This morning I got an email from a woman named Cate. She was slighty panicked—though in the good, excited, happy kind of way—because four days ago, she and her boyfriend had decided to get married. But why would she panic?, you ask. Is she secretly afraid that her soon-to-be-husband is suddenly going to start recieving Allure magazine every month in the mail for no discernible reason?
(NOT THAT THIS HAPPENED TO ANYONE YOU KNOW, COUGH SEAN SLINSKY COUGH.)
(Seriously, has anyone else's husband started receiving Allure magazine, unbidden, in the mail? Sean swears up and down that he didn't subscribe, but there it is, every month, with his name splashed across the mailing label. It is really very weird. I mean, I'm not complaining, someone's got to teach me 25 ways to do a smoky eye, but still.)
Anyway, our lovely new friend Cate wasn't panicking because she had a case of cold feet or anything. Our lovely new friend Cate was panicking because her wedding is in 16 days.
No, don't go back and read the top paragraph again; you had it right the first time. She got engaged four days ago and she's getting married in 16. Why the rush? Well, her boyfriend's father has an incurable form of leukemia. His doctors gave him a prognosis of three to six months, and that was two months ago. And as Cate says, so sweetly and simply, "we want him to be part of the celebration."
So Cate was writing for advice. "I know you're a planner," she wrote, "so I'm curious how you'd handle this feat."
I read her whole email and then I took ten deep breaths in quick succession because I kind of got the feeling I needed to do it for us both. Seriously, I planned a wedding in eleven months and I don't think I unclenched my jaw the whole time—well, maybe for the catering tastings, but only because I didn't want to miss out on free truffled french fries—so the thought of anyone doing it in 16 days did make me start to hyperventilate just a little bit on her behalf. You know, like sympathy hyperventilating. It's totally a thing.
But of course it can be done. Of course it can. It's just a case of starting immediately, prioritizing quickly, and being incredibly organized. I thought I'd give Cate a brief idea of how I'd approach the task right here, and then open it up to you guys to see if you had any further thoughts. I know you guys are planners too. That's why we're friends.*
*(Well, you know, Internet friends. Inside the computer and everything. And you know way more about my life than I do about yours which would be super awkward if we ever met in person and I started telling you a story and you were all "oh, I totally know how that one turns out, and also the names of both of your cats and that you threw up in the ocean on your honeymoon." So okay, yeah, it's actually kind of weird if you think about it too long. But I still like to pretend we're friends.)
Here's where the situation stands. Cate and her boyfriend, Ian, live in Calgary. They have been together for nine years. Their wedding will be on Friday October 7th—which means they have the rest of this week, all of next, and four days of the one after—and a quick email invitation sent out a few days ago indicates that they'll be looking at about 40 guests. They have a venue booked—a gorgeous private dining room, which means food and wine will be taken care of through that—and they've pretty much pinned down a justice of the peace to marry them. (The pinning down of the justice of the peace, though an awesome mental image, was not meant literally.) A friend is making the wedding rings, and while they have other friends who are professional photographers attending, they're torn on whether it would be appropriate to ask them to capture the big day.
Basically, Cate and Ian are kicking ass and they are already way ahead of their game. This is going to be a piece of cake. (Wait! Cake! They also need cake!)
So this is what I'd do. I'd keep it as simple as possible, let everyone enjoy the planning—well, insomuch as it's possible to enjoy running around for 16 days like a chicken with its head cut off (okay, I would be running around for 16 days like a chicken with its head cut off, but your mileage may vary; you're probably all a lot calmer than me)—and try to look forward to the whole affair without giving way to stress and panic. In order of priority, I would tackle:
1) The marriage license
I am woefully unknowledgable about Canadian marriage licenses, but when we got ours down in San Diego, Sean and I had to make an appointment for it that was harder to obtain than front row tickets to a Justin Bieber show. (Uh, so I've heard. Asking for a friend.) If Cate and Ian can get this squared away as soon as possible, it will be a huge weight off their minds.
2) The photographer
Truthfully, I would just ask the friends. Professional photographers, feel free to weigh in, because I may be way off base here, but if a friend asked me to do a favor like this for a special occasion and a good cause, I'd be delighted to be able to help. Cate is concerned that the friends might feel like they're being asked to "work" the wedding, which I think might be a different story if it was a year away, but there's a pretty slim likelihood of her being able to find and secure a professional wedding photographer she likes and trusts in 16 days, so my guess is that the friends would be happy to help out where they can (and truthfully, they may even have been planning to bring a camera anyway.) I'd stress again and again to the photographer friends that they certainly shouldn't feel like they had to be "on" all night—just a shot here and there while they were enjoying the wedding like the rest of the guests—and I'd send a sincere note of thanks and a bottle of good champagne (or a gift card to a local restaurant or some other nice token of thanks) afterwards.
If that doesn't work out—and, quite frankly, even if it does work out—I'd invest in some disposable cameras to keep on the table for people to take their own snaps. I'd also set up a brand new Flickr account where people can upload the pictures and videos they take on their phones or digital cameras, then I'd either print out a little card for every place setting that shows the URL, user name, and password, or just email that information to everyone the next day. (Sean and I did the latter and we got some great pictures from our guests. It was so much fun to see the wedding from other people's perspective.) If Cate and Ian have a video camera, or can borrow one from a friend, I'd give it to a close relative—but, you know, maybe one from the younger generation, NOT TO STEREOTYPE—and let them go to town with it on the wedding day. (Within reason, obviously. Like, maybe make a caveat that stresses no naked butt shots. I mean, you'd think you wouldn't have to stipulate that, but you'd be surprised.)
3) Cate's attire
This is the fun part. I'd go on a bit of a shopping spree. I'd forgo bridal boutiques entirely—way too late in the game to order a dress; some woman with overplucked eyebrows and a lot of costume jewelry would look at you so incredulously that you'd be able to see her shock even through all that Botox—and hit regular stores instead. I'd shop online first, order a few things that struck my fancy, then go to a few brick-and-mortar stores while I was waiting for the online stuff to be delivered. There are a surprising number of lovely white dresses—assuming Cate wants a white dress; if she doesn't, the task is even easier—in regular, non-bridal stores, and even a Marc Jacobs frock from Neiman Marcus is going to be a whole lot easier to swallow, price-wise, than a traditional "wedding" dress. I'd also probably check my local area for trunk shows over the next couple of weekends, just in case, and maybe even put the word out to friends in case anyone suddenly remembered the vintage Chanel in their grandmother's attic. If Cate wants a veil, 16 days is probably still time enough to order something cute from a willing Etsy seller.
4) Everyone else's attire
If Cate's husband-to-be has a suit he likes—boom, wear that. Done. (He can always buy a new tie or socks or something to perk it up and make it "special.") If not, that's why God invented rental places. (Well, that and for prom.) If there's a bridal party involved—which reminds me, the bridal party should probably be asked, like, now—the easiest thing is probably just to give them as much leeway as possible. Hey, maid of honor, you know that green dress you have that gives you an awesome rack? Yeah, wear that. (Note: Cate should only say this if her maid of honor is a sister or a good friend. Maybe don't say it if the maid of honor is her husband's grandmother or her high school English teacher. Which would never happen anyway, but still. You can't be too careful.)
I made my own bouquet, my boutonnieres, and my centerpieces for my wedding, and it was one of my favorite DIY projects. If Cate is crafty and up for the challege, she might consider arranging her own flowers; I bought mine in bulk from a local wholesale flower market the day before, made the boutonnieres that night, and my bouquet and the centerpieces in the morning. (If there's no wholesale flower market nearby, there are tons of companies online that will sell you wholesale flowers and deliver them in good time. I haven't used any personally but a quick google should yield some nice results.) I'd also suggest looping in a friend or family member to help with the arranging—my centerpieces were literally big white hydrangeas in mason jars, which meant even my brothers could put them together, AND THEY DID—and watching a few tutorial videos beforehand. I'm no florist, obviously, and a professional florist could obviously have created something a lot more elaborate than I did—in fact, a professional florist did actually make my bridesmaids' bouquets and the corsages for my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law, because even I have my DIY limits—but I was pretty happy with what I put together, and it was curiously therapeutic to practice. (Which reminds me: I'd definitely try and practice.)
If doing her own flowers sounds too time-consuming for Cate, I'd narrow down exactly what she wants right now, then call a few local florists for a quote. I've also heard really good things about the Costco flower department creating stuff for weddings. Anyone have any experience with that?
6) Everything else
Honestly, I'm not sure there is a whole lot else. If Cate wants a cake and the venue doesn't provide one, I'd start calling a few local bakeries (although I probably wouldn't disclose that it was for a wedding) and I might have a quick glance on Ebay or Etsy for a cake topper. If speeches are to be made by anyone, I'd start preparing those now. If Cate wants seating cards, I'd buy some pretty cardstock and recruit a friend with nice handwriting (I'm half tempted to volunteer for this job myself, as I have a very specific and desperate urge to write things prettily whenever I can). And if Cate and Ian want to stay in a hotel for their wedding night—or even take a quick honeymoon—I'd try and get that booked pretty soon.
I'm pretty much of the opinion that trying to mess around with favors at this point might, quite simply, make Cate's head explode, but if she absolutely wanted them, I would find an awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe, buy some wax paper at the grocery store, download a free printable template (Martha Stewart has a ton online, like that's any surprise) and put a wrapped cookie (like this) with a cute label glued onto it at everyone's place setting.
So that's how I'd go about planning a wedding if I only had 16 days to do it. Anything I've missed? Any suggestions or ideas from you? Any advice for our lovely bride-to-be?
Which reminds me: good luck, Cate! The entire Internet is pulling for you. Well, not the entire Internet, just us over in this little corner. But we're pulling for you extra hard.