Wedding success with a bit less

Baltimore bride learns to scale down great expectations

September 08, 2002|By HALLE GAUT | HALLE GAUT,Special to the Sun

Back in the fall of 1998, I signed on with Vera Wang to produce her very first book on weddings. She expected it to be the encyclopedia of weddings -- the be-all, end-all book of the industry. I was the sole person responsible for pulling it all together.

I jumped in full steam ahead, diligently tracking down Vera's celebrity clients and their wedding pictures. I searched for the world's best wedding photographers. I worked with retailers that sold Vera's gowns, wedding planners, event planners and anyone who was affiliated with the wedding world. As Vera would say, we were "living and breathing weddings."

Even though I was in my 30s and had already been to quite a few weddings myself, nothing prepared me for the weddings I saw while working at Vera Wang. It was a world where the term "budget" meant absolutely nothing.

Hour upon hour, night upon night, weekend upon weekend, I would sit with Vera hashing out ideas, discussing her visions, looking at film and organizing her thoughts. So in April 2000, when I came home to Baltimore to visit family and friends (it was the first weekend I had had off in months) I was not remotely prepared to meet a man -- much less someone who would eventually be my husband.

But as we all know, love does strange things to people. I started driving down to Baltimore every free moment I had to be with this guy.

Thirty-six months and thousands of dollars later, my job was done. Vera Wang on Weddings came out in the fall and, next thing I knew, I was engaged.

I was ecstatic, but I was now confronted with having to plan our own wedding. Having been surrounded by the most exquisite affairs, I had no idea how we were going to plan our own. We had a modest budget (compared with those of the clients I had been working with) and suddenly the expectation of what I would be able to organize with our limited funds was almost too much to bear.

My first thought was to have an intimate, family affair. Of course, my fiance, Kirby, was not interested in a small soiree, so whatever romantic, painless visions I had entertained quickly dissipated.

Where did one begin? We ultimately decided on a small, intimate ceremony at 10 a.m. -- primarily for family -- and a larger, more casual evening party. I attribute our decision to having a morning ceremony entirely to Vera. When I worked with her, she talked incessantly about the elegance of "morning light" and the "chicness" of morning weddings.

Planning that was easy. My mom's house in Lutherville provided a lovely backdrop for the ceremony. We booked a terrific quartet of French horn players, who were Peabody students looking to make extra money.

A party for 120

The evening event was another story. In my mind, all elements needed to be fabulous somehow, and we did not have the budget to do it. More people (120 to be exact), greater expectations, more money, obviously. Does the word "distressing" come to mind? It did for me.

My family did not know what to do with me, and they eventually gave up trying to help.

We started by selecting a simple venue with a brick patio and tent in the Glyndon area. Next came the invitations. They're the first big style statement a couple makes. My fiance and I were psyched about this modern invitation we found, which incidentally happened to be bright green.

We were able to get them at a discount since I was friendly with the designer. In our eyes, green worked perfectly for our garden wedding and evening party. (It never occurred to me that my in-laws wouldn't "get" it or that others would look at the color as "not normal.")

Music was easy. My fiance loved and had always envisioned a zydeco band. We lucked out because a top band was playing the Kennedy Center the night before and wanted another night's gig before heading out of town.

Fortunately, zydeco musicians make themselves available to the average Joe, so we were able to contact them directly over the Internet and ended up getting a great bargain. We had a venue and music, but I was still nervous.

We had a lot to figure out and not much money left.

Planning the menu was more difficult and expensive. Since zydeco music originated in southern Louisiana, we geared our meal around a New Orleans-Cajun theme.

We negotiated with our caterer to provide a "lunch" menu even though our event was at night. Does Cajun chicken fettuccine, jambalaya, pulled barbecue beef sandwiches, and strawberry salad with honey-roasted pecans necessarily sound like lunch to you? It was fantastic and half the cost of more traditional dinners.

As a wedding gift, Vera Wang gave me a dress off her line. It made our day all the more special to know that she was part of it. Instead of using a traditional ivory color, I chose a beautiful blush pink.

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