DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend recently proposed to me, and we found out a few days later that I am pregnant (his first, my fourth). I want to be married before the baby is born. I have already been married before, and a big wedding has never been important to me. My fiance, though, is the last in his family to get married, and he and his family want a big wedding. We could plan for this in the spring, but I don't want to be an extremely pregnant bride, and I don't want the hassle of planning a wedding at this point. Still, I want to bring our child into the world as a married couple. Also, my three young children want to be a part of the ceremony. Both of us have very large immediate families, so if this were to be only for them, it would still be more than 100 people. What should we do? -- Engaged and Expecting, Chicago
DEAR ENGAGED AND EXPECTING: Congratulations on both fronts! It is wonderful to be loved and appreciated and to build a family with your partner. It is possible for you to have a big wedding soon. You just have to get creative.
If either of you belongs to a church, start there. Find out what dates are available before the holidays. If the church has a large reception room, you can conceivably have your wedding and reception in that one location. You can decorate the room as you please, save money and plan it quickly.
If there are no weekends available between now and the end of the year, consider a weekday. My husband and I got married on a Tuesday afternoon. It made the cost go down significantly. We let our guests know in plenty of time so they could take the time off to be there.
Beyond a church, consider a community center or even a traditional event facility. I recommend alternative locations first because they tend to be more affordable and potentially available with short notice.
DEAR HARRIETTE: "Social Drinker" had too many at an office party. Most of us have fallen into the custom of starting an event with an alcoholic drink. While waiting for dinner, we finish the one and perhaps have another. We experience a strong social demand that we start with a drink. For those who drink three or four but should limit themselves to one or two, how about rehearsing, "When I arrive, I will order a soft drink or two first. If I still want a 'drink,' I can order one after the appetizers." Breaking the pattern and delaying the first drink usually helps most people to keep it to one or two and change the inner message from "Alcohol is important" to "Alcohol is just an extra treat." -- Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor, Racine, Wis.
DEAR CLINICAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE COUNSELOR: Thank you for your recommendation. It is so true -- people seem to rush for that first drink, often as an icebreaker as they begin their evening. Being mindful of your alcohol consumption is smart. Your suggestion is one way to keep a person aware.