Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to REALLY Have a Low Cost Wedding

Anyone who has been reading my blog knows that I'm getting married.  In my peruses through pinterest, I have tried to find ways to have an inexpensive wedding. According to the Internet- they do not exist! I'd see a blog that said things like "Have a caviar wedding on a tuna budget" "How to have a cheap but lovely wedding" "How not to go into debt on your wedding"....And then the budgets they were aiming for were things like $20,000; $15,000; more! YIKES. Guess what my budget was. No, guess.

No. I did NOT forget a zero. Here's why.

1. I'm not from a rich family, and I know they can't afford to pay for my wedding, So I have to take responsibility for it. I'm 22, I work at a daycare for minimum wage-A 20 grand wedding on my own? not happening.

2. I DO NOT want to start of my brand new married life in debt.  Jake and I are lucky, we don't have a lot of expenses (And I'd like to keep it that way)- but neither Jake or myself will have a ton of money either. Ideally, I'd like to be able to use the money we do have for things we want- new furniture, trips, a puppy, saving for a house, kids, etc.

3. A wedding is a party. Plain and simple, you are throwing a big party. And believe it or not, a party is about the guests, not the hostess. I love elegance and presentation as much as the next girl; but I also realized that in five, ten, fifteen years- no one is going to remember what my colors were, what my dress looked like, what foods I served, If I had a DJ, or If the ceilings and walls were pretty. Things that will be remembered: How much work the wedding was, If the bride was selfish, If the guests had a good time. You can have a million dollar wedding, but have a miserable time. Money doesn't buy happiness- and appearances aren't everything. A lot of brides think they need to" keep up with the Jones' ". You Don't.

4. Could I have saved more than $500? Yes, I could (and did). However, I really wanted to push myself and see if I could have a nice wedding on an itsy bitsy budget. So far- I have been on budget, however, I have decided to add $200 to the budget so I can have better quality food (This money is SPECIFICALLY for food and NOTHING else though). Anyone who has been to my parties knows I am all about food- and there is nothing I hate more than going to a party and having crappy/no/one selection of food. 

**Things to keep in mind- My $500 dollar budget does NOT include my honeymoon (which I have saved up for and will be able to pay for), tuxes/suits, or my wedding band/ engagment ring. Also, as a disclaimer. I am LDS- so the actual "Wedding" part is free for me- which cuts down a lot of costs/ stress. However, a lot of LDS girls thinks that means they need to compensate by having an even BIGGER reception. So- this is technically how to have a cheap reception.

Alright, I'm done with my soap box. Are you ready to hear how I've managed to spend so little? Here we go.

First off- Be careful in the Bridal world guys! Don't be gullible. As I embarked on this wedding journey, I learned two big things. 1. Everyone is really proud of their work and thinks it's worth a lot of money 2.Put the word "bridal" or "Wedding" in front of ANYTHING and it instantly doubles in price.

As I began looking into things, I discovered just how expensive things are. Cakes are $300 and up, photographers are $100-$300+ easy, Florists are $200+, etc etc. People (usually professionals) will try to pressure/guilt you into thinking you need a professional or else your entire wedding will be a disaster. NO.When considering "wedding professionals" (DJs, decorators, makeup artists, hair stylists, caterers, wedding planners, etc) Ask yourself how much you REALLY need them. Do you need a DJ, or can you just make an Ipod playlist? Do you need a decorator or can you plan things out with the help of your family/friends? Do you need a makeup artist/hair stylist, or do you have a friend/ sister that can do it? can you do it yourself? Do you really need to have food catered or can you make it yourself in advance? Do you actually NEED a wedding planner? (half the time, you will want to scream "YES!!" at the top of your lungs, but you can do this.)

Learning to Let go...or not: When I first started planning my wedding I heard some advice. "When you picture your dream wedding, what is it that makes it your dream? Is it the dress, the venue, the cake? Pick the center of your dream and splurge for it. Skimp on everything else. This is such great advice. In my head I see such a sophisticated, beautiful wedding. Everything is sleek, suave, expensive. The venue is gorgeous, I look amazing, I'm mingling with guests like this is some high society soiree. I have an awe inspiring cake, a harp player, and all the bells and whistles. Yeah, that's going to happen. So I started going through my dream wedding and cutting out all the things that aren't important enough to me to spend boo-coo bucks on. Do you know what I ended up with? Jake. With all my dreaming, the only thing that really mattered was that Jake and I were getting married. Sappy, huh? After that it was food. I spent more money than I needed to on my dishes (though they are still plastic and paper) to get a more sophisticated look- and I don't regret it.
Style: Before you get too far into the planning process, take some time to think over weddings you've been to. What did you like? What things did you hate? Here Are some things I hate about weddings:
  • Pictures: I hate waiting around for a 2-3 hours, starving to death while the bride and groom do pictures. I hate being rounded up for 300 different variations of family pictures no one will ever see
  • Garter tosses. Yeah, let's wear something sexy that should be for my man's eye's only, let him dig around under my dress (in front of everyone) and let him fling said sexy item to a bunch of men that I'm not in love with. Big fan
  • Bouquet tosses. I hate being forced by other family members to participate. Leave me alone.
  • Reception Lines.
  • Lack of food
  • Huge weddings that take HOURS to put up and take down
  • Dances
  • Agendas
  • Decorating cars
So, guess what? Since this is my wedding, there won't be a garter/ bouquet toss, there won't be dancing (no need for a DJ), there will be food, everything will be relaxed- not ultra structured, and pictures will mostly be done before hand, and my decor will be simple. Unfortunately the line is a necessary evil- but I'll live. And to anyone reading this: DON'T YOU DARE DECORATE MY CAR. Once you decide what you do and don't like, you can make a wedding that is custom fit to you. If you're doing lots of things you don't like/are uncomfortable with- you won't be happy and an unhappy bride is the biggest cause of wedding mishaps.

My ring, if anyone is interested.
Ring: A ring is a symbol of our love- it doesn't define it. Having a small ring or a fake ring- or no ring at all doesn't mean Jake loves me any less than the guy who gives his bride a 1k ring. I'm also very clumsy. How sad would it be to have a huge, expensive diamond and accidentally throw it away or wash it down the drain? I will admit, this thought process was a bit hard to get Jake on board with. Guys often feel a lot of pressure to buy big, flashy rings for their girls because that's the "Norm". So, I took Jake ring shopping. After seeing how incredibly expensive simple, tiny rings were (hint, they were about 1/3 or more of his annual income)- he became more willing to try other options. Jake's initial budget of what he wanted to spend for my engagement ring was $500-$1,000. We ended up buying my ring at Kohl's on their Christmas Jewelry blowout for $100. It's a cz (I don't care) and sterling silver. I can polish this easily, and honestly it looks real (even professional jewelers will tell you that certain cuts in cz look real, several of ours did). Plus, it's big. Much bigger and sparklier than We could have afforded if the diamonds were real. Once Jake realized I was serious about not caring if my ring was real/expensive or not- he was pretty excited to save all that money. I'm currently looking at a rose gold wedding band that's $300, so the total for both my rings will be $400- less than the low end of what he was willing to pay for just my engagement ring. Plus, everyone who sees my ring says things like "Omg, what does he do for a living?" "How much debt did he go into?!" "I'm afraid to even ask how much that cost!" Wow, you're ring is so bad-A" "I LOVE YOU'RE RING!!" "This is probably the most beautiful ring I've ever seen!"etc. no one knows it's not a diamond, and the sparkle is stunning! (My personal advice- try to buy your size in sterling silver, it's hard to size and may damage your ring. I have tiny size 4 fingers, mine needed to be sized and while my ring still looks great- it is misshapen (only noticeable when I'm not wearing it) lost a small accent stone, and has some scratches on the back of the band)

Photos: So many people (once again, mostly professionals) Will tell you you HAVE to have a professional photographer; here's what I think about that.  Not all professionals are created the same. My parents, some of my friends, and even some cousins shelled out big bucks for professional photographers and got back CRAP. My parents ended up with NO wedding pictures at all, despite hiring a "professional". Instead, look for someone who loves photography and has a passion for it. Someone who knows their way around a camera (and has a nice one), and has knowledge of photo shop. I put out an S.O.S on facebook, and my friend referred me to a friend of his that could do my engagement pictures for $30. She ended up not being able to do it- but she was able to refer me to her friend- who did them for free. They turned out lovely. They weren't exactly what I always dreamed- but they were great, professional quality shots that captured our love, and they were free!

This is one of my favorite pictures from our engagments. The guy who did our shots made this collage of his favorite pictures for me and I love how it looks. He took tons of pictures, deleted the obvious bad ones, then let me choose my top 20 favorites, edited them for me and sent them to me. This is all his work- I didn't touch it. As you can see, he is very talented. You don't always get what you pay for guys!

Ask your facebook friends, put up adds on college campuses, join an FB yardsale page and post a wanted add. You'll be surprised how many people are willing to help you or give you deals. Some are even professionals. I have a proffessional makeup artist who's sister is a photographer and they have offered their joint services for $80. That's more than I want to spend, but it is a great deal.
Venue: There are tons of beautiful reception halls- but they don't come cheap. I decided that for me, it didn't matter where I held my reception, so I opted to hold it in my church's multi-purpose room; which means it was free. You might decide you don't want to use that option (It might not be available, or yours might be too unbearably ugly), and that's fine. Look for a neighbors' backyard, a park, beach, lakeside, campground, etc. that is either free or cheap.

Invitations:I got these as my second purchase, which I regret. I got 100 invites for $40. These aren't cheap invites. They have beautiful translucent covers, ribbon "belts", they are embossed, envelopes, RSVP cards,etc. GORGEOUS. I kept looking until I found invites on a really good clearance sale (Walmart) and then bought them. I honestly thought 100 would be enough because when I first started reading advice on how to have inexpensive weddings, all their advice was to keep it small- 100 guest or less; so I thought I'd be fine. Now I have 100 invitations, period. I made my guest list of FAMILY (This is grandparents, (first) cousins, aunts, and uncles ONLY) And realized I needed 70 invites, just for my side. These are the people who have priority to invited too, so I cant really cut that list down. So now, I'm trying to come up with ways to save invites so that there's enough to go around. Yikes. So, DO buy invites on sale, but also DO make sure you buy more than you think you need, or only buy after you have a decent idea of how many you REALLY need. I was able to find similar enough invites on clearance at Walmart for an even better deal- so it all worked out; but still be careful!!

Decor: Here is my biggest secret. I didn't pay full price for anything I bought. I bought almost everything at Hobby Lobby, and lo and behold their ENTIRE WEDDING STOCK WAS 50% OFF! I bought my bouquet there, my arch, ribbons, boutonnieres, corsages, tablecloths, etc.

I also price checked EVERYTHING. I decided what I wanted as far as bowls, cups, utensils, napkins, centerpieces etc and then I scoured the Internet and real stores too, to find the very best prices. I kept track of everything in a notebook. I got my fabrics dirt cheap ($11 for an ENTIRE BOLT of tulle- normally $.97-$2.00 a yard) I used coupons, I searched sales, I bought things at dollar stores- whatever it took. I also scoured pinterest for centerpieces I thought were easily diy-able, and fairly inexpensive; then my Matron of Honor and I sat on my bed and glued them together

Flowers: Real flowers are expensive. They wilt and die and fall apart- and if you want to do flowers as your centerpiece you either have to throw them away (big waste) or figure out what to do with a bunch of bouquets. I bought my bouquet at Hobby lobby for half price (it ended up being $12), and it is beautiful. The silk flowers are high quality, and it is much cheaper than I could have made it for- plus it was in my colors, and I can save my time and energy for other things. I did snazz it up a little. I added jeweled pins (diy-ed), ribbons in my colors, and a couple more flowers. I bought all the corsages and boutonnieres for half price as well- paying $1-2 for them. I decided I wanted to do floral centerpieces, and ordered flowers online. They were not what I expected. I won't be using them. Instead I found flowers that were better quality and closer to the color I wanted at my local Dollar Tree.

Food: Keep it simple, keep it tasty, and add some variety. Originally I wanted to do pinwheel sandwiches. To buy them pre-made would have cost $300 dollars. then I though of devilled eggs, mini pot pies etc- but I kept hitting the same problem- lots of money and lots of work. I also wanted to do fresh berries and jello cups that were half jello half pudding. I later changed my mind to 1-2-3 jello cups (jello layered into three different shades of the same color). But I decided between berries, jello, and cake- I had too many sweets. The only thing that stayed from my original plan? The berries. Yup, the most expensive sounding part of my plan is the one that stayed.

I can buy a four lb bag of berries at Costco for $11.59. My cups I have for the berries hold about 1 ounce each- so I get 64 servings per bag. So I can feed 300 people for about $58. Not bad.

I have also decided to have  cups of ranch dressing (or maybe homemade hummus) with carrot and celery sticks. This is easy, cute, and relatively cheap. It won't be a big stress on me to do. This makes something that is sweet&tart, something savory- and as an added perk, both are healthy (which makes up for the dessert) and non-meat (While at my best friends wedding, I couldn't eat anything but breadsticks because I was vegan), which vegetarian and vegan guests will appreciate, and meat eaters won't mind.

And of course, cake which I will talk about now.

Cake: My mom hired a professional for her cake. She hated it. It wasn't what she was promised. Heart ache, stress, tears, and a bad cake. Plus, no one is really going to remember how amazing your cake looked. I had tons of cake ideas going in- until I saw just how pricey a cake is. I tried to find a friend or family member that makes cake- but didn't have any luck- so instead I altered my plan. I'm buying the half sheet cakes from Costco. If you have never had these cakes, let me tell you about them. They are made with white (or chocolate, if you prefer) cake, and filled with layers of custard. They are then frosted with beautiful white frosting that is etched with lines sectioning off each individual serving- and each piece is topped with a frosting rose. They are several pounds, and one cake serves around 48 people.Plus, I talked to the bakery and they told me that they would be willing to do the roses in my colors! (peach, mint, silver) So for me to serve 300 people (give or take, but I'm estimating big for now) cake, it would only cost me $108, whereas a professional "Wedding cake" that serves 20-24 is close to $300. Jake and I will buy a small cake (or make one) for our cake topper, and for us to cut.

Dress: One of the biggest expenses for a bride is usually her dress.I remember hearing how much my friends, cousins and neighbors spent on their dresses and cringing at the thought at dropping that much cash on one. My biggest issue is that I will be wearing a temple dress for my wedding ceremony, and a sundress (with sleeves) for the luncheon. I will only be wearing my wedding dress for the reception (2-3 hours). Is a dress I'm only wearing for 4-5 hours (pictures included) worth $1,500-$5,00+ to me? Absolutely not. I would much rather spend that money on our honeymoon, or for furniture for the apartment, or on real clothes I'll wear more than once.
     So, my process was a little unorthodox- but I actually bought my dress first. Guess how much I spent.  Yup, $25. No, I didn't forget a zero that time either. One day I was at my local thrift store (DI), shopping for dresses for a friend's costume and I saw this beautiful dress and I knew. I tried it on and it fit and so I brought her home. Guys, I hadn't even met Jake yet. I wasn't anywhere near marriage; and I bought that dress. It has been hanging in my closet for close to three years now. I don't care. This is a beautiful, brand new David's Bridal Dress. Now, maybe you won't get as lucky as I did, BUT check classifieds- join online adds, cruise thrift shops. You really can get gorgeous dresses CHEAP. And for bonus points, when you are done, sell the dress to someone else and use the money for something from your registry no one bought you.
    The dresses on ksl, or at thrift shops like the DI have been worn- but only once, for one day, max. Because they are worn you can get very beautiful, expensive designer gowns (5,000+) for $100-$300; Which is such an amazing deal. If you shop places like the DI, you'll get your dresses way cheaper (The most expensive I've ever seen was $80, average is $25)  and it's not like they're dirty or worn out- and if it is don't buy it.

If the idea of wearing a used dress freaks you out too much, try a consignment shop. A lot of time high end consignment shops will get their dresses directly from retailers who weren't able to sell them, and needed to make room for new inventory. You can score a brand new designer gown at thrift store prices;
shop the clearance racks at your bridal shop. A lot of brides avoid clearance dresses thinking they must be damaged, ugly, poor quality, etc- but while that does sometimes happen, more often the shop just needs to make room for the new inventory coming in.

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