How I Bought My First Home and Planned a 125-Person Wedding at the Same Time
Photo by Anna Page Photography
People say planning a wedding and buying a house are two of the most stressful events that’ll happen in your life. I tackled both milestones within weeks of each other. (That’s not a humble brag because I really didn’t intend for it to go down that way ... more on that later.) I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful. Or time-consuming and, at times, overwhelming. I’m not much of a crier, so I don’t recall shedding any tears, but I certainly had my moments.
To those of you wondering about the “how,” and maybe more importantly, the “why?!” let me back up. My now-husband, Adam, and I got engaged last February during a trip to New York City where we used to live. When we decided to plan a September wedding — as in just seven months away — people thought we were nuts. But I knew I didn’t want a drawn-out engagement. My cousin, a wedding planner in Chicago, once told me that no matter how long you’re engaged, you’ll fill the time with wedding to-dos, like visiting venues, mulling over photographers, tweaking the menu, and obsessing over little things like hotel welcome bags. I wasn’t interested in letting the wedding take over my life, so a sped-up timeline seemed like a good idea.
Spring was filled with vendor visits in Chicago and Wisconsin, where the September 9 wedding would be held (and plenty of Pinterest rabbit holes, too). But no open houses. Buying a home was something Adam and I had talked about — we both wanted a place to call our own and eventually have a family in — but we didn’t have a timeline laid out.
And Then Came the Zillow Alerts …
Even though we weren’t seriously looking, I’m a Zillow junkie and had alerts set up in a few areas near Chicago we were interested in. I’d gotten an alert one day in mid-July for a fixer-upper-type house. It seemed too good to be true — the house was on a huge lot in a great location, was loaded with charm, and appeared to be underpriced. I decided to check it out. Long story short: We loved it, but another couple beat us to it. Our realtor knew I was bummed, so she showed us another starter house in the neighborhood. It was great, but it was listed for more than we wanted to spend.
We decided to shelve the home search, focus on the wedding, and keep an eye on new listings once we were back from our honeymoon in the fall. That’s what we were telling our realtor when she said, “Well, if you think the house is worth less, it doesn’t hurt to put in an offer.”
So we did. But it was more than $125,000 less than the sellers’ initial asking price, so we thought they’d just laugh and ignore us. As you probably guessed from the headline, that’s not what happened. Instead, they countered with a number that was within reach, and we decided to go for it.
Our offer was accepted on August 14 (countdown to wedding: 26 days!). Around that time, we were finalizing the wedding timeline, communicating details with guests, and having calls with the band, caterer and décor company.
The author and her husband’s Chicago-area home.
Inside the Month-Long Whirlwind
Honestly, just writing this makes my stress levels rise. So how did I deal? Well, first, I stopped getting my usual eight hours of sleep each night. Adrenaline and a long to-do list woke me up hours earlier than usual. And while my head hurt from getting just five or six hours of sleep, I was able to knock a few things off my list before 8 a.m.
It also helped that I’m pretty efficient with my time (OK, I guess that is a humble brag). I work full-time as a freelance writer, so I’m used to keeping myself on deadline. The challenging part was staying focused on work as calls and emails about the wedding and the house flooded in. I used Toggl to track my time and held myself to my usual number of working hours each day (because, frankly, if I’m not writing, I’m not getting paid). But I also let myself take advantage of my flexible schedule. I would call wedding vendors or our realtor during the day or work remotely if I needed to be at the new house or the wedding venue for some reason.
Despite what those real estate shows would have you believe, there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be taken care of between the time an offer is accepted and when you get the keys to the place. Adam took the lead in working with the bank to secure a mortgage (and then switching lenders when we found a better interest rate) and finding a real estate lawyer to review our contract. We tapped our savings and moved around some investments to make it work. We divided and conquered: He was the point person for all things house, and I handled the wedding details. And both of us put our social lives on hold for a month.
The Big Payoff
By the end of September, we were newlyweds and new homeowners! We closed on the house just two days after we returned from our honeymoon. It was the best finale to the craziest month of our lives.
But would I recommend this path to others? Not a chance. On the plus side, though, getting through these stressful events means the rest of our marriage *should* be smooth sailing, right?