Posts in the 'Lydia' Category

Five Things You Need to Do At Your Wedding

There were checklists. Timelines and tastings. Deposits and balances have been paid.  Rehearsals will be run. And you are nervous, and you are eager, you are ready to party, and you are ready for your wedding to just get here, already.

It will. And when the big day comes, all I want you to worry about is enjoying it. Here’s five things you need to do that will help:

1. Take a deep breath and look around. Often. Everything is going to move pretty fast, and you might miss something. And I’m not talking about forgetting your bouquet at the hotel (Fear of God alert!). I’m talking about realizing how many people who love you are in the room, whatever room you happen to be in at the moment. And how fantastic everyone looks all dressed up. And all the little things that you planned, that you were so excited about,  have come together, right before your eyes. It happened! And, everything is so pretty, isn’t it?

You Will Thank Me Later.

2. Eat. No, I’m serious. This is going to be a long day. Don’t get married on an empty stomach. If you don’t usually eat breakfast (disclosure: neither do I), eat something small – a piece of fruit, a bagel, a muffin, whatever you can get down. And that goes for the rest of the day, too, because the food – the food that you handpicked – is only going to get yummier. Ask your caterer to bring you a plate of appetizers and some drinks, while you’re taking pictures. And, use one of my tricks for the reception: Go directly to your table, and sit there until you finish eating. Do not look left, do not look right, sit and eat. Get someone to usher you there like the Secret Service, if you have to. Trust me, guests will come to you to say hello, and in the meantime, you can finish the yummy meal you paid for. After you’re done, you can roam around the room as much as you want.  Sit. Eat.

3. Don’t be a hero. In other words, don’t suffer unnecessarily on your wedding day. If your high heels are uncomfortable, switch to flats, or kick your shoes off entirely. If you’re nervous, do a shot or have a beer before you go down the aisle. If you don’t want to sit at a sweetheart’s table and have everyone stare at you, how about a long wedding party table, or sitting at a guest table with your friends? Whatever you do, make sure that you’re comfortable doing it.

4. If you’re not having fun, no one else is going to have fun.  I read Katie’s post, and she’s not alone – most brides worry that guests aren’t going to have a good time! The clue is to have a good time, yourself, because where you lead, your guests will follow.  If the dance floor isn’t full enough, grab your new spouse and a couple of bridesmaids and boogie down.  If no one has hit the candy buffet, be the first to grab a scoop and a bag. Jump into the photo booth. Find a corner and hang out with the crew from your college dorm floor. Laugh and smile when you are given opportunities to do so. Tell people how glad you are that they were able to come.  You’re not just there for show, you’re there to have one of the best days of your life. What does that look like to you? Go for it.

The proper response to a glitch. You'll get that glass on the second try. (Courtesy of Micah and Megan Photography)

5. Let it go. There will be little things that might go wrong along the way, like…forgetting your bouquet at the hotel. Or not being able to smash the glass on the first try. Or your mother disappearing right before you’re about to walk down the aisle. Or you’ve run out of glasses, run out of plates, and it’s started to rain.  I know, Fear of God again. The point is, whatever happens, nine times out of ten, it’s not a disaster, and there is a solution. Focus on the fix, not the problem, and then make haste to the dance floor. Repeat steps 2 – 5, as needed. Fun and happiness are both waiting for you on your wedding day. Keep an eye out for them!

So, which one of these tips do you think is going to be the hardest for you? And is there something specific you’re worried about? Let me know in the comments, and we can work it out together.

See you at the end of the aisle,



Real Wedding: An Eco-Friendly Daytime Wedding with Karaoke!

A wedding in LA for 75 guests for under $20,000?  Check out how this couple did it with an eco-friendly mindset too!  Oh, and complete with karaoke! Check out the details from their fantastic planner, Arley at

The bride and groom’s venue, Smog Shoppe, was their  biggest expense.  Bride and groom spent a total cost of attire was $800 and their wedding party wore their own clothes.
The bride and  and wedding planner made the centerpieces by potting small succulents and arranging them on borrowed platters and cupcake tiers.  The whole operation cost about $150.  The best part is that they doubled as favors, so nothing wasted!  The bouquet and boutonniere were done by Sherene at Wisteria Lane, and the bride was able to plant the bouquet after the wedding, she was absolutely thrilled about that.  They had no cut flowers in the entire thing.

Since it was a daytime Sunday wedding, they did two kinds of mimosas at the bar, as well as wine and beer that were bought wholesale the day before.  The catering was done by Large Marge Sustainables.   Her food is ridiculous delicious, and she uses organic and locally sourced ingredients.  Both bride and groom are vegetarians, so it was a mostly meat-free menu, which also helped keep costs down.

The groom arranged various ipod playlists to run during the event, and then around 7 they had Ground Control Karaoke come on and the guests rocked the mic all night long.  Total cost of entertainment?  $300.

Liz Huston from Photomonium, who is incredible, was another bigger ticket item, but the bride and groom didn’t want to skimp on photography.

So while this is a budget-savvy wedding blog about ways that inspire brides and grooms to save money… this wedding, while still having some bigger ticket items, is such a fantastical example of how the bride and groom prioritized for and planned their wedding budget together.  They made smart decisions with what they were willing to spend on and where they needed to be creative and save.

- Lydia from Ever Ours

Also, would you like to have your real wedding featured? Submit via Two Bright Lights!

Real Wedding: YiOu & Sean’s Marathon (Yes, Marathon!) Marriage!

This is one heck of a real wedding where the bride and groom truly made sure to show their loved ones and friends who they are as a couple. Huge thanks to YiOu, the bride, for taking the time to talk about her and her love, Sean, and their big day!  Congratulations again to Sean and YiOu!

“Sean and I met in Cambridge, MA in February of 2008 while I was a student at MIT and he was working in an MIT lab as a research assistant. We met in a coffee shop called Toscanini’s. Sean had stayed up the night before working on taking scanning electron micrographs of a particularly good experiment and was in the coffee shop showing off the pictures to the barista. I came in, saw the pictures on his laptop and was very interested in them. He picked up his laptop, sat down next to me and started explaining away! Pretty soon we discovered we were both runners and both training for the upcoming Boston Marathon. We made a date to meet the very next morning for a run. That first run we did together we went 6 miles through the streets of Boston in a gently falling snow. The day after that we met up and went on an 18 mile long run together followed by a delicious breakfast at Toscanini’s. We’ve been running (and eating) together ever since!

Our ceremony was held in late morning on the shore of Alpine Lake, below Bon Tempe Dam in the Marin Municipal Water District. The closest town is Fairfax, CA. Immediately after the ceremony, we had a 5K run around the perimeter of Bon Tempe Lake. After the run, we all headed to the home of some dear friends on Belvedere Lagoon and had a lovely catered lunch. The guests all drove, but Sean and I and a few of our other diehard running friends ran another 8.5 miles from Bon Tempe Lake over Mt. Tam and to downtown Mill Valley, where we had a car stashed to drive ourselves to the banquet. After all, we were still in training and needed to get our miles for the day in! Then that evening we held a Chinese Banquet at the restaurant House of Banquet in San Francisco.

Our wedding favors were jars of home made marmalade; made from citrus we picked in friends’ backyards! We made over 120 half pint jars and designed and printed custom labels. We also baked all the apricot bars served after the ceremony. The table decorations for the lunch in Belvedere were seashells purchased from a craft store, along with potted succulents we picked up at the local florist.

After the ceremony and 5k run, we had champagne, orange juice, strawberries and homemade apricot bars. Lunch in Belvedere was catered by Fred and Jennifer Martin and was California fare: green salad, grilled beef tenderloin, chicken with romesco sauce, corn salad, green beans and various nibbles like olives and cheeses. The Chinese Banquet was twelve courses including lobster, beef, steamed whole fish and more food than anyone could possibly finish! Wine was from Cline Vineyards in Sonoma. And instead of a wedding cake, we had 12 stone fruit pies from Fat Angel Bakery in Fairfax, CA and ice cream from Three Twins Ice Cream in San Rafael, CA.

Sean and I are very fond of delicious food, so that is where we chose to splurge. Our largest expenditures were for the catered lunch and the banquet. We also splurged on a wonderful photographer (Sara Wolfram) who did a fantastic job of capturing the event-filled day. We also got a DJ for the banquet. The lunch food by Fred and Jennifer Martin Events was exquisite and amazing. And the Chinese Banquet was also stupendously delicious.

We decided to save on location costs. Sean and I are avid runners and our favorite place to be is out on the trails. We thought the most gorgeous and fitting place to have our ceremony was outside, where we could see Mt. Tamalpais and celebrate the outdoors. Our ceremony and 5k run cost us a $100 permit from the Water District. For the lunch afterward, we went to the home of our friends Joyce and Marty Griffin who live right on the water on Belvedere Lagoon. We have known them for a long time, and would often visit in the summer to go swimming or kayaking. They were kind and gracious enough to let us have the party at their home. The restaurant where we chose to have our banquet has a huge banquet space with more than enough room to accommodate our party, and even had a dance floor.

My favorite moment of the day was seeing how many of our guests participated in the 5k run after the ceremony. My dad ran and it was the longest he had ever run in his life! We also had all the younger cousins and kids running around on the trails having a blast. Another favorite moment of the day was watching all our guests swimming and boating in the lagoon. Everyone from young kids, to teenagers to adults and grandparents LOVED getting in the water, splashing around and paddling. And then the highlight of the evening was watching Sean’s former roommate (a very geeky materials science graduate student from MIT) break out some killer dance moves to the sound of Lady Gaga.

Sean and I personally spent ~$6000. The catered lunch was a gift from his parents, and my parents covered the banquet. I would say the total cost was ~ $16,000.  If I could have done things differently, I perhaps would have consolidated the day into two events instead of three. While we had a fantastic day, it was very tiring to get through three major parties in a single day! We decided to have the banquet in addition to the ceremony, run and lunch because the location of the first two events limited the number of attendees. Mostly, there would have been a parking issue at the trailhead and at Joyce and Marty’s home. So in order to include more people, we added the banquet. I think it would have been more ideal to schedule the banquet for the next day!”

YiOu’s advice to brides planning a wedding right now:

“Don’t sweat the small stuff!! There is an endless list of tasks and if you don’t get to them all, it’s not the end of the world. Prioritize 2 or 3 things that you want to happen and don’t obsess over all the other details. And most importantly, make sure it is a day you will enjoy and remember fondly.”

Many thanks also to Sara from OneLove Photography for these images from this rad wedding.  Other vendors involved include:

Caterer:  Fred Martin Events

Floral Designer:  NancyAnn Flowers

Invitation Designer: RAM Print and Communications

Cake Designer:  Fat Angel Bakery

DJ:  highlite media

Tuxedo and Mens’ Attire:  Joseph A Banks

xoxo,  Lydia from Ever Ours

Real Wedding: Dana & Sheldon’s Outdoor Southern Fete Full Of Whimsical Handmade Details!

Are you ready for a glorious Southern DIY wedding?  Many many thanks goes to Dana from the deliciously fun blog, Crafty Minx. This is her and her love’s absolutely whimsical wedding with so many crafty details that will tickle your fancy.  Without further ado, read on!

Our wedding was an outdoor wedding at my parents’ ranch in Indianola, Oklahoma.  We invited around 150 people and there were about 130 guests at the wedding. We decided to go with what we had for seating and talked my dad into baling enough hay for the wedding. The quits were collected from both sides of our families and some friends. It was so special having so many family heirlooms be a part of our big day. I also talked my dad into letting us use some of his trees to make stumps for the aisle runners.

The whole wedding was a DIY extravaganza. I made everything; all of our stationery (save the dates, invitations, thank you cards), the center pieces, buntings, (cup)cake toppers, my dress, our bridesmaids’ dresses, boutonnières, guest book love notes, our photobooth, button favors and packaging, an activity table and handmade coloring books for the kids and the napkins. My dad and the men in our family built our dance floor, cut logs for aisle runners, made rustic wedding signs to have in a few places on the highway to lead to the wedding, and turned my parents’ ranch into a beautiful place for a wedding. A family friend made all of our flower arrangements for us. The week of the wedding was insane with everyone we know helping out with some kind of project.

We chose to try and spend the least amount possible and still have an amazing wedding because we didn’t understand why weddings are so expensive. Why spend $50,000 or more on one day? We saw this as a challenge and I think we succeeded. All of our guests said it was the best wedding they’ve ever been to and I believe that is because we put having fun and thinking of our guests in front of spending money and thinking of ourselves.

We didn’t really “splurge” anywhere, but there were a few things that we had to buy and not make ourselves. We rented a few items that we needed and hired an affordable professional photographer.  We chose to serve a full meal and have drinks, which were probably the most expensive parts of the wedding, but doing it ourselves saved a lot of money. We also bought as many things as we could for our wedding party as a thank you to them for all of the help they provided us preparing for the wedding.

We had a fairly casual wedding so we decided to have Oklahoma comfort food; Smoked brisket and chicken, Mac and Cheese, Baked Beans, and coleslaw. We also had a BBQ sauce fountain, which was very popular with our guests. There was a cupcake buffet with 7 flavors of cupcakes and pecan pie (my husband’s favorite). Our family made all of the food; my dad smoked all the meat the day before the wedding and our moms and aunts made everything else. I even helped frost cupcakes the day before the wedding. For drinks, we had tea and lemonade, two kegs of beer, two cases of wine, and a couple of bottles of champagne for the wedding party.

My absolute favorite moment was leaving the reception after the speeches and dances and taking pictures at sundown with my new husband. Having 30 minutes away from everything was perfection. This was the photographer’s idea and I will love her forever for it.

When asked what they would have done differently, if anything? Dana responded, “Since I didn’t have a wedding planner, all of my ideas and timelines were in my head. I would have written down more of my plans for the actual day of and shared even more with my friends than I did so they wouldn’t have been stressing about getting everything right.”

Dana’s advice for those in wedding planning mode right now:

A wedding is just one day in your life and you probably won’t remember most of it, so don’t stress out if something doesn’t go right. Your guests won’t realize something is out of place if you don’t make a big deal about it. Have fun and enjoy the day that you put so much work into!

Google documents is your friend! I used it for the guest lists and keeping track of our budget. I shared the docs with my fiancé, best friend, and mother so we could have access to them at any time and update them as needed. It kept me from having to worry about sending updated information and doing everything myself. If my mom wanted me to invite someone, she would add them to the list.

Dana and Sheldon kindly shared their wedding budget with us with this amazing breakdown.  As well as this information:

We spent about $6000 total.

The following items were free!:

  • Venue – Having a beautiful location for the ceremony really cut decoration costs too.
  • Tent – A friend of the family, the owner of a local car dealership, loaned us the tent for the reception.
  • Officiant – A mutual friend, she did an amazing job!
  • Tables – Borrowed from my mom’s church
  • Back up location in case of rain– Mom’s church, thankfully we didn’t have to use it, but we were so glad we had it just in case and it was less than 3 minutes away from the wedding location.
  • Seating at the ceremony – Since the ceremony and reception were in two different parts of the ranch, we used the rented chairs at the reception and opted for hay bales from my dad’s ranch covered in vintage quilts for the ceremony.

Congratulations again to Dana and Sheldon!  Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful day with us.  Thanks also go to Juniper Photography for all the images.  An incredibly amazing job of capturing the day of love!


Lydia from Ever Ours

Real Wedding: Lynn & Jarom’s Colorful, Budget Friendly Utah Wedding

What I love about this wedding is that they were really able to stick with the traditions, but still include some details that really spoke to them and were all about them.  The bright colors and decor are so bright and cheery and definitely added such a fun element! Their centerpieces of simple glass vessels filled with apples and oranges is just the kind of broke-ass brilliance that we love to see!

In their own words: “We were both students. Lynn was going to BYU, Jarom was attending UVU.  We had known each other in high school, but not very well. We had seen each other in the hallways, but never spoke. Four years after I graduated high school, I got back from a study abroad to find that my best friend was dating Jarom’s best friend. We all hung out together a lot, but Jarom and I never really hung out alone. One night Jarom threw a show for his friend Sean who was in the band Forest World. After the show, we finally got to spend some time alone with each other. It was the first time we had ever hung out, just the two of us, but it was also the night of our first kiss! We knew we liked each other and didn’t bother to beat around the bush!

We knew we wanted to get married before Jarom officially proposed. We had actually spent the whole day looking at wedding dresses for me the night he proposed. We got back late at night and I was super tired, but Jarom insisted we go on a walk. Reluctantly I agreed. We walked over to the spot of our first kiss, he gave me a hug, and dropped on his knee. At first I thought he was joking, but when he pulled out a ring, I knew it was the real deal.

We decided to splurge on photography and our clothing. Photos last much longer than the flowers or anything eaten, and we wanted to make sure we had the best photographer to capture the moments from the day. We also wanted to look our best and be a little selfish, after all, it was OUR wedding day! The gown was custom made by Jessica May Bridal, the suit was from H&M, and our photographer was Opie from OpieFoto.

Almost everything was DIY! All of the food was made by family and friends, the decorations were bought online or borrowed from friends and family and arranged ourselves. We bought the flowers wholesale and I had a bridesmaid who was very skilled in floral design arrange everything from the bridal bouquet to boutonnieres and centerpieces!

We chose to cut back on the menu, all of the caterers were too overpriced for decent food that no one would remember anyway. It was much more meaningful and personal to us to snack on delicious homemade treats from old family recipes. We were also very fortunate to find a beautiful venue on historic Center Street in Provo that we could rent for a mere $500.

On what they would have done differently:  I would have cut down on the food prepared, we had WAY to many leftovers! A dessert bar would have been sufficient. I also would have planned my time better so I could have pampered myself a little bit before the reception, I was rushing around and forgot to put on my veil for the whole night!

Delegate! The last thing you want to do is worry about little details, because no one notices them anyway. I put a great amount of trust in my mother, family members, and close friends. They understood our vision for the wedding and helped create it perfectly. But keep in mind that your time is priceless, if you find yourself overwhelmed or if you really don’t want to worry about refilling the food on the reception table and there’s not enough manpower with friends and family, it’s worth it in the end to pay someone to take care of it for you!

The most memorable part of the day was dancing with my darling at the reception with all of our friends! And, of course, the quiet, peaceful moment in the temple as we held hands before we got married.”

For Lynn and Jarom, their wedding budget was $10,000 with a wedding guest list of about 250 people.  Their budget breakdown ended up being:

Dress: $2000
Suit: $150
Venue: $500
Food: $1000 (my mom bought a lot of equipment to hold and store the food while keeping it cool)
Photographer: $2100 (included engagement, bridal and wedding coverage, all digital negatives, personalized guest book, and personalized leather bound wedding album)
Decor: $300
Flowers: $100 (can you believe it?!)
Entertainment: Free! A friend’s band played some electronic music to make us shimmy and shake it.
Beauty: Free! Jarom’s beautiful and talented cousins Emiley and Cassey from Lunatic Fringe did our hair!
Favors: Leftovers from reception, so technically FREE

If my math skills are correct, that means the total was $6,150.  I’d say that’s pretty amazing for being under their budget and still having such a gem of  a wedding.

Here’s a bit more wedding vendor info:

Photographer:  OpieFoto

Venue:  Southworth Hall, Provo UT

Wedding Gown:  Jessica May Bridal

Tuxedo and Mens Attire:  H&M

Bridesmaid Dresses:  Shabby Apple

Huge thanks to Lynn and Jarom for sharing the details of their wedding and OpieFoto for submitting the wedding via Two Bright Lights.

xoxo, Lydia from Ever Ours

{Real Wedding} Lilia + Lou’s Southwest Charm DIY Wedding

Hope everyone’s 2011 is starting out with a bang and lots of throwing confetti!  So excited to share this little charm of wedding with you all!

Lilia and Lou both come from enormous families and while the thought of eloping had surfaced, they decided they still wanted to surround themselves with 175 loved ones with a wedding.  Lilia, the bride was kind enough to share some details:

“We spent more than we planned on Lou’s suit. Since my mom made my dress, it was a perfect fit and I felt awesome in it. Lou has very particular taste and department store suits just weren’t fitting right. I felt that he should be able to feel just as smashing as I did in my wedding outfit so we bought a brand new suit for him from Banana Republic.”

“We didn’t do any fresh flowers. Instead, I used some beautiful silk fabric that my mother had in her collection, buttons and a die cut machine to make the bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages. It was labor intensive but it saved us a LOT of money. I probably spent about $300 in supplies. With nine (yes, nine!) bridesmaids, I can’t imagine what our flower costs would have been! Plus, I think it made our wedding really unique.”

Seed paper escort cards/favors made by cousin of the bride!

“We saved big on the flowers, my dress and the decorations. My mother is so talented and I’m quite crafty so I figured we could just use our creativity to make things look great rather than spend a fortune on fresh flower centerpieces and arrangements. I think it translated well — there was a lot of DIY at our wedding and it offered a unique look and I really think the guests understood that many loving hands went into this event.  All tissue paper pom pom decorations were made by bridesmaids (pom poms were our main decor and part of the centerpieces).

We relied heavily on our friends and family to help put this thing together. My mother made my dress and the neckties. My bridesmaids made the tissue paper pom poms. His musician friends provided BEAUTIFUL sound and music throughout the night. My maid of honor, a pastry chef, baked our cake. My aunts crocheted and knitted wraps for the bridesmaids. A family friend gave us free dance lessons. My cousins made the escort cards and table numbers. The day of the wedding, all of our out of town guests arrived early and decorated the place.

In the end, I think everyone took some ownership over what happened that day.

It wasn’t just OUR day… it belonged to everyone who was there!”

“Our venue had in-house catering and we chose a unique menu — all vegetarian. Initially, some of our family members were concerned but the Italian dinner buffet was delicious and it seemed like everyone was pleased. It actually saved us a bundle because we used the fact that we were going with a vegetarian menu as our bargaining point and got the cost down to $18 per person.”

Cake and cupcakes were made by Maid of Honor (she’s a pastry chef) and the cupcake tower was made by the brother of the bride.

“We splurged on the bar. At first, we thought that we would do a cash bar but after saving so much money with all of the DIY projects, we reconsidered. Plus, I kept reading in all the bride magazines that it’s considered rude not to provide drinks. We counted up how many drinkers we had and allotted the cost of 3.5 drinks per drinker. The venue allowed us to pay for drinks up to that amount which worked out great — our guests enjoyed complimentary beer and wine all night. And we decided to include a champagne toast because it didn’t feel right not to have one (although the venue didn’t serve it on time so we sort of lost out on that one…bummer).  And our other splurge was the photo booth. It was 100% a luxury item but MAN, it was worth it! Everyone climbed in and took goofy photos all night. It was a huge hit!”

Memorable moments? Too many to describe! Everything was such a blur… my mother looked amazing. One of our guests was a dog… in a tuxedo. Lou’s parents cut a rug on the dance floor. The families and bridal party did a group tequila shot. Our photographers — could they be more amazing?!?! My three older brothers gave me tear-filled hugs after the ceremony. My dad and I had a blast when we danced. As soon as the DJ started spinning, our guests made a soul train on the dance floor. The way Lou looked at me when he first saw me…he didn’t take his eyes off me all night. And, someone took a photo of their butt in the photobooth! Ha! What a night.”

“We saved HUGE on our music as well. Lou is a musician so we called in a few favors from friends. We had a live pianist for the ceremony, a live violinist for the cocktail hour, a professional audio engineer, and a tremendous DJ for the reception. Since they were friends of ours, they all offered to do it for free or at a super discount.

We did the thing that everyone says not to do and didn’t have a strict budget. That said, we tried extremely hard to save in every way that we could. We ended up spending 21k. That’s a lot of money. But, with such a large guest list, we feel like we got a LOT of wedding for what we spent!

What would I have done differently? I think I should have negotiated more on a few things with the venue. I always feel too guilty to barter effectively. And, I wish we had hired a coordinator-type person for the entire evening. We had someone with us for the ceremony and cocktail  hour but I felt like the reception fell apart without someone directing things — one of my bridesmaids had to step in, and I wish she hadn’t had to spend the evening doing that. Our venue, while beautiful, was not very helpful (and was downright problematic at some points during the night).

Loved Lilia’s advice to all those planning weddings now:

“Use your creativity and the talents of friends and family. Everyone has a talent and usually they’re willing to lend a hand.
Look for alternatives. People looked at me like I was nuts when I explained what I was doing with the flowers. And some were horrified that we didn’t offer meat at our wedding. But on the day-of, it all came together and people thought the non-traditional parts of our wedding were great! We used alternatives to save money but it turned out that it made our wedding details more memorable.  Let people help you. It’s a little frightening to involve others in the planning process and I did end up compromising on some things but, overall, our wedding was a team effort and I think it made it all the more special.”

And here’s the budget breakdown:

with 175 guests: total cost $21,450

Venue (includes food and alcohol): $12,000

Wedding dress & Groom’s suit: $1000

Flowers and decorations: $600

Music: $800

Transportation:  $900

Photography & photo booth: $3100

Gifts: $1500

Wedding Rings: $1100

Hair, Makeup, Mani-Pedis, Facials: $450

Again, congratulations to Lilia and Lou!  Many thanks for sharing your big day with us!  Loving all the DIY details and hope it inspires you all!

Lastly, here’s a bit of wedding vendor info too:

photography:  Simply Knot Photography

venue:  Corona Ranch

dj:  DJ Hartbreaks

XoxO, Lydia from Ever Ours

Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen’s New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!

I’m having a ball sharing these weddings with you all.  What I’ve truly loved is the fact that couples have always managed to allow their personalities to truly shine through for their wedding day and have had fun sharing it with their guests!

Jen and Stephen’s wedding is no exception!  I love how they infused two different cultures into their wedding day.  The venues are just one example.  The marriage ceremony took place at Four Seas Restaurant in Chinatown, San Francisco and the after party was at Maggie McGarry’s in North Beach, San Francisco.

Huge thanks to Jen and Stephen for sharing a few details with us about their wedding day! (And yes, we have another budget breakdown for you!)

In Jen’s own words…. “The wedding centered on a pair of purple, hot pink and lime green wedges the bridesmaids wore. The groomsmen’s pocket handkerchiefs were hot pink, and the fathers’ were lime green, matching the bridesmaids’ shoes. The candle centerpieces, invitations, wedding cake, etc all had the same colors too.”

“For our marriage ceremony, my husband and I had three main goals: throw a “fun party” themed wedding, merge my Chinese culture with his New Orleans background, and keep costs low. Growing up with a modest background and as a child of immigrants, I was taught to use my money wisely and to do what I can, myself. When it came to my wedding, I planned every aspect of it and involved my husband and entire wedding party in all the DIY. My parents also taught me that friends and family can be the best resource for things so I used my network of contacts to find good deals.”

“My favorite color is purple and for the longest time, I have had a passion for shoes. I had multiple dress changes with matching shoes and Steve changed his tie to match each dress. I wore a tea length 1950’s vintage dress from a trendy consignment store in the Haight with some awesome gold shoes. For the Chinese tea ceremony, I wore my grandmother’s Cheongsam (an elegant Chinese dress) trimmed in purple with hand-painted butterflies and Steve dressed in a Chinese outfit. I also wore two after-season Betsey Johnson prom dresses right off the clearance rack, for the cake cutting and after-party.”

“We decided to save on venue rental fees. Most places have an up-charge when they hear the word “wedding” so we opted to host our wedding at a large restaurant with a sizeable banquet hall. The restaurant charged us per-head, and allowed us to bring in our own alcohol as long as we met their minimum required headcount. Since we were able to purchase our alcohol elsewhere, we took advantage of the BevMo ‘Buy One Get the Second for 5 Cent’ Deal Days.

We felt that our day would be special no matter where we held it. We didn’t need to have a fancy winery backdrop or luxurious venue. By having the ceremony and reception in a restaurant, close to hotels, we added convenience for our out of town guests, ensuring there wouldn’t be drinking and driving. Additionally, we were able to block out rooms at nearby hotels at a low rate and didn’t have to hire shuttles to get people around. This not only saved us money but saved money for our traveling guests as well which was important to us and added to the DIY general savings.”

We splurged on the dresses, wraps and shoes, pedi and mani for the bridesmaids and the tuxedos and shoes for the groomsmen. Our friends mean a lot to us and we wanted our wedding party to be a part of our special day, but not at their expense. We saved money in other areas and we thought we should pass the savings onto them, to show how much we appreciated their friendship and help throughout the wedding planning process. As a side note to this, we wanted to express our style in our wedding by having the girls wear brightly colored hot pink, purple and lime green 4 inch platform shoes and having the guys wear matching purple high top Converse. The theme for the wedding was “fun” and had to include cool shoes because I, as the bride, love shoes!”

“Our favorite moment of the day was mingling, drinking champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres with the guests prior to the ceremony. This allowed us to greet people as they came in and ensured we were able to say hi to everyone by the end of the wedding. We started the wedding on a positive vibe and kept that energy going.

Since we had to move a large number of guests through a buffet line, we didn’t want them to be bored. While releasing the tables, one of my cousins performed a Tahitian dance and another cousin did break-dancing. After changing into my party dress and purple heels, we did a traditional New Orleans second-line, where the guests waved white handkerchiefs, which were the wedding favors, and danced to music following me, dancing and holding a parasol, to a bar in North Beach. We contacted a bar who agreed to open early for us and as luck would have it, a live band performed that night and dedicated their show to us. A friend from Extreme Pizza sent pizza as a wedding gift, throughout the night and we had a second wedding cake, which a pastry chef friend made. It was a really fun day and night!”

Jen and Stephen’s DIY list includes:

  • They drew the centralized symbol that was used throughout their wedding pieces (the symbol was a vase with two lilies to represent the Fleur de lis of New Orleans and a Chinese character for love)
  • Save the Date cards
  • Invitations – Each one was printed at home and handmade
  • They built their own wedding website –
  • Centerpieces of candle holders wrapped in ribbon
  • Place card holders from wine corks
  • Printed and folded each wedding program
  • Folded each restaurant napkin to hold an individual wedding program as a place setting
  • Made the placards for each table – Identified each table with a name of a local winery
  • Each “out of town” couple received a handmade gift basket containing a bottle of wine, cheese, crackers and a personalized booklet (DIY) providing a map of the area, directions to and from the hotel to the wedding events, list of popular restaurants and activities to do… plus phone numbers of the local groomsmen and bridesmaids for questions
  • Ironed on the centralized symbol on white handkerchiefs as favors and were used in the traditional New Orleans second line
  • Created the wedding playlist
  • Developed the picture montage

But I think you all are waiting for the Budget Breakdown.  Jen and Stephen’s budget was $16,000… but in the end, they spent $15,884.51.

Area Percentage
Favors 1%
Décor 2%
Flowers 3%
Cake 4%
Refreshments 5%
Photography 6%
Stationary, Ink and Postage 6%
Entertainment (Band and Lion Dancers) 9%
Gifts (Wedding party, helpers, “Thank You” brunch, gift baskets, etc.) 10%
Clothing 22%
Food 33%

Lastly, Jen and Stephen leave you with some wedding planning advice:

“Plan early and do a little bit at a time as you move towards your wedding day. Have weekend wine and pizza events with your girls and even your groomsmen and have them help make things. Assign each bridesmaid and groomsmen a specific role for the day of the wedding, so that you know the task will be handled. We gave each wedding party attendee an itinerary with time slots and responsible parties so that everyone knew what occurred when and who was responsible. If you plan early and leave nothing to the last minute, you’ll be stress-free on the wedding day and the day prior. You’ll be able to enjoy everything and have your special day just the way you dreamed it would be.”

Congratulations to Jen and Stephen!

Thanks to Heather Elizabeth for sharing her photography as well.

There’s more this wedding here and don’t forget to stick around Heather Elizabeth’s blog to see the rest of her work.


Lydia from Ever Ours

Real Wedding: Amanda & Aaron’s Nifty $9k Nuptials

Lydia, from Ever Ours here, with a really neat wedding that showcases the true personality of the couple through their wedding, and includes a budget breakdown!

Many thanks to Amanda and Aaron for sharing some real down-to-earth advice, behind the scenes details, as well as their adorable images by Laura Dye Photography via Two Bright Lights.

What kind of theme were you going for on your wedding day, if any?

We found our location (The Whitehaven Hotel), which is a gorgeous, historic bed and breakfast in a tiny little town near our home, and we ran with the whole look of the hotel itself. We allowed the hotel to shine on it’s own, and the only decorating we did was the centerpieces for the few tables we had outside and a few white paper lanterns hanging from the tent. I guess if we had to put a title on it we’d call it “eclectic country chic“.

While wedding planning, how did you decide what was most important to you?

During the planning process we felt finding a location where we could have both the ceremony and reception, and allowed enough parking for our guests was very important. We also wanted to feel a connection to the location, and since neither of us are religious, we found that connection through the historical and local significance of the Whitehaven Hotel. I have a degree in history so this place holds a very special place in my heart, and Aaron shares that passion with me as well.

We also felt that finding a great photographer was extremely important because we’ll have those images for the rest of our lives, so naturally we wanted great ones. Luckily we found Laura Dye. We moved our budget around so we could afford her and it was our one big splurge (costing us almost as much as the entire venue), but it was definitely worth it. She is so extremely talented, charming and amazing and we couldn’t be happier with the results. I can’t say enough nice things about her and her skill!

Describe any DIY or handmade elements from your wedding.

I love owls… a lot, and my Mom can make almost anything out of fruit and vegetables… so we went online and collected a bunch of images (most of them from cruise ships) of owls made out of fruit and veggies. We took those images and created our own version of the owls, so at our reception we had a bride owl and a groom owl made out of pineapple, kiwi, grapes, carrots, and cantaloupes. My sister made the veil and bouquet for the bride and found a bowtie for the groom.

For the center pieces my sister and I went to our local Goodwill store and bought almost every colorful, cut glass vase and vessel that we could find. I ordered some plain white hydrangeas from Sam’s Club online, and the day of the wedding my brother and brother-in-law arranged them on the tables for us (and they did a fantastic job!!). We even used some antique pieces my Mom already had around her house, so the centerpieces had a very personal touch to them. It was very inexpensive and now we have amazing glass pieces that will always hold a special meaning. :)

I don’t know if this counts as DIY, but I definitely pieced my outfit together from head to toe, and it came together surprisingly well. The veil and my ceremony fascinator were ordered from in Texas, my reception fascinator was from Tousled Dolly on, the dress I found on sale at David’s Bridal in Bowie, MD, and the sandals I found the day before the wedding in Vernon Powell’s clearance section (I love clearance shopping!).

If it’s even possible, what’s one moment that’s significantly your favorite from your wedding day?

Oh gosh, just ONE moment?? The whole day went so perfectly it still feels like a wonderful dream to me. I never felt so beautiful or so loved by so many people. I absolutely loved the ceremony, our officiant (Rod Whisner) was so amazing and was willing to play along with our crazy ideas. The ceremony started off like the ceremony from the movie “The Princess Bride” (which we watch on a weekly basis) and Rod even pronounced “mawwiage” perfectly and totally played the part. And then there were the cowbells, we really had “MORE COWBELL” at our wedding and it was fantastic.

My older brother picking Aaron up and carrying him across the lawn was hilarious. Dancing with my new husband to Dave Matthews’ “You and Me” and dancing with my Dad on the lawn surrounded by the soft glow of torch light was magical. Having my best friend from Wisconsin there with me was an absolute life saver.

I think one of my definite top favorite moments was at the end of the night. Aaron and I went up to our top floor suite, got in our robes and went out on the widows walk. We stood beneath a canopy of stars and looked out on the river while we listened to the last few guests winding down the party below us. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

Any tips on saving money to the newly engaged?

Look local and keep it small! I loved having our wedding at a bed and breakfast since it allowed us to have the outside ceremony we wanted and provided the perfect location for the reception and dancing (on the lawn surrounded by glass cattail torches I found on sale at Food Lion). It was so wonderful to not have to drive anywhere, or worry about people getting lost from one location to the next, and at the end of the night we just went upstairs and went to bed. It was considerably less expensive than paying for a ceremony location, reception location and hotel rooms separately (we compared). There was also a maximum capacity of 60 people so it made telling guests who were not invited a little easier, since the venue simply didn’t allow us to invite every distant relative and acquaintance (which we did not want to do anyway).

We also used a little out of the way deli (called “The Deli“) that my sister really enjoyed, for our caterers. They created an amazing spread for the reception and were very inexpensive. I would definitely advise following any leads or recommendations that friends and family offer, that’s how we found practically all of our vendors.

I would also recommend shopping around for the best deals, checking out sales and clearance sections, and meeting with multiple vendors to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. And don’t let vendors bully you into choosing them, or making you feel like you have to make a decision immediately. We ran into one photographer who harassed us for over a month after we had made it clear that we were not going to choose him, not only for his pretentious attitude and generic pictures, but also for his extremely outrageous pricing.

What advice would you give to the newly engaged while wedding planning?

Try and have fun with it and don’t become an over-obsessed, psychotic chick. Don’t fret about what could go wrong, just assume that things are going to happen however they happen, and all you can do is put everything in place and let the ball roll once the day starts. For example, my brother-in-law was kind enough to set up the straw fans and cow bells on the chairs at the ceremony, as those were our wedding favors. We had custom made stickers to go on the cowbells, and custom tags that we tied on over 50 fans. My brother-in-law thought the tags were price tags (he neglected to read the “Thank You” that was on every tag, haha) so he tore off every single tag. Once I found out all I could do was laugh because it was FUNNY. Silly things like that are definitely going to happen and I thought it added character to our wedding story. :)

Also, accept all the help that you can get because you will need it. And try and get everything done and out of the way as early as possible. I started planning for my August wedding on February 15th of this year (the day after we got engaged). I’m so happy we didn’t have a long engagement because it would have drawn out the whole process and made me second-guess my decisions.

Also try and take at least one day or night each week where you don’t talk about wedding stuff AT ALL. Go out for a date night, or if you can’t afford it, make dinner together or go for a walk. A major stress reliever for us was actually our engagement photo shoot (we went with a man named Aaron Foreman, who had never done a photo shoot before but had taken a workshop with Laura Dye, so we gave him a shot and it turned out beautifully. You can find him and his work on facebook by searching for his name). That day we almost got into a major argument, (which is a big deal for us because we have never fight about anything. Aaron is my best friend and we always seem to find a solution to any issues we have without arguing), and we were both stressed and cranky, but once we got out to the gorgeous location (Cedar Hill Park & Marina in Bivalve, MD) we forgot everything and had a wonderful and stress-free time looking into eachother’s eyes and smiling for pictures.

Amanda + Aaron’s Wedding Budget Breakdown
Wedding Gown $475.00
Suit $300.00
Shirt, Tie etc $100.00
Shoes $100.00
Rings $600.00
Veil & Fascinators $115.00
Caterer: $1,200.00
Buffet Style,BBQ Theme
Flowers: $300.00
2 bouquets, 2 nosegays, 4 boutonnieres
Venue: $2,800.00
First floor rental, tent, all 8 rooms, breakfast
Vases $80.00
Plastic Silverware $30.00
Plates $50.00
Hydrangeas $80.00
Napkins $30.00
Torches $60.00
Photographer: $1,600.00
DJ: $300.00
Officiant: $350.00
Hair & Make-Up: $250.00
Favors: $200.00
Grand Total: $9,020.00
That’s right!  Amanda and Aaron spent less than $10,000 on their wedding!!  So people, it’s so very possible to have a wedding that speaks about you and is affordable!  Huge thanks and belated congratulations to Amanda and Aaron and many thanks to Laura Dye for her wonderful photography.
Here are a few more wedding vendor details:
Ceremony/Reception Venue:  The Whitehaven Hotel
Caterer:  The Deli
Floral Designer:  Benedict The Florist
Cake Designer: Bay Country Bakery
Dress Store:  David’s Bridal; Macy’s Bridal Salon
Heirlooms and extras:  BirdCage Veils, Tousled Dolly
Favors and Gifts:  Rhode Island Novelty

- Lydia

Real Wedding: Penelope & Mikiya’s Charmingly Creative Campground Commitment

Lined up another real sweet intimate DIY real wedding for you all…. this one comes from Emily Takes Photos. I adore the fact that it was outdoors and that the couple’s rustic theme matched so well. Congratulations to Penelope and Mikiya!

Many thanks to Penelope for taking the time to talk a bit about elements of their wedding day. Here’s what she had to share:

“Doing my own hair and makeup (with the help of sisters/friends) was actually my preference not because of the budget, but because I was terrified of giving my face and hair over to someone who might make me unrecognizable to myself. I know my hair’s behavior better than anyone else in the world, so I figured I could do it better than anyone else on that day. Likewise, with makeup, I don’t wear heavy makeup any other day of my life, so why was I going to start on my wedding day?”

“We asked friends with special talents to play instruments and sing in our ceremony. We had a friend of the family officiate. We cobbled together an amazing group of family and friends to help with set up and clean up and everything in between. Friends passed out programs and poured champagne on the train. Thanks to the herculean efforts of our friends and family, we ended up with very few actual paid vendors. Seriously, when the venue supervisor asked for my vendor list so she could be in contact with folks about dropping stuff off, parking onsite, etc., I was like, “um, we have a photographer… and a band.” And that was really about it. We did the rest.”

“As far as wedding venues go, Roaring Camp, together with using their in-house BBQ catering service, was a great deal per head for feeding 150 guests.”

“By not having a color scheme on top of our rustic theme, we were less constrained about our choices, making it easier to bargain hunt. For our flowers, we went the farmers market route, and ended up with lovely arrangements put together by friends and family the morning of the wedding. Throughout the year, my family and I saved pasta sauce jars, pickle jars, jam jars, olive jars… absolutely all shapes and sizes, so long as the label came off easily. We mixed the sizes together, placing 3-4 jars per table. The candles were reused tea lights from my childhood best friend’s wedding the month before.”

“We folded the 1,000 paper cranes out of old magazines and other cast-off paper. The result was colorful, free, and environmentally friendly. Friends and family started contributing to the process; we got cranes folded out of all sorts of creative paper. In the end it was almost like a quilt, where each scrap of fabric has a story from its previous use. “

Other ways that Penelope and Miyika saved and helped with their budget included:

for stationery
“We did an electronic save the date, and I designed and made (with family help) our invitations myself. The best advice I have on that is to shop at the office supply store, not the art store! Half the time you can find exactly the same paper product for half the price at an office supply store. I coffee dyed a bunch of cheap manila tags and stamped them with a personalized rubber stamping kit to make RSVP tags that looked like old luggage tags. I found irregularly sized coin envelopes that fit the invitation size and would feed through my printer so I could print addresses directly on the envelopes in an old fashioned typewriter font, which I downloaded all off the internet for free; there are entire sites devoted to (legitimately) free font downloads!”

for drinks
For wine and champagne, my brother in law recommend several red, white and sparkling options in the $7-$11 range. We went out and bought what was available, swapped in a few alternates where we couldn’t find particular recommendations, and held a series of blind taste testing parties a few weeks ahead of the wedding to choose favorites. The tasting parties with friends were tons of fun, and we ended up with one pretty clear winner in each category. We avoided spending a fortune on expensive wine, while resting assured that we were actually serving something that most guests would find tasty.

for cake (my favorite element for their wedding)
A friend who works at a bakery purchased 12 cakes for us on an employee discount, decorated the cakes with fresh raspberries, and helped us slice everything up at the reception. Serving cake our guests ourselves was our own special twist on the “receiving line” concept, and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole evening.

Penelope and Miyika were also super lucky to have won their photographer through a contest. Huge thanks to Emily Takes Photos for so beautifully capturing their adorable rustic wedding.

More wedding vendor info:

Photographer: Emily Takes Photos

Floral Designer: Flowers bought by bride’s mother at a local farmer’s market in Redwood City

Cakes:  Whole Foods

Reception Venue: Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad

Dress Store:  Recapture Vintage Bridal Designs/  Dress Designer:  Robin Densten

Shoes:  Macy’s Bridal Shoes

Dress Designer:  Recapture

Hair Flower:  Black Dahlia Designs

Jewelry:  from the bride’s great grandmother

Tuxedo and Menswear: Brooks Brothers, La Rosa Vintage Boutique

- Lydia