Sunday, January 18, 2015

Splurge vs. Save - Spending On The Big Day

When planning my wedding I thought I could easily spend under $10,000 with my "connections and DIY capabilities". Oh man was I wrong. Things just kept adding up and adding up. The venue and the caterer alone were my $10,000 budget, and we were only planning for 100 guests! During this journey I found a few tricks that helped us keep our budget at a minimum. I definitely spent over my $10,000 budget, but I stayed well under the national average so that made me feel like I didn't do too bad.  These are the tips I used to help save money on all of the details of our wedding...

Wedding Planner:
Because of Pinterest, it's becoming easier and easier to opt out of a wedding planner.  Personally, we decided to go without. There are so many resources you can use to help you plan your wedding.  I started with idea boards on Pinterest and then used to help me manage my guestlist. If you are a person that can keep a budget and keep your ideas in order - you will be fine without a wedding planner HOWEVER, one suggestion is to get a day-of coordinator. Someone who can be there on the day to make sure that decor is set up properly and guests know what's going on.  Things turned out alright for us without one, but it was extremely chaotic.  That's definitely something we wish we would have had. 

Bride: You need to find the dress you love, but within reason.  An easy way to save on the wedding dress is to borrow a dress from a relative and have it re-made. I ended up with the dress of my dreams, something that no one else will ever have, because I was willing to keep my mind open and borrow my future grandmother in-law's dress.  If that isn't your thing, check out some used dresses on tradesy or

Groom: Even if you're fiance is picky (like mine) it can still be easy to save on the grooms outfit.  My fiance and I knew that he wanted something tweed. He made this decision really early which was great because I could watch the end-of-season sales. I ended up getting his jacket, vest and tie 50% at JCrew and his shirt 50% off at  He borrowed his kilt and the only thing we splurged on were the shoes because we knew they would last a long time and my fiance never get's nice why not ;) 

Bridesmaids/Groomsmen: I tried to be especially sensitive to this because I know that most bridesmaids either don't like or just never re-wear their dress. I asked for lots of input in hopes that they would like it enough to re-wear it.  I hope I succeeded (they said they liked it anyway). We went for dresses at, again, looking for things in the post-season sales. They purchased their dresses and I let them wear whatever shoes as long as they weren't stilettos (outside wedding) or black.  I worked with a fair-trade jewelry shop to custom design jewelry for them as a gift.  The groomsmen were super simple.  We purchased the same vest and tie for them as my husbands as a gift.  We also sent them links to pants and a shirt that were about $40 total.  Not bad ;)

Ceremony Decor: I really wanted an arbor for my wedding so after searching and searching for solutions, we finally said screw it and made it. This was my husbands big project and he took it on like a champ. We enlisted his dad and a family friend to help put it all together. They assembled most of it at home, drove it over to the venue in a truck, and assembled the rest of it.  To dress it up they hung fluttery curtains and my mom made a really cute birds nest type thing filled with flowers to hang from the middle. For the aisle, we originally wanted to do different leveled stumps with vases of flowers on them. That way we could re-use the vases for the reception space...however we ran out of time and some how they ended up just lining it with stumps. Wasn't the original vision but the altar was so pretty that I doubt anyone even noticed anyway. It worked haha. 

Reception Decor: Best advice - don't rent. I know, it sounds crazy, but we actually were able to find all of the linens for our wedding online for basically the same price as renting. I also found votives for cheaper then renting, and they were WAY cuter than normal votives.  You can also check on or even craigslist. Brides are always trying to get rid of their gently used decorations :) We also saved money by thrift shopping and scavenging friends and families homes for most of our decor.  If you're going for an eclectic vibe, that works really well. Also - don't spend more on the unimportant things. No one is going to remember what your napkins looked like (I cant even remember what mine were) so don't bother paying extra for the pretty ones. Cocktail table linens? Who cares? Think big picture. Think about where photos will be taken and then spend more on those areas.


Boutineers: We made these ourselves using dried flowers and twine. They were really simple, so simple my two male cousins did it. We just made sure we found really interesting colors and odd shaped flowers to use so that it stayed fun. I loved the end result!

Bouquets: We went the traditional route on this one and hired a florist. Bouquets are BEYOND expensive...but I couldn't find a way around it. I didn't want to stress my mom out by having her do these too so we just went with a professional. They turned out gorgeous though! I would say that you should shop around to save money. Try finding a florist in a small town rather than a larger city. The price differences can be quite drastic. 

Centerpieces: This was definitely audacious but we decided to pick and arrange our own flowers. I really wanted the wildflower feel though so this might not be for everyone. We picked the flowers on a flower farm the day before the wedding and used them for both our rehearsal dinner and wedding. It worked out really well but unfortunately, we didn't have enough time on the day of to finish all of the arrangements. Now this isn't because it's was because I forced my mom to come get her hair done with me so she wasn't able to be at the venue getting people movin' and shaking doing all the decorating haha. 

If you aren't totally stuck on having a specific band, or you just can't possibly afford your favorite (like myself with Nickel Creek), then I suggest an Ipod wedding.  A few months before the wedding we started saving music to Spotify. We built playlists for "cocktail hour", "dinner", and "dancing".  I even had some family members help us pick the music by making them collaborators on the playlist.  It was 100% free in comparison to a band being $3,000+ or a DJ being $1,000+ on average. My only advice with this is that you make sure you put the music in order of what you want to hear. I made the mistake of hitting shuffle rather than playing through it, so we never got to hear some of our favorite songs. 

Catering: Originally we thought my dad would cater the wedding. This sounded like a great idea until I realized how stressed out he would be if he did cater it.  So we opted for an actual caterer.  Food is very important to my family so for this aspect of the wedding, we splurged. We hired a local caterer called Saffron Fine Foods that did fresh farm-to-table food. It was absolutely awesome!  And for our rehearsal dinner, we actually hired a food truck! It was pretty cheap (at like $10 a head) and it was SO much fun for our guests. The food was fantastic too! So if you're a quirky bride and groom - do a food truck. It was the best idea ever!
Booze: When you can - purchase your own wine and beer. And do not skimp on this...especially if you're expecting people to dance. I don't care what kind of crowd you think you have coming to your wedding...if you don't have alcohol, they will not dance (unless they snuck in a flask). We purchased our own for the rehearsal dinner.  For the reception, we ended up weighing the cost of purchasing our own vs. just going with our caterer and after corkage fees, the caterer was just as cheap. So we ended up getting 2 kegs of our favorite local beers and then a few cases of some New Zealand wine.  It was a fun way to draw the connection between my NC pride in beer and his NZ pride in wine ;) 

Cake: The best way to save on a cake? Make it yourself. You can practice a few times before the wedding and get your recipe down to a tee. Just make sure what you make is freezable. That's the real key. My mom and best friend made my cake and cupcakes about 3 weeks before the wedding. They froze it, brought it out to ice the cupcakes 3 days before the wedding, then put them back in the freezer.  Everything was ready to go, even the icing, so all they had to do was ice the cake and stack it on the big day. 

This might have been a faux pas but we actually opted out of favors.  I've never really understood the idea of wedding favors - yes, it's a gift to say thank you for coming...but why would I ever need anything with your monogram on it? Something you can do to keep costs down on these is make them yourself. We thought about doing candy apples but that took too much time...we also thought about making individually wrapped smores but then we figured, they're just going to open it and use it so we might as well just leave it all un-packaged to start. 

Photographer & Videographer:
Photographer: Originally I was very skeptical about hiring wedding photographers.  First I thought we could just hire a friend for photos, but as it turned out, all of our photographer friends were IN the wedding so we felt like it would be wrong to ask them to do both. I wanted to spend under $1000 but after searching around I realized that if we want cheap, we'll have to compromise on quality of photos. So we decided to take the plunge and hire photographers that we loved. We definitely made the right decision because after all is said and done, all you have left are the memories and the photos. And without the photos, you're going to loose some of those memories. So splurge on the photographer. 

Videographer: One thing we didn't do that I wish we would have done was hire a videographer...or at least try to get someone to tape the big moments...A few of our guests captured some of the major things for us but not all of them. I would say that if you cannot afford a videographer, at least have a family member record the important parts. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Moments I Won't Forget From My Wedding

I can't believe the wedding finally happened. After all of that planning and a blink of an eye, it was over. It's kind of funny - as a bride, you kind of go in to this shock. You build and build and build up to this one day and then in a flash, it's over. Thank God for wedding photos. I was freaking out for a few weeks that it was all over and all we were left with was debt and I barely remembered what happened anyway, asking myself "Did people even have fun?"...but then I got the photos from Fox & Owl Studios...and my entire perspective changed. They tell the story was a beautiful day.

Suddenly all of the memories come rushing back to me. There were good times, and bad, but overall, it was an amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. It was the first and probably last time I would ever have all of those people together in one place. All of my friends, family and all of Andrew's friends and family. There are so many memories from that day, but there are a few that stood out in particular...

My top 5 moments from the big day (in no particular order):

1. The reveal to my dad. 
I think this was the most special moment of the day. I am most definitely a daddies girl. It was such a whirlwind of emotions all at once. I was hiding out in our venue before we walked outside to our outdoor ceremony...waiting for everyone to get lined up and things to get in order. Then it was time. I walked out and saw my dad outside, and we both just started to cry. And laugh. And cry some more. And smile. And bawl like babies. It was amazing. Then we got to walk down the isle together and at that moment, I was so glad we had a long isle. It was a good 3-5 minute walk to where the ceremony was happening. So dad and I were able to chat and laugh along the way. We even did some skipping. It was such a precious moment...bugh I'm starting to cry just thinking of it. Anyway, cue the photos.

2. Our wedding toasts.
Andrew was very adamant about doing toasts, and though I wasn't really in to it - we did it. We had my dad, his dad, my best friend, his best friend (virtually), and his sister all make toasts. We kicked it all off with our spiels and then the emotions came pouring. Unfortunately I don't have a recording of all of these (for future brides, MAKE SURE YOU RECORD THESE), but I do have the memories. We laughed, we cried, we gave funny looks haha. It was fantastic. At that moment, I started to really zone in and realize how special this moment was. To be in a room filled with the people we love most, and to know how much they all loved That's something special.

3. Our first dances. And I say dances because all of them were adorable and lovely.
It was funny because I can remember going over to our photographers and asking...who goes first? Do we go first? Do my dad and I? Something I neglected to look in to before the wedding haha. Andrew and I did our dance first. Originally we had practiced and actually had a choreographed routine...but then the weeks got shorter and we had more and more to do and we stopped practicing. So we decided to wing it. It was super sweet...he sang to me, I messed up his hair, I gave him spin, he gave me a spin. We danced to Ingrid Michaelsons "The Way I Am". It was perfect.

The next dance was my dad and I. We danced to my childhood favorite band, because of my dad, Nickel Creeks "When You Come Back Down". We had talked about it weeks leading up...trying to figure out what to dance to...deciding we should probably practice. Yet again, we didn't practice. So we winged it too ;) It was so wonderful. Uhh, crying again. It turns out that song is quite long (unlike the song Andrew and I danced to)...but that made it even easier to remember. I felt like we were gliding across the dance floor. As a child, my dad and I used to dance all the time. In our house, we had "dancing nights" where we would boogy down to Nickel Creek, Shawn Colvin, Billy Joel, Beach Boys, etc. It was the best. And dancing with my dad that night took me back. We're a great dancing team ;)

Lastly was Andrew and his mom's dance. They danced to Elvis, "The Wonder of You".  He was aiming for a cheesy song...and man did he find it ;) It was adorable. He sang to her, spun and dipped her. Totally sweet. He is such a cheeseball. It was the perfect song for them.

4. Dancing with my best friends. 
We started the night off right with my favorite group dance song - the "Macarena" by Los Del Rio. Oh my did that get everyone on the dance floor (or at least all the youngsters that grew up in the 90s haha).  Soooo funny! It was even better because one of my bridesmaids and best friends, Grace, made us these gorgeous animal masks for a photo booth we were supposed to have. Well, I neglected to inform anyone of where that booth was supposed to be, including her husband who had volunteered to take the photos for there was no photo booth...but that didn't mean we couldn't still use the props! So people danced all night with animal masks, mustaches, and paper beers haha. It was the best. We also had some stars on the dance floor, 5 year old Sam, and 25 year old Ben. They stole the show and had us all laughing ridiculously hard. We ended the night of dancing with most of the guests I decided to turn on a song for my girls...Spice Girls, "Wannabe". Me, my cousins, my best friends, and new family members (all female) proceeded to belt the song together. It was basically the best ending to the best day ever.

5. My amazing family and friends.
So, as some of you know, we did the wedding without a wedding planner. The entire thing came out of my head and for the most part, my mom, bridesmaids, friends and family, made it happen.  There were lots of things that I had planned that didn't happen (because I suck at delegating) but everything that did, was because of them.  I didn't set up or break down a single thing at my wedding (or rehearsal for that matter). I had every intention to help...but I didn't account for the craziness that is life..which made me run late to EVERYTHING. They were so wonderful. I walked in to my venue about 2 or 3 hours before we were supposed to do this thing, and my mom was freaking out.  She had only gotten to the venue like an hour or two before me and nothing was ready.  She had my female cousins making flower arrangements, my male cousins making boutineers (haha), my mother in law assembling the cake, my bridesmaids decorating the was NUTS. When I came back to hide before the ceremony...everything was done. And it was beyond beautiful. I couldn't have done this without them. Yes, they weren't able to finish everything, and yes it was chaos, but it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Absolutely perfect.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Real Life Stories from a DIY Wedding

Do a DIY wedding they say, it will be fun they say...yeah sure haha.  No but really, it did make the experience much more...ours? I'm not sure what word I'm looking for there but basically, everything we did came from our hearts and our heads. We had to determine what we wanted from the cake, to the decor, to our attire. Each piece of our wedding was personalized - no, not with monograms - but it was personal to us. So here are the things we did allll on our own, and my thoughts on whether or not it was worth it...

DO design and print your own invites

This was a great idea. It was a bit stressful because my design skills were a tad rusty...but if you know someone who can design your wedding invites for you - do it. You can also explore using online invite companies or even find designers on What I did was hand-draw my invites, scan them in, and then cleaned and colored them in using photoshop. From there, I actually bought cardstock from Michaels and then printed them at Office Depot. I think we ended up spending under $100 on 70 invites. Pretty crazy considering the 2013 national average spent on invites was $443.00.

DO get your flowers from a flower farm

This was an adorable idea but it all depends on the time you have. For me, everything got really rushed at the end. So it would have been nice to have the morning of our rehearsal dinner off, not worrying about getting up at the crack of dawn to pick flowers. However, it was a really fun activity for me and my girls to do. I had a few bridesmaids and also some family members from both Andrew and my side come out. Though it was a pain in some ways - it was also refreshing and a bonding moment. I think just to save time, I would still do a flower farm, but ask that they pick them for you. That way, you would have more time to actually arrange the flowers which is definitely much more time consuming than you would think.

DO write your own vows and make them unique to you as a couple!

It took us forever to do this piece and we definitely waited until the last minute - but it was so worth it. Our vows were something that we wrote ourselves and because of that, they were perfectly us. Now I do know that some people want to go the traditional or religious route and that's completely fine as well...but we decided that we wanted our ceremony to be completely us.  We worked together and created the entire script of our ceremony, pulling quotes from different pieces we loved, some traditional, some not, and we also worked in a few family traditions (detailed below). We wrote our vows separately and read them during the ceremony to each other for the first time. We put some boundaries over how to write them (we did it in a "I promise to x, y z" format) so it ended up being really sweet and flowing perfectly. We also wrote letters to each other to read before the ceremony and I really loved that.

DO insert some traditions from both sides of the family or create new ones

This was some of the most fun and memorable things we did. We started incorporating our heritage and families with our attire. My husband wore a kilt in honor of his Scottish heritage and I actually wore his grandmothers dress that was re-designed for me. The second thing we did was use Scottish traditions in our wedding ceremony by having an oathing stone and having a Scottish poem recited at the end of our ceremony. With an oathing stone, guests pass around the stone and make a wish on it, sending the stone their vibes of happiness for the couple. Then it gets passed up to the couple and they take their vows while holding it. The next tradition was from my Dutch heritage, a wishing tree.  This was something similar to the oathing stone but in this tradition you write your wishes for the couple on a piece of paper then hang it from the tree.  Our wishing tree was absolutely gorgeous, and now we have all of the wishes from our family forever.  At our first Christmas together, we hung the wishes on our garland across the mantle. It was a really sweet way to remember the big day forever.  These traditions really made the wedding feel special and like we incorporated both of our families in to everything we did. It's also something we can pass on and our children can do at their weddings :)

DO make your own cake (but enlist help!)

This actually worked out great (besides me picking the wrong cake stand).  My mom and best friend actually made my wedding cake and cupcakes for the wedding. They were able to do this by making each piece a few weeks in advance and freezing them. Genius. So if you have a big freezer - and you test it all out in advance and know the cake you picked thaws well - do it. It did take a lot of time to do, but because you can freeze it, I think it's totally do-able.  All in all, the cupcakes and cake thawed out wonderfully and they looked and tasted great!  So shout out to mom and Lauren. You kick butt.

DO be thrifty and buy your decor, DON'T rent it

This is definitely the best plan.  I am very lucky that my mom is a huge thrift store junkie and so is one of her best friends, Jacquie. Basically my mom, Jacquie, myself and my best friend looked all through the time I was engaged for things we could use at the wedding...vases, candles, unique props, and little knick knacks that we put on the table that made it "us".  I also bought a few things online from bulk wedding vendors using That's where I bought my linens (at the same price it would have cost to rent them) and my votives (at cheaper than it would have cost to rent them). I highly suggest you consider purchasing things over renting them because 1. its cheaper and 2. you can re-sell it. We also scavenged through our homes for decor to use. This was a great thing to do because alot of things in your home have memories connected to them, so it meant something to have those pieces there :)

DO have an IPod wedding but DON'T hit "shuffle"

This was an interesting DIY project. We thought this would be totally easy and run really smoothly butttttt not so much. It went fine, don't get me wrong, and I doubt anyone even noticed, but I noticed. We spent a few months gathering up songs we wanted for the cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing pieces of our wedding. We actually used Spotify to store them all, which was great, but we ended up freaking out and selecting too much music and we also didn't put it in any particular order. That's where we failed. If you're going to pick your own music and do an Ipod wedding, it can work, but you need to be sure you put your songs in the order you want. That way, you are guaranteed to hear the songs you love.  Some of the songs I couldn't WAIT to dance to at my wedding, never came up. So make sure you have enough music to last the whole time (and then some), and make sure you don't hit shuffle.

Those were just a few of the DIY projects we did and all in all, I think that doing a DIY wedding was definitely worth it. You're still going to end up spending a bunch of money, because weddings are expensive, you cannot get around that, but it will definitely help your wallet in the long run.  It also made it really fun to be able to work on some of these things with your friends and family.  Having a wedding definitely isn't all about the big day, it's about the experience, and DIY weddings give you a pretty memorable experience ;)