Steve and Nicole
For all intents and purposes, my part in this process could have ended after I bought the ring and no one would have thought less of me.
Guys aren’t expected to know anything about wedding planning and, in that respect if not in others, I’m a pretty typical guy. I didn’t spend my youth imagining my dream wedding. I was imagining epic battles between the Transformers and the Ninja Turtles in my backyard. So when I proposed to Nicole, I knew I was making the right decision, not only because I love her more than life itself, but because I automatically assumed she would know how to plan the wedding. Nicole is very organized, competent and likes to plan ahead – basically the opposite of me.
But I didn’t want to be that guy. I wanted to contribute, maybe learn a thing or two. I mean, where is it written that the groom can’t take a keen interest in wedding planning? Isn’t this my day as much as it is hers?
No. The answer to that is no.
But still, I wanted to contribute.
It’s almost lucky, really, that Nicole knows about as little about wedding planning as I do, and that we’re in this together step by step, whether I like it or not. At least that’s the positive attitude I’m trying to apply to this hot ball of molten stress that’s settled in the center of my chest.
Wedding planning is an overwhelming process. I knew that before going into it, kind of like I know getting hit by a car is painful without ever actually being struck. Taking to the internet, Nicole discovered a helpful checklist on Pacific Coast Weddings that walked us through everything we would need to do and when we would need to do it. This gave us structure but not a lot of comfort, because when it’s all laid out on paper like that, it looks like an awful lot, not to mention an awful lot of money.
With all the panic and the car-wreck metaphors, you may be getting the wrong impression. Don’t misunderstand: I’m thrilled to be getting married, and so is Nicole. When you strip away the cost and the logistics of it all, we’re basically just throwing a big party where everyone we know and care about celebrates our love and we get to dress up as nice as we possibly can and eat a lot of food. I’m trying to keep that mindset as I go on, even as the prices begin to push themselves right up to the limit of our modest budget.
Time is on our side. We’ve set the date for July 13, 2014, so we’re trying not to get too ahead of ourselves. We’ve narrowed down the three things that we want to lock down immediately, and it just so happens they’re the three most expensive things: the venue, the photographer and the caterer. Thanks to Nicole and her beautiful Type-A brain, we’ve ripped off those first two Band-Aids and we’re zeroing in on the third. And, I’m happy to say, I’ve played a significant part in the decision-making process for all three.
Every wedding website, blog, book, magazine, expert and amateur recommended starting at the same place: picking a wedding venue. These usually go quickly, especially for a summer wedding, so we pounced on pretty, wooded, outdoor wedding venues like jungle cats. After carefully going over the four places that best suited our price range, we finally landed on Evergreen Gardens, which we’ve come to learn is one of the most coveted wedding venues in Whatcom County.
We both agreed that an outdoor ceremony is the way to go. Most of our guests will be coming in from out of town, so we want to show off some of Washington’s natural beauty, and brag to our Colorado friends and family that we can stand outside in mid-July without combusting.
Evergreen Gardens is the perfect place for that. It’s lush and green and just screams “Pacific Northwest,” and it screams it loudly enough that there’s a huge covered area in the likely event of rain. It was a little pricier than some of our other choices, but it had everything we wanted, nothing we didn’t and a few nifty bonuses that will save us money (for instance: really nice decorations, essentially donated to the venue by a previous bride and passed on to us for free).
Booking a wedding photographer was a difficult prospect, mostly because I was banking on doing this part for free. As a journalism student, I have no shortage of friends who are camera-savvy, so I thought we could save a few bucks by enlisting a couple of shutterbugs eager to fill out their portfolio and willing to work for food.
I made the mistake of saying this idea out loud around people who have been married, however, and I was immediately inundated with stories about non-professional photographers and the horror they can wreak. Underexposed, overexposed, capturing the bride mid-sneeze or mid-yawn, missing crucial moments like, say, the ceremony. It was enough to incite panic, and it did just that. A wedding photographer needs to know how to work a crowd, how to manage space and light in a way that’s both creative and flattering to the subjects. Basically, they’d need to make us look good at all times, and while that’s easy to do with Nicole, I do not anticipate suddenly getting handsomer in the next year. Suddenly, spending up to $2,000 on a photographer didn’t seem like such a crazy idea.
We weighed our options and decided on Matt Priestman, a calm, amiable local photographer with a lot of experience with weddings. We liked him because he openly admits to getting easily choked up at weddings, which I found endearing. And as I said, he has a calming effect that I think will be very welcome on the day.
The only pressing issue we have left to settle is the caterer. We both really want barbeque, so I’ll be forced to try local barbeque place after local barbeque place in an endless parade of delicious meats and sauces, trying to find just the right place to peddle the perfect meal to our loved ones.
Oh woe is me.
In all seriousness, I’ve really enjoyed trying to find a caterer. Like pizza, even when barbeque is bad, it’s still pretty good. We’re leaning right now toward Danielle's Back East BBQ, a delicious little place we tried at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market. It’s more affordable than some of the other barbeque joints we’ve tried, and the food has a lot of homegrown personality to it. We are, however, having some difficulty settling on a price that we can both live with.
I appreciate the level to which Nicole is keeping me in the loop. She’d given me a cockeyed, “Really?” look when I told her I wanted to be involved in the process, but she’s kept me involved in almost everything. It hasn’t all been fun (how many wedding reality shows are there?), and frankly, sometimes I just tune out (floral arrangements are beyond my expertise).
But she’s smart enough to distract me with small things that I can sink my teeth into, such as letting me choose our wedding playlist and applying my design experience to picking an invitation.
As we gradually check items off on our list, the stress is starting to subside a bit and the process feels more fun.
Gradually, as the image of the two of us standing at the altar starts to come into focus, I can look at this wedding for what it’s supposed to be: a celebration of our love, and a gateway into a long and happy life together. And I have no doubts or reservations about involving myself in that.
Steve Guntli is a student at Western Washington University, and was our wonderful summer intern this year.