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Wedding No. 2: Boca Grande, Florida

24 Jul

Andrew pulled off the most amazing proposal on the small island of Gasparilla, in a town called Boca Grande.  His family has been going to Boca Grande for vacation for four generations, so it’s a special and meaningful place.  Not to mention that it’s gorgeous, and I for one would love to get married in a gorgeous, meaningful, special place.

Boca Grande Beach Club

The major player on Boca Grande is the Gasparilla Inn & Club.  It’s a gorgeous, “old Florida” style inn, surrounded by quaint, cozy cottages and a pristine golf course.  There are several places to get married at the Inn, including the golf course, the croquet lawn, in the main dining room, and at the Beach Club, located a couple of blocks away at the shore.  We got engaged on the beach right next to the Beach Club.  It has cheerful yellow umbrellas, panoramic views of the Gulf, and delicious rum drinks with fruit garnishes.  Fun place for a wedding, right?

Gasparilla Inn

I contacted Sharon, the Catering Manager at the Inn, and she helpfully provided me with a price list.  I won’t share their prices on here since they do not list them publically, especially as they are the nicest people and I don’t want to make them mad.  But I will tell you that the Beach Club is has a fee that is equal to about one fifth of the total budget we had originally discussed, and then a food and beverage minimum that is double that.  So all together, that would have taken up about 60% our total budget.  Doable.  With service charge and tax, it would be more like 73% of the budget.  We didn’t need those decorations anyway.

The key would be to keep the food and beverage total as close to the minimum as possible.  The Gasparilla Inn has a wide selection of buffet and seated menus available, as well as canapes, action stations, etc.  They also offer bar service by the hour, key for our particular guests, who have been known to consume remarkable quantities of alcohol.

I calculated that with the following basic inclusions: a canape buffet including coconut shrimp, salmon tartare, among other delicious offerings, barbecue buffet dinner with brisket, snapper, pulled pork and fried chicken and tons of fancy comfort food sides, and a full bar; we could have a wedding with 70 people.  Wow, I thought, we could actually pull this off!  If I don’t put any money into decor, my dress, invitations and other printing, any extras, we could have a fairly large wedding at a luxury location with our very average budget.

We started putting our list together.  We each put our own family and friends down separately, with a third list for mutual friends.  We got to 275.  And that was being conservative!  Even if each of us only invited 40 people (with the assumption that 5 from each list would not come) we would only be able to invite our immediate families, grandparents, close aunts, uncles and cousins, and NO FRIENDS.  I just couldn’t imagine getting married in this paradise with not even one of my friends there!  And I couldn’t not invite the family that is closest to me.

So we had to give up the Boca Grande dream wedding.  I had gotten attached too!

Want to see some gorgeous pictures from a bride who got to have her dream wedding at the Gasparilla Inn & Club?  Check them out on the Style Me Pretty blog!

Wait, no, this one might be my favorite!  This wedding looks so FUN.  The bride grew up vacationing in BG too, so you know she is totally taking advantage of how fun and laid back and special it is there.  I am so freaking jealous.


Wedding No. 1: Scotland

20 Jul

Technically, I did not plan this wedding after we got engaged.  Scotland is a dream vacation for both Andrew and me (though he’s already been), so when it was clear that we were on the path to marriage, we fantasized about a small, family wedding in Scotland.

NOT this:

No offense if this is your dress

No offense if this is your dress...

We were thinking a touch more restrained.  Scotland is famous for running off to get married.  In the mid 18th century, restrictive English matrimonial law led to the increase of English couples eloping across the Scottish border, where the age of consent was much younger.  Towns along the border, particularly Gretna Green, became the “drive-through wedding chapels” of the day.  Not so romantic, you may think.   The thing is, I love Scotland, and so does Andrew, so why not elope there rather than Vegas?

One thing Scotland has in abundunce: old houses, castles, towers, cottages, farmhouses, and inns.  And it seems like all of them are “for hire” for any kind of event or lodging you would need for a destination wedding.  In fact, you could randomly pick a part of the country, drop your finger on the map, and find at least 3 lovely places to stay for a weekend and get married.

Being practical (obviously, right?  I was planning a wedding thousands of miles from my home when I wasn’t even engaged yet.  The height of practicality!), I chose an area near Edinburgh, which allowed for minimal travel time and maximized our celebration time.   Searching the internet, I found the perfect place to get married in Scotland.

Winton House

Winton House.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s the home of Sir Francis Ogilvy, and sits on 2,000 acres.  It’s only 30 minutes from Edinburgh, so people aren’t traveling for a day to and from the international airport (and wasting all their vacation time in a car or on a train!)  The main house accommodates up to 16 people, and there are two additional places to stay on the property: Wintonhill Farmhouse and Winton Cottage, which hold up to 26 additional people.

GORGEOUS.  Right?  The two small houses are “self-catering”, which is a seemingly technical term in British hospitality jargon for “has its own kitchen”.  Presumably the rooms up at the big house are more like hotel rooms, so probably cost more.  However, I figured out based on their rates, and the time of year I was thinking (August and September), that we could rent both houses for a three day weekend, and have both our immediate families with us.  We could put any overflow and friends and ourselves in some or all of the 8 rooms at the main house, and easily cover those rooms in our budget as well.

You can get married in one of the gorgeous rooms in the main house, or in the garden, and then have a seated dinner and dancing after.  Including airfare, care hire, taxes, gratuities, plus all the stuff you’d need for any wedding – dress, accessories, tuxedos, flowers, invitations (though less 40 probably), and any other more casual events we might provide, I think this wedding could have been pulled off for less than $20,000.  (That being said, I did not get a quote from the Winton House, so possibly their prices are exorbitant.  But based on the rental for the cottage and farmhouse, it doesn’t seem that way.)

Downsides for this wedding?  Probably very few of our friends could have come, and many of our family members.  It would be a lot to ask from our family members who might feel obligated to come, including siblings.  Even if we paid for the lodging for a weekend, they would have to get plane tickets and car rentals, not to mention take vacation days at work.

So.  No Scottish wedding for us.

Planning 5 Weddings

19 Jul

After Andrew proposed, I made some blithe comment about not worrying about our wedding until my sister got married in September, 5 months later.

Clearly I am delusional.

I must have been suffering from temporary insanity, or the kind of total lack of self-knowledge that turns people into hypocrites.  You see, I would like to be the kind of person who is totally calm and clear-headed about wedding planning.  I don’t want to turn into the type of crazy woman who turns a deranged eye to the cameras on “Bridezillas” screaming, “It’s MYYYYYYY DAY!!”  I hate those people.  And I will try to avoid that level of crazy.

The fact remains, however, that I am an event planner by trade, and it would be extremely out-of-character for me to let an exciting event like a wedding go unplanned for nearly HALF a YEAR.  So no cool, calm and collected for me.  I jumped into wedding planning feet-first, ordering books, buying magazines, and reading the internet.

I realized something quickly though.  I have not really been a person who has always known exactly what I want for my wedding.  I could see us getting married in all different venues, times of year, and with all different sizes of wedding.  I realized the hardest part of planning a wedding was picking which wedding to plan.  (Well, and paying for it.)

Andrew was no help!  He says he planned the proposal (and, let’s face it, it was awesome), so I was in charge of the wedding.  I suspected that as time passed, there would be some things that we would all be surprised that Andrew had an opinion on, but until he was faced with a specific choice, he didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted either.

So I’ve planned 5 weddings, one after the other, abandoning each until we finally found the right one.  Not technically planned all the way through, have to go cancel contracts with vendors level of planning.  But you know what I mean, right?

And I could have gone through with each and every one of these weddings, but for one or two missing elements.  Most often, it was striking the right balance of budget to number of people invited.

Let’s say that Andrew and I figured that our budget was $25,000 (not our actual budget, but close to the Knot’s average amount spent on weddings.  And, well, pretty close to our budget too.)  We realized that that would get us a really nice wedding with 30 guests in Scotland to a relaxed party for more that 200 in Texas.  And we couldn’t make up our minds about which we wanted.

So over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share some of the weddings I planned.  Maybe someone else can use the information to actually have one of the weddings of my dreams!


The Proposal Story

16 May

Happy, happy news to share: Andrew proposed!

To answer the three most common questions:

1. Yes, I was surprised.  I mean, we live together, and we’ve had the grown up conversations that we want to get married one day, so it wasn’t out of the blue.  However, my sister is getting married this fall, so if I thought about it at all, I sort of vaguely imagined it happening after her wedding.  But to be honest, I tried not to think about the actual proposal too much because I wanted to be surprised.

2.  We haven’t picked a date yet.  I’m thinking Fall 2012, as Andrew and I will be paying for most of the wedding ourselves, and that will give us some time to save.  The added bonus is that we won’t be getting married right on the heels of my sister.

3.  How did it he do it?  It was awesome!

At some point in February I think, Andrew asked me if I wanted to go to Florida to visit his grandmother and have a long weekend break.  He made me feel like it was totally my choice; as though he was just wondering if we had time and money to go.  This year we have been saving up in order to go to every wedding and out of town event that we have the desire to attend.  Andrew grew up going to Florida to his grandparents’ house every year, and I feel like if we have an opportunity to go, we should take advantage of it – particularly if we get to see his family.

So I of course said yes, and then promptly put it in the back of my mind.  Not because I wasn’t excited, but because I had one event after another coming up in March and April and I was stressed out.  About two weeks out, Andrew reminded me that we were going to Florida for Easter weekend, and that became the goal, the light at the end of the tunnel.

The final week leading up to Easter weekend, I had four events.  The first was the Smith Announcement on Wednesday, which was planned by others and I just helped out at.   The next was the Silver Tea on Thursday afternoon, one of the three major events I plan for work each year.  I went straight from the Silver Tea to Kiss My Grits, the awesome new event the Young Texans Against Cancer held Thursday evening.  (Check out the link to read the write  up from Jay Ducote at Bite and Booze.  Yummy!)  I am a board member for YTAC, so I chipped in for the event by organizing volunteers and doing some of the printing.  Mostly, though, I thoroughly enjoyed myself while indulging in a bit of overdrinking and undereating.  Which made it very difficult to get moving for the last event of the week, a Day in the District tour on Good Friday.

One nice thing about ending the week with Day in the District is that I wear scrubs all day, so even though I was totally exhausted and dragging through the rigorous and physical schedule of the all day touring, I didn’t have to wear a suit.  Plus, Andrew picked me up from Ben Taub General Hospital and we went straight to the airport, so I was already dressed comfortably for the plane.  Andrew is absolutely adorable, and dresses up to fly, so we were a rather odd couple.  (I have now had to fly twice while wearing scrubs straight from work, and I’ve joked that I hope no one has a heart attack on the plane.  “Doctor, we need your help!”  ” But I’m only an event planner!”  Ha.)

So we made it to Florida, met his parents at the airport and drove on to Boca Grande.  Boca Grande is such a magical, beautiful place.  It’s quiet, relaxing, and there is so much to do without really needing to do anything at all.  It’s a place that means a lot to Andrew, and his whole family.

We got there late on Friday night, so our first real day there was Saturday.  We went out on the boat with Andrew’s parents all day, which was amazing.  AMAZING.  Andrew got to spend quality time with his dad driving the boat, and Andrew’s mom and I did nothing but enjoy ourselves.  Here are some pictures from that day.  I love looking at these and remembering how I had no clue what was going to happen later that evening.  And how every single other person on the boat did!

Lunch at Useppa Island

"Shower With A Friend" - Afternoon drinks at Cabbage Key

View from patio at Cabbage Key

After going out on the boat all day, we made it back to the house just in time for a nap before dinner.  (Still trying to convince Andrew’s family that southern women take naps regularly.  Not for nothing is my family nickname Scarlett.)

I did manage to sleep for about an hour, then got up and dressed for dinner.  Another nice thing about vacationing with Andrew’s family is they tend to eat at home in Florida.  It’s so relaxing to not have to eat out every meal.  So while his dad got the grill going, Andrew mixed drinks, and asked me if I’d like to walk down to the beach.

Andrew is a sneaky guy.  The way he asked, I could have very easily said no.  He totally made it sound like my idea.  But we hadn’t even been to the beach in Boca Grande since we’d been out all day, so of course I wanted to see it.  We took our cocktails and walked a couple of blocks away to the 7th Street beach, where the teenagers on the island have always met up to do teenager-type things, according to Andrew.  So romantic!  We pulled our shoes off and walked out onto the sand.

My first clue that this wasn’t just a walk on the beach was when Andrew, with a frustrated expression, looked up and down the beach muttering, “Why are there so many people on the beach?”  There were maybe, maybe, three families in either direction.  I started teasing him for being a snob.

We started walking towards the beach club, and it was nearing sunset, so it was gorgeous and perfect.  Andrew was saying all these very nice things (which, lucky me, is not unusual), and I was being my usual smart ass, when all of the sudden he hugged me and then knelt down in the sand.  He pulled out a ring and asked me to marry him.  I totally started laughing, and said something like, “Oh, that’s what we are doing!” and “We have cocktails!” and finally, “Yes! Of course!”

The best part about it was that neither of us brought phones or a camera or anything.  Not one of the three families on the beach noticed what we were doing.  It truly was a moment where only the two of us were present.  We sat on the wall next to the beach club, and watched the sunset while I laughed and made Andrew tell me every little detail about how he’d done it.  (Like, how did you know my ring size?  How did you make this all seem like this was my idea?  Who else was in on it???)

The beach

After the sun set, we walked back to the house.  Honestly, that was the first time I really became emotional.  It was finally sinking in, and Andrew told me that both his and my parents knew, but that we were going to be breaking the news to his grandmother.  I don’t know why, but that’s what finally made me start crying!

So when we walked up to the house, it was all hugs and cheering.  After thanking everyone (especially Andrew’s mom, who had helped him get the ring, wore it through security and on the plane, and had been dying all day waiting for him to get it over with), I went downstairs to start calling family.  Of course I called my parents first, and my mom answered after a .00003 second ring with, “Where have you been??”  Apparently, Andrew had paid them a visit right before we left to get their blessing, and told them that he would be proposing at sunset on Saturday night, weather permitting.  My parents totally pulled up the sunset and weather information for Boca Grande on the computer, and spent Saturday evening refreshing it over and over.   The visual of that still makes me laugh out loud!

I called only family that evening, so that Andrew and I could enjoy dinner kind of normally, but the phone kept ringing with well-wishers.  After dinner, Andrew and I went to the Pink Elephant on our first date as an engaged couple.  That’s where we started trying to refer to each other as “fiance” and “fiancee”, which still trips me up.

About the ring…I’m sure every girl says this about her engagement ring, so forgive me for gushing a little.  The ring is gorgeous.  I couldn’t have picked out a ring for myself, knowing that I would be wearing it forever and ever, so I was more than happy to drop that one in Andrew’s lap.  His mom helped him last November (! I can’t believe he kept all this a secret so long!) by giving him some diamonds she had inherited from family.  I love that.  They brought them to a jeweler, who created a beautiful custom ring to fit, and added some more diamonds to make it extra glittery.  It’s impossible to see in pictures, but it has an Art Deco feel to it, with a very modern, ziggurat-motif in profile.  I will post a picture, but it doesn’t do it justice.  Andrew did an amazing job, so much better than I could have.

notice how I picked the picture with the *bling*? haha

So that’s the story.  I think I answered all the questions people had, but let me know if I missed one!  Here are some other pictures from the weekend.  Enjoy!

Andrew's happy when he drives a boat

Island picnic on Easter. We are trying to practice the "engaged couple" pose.

Heaven is under a yellow striped umbrella.

Sunset at Cabbage Key

As you can probably imagine, it was so incredibly difficult to come home from this trip.  However, my parents are awesome, and look what greeted us when we pulled up to our house:

“Congratulations on your Engagement Courtness and Andrew” from my amazing parents

I feel so lucky that I will be joining Andrew’s wonderful family, and that he will join mine!  Now if only I didn’t have to plan a wedding…or just one wedding.   But more on that later.