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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Weddings: For Everything there is a Season and a Price by Fran Joyce


Weddings come in all shapes and sizes - ultra formal, religious, secular, traditional, casual, kid friendly or adults only, outdoor, destination, intimate (family and close friends only) or a Justice of the Peace at the Courthouse. They can occur in any month, any time of day or any venue.

One thing is certain, weddings can get expensive quickly. Who is paying? What’s your budget?

For those of you with unlimited budgets, congratulations; you can stop reading now.

How do you have your dream wedding without someone taking out a second mortgage on their home?

What do you want people to remember about your wedding and reception?

When you’re considering cost remember your guests will be spending money as well. Destination weddings are fun, but air travel, hotel rooms, car rentals, and eating out in addition to a wedding gift can make your special day out of reach for many of your guests. If members of the wedding party will be coming from out of town they will also have to pay for tuxedo rentals and attendant’s dresses if you are not covering the cost. Guests with children have the added cost of hiring a babysitter unless you are throwing a child-friendly wedding.

You’l need to price wedding invitations, save the dates and thank you notes; decide on DJ vs. live music; find a better photographer than Cousin Ken, and include a wedding dress, attendants’ dresses and tuxedos in your budget. Remember you will also be tipping your caterer and their staff as well as the person who officiates at your wedding, the photographer, DJ or band in addition to their regular fee.

There are certain times of year when wedding dresses are on sale if you can’t afford to buy a designer dress. It can be hit or miss finding your size, but a size or two up can be altered if you find your dream dress. You can also shop at an upscale retailer for your attendants’ dresses. Unless you are trying to make a bold color statement, stick with a basic style in a neutral color and accessorize with beautiful costume jewelry in your wedding colors (this can be your gift), so the dresses can be worn for other things.

Wedding season months begin in late spring and continue through early fall. Traditionally, June through September are the most expensive months to have a wedding. With the exception of December which puts you in competition with holiday parties, late fall and winter months are a more economical choice for your wedding.

Start with the wedding venue because it will likely eat up the biggest chunk of your budget. If you have your heart set on a specific venue, you may have to wait a year or more to get a date in your dream month. You’ll also pay top dollar during peak wedding months. You might have to consider a less busy month if one exists. What else is available?

Can your dream venue accommodate your guest list? Will you need a separate venue for your reception? Will your caterer have access to kitchen facilities? If you are having an outdoor wedding, will your guests have adequate access to bathroom facilities? Is there adequate parking?

While you are considering dates, think about your guests and the weather. Will they be coming in from out of town? When will they be least likely to experience weather related delays or cancelled flights? Where will they stay? You can save them considerable cash if you reserve a block of rooms at a nice hotel. Again certain months are better for this.

A good option if you will be having several out of town guests and you are computer savvy is a website dedicated to your wedding. The cost to do it yourself is fairly reasonable and you can keep the website up for several months or cancel it at any time. You can post directions, hotel and restaurant options as well as information about local attractions for guests who may come in a few days early, because you’ll probably be too busy with last minute plans to entertain them. You can also post photos of the wedding, reception and honeymoon. But, a blanket thank you on-line is no substitute for individual thank you notes for wedding gifts.

If you are planning that dream honeymoon, when can you and your intended take vacation? Can you take advantage of any travel packages or GROUPON deals?

If you are having a casual wedding, do you really need to have a rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner? I attended a wedding a few years ago and the couple opted to forgo the rehearsal and dinner. Instead they reserved a block of seats at a baseball game at a discount and invited the wedding party and family members. I have also attended cook outs and pizza rehearsal dinners in lieu of expensive restaurants.

When planning your wedding, take advantage of things that will be in season on your big day. You can stretch your wedding and reception budget by going with flowers in season and foods that are in season.


Spring Weddings:

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Springtime is the optimal growth time for flowers and other flowering plants. In-season flowers include roses, tulips, lilacs, daffodils, daisies, orchids, violets, peonies, pansies, azaleas, forsythias, irises, cherry blossoms, poppies, pussy willows, dahlias, amaryllis, sweet peas, zinnias, and most types of lilies.

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 Summer Weddings:

Many flowers that are available in spring will also be available for part of the summer as well. Irises are available in late spring and early summer. Also, many of the flowers that bloom in the spring will continue to bloom throughout the summer. Summertime flowers include hydrangeas, sunflowers, cosmos, gardenias, zinnias, daisies, peonies, delphiniums, azaleas, snapdragons, gladioli, asters, chrysanthemums, lilacs, irises, freesias, and many types of lilies.

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Autumn Weddings:

Some flowers from summer such as sunflowers continue to bloom in the fall, so they may still be available. Fall flowers include marigolds, carnations, chrysanthemums, roses, daisies, lilies, goldenrod, alstroemeria, liatris, cockscombs, anthurium, and Queen Anne’s lace.


Winter Weddings:

Fewer flowers are available in winter, that doesn’t mean your bouquet and centerpieces can’t be unique and beautiful. Poinsettia is an excellent choice for a Christmas wedding. Other winter flowers include roses, amaryllis, carnations, chrysanthemums, and the Star of Bethlehem.

Your Reception:

Wedding food doesn’t have to be mediocre or predictable. Look for a caterer who uses locally grown produce and take advantage of the savings for produce in season. Wow your guests with a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables in salads and side dishes. Consult a seasonal food guide on-line such as If you have your heart set on white asparagus or fresh strawberries simply enter the state you are getting married in and click on one of their time frames such as Early June. A list of vegetables will come up that are in season. All varieties of of asparagus are in season in Pennsylvania during April, May and June and strawberries are in season in June only. If this matches your venue’s availability you’re in business.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farms are fresher because they don’t need to be transported long distances. Out of season produce has to come from somewhere else. It’s harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to your local stores instead of being allowed to ripen naturally.

Liquor, Beer and Wine?

Alcohol can be one of the most expensive parts of the reception. Traditionally, the groom’s parents pay for alcohol at the reception, but there’s no reason you can’t save some money no matter who is paying. First of all, you don’t have to serve alcohol at your wedding.  If you serve liquor you will have the added cost of a bartender and many guests will be looking for their favorite brands of liquor. It can get pricey making sure Uncle Joe has his brand of Scotch and your boss has her favorite brand of Vodka.

My son and daughter in law insisted on paying for their wedding and reception. They opted for a kid-friendly outdoor wedding and reception with games, BBQ from a local caterer, chocolate, vanilla and marble sheet cakes instead of a fancy wedding cake and self serve beer, wine, lemonade water and soft drinks. For months before the wedding they purchased cases of brand name soft drinks whenever they went on sale and trolled the State Store for sales on wine.  They bought cups, stocked up on coolers and ice before the big day and ordered kegs of beer. It was a lot of work, but they shaved hundreds of dollars off the cost of refreshments. They used the savings to surprise their guests with an ice cream truck full of delicious frozen treats.                                                      

What about dessert?

Wedding cakes are expensive. If cost is an issue opt for a small wedding cake for the bride and groom and a large sheet cake(s) for your guests or have a cookie table.

The Cookie Table is a longstanding tradition in parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey and New York. It is strongly rooted in Pittsburgh, which was primarily an industrial city rich with immigrants from Italy (where Cookie Tables are also traditional at weddings), Greece, and Eastern Europe. The exact year the Cookie Table started in this area is unknown, but it was first documented in Pittsburgh at the weddings of immigrant factory workers who couldn’t afford expensive wedding cakes. In lieu of cake, close family members of the bride and sometimes the groom’s family baked cookies for the reception as a gift of love. Each Woman baked her specialty (often seasonal favorites) and the cookies were arranged on trays which were placed at individual tables, or on a designated cookie table. Wedding guests were encouraged to take leftover cookies with them as a party favor which also helped defray wedding costs.

Though Pittsburgh is no longer an industrial powerhouse, the tradition has endured. Some of the cookies may come from bakeries or caterers, but most of the time the cookies are a homemade gift of love for the happy couple.

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June 2019 in This Awful Awesome Life

Q&A with Pittsburgh Sports Writer and Local Legend, Jim O'Brien by Fran Joyce