Maximum Love, Minimal Ostentation: Planning the Perfect Wedding

Next January, our 27-year-old son, Nick, is marrying a fantastic woman, Noelle.

Our family will have fun with the two Christmas names—St Nick and Noelle—the rest of our lives. But before that, we want to give the affianced the best possible start, with a lovingly organized wedding.

When Nick’s siblings asked to throw an engagement party for the couple with three hours of open bar and only one hour of appetizers—maximum alcohol, minimal food, egads!—we hit the first of many complex decision-making points. Aligning values with the endless possibilities of wedding planning can be a challenge!

Fortunately though, we found excellent advice from Second City’s Jacobina (Bina) Martin and her mother Judith, who is the syndicated columnist, Miss Manners. The Martins wrote an excellent book to guide couples and their families through the wedding planning process with wit, wisdom and common sense, “Miss Manners’ Guide To A Surprisingly Dignified Wedding.” (W.W. Norton)

In short, Bina and her mother strongly advocate that every wedding and prenuptial event be organized around a guest list of those who know and love the bride or groom well, traditions that reflect the couple’s lives and values, and a budget that will not strain their future finances.

I think of this as maximum love, minimal ostentation (and minimal potential for alcohol poisoning).

A fresh-faced, chestnut-haired beauty who lives on Chicago’s North Side with her husband and two-year-old daughter, Bina will speak at our Make It Better Life Celebrations event on June 14, at 6:30 p.m., at The Book Stall in Winnetka.

In the meantime, she answers our most pressing questions:

What is the best way to create an event and guest list that reflects the couple’s life and values?
Most people plan their events backwards. They fixate on their (material) dream and then figure out how many people will fit within its budget. The message becomes “my fantasy is more important to the event than having you in it.” If your values include spending within your means and caring about others, then a celebratory event that reflects this should be easy. And usually much more dignified.

How much is too much?
If you drain your bank account and alienate your friends, it’s too much. Also, if there’s an elephant involved.

What did you love about your own wedding?
The cake. No seriously, it was pumpkin.

Any other tips?
Let tradition prevail if your event has a ceremony. It will be “personal” because of the people involved. And as far as planning everything else: It’s a party. You’re not trying to get your child into pre-school. Have fun and be inclusive. Yes, you are juggling a lot of personalities and opinions, but at the end of the day, you’re picking out flowers and tasting-testing bruschetta. How stressful can that be?

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