In a week, Holly Beatty, 34, and her partner of seven years, Jessica Leshnoff, 30, will be married in a Jewish ceremony in Washington, where they met. They'll celebrate at a reception for 200 guests with Middle Eastern food, a disc jockey and dancing, and a large wedding party with a dozen attendants.
The reception hall will be awash in romantic hues of ruby - on the tablecloths, vases, silk flowers and lighting. And the couple, engaged since December, have vowed to banish all thoughts of Beatty's recent layoff.
Although the wedding is likely to cost $25,000, they agreed to splurge on it. They view the occasion as a well-deserved gift to each other, marking the start of a new life after years in a long-distance relationship and being separated by Beatty's military service.
But it's hard not to worry. They have carefully watched spending so they could afford a house, buying a boarded-up shell in Highlandtown two years ago for $149,000 and painstakingly restoring it.
Then, in October, Beatty was let go from her $42,000-a-year-job as an assistant project manager for a construction management company in Baltimore.
She had accepted the job over four other offers because the real estate industry was booming. But this year, construction projects have slowed amid the economic downturn.
The layoff triggered worries about the couple's financial footing, Beatty said. "I was thinking ... we have two cars, we have a house, we've maxed out our finances by financing the wedding. The last thing I want to do is let Jessica down."
When Beatty called Leshnoff at her marketing job at Maryland Public Television, "the floor just disappeared under me," Leshnoff said. "I shut the door and started crying. What are we going to do?"
Now, wedding bills are mounting. There's the photographer to pay, the rabbi, the DJ.
And there are other financial issues. Beatty can't afford COBRA health insurance, and Leshnoff's employer does not offer coverage to same-sex partners. Savings will cover just two months of car and mortgage payments.
"It is scary when you hear about so many people being laid off," Beatty said. "I guess the responsible thing to do is cancel the wedding."
For both of them, though, that is not an option. Neither is thinking too far ahead.
"Jessica's a worst-case-scenario thinker, but I don't let anything keep me down," Beatty said. "I don't think God put us out of work three weeks before our wedding to not let us find anything."
Leshnoff is trying hard to come around to Beatty's more positive thinking.
"We can't let this get in the way of us being happy," Leshnoff said. "We're a team. We'll get through it."