Thursday, September 23, 2010

How We're Doing It - The Registry & The Website

This one was a little tricky, as people have varying views on giving gifts, and we really wanted to try to respect that.

That said, Mike and I have been together for over 7 years (most of you know that story), and by the time we got engaged we had already purchased much of the stuff needed for our home - wherever that wound up being. When we did get engaged, the questions about our registry started pouring in, so we knew it was definitely something we needed to take care of FAST (not that we expected gifts that early in the game).

I started doing research. What did we really need? Around the house, not a heck of a lot, although we could upgrade any number of things. But we didn't need anything - and with our new, charitable mindset, "need" is a driving force.

I also knew that the ultimate in charitable giving would be to either donate our entire registry to a charitable cause, or have loved ones donate in our names. While beyond noble - and maybe someday I'll be in a place where I can do such a thing - we felt like this was too much for us to do. This is probably the one time in our lives where we can be a little bit - what? selfish, I guess? - and there was one thing we did feel like we needed.

We needed help with the honeymoon. Straight up. Because this is what we planned on doing: going back to New Zealand as man and wife. Some of you know our love story, but for those of you that don't - Mike and I, after putzing around for a couple of years, finally fell in love in New Zealand. I was living there at the time, he came out to visit me, and he absolutely, positively, left with my heart. The place, the people, and the experience are a huge thing for us, and it was the first thing we both thought of when the question of a honeymoon came up.

New Zealand is a long way away, and it's an honestly expensive undertaking. We actually couldn't even allow ourselves to entertain it as a possibility at first. But as we thought about registry options, I remembered my good friend Jan and his husband set up a honeymoon registry when they got married. So, to make myself feel better, I did a little homework.

I read reviews. I compared prices. At the same time we decided to look into a website where our guests could find all the information they needed about us and the wedding. There are a butt-load out there, but there's one (at least) called the "I Do Foundation" through which you can build a website and link your registries. The tagline on their website is "Celebrate Generously", so the charitable part of my brain perked up. This site is AWESOME. It provides all the templates for a website, plus walks you through providing schedules, travel information, accommodation, and - the kicker - registry information. Here's the best thing: The I Do Foundation partners with various organizations to create registries that donate percentages to charity. So you set up a registry with one of their partners and, if accessed through your I Do Foundation website, they will donate anything from 3-10% of the gift to charity WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL COST TO THE GIVER.

Better still, they have a long list of participating charities, so you can choose the charity or charities that you feel strongest about - from world hnger to the environment to women's health to your local community.

What can we say? We signed up and built our website.

And the honeymoon registry? Happily, the I Do Foundation partners with Traveler's Joy. The beauty of a Traveler's Joy registry is that you can set it up similarly to a traditional registry. You can break the trip down into increments of individual gifts: $100 towards airfare to NZ, $50 towards swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura, $25 towards sailing around Milford Sound, etc. That way, people are giving us experiences, rather than money. And, if done through our I Do Foundation website, each gift gives a percentage to charity.

The site also gives you an opportunity to tell your story, which is really important when you're asking people to help you go on a glorified vacation. Hopefully, however, our friends and family can see why this is such an important trip for us.

*We also realized that some folks may not be comfortable giving a dollar amount as a gift, and would rather give a household item, so we set up a more traditional registry at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How We're Doing It - The Rings

Here's one of those instances where we probably could have done a much better job at being ethically and environmentally responsible. Unfortunately, we didn't do the homework on ring-shopping until one of the rings was already bought.
Mike's ring was bought on a hunch, and we're not making any apologies for it. It was exactly what he wanted, was the right price, and from a very reputable local jeweler. We're extremely happy with it and I can't wait to spend a lifetime with it on his finger.
When I started looking for my ring - I knew that I had some time to play with, especially since I wanted something really simple. It's just not important to me to have all the crazy bells and whistles on my finger when we've got a whole life to plan and budget for. I was also interested in seeing what I could get out of recycled material. There were a few online vendors that offered recycled wedding rings (made out of recycled metals - not a ring that was once worn by someone else. Gross.), but I wasn't too keen on buying one before seeing it.

A quick Google search led me to Leber Jewelers. They're a local Chicago company who specialize in Earthwise jewelry, "constructed using reclaimed and re-refined 18k gold or platinum". They've got beautiful, custom-made jewelry at a really sensible price. Plus they are directly involved in lobbying for responsible issues:

We are dedicated to working towards a better world through direct involvement in a wide number of initiatives relating to human rights and the environment. Each year we commit a significant amount of time and financial resources towards advocacy efforts locally, nationally, and abroad in support of developmental projects throughout the globe. (

I took a look at their stuff online, walked into the story on a Saturday afternoon, and got exactly what I wanted. I don't think the sale took longer than 10 minutes. The ring is simple, beautiful, and made from recycled material. And it's mine. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How We're Doing It - The Paper

In a perfect world, we would have been able to harvest previously used paper for our invitations, programs, and thank you cards. In reality (especially with full time jobs and grad school) that just wasn't going to happen. Not to be dissuaded, we found what we considered the next best thing - both aesthetically and ethically: Greengrocer brown bag paper from Paperworks. It has the rustic, recycled, and familiar look of brown paper bags and, as the website illustrates, "Of course its 100% recycled."

To save money and use the resources we already had, we created our invitations using this brown paper bag paper, burlap (store-bought - but boy oh boy did we try everything we could to get previously used burlap bags from coffee roasters throughout the Chicago area. We even found one store that had a surplus...but wanted $20 per bag. Um, no.), ribbon, and wax seals. We knew we could save money by designing, printing, and hand-addressing the invitations themselves, but we also chose to make the invitations  so they could feel really personal. No two invitations are the same, and we got to have a lot a of fun coming up with the design.

Another way we saved paper was by forgoing the traditional RSVP card and asking our guests to RSVP to an email address. We set up an email account for all things wedding, and asked that they respond electronically. Obviously, this saves on postage too. :)

We plan on using the rest of the burlap for decorations, as well as repurposing it along with the left-over paper for the programs/menus, thank you cards, and favors (more on that after the wedding).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

How We're Doing It, Part 1 - The Venue

So we got engaged. This means we needed to start planning a wedding. As many of you probably know, weddings ain't cheap. We wanted to keep this crazy thing within a certain, modest budget, but not feel like we were skimping on any of the things that would make it special.
Add to this the fact that Mike and I are both in our 30s, have been together for a number of years, and just really aren't the "church-and-banquet-hall" types (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course). We had been to our friends' Clayton and Jeffrey's wedding a few months prior and were very moved by how beautiful and simple it was. Like their wedding, we wanted ours to be on a farm, with the beauty of nature being the primary decoration.
Once we realized what sort of venue we wanted, the idea of sustainability reared its head. I was taking a class at the time called "Ethical Leadership" and was in the middle of reading "The Life You Can Save" by Peter Singer (see my previous blog post about this). The more I read, the more overwhelmed I got with the thought that so much money would be spent on only one day, and the more uncomfortable I got thinking how many people could have been helped with just a fraction of that amount. This also led to the idea of consumption and waste and the environment, and it was a very frustrating and confusing place to be.
After a little clarity, I knew that weddings cost money. But I also figured that weddings can serve more than just the couple. If we're going to spend a large amount of money anyway, why can't we make sure that some of that money goes to benefiting others or the environment?
So the long and short of it was that we would do our best to at least minimize our impact on the environment with this wedding, and if there was any way to be even the slightest bit charitable, that would be an added bonus.
We set out to find a farm that works year-round, and whose catering utilizes locally-produced and organic goods. We asked around, and hit the mother lode with Cleetus Friedman from City Provisions. City Provisions does, among many things, farm dinners in the summer. They partner with a local brewery, pick people up in their bio-diesel bus, and transport folks to local farms to learn about how they work. The evening culminates in a multi-course meal on said farm (with beer pairings). While we've never had the opportunity to participate, we loved the idea of a farm dinner for our wedding reception. Cleetus was incredibly generous with his time and recommendations for farms in the area that would do something similar (we unfortunately couldn't go with City Provisions for the catering, although we highly recommend them).
The first farm Cleetus suggested was Heritage Prairie Farm, and it was the first farm that we visited. It turned out to be the only farm we visited because it was just right.
We booked the venue, booked them as caterers, and feel so good about it. They farm organic goods, make their own honey (with their own chef-supported apiary), and put on some awesome events (see my blog post about their Mother's Day Brunch).