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Information Overload

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Tuesday, Sep. 22, 2009

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Photo by Critsey Rowe

Kirsten Valle is a business reporter for the Observer. She can be reached at kvalle@charlotteobserver.com.

Read more "Getting to 'I do.'"

The first day of planning had been a surprising success. It also convinced me that, despite what I feared, putting together a wedding would be a breeze. I would quickly find out otherwise.

As June ended and the one-year countdown to our July 10 event began, I launched into attack mode. I bought a small stack of bridal magazines and a pink paperback book, “Check List for a Perfect Wedding.” I also bought a thick three-ring binder with plastic sleeves for showcasing catering menus and photos of dresses and decorations, and colored tabs that divided the book into sections such as “church,” “reception” and “guest list.”

I had all the right intentions, telling myself that as long as I stayed organized, the whole process would be as tidy as that binder. Managing the details, though, turned out to be a bit more complicated.

The first hurdle was striking a balance between my ideal, blank-check wedding and, well, reality. I knew weddings could be expensive, but beyond that I didn’t have a clue what to expect to pay for the things that go into one. This led to seemingly endless discussions with my parents, who are generously footing the bill, about priorities – particularly the painful fact that inviting a few extra friends would mean scaling back on the dress or the flowers or the invitations or something else.

Reese and I soon decided that throwing a good party, spending it with the people we love and documenting the whole thing through beautiful photos were most important to us.

That meant the venue, band, guest list and photographer moved to the top of our to-do list.

A few weeks in, we’d signed a contract at the Atrium, that beautiful glass-domed space uptown. We booked The Tams, an old beach-music band that Reese and I love. We sketched out a guest list of around 250, and we decided to hire the amazing Critsey Rowe as our photographer.

But these things didn’t happen as quickly as they could have, which brings me to the second unexpected hurdle: time. For weeks after we got engaged, Reese and I spent almost every evening writing and rewriting guest lists, poring over vendors’ brochures and punching prices into a calculator. During my lunch breaks, I met with photographers, wedding planners and caterers, and I was calling my parents at least twice a day with updates.

Every decision, it seemed, was filtered through family members and friends and etiquette books. And every choice involved a careful dance, a back-and-forth with vendors to negotiate prices and other details. Just an aside – one good thing about planning a wedding in a recession is that people are often willing to work with your budget, if you ask.

My third and final major obstacle was information overload. There are just so many choices. That stack of bridal magazines? Full of an overwhelming display of flower arrangements and bridesmaid dresses and romantic honeymoon destinations. Every bouquet seemed perfect. Every gown, stunning in its own way. Everything started to look the same. Locally, too, there were dozens of vendors who seemed qualified to pull off a spectacular event. It didn’t help that they were all really, really nice. If choosing one was difficult, breaking the news to the others I’d met was equally dreadful.

Soon, though, I got over it. I practiced that art of deciding and moving forward. I’m probably closer to my family than ever, thanks to all the talking we’ve done. And despite what is sometimes a drawn-out process, I’m crossing off items, slowly and steadily, from the to-do list.

All the choices are still daunting, but it’s also comforting to know that, no matter what you choose, it has the potential to be perfect. And on the wedding day, your friends and family will almost certainly tell you it couldn’t be better.

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