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Style over substance

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Tuesday, Feb. 16, 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.'"

It's hard to believe how quickly this whole planning thing is going. Now, Reese and I have pushed past the halfway point and turned the wintry corner. The days are getting longer, and the once unimaginable stretch of time between the engagement and wedding has been slashed to less than five months. When people ask how the planning is going, it's no longer, "Have you set a date?" or "Have you found a dress?" But, "Are you done with everything?"

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. There is still a lot - a lot - to do. I logged into that wedding Web site again recently, and there are still plenty of little alarm clock icons, silently buzzing at me: Book your ceremony musicians! Line up transportation! Send a photo to the newspaper to announce your engagement! Oops.

In all, there are 118 to-dos left, 71 complete, at last count. But instead of that familiar sense of panic, I've lately felt a less-familiar sense of relief. Not that everything is done - because it isn't - but we're far enough along that if we had to get married tomorrow, we could pull it off.

The other day, I got to thinking: Planning a wedding is a little like training for a very long run. It's a long process with some pain and uncertainty along the way - quickly overshadowed by each milestone, each accomplishment. When I was preparing for my first half marathon a few years ago, I didn't actually register for the race until I'd run eight miles. At that point, though 13 still felt far off, I at least knew I could do it. I'd say we're at about the eight-mile mark now.

Since my last frenzied blog entry about everything I have yet to do, I've accomplished a lot. I've finalized the proposal from the florist and sent in the deposit. I bought my wedding shoes - high-heeled pumps in a warm champagne satin (to die for, and, thankfully, wearable with something other than a white gown). I booked consultations with a few hair and makeup stylists and began thinking about how I want to look - beyond the dress and veil - on the wedding day. I booked a classical guitarist for our cocktail hour and set up a meeting with our church's music director to talk more about our ceremony music.

Next up: invitations. Reese's mom tipped us off to a company a few hours southeast of Charlotte with prices about half of what we encountered at a few Charlotte-area stores. We haven't placed the order yet, but I've leafed through a stack of samples enough times to decide on a classic ecru invitation with simple black script.

My mom and I have been shopping for more dresses, too, for her to wear to the wedding and for both of us to wear to the rehearsal dinner. And soon, Reese will have to choose the tuxes he and his groomsmen will wear. There are parties to plan, wedding bands to buy and more details to stitch together.

These are the kind of things, I realized, you envision doing before you're actually engaged, before you figure out that the bulk of the planning - in the early stages at least - is all about budgets and venues and contracts. Now we're past most of that and into dreamier plans: how you'll look walking down the aisle, how your bridesmaid dresses and jewelry and hair and makeup will look under the gold-toned stained glass windows in the church, how you'll line up for pictures among the summery blooms outside.

Last Sunday, my parents and I walked around uptown - from the church to the Atrium to the hotel where most of our out-of-town guests will stay in July. And for maybe the first time, I could truly picture it all: the cake and the flowers, the band and the food, the people I love most, all gathered in that glass-domed space under the summer stars.

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