Saturday, September 18, 2010

My own wedding - pinching pennies

I decided if much of this blog is going to be about weddings, what better place to start than with my own?  I married my t-ball sweetheart, and I'm very proud to say that.  How many people can say they've known their spouse, significant other, loved one, what have you, since they were 6?  Not many, so it's a cute little tidbit about us we like to share.  People are always surprised to learn it's the truth when they come to our house and see our t-ball team picture framed and on the wall in our office, and to make it even cheesier, we're standing right next to each other.  Lesson learned for our parents: pay attention to who your little ones play organized sports with.

Front row, Ry is second from the right, I'm third from the right

So here we were, 16 years later, on our very own big special day, July 28, 2007.  Being so young (22 years old), we didn't have a lot of extra money to spend, to say the least.  I honestly think we had saved less than $1,000 at that point.  Wow.  We were so grateful for the money our families chipped in, but for 450 guests, we were forced to stretch that very thin.  So, we had to get creative.  Here are some ways we saved:


1.) Get a planner.  Seems counter intuitive, but I was lucky enough to get mine for free.  I enlisted two of my sisters to help plan my wedding. Okay, so here I am suggesting to NOT spend money on a wedding planner, which sounds backwards, since I really would love for people to hire me to plan their weddings.  But truly, my sisters did a fabulous job.  They helped pick out flowers and they made the bouquets for the (many) bridesmaids and groomsmen themselves, they made the center pieces for all of the (many) tables, which included painting and ribboning and gluing and taping, they helped pick out linens, they organized all of the food on the tables, the list goes on and on.  This is the single piece of advice I always give to soon-to-be brides: hire (or enlist) a wedding planner.  I was so thankful on the day of my wedding that I wasn't worrying about logistics, about whether the right center pieces were on the right tables, whether the chocolate chip cookies were to the right of the cheesecake like they were planned to be, whether the photographer got a picture of everything on the list I wanted him to, whether the flowers had been sitting in water for long enough before they were pinned on the groomsmen or given to the bridesmaids.  Again, the list could go on and on.  I enjoyed my wedding and had a blast.  I loved that if something went wrong, I didn't know about it, because I wasn't the one planning all of the details.  I left that up to my two trusty sisters - and they came through for me, and put on a fabulous party!  Here are some pictures of the flowers and center pieces my sisters put together:



2.) Have a potluck!  This one is kind of interesting for us, because for most of our planning months, we thought we were going to be serving some heavy appetizers to all of our guests.  We knew we couldn't afford a full-service meal for everyone without going into major debt, so we thought appetizers would be just fine.  BUT, just a few months before our big day, we realized just the appetizers were still putting us way over our budget.  My mother-in-law (saves the day), and suggests, since we have so many friends and family that love and support us and had already offered to help in any way they could, we have a dessert potluck instead!  We loved the idea (i have a major sweet tooth, so it was right up my alley!)  My MIL got busy making phone calls, and before you know it, we had an army of people willing to make their favorite sweet treat.  What I love about this concept is it made things a little more personal - we even put out cards that said what the dessert was, and who made it.  I also find that a lot of people are willing, and even desire, to participate in something big like this, so that they can walk away saying "I played a crucial role in making that wedding happen".  They are invested, and our wedding day all of the sudden takes on a different, special meaning for them, and in turn, our bond, our relationship, our friendship with that person has one more notch to it.  Here are some examples of our lovely dessert spread, and yes, all of these things are homemade, don't you just wanna dig in??:


3.) Use that friend of a friend. Okay, so in our case, it was a brother-in-law's sister, but close enough!  At the time of our wedding, I don't think she had officially started her business, but she makes cakes, and she is amazing at it.  She was living in Chicago at the time, but needed an excuse to come to Oregon and visit family, so she came over during our wedding time and made our cake for us.  How great is that?  She put a lot of heart and soul in it, and charged us much less than she would have charged just her "regular customer".  Reach out to your network of people, talk to your friends and family about what you're looking for, and chances are one of them will know someone, that knows someone, that will do whatever you need at a discount.  Here is our cake


Oh, by the way, she has an official business now, it's called "Occasions for Joy".  I'll throw in a couple of other examples of her talent, just for kicks and giggles:


4.) Borrow borrow borrow.  For some people, money is no object for their wedding (or is a smaller object than it was for us), so they don't mind spending money on whatever they need.  Which is great - I'm glad some people are fortunate enough for that.  We.were.not. A lot of the times, they buy things they're only going to use once, and are more than happy to get another use out of them if someone would just ask to borrow them!  We, for example, borrowed glass cylinder vases from a friend's mom.  She had bought them for another daughter's wedding, and has let other brides borrow them.  I remember her specifically saying the more use she can get out of them, the better, since she spent so much stinkin money on them!

5.) DJ - ever heard of an iPod?  We worked around spending money on a DJ by asking our very outgoing, very friendly, and very awesome cousin to be our DJ.  My sisters gave him the list of events throughout the night, and all he did was follow the list for his announcements (ie cutting of the cake, first dance, etc).  We also spent some time before the wedding putting together a play list of songs for dancing at the reception.  Let me just tell you, whenever people reminisce with me about our wedding, the one thing that is always mentioned is the stellar dance party - I have had so many people tell me it's the best wedding dance party they've been a part of.  So you don't have to spend a lot of money to make it great or memorable.

6.) Double dip.  We had so many people helping and contributing at our wedding, that we of course wanted to give them a little "thank you" gift.  Instead of going out and buying something for them (which, with the army we had helping at our wedding, would have maxed out any credit card), we reused our center pieces, potted miniature roses (see picture above), and gave those as gifts.  What made this special is that person was able to take home a little piece of memory from our wedding day, and every time they saw the little potted plant sitting on their kitchen window sill or outside on their patio table, they could think back to the fun times they had at our wedding.

7.) Shop the off-season.  We saved money on the flower girls dresses by browsing the stores after Easter-time.  There were a slew of little white dresses to choose from - and they were 60% off!  If you know what you want to decorate with, or use as center pieces, ahead of time, shop for end-of-the-season decor.  For example, you can get modern black vases for the after-Halloween sale, or pink ones after Valentine's day, then of course there's black Friday after Christmas where you can find anything red, gold, silver, or green.

One more cute idea I grabbed from a friend:

8.) Collect over time.  I have a friend that knows she wants to use mason-like jars at her wedding to hold flowers for her center pieces.  The cute part is she doesn't care if (or probably would prefer if they didn't) match.  So, she is starting to collect them now (her wedding isn't for 1 or 2 more years, so yes, you could say she's planning ahead a bit!)  She has asked that I save any for her too, and I'm happy to do that because I get excited about contributing to her big day!  So whenever I finish up a jar of spaghetti sauce, or pickles, or apple sauce, or pickle relish, or peaches, I will think of my friend, tear off the label, stick it in the wash, and tuck the jar away for her.

If I could do my wedding over, or if I had more money at the time, sure, there are things I would change or things I would have done differently.  It's interesting to look back and see how much my style has changed since then too.  There are a few things, however, that I absolutely would not change:

1.) Most importantly, my groom.

2.) My friends and family that were there to celebrate us that came from Oregon and Washington, and even all the way from Texas and Illinois and Minnesota and Hong Kong. 

 3.) I did my wedding debt free - I did not put an ounce of expenses on credit cards.  We did not want to start off our marriage with debt, and we were able to accomplish that with careful planning and a bit of penny pinching.

And these are the most important things, the things that matter, right?  So overall, I definitely put our wedding down as a success.

Here are some other pictures from our wedding, just for fun:

Awesome said dance party
Look at my handsome groom
My girls on the stage for Shake Your Tail Feather. 
We made our thank you cards out of this picture
My best friend and maid of honor, miss JP
If I were a guest, this would have been my post for the night.
He's so cute i had to put him in here twice.

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