Section One: The Wedding Ceremony
Allison and I are both moral people, but we do not follow the path of organized churches. This was something we brought up very early in the relationship and made sure we were on the same page, because religious friction is something that no relationship needs on top of the other stuff that goes on in life. Thankfully for me, Allison shared the same views on life, organized religion, and the general path to happiness. While Allison may have shared my values, our parents followed a more traditional Italian-American path.
This is a moment where a person needs to separate themselves from intellectual agnostic with a cause (and a chip on their shoulder about the whole scene) to someone who can listen to other's views, accept them, but still hold true to your beliefs. The bottom line is that when you do not follow someone's belief patterns, things can get awkward, but if you behave like an adult and try not to offend, the results can be peaceful and respectful (they aren't going to be perfect). We had a frank conversation with the parents and basically got it to the point where we said, “if this conversation continues, it is going to offend someone – we can respect your faith, but we don't follow it.” The funny part is that I started writing this blog a few days ago and last night the religion situation came up again with Allison's parents. My comments still hold true, but it ultimatly comes down to belief and preference; one thing I will concretely comment on is that I very low tolerance for people when they tell me I will find my way "to the church" again. I will say it now, and I will say it 30 years from now, the Catholic church is a spineless, child-molesting, anti-female, rotten organization and I have no desire to ever become "part of the flock" again. If you believe in what they are selling, more power to you - I hope it brings you peace and happiness, just don't expect me to agree with you in any way.
The idea of a church wedding seems very off to me, and I know Allison feels the same way. If there is picture book cliché about a wedding, assume that we are going to be running in the opposite direction. It isn't that we think it is wrong, it is just be done too many times before, and no thought is being put into the actions. The ceremony is just a robotic event people just wait to get through to be rewarded with food and drink. We didn't want that which is why we are basically writing an entirely new ceremony from the ground up.
Going off the path with wedding ceremonies can be a little dicey. First, you need to find a place that isn't a church to perform the ceremony. We decided to go with the reception hall. This cuts down on travel and there is a bit of a cost reduction because it eliminates the need to book limos (keeping it green baby!). Now that we have a place, we needed to find someone to make this whole situation legal... well this part is still a work in progress. If you aren't going to use a priest or a reverend to perform the ceremony, that leaves you with a judge or a wedding officiant. A wedding officiant is someone who gets certified to perform weddings by an alternate, non denominational church – which means to me they aren't judgmental and set in their ways. We are having a bit of an issue with the officiant option because Bucks County, Pa (which is where we are getting married) might ban anyone who isn't a judge, priest, or “normal” reverend from doing ceremonies – basically they are cutting out the little guy. We actually met with an officiant and she is a really nice lady, but once we started telling her our ideas and modifying her ceremony, I think I scared her, and hurt her feelings. But we shall see how that goes.
Section Two: The Reception Hall
As I mentioned in section one, we are having our wedding ceremony at the reception hall. The funny things is that I pretty much knew where I was having my wedding reception if I indeed had a wedding in the tri-state area. Celebrations in Bensalem, Pa is a Lombardi family tradition. My cousins Clara, Joey, Paulette, my Uncle Flip, and my own sister had their weddings at Celebrations, which of course lends itself to better customer service and better deals since we have a very good relationship with the management. With that being said, I kind of view having my wedding there as a sellout move, because this was entirely a financially motivated decision, but hey, weddings are a total rip off, and there is no way to avoid it.
Originally, Allison and I had the intention of having a destination wedding. While some members of both families were very into the idea, many expressed their opinions and concerns on not being able to go due to travel restrictions and cost. The idea was ultimately scrapped when it was confirmed that Allison's grandparents would not be able to make the trip. While I would preferred a destination wedding over the traditional, there are not as many benefits as you would expect:
1. You have to be at the location for a certain amount of days before you can get married. Jamaica is like 48 hours, but Mexico is three full days (which adds to your cost).
2. Traditional wedding receptions cost more, but they also add a financial buffer as guests are likely to give gifts (the rule of thumb with destination weddings is that gifts are not expected or encouraged since your guests have a large travel budget)
3. The tropics (Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, Mexico, Aruba) are not as cheap as you would think. I called almost all of the resorts, and assuming we had 35 guests coming (and you try to have something private after the ceremony), it was going to easily cost S13,000.00 out of pocket. Now while this beats the US wedding average of $26,000.00 – you are alienating friends and family and reducing your cost-offsetting gift intake.
Also, lets face it – the beach wedding is becoming a monster cliché in itself, so there is no winning from a financial or artistic perspective.
Section Three: Photographers
I am going to be honest here.. I think wedding photography is an enormous rip off. You are going to spend 2,000 – 6,000 for a person to move around and take pictures of your drunk ass family on your wedding. I know Allison and I aren't going to be going back and revisiting the day in picture form any time soon, but I can't speak for 50 year old Joey, so I doing him a solid and getting it taken care of. We called over a dozen photographers in the area, weeded 9 out on cost and over the phone personality, and met with three. We loved the first guy – he had vision and a sense of humor. The other two companies were amateurish at best: their shots were weak, they were lacking vision, and didn't come off as professional. So we went back to the first guy who also had the best prices.
Bottom line is that unless you get your aunt who took a digital photography class last month and fancies herself a photographer, you are going to be in the hole for at least 2,000 (remember, there is tax).
Section Four: The Wedding Party
I had a hell of a time picking my wedding party and I haven't completely resolved some of my issues. In 2004, I was the best man in three weddings and you would think that would make everyone a lock for my crew, but I decided to base my decision to include certain people based on their interactions with Allison. One of my buddies who I talk to, but we don't see much, and has had very little interaction with Allison, I couldn't see including in the party. But my friend Bill who spent a ton of time with Allison (even without me) has been asked to be a best man (yes I am having two) even though it would have been easier on paper to return the honor to one of my other friends. I have to say all of my guys have been incredibly cool about the best man (everyone assumed my friend Rob would get the solo spot), but I am close with everyone in my party and I want to spread around the responsibilities to suit everyone's strong points.
My party has eight guys right now (and I haven't asked the last guy yet because we thought one of the girls might back out), and I honestly wish I could have done more, but it has to end at some point, but the joy of writing your own wedding ceremony means you can give people jobs to do. So be on the look out.
In the upcoming months, Allison and I have to finalize the menu and get both sets of parents to agree on the costs, pick a DJ (a profession I cannot stand), get the invitations going (and “save the date” notices), pick the officiant, determine where the honeymoon will be (I will share the awesome decision matrix Allison worked up when we get to that), and a million other things... watch as we manage to get it all done without becoming that “stressed out couple getting married”. or at least I hope.