Posts in the 'budget wedding ideas' Category

Real Bride Kate: Cutting Costs & Adding Individuality

Daniel and I have three goals with our wedding: keep it cheap, keep it from looking cheap, and keep it unique. During these early stages of our planning, we’ve tried to come up with ways to save ourselves money without sacrificing our vision. Thus far, we’ve come up with several ideas that not only cut costs, but also make our wedding even more uniquely suited to our personal style. Take a look at our top five!

1. The Dress

This is my "marriage" dress from the ever-gorgeous Kitten D'Amour. http://www.kittendamour.com/  This is my “marriage” dress from the ever-gorgeous Kitten D’Amour.

Even though I plan to have two dresses (one for the “marriage” and one for the “commitment ceremony”), I am still able to have them both for less than the price of one regular wedding dress. How? I want a rather “untraditional” style. I want a tea length, vintage-inspired dress, preferably all lace and preferably red. My first dress is a stunning party dress from Kitten D’Amour, an Australian company that specializes in vintage-inspired luxury clothes. My second dress is to-be-determined and is proving difficult to find. However, there are several vintage-inspired brands that allow fully customizable dresses, and the most expensive dress I like is around $800 US. In short, don’t be afraid to go untraditional and/or custom – it’s cheaper than you think!

2. The Flowers (or lack thereof)

Book Page Bouquet via The Flower Girl Atlanta

Daniel and I aren’t really flower people. I don’t like them because they die so quickly, and Daniel just isn’t very interested in them at all. Besides, our venue has several gorgeous gardens in the springtime: flowers included! Therefore, instead of blowing the budget on floral pieces that will simply wither and fade, we’re considering replacing all the wedding flowers with material options. Boutonnieres? Try pocket squares. Centerpieces? Try candles and lanterns. Bouquets? Try vintage bro0ches or origami. Personally, I’m leaning toward book pages – perfect for me (as an English major/writer) and my potential bridesmaids, who are all English majors, writers, and/or bookworms!

3. The Favors/Gifts

Memory jar via Health Exchange

I have never understood exactly why guests and attendants need favors or gifts. Yes, they all deserve gratitude for showing up, showering us with love and support (and things of monetary value), and devoting their time and energy to our wedding. However, which guests really want a container of bubbles or tulle bag of candies? And which attendants really want a necklace or cufflinks? Shouldn’t your loved ones be willing to celebrate your union without expecting gifts? And more importantly, don’t they deserve better than something disposable or generic? Daniel and I do want to provide our guests and attendants with a favor or gift, but we want it to be something they can actually keep and treasure. We’re not sure what form this will take yet – maybe printed photographs with us at the wedding or personalized poems or my pseudo-infamous “joy jars,” but whatever it is … it will be better than a plastic container of bubbles.

4. The Decorations

bevfabriccrafts_2270_49726223 via SaveOnCrafts

Two of our best friends are getting married in a few weeks, and the bride has informed me that their wedding decorations are minimal. In her words, “why spend a bunch of money on decorations that serve no purpose after the wedding?” I totally agree. One reason Daniel and I chose a “vintage” theme is so our wedding will be filled with things we love that we can use again in our vintage-styled home (you know, once we’re done with graduate school and have money for a house, yikes!). So, the picture frame with chalkboard center that lists the wedding menu will become Daniel’s board for the grocery list or dinner options. The small suitcase that holds the wedding cards will sit on our coffee table and hold magazines (by which I probably mean GQ). You get the idea.

5. The Officiant

This is Daniel and our friend Gary at MorrisonCon. This is Daniel and our friend Gary at MorrisonCon.

Neither Daniel nor I are religious, so we knew we did not want to have a religious officiant. However, the idea of having a judge or justice of the peace marry us seemed a bit unromantic and impersonal. Therefore, we had the brilliant idea to ask a friend of ours to become an ordained minister and perform the ceremony. The advantages to this are: it is free, we can customize the entire ceremony (which is appealing for me as a writer), and we can be joined in matrimony by someone who truly knows us and blesses our marriage. Our officiant of choice? Our friend, Gary, who was in Las Vegas with us when we met. Gary was our first mutual friend, and he witnessed (and advised on) the first days of our connection – add in his dazzling sense of humor and teddy bear charm, and how could we do better?

Of course, nothing is set in stone until money is paid, return dates are expired, and the bride drops the “zilla” in the decoration category. However, we are feeling pretty confident that these ideas will save us some cash and add a few unique details to our wedding day. In all honesty, I think it’s just lucky that we both like “vintage” – but hey, I’ll take all the luck I can get in putting this wedding together.

Five for Friday: Stay Wonderfully Warm on Your Wedding Day with a Wrap

Happy Friday, Broke-Asses! This week, we got a super special request from a super specialer (yup, making up words here, folks) bride-to-be: My former roommate from way back when, who is getting married in a very amazing location needs something to keep herself warm and cozy for her fall nuptials. So, she hollered at yours truly with a mission to find a toasty wrap or shawl for her usually chilly self that would greatly compliment the long-sleeved short antique-y dress she plans on donning. So, Kate, here’s what I found … and I know you would rock the hell out of any and all of these. Bonus: All ring in at under $80!

Carlotta Wrap, BHLDN $78

Carlotta Wrap, BHLDN $78


Daydream Confetti Shawl, Ruche $28.99

Daydream Confetti Shawl, Ruche $28.99


Pashmina Shawls, The Dessy Group $30.00

Mandy Boucle Tassel Shawl, Boohoo.com $32
Mandy Boucle Tassel Shawl, Boohoo.com $32

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 4.14.12 PM

Alpaca Wool Winter Shawl Wrap, Amazon $49.99

Whaddya think, Kate? Any of these make you fall head over heels? How are the rest of you Broke-Asses staying warm on your wedding day?

Real Wedding: Angela and Jay’s $5000 Laid-Back Family-Powered Semi-Traditional Arizona Fete

IMG_1294

Angela and Jay had their beautiful wedding in January of this year, incorporating meaningful locations, the support of their community, and some Arizona flair. Seriously, how cute are these cactus favors? It goes to show that you don’t need to spend $30,000 to have a beautiful, memorable wedding day…and since their family and friends were involved throughout, they were able to start their married lives feeling truly loved and blessed.

IMG_1376

IMG_1424

IMG_1487

Names:  Angela and Jay

Occupations: Angela- PhD Candidate, Cultural Anthropology, Jay: Video Game QA Lead, Red5 Studios

Wedding location: Phoenix, AZ (Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and the Science and Heritage Park)

Wedding date: 01-04-14

Wedding budget: Original $3000…..Actual $5000

Approximate guest count: 100

How would you describe your wedding? Laid-back, informal, with traditional aspects

What was your favorite part of your wedding? I loved getting to talk with all of my friends and family during the reception. I just wanted it to last forever.

IMG_0953

IMG_1048

≠≠

IMG_1228

What did you splurge on? The reception venue. We met on NYE 4 years ago at a bar owned by my husband’s friend. The venue is RIGHT behind it, so we both wanted to celebrate our marriage there, even though it was pretty expensive for our budget. It didn’t include much. It had a small catering kitchen and tables and chairs we could use. I also spent $444.00 on my wedding gown. I felt guilty for this, since Jay was wearing a suit he already owned. I REALLY wanted a simple white dress, off the rack. But I couldn’t find anything I liked. My mom made me go to a David’s Bridal one day and I found something that wasn’t too shiny and fancy for me. I hoped to sell it…but, then a friend burned a cigarette hole in it, and I spilled my beer on myself. I’m sure someone would still buy it…

What did you save on?  Everything else!! The cake/cupcakes were made by my best friend from high school. I won a few bottles of champagne in an online contest. I cut out all the paper flag decorations with my mom. My brother bought decorations off Craigslist from a woman who had similar colors for her wedding (candles, cake plates, lights, lanterns). I bought all the servingware (bowls, trays, and tongs) at a dollar store. I didn’t want flowers at first, but my mom wasn’t having that. So I found 10 bouquets at Costco for $100. They doubled as bouquets for the bridespeople and table decorations. We gave small cacti as favors (only 50 of them) and my friend purchased them for me at cost ($1 per cactus) from his cousin who runs a nursery. We decided a build your own sandwich bar would be good instead of a caterer. It was very simple. We had sliced cheese, turkey and roast beef with condiments. We bought bolillo rolls from a Mexican bakery which was cheaper than the same rolls at Costco. I made three grain/pasta salads that were very very inexpensive. One was quinoa, one was a pasta salad, and one was Israeli couscous. The biggest saving was the alcohol. My husband’s friends who own the bar gave us free beer and wine! We also received free coffee due to a mixup at the coffee house. That was a nice surprise!

DSC_0491

DSC_0575

Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? I would have done two things differently. First I would have managed time better. We were married in a church service and since my husband is not Catholic, we didn’t have the full ceremony. In fact it only took 30 minutes. We had no idea it would be that quick! This meant that our guests had to wait about 2 hours between our ceremony and the reception. Since our reception was only a block from the church, most of our guests just headed to our friends’ bar for food and drinks. We had to set up the wedding while they did this. We decided to set up our own wedding to save money (of course!). Since we were early, the young men we had hired to set up the tables hadn’t gotten started yet. Everyone was stressed out and working hard. They wouldn’t let my husband or I do much, which was nice, but also frustrating.

The second thing I would have done differently is I would have hired a day-of coordinator. I would have just asked an old friend and paid her $50 or something. That way she could have fielded the 10,000 questions everyone had for me that day. The questions freaked me out because I really wasn’t very picky about how everything looked, but of course no one believed that. Most of the questions were related to the decorations.

What was your biggest challenge in planning?  We had a few challenges. The biggest challenge was money. We don’t have a lot and everything really added up.  I was in Washington teaching for the Summer and Fall semesters right before the wedding. So not only did Jay and I not get to see each other, but all of my planning was done through email and phone calls. I didn’t even see the church until the rehearsal dinner. Luckily we were familiar with the reception venue.

DSC_0669

DSC_0589

What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself?

1.Our families really care for us. When we needed help purchasing something they always came through and just gave us money. We didn’t abuse this privilege, however.

2. I wouldn’t have bought so much food. Lots of our friends who said they were coming didn’t show, so there were too many sandwiches. Also, we had made sure to tell people that we were only serving light food, and during that 2 hr break between wedding and reception, lots of our guests ate dinner. My mom ended up donating bread to a soup kitchen which was great, but it would have been better for us not to spend the money in the first place.

3.I also learned that dancing is not as important to other people as it is to me. I spend what seemed like weeks and weeks creating our playlist. It was nuts. I went from slower dancing at the beginning to all out party music at the end when everyone would have been drunk. Well, The only dances that happened were our first dance and the father/daughter dance. Everyone else just used the wedding as a way to catch up with old friends and family, which was lovely, but not what I had envisioned. I wish I’d not cared about the music so much.

DSC_0623

DSC_0637

What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding? 

1. Seeing friends and family that I hadn’t seen for years. I have lived in CA and WA for the last 4 years, so I’m out of touch with a lot of my Phoenix peeps. My husband is the same way. It was nice to have everyone together.

2. The cake and decorations! I really loved what I did. Yes it was simple, but it reflected us. We aren’t flashy people. I was really proud about the money I saved.

3. The help we received from friends and family. They worked so hard and the night of the reception I felt really very guilty for it. I saw my mom running around putting lunch meat on platters and making a veggie tray. My bridespeople and other friends all helped immensely with various food and decorations. It made me feel awful at the time, but everyone says it wasn’t a problem and that they had a good time. Also, it made me feel very loved.

4. Wine and beer! Not only was it free, but it helped both me and my fiance loosen up a bit.

5. Getting to celebrate our commitment to each other in front of all our friends and family. Although Jay and I have been committed to our relationship for a while, it felt good to share that with everyone else. Everyone was really happy for us, and that felt great!

Top 5 least favorite?

1. I didn’t like the music at the wedding ceremony, but it wasn’t a big deal. It was just boring church music that didn’t really fit the wedding.

2. My fiance was nervous and I didn’t know how to cheer him up. He didn’t smile once during the service and his hand was sweaty when I met him at the altar. I felt like I was failing him by not creating a happy wedding. He finally loosened up at the reception after we cut the cake….. about 3 hrs in…

3. I don’t have a picture of my parents walking me down the aisle.

4. Friends and Family who said they were coming that did not show up.

6. We only paid for a 3 hour reception. I wanted it to last at least 2 hours longer into the evening. We did all move over to the bar, but my fiance and I didn’t stay as late as our guests. I guess that was probably a good thing!

IMG_1318

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? I didn’t have any bad advice, just a LOT of judgement from others. When you tell people that you are getting married, suddenly everyone has an opinion on things. (tablecloths, flowers, food, “You HAVE to have the Chicken Dance!”, etc.) That was a little annoying at first, then a lot annoying. Also, I really thought that our relationship would somehow grow deeper at a profound level after getting married. It didn’t. I still feel the same love for him that I felt before the wedding. Although there are times when I think “Wow, that was a whole fiasco, wasn’t it? Getting married in a church when neither of us are religious, having a fancy white dress, registering for gifts, etc. I can’t believe he loves me SO much that he would do it all and not complain once.”

The best? A few friends told me “Do what you want and try not to listen to other people.” and “This is about a marriage, not about a wedding.”

Any other bits of wisdom? Just have fun on your wedding day! Soak it all in and try to remember everything. Smile and say thank you as much as possible. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

IMG_2002        IMG_2021

Budget breakdown?

Venue (4 hour rental, includes a $500 refundable deposit): $1645.00

Security (We had to hire an off-duty cop for the venue.): $120

Marriage License: $107.00

City Fees (sound permit, alcohol permit): $38.00

Food,cups/napkins (Costco, regular supermarket, Mexican Bakery): $423.00

Sparkbooth (only 5-6 guests used this…I could have skipped it.): $55.00

Stereo speaker rental (we borrowed a few from friends too): $80.00

Vistaprint invitations w/postage(we emailed most people but sent out 60): $61.50

Photography (elizabethbatesphotography.com): $500.00

Decorations: flowers ( Costco ) Tablecloths ( TableclothsFactory ): $406.87

Dress (David’s Bridal): $444.99

Shoes/Veil (DSW Outlet and Claire’s Workshop ): $52.30

Church marriage prep: $350.00

Hair (The Root Salon)$65.00

Bouquet (made by a friend who does this as a small side business): $100.00

Rings (I used my grandmother’s but it needed a few prong repairs. I traded in some gold to help pay for that. We bought a stainless steel one onAmazon for Jay for the ceremony. He got a tattoo of his ring because he doesn’t like jewelry): $210.00

Hotel room for wedding night ( Sheraton Phoenix Downtown ): $112.00

Total: $4770.66

Free items: Cake/cupcakes, alcohol, tables/chairs were included with rental, extra help setting up was a gift from BIL’s girlfriend, Church fees were paid by my parents (because they wanted the church wedding), Coffee (there was a mix-up at the coffeeshop, so we got it for free!), and FIL paid for the rehearsal dinner.

Ask Heather: Asking Your Family For Money

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.27.57 AM

Alexander Cornelious

Dear Heather,

I just discovered The Broke Ass Bride and I’m happy. I really needed a website like this. My fiance and I had been together for 7 years, lived together for 4 and have a 3 year old son. We got engaged last October and are planning our wedding for next December. The problem is it is really going to be a low budget wedding. Most of everything, including my dress, the catering, flowers, the music, the photographer, the cake, some decoration, and even the alcohol has been covered by relatives since my fiance’s family is extremely close and really love throwing parties and helping each other in every way, including economically.

The problem is this: my family is big, my fiance’s family is huge. After taking out every single person that does not HAVE to be there, our guest list is 205 people. My fiance and I have been facing a hard time economically, which happened after we started planning and set a date, so we didn’t know we were going to have money problems. This is causing us to have a very hard time paying for a venue and we may not have a honeymoon right away. We will also need money for decorations, his tuxedo rental, and my dress accessories and alterations. A LOT of people have been telling us that if we need anything we should just say so because THEY WILL help with something for the wedding, but they don’t come asking what we need or offering anything. However, we need that help now or otherwise we will miss the venue due to availability. Plus, some relatives have made arrangements already to spend the holidays here because of the wedding.

We are trying to decide if we should write a note politely asking for help with the wedding planning instead of wedding gifts, since we don’t need anything for our home. The only thing we need is help for the wedding, be it money or other kind of help. I have read that it is always wrong to ask for money; that if I don’t have it, I shouldn’t be celebrating the wedding. I don’t want a big wedding. Right now, everything I need for the wedding to happen is the money for the venue.

What should I do? This is really stressing me out. Your response would really be a blessing.

Thank you very much!!

No Money For Venue

Dear Money,

It sounds like your main struggle right now is finding money for the venue you want. Is this particular venue nonnegotiable? If you haven’t considered all of your options, including finding a less expensive venue, do that first. If that venue is the only one that will work in your area, then you should talk to your fiance’s family. Since they’ve already offered money for various aspects of the wedding, ask if some of that money could be transferred to paying for the cost of the venue, especially if you have your heart set on a particular place. If they’re amenable to that option, then work on decreasing the cost of the other things they were going to pay for. Find a less expensive dress. Downscale on flowers and use only things in season. Talk to your caterer about ways to make the menu less expensive. Hire a more affordable DJ (or do an iPod reception) and photographer.

Once you’ve done all that, realize that it’s extremely unlikely that everyone on the invite list will attend. You said that you don’t want a big wedding. I’m not sure what constitutes “big” to you. While I don’t think that your invite list of 205 will ever turn into a 15-person super-intimate ceremony, I also don’t think that you’ll truly have 205 guests. Obviously, though, if you can cut the invite list, it will make other things more affordable, what with fewer meals, tables, chairs, centerpieces, etc. If you cannot cut the list, though, prepare to cut everything else, as referenced in the previous paragraph.

Speaking of invitees … some of them have offered to help. Take them up on it! When it comes to weddings, people want to help, but they need to know what you want. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that anyone will come up to you and say, “You know, I really want to do [x] to help with your wedding.” Instead, they make general offers of assistance, and it’s up to you to take the next step. Figure out some ways they could help – put the crafty ones to work on making decorations, have your seamstress friend help with dress alterations, tell the friend who makes jewelery what you want in regards to accessories and let her run wild – and give them specific tasks. The key here is that you have to actually ask them to help and give them achievable jobs.

You mentioned that you might not be able to afford a honeymoon right away. While it sucks, this is not the end of the world. I would suggest doing some sort of mini-moon; maybe see if there’s an affordable nearby bed and breakfast that you could escape to for a couple of days immediately after the wedding. And then, on your one-year-anniversary, take a bigger trip.

As for asking for money – I agree that writing a letter and explicitly asking for money is a no-go. However, there are plenty of registries out there now that let you ask for cash. We actually did a post recently about Present Value, which you should check out. I think something like that could serve you quite well.

Have you had friends or family offer to help? Did you take them up on it? How did it go? Tell me about it in the comments below!

An Easy Blonde: Color Me Tickled by Madison Reed’s Hair Dye System

*This post is brought to you by our friends at Madison Reed*

You guys, I have a confession: I’m a bottle girl.

No no, not that kind (I hate waitressing as is. Add a nightclub to it and yeah … NOPE).

I’m talking the kind that you use when you color your hair. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a natural blonde, but here’s the thing: I want to be blonder. I want ALL THE BLONDE. But I’m frugal (duh), and it’s like pulling teeth for me to spend money on a trim (which happens like once a year). So, I want salon-quality, super easy and uber affordable. And I don’t want to have to mess with it too much. Easy request, right?

Actually: Yes, yes it is. Because: Madison Reed. This online subscription-delivery company takes alla dem hair-coloring worries (going to the store, trying to find the exact same shade previously purchased, figuring out if the instructions are actually speaking English, etc.) and gives ‘em the big ol’ middle finger.

Sure, Madison Reed‘s website offers pics of their various shades, but even more than that, they have consultants available to help.

But since I knew that I just wanted ALL THE BLONDE, I picked Roma. And then I was off!

Just look at dem rootz. Oof.

The packaging is super pretty and it’s not just “color developer, tube with color, conditioner, gloves and crappy instructions that get ruined if they get wet at all.” Nope. There’s lotsa goodies, including:

  • 2 pairs of gloves (one for coloring, one for the rinsing out process)
  • a shower cap (so you can actually DO STUFF while the color develops, rather than walk around like a giraffe with a neck brace on)
  • wipes to get the goop off your face
  • cream to keep the goop from getting on your face
  • a really rockin’ set of shampoo and conditioner (I love this stuff)

All this is in addition to the regular color and developer shizz. And the instructions? They’re printed on the packaging, so they’ll hold up even if there’s a color-splosion in the bathroom.

It says to use all of the color in the tube. I squeezed that mofo like my life depended on it.

The process is pretty standard: Prep, mix, apply, saturate, wait, rinse, swoon.

Très good look for me, non?

Of the many things I really liked about this system was that there was a very obvious lack of strong chemical smell and the color lasts.

Since Madison Reed is a subscription-delivery service, you can set it to arrive at your doorstep however often you choose. And since you’re skipping a trip to the salon, it saves you beaucoup bucks.

Mission: Go Blonder complete!

If you’re thinking of giving your follicles a little color boost before your big day, try this shizz out. For serious.

 

RealBride Elizabeth: SOS! My Budget Ship is Sinking!

 

In the short time I’ve been engaged, I feel like I’ve got a lot of the big stuff done. I’ve booked my venue (an awesome 1920′s theatre in downtown Greensboro), secured my photographer, found a DJ, my dress is hanging safely in my parent’s spare bedroom, and I’ve sent out my save-the-dates. My mom recommended I assemble a spreadsheet as to track my expenses. Now, to be honest with you, math and financial responsibility have never been my strong suits, so I was a little apprehensive.

She walked me through all the columns and rows, and everything looked good. I was well under budget and feeling pretty good about it. Then, today, I remembered the caterers (Apparently its in good taste to feed people when they’re coming 1,000 miles for your wedding). We’re having Carolina barbecue for our meal, which is damn tasty (and cheap). Since I don’t have to give them the final head count until 3 days before the wedding, I calculated as if every single one of our guests RSVP’d yes.

YIKES. If everyone shows up, I will officially have approximately $250 left for the following:

  • Flowers (bouquets,  boutonnieres, etc)
  • Any decorations
  • Bridesmaid gifts
  • Hair/make-up for myself
  • Alcohol

Now, I know every single person we invite will likely not show up, but it’s still enough to skyrocket my anxiety through the roof, and start freaking out a little about my budget. Before today, I was fairly confident that I wasn’t going to have too many problems staying in the lines.

It looks like it’s time to get creative, and I would love to enlist my fellow broke-ass brides in any tips, tricks, or things I can do to get my life together. Please help me!

Real Bride Tiffany: Our Brewery Wedding Dream

Choosing a venue can be one of the most difficult aspects of wedding planning. And in San Diego, the options are endless. You can get married at the beach, on the bay, at the beach, at a winery, at the beach, on a ranch, at the beach, in the city, and also the beach. Did I mention THE BEACH? If you are sensing snark, your snark-sense is working. We are the furthest from beach-loving people as we could possibly be. Why? SAND. Also, sand fleas. I will not elaborate, lest you spend the rest of the day inadvertently scratching phantom itches.

After our engagement (and maybe a little before because at the end of the day, I am woman) we started browsing venue options. Our search continued until I said, “How about a brewery?” and Justin replied, “This is why I am marrying you.” I searched the most popular brewery site in San Diego – I won’t give it a name but I will tell you that it rhymes with “phone.” The food and beverage minimum for this site was literally more than I ever dreamed one would spend on a wedding which led to yet another WE CANNOT AFFORD ANYTHING emotional breakdown. Actually more like, “I would NEVER spend that much on a wedding WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE” breakdown.

ks collage photo kscollage.jpgimages via Rachel McFarlin Photography & ABM Photography 

Which led us to look up Karl Strauss Brewery Gardens. We were both very familiar with this site because it is down the street from where we live. One point for convenience! Beyond the uniqueness of the grounds, a few things really set KSBG apart from other venue options – most notably that it is all inclusive. There are no separate charges for parking, cake cutting, chairs, table setups, linens, you name it. Many of the other venues I glanced at made me appalled at the nitpicky, nickel-and-dime charges they come up with. And the bonus? They have their own bakery and DJ contracted already. Which means less work/decision making for us to do. Total score.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. The grounds and gardens are GORGEOUS. Hello, you are going to give me all of your beer and do half of the work for me AND be completely gorgeous? SOLD. Really, it was a no-brainer. And in the end we are proud to say that we looked at ONE venue. One singular venue that met every single one of our wedding desires. KSBG, our one true wedding venue love. Am I bragging? Yes, yes I am. Because this was a huge decision that we made incredibly simple and are more than confident in our choice. And I also just spent a good two hours looking at return address stamps so I needed to remind myself when the important decisions happened…

The one person who is not happy with our decision is my father. My Bud Light Lime loving father, whom we are forcing to drink “that fancy shit beer,” because obviously they only offer Karl Strauss products (which are a DELIGHT). We are trying to acclimate him; so far, we have not succeeded. Stay tuned for updates on our quest to teach my father the ways of fancy beer!

The Broke-Ass Bride’s Engagement Ring Buying Guide!

 

Real Bride Kate‘s  Aussie fiance Daniel Gullotta used to work in fine jewelry and was kind enough to provide our readers with insider’s tips on how to get the best bang for your buck when it comes to wedding jewelry. This guide is the next best thing to having him with you when you go shopping! And when it’s all said and done, don’t forget to get your ring insured. Often when you have an expensive piece of jewelry, you’ll need it listed separately on your insurance policy with proof of its purchase and value. For instance, your policy could cover $30,000 worth of losses, but generally only a few thousand of that can be jewelry, so if you have an expensive piece or family heirlooms, it would require a separate rider or an overall bump in your coverage. Check with your insurance provider to be certain! Although insurance money is a cold comfort in the face of  the devastating emotional blow of loss/theft, it’s definitely better than starting again from scratch.

 

MISSION: ENGAGED!

So gentlemen, you want to get engaged, huh? Well, first off congratulations! This is an exciting time in your lives and it’s something that should be celebrated. You guys are taking a big step together and getting engaged should be one of the more enjoyable things to do. Sadly, with the pressures of a century of jewellery companies and the influence of Nicholas Sparks novels and countless romantic comedies, getting engaged seems to have become a nightmare because of one little piece of jewellery: the engagement ring. In my previous life, while I was taking a break from my academic endeavours, for two years I was a jewellery salesperson for one of Australia’s leading jewellers. I worked for one of the major stores that many people used as a reference to begin their searches, so needless to say, I have suggested, designed, and sold a lot of engagement rings to a lot of different people. Some of these people came in well-prepared and very educated on what they believed was expected of them by their partners and others came in clueless and in desperate need of guidance. So if you are reading this, allow me to take you through some tricks of the trade, some tips on getting a good deal, and some advice about finding the right engagement ring for you and your partner.

As a side note, I would like to stress my use of inclusive language because I have sold plenty of engagement rings to LGBTI couples who want to formally commit to their relationship. Buying engagement rings is a practice not just for heterosexual couples. In fact, I have sold some utterly gorgeous rings to same-sex couples. And, as a man who is typing this article wearing an engagement ring given to him by his lovely partner, Kate, engagement rings are not just for women as well. Engagement and engagement rings are not just for women who are having their fairy tale dreams come true, they can be for anyone and everyone who desires to formally and symbolically pronounce their engagement.

Let Your Desires Be Known

This is the first piece of advice I always give to people whenever I hear young people expressing that they want to get their partner an engagement ring. Does your partner know your desire to get engaged? Do they have a clue that you are planning? Do they know how much you intend to spend on the ring? Are you sure they are going to say “yes” if you propose? The reason why I inquire about this is because it answers a lot of questions straight away, and it also helps with piece of mind. If you are going to get engaged, this means you are about to begin sharing your finances and financial commitments with another person – maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but eventually you are going to have to start budgeting for your wedding and other expenses. So, while you may be able to afford an $8000 ring, how much do you imagine spending on the wedding and how soon will you need that money for the wedding? Now, you do not have to let your partner know how much you are going to spend on the ring, but in my experience, partners have a way of finding this out. I think it is good to ask, “Honey, if I was going to buy you an engagement ring, how much do you think is a reasonable amount to spend?” Once I assisted a young man who thought he was going to have to spend close to $5000 on an engagement ring for his partner, but seeing how stressed and pale it made him, I advised him to discuss that with his partner. He came back a few days later very relieved and he informed me that his partner said, “If you spend that much on a ring, you are an idiot.” So, it pays (or rather saves) to communicate. Perhaps I am not being romantic about this, and I am ruining the grand and lovely surprise of it all, but honestly, if your engagement comes as a complete and utter shock, I think you two may need to start communicating a little better.

The other reason why I stress this is because of the chance of rejection and how that will affect your purchase. The worst scenario I have seen was a man who bought his partner an engagement ring which he was going to give to her on their anniversary trip to Bali, being almost two months away. He returned months later with the receipt, the box, the bag, and the ring and asked if he could get his money back because his partner was unhappy with their relationship. She had wanted to talk about it for a long time and with their tickets and hotel booked for Bali, she had wanted to wait until they got home. The engagement ring was a shock and too much and she let her true feelings be known. As sad as that was, my store had polices to follow, and the ring was long out of its return period and had even left the country. We could not give him his money back, and this created one of the biggest stresses in my career as a jewellery salesman. After weeks of back-and-forth dialogue from our legal team and him, the best we could offer him was a gift card for our store which he used to buy a luxury watch, and even then, he was still not happy at all. Yet, I have heard worse, far worse, and people have walked away with even less than that. So please, let your intentions be known and start talking to your partner about the future.

Their Style, Not Whats in Style

The other reason why I say it’s good to talk to one another about this is so you can get their style and desires right. Yellow gold or white gold? Diamonds or rubies or emeralds? How many stones? What sort of cut? What sort of design? The amount of choices can be overwhelming and this is where an important choice has to be made, even before you get into the jewellery store. To look at rings together or go in solo? Both choices are right, and it really depends the couple. Going in solo will take determination and research, but it shows great initiative and allows you the element of surprise. However, bringing your partner in with you can save you a lot of stress and time; plus sometimes their expectations from magazines and movies are not the same once they try it in the store. From my own experience, I am very glad I talked to Kate about rings and took her into various jewellery stores to get a better sense of what her style was. If I had it my way, I would have gone with a single solitaire round set in white gold with six claw prongs. Simple, classic, and timeless I thought, but to Kate, it was overused, dull, and simply not her. While Kate wanted a round stone and white gold (I got that much right), she wanted a few more stones to help the ring stand out a little and be special, and thus I started look at rings I had never originally intended to look at. From Kate’s own perspective, she had always imagined getting a ruby for an engagement ring stone, but when she saw how they had very little shine and no sparkle, her mind was quickly changed.

The Six Cs: Cut, Colour, Clarity, Carat-Weight, Compromise and Cost

When it comes to the actual science and art of selecting a stone, the most important thing to know is the four Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat-weight. Most jewelry stores, if not all, will have flyers or stands with this information and will demonstrate where the stone you are looking at fits into these categories. The fifth and sixth Cs that no one talks about are compromise and cost. Undoubtedly, these are what will define what you exit the store with. However, one of the most common questions I get is which c is the most important? What is the one that really matters? It’s a good question, but there is no universal answer – it really depends on the person, and you must remember that all of these factors work together in producing what your stone is going to be. So there is no perfect way to determine what is more important: that is up to you and your wallet.

The cut of the stone, before we get into the science of it, will determine how the stone looks, and getting this right is the most important thing because it’s what your partner will wear. If they wanted a square cut stone (a princess cut) and you present them with a round stone (a brilliant cut), that is a big mistake. However, the cut is important because it speaks to the proportions of the stone and that in turn affects the dispersion of light through the stone. Simply put, the cut determines how much sparkle and fire your stone can get on its best days in the best lights. This ranges from excellent to very good to good around the crown, girdle, and pavilion, each with its own grading. A stone with an excellent cut crown, girdle, and pavilion is the most desirable and is known as triple excellent cut or flawless cut. However, these stones are rare because in order to create a stone with a flawless cut, the stone itself must have very few flaws to work with. Thus, generally, most stones on the market are good to very good and some with excellent qualities such as just the crown or just the pavilion.

Next is colour. When it comes to diamonds, they are graded from D to Z: D for diamond being the best and colourless. The ranges differ from jeweller to jeweler, but in my experience D-F are generally considered colourless or rare-white stones, G-H are near colourless or white stones, and J-M are faintly yellow or off-white stones, and so on. However, let me stress something here: there is no exact scientific way to grade the colour of stones. Do not be fooled: all colours are graded by the eye and one person’s H grade is another’s J. The difference in colour can be subtle or striking and this depends the range you find yourself in. In my experience, due to cost, the range most people find themselves in is about the G-H range, as these are whiter stones but still relatively affordable.

The one the most people do not like knowing too much about is clarity, which is a polite way of putting how many flaws and inclusions as stone has. The reason why this matters is because these inclusions interfere with how much light passes through the stone. The fewer inclusions to mess with the dispersion of light, the more shine and sparkle you are going to get. Some cannot be seen by the naked eye, and generally these are very small inclusions, others are slight and take a trained eye to see, but some contain small spots that can be seen, and in my experience, they are known to drive people crazy. And this is where I want to stress something: do not get caught up in the clarity game. Unless you are stupidly wealthy, if you want a natural stone, whether it’s a diamond or a ruby or whatever, it is going to have flaws. Accept that fact and move on. Seriously, take a deep breath and move on. My advice to you is to go for something with small inclusions that you cannot see with the naked eye. It’s good to know where they are and how big they are, so ask the salesperson to show you with a magnifying glass. Once you look through the glass, remove it and see if you can still notice the inclusion. If you can and it’s striking, the stone is probably not good. However, if you can’t, you know the flaw is there, but you know it’s not noticeable.

Last comes carat-weight, which is all about the size of the stone. Stones are measured in carats, one carat being one hundred points. The bigger the stone, the bigger the price tag. Carat is probably the most difficult part of being a salesperson in jewellery, because generally this is where people get the most unrealistic or have the least amount of information. Being a fan of the single solitaire, I imagined getting Kate a one carat stone, being a nice even and holistic number, yet, when I discovered how much it was going to cost me (even with staff discount), I knew getting a one carat diamond was not going to happen. Carat weight is what can hurt the most, because, next to the cut of your stone, it’s what people and your partner notice (and sadly judge) first. Did they get a stone or a speck?

After saying all this, here is where compromise and cost come into play. Ask yourself honestly, what really matters to you the most, and how much is it going to cost you to get it? Does size really matter to you that much? Can you live with a bigger stone but with less sparkle than you would like? Can you manage a very lovely stone with very few flaws but is it about the size of a grain of rice? Is there a perfect stone across the board with just one inclusion that you can see at certain angles? What can you compromise on, and how much it is going to cost? Honesty is the best medicine. If you can only afford a $2000 ring, stop looking at the rings that cost $10000. It simply isn’t going to happen, so walk away and save yourself the grief.

Tips and Tricks for Grabbing a Bargain

Having said all that, allow me to impart a few tips and tricks for getting a great deal on your engagement ring. These aren’t guaranteed to work, but they have helped people I have served time and time again, and they come recommended from a lot of finance books such as The Total Money Makeover and The Millionaire Next Door.

  • Every day is a Sale Day: Jewellery stores always seem to have a sale going on, so don’t be surprised when you go in and see lots of “sale” signs and banners and discounts of 25% – 50%. By all means, go and see what is on sale, but do not stress if what you want is not on sale. If you want it, then and there, if you make them work for your money and business, trust me, it will go on sale for you. However, this will not work for certain companies that do not negotiate on price, but if you are shopping at one of those stores, you are probably more interested in the name on the box rather than the ring inside.
  • Shop on a Sunday near the End of the Month: Sunday is viewed in either two ways, the start of a new business week (a great chance to get the week off to a good start) or the end of the business week (the last chance to boost a store’s numbers). Either way, Sundays are quiet days for businesses, and malls are not nearly as busy on Sundays. They have fewer staff members, and that is the time a lot of stores use to do extra amounts of cleaning. Also, if it’s near the end of the month, most of employees will have their budgets due, and if they haven’t made their targets, stress will be high and this will only be increased by how quiet a Sunday is. They will bend backwards to get your money, and by bend backwards, I mean bend prices.
  • Cash is King: Cash is the easiest way to get a deal you normally wouldn’t get with a credit card or a financing plan. Cash shows you are serious, very serious. Cash in hand moves people to make deals and get business done. I can tell you a story when a very impressive woman wanted to buy her partner an engagement ring and she had decided that was the ring she wanted, she opened her purse and flashed a lot of bills and looked me directly in the eye and said, “Now let’s talk about that price.” Cash is the best weapon you have. It gets the deal done in one transaction, saves you on interest, gets you the best discount and even makes the salesperson a profit: everyone’s a winner.
  • Fight Emotion with Emotion: “Sell emotion.” That is the mantra of the salesperson in jewellery. Because jewellery items are such personal items, salespeople are trained to persuade and influence people by selling emotion in their sales in order to maximise their profit. Do not let their flattery, stories, or emotions trick you. Of course they are going to tell you this ring is very popular and it’s amazing and it’s stunning and it’s perfect. Of course they are going to tell you that someone else has been looking at it and that there are very few left in the company and that your fiancé(e) would really love this ring. Fight emotion with emotion. Ask them, “What can YOU do on the price?” Say to them, “If I brought this ring today what would YOU make the price for me?” Point out, “I see YOU have a sale on this month, let’s discuss this ring.” Be bold and blunt, “I want this ring and YOU want to sell it to me, what are deal WE going to make?” Get them involved in this deal: they want your money and you want the ring, at least everyone’s honest about it.
  • Meet me in the middle.: This phrase has seen more business settled than you can possibly imagine, both by me and by my clever customers. For example, one day I was selling a ring that was $3000 at full price. The lady who was interested in it told me she really only wanted to spent $1000, yet she loved that ring. After speaking with my manager, I offered her $2000, and she still insisted that was too much and it wasn’t what she had in mind and we went back and forth until she drew out $1500 in cash and said to me, “How about we meet in the middle?” It’s so simple, and it’s so effective. It’s the best way to try and keep both parties happy. See what discounts they can offer you and try your best to undercut them until they really start to hold up a fight, and then, flash your cash and offer to meet them in the middle.

Parting Advice

My final piece of advice is that ultimately the engagement ring is what you make it. It is your money, but more importantly, it’s you and your partner’s choice in what you want to symbolise your commitment to one another. Do not feel pressured to follow the masses and get a diamond ring, far from it. Diamonds as ‘the engagement’ stone are a modern invention and engagement rings as common practice by the masses (not by the super powerful and wealthy) is a modern marketing phenomenon. I have seen every stone under the sun used an engagement ring, and the people who wear them rock them with complete and utter confidence that is inspiring. I have seen engagement rings made out of sterling silver crafted in traditional Celtic styles and even gothic skulls and dragons used as an engagement ring. Everyone is different. We all have different budgets, of course, but we all have different tastes and styles too. Do not let the norm inform you what you ‘should’ spend on your partner and what will make them happy.

That’s for you to decide.

RealBride Elizabeth: A Tale of Two Dress Stores

I found my dress! If there is one part of planning a wedding that makes it feel real, I’d say that is up there. I had never even been dress shopping with anyone before (and I’ve been in quite a few weddings), so it was definitely a little overwhelming. Having seen far too many episodes of Say Yes the Dress, I planned my entourage very carefully. My mom, littlest sister Ali, and my friend and bridesmaid Cassie all accompanied me. I figured I had a more mature perspective, a teenage hipster’s perspective (Ali is 16), and someone who sees me on a day to day basis.

We had appointments at two different shops, a chain store and a small, local boutique. I will admit, I had a lot of preconceived notions about how I thought my experience would go. For the past year I have worked for a small business owner, and have come to appreciate the hard work and detection it takes.  The small shop was also where my other sister got her wedding dress, so I know my mom really wanted me to find something there as well. I had no idea what I was looking for, and was more than willing to put my fate in the consultant’s hands.

Our first appointment was at the bridal chain store. We were the first appointment of the day, and my consultant, Heidi, was friendly and knowledgeable. She asked me a lot of questions about my fiancee, my venue, and what kind of look I was going for. I told her that I was getting married in a 1920′s theatre, so I was going for a vintage-y, Gatsby-esque look. She pulled three dresses to start, and from there was able to pull more styles that I liked. I tried short dresses, long dresses, sleeveless dresses, and dresses with sleeves. She showed me dresses that I would have never thought to try, and even though she was working another appointment at the same time, I would have never known it with how attentive she was. All the dresses she had me try were all under my $850 dress budget. At the end of the appointment, there was one dress that I was in love with. It was comfortable, beautiful, and very much “me”. It was also on sale for $399. Not wanting to make any spur of the moment decisions, we told the shop that we would be back after lunch.

We headed to the small boutique, very optimistic about what we would find. I don’t remember my consultant’s name (Megan? Molly?), but she was very friendly and made me feel comfortable right away. However, she was not very proactive in what she showed me. She basically walked me around the shop and showed me where the low price, mid-range, and high-price dresses and told me to pull what I wanted. To my dismay, none of the dresses I liked were under my budget, and they were all very similar looking. I only tried on four dresses, and narrowed it down pretty quickly to one that I could see myself in. It was beautiful, but out of my price range and a little poofier than I would have liked (as my mom said, I am not her “poofy” daughter). The consultant did her best to work with my budget, but even with a few discounts, the dress alone would be close to $1,000. Yikes.

We decided to hash it out over lunch, and after sending pictures to my fiancee’s family and my sister in Chicago, I made the executive decision to go with the dress from the chain store. When all was said and done, I ordered the dress, undergarments, veil, and headpiece-all for $750! My sister’s mother-in-law is a seamstress, so I’ll be able to get my alterations done for a reasonable price as well. I felt really good leaving with a dress I loved that fit well with my venue, I knew I would be comfortable wearing, and was under my budget. Such a good feeling!

If I could leave you with any advice, it would be to go with your gut and do what feels right to you, your personal style, and your budget. While I liked the dress from the boutique, I knew there were other parts of my wedding that I would rather spend my money on. Happy shopping!