We Did

Almost exactly one-point-five years ago, I started this blog and discussed our intentions to plan our wedding, and exactly one year ago (and, ironically, on our third anniversary), I wrote about our decision to be indefinitely engaged.

Today, on the fourth anniversary of our first date, I get to write about our wedding.

(So, I did write the introduction and half of this post when the above was true, but then I put off writing the rest, and so technically none of that is true now.)

Sometime in December 2014, Kevin and I finally agreed that A) we needed to get married (for financial reasons, of course), B) we wanted to get married (for love reasons), and C) we wanted to keep it simple.

We went through several iterations of what “simple” meant and finally landed on a three-course wedding format—one that would please our family, friends, and financials.

And, when we discovered that 2015 would include a Super Pi Day, and also that this day fell on a Saturday, we knew we had to get married on that date.

But it was December, and no one knew of our plans but us.

On January 4, 2015, while lunching with some of our friends at Bangkok Square (best Thai in GNV!), we discussed our wedding date and were disappointed to learn that half of the people at the table were busy on Pi Day. Dismayed, we realized that, if we wanted people to attend, we had to get to work right away. Since I don’t believe in save-the-dates, and since paper invitations would have taken too long (oh yeah, and would have been ridiculously expensive), we used Facebook to invite our friends and an email blast to invite our family and non-Facebook-using friends. Imperfect? Maybe, but we didn’t care; it was cost-effective, and it allowed us to easily track who could come.

Part 1: The Ceremony

Having been to many weddings, I knew that the ceremony was not something that everyone would want to attend, no matter how short we made it. Also—and this is just me being weird—it felt arrogant to expect people to come watch me parade around in a pretty dress and say some fancy things. So, while we told our friends about the ceremony, we let them know that it was 100% optional. To our surprise, many of our friends still came, which truly warmed my heart.

Covered pavilion at Bivens Arm looking toward the seating area.

We held the ceremony at Bivens Arm Nature Park, a gorgeous, free park near downtown Gainesville. Originally, I wanted to get married at Cellon Oak Park, which is about 20 minutes north of Gainesville and boasts the largest oak tree in Florida (though when I drove Kevin there in 2014, the park was closed because one of the tree’s largest limbs had fallen, so who knows if it’s still the grand champion), but it’s devoid of seating, which meant we would have had to rent chairs and truck them out to the site. Since we planned to have a very short ceremony, it didn’t seem worth the cost to do this. While I had been to Bivens Arm before, it had been several years since my last visit. When I Googled it and saw that it provided comfortable seating and a pavilion perfect for a ceremony, I knew it was perfect for our event.

While I was content with the decorous natural setting, Kevin and his friend from work, Lina (who graciously volunteered to be our day-of ceremony coordinator), thought the site could use a bit of sprucing. Together, we scoured Michael’s for cheap wedding decor. I found some amazing owl vases (50% off!), which we planned to rest on our newly purchased bar stools (a gift from Kevin’s parents) from our bar, white tulle (buy one, get one 50% off), and blue and white fake flowers (50% off)—just enough decoration to add a personal touch without detracting from the rustic beauty of the park. And, better yet, after the big day, we had so much tulle left over that I returned one of the rolls to Michael’s, and while we did keep the owl vases and some of the fake flowers as decorations in our house, I sold the used tulle and half of the flowers on Craigslist for $20!

As for the colors, my preference would have been seafoam green (my oddly specific favorite color), but since my sister was my only bridesmaid (actually, my matrón of honor), and since she also had to buy a flower-girl dress and a ring-bearer suit, I told her to pick any dress she wanted in any color (except red) and that would be my color. I wanted the dress to be something she would actually wear again (and not something the bride tells you you could actually wear again but then never do), and though she chose a super fancy floor-length gown, I think she goes on enough cruises to reuse that baby at least once on those fancy-schmancy dinner nights.

For the officiant, well, that’s a funny story that involves me and the Internet and being creepy (or really good at the Google, depending on how you look at it), but we ended up finding the fiance of our wedding photographer, who happened to be a notary and who happened to have never officiated a wedding. But, he did have a lovely baritone voice, and I had no problem gambling on his ability to read words from a piece of paper and sign his name nicely. In the end, he did a great job, and now we’re actually friends in real life.

As for the ceremony itself, it was really important to Kevin and me to write it ourselves and make it meaningful to us, even if it did not adhere to customs or the religious beliefs of anyone other than us. We loved what we came up with; it was traditional enough to follow but uniquely us. Lina, who is from India, told us that in traditional Indian weddings, people close to the bride and groom speak during the ceremony to honor the couple. Kevin really latched on to this idea, so we asked his dad and brother and my sister and aunt to prepare a little something. At first, I wasn’t fond of the idea, but I’m glad Kevin insisted on it, because I think it turned out well and made the ceremony even more personal.

Wide shot of the site.

Our beautiful ceremony venue.

I know everyone says this, but the ceremony really did go by in a blur. Though we spent hours writing our wedding ceremony, it took only a few minutes to complete, and it felt like a surreal, out-of-body experience. But it happened and, in under 15 minutes, we were husband and wife.

After the ceremony, we spent a few minutes chatting with our friends and taking family photos before we headed into the woods for a brief photo shoot of just us. The one thing I regret is not budgeting more time here, as we felt very rushed to get photographs in before heading to our next event, but in the end, our photographer (Tyler K. Reed Photography) got plenty of great shots. (I mean, let’s be honest; how many photos does anyone really need of their wedding day? The answer is not that many.)

Part 2: Family Luncheon

Because all of our family came from other cities (and some from other states), we wanted to do something nice and a little fancy for them as a thank-you (which is why this event was called a luncheon and not simply a lunch). We decided to treat our family to a meal at Francesca’s Trattoria, my favorite Italian restaurant in GNV and one of the first restaurants Kevin and I visited for a date.

This turned out to be the single most expensive transaction for the entire wedding, but it was worth it. The food was great and we had the chance to hang out with our families before the chaos of the party began.

Part 3: House Party

Homemade fire pit and wood benches.

While we always knew we wanted to host a party in lieu of the traditional, formal reception, we originally planned to rent a house or venue and throw the party there. In the end, however, we decided that it would be more advantageous to host it at our house. We had never thrown a housewarming party when we purchased the house, and we thought we could make better use of the money we would have needed to rent a place to make some small improvements to our own abode, like building the bar and adding a permanent, homemade fire pit with benches.

When we first started dating, Kevin (though he swore he never wanted to get married) told me that the best wedding he had ever attended was one that was held in a park and included hot dogs and beer. Having been to many weddings myself, I knew that the real recipe for success/fun was not how cute and clever the table centerpieces and party favors could be (and the last thing I wanted to do was throw the same uninspired, “look what I found on Pinterest,” rustic-chic wedding that every other female human is throwing these days); all we really needed was alcohol and food.

So we rented a keg, picked up some handles of liquor and mixers, concocted a red sangria, and made lime-infused water for the DDs. In honor of Pi Day, we ordered 25+ pizzas from Domino’s and 8 freshly made pies from Publix, and we also served some appetizers/finger foods.

We converted most of the rooms in our house into seating areas to give people different areas to roam. We set up dual beer pong tables on the side of the house, and we had a bonfire going (at least for a little bit) in the backyard. We put up minimal decorations but enough to feel festive, and we had a diverse playlist (curated by yours truly) going while Darren Aronofsky’s film Pi played on our TV in the background. (Looking back, I should have played Life of Pi instead, as Pi ended up being an obscure choice.)

For our guest book, we agreed that we did not want a framed photo, painting, or other physical object that we would then feel obligated to tote around with us for the rest of our lives. Instead, I used Google Forms to create a fun survey, the results from which are more fun than signatures and will last until the sun blows up and destroys the Earth (and thus the Internet). We were also then able to email a link to the guest book to everyone subscribed to the Facebook event for those that missed their opportunity to fill it out at the party.

What I loved most about our party, though, was how generous people were. We had asked our guests to not bring gifts (since we were not throwing a traditional, costly reception); we just wanted people to come have fun with us. Though several of our friends still contributed to our honeymoon fund, others brought us homemade gifts, like a giant jug of cherry-infused kombucha, a pitcher of white sangria, and fried chicken. Kevin’s aunts took it upon themselves to purchase all of our paper decorations and even lit up our driveway with luminaries. These were unexpected surprises and made us feel very loved.

The downside of the party was that only a few people took photos, so I don’t have much to show for it. But the experience was a blast and exactly what we had hoped it would be. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and most of the food and beer disappeared. I’d call that a success.

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The Rundown

Here’s a breakdown of everything we spent money on and our grand total for our wedding. While we missed our $1,000 goal, I’m satisfied with what we spent. In the end, we both agree that it was exactly what we wanted: our friends and family hanging out, having some drinks, and being merry. In truth, I can’t imagine the evening being anything else other than what is was: perfect for us.

  • Marriage license: Alachua County, $94
  • Invitations/guest book: Facebook/Google Forms, free
  • Music: Various playlists curated by us using Google Play All Access, free (though we did pay $30 for a Bluetooth player to have music at the ceremony, and we pay a monthly subscription fee of $8 for Google Play)
  • Ceremony:
    • Venue: Bivens Arm Nature Park, free
    • Photography: Tyler K. Reed Photography, $188
    • Notary: Kody Latham, free
    • Planner: Lina Khan, free
    • Decorations (tulle, owl vases, flowers): Michael’s, $60 – $20 resale on Craigslist – $7 returned tulle = $33 net
    • Bouquets and boutonnieres: Alix Mathia, free
    • Flower girl basket: Amazon, $10
    • Flower girl flowers: Random person’s hibiscus bush on my way to the ceremony, free ūüėÄ
  • Attire:
    • Kevin’s suit: Already owned, free
    • Wedding dress: David’s Bridal, $212
    • Shoes: Amazon, free (generously gifted by my mom)
    • Jewelery: Amazon, $35
    • Hair & Makeup: Did my own, free
  • Lunch venue: Francesca’s Trattoria, $351
  • Reception:
    • Venue: Our house, free
    • Snacks and accessories: Sam’s Club/Dollar Store, $160
    • Liquor, wine, and keg: Sam’s Club/Publix, $180 (and we had extra beer, which we delivered to local friends the next day, and tons of extra liquor, which we will just keep for future use :D)
    • Dinner: Domino’s Pizza, $190 (and we had extra, which we donated to a few friends but mostly to our little brother, Tim, who is in college and lives off of pizza)
    • Dessert: Publix pies, $57
    • Decorations, plates/cups, favors: Oriental Trading, free (generously gifted by Kevin’s parents and aunts)
    • Serving dishes: TJMaxx/Goodwill, $50

Total: $1,615

How We Saved Money

Obviously, our style of wedding isn’t for everyone, and I know a lot of brides spend years dreaming up their perfect day, no expense spared. But here are the major ways that we saved money, and maybe future brides will find just one or two of these (rather than all of them) helpful in planning their own weddings.

  • We held the party at our house (instead of renting a venue).
  • We served pizza and pie (instead of serving an elaborate, multi-course meal).
  • We used electronic resources for our invitations and guest book (instead of using paper, stamps, knick-knacks, etc.).
  • We made our own playlist and used our own sound system (instead of booking a DJ).
  • We scoured the Internet for a talented but flexible photographer and then booked her only for the amount of time (and photos) we really needed (instead of booking an all-day, thousands-of-photos affair).
  • We used a notary to marry us (instead of using an officiant). (By Florida law, notaries cannot charge more than $30 for marriage ceremonies, though many do them for free.)
  • We used minimal decorations and fake flowers that we arranged ourselves (instead of buying real flowers and maximum decorations).
  • We used paper flowers for the bouquets/boutonnieres (which we still have and will have forever), and we stole a few petals from a random bush for the flower girl basket (instead of paying for real flower arrangements that die in a few days).
  • We used what we already had (when appropriate) for our attire, hair, and makeup (instead of renting tuxes or having a professional stylist slather my face and hair with products).
  • We uses paper plates and cups, and we raided Goodwill for serving dishes and then filled in the gaps with inexpensive items from TJMaxx (instead of buying high-end dishes that no one would notice).

To wrap up this post, Kevin and I would like to extend a very humble thank-you to everyone who helped make our day special. We couldn’t have done it without the love and support of our family and friends, and we are very grateful to all of you. Thank you!!

Say “Meh” to the Dress: What I Wore

In my previous wedding-dress post, written before the wedding, I expressed my dissatisfaction with wedding-dress shopping and my hope that Kevin would love my dress. I’m happy to report that he did, indeed, love what I picked and my makeup—which is saying a lot because, usually, he complains that I don’t wear enough makeup. As I arrived next to him at the end of the aisle, his eyes lit up and he told me I looked beautiful. Mission accomplished.

My dress was from David’s Bridal (hell on Earth), but it was from the store’s party-dress section and is technically not a wedding dress. But when I tried it on and found that it fit perfectly and would require no alterations, and that it was affordable and flattering for my body type, I didn’t care; it was a good-enough dress for me. (You can see even more photos of my dress and our wedding here on the blog.)

Straight-on shot of my dress.

 

Front detail and accessories.

All of my accessories (except for my earrings, which I already owned) were from Amazon. Since the dress had a Grecian/gold theme, I bought a snake armband, though I had difficulty finding one that was more decorative than terrifying. For the plunging neckline, I needed something delicate yet long, so I went with a simple chevron necklace. I wanted a little bit of bling for my hair, so I thought I would try a gold headband. I discovered, however, that this particular headband looked terrible on my forehead (where it was supposed to go) and did not provide the subtle effect I had hoped it would. My mom suggested wearing it on the back of my head and pinning it into place, which looked much less obtrusive, so we went with that.

For shoes, my mom purchased me some appropriately themed gladiator heels that we didn’t know until the last minute were the perfect height for the dress. They were annoying to snap in place, and the heels kept getting stuck in the grooves of the wood planks at the ceremony site, but they were fun and Kevin loved them.

My shoes, which were hidden by my dress but I wore them nonetheless.

Early on, I had decided that my mother and I could take care of my hair and makeup ourselves. Having put one daughter through competitive baton twirling and one daughter through musical theater and competitive dance, she had made up her fair share of faces. Plus, she spent years styling our hair into up-dos for proms and homecomings, so she’s no novice. In the end, I did most of my makeup and hair myself, but she provided guidance and a helping hand for pinning in my headpiece.

Since I had jewelery in my hair, I wanted to keep my mane simple; I just straightened it and pinned the front back into the headpiece. The humidity of the morning caused my hair to frizz a little, but that’s life.

As for makeup, I spent some time watching YouTube videos on wedding-makeup ideas and techniques. Most videos advocated for piling tons of concealer and goop on one’s face to be the epitome of perfection on one’s wedding day. I, however, wanted to keep it simple and real, though I did follow the basic advice and color combinations of this makeup tutorial. I wanted a natural, light look, since we were having a daytime, spring wedding. For my entire face, I started with the present by Philosophy (a clear makeup) and topped that with a CoverGirl foundation + sunscreen in “classic ivory” (which is a nice way of saying, “you’re so pale you’re almost clear”). For my eyes, I used my E.L.F. box of a bajillion eyeshadow colors (OK, so there are only like 50 colors, but it’s more eyeshadow than I’ll ever need), Tattoo Liner (the best eyeliner ever and probably the single most expensive makeup item I own), and some random mascara. For an amateur, I was proud of how it turned out; Kevin was surprised that I did it myself!

Since I was going natural, and because I know how much Kevin loves a girl with lipstick, I decided to have some fun with my lips and chose a “British Red” lipstick.

Here you can see my eyeshadow colors.

Close-up of makeup and hair.

And that’s that! In all, it took me about an hour and a half to get ready, plus about ten minutes the night before when my sister, niece, and I painted our toes and fingernails together. Not having to rush around to a hair stylist and a makeup artist made the morning more enjoyable and less chaotic—and, of course, much less expensive!

 

Say “Meh” to the Dress

Ahhhh, dress shopping…the most wonderful day for a bride. It’s that special day when she gathers up her female entourage and heads to a fancy store, where she is waited on, hand and foot, as she tries on dress after dress (accompanied by “ooo”s and “aaah”s) in search of that heart-stopping ensemble that will remind her betrothed exactly why he (or she…) chose her. It is a magical day full of giggling, champagne, hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars, and, yes, even a few tears.

But that’s not how it really is…at least, not for the bride on a budget. For the budget bride, wedding-dress shopping is more like a frustrating trip to the Walmart clothing section.

Despite spending nearly 2 years checking thrift stores for used dresses, all I ever found were A) dresses from the ’80s in styles that aren’t yet vintage enough to be considered eclectic or flattering and B) my sister’s wedding dress. My dream of organically finding an amazing vintage dress abandoned, I gathered my mother, sister, and very patient 5-year-old niece and headed for the Walmart of dress shops: David’s Bridal.

Now isn’t that special?

David’s Bridal (DB) tries to exude a feeling of luxury and uniqueness. You get paired with a dress consultant (AKA, a minimum-wage worker bee whose job is to take dresses out of bags, hand them to you, and put them back into bags, and also to scorn you for either A) wasting her time because you’re buying an inexpensive dress or B) being a spoiled bitch who has no budget) who parades you around the store trying to figure out your “style.” Their real job, of course, is to up-sell you and show you dresses that are out of your very clearly stated price range (as close to $100 as possible, please!), bring in all sorts of over-priced accessories hoping you’ll fall in love with them, and remind you that you’ll need a “going-away dress.” (I realize this has been a thing for some time now, but I still think it’s completely ridiculous!)

Now, my lady was very nice, and she didn’t seem too put off when I told her my budget. For me, the wedding dress, while important to this one particular day in my life, is virtually meaningless. Like my mother and sister, I will most likely never wear this dress again, and it will hang in my closet until my niece decides to marry someone, at which point she’ll try it on just for shits and giggles and then laugh at how out of style it is. Why would I want to spend more than $100 on that?

The job of the DB sales ladies is to convince you otherwise. They will try to convince you that this is your special day and money does not matter. But there is no place or time in this universe where you can ever tell me that money doesn’t matter and I will take you seriously.

So we looked at the $100 dresses and a few dresses that were marked down to the $150 range. I had seen two dresses on the DB website that I thought would be perfect for me, but, of course, they weren’t quite as adorable when not on a size-zero, Photoshopped model. In fact, I hated nearly everything I tried on, because with every dress I tried on, I felt myself die a little on the inside. The best way I can describe how I felt would be to say that I felt like I was searching for a unique craft beer in a store that sold only Natty Lite. Boring dress after boring dress, all of them looking like every other wedding dress I had ever seen. Everything lacked personality and uniqueness.

The dress I almost picked. This was taken the third or fourth time I had tried it on. Look at my FACE.

I finally settled on this satin-y, backless dress, but the store didn’t have my size. Desperate to make a sale, my dress lady called the nearby DBs and found the dress in my size in the Jacksonville store.

At this point, my sister was done with dress shopping. If you’ve ever been to Walmart, you can relate: you can only spend so much time in these stores before you feel yourself losing touch with reality. My mother, however, having made a solemn vow during my sister’s and my births to never let anyone get the best of us, seemed rejuvenated by the the idea of more driving. So we saddled up her giant SUV and burned rubber north.

Once in Jacksonville, I tried on what I thought was “the” dress, except now — 90 miles north and 60 minutes later — I despised this dress too. It hung on me like my grandmother’s moo-moo, despite being a smaller size than the dress in the previous store, and I just knew there was nothing about this dress that Kevin would like, except maybe the fact that it accentuated my shoulders (supposedly his favorite body part).

In an attempt to help me make a decision, the dress consultant at this store suggested taking in the dress to accentuate my waist. She retreated to the back of the store and returned with what I can only describe as a sewing Gollum — a homely, frumpy lady whose job is to sit in a part of the store that the customers can’t see and sew her little hands off all day. I felt sorry for her and gave up on the dress because A) I didn’t want to pay money to alter a dress I already didn’t want to spend money on in the first place and B) I didn’t want to create extra work for this poor creature.

Frustrated, the dress consultant brought me more and more dresses. I must have tried on 15 more dresses, and each time I exited the dressing room, I didn’t come out beaming and teary-eyed; I came out scowling and underwhelmed. My mother even offered to pitch in for the dress, thinking, as she always does, that more expensive things make people happier. I obliged her and tried on some more expensive dresses, but none of them wowed me. They were all just as lame as the cheap dresses, except they had more sparkles on them.

Part of my indecisiveness stemmed from the fact that I was considering whether Kevin would like the dress. My mother told me that finding a dress wasn’t about him, but if you know Kevin, you know how he feels about women’s fashion. And, oh yeah, I most certainly want Kevin to like what I look like just before we sign a contract that binds us to each other for the rest of our lives. I don’t need him getting any last-minute insecurities because my dress fits me like a house-elf sack. Being the attentive, wonderful fiancee that I am, I knew Kevin would want one of two (but preferably both) things out of a wedding dress: short and tight. Thus, if a dress I tried on didn’t meet at least one of those requirements (along with my own, more practical requirement of “hide my crooked scoliosis body”), it was out.

Now, in the background of my own dress crisis were two other women, one to my right and one to my left, who were also trying on dresses. Unlike me, these ladies were surrounded by a horde of women who claimed that every dress their bride-to-be tried on was “the one,” and they were trying on the most ridiculous dresses I have ever seen: gigantic monstrosities of lace and beads that were so over the top I couldn’t help but laugh a little (on the inside, of course). They each loved so many of their dresses that they couldn’t decide which one to pick, while I had the opposite problem: I couldn’t pick because I hated everything.

This met both of Kevin’s requirements, but I look like a bedazzled mummy. Next.

Finally, and because she was probably bored to tears and ready to kill me, the dress consultant brought me a dress from the non-wedding side of the store. (DB also sells party dresses.) I had noticed the dress when I had entered earlier and had pointed it out to my mother, but I hadn’t considered it for a wedding dress because, well, it wasn’t that.

I’m not going to lie and say that when I tried the dress on tiny birds descended from the heavens and fluttered around my body while tweeting a merry tune, but I felt something other than complete disdain.

I strutted around in the non-wedding dress, frowning at myself in the mirror, trying to determine if I really wanted to spend double my budget on this dress. But DB had worn me down. It had eaten me up and spit me out, and so I caved and spent $212 on the dress.

Perhaps it was my nonchalance, or perhaps it was because I didn’t buy a wedding dress, or perhaps it was because the dress consultant wasn’t completely convinced that I was convinced I wanted the dress, but no one rang the stupid “she found the one” bell like the other DB employees were doing for the other brides-to-be. But I don’t think I need to convince any of you that being exempt from yet another cheesy part of this canned experience was fine with me.

So my dress is not what I would have imagined for myself (I wanted short and simple and vintage), but it’s not completely mind-numbing either. More importantly, it was the only dress the invoked more than a “meh” from me. Hopefully, Kevin will feel the same!

Planning Poor Does House Hunters

In September, Kevin came up with his worst idea yet: buying a house. (And it’s the worst because it has required the most amount of effort on my part and has resulted in five new gray hairs.) Throughout our relationship, we have debated the pros and cons of homeownership, and each conversation eventually concluded that it is better to rent; if nothing else, it’s certainly easier than owning a home. However, the financial guru in Kevin couldn’t ignore the falling interest rates and the low home prices, both of which are only going to rise in the coming months. And as long as we live in the home for at least 5 years, it will be cheaper than renting in the long run. So after days of debate, I too became convinced that buying a home is the right thing to do right now.¬†And who doesn’t love looking at houses?? (The correct answer is Kevin.)

So, in October, after doing my research, we chose a Realtor (a local husband-wife team) and began looking at houses. Overall, we only saw six properties before we found “the one.”¬†I know I dogged¬†House Hunters¬†in my previous post, but in truth, I love the show and applied to be on it. Since they never called me back (grrr), I have devised my own¬†HH¬†experience for your reading pleasure. Here are three houses we saw, one of which we chose. See if you can figure out which one we picked! (And no telling if you already know the answer!)

House #1

House #1

3 beds, 2 baths
Price: $94,900
Year Built: 1957
Square Footage: 1,401
Area of Town: NE Gainesville near Waldo Road and NE 23rd Ave

The Realtors chose this house for us based on similarities to other homes we picked out.¬†It has some nice upgrades, like a bonus room, newer kitchen appliances, and an updated guest bathroom, and the owners were offering to replace the roof as long as they received a competitive offer. It has a nice flow and a great backyard, which includes a storage shed and a tree house (much to Kevin’s delight). Plus, this house is way under our budget, so we could easily make a competitive offer and get the new roof.

Updated kitchen

However, although I loved this house, Kevin really didn’t like it.

Nice backyard, and an unimpressed Kevin

It has little curb appeal, the A/C unit needs to be replaced, there is no screened porch (one of my wish-list items), and the bonus room seems more like a strange attachment. We both dislike the neighborhood; it is just outside our favorite area (downtown/Duckpond) and yet not really walkable or bikeable. Also, the schools are not the best, and the area is so residential that we would be driving some distance for everything—groceries, movies, restaurants, etc. I also dislike that the laundry area is outside of the house in the carport, though it is something I could live with.

House #2

House #2 (really bad picture but it’s the only one I took of the front exterior)

3 beds, 1.5 baths
Price: $109,000
Year Built: 1956
Square Footage: 1,080
Area of Town: NW Gainesville near University & NW 34th Street

Before seeing this house in person, I thought we would really love it—and we do, for the most part. It has a great updated kitchen with porcelain tile floors, new roof, newer piping, beautiful parquet wood floors throughout, neat built-ins, great natural light, and a lot of that vintage charm we are looking for. It is within walking distance to the movies, Publix, restaurants, and a gym, and it is so close to the university, so renting it would be really easy in the future. Although it has only one full bathroom, the half bath is good enough for us and adds a little extra value.

Living area with beautiful floors

Updated kitchen

Weird bonus room as viewed from the backyard

While Kevin and I both like this house a lot, we have some concerns. First, the backyard needs a ton of work, and several trees overhanging the roof need to be cut back. Also, the house has a very strange bonus room that can’t be accessed from the main house (we had to go through the carport to get to it), and yet this room is the only way to get to the backyard. So, if I wanted to let Peanut outside to do her business, I would have to walk her out of the house via the kitchen, into the carport, through the weird bonus room, and out the bonus room back door to the backyard. I also don’t like that there is no screened-in porch or outdoor space. The weird bonus room could be converted to a porch and connected to the house by replacing the wood siding with screen and replacing some interior windows with doors, but that would be a lot of work, effort, and money. We also don’t like the windows; except for the windows in the bonus room, all of the windows are the slatted kind¬†(which are very energy inefficient), and they aren’t screened. This is one of the smaller houses we saw, and we wouldn’t gain much more square footage than we currently have in our townhouse. To top it off, there are dead bugs and rodent droppings everywhere and weird, not-to-code construction problems (like a cable wire running from the outside, through a hole in the slatted window, into a bedroom). Despite its charm, it seems like it may be more than we can handle in a first home.

Yet, we love the bones of the house and the area, and we think we could really make it our own (with a good cleaning and some porch construction!).

House #3

House #3

3 beds, 2 baths
Price: $129,000
Year Built: 1969
Square Footage: 1,476
Area of Town: NW Gainesville near the intersection of Newberry Road and NW 8th Ave

We decided to view this house, even though it was above the price range we set for ourselves. However, everything is negotiable in real estate, so we figured we could make a deal if we chose this house. There is so much to like about this house: huge backyard, fantastic curb appeal, new roof, new A/C unit, updated kitchen (with gas range, which Kevin swooned over), and a cute screened-in porch with brick flooring and a metal roof. It has more than enough space for us, but I’m sure we would find ways to fill the house. I really like the flow of the house (it reminds me a lot of the house I grew up in), and there are several fruit trees in the backyard (fig, kumquat, and orange!). There would be very little we would have to compromise on here, and yet there are plenty of opportunities for us to make small improvements to really make the house our own. Plus, the house is close to the mall, the highway, North Florida Regional Hospital, shopping, restaurants, and the university, so we could probably rent it to a family or serious student down the road.

Kitchen and dining area with screened-in porch access

Bonus room (formerly a carport)

View of backyard from porch (and shed in disrepair)

As for negatives, it’s not my favorite area of town. The main road nearby can get congested during rush hour because of its proximity to the highway, but the house is still within a short drive to most of the places we visit. We would be further from downtown, which we really dislike, and we would probably have to cancel our downtown gym memberships, because we would never go. The street the house is on is quiet, though we could hear some noise from the main road when standing in the yard (but we live in a city, so this doesn’t really bother us). Also, I don’t like the carpet. It’s in good condition and seems newer, but it’s not a color I would choose. We also discovered a minor electrical problem, and there is a shed in the backyard and a few trees that would need to come down ASAP. And, of course, it’s above our preferred price point.

So…which house do you think we chose? We are closing on one of these houses soon (assuming there are no issues with the financing…fingers crossed), and I will update later with the answer!

Also, I’m pleased to report that Kevin did not mention “man cave” once in our search! I doubt the thought even crossed his mind, though our Realtor did mention it in one of the houses we looked at, and I had to give him an abbreviated spiel about the idiocy of the man cave.

Planning Poor Does Hiawassee

In October, Kevin and I drove to the picturesque mountain town of Hiawassee, Georgia for a mini vacation. Between fighting over music choices, discovering we had no beverages in the car except for alcohol, and pulling over every 50 miles for Kevin to mark his territory and/or eat, the 12+ hours we spent driving felt more like a mini prison sentence. But there is no one I’d rather be imprisoned with than my handsome, charming fiance (awwwwww). (Ask me for an updated answer in 25 years.)

Our other purpose for the trip was to witness our friends Rob and Amanda tie the knot. They had a lovely ceremony followed by a raucous reception. To redeem the self-deprecating photos of posts past, here is the only decent picture of us ever taken. Since we are both rather un-photogenic, consider this equivalent of seeing a leprechaun.

IMG_1297

Our betrothed friends had made lodging arrangements for out-of-town guests at their beautiful resort venue, but in true Planning Poor style, we stayed where we could get the best rate. My family used to vacation in the mountains, and I knew I could find a backwoods cabin (a la Cabin in the Woods) for a steal if I Googled hard enough. (You can find anything if you Google hard enough.)

Eventually, I found Boundary Waters Resort and Marina, a small inn on beautiful Lake Chatuge. The rates were low compared to other hotels in the area, the¬†owners were offering a buy-two-nights-get-one-free deal,¬†and¬†guests received free kayak and canoe rentals! That was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Entrance to our room.

Entrance to our room.

View from our porch.

View from our porch.

Unfortunately for Kevin, eating 20 bacon-wrapped scallops, indulging in rich, Southern cuisine, and/or imbibing an unlimited amount of alcohol (all of this at the reception) was an offer his stomach had to refuse.

The morning after the wedding, I was roused from sleep by Kevin leaping from the bed and charging toward the bathroom like a female rhino in heat. (Strangely, this is the exact opposite of his trajectory the night of his proposal.) What I heard next I will refer to simply as sounds-that-shall-not-be-named, followed by a shower. An hour later, I dared to enter the bathroom; I found Kevin lying on the floor, wet and naked, and sandwiched between two towels, using a smaller towel to cover his eyes. The poor boy was paralyzed with nausea and pain. Since I am a wonderful fiancee, I immediately laughed……and then drove to the local grocery store (Ingles, which is better than Publix, if you can believe it), where I purchased generic Pepto and Advil for Kevin and a box of fresh pumpkin and blueberry muffins and a Starbucks coffee with soy milk for moi. (Yes, Ingles has a Starbucks in the store.) (Yes, mountain people drink nice coffee too.) I wonder what the cashier thought of that purchase…

I was hoping Kevin would feel better by the extended check-out time I thoughtfully negotiated, but he didn’t, and I knew he was not going to make it down those 180-degree, winding mountain roads on the return drive, where there are no shoulders to pull over if his stomach decided to expunge more of its contents. Thankfully, we were able to get our room for another night, which left me with Barfo Hublou, an entire day to do nothing, and…CABLE TV!

We don’t have cable at home because we don’t need cable to survive. We get plenty of entertainment from our Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime subscriptions, all of which cost less than cable. Thankfully, Kevin isn’t a sports fanatic and thus doesn’t require ESPN, which is the only justifiable reason to have cable TV these days.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss cable, especially HGTV (specifically¬†House Hunters,¬†although I recently discovered that Amazon Prime has several seasons available for streaming). Kevin despises HGTV. But how much can he protest when he’s sprawled on the bathroom floor unable to pry the remote from my cold, house-hunting hands? The answer is not at all. And so it was with maniacal glee that I watched endless HGTV…all…day…long.

Now, any half-brained chimp could watch two or three episodes of House Hunters and figure out the formula: A person or couple needs a house, the Realtor shows them three, they pretend to think about it really, really hard, and then they purchase one and you get to see how they like it 3 months later. However, it takes several marathons of House Hunters to realize all the things you hate about these house-hunting people and/or couples (and you know you hate most of them). Here are my top pet peeves, discovered during what I have termed the Hiawassee HGTV House Hunters Barfo Hublou marathon.

The Man Cave

I like to think that most men on House Hunters¬†are the kinds of men fathers want their children to marry. For the men/couples 40 years and older that appear on the show, this is usually true. For those under 40, I am almost always duped into liking them until they walk into a basement or bonus room and utter: “YES! ROOM FOR MY MAN CAVE!”

For those who don’t know, the “man cave” is a room where men go to watch TV or play games or do man things, and generally the intent is that women aren’t allowed in. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this term annoys me. All men who say this sound not only misogynistic but also like prehistoric cavemen (which is why they probably belong in a man cave anyway). Why can’t the woman be part of the room? Why are only men allowed to congregate in front of and scream at televisions? Why is the woman relegated to the kitchen to cook for the men in the cave? If you are buying a house with someone, you should be able to tolerate them enough to share all rooms with each other. If Kevin ever utters the word “man cave” on our house hunt, it is¬†over. Don’t think I won’t leave him for a non-man-cave specimen¬†on the spot.

The worst part is how these caveman episodes end. When the male is especially excited about the man cave,¬†House Hunters (without fail) ends the show with the man reclining in some fancy couch he bought himself for his man cave while his wife/girlfriend/future divorcee makes and delivers a meal to his lap. I don’t know how they get the women to agree to do this. While we’re reversing the progress of the female gender, why not slap on some 1950s-inspired high heels, polka dots, and aprons too?

The Double Vanity / Gigantic Bathroom

One of the interesting parts of¬†HH¬†is learning what people find important in a home. For some, updated kitchens with granite counter tops and stainless-steel appliances are the priority; for others, it’s all about the double vanity and/or the gigantic master bathroom. I have learned that, for many people, sharing a sink with their significant other is unthinkable. But as I watch these episodes, I have to ask myself, “Do these people understand the literal meaning of what they are saying?”

I love when couples start out the show by saying, “I NEED that double vanity! We are so tired of bumping into each other!” and then HH¬†has them childishly recreate their morning bathroom routine. (I even saw a guy step out of the shower in a towel once…very weird,¬†HH).¬†I guess I can’t understand why this is so important because Kevin and I get ready at different times of the morning, and we have more than one bathroom, so if he is using one sink, I’ll go to another. No big deal. But for some people, this is a huge deal. I just can’t help but giggle when a couple walks into a bathroom and squeals with delight, “YES! The double vanity I’ve been looking for!” Uh…hello? DOUBLE vanity. That means by wanting those sinks, you are twice as vain as you are with your one sink. But because we are so used to “vanity” not meaning the same thing when it is used to describe bathroom sinks, no one ever realizes what this sounds like to that rare, intellectual viewer.

As for the giant bathroom, I don’t understand why people want a larger place to do their dirty work. Not only is it more to clean and sterilize, but some house hunters act like their bathroom will be their main living area—a place to relax and unwind. Maybe it’s because I’m not a bath person, but I don’t want to be in my bathroom any longer than I have to be, especially if I have to be in there after Kevin on taco night. I get in, get clean, and get the hell out. I don’t understand the need to relax where you defecate.

After spending nine hours lying on the hotel bathroom floor, though, maybe Kevin does