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The 180-day dash

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010

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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.'"

A while back I wrote fondly about the lull in the planning, that peaceful period when, for the first time in months, we could relax and just enjoy being engaged. We spent those weeks daydreaming about our life together, shopping for rings here and there, forging new holiday traditions and sometimes doing nothing at all.

That all changed this month.

It first hit me at midnight on New Year’s Day. It was finally 2010, our wedding year. July 10, 2010, seemed like a real date for the first time – and one that was coming up faster than I’d anticipated. Where had the time gone? I thought of what so many friends and relatives said back in July, back when a year felt like forever: the time will fly.

With this realization came that old familiar feeling of anxiety. There were still so many loose ends, still so much to do. It didn’t help when I logged into a wedding Web site and clicked on the “checklist” tool. I hadn’t visited the site much in the past few months, but I’d found the checklist to be pretty helpful in laying out objectives for each stage of the planning process. We were halfway through our year of engagement, so I figured we should be halfway through the checklist.

To-dos on list: 136
Completed to-dos: 50

Great. I scrolled down the list, where little pink alarm clock icons scolded me next to each overdue item. These were things like, “Envision your wedding invitations,” “Choose your florist and send a deposit to reserve their services,” and “If you plan to use frequent-flyer miles to travel to your honeymoon destination, book your flight now.”

Yikes. The honeymoon is Reese’s project – he volunteered for this, by the way, and I was happy to let him plan it – so I alerted him to this new urgency. For the other to-dos, I enlisted my mom, who drove into town on a recent Saturday for some high-gear planning.

Our first stop was a stationery store in south Charlotte, where we leafed through massive binders of invitations. I learned about the difference between engraving, letterpress and thermography, felt different papers and compared typestyles. I found that I liked the traditional styles best, and we left a half-hour later with a price list and a better idea of how our invitations would look.

Afterward, we stopped by the mall to look for shoes, which will ultimately be crucial for those yet-to-be-scheduled dress fittings. I’m looking for something classic but cute –summery sandals, probably in a soft champagne color that I can wear again after the wedding. I didn’t find the perfect pair that day, but I did feel productive for at least trying. We left the mall, parked in comfortable chairs in a nearby restaurant, pulled out my laptop and commenced phase two of the day’s planning.

First order of business was finalizing our save-the-date order. This involved uploading a photo and some text to an online stationery site and approving the proof. Next, we pulled up a proposal from one of the florists we were considering. I’ve been probably most stressed lately about the flowers, because I’ve heard florists book up quicker than you’d think. One flower shop I visited a few weeks ago already had three weddings scheduled for July 10.

This latest proposal had nearly everything we wanted – sweeping blooms of hydrangea and roses in soft creams and pinks and greens, tall floating-candle centerpieces, even rose petals for guests to throw as we exit the reception – but we had a few questions like, How many aisle markers do we need in the church? What in the world is a buffet arrangement? Why is this so expensive?

I got home that evening exhausted but strangely energized. I logged back into the wedding Web site and began to check off the items, knocking out those pink alarm clocks one-by-one. Only a few more had been completed – I was up to 58, total – but that was a good first step in this new year.

As these cold winter days tick by and spring rolls in, there will be more to do: invitations to order and plane tickets to book, bridal showers to throw and attend, musicians to line up, transportation to arrange. I don’t expect another lull quite like the one we sailed through last fall, but that’s OK – it was a welcome break in a busy year. Now, it feels good to be in planning mode again and in the beginning of the home stretch.

As I logged out of the Web site, a countdown caught my eye: 180 days to go.

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