The [Future] Hubs & I had settled on a total wedding budget of $6,000. We set this goal because a) we wanted to pay for our wedding in cash [since, as a couple in our 30s, we’d be footing most of the bill ourselves], and b) we also wanted to have a really swwweeeet two-week European honeymoon. We set our wedding date for about 5 months after the engagement, because, well, I wanted to be married, and because I know myself. And I obsess about things sometimes… if I spent the traditional 12 months planning my wedding, I was totally going to get fired for perusing TheKnot.com while at work. Pinterest hadn’t fallen onto my radar yet or didn’t exist yet…otherwise there’s no telling with what I would have come up with!
Originally I really wanted a beach wedding. Something small, just a few close friends & family members, and then we’d have a big blowout celebration with our extended friends & family later. But logistically, we just couldn’t make it happen. Ah well. Perhaps for a renewal of vows a few years down the road!
We recruited our amazing friend Tara to be our wedding coordinator (who provided us with all kinds of budget tracking spreadsheets and deadline checklists for what needed to get done which month), and we totes made it happen.
Part of the way we made it happen was the good ol’ fashioned way—DO MOST OF IT YOURSELF.
Ring bearer’s pillow
This was my first wedding project that got me hooked. There were directions in my one bridal magazine (yes, I only bought one) for how to make a no-sew pillow. So I found some cute fabric in our wedding colors:
(two 12” x 12” pieces of fabric, some stuffing from a discarded throw pillow, iron-on tape adhesive, and some ribbon…)
And half an hour later, I had me a pillow!
(I couldn’t bring myself to sell it after the wedding, so it’s in our guest bedroom.)
I found these small colored vases at Hobby Lobby & fell in love. They were regularly $2.50-3, but by buying them when glass products were on 50% off (frequent at this store), we got all we needed for under $50. We decided to place blue flowers in the green vases, & vice versa. Green flowers were plentiful at Hobby Lobby, but blues were harder to find. However, over time & by shopping at a few other places (thrift stores, Jo-Anns, Michaels) and with a LOT of 40-50% off coupons, we loaded up for about $50. Same goes for the votives & the pebbles—nothing was purchased at full price. Simple, clean, but a great pop of color against the white tablecloths.
I knew I wanted to have an outdoor wedding / indoor reception. Partially because outdoor venues are already, in essence, “decorated” with trees & landscaping. And the venue we selected already had tenting & string lights installed inside (see above photo), and had several artificial trees & plants, so that made things super-easy. They also had a beautiful metal arbor, which we used to add a little drama to the bride & groom’s table. For the items that weren’t already lit up, we wrapped them with white Christmas lights from our own family stockpiles (FREE!).
The pathway & outdoor chapel were lined with little lampposts & torches, so I bought up a bunch of wired blue & green ribbon (half-price, of course) to make little bows for decorating them:
And I got a great deal at a thrift store on some blue & green Chinese lanterns, so we used those to adorn the pathway from the reception area to the outdoor chapel
I decided to go with artificial flowers for our bouquets because I wanted to be able to keep my bouquet, & wanted my bridesmaids to be able to keep theirs as well.
Since I knew the bride & bridesmaid flowers would be heavily photographed (and kept as mementos), I wanted these flowers to be extra real-looking. The local craft stores weren’t cutting it, so I checked out AFloral.com at the recommendation of my cousin (who’d married the year before). There I found tons of gorgeous vibrant blue & green flowers at really good prices.
Hobby Lobby has some beautiful realistic calla lilies, and even sells pre-made bouquets of them in the wedding section…which means they go on sale when Hobby Lobby has their Wedding Week sale. I.E. – 12 calla lilies + greenery for $10.
And I happen to be blessed with a sister who just got her degree in wedding coordination, so she was kind enough to make the bouquets for me.
And she did an AMAZING job. I love her to bits!
Today, my bouquet is in a vase in our bedroom. I love getting to look at it every day!
During my search for a new jobby-job in 2009, I bought a large box of recycled, mid-weight paper, because I figure if I’m sending resumes to environmental firms, it would be prudent for them to be on recycled paper. Turns out this paper also makes a fabulous wedding program. I downloaded some templates from the InterWebz, played with some fonts & graphics, and after a few days, our wedding programs were born. Again, essentially free (aside from needing to buy a couple new ink cartridges for my printer).
We bought bubble wands (half-price, of course) at Michaels & Hobby Lobby & tied these to the programs with blue & green ribbon, so that the guests could “shower” us as we walked back down the aisle toward the reception hall.
We wanted something really unique for our guest book—something we’d enjoy looking at for years to come. Since the Hubs & I love to travel, I had an epiphany: POSTCARDS! I’ve collected postcards for years, and they’re a cheap souvenir that lots of people have hanging out at their house. So I supplied a base stockpile of cards (and my ridiculous stockpile of hotel pens, since that seemed funny and fit with the travel theme), but we also asked guests that if they wanted, they could bring their own postcards (from where they lived, or places they’d traveled), or, for the friends who couldn’t make it to the wedding, that they mail us a postcard & we would include it in our album.
We had so much fun going through the “mailbox” (see the photo) of cards after the wedding, and I put them all in a scrapbook after the Big Day!
Costs for our guest book table: about $2 between the little mailbox (that I painted), the card/pen holder (thrift store find) and the travel themed stickers that I decorated it with, and $7 for the scrapbook (on sale at Michaels).
Oh, and another $5 for these cute lil’ campers that represented “us”: My love of scuba, & DK’s love of skiing, and our mutual love of camping!
We wanted to give our guests something to snack on at the tables while they milled around & waited for us to finish up greeting people, so chocolate seemed in order. Timing was on our side here, since we got married in July…and I noticed that the Easter-themed Hershey’s kisses were wrapped in blue, green, silver, and pink wrappers.
Once Easter candy went half-price after the holiday, we bought up several large bags and just “discarded” the pink ones (ie, we ate some of them, and my coworkers spent a week trying to figure out where the pink Hershey’s kisses kept coming from). We bought some favor bags in bulk on Amazon.com and then I printed out little “thank you” cards on perforated business card stock, which we tied to the bags. (We also set up a photo-sharing website & put the instructions for how our guests could upload/view photos to it on the opposite side of the card.)
Cream cheese mints are a wedding staple in my family. So I got my Aunt Donna’s recipe, and borrow mint molds from my Aunts, and used my beautiful new Kitchenaid mixer to whip up about 300 delicious meltaway mints! We made them about a week before the wedding & froze them so they’d be nice & fresh.
…unfortunately, in the craziness of the Big Day, they got left in the freezer. Meaning The Hubs & I spent several months slowly snacking on them after the wedding:
And then I finally pawned the last of them off on coworkers.
Now, if you’re a numbers geek like I am, here’s the basic breakdown of our costs…did we make our budget?
Premarital Course - $125
Marriage License - $60
Ceremony/Reception Venue - $1550
Photographer - $800
Videographer – Free (my matron of honor’s husband is a videographer, and I have editing software, so he provided me with the raw footage—as a thank you, we gave them a gift card, which is included in the “Gifts” section below)
DJ - $100 (came with the venue package—3 hours free, then $20/hour + tip)
Bridal Attire - $254 (dress, shoes, veil, accessories)
Groom Attire – Free (with the rental of the vests/shirts for our groomsmen & ushers, which we paid for as part of our gift to them)
Hair / Makeup – Free (The Hubs sister is a stylist & worked her magic—she got a gift too, of course)
Officiate – Free (my uncle, though we gave them a gift for coming down, since they live 3 hours away)
Flower Girl Dresses - $26 (made by my mom)
Bouquets/Boutonnieres - $50
Invites/Thank You Notes & Postage - $143
Decorations / Accessories for Ceremony & Reception (Guest Book, Unity Ceremony, Flowers, Ribbon, tables, favors, etc.) - $431
Wedding Party Gifts - $350
Engagement Photos - $26 (for the figurines on the cupcake topper, key for the pillow, etc.)
Cake - $300 – paid for by parents
Beer/Wine - $380 – paid for by parents
Food - $1600 (based on 175 guests) – paid for by parents
Servers - $120
Rehearsal dinner – paid for by parents
Getaway car rental - $70
Wedding Night Hotel Room – Complimentary, for booking several of our guests there
Grand Total cost to us, the bride & groom: $4,105
We were very thankful for the help from our parents, otherwise we would have gone a little over budget. But I think we were really proud to create such a lovely day on a limited cash budget. There were plenty of moments when I would have loved to chuck the budget aside and there were plenty of stressful moments, but it all rolled into a beautiful, perfect ceremony and a really wonderful reception, and we’re blessed & grateful for everyone who was a part of it.
Tomorrow: The Big Day!!!