Good evening, gentle readers…
Oh, who am I kidding? Hiya, all! Still waiting for New Parents Freezer Meals Part 2? Don’t worry, it’s coming! Just a little later than expected. Mommy and Daddy S got a drop freezer, so they can handle more food, but Daddy S’s mom came in from out of town to cook for them and help care for Baby S (who, by the way, is GORGEOUS!! The Ryan and I met her last week and she is just so tiny and soft and smells like baby!), so that plus all of our meals has kind of put a kibosh on more meals..for now. Also, one of the others in the group is making all of her meals this weekend and taking them down on Monday, so I don’t need to do a second round just now. We got Mommy and Daddy S COVERED! *fistpump*
In other news, I have been spending a good amount of time on WeddingBee.com’s forums this week..for a few reasons. The first being that now that I’m back at work (yay money! yay air conditioning!), I find that I am relegated to scanning piles of payroll material yet again. And while I do so, I sit still in my chair, staring into the corner of my cube, watching Adobe process the scan, decompose all the images, and do whatever other magic it does. It’s so boring. It’s not stimulating. I can’t do any homework there because it’s all on a very specific software package that is installed on my laptop at home…Oh, and apparently while I was gone they shortened our lunches from an hour to 30 minutes. It’s not even worth it to get up and go to the cafeteria. I’ll just have to turn around and come back. So I’m basically stuck at my desk ALL DAY.
If I don’t do something to keep myself entertained, I might lose my mind and start throwing whatever few available office supplies we’ve got left at people (How are we coping with sequester? We’re not being allowed to order office supplies. Like staples, pens and sticky notes. Yeah, it’s pretty great…until your pen runs out of ink and you need to sign your name to a shipping slip, so you’re forced to go on a scavenger hunt around the office and steal that unfortunate person-who-isn’t-here-today’s pen. Don’t judge me, I did what I had to do!).
Anyway..Another reason I have been lurking there is that I am feeling pretty overwhelmed by this whole wedding planning thing, and have been experiencing a lot of emotions and frustrations. I wanted to know if others were feeling the same as I am. And if so, how did/do they deal with it? Back in January, my granddad was diagnosed with nonhodgkin’s lymphoma. Yesterday, I heard from both him and my mom that his test results indicate the cancer is still in his neck (so chemo didn’t work). He’s too old to do radiation, and has ruled out many treatment options by having gone through the chemo. My granddad is the one that is supposed to give me away. He’s my only living grandparent. I call him at least once a week to just chew the rag. I am feeling very sad and worried. SO, I turned to the other “Bees,” as they’re affectionately known, and let me tell you…There are some FABULOUS ladies on that site! There are so many supportive, friendly, sweet, thoughtful, kind people on there, and it’s really nice. There are also some others who I sort of sit back and question, but that’s true of anywhere there are a lot of personalities in one place.
It has also given me great perspective on myself and the Ryan’s relationship. I look at some of the things others are going through, and it just reinforces the way I feel about him, how solid our relationship is..And it’s fun to share stories about us too! Like when we first met, silly dates we’ve been on, stuff like that. All in all it’s a nice group and it’s nice to have a sounding board.
Something else that has come up quite a lot is wedding budgets!! The average American wedding, according to CNN, cost $28,400 last year! Holy crapballs, you guys, you can buy a new Prius with that!! Or put a down payment on a house! Or pay off student loans! Or go on a killer vacation! Props to us ladies keeping the economy afloat, AMIRITE?
One particular Bee was stressing over finances, and I offered to help her out by sending her a bunch of tips on how I saved money on the Ryan and I’s wedding so far. I spent a long, long time thinking about all of the details, writing it out, and after I hit the SEND button……WeddingBee promptly cut off 90% of my message to her and I hadn’t saved it! I almost died right there in my chair. Right. There. I have also received other requests and carried on conversations about this topic, so I figured it’d be a good reference for me to refer people to if I just wrote it out here. And then there will be no more eating of the messages by WeddingBee’s forums. Also no need for personal email exchange either, to protect anonymity. Win/win!
TL;DR: Tips Start Below
So in taking the beginning of the email I sent this Bee this morning, here is how I have saved $$ planning my wedding:
I only did small things with us that saved us a ton of money. For instance, we’re getting married in Annapolis, where the average rate for venues is $4500-5000 (half my budget!!), and the average for food is $60-99/head…even if it’s just hors d’ouevres. Our wedding is small, we’re expecting 60 people, but even still, that’d be the whole budget!
I chose the venue as a local, public park. For 8 hours, the hall was $1200, $500 of which we get back after we clean (it’s a cleaning deposit), so the venue is $700. The gazebo we’re having the ceremony at was another $180, but I’m not complaining! I’ve even seen some people do barn weddings and just ask to borrow or use someone’s field before. Public places are always, always cheaper, and some of them are even free! Look in your area for places such as this, even mansions or other historical landmarks can be cheap – there are several important, historical mansions around Maryland that are “public property” in that they are owned by the historical society and used for tours and education. They are inexpensive and quite lovely!
We had to use a caterer that was on the park’s approved list, and luckily, we happen to live right around the corner from our caterer. It’s a small, locally owned restaurant, and we went there to have dinner and try it before we even considered it (we hadn’t been there yet). The food was surprisingly good, and their catering prices are very good as well. Our menu is chicken, two sauces (Marsala or lemon caper – they can choose which one they want), roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, salad, and rolls, for everyone, for ~$15/person. Also, their rates for staff are $25/hr per person, which is actually really great given that most people are $50-100/hr for a wedding. They will come in, set up, bring linens (they rent them, and extend the rental price to us without markup), serve food, serve booze, and clean up. All in all, our staff is ~$400 for the entire event (all 8 hours), start to finish, and it is well worth it to us because we won’t have to clean up. And since my caterer has worked the park many times before, they know what needs to be done for us to get our deposit back. It’s a really good investment and so much less headache for me!
As for alcohol, we are obtaining our own one-day liquor license and anything brought to the event is covered under us! $55 and we can even have hard alcohol! We’re serving champagne for the toast ONLY, and the rest will be beer and wine with some hard and a few mixers. I picked Menage a Trois Blanc and Menage a Trois Red for my two wines – they are a lovely combination, serve a lot of different palettes, and they are only $7.97 a bottle where I’m buying. That means a case (12 bottles), is less than $96 each. And given that half of our guests are not going to drink wine (let’s face it, the groom’s side and all of my uncles are going to want beer! And Scotch!), we’re not spending a whole crap ton on wine. A 1/6th keg will serve everyone, so we will get two with two different types of beers. Probably Sam Adams Oktoberfest and a Lager or something. This is the Ryan’s choice, but the price of a 1/6th keg is around $60 (less than a bunch of 12 packs). Not too shabby. We can use the rest of our alcohol budget on some nice, hard alcohols and some mixers. We also are going to just buy soda and water at Sam’s Club – a 36 pack of soda there is about $8.
Next up is FLOWERS! Flowers are expensive, right? WRONG! Not if you’re smart. I got my flowers at Giant. Yes, that grocery store place. Those of you out west don’t have a Giant, so your best bet is probably a Kroger store or Safeway. But for me, I went to Giant. My florist is an actual, legitimate florist, who has an amazing portfolio and was so excited to do a wedding (something she does not get to do often), she was practically dancing! She was so enthusiastic about my color and flower choices, helpful with designing, and just an overall sweet lady. I got my bouquet, a free toss bouquet, a MoH bouquet, a bridesmaid bouquet, two bridesmen (yes, I have two men on my side) boutonnieres, Groom boutonniere, Best Woman (yes, his best man has boobs!) bouquet, and two groomsmen boutonnieres, along with corsages for my mom, his mom, and boutonnieres for his dad, my grandfather, and my little brother for just under $300. My primary flower is roses. No, I’m not kidding. She buys the flowers wholesale, which she extended to me, because anything she doesn’t use she can make arrangements for and sell in the Floral department for the store, so she is making money either way!
Sure, you can make bouquets yourself, and it’s probably cheaper that way, especially if you buy wholesale! And if you’re really trying to pinch pennies, do so!! I am just not that creative. And wouldn’t honestly know what to do with the things! Or how! She is hand wrapping them all, and they are just one more thing I don’t have to do. It’s worth the money to me. I have also known brides who used all fake flowers from Michaels or Hobby Lobby, and they were inexpensive as well and looked just great!
My officiant is someone who has been an ordained reverend for about 12 years now, and she is a very special friend of mine. She was very excited when I asked her, and is going to charge us $100, dinner and cake. Okay! It’s sooo much better than paying a stranger $300 for 15 minutes of his time and his signature! If you live in a state where you can be ordained online or in person for very cheaply, definitely consider getting a special friend or family member to do it for you! Here is a complete list of how to go about being ordained for a wedding and the states that do and don’t allow you to do so!
For invitations, check out Vistaprint.com. No, seriously. They have really great patterns and the invitations are nice and cheap! And the quality is really, really nice! A bride I know got married last year and got 120 invitations, response cards, Save The Dates and ~200 Thank You cards for right around $150. She recommended it to me, as did another person currently planning (wow, a lot of us are getting married!). Or, if you have creative friends, ask them to design you an invitation in Photoshop as their gift to you, and print it out on card stock (I actually designed our invitations and printed them on cardstock I bought at Target. $10 for 50 pieces of cardstock AND envelopes. The Ryan printed the invites in color at work and I printed the addresses on the envelopes on our printer at home. Done and done!) I am not personally doing response cards. Instead, I’ve set up a wedding website for myself and the Ryan (for free on nearlyweds.com), which contains our venue location, hotels in three different price points, their photos, their amenities, directions to the venue from each hotel, both local airports, directions to each hotel from said airports, our engagement story, bio of our wedding party, our registry information, a map of the park and the hall, and the RSVP option. I have tested it out by RSVPing to myself, and even if the answer is no, it goes to my inbox and I get a notification. I have a “Wedding” folder in my email, so everything (and everyone) will get stored there. I plan to personally call any guest I haven’t heard from (and ask the Ryan to do the same for his side) about a week to a week and a half out to get my final count. I feel that it’s more personal that way, and more courteous. And hey! I’m not paying for double postage, the cost of double envelopes, don’t have to worry about things getting lost in the mail, and I don’t have to pay for response cards.
My centerpieces are DIY: All fake (sort of…), and basically all of the materials are from Hobby Lobby. You know, except the lanterns that I got at IKEA for $8 each. Yes. $8 each. Because IKEA! I have two different centerpieces, this is what my first set looks like (I’m finished with these – yes, that is Super Mario characters under the trees, so glad you asked):
And the other will hopefully like this (Just gotta get the flowers and sit down with the glue gun…):
Why did I choose two? Because it was suggested to me to have different “levels” for the eye. That way everything wasn’t the same, and the cost was lowered as well. The branches were $2.50 per bundle at Hobby Lobby (keep an eye out for sales. I got most of my items there for 50% off) and the 14″ diameter grapevine wreaths I am using (which are real, as are the curly willow branches) were ~$4 each. I got fake leaves to go in them, and the girls’ (and my) bouquets will also double as parts of the centerpieces. We will have vases to place them all in. A good hint is to give items multiple jobs (in this case, the bouquets are bouquets and also centerpieces). All in all, I got all of the components for under $250…so each table’s centerpiece is approximately $31. Given that my florist offered to do my centerpieces at $75/table, I’m not complaining.
Men’s Wearhouse has a special on tuxes – if you have X number of men in your party, you get the Groom’s tux for free…So we did that, and got the Ryan’s tux for free. All of the guys will pay for their own tuxes, and all of my girls paid for their dresses, HOWEVER I’m gifting them their hair. And since the hair stylist is friends with my mom, I got my own hair for the cost of her having a seat at the ceremony/reception and attending with my mom. Given that the cost per head is less than the cost of my hair, I agreed. Plus, she’s a nice lady (but I am paying for everyone else’s hair as one of the gifts for them being so awesome). As for shoes – I got nice shoes. I ordered them from David’s Bridal and had them dyed the color of my girls’ dresses. My “something blue” is going to be everyone signing the bottom of my shoes (including the Ryan)…The girls? The girls get to wear flats. Black ones. And they are oh, so grateful that they don’t have to stand around in heels (nobody will see anyone’s shoes except my MoH’s anyway because the dresses are long. My MoH chose a short dress, but she’s cute and will totally pull off the shoes ^_~). Besides, the guys’ tuxes are black with red vests, and the girls’ dresses are red with black shoes. It works! And I get to stand out. The best part is probably that their shoes are $20 at Payless, two of them already own that pair, and they say they are quite comfy…Everyone is happy!
(My car is a hot mess. Don’t judge!!)
As for cake, well…we splurged here. We are paying a lot per slice (..it’s actually about average – $5.50/piece) for our cake. That said, it is OH SO WORTH IT. You don’t even know how awesome this cake is. Our baker made this for Mommy S’s baby shower:
And it’s so delicious! That said, we are cutting the cost of the cake by having a simple design, only two tiers (as opposed to the third for us to keep in the freezer), and having a very vibrant, colorful and fun cake topper that they are making out of fondant to still make sure the cake has interest and is “us.” If enough people respond and are coming, we will just go buy a sheet cake or some cupcakes from Sam’s Club if people want second helpings. And then we’ll take a slice of wedding cake for ourselves to freeze and share on our 1 year anniversary. If you’re really pressed for cash with the cake, you can do the Sam’s Club cake thing, or you can even try Giant…grocery store again! I actually looked at Giant before I looked at our current baker, and while they had some very lovely cakes, I didn’t like the fact that they were “kits” and everything came pre-built and pre-colored. Sure, they could change the color, but there just wasn’t enough customization for my liking. That said, they had some very simple, elegant options if you want something inexpensive to feed a lot of people and don’t care to terribly much about the cake’s “customizability,” as it were.
Wedding favors! They’re next! I have gorgeous favors. Gorgeous! I ordered them online, and I think I got them for $1.79 each from FavorFavor.com. They are bottle openers made to look like vintage skeleton keys, and I was worried about what their quality would be like being so cheap, but they are just lovely! They are heavy, sturdy, well made, and just..I love them! To cut back in this area, not only were the favors inexpensive, but I ordered either one per couple (because really, do you think my uncles want two bottle openers with tassels in their kitchen drawer? No! To them it will just be some frou frou thing their wives got that will totally open their beer, and is therefore practical enough to live in said drawer), or one per person & one for their partner/date. This way, people living in separate households can each have one. I had originally counted incorrectly, and I had to email customer service and ask to add more items to my order. They were AMAZING and so nice! And fast with the customer service. I highly recommend them for cute, inexpensive, good quality favors.
The Ryan and I are having a bit of a nerd wedding, and one thing he told me very early on was that he wanted to incorporate the Super Mario question mark boxes into our reception – whether it be as the vases for the centerpieces, the boxes we gave favors in, whatever. Well, as it happens, we’re using it as the boxes to give the favors in. I looked online to see if I could purchase some novelty ones, even from Etsy, and they were just…expensive. I decided to make my own somehow and started to search for free Printables via Pinterest and Google! And I’ll be damned if I didn’t find just the perfect sized printable. We are going to go to Kinkos or Staples and print them on card stock. Always check for free patterns and even fonts (for thank you cards, invitations, whatever).
By now you might be wondering about music! Did I hire a DJ? Nope. We’ve got laptops. We’ve got iTunes..and we’ve got an audio hookup inside of the hall for their sound system! Yeah, it cost an extra $135 to rent. But that’s way better than $900 for a DJ! My caterer couldn’t recommend a good DJ, and the Ryan’s friend (and one of his groomsmen) will be MC for us. After all, the Ryan was the MC at this same friend’s wedding. We are going to do a bunch of playlists for various parts of the evening and call it good. It may not be for everyone – a lot of people like DJs, and I’ve been to weddings where the DJ has made it very fun! But I believe in the Ryan’s friend to make it fun and also get the Ryan back (apparently there was some sort of music playing shenanigan the Ryan duped this guy with at his reception), which will add just that next level, in my opinion, of intimacy and sharing with friends instead of strangers.
I picked a very upbeat, quasi traditional/modern song to walk to (omg, the Piano Guys *die* they are AMAZING! Go look at everything on YouTube RIGHT NOW. NOW. I promise, you won’t regret it), and we’ve got an iPod and a portable set of speakers. Technically we’re not supposed to have amplified music outside, so we felt like it was stupid to rent a big sound system just for one three minute song…Yuck! (Yes, we have permission to play our song) In addition, while people farther away may be able to hear a little of it (I doubt they’d complain, it’s gorgeous), everyone that is concentrated in the ceremony area of the gazebo will hear it and see us and get all of the lovely pieces put together.
(Yea, this is it –^)
One thing that we didn’t skimp on money-wise was our photographer. The right photographer can make or break your day and your memories. We got extremely lucky, and the Ryan has a friend in California (who would have been a guest anyway) that is a professional photographer on the side. After getting quotes and looking at rates here in Maryland, we discovered that his friend not only had a way better package, but a better package for less! We are paying this man’s price (though we get a small friend discount), his plane ticket, and his hotel fee — for less than it costs us to book a Photographer here. Shop around! See if they’re willing to travel! If you’re in the California area, message me, and I’ll recommend him to you, his pictures are absolutely stunning and wonderfully artful. If you’re in Houston and need a Photog, I’ve got a friend out there who is also an AMAZING photographer and has her own photography business. I’m quite happy to recommend her as well.
That said, if you’re looking to cut costs on the photographer but don’t know anyone, I have read that you can advertise at local colleges for photography majors, and possibly hire one on the cheap (after looking through their portfolio, of course!). Stipulate that you get digital prints of all the photos, and you get your amazing pictures for cheap, and they get a giant reel of stuff to add to their portfolio and help get their name out there! It’s a win for everyone.
Next I will go into dishes. I am NOT…I repeat NOT…going to pay to rent glass/ceramic plates…or cups…or real silverware. “But it’s etiquette!” you scream. Or even just, “But it looks WAY better!” That could be. But again maybe not. And consider this: not only is it totally possible (and probable, if you’ve got clumsy people in your midst like we do) that someone is going to get a little too tipsy or a little too wild and break something, but you have to pay for all of that, keep it safe, lug it around, or pay someone to lug it around for you, set it out, make sure it stays safe, and then take it back or pay someone to pick it up to wash it! Ugh! What a hassle! Especially since a lot of rental companies (ironically) around here that rent dishes are closed on the weekends so they charge an extra fee for someone to deliver/pick-up on an “off” day. Why not just get lovely plastic plates that you can throw in the trash and not have to worry about replacing items or paying someone to wash them? Easy clean up AND unbreakable. Duh! I have been Googling my little heart out and found a combo pack of 20 gold rimmed dinner plates and 20 gold rimmed dessert plates for…$20. So if we have 60 people, I can buy 3 packs (I’ll get 4 just in case someone gets some food, throws their plate away, and then decides they want more) for $60 that gives everyone a dinner plate and a dessert plate. Helloooooooooo! Duh!! And we all know plastic utensils are cheap..they even have really pretty ones that look real! So make it easy on yourself!
But what about the wine?! What about it? Plastic. If you have witnessed the tremendous amount of wineglass death on account of too much drinking, too much rowdy, too much dishwasher being angry (that was a fun day), or even too much clumsy as I have…you’d be down with the plastic just like me. Now, I don’t generally like Party City or their stuff…But I do like these. They look elegant and real (though I’ll be driving there to look in person), and they will serve for wine and champagne. As for the beer and mixed drinks, we’ll probably just go with Solo cups. Because no party is complete without red solo cups! More than likely, it will be pretty, clear, plastic cocktail cups. Also likely from Party City…and I don’t even have to pay for shipping on that stuff!
One thing I will caution about when sourcing online vendors for things – READ THE REVIEWS! Google reviews. Read as many reviews as you can! Luckily, a lot of the vendors out there that sell wedding things are highly reviewed on both WeddingWire and TheKnot. I spent a lot of time researching my vendors and reading up on them to make sure I wasn’t going to get shitty items, not receive my shitty items on time, or pay way too much money for said shitty items. Please do this, you won’t regret it!
Another big tip has to do with paying for items. I will first start out by plugging for my future in-laws…If not for them, none of this would be possible and the Ryan and I would not be having this amazing wedding we have worked so hard to plan. They generously gave us most of the money we are using for our budget, and we could not be more grateful and thankful!! I will also thank my mom, who bought my dress, veil and undergarments, and who also contributed to our budget and allowed us to expand the things we could get even further. Thank you all soooooooo much!
Anyway, back to paying — the Ryan has a Discover card that has cash back and bonus rewards points on it. Given that we’ve got the cash in hand, anything that doesn’t require a cash deposit or cash full payment is being routed through the Ryan’s card, which he immediately pays off….but in the mean time, he’s racking up extra points and extra cash back (which adds up quickly!!) to use on our honeymoon. If you are in a position to do this, I highly recommend it!!
My final piece of advice would be, if at all possible, DO NOT SAY THE WORD WEDDING when dealing with vendors. From my experience (and that of many others), the cost of “weddings” are about triple the cost of “events” or “gatherings.” Call it one of those. Also, be competitive. It was recommended to me once to call around and get quotes for XYZ package from someone and call someone else and say “So-And-So will give me XYZ for $$…What can you do for me?” Generally, they’re willing to negotiate, and you can get some really amazing stuff (in this case, this person did it with their photography package) for a steal!!
As for future plans, instead of hiring a calligrapher, I have seen a lot of places on Pinterest that offer free wedding/fancy fonts, and will be making pretty labels with them! I will print onto clear labels so it looks as if it’s written onto the envelopes…but isn’t! And it will save so much time and hassle (and money!). That’s my latest money-saving tip.
So that’s all my unconventional wisdom for now. I’m sure there are other things that I could do to cut back on expenses, but as we want a semi-formal, semi-supernice, and mostly fun party/wedding, this is right within our comfort zone.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask or email me, and if you have any tips you want to share, feel free to do so!!