I've seen for budgeting. Still not perfect, but it gives you general percentages of your budget (eg, if you want a 10k wedding, budget 1k for flowers etc.) It's nice because you can look at certain categories and say "I don't even want that" (a DJ, a limo, etc). and then you have more money for something else!
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:09 AM on January 3, 2013

Delegate, delegate, delegate. Your friends/family want to help you have an awesome party, and will probably be honored to help out if asked/given the opportunity. That said, you probably shouldn't expect TOO much or count on it without asking, but I was just up 'til 2am the night before a wedding helping the groom solder together custom LED lights for centerpieces, 'cause that's how the groom and I roll (I was the Best Man).
posted by Alterscape at 6:11 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Anchorage Wedding Fair is on Saturday, January 20th at the Dena'ina center. It's an absurd event (ice shot luges*, more tulle than you could imagine, if you had a dime for every time you heard "your special day"...) but pretty much all the wedding-related businesses and services and venues in Anchorage and surrounding areas show up. There's also an Alaska-specific bridal magazine that you can buy at Fred Meyer and Barnes and Noble. They have a decent website.

We ended up getting married Outside, but we considered Alyeska, O'Malley's on the Green, the Alaska Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens. There's also the Captain Cook, of course, and the Anchorage Museum.

We would have loved to have the ceremony at Hatcher Pass and the reception in town, but the logistics were just too difficult (and we have no family in Alaska, so almost everyone would have had to travel). Alyeska is super spendy, but would have been really easy-- they'll set up everything, and you can have an outdoor ceremony / pictures and the reception on site.

In terms of general resources, Google Weddings is kind of neat and has a bunch of planning tools. Any issue of the Knot will have a timeline article and a budget planning article.

*One thing to discuss / figure out sooner rather than later: what are you going to do about alcohol? Some people absolutely expect it, some will be offended if it's available... turned out to be a bit of a headache for us, as we're just not big drinkers and didn't really care, but some people did. We ended up compromising with a champagne toast (with Martinelli's available for true non-drinkers) but no bar. It was a brunch reception, though, so it was relatively easy.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

If budget is not a problem, consider hiring a wedding planner to do the heavy lifting and keep you on schedule.
posted by rinosaur at 7:18 AM on January 3, 2013

Discuss with your other half what is important and what is not.

This! When you've nailed down the big, general things like approximate date and size, go through one of those wedding-planning checklists with your partner. Each of you should categorize each line item as one of the following:

1. I definitely want this, and I have strong opinions on how it should be.
2. I want this, but I don't really care about the details.
3. I could take or leave this.
4. I definitely do not want this.

In addition to anything where your opinions strongly differ, pay attention to any 2s. Those have the potential to trip you up, because you will need to decide on them at some point, and it can be stressful to force that decision.

Just about every element of a wedding is infinitely customizable, so remember that it is totally okay to go generic, and usually easier. You don't have to write your own vows or design your own invitations or get an elaborate sculptured cake. There's a trend toward creative/whimsical/super-personalized weddings, and blogs/magazines/Pinterest boards will drown you in quirky preciousness. If you get overwhelmed by the pressure for perfect aesthetics, remember that you're throwing a party, not designing a movie set. None of this is going in your portfolio, and none of the guests are thinking about Pinterest when they're at your wedding! People are there to wish you well, see family and friends, and eat and drink good stuff.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:21 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

As per above: Make a budget and a rough guest list. There are tons of resources online to help you figure out what these should look like and take into consideration.

And then: Fine a place, FAST. If you're set on getting married this June, you need to go look and venues and THIS WEEKEND, if possible, and actually book the one you like best as soon as you can. Do not waffle.

Here's why: It's entirely possible you will not be able to get a place you might like on five or six months' notice because it will be booked solid already. Most wedding planning advice assumes you begin the planning process about a year ahead of time... And June is the most popular month for weddings, after all.

For your reference: We are going to the temple to talk about my daughter's bat mitzvah later today. The evening on our day is *already booked.* And that's for a date in the middle of 2015. Not a typo! When we were planning our wedding some fifteen years ago, we started almost two years ahead of time, and many, many dates were already blocked off when we first started looking around.

Not to freak you out, but... the clock is ticking.

Edited to add: For this reason, absolutely DON'T send out Save the Date cards before you have a venue contract signed and in your hands. Otherwise you're putting guests in a postion of making accommodations and buying airfare... when you may not actually be able to afford/like/book any place at all on the date you arbitrarily chose.
posted by Andrhia at 7:47 AM on January 3, 2013

I found offbeatbride.com a good source for ideas about how to keep our wedding relatively small and simple.

We picked out the things that were important to us and focused on them, and let the other stuff go. We ended up with a small ceremony in local gardens and a larger, casual reception at a local brewery. Food was supplied via food truck (there's been an explosion of gourmet food trucks locally in the past 2 years), we had no cake, and got our favorite restaurant to supply mini desserts. We had no decorative flowers other than my bouquet and two mini-bouquets for our mothers, all of which I made myself the day before the wedding (with a test run the week before!). The photographer was the only thing we splurged on, because I'm enough of an amateur photographer to be critical about photos, and we wanted a casual, non-formal style so we looked hard for that.

We committed the cardinal sin of not setting a budget beforehand, but it worked out because we both are sort of allergic to high expenses for a temporary event, and discussed all of them before we signed contracts and put down credit cards.
posted by telophase at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2013

The best wedding planning advice I ever got was to pick 3 things to care about, and focus your energy on having those be really what you envision. Everything else just has to be Good Enough. This saved me from an ENORMOUS amount of stress. If someone else begins to freak out over something that's on your Good Enough list? Delegate it to them. If your FMIL is all "but oh god the FLOOOOOOOOWERS," then great, she can deal with the flowers, including either sticking to your budget or paying for any overages.

In my case, our three things were my dress, the music, and the ceremony. Everything else? Enh. My fiance and I discussed what we wanted in a venue, and then I booked the first thing that fit those criteria that came in at our budget costs and was available in the time frame we wanted, he didn't even see it first. The venue had only one caterer they work with, hurrah, and I called them and said "This is my budget, please give me a buffet table groaning with food with a decent vegetarian option" and then approved the first menu they sent over. I dropped swatches of my dress fabric off at the florist along with a budget and said "I like tulips, go nuts." My mother freaked out about tablescapes and whatnot, so I told her to do whatever she wanted with them, but if she spent more than $500 it was going to need to come from her and not from the wedding account. Etc. Honestly, I cannot stress enough what a great idea this was, it was so freeing.
posted by KathrynT at 9:53 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

If cost is not a big issue - and really, even if it is - hire a wedding planner to do all the hard parts for you. Six months after getting engaged, we didn't have a venue or a date; three weeks after hiring a wedding planner, we had both. She makes everything so much easier!

My fiancée and I are very laid back about the wedding planning, to the extent that left to ourselves nothing would get done. Wedding planner = things actually get done, and we don't have to deal with the details, just the important decisions.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:58 AM on January 3, 2013

I'll add to my previous comment that the one thing I ended up wishing I'd done was to either delegate a friend or relative, or hire someone, to be a day-of coordinator.

By the day of the wedding, I was thoroughly decisioned out and it drove me NUTS that every time I turned around that day someone else was asking me to make a decision because they didn't want to screw up "my day," and I didn't CARE because all I cared about (family and friends there, I had a dress on, people were going to get fed and photographed, and most importantly my soon-to-be husband was there) had been taken care of and I just wanted somebody else to make the decisions and not bother me with them.
posted by telophase at 10:21 AM on January 3, 2013

I nth the wedding coordinator idea. I too couldn't care less about most details and hadn't spent my life imagining my wedding. We also probably recouped the cost of the coordinator in savings on other vendors and just loved being able to rely on her contacts and expertise to winnow down the options.

In the end, we had the big new york reception (formal dinner, band, etc.) that my MIL wanted and paid for, but had the "no god" ceremony I wanted, including a non-traditional officiant I never would have found on my own.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:35 AM on January 3, 2013

Find a venue that takes care of as many of the details as possible for you - packages deals, you know. I know farm type venues sometimes do this - they'll marry you, make you bouquets, cook everyone dinner, even take photos, you just send out invites and pick a dress. Maybe they have some places like those around Anchorage.

Honestly, I had one of those fussy DIY weddings and if I had to do it all over again, I would have just gone with a package deal somewhere (even if it was cheesy), so I could actually enjoy the day and the months leading up to it. Good for you for realizing this before the wedding.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:39 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thank you, you guys are awesome. We do have a meeting scheduled with the folks at the local resort (Alyeska) next week and we'll see how outrageous they are. We met with the owner of a little lodge last week but are not sure that it's quite what we want. We'd really prefer a package deal, just to limit the number of decisions we need to make and the amount of time we need to spend decorating, rounding up chairs etc., but Anchorage is a pretty small place and combined with my fiance's preference for an outdoor or good view option I'm not sure how possible that is (especially that, given hey! Alaska!, an outdoor option needs a strong indoor backup). We know that dates and venues are filling up fast.

Charmcityblues, one of our biggest concerns is alcohol. I am not a big drinker at all, but I personally have never had fun at a wedding unless there's a drink or two involved (but I really do hate weddings. Sigh.) and I think most of our friends feel the same way. My Mormon relatives, particularly my parents, are going to be outraged by any alcohol at all. Not sure how to handle that.

I will suck it up and drag a friend to the wedding fair, which I didn't know about until now, he's working.

A wedding planner is a super idea; I'll have to see if such a thing actually exists in Anchorage.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:36 AM on January 3, 2013

One thing that we waited till the last minute for and we really shouldnt have was to get all the birth certificates and paperwork together to file the marriage license. We ended up having to have a second city-hall wedding a few weeks after the family-and-friends big party because we were waiting on the mailing of birth certificates. So make sure you have that squared away in advance.
posted by fancyoats at 11:59 AM on January 3, 2013

Your wishes matched ours: simple event that celebrates your union with people who care about you. Eloping would have been wonderful, but a few key relatives would have been hurt if we didn't have a ceremony.

Just a few items:
a) We had a limited budget, but we made sure we could invite everyone who would want to share our day (large enough venue, etc). I've been to three weddings where the guest list was limited ... and at least one "Sorry we can't invite you" friend was so insulted that the friendship is permanently strained. Yes, people can & do get insulted by not being invited to the wedding; is a perfect setting that only seats 28 people worth a lost friendship?

b. If you decide to invite children, hire childcare professionals to establish and manage activities and babysit/oversee them from right after the ceremony until the end of the reception. It was a total hit with kids and adults alike during our wedding day.

c. Hire a great photographer; it's a great permanent memory. We hired a wedding photojournalist and asked her to focus on getting photos of our guests. Our photographer took *awesome* candid photos. Then over the year at gift-giving occasions, we gave printed photos of themselves (or their children/grandchildren/SOs, etc). Frankly, our guests appreciated them much more than just receiving a photo of my husband & me in our wedding togs.

By the way, we kept our wedding ceremony to 10 minutes - it was simple but meaningful. Do you know of a single wedding guest who actively *wants* to sit through a longer ceremony?

Best of luck in your future married life.
posted by apennington at 12:09 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went to a wedding and reception at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, It was a pretty cool location and everything seemed to run really smoothly (from a guest perspective at least!)
posted by vespabelle at 1:25 PM on January 3, 2013

My Mormon relatives, particularly my parents, are going to be outraged by any alcohol at all. Not sure how to handle that.

Ask your venue if you can set up a private bar, away from the rest of the party. Those who want it, can get it. I'm all about an open bar, but you can choose to have it be self-pay, or if you want to control the amounts of free booze, you can distribute drink tickets (which I think is tacky, I'll pay if you want, or you can host if you want, but giving me tickets to keep track of pisses me off.)

Inside the reception area, you can have a "drink station" set up, offering interesting and fun non-alcoholic drinks. Fruit juice blends, fancy water, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:00 AM on January 4, 2013

My mother's family (Methodists, not Mormons, but teetotallers all the same) would have been outraged if there had been alcohol at our wedding. My father's family (Irish-Catholic, can't get through any social occasion without a drop or two) simply discreetly ordered some from the restaurant bar. We did the toast with sparkling cider. Yeah, I know, if we'd been older I would have had more of a spine, but I was 21 and easily intimidated.)

Good luck. I'm among those who would rather just be married than have a wedding. But in the end I'm glad we did--it turned out to be a lot of fun, and everyone had a good time.
posted by tully_monster at 3:52 PM on January 6, 2013

Oh, hey, we have a date and a location now as of this weekend, progress is being made. Thanks again for all the help.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:18 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just got the go-follow-up mail so marked a few best answers. For future Anchorage readers of this thread, we are going the lazy but more expensive route and doing it out of Alyeska (the nearby resort, which conveniently limits your food, beverage, decoration, etc. options)- they have someone in staff whose only job is to deal with weddings and it takes away about 50% of the decision-making from us. On to the hiring of the photographer.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:20 PM on February 2, 2013

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