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Time or money?

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Thursday, May. 06, 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.'"

One question has surfaced and resurfaced over the last few months as I've tried to balance planning a wedding with working full time and, you know, having a life: time or money? In other words, which am I most willing to part with, given the fact that it always seems there's a shortage of both? Save a buck - or save my sanity?

I've seen both of the extremes, in the realm of weddings and in the real world. There are the types who will do anything to save money, from obsessively clipping coupons to making their own clothes and accessories to turning a wedding into one giant craft project. Really, you can make just about every part of the event, if you think about it, from the flower arrangements to the favors to the cake.

Then there are those who will pay for everything because of the convenience, a lack of creative ability or an abundance of money - or a combination of all of the above.

I think it's safe to say I fall somewhere in the middle. Early on, for example, we hired a wedding planner, who will take over a few weeks from the wedding date to help finalize contracts, work out details and make sure the whole thing runs smoothly. This is a luxury, sure. Plenty of people plan their own weddings with no help and with tremendous results. But my wedding planner has already saved me a significant amount of time, e-mailing tips and suggestions on which vendors do the best work. And in a few months, as I'm scrambling to remember which vendors we've paid and what's left to do, it's going to feel great to know there's a professional behind the scenes.

In the latest tradeoff, I've been talking with my parents recently about wedding favors and programs, and we've agreed to go as low-maintenance as possible - meaning I won't be spending my evenings anytime soon assembling booklets or bags of candy with hole-punchers and yards of silk ribbon. I just flat-out don't have time. And frankly, I'm not sure the return on that investment is quite high enough to make it worthwhile.

But for the sake of balance and budgets, we've sacrificed time in favor of money plenty, too. Case in point: the wedding invitations, which have all but consumed my thoughts and spare hours in recent weeks.

Let's back up a few months, when I suggested to my parents that I address our envelopes - in part to save money, and in part because I've done calligraphy before, feel fairly confident in my abilities and felt it was a nice way to put a personal touch on an important element of the wedding.

What I didn't realize, though - or maybe just conveniently forgot - is just how long it takes. Sure, anybody can dash off an address or two (or 200). But these are my wedding invitations. I want them to look like I paid top dollar for a calligrapher's services. To look perfect.

And so there I've been, slowly and surely every chance I get, penciling in guidelines on those pretty ecru envelopes, testing the calligraphy pen on a piece of scrap paper to avoid ink splatters and other mishaps, taking a deep breath and then carefully lettering in thick, loopy script.

So far, I've avoided misspellings, stray ink and other errors. But it's not quick - or easy. The first night, it took me two hours to get through eight invitations. And as my parents are regularly reminding me (thanks, guys), our goal is to send them out by May 10 - an even two months before the wedding, and four days from now.

It's all a little overwhelming. And at the end of each two-hour or so block of addressing, I've come away with little more than a stiff neck, blurry eyes and the sense that I'm not making much of a dent in the project. But each time, when I flip through the stack of neatly addressed, newly minted envelopes, I have to admit that they look pretty nice. They look professional, and yet I can pick out a hint of my own handwriting, my personal touch.

In the end, some things are worth the money. And some things are worth the time.

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