Wedding Planning on a Budget Part II

In my first part of this “series” I went over our basic wedding decisions. I discussed venue, some decorations, stationary and stamps. You can find all the good stuff HERE. I’m going to share a few more things that have come up and expenses that creep in.

DJ:

I love music. Ethan loves music. I sing. I dance. I wiggle. He hums. And kinda has rhythm. And plays a few instruments. I would have a dance party in the corner if I needed too. But a DJ does more than just play music at a wedding, at least, a good one does more than that. We started our search for a DJ, and it’s not easy. You start out with recommendations from others. “The DJ at my cousin’s nephew’s wedding was great! They rave about him. Let me get you their number!” You smile, grin, take the number and stuff it in the back of your wedding planner. You look online. And you find people that are $2,000+, they seem fun, but well…you can tell they just won’t really “work.” And then, your mom goes “hey, we know a guy DUH!” Not only do we know him, but after having done work for the school I attended, I know he’s good. I knew he was REALLY good when I got on his website and he had a questionnaire with really, really, good questions. Everything from who is in our wedding party, special dances and what songs we’d like, what kind of music we want played, what we absolutely do NOT want played, the list goes on. He is a DJ but also an MC. WINNING! And on top of that, he is AFFORDABLE! It’s in the name Affordable Music DJs.

Photography:

This may be one of the most important elements of your wedding. Seriously, you are going to be stuck looking at these pictures for all eternity. Nothing is worse than paying a boat load of money for bad pictures, poorly edited pictures, or a photographer who doesn’t get any of the shots you wanted them too. Photography is not cheap. Your friend might have a camera and say they are a “photographer,” but, call me a snob (maybe it’s because I’m a teacher), I put stock in an education, and I am THRILLED that our photographer not only has a degree in digital media/photography or that she is budget conscious/friendly, but that she is also a friend and did our engagement pictures. You can take a look at some of those HERE. I have no fear that she will do an amazing job because she already knocked it out of the park for those, and she knows what we want.

*Side note idea* Create a private Pinterest board just for you and your photographer if they’re into that kind of thing. I went through and found pictures and poses that I would like to do for our wedding. Giving them a visual and idea to go off of other than “um…you’ve done this before, I trust you,” will help give them a legitimate direction and make sure that you have an idea of what you are looking for as well.Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.08.14 AM.pngFood:

I feel like this is one of the more stressful ordeals to go through when planning a wedding. I’ve been to a number of weddings, and there always seem to be fads over the years as well. I tend to have a bit of a selfish mind frame. This is our wedding. You are our guests, and we’re glad that you can come, but at the end of the day, it’s ours. Not yours. I’m not going to kill myself to have 18 different options because you may not be in the “mood” for chicken, allergic to everything under the sun, or have a billion food allergies (unless it’s serious like you start flopping on the floor if you get near a peanut).

We are having an early ceremony and lunch reception for a number of reasons. Everything from we have people traveling from out of town and I don’t want them to have to NEED to stay the night, to I want to not be dead and enjoy my wedding night. There are 3. food positives to this scenario.

1. It’s lunch so there’s not as much pressure to have a fancy sit-down dinner or something.

2. No alcohol. I have nothing against it, I’m not a staunch alcohol is the worst thing ever, but really. If you can’t have fun at a wedding without it, you shouldn’t be there; and if you REALLY want to drink at 1 in the afternoon before driving home there are bigger issues. It’s just something that due to the time of day, we are easily able to skip….and save hundreds of dollars in the process by doing.

3. Lunch food in general tends to be a bit lighter and more fun. So we are doing pizza. Yes. You read that right. Pizza. We are having a pizza lunch reception. We are offering 3 varieties- Pepperoni, Hawaiian, and Margarita (fancy cheese pizza).  When people RSVP they will be able to chose their flavor so that we have an idea of how many of each we’ll need. We are also having salad and some sides. My parents are not 100% on the pizza band wagon so they will have some small/extra “options” for their own sanity. But it will be less than $500 to have pizza for about 150 people.

Drinks will be water, soda, and a hot chocolate/coffee table. We will make the giant pot things of coffee, and put the hot chocolate in crock pots. Marshmallows, chocolate dipped spoons, mini candy canes, whipped cream, sauces, 3 basic cream flavors, mini chocolate chips, and coconut will be provided to add to the hot drinks. We found awesome disposable mugs from Sam’s Club for a very reasonable price.0009838260822_A.jpgAgain, something super fun that will cost under $200 to do for our guests.

The Restaurant Store is AMAZING! I’m sorry if you don’t have one near you, or you’ve never heard of it. Because it’s the bomb.com. The items we can’t get from SAMs club, we are getting from here, like nice, disposable plates that we can buy by the case for under $100. Buying in bulk is a great, quick, easy way to save money and have plenty of what you need!

 

Favors:

Originally my mother and I thought of this brilliant idea to do jars of jam. But we don’t buy jam, we make it ourselves. And then we started thinking about the fact that we’d have to get about 150 little jam jars. If you haven’t ever made jam yourself let me tell you….it takes a LOT of fruit to make it happen. I mean, a TON! Even with having a strawberry patch in our backyard, there’s no way in the world we’d grow enough. Oh yeah, and it takes a TON of sugar. The logistics and reality of that cute favor hit us pretty quickly. We decided to make it the bridal shower favor instead and start from scratch for the wedding.

We found heart and snowflake shaped cookie cutters from Oriental trade. I love to bake. Everyone knows it. I have a particular affinity for sugar cookies. The cutters come on a card, have a sugar cookie recipe on the inside, and a personalization spot on the front. They’re about $9 a dozen.

They’re cute, but they’re a bit plain. My plan is to use blue water color on the left and right edges to make them a bit more personal and pretty. They come out to cost just a bit more than $1 each.

Hand-Me-Downs:

Weddings are beautiful. Weddings hopefully, only happen once for you. You have one day to make this happen. ONE DAY. Which is why spending an astronomical amount just makes my skin crawl. The average wedding is about $20k. That’s a down payment on a house. That’s a car. That’s a really really really nice vacation to Europe for like a month. It makes my head spin. And at the end of the day, it is only ONE day. The most important part of that day is marrying your best friend and love of your life. Who cares if you use hand me down goodies from other friends or even strangers who used them before you?

My future sister-in-law got married last September. They bought good quality white table cloths and cloth napkins. We have to pick up a few extra but that is a large chunk of money we are saving by borrowing them. The center pieces will pop on the white. We’re using blue ribbon and jingle bells to tie the napkins, that will later be used for our jingle bell send-off.

I was in a wedding in Nebraska last weekend. Her mother spent good money and got a very nice quality isle runner. She sold it to me for $30. There are a few faint step marks that I’ll wipe off with a damp cloth. I’m getting paint markers and am going to write/calligraphy on a Bible verse Ethan and I picked out.

My mother and I have been collecting blue glass for years. We pick them up at Goodwill, yard sales, or even get them as gifts when friends and family see them at yard sales and Goodwill. We’ve spent anywhere for $5 to $0.50 on vases and glasses (with the exception of the blue wine bottles because we had to drink the wine first). Each center piece with the flowers, pine cones, jingle bells, and blue glass will easily cost less than $5 a table.

In Conclusion:

As an English teacher, that ending makes my skin crawl, but it works here. You’ll notice throughout the post that most of the products I’m using, I’m getting through people I know. This does not mean that I am getting discounts. I’m paying the same amount other people would pay for the same services and goods. But it does two things. I can rest assured knowing that the people I am relying on to make our day special will make it happen. I trust them. I would also much rather give my business and money to local people who I know and trust. I spent a lot of time shopping around and looking for decent quality, good prices, and coupons. I’m buying “plain” items and making them personal and our own. Personalization is key. Adding a monogram, adding a picture, adding an aspect that is obviously hand crafted/done, instantly makes things seem more expensive and nicer than something just bought off of a shelf and given.

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Wedding Planning on a Budget Part I

Planning a wedding can be the most joyous and stressful days, weeks, months, (and for some even years) of your life. Though I’ve spent years watching Say Yes to the Dress, Four Weddings, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and loving all things bridal, I knew that I would not be one of those brides spending $10,000+ on their wedding. At the end of the day, as long as I get to marry my best friend, that’s all that matters. I set a budget and in my mind said that I did not want to go over $5,000. For one day, any more than that is just ridiculous. With just under 250 days til “I do!” this is what we’ve managed to do so far.

Location:

My fiancé and I live an hour apart. However, we met at the University of Valley Forge. The campus sits on what was a military hospital complex. The hospital’s chapel is one of my favorite buildings on campus. It is on the small side and intimate. It has beautiful stained glass and wood pews. With the two of us being students, we got a bit of a “break” on the cost of using the facility of under $200.

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Apparently fire halls are a “Pennsylvania thing,” but I don’t mind. With our relative closeness to Philadelphia, the cost of going renting a ballroom or something is astronomical. The majority of places STARTED at $2,500 just to rent. Another had a $10,000 minimum….yeah. Not about it. One of our local fire departments has a really nice hall. They gutted and renovated within the last 2 years. There is a great wall of windows with plenty of natural light, a gorgeous kitchen, large, nice bathrooms, and a room large enough to eat and dance! The cost…under $600. On top of that, we will be able to get into the facility the afternoon before to set up at no extra cost.

Decorations:

I love flowers. I have found a great joy in gardening in the last few years. When picking flowers for the wedding, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted- carnations. I love carnations. I especially love clusters of white carnations. They smell nice, they are hardy and last, and they dry beautifully. The cost of all of our bouquets, corsages, boutonnières, wristlets, and extra flowers for the ceremony and reception…under $600.

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Though we are having a December wedding, I have been trying to avoid Christmas, snowflakes, and super stereotypical stuff. Our colors are blues and grays. Not silver. Gray. My mother and I have been collecting blue glass for years and one of my bridesmaids hit a mother load of dirt-cheap small vases. We will use the collections for the flowers. At the end of the Christmas season last year, I was able to stock up on pinecones with the help of my bridesmaids. They are even the cinnamon scented ones! I will be stringing these and using them for both the ceremony and as table décor to go around the blue vases.

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I am guilty of being a Pinaholic. I found a great idea on Pinterest to use larger jingle bells to slip the place-cards into the criss-cross of the bell. Oriental Trade has large quantities of jingle bells in a multitude of sizes. They will be used for both the cards and general decoration. Again, thus far, decorations have been less than $250.

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Stationary:

I have an addiction. Between Target One Spot and Michael’s dollar section, I have a serious collection of “Thank Yous,” and general note cards. Instead of ordering one set of thank you cards, I have been collecting them from Target and Michaels. I like variety. I want to be able to give our guests more personal and individual cards. Most come in packs of 6 or 8 and are under $1.50. I’ve spent less than $25 on my thank you cards.

Vista Print is also AMAZING! True story. Their cost is AMAZING because they are a printing company, not necessarily a “stationary,” or “wedding company.” They have a large selection of invites, save the dates, programs, etc. What I really like about them is that they have “sets.” If you find an invite that you like, there is a really good chance that there are save-the-dates, RSVP cards, thank you cards, and other goodies that match your stationary. Along with all of the options, you have the ability to change, add, take away, and personalize just about everything. I was able to create my save-the-dates and bridal shower invites to be a post cards. After using a discount code, for bridal shower invites, save-the-dates, invitations, and a few RSVP cards, we paid less than $150; and that includes tax and shipping. *Information such as names, dates, locations, wedding website have been white-out for safety purposes, but they are included!*

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Another money saving tip is to purchase a self-inking address stamp. Vistaprint gives you the option of having your return address added to the back flap of your envelopes, at an additional fee. For our 80 invitations, it would have been an additional $35 to add this feature. Instead, we paid $12 for a stamp that we’ll be able to use well beyond the wedding. Invites, save-the-dates, and shower invites all came with basic, white, envelopes at no extra cost.

Stamps:

When making my budget and decisions, I didn’t even think about stamps until my mother reminded me that in order to mail things, you usually have to put a stamp on them! The cost of stamps was more than all of our stationary combined. This fact alone led to a few other decisions. Regular stamps are .49 each. Postcard stamps are .35 each. To save a few cents, we decided to send our save-the-dates and bridal shower invites as postcards. I literally just Googled “stamps,” and came across the website Zazzle.com. They have a ton of great products, but I LOVED their stamps. They have very cute, love/wedding themed stamps OR you can personalize them. Our engagement photos were amazing, so of COURSE I had to use them. Our post card stamps have one picture, and our invitation stamps have another. There was NO EXTRA COST for having our picture added to the stamp. Stamps come in sheets of 20, so we have a few extra of each, but I’m really not upset. I love that we have them to do fun craft things with later…. Zazzle does also offer coupons and discounts. I believe I was able to get 17.68% off of my order (I only know because it very specifically told me), and paid less than $180 for 200 PERSONALIZED stamps.

Thus far, we have stayed well within our budget. There is still plenty of time to use it, and I’m sure after we finalize food, a larger chunk will be eaten. DIY and cost effective don’t have to look cheap. By adding personalization, little details, and thought, you can find great products to make your day special.

Stay tuned for future posts and wedding DIYs. Follow me on instagram @brunetteswithbrains to keep up with the latest posts and news!

Sunrise Love

Ethan and I are very fortunate to have a wonderful friend who also happens to be a phenomenal photographer.

Kate is a graduate of the University of Valley Forge’s Digital Media department and the main gal of Freckled Perspective. I have oogled at her work for years. You can imagine my excitement at having the chance to have her do our engagement pictures. It also helps that her hubby Jon is one of Ethan’s best friends. Being that they live in New Jersey, we decided to make it a whole weekend adventure!

Since we were going to be on their “turf,” I let Kate take the creative lead. Knowing her portfolio, I put complete trust and faith in her decisions. She decided that sunrise on the beach would be perfect! In the month of March, New Jersey had been having some great warm weather. The week leading up to our date had been in the 70s. When we woke up Saturday morning at 5:15 it was 30 degrees out. By the time we left around 6, it had made its way up to 35. Leaving the beach, it was 37. A snow storm was apparently on its way. Gotta love spring weather!

Our shoot was a whole whopping 35 minutes. It was breezy. It was (literally) freezing. Kate only got splashed once or twice. No one ended up in the ocean. We couldn’t be happier with how they all turned out. For the sake of us all, I am not posting all of the pictures we received after edits. I’m just posting some of my favorites.

PS- The black and whites are going to look AMAZING in our future green and gray livingroom. 😉 Dress credit to my dad for picking it out and getting it for me! Haha

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I am so lucky to be marrying my best friend, and total trooper. Ethan is not one for pictures, but he braved the chill and posing for me anyway!

It’s funny when you post pictures of yourself. Everyone tells you how amazing they are, but truly, other than braving the cold, the real MVP is the person behind the lens! To see more of Kate’s work or to book her yourself (which I HIGHLY recommend); like her on Facebook at Freckled Perspective, follower her on Instagram at @katelovesthekey, or check out her site freckledperspective.com.

“I Do” to the Erin Condren Wedding Planner

Now that I have the bling, I had to get the planner. Before we move on, in case you haven’t read “I Got Distracted…

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Anyway, shocking, I didn’t just get any old planner, I got myself an Erin Condren Wedding Planner! Ok, so I may have gotten it MONTHS ago with the HOPE that I’d be marrying this man. I kept it hidden away and forgotten in its little box, waiting patiently to be used. Obviously I’m super excited to now have the chance to use it! My teacher planner and Life Planner have been AMAZING, and I’ve gotten wedding planners for other friends; so finally getting to use it for myself is double fun! For ease of life, I am just using my wedding planner as my life planner for the next year as well- why not!? I use the month view more than anything and I have plenty of stickers left from my life planner this past year! It works!

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Front and Back

The front portion of the planner has month views for which ever month span you chose. After each month view is a notes page, similar to the teacher planner. I write my work schedule, birthdays, meetings, and obviously, when to get wedding things like sending save-the-dates out!

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The second portion of the planner is like a wedding planning guide. There is space for a guest list, bridal party, reception stuff, wedding tips, a time line, a budget checklist, music, photography, flowers, cake and food tastings, and vendor contact list. We have excel spread sheets for our guest list and budget, but I also hand-wrote our budget in so that when we are having conversations with vendors I have that info with me!

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PS our photographer is the always lovely Kate Serbin of Freckled Perspective. She’s amazing!

ENTIRE last section of the planner has blank pages and lined pages for doodles, writing notes, ideas, and lists.

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There is also the usual clear pocket pouch in the back that is GREAT for keeping business cards! It comes stuffed with EC Compliment Cards, coil clip, do-it-all dots, and referral cards to hand out to friends who love your EC.

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The stickers in the back are specific to the wedding planner. They say things like: register, caterer, photographer, bridesmaids, mani-pedi, hair appt, book honeymoon, shower, bachelorette, bachelor, favors, programs, big day, get license, limo/shuttle, save the dates, book hotels, website, officiant, music, bride gifts, groom gifts, buy invites, bakery, buy rings, party!, dress shop, fitting, and blanks. There is a sheet of varying shades of purple and a sheet of varying shades of blue. The last 2 sticker sheets are completely blank in the basic rainbow of colors. I had left over stickers from my 2015 Life Planner that I cut out and slid into the back pocket of my wedding planner.

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I have already started taking notes, and getting stuff from my pinterest and writing them down in my planner. We are definitely in full wedding planning swing! How is it that even though the wedding is almost a year away, it feels like everything gets done in the first 6 months! :O

This is the perfect gift to give to any newly engaged Bride or get for your own wedding organization! Use this referral link to receive a $10 coupon to get your own Erin Condren Wedding Planner, Life Planner, or one of her other AWESOME products!

I Got Distracted….

I was supposed to publish a post yesterday. It’s written. I have the pictures embedded, I was simply waiting to get it up. It will be up later today. But then I got distracted….Christmas came a little early…

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I was COMPLETELY surprised. As per usual, everyone knew but me. Seriously, our friends played dumb so well it’s scary! I was not expecting it even a little bit! The ring is PERFECT! The silver ornament was in the box with the ring. A friend of ours made it and it says “Dearly Beloved” on each side with 12/2015 on the edge. I love the word “beloved,” it must be an English major thing. We haven’t picked a date yet but I can not wait to start planning forever with my best friend! ❤

PS- The Erin Condren Wedding planner has already happened. I will be posting wedding planning and wedding planner fun stuff! YAY!