Planning a wedding — and a life together

When I started wedding planning the first week of November, I thought it would be easy to find affordable venues that we both liked.

It turns out, planning a wedding is more complicated than I thought it would be. My fiance Troy and I looked at several different venues that we both liked. We were pretty sure we were going to get married and have the reception at a hotel in St. Pete; we had asked the hotel’s wedding coordinator to hold a date for us, and told her we were ready for a contract. I was so happy with how things had progressed that I (prematurely) announced on Facebook that we had found our ceremony and reception venue.

When we got the contract, Troy and I cringed. We hadn’t factored in the service fees and tax, so the total amount was far more than we had anticipated. We agreed it was too much for us to pay.

And so the search for venues continued.

For two months, we visited and considered a variety of venues. Then, we decided to look into the church that I go to — St. Paul’s Catholic Church in St. Petersburg. I’ve always envisioned getting married in the Catholic Church. Troy’s not Catholic, though, so we hadn’t seriously considered it as an option. We assumed the Church would make him convert or go through several pre-marital classes. But the requirements aren’t nearly as rigorous as we thought they would be. Troy assured me that he would be OK with getting married in the Church, so we booked a date: October 19, 2013. (It just so happens, that’s “Sweetest Day.”)

The St. Petersburg Women's Club, where we're having our reception.
The St. Petersburg Women’s Club, where we’re having our reception.

We then thought we were going to have our reception at my workplace, but just a few days ago we realized that the space isn’t big enough. I had made wedding dress appointments last week but ended up canceling them so I could start searching for reception venues again. Just about every place I visited was already booked on Oct. 19th — except for the last place I visited — the St. Petersburg Women’s Club. It turns out, that was my favorite venue of them all.

Oct. 19th was the one date that was still open in October and November 2013, so we booked it. The Club is a historic landmark, and it’s right on the water. It’s old-fashioned inside, but I like that aspect of it.

It’s a relief to have a ceremony and reception spot. Now, planning seems more fun. I just created our wedding website and have started booking vendors — a d.j., photographer, caterer, etc. I’m trying to take everything one day at a time so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming. It helps that I’ve been on vacation and have had more free time than usual.

Troy’s been my voice of reason through it all. He’s calmed my nerves when I’ve started to get worried, and he’s been so good at listening to my ideas for the wedding and offering his input. He’s also agreed to help out with certain aspects of the planning.

I’ve quickly learned that wedding planning can become all-consuming if you let it. So, I’ve been trying to be level-headed about it. I’ve created a budget and have been researching vendors that are both reliable and affordable. I have no desire to spend lavish amounts of money on one day; I would much rather spend money on our life together.

I’ve been heeding advice from Meg Keene’s of “A Practical Wedding,” which has great ideas about how to plan a meaningful and affordable celebration. She offers creative ideas for how to approach the big day, and explains that it’s not necessary to follow every.single.tradition. (There are so many!) Keene writes:

“You should focus your planning on things that make you feel delighted and alive. Because if what you are able to give your guests is yourself in your purest form, if you are able to lead them by joyful and relaxed example, then you are giving them the greatest give you can give. Your wedding will be one for the history books — not because it was the prettiest party anyone has ever seen, not because you played by all the rules and hit every single mark, but because it was so real, so true, so indescribably full of joy. Remember what your wedding is: a celebration. It’s a reason to rejoice. And it’s as simple and as complicated as that.”

If you focus on the joy, rather than getting caught up in a million little details, your happiness will be contagious. A wedding day should be one of the best days of your life; but it’s really just that — a special day. The more important part is the life that you and your partner will share together afterward. I can’t wait for that part.

Related: How Troy and I got engaged

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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