Posts in the 'cheap wedding' Category

Real Wedding: Jessica and Andrew’s Most Unique, Eclectic and Fun Arkansas Wedding

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I was over the moon when Jessica emailed me to say that she’d won free wedding photography from Beyond the Ordinary Photography’s contest because she’d read about it in our newsletter, because it’s always exciting when the work I’ve done has helped to make a real difference in someone’s life. If you’re already subscribed to our newsletter, you know that Beyond the Ordinary Photography is running another contest this year, and if you aren’t subscribed, you can change that now! Congratulations, Jessica and Andrew, your wedding was amazing and it was an honor to have played a tiny role in it.

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Names: Jessica Keahey and Andrew Beekman

Occupations: Civil Engineers

Wedding location: Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Wedding date: 10/20/12

Approximate guest count: 210

How would you describe your wedding? Eclectic and fun. We didn’t have a theme; we just made individual decisions on what made us happy or what we found to be really enjoyable or interesting. We decided that we wanted our wedding reception to be a very fun party that everyone attending would enjoy. Up to a year later, we have had people tell us that ours was the best wedding that they have ever attended and how much fun it was.

What was your favorite part of your wedding? Andrew and I both agree – our favorite moment was dancing with our very best friends and the catering staff from Geraldi’s, (best lasagna in Northwest Arkansas), at the tail end of the night. I’m sure this will seem very strange to your readers, but it was an incredibly happy and carefree moment in time that stands out so clearly to us both. With the night winding down, I walked into the kitchen at the back of the reception location to find the caterers all lined up in a row like well-dressed soldiers awaiting orders to do food battle. Juxtaposed against the revelry on the other side of the kitchen door, it seemed pretty surreal to me – so I invited them to come drink and dance. The young staff literally cheered when their boss relented, and we had a total blast boogie-ing and tapping the kegs with them.

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What did you splurge on? The food, the booze and the reception venue. Andrew and I believe there are 3 things that are vital elements to a great wedding reception: good food, good booze, and good music. I’m a vegetarian while Andrew is a carnivore, so we wound up picking each of our favorite local restaurants to cater a buffet-style dinner. We also had a candy bar, popcorn machine, and a huge tower of cheese in addition to a mouth-watering cake. Feeding and providing an open bar to over 200 people was our biggest expense, but it was really important to us. Early in the planning process, we struggled with finding a local venue that was 1) large enough (and had enough room for dancing), 2) open late enough, 3) allowed alcohol or otherwise had booze available, 4) permitted outside food to be catered in, and 5) was within our price range. The UARK Bowl, Fayetteville’s first bowling alley and iconic local landmark, fit the bill and was within walking distance of the ceremony. The venue rental also included tables, chairs, linens, place settings, use of their kitchen, our name in lights on their outdoor marquee, a stage and sound system, bar and 2 bartenders for the evening, clean-up, and the help of an event coordinator during the day-of the wedding — which kept us from having to coordinate with a bunch of other vendors and rental agencies.

What did you save on? The decorations – We made almost all of the decorations and favors. All the DIY projects were incredibly time consuming but very rewarding, and our amazing friends really pulled together during the day-of to help us get it all put in place. (See below for more details on our DIY projects.) Our rings – We both decided that we wanted something unique and didn’t want to support the diamond industry, so we each picked a handmade ring from artists on Etsy. Our attire – My dress was simple and really incredibly affordable. Andrew got his suit on Black Friday when we were visiting a friend in New York. And while $850 may seem like a lot for our duds and accessories, Andrew got a really nice suit out of the deal that he still wears (along with a badass tie, pocketwatch, and cufflinks), and I got some fantastic shoes to add to my closet. We really tried to think about long-term use rather than spending a chunk on something that would get worn once. The photographers – Beyond the Ordinary photographers Charity and Nicole honored us by choosing our wedding as “the most unique” entry in their 2012-2013 contest for free photography. I had enough airline miles and hotel points to fly them to Fayetteville from Chicago and put them up for free. The ceremony venue – We had our ceremony at the Greek Theater on the University of Arkansas campus (where we met). It was free! Bonus: it’s an amphitheater, so no expensive chair rentals required! The honeymoon – Andrew had accrued enough airline miles to snag free tickets to Japan for our honeymoon. While there, we used airbnb to save a ton on lodging by staying with locals and, in the process, got to meet some really incredible families during our stay.

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Andrew and Jessica

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Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? I would forego buying disposable cameras. We really thought they would capture some great candid shots, but they were relatively expensive to develop, the picture quality was quite grainy, and the shots were overall pretty underwhelming.

What was your biggest challenge in planning? I’m really not very good at delegating and didn’t have to, as we forewent a traditional wedding party. Our close friends joked that we had built up a lot of wedding karma by helping them at their events over the years because we were able to call in a lot of favors from these very talented and generous people who helped us out of love.

What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? Everyone has their own opinion about what the perfect wedding should look like and consist of (some of whom may be quite vocal with these opinions), so it’s definitely tricky navigating through it all – especially for a non-traditional, secular wedding. We had a fairly long engagement period, so that helped give us the time we needed to consider all the options available and make our own decisions.

What were your top five favorite things about your wedding? 1) Having so many of our loved ones attend and celebrate our love. A good friend serving in the Peace Corps in Yerevan, Armenia, at the time even flew back to officiate. We had such support for our friends and family and so much help through it all.

2) Our vows – It was important to us that the ceremony truly focused on us as individuals and our love, so we wrote our own vows. I’m a former slam poet, and Andrew writes the sweetest love letters/poems on the planet. Let’s just say there was a lot of laughing and crying. A friend was actually so inspired that she wrote a song based on a line from Andrew’s vows which has been put to song by a local artist.

3) Our unity cocktail – A few months before our wedding, Andrew and I made nocino, an Italian walnut liquor, from green walnuts on a tree behind our house. Another friend made an accompanying liquor that he presented and which our parents assisted in blending together into a quaff during the ceremony. It was a distinctly unique and meaningful moment for us.

4) The reception as a whole and all the revelry – The reception was really unique in that we showcased the talents of our fantastic friends, from singing and instrument playing to juggling and dancing with giant silk fans. And there was so much dancing – A rock-n-roll professor of ours agreed to get his band together to play a set. They unexpectedly jammed out the whole night and got everybody on their feet dancing. Afterwards, Andrew’s band played a set before we put on our digital playlist of hand-picked dance jams for the late-night crowd.

5) The before and after events – Prior to the wedding, I convinced the lady who did henna at a kiosk in our mall to come to my house for a mehndi party with my best girlfriends. It was tremendous fun, and I got to have beautiful wedding henna. Then the day after the wedding, some very dear friends threw us a brunch. The day of the wedding itself was so hectic that it was nice to get to spend more quality time with friends and family after the big day.

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invites and crafts

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Top five least favorite?  1) The expense – We saved quite a bit of money on some elements so that we could splurge on the food and drinks. But overall, weddings with a large number of attendees just cost a goodly amount of money.

2) The sheer amount of time and energy spent – It took a long time and a lot of planning and energy to pull it all off. I definitely had “wedding brain” for a while and then a bit of wedding PTSD afterwards.

3) A no-show vendor – We booked a caricature artist who didn’t show up. It was a bit of an annoyance, but at least we didn’t lose any money on a deposit.

4) The hotel that night – A total disaster. It was really a sour ending to a beautiful day. But now we can kind of laugh at how terrible the experience was.

5) A missed toast – I found out later that my dad had written a toast that he didn’t give. I really wish that we could go back in time and hear it.

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? That we “had” to do any one thing in a specific way because of tradition or expectations. It’s one of the biggest and most memorable days in a person’s life, so we decided we would make it exactly what we wanted it to be. We rejected a lot of “traditions” like the garter and bouquet tosses or standard wedding registries because they just didn’t have any significance or meaning to us.

The best? Looking back at the outpouring of love and written/spoken words of advice, it’s really hard to pinpoint one voice above all others. We received much advice on the theme of how to maintain love and respect for a lifelong marriage. I think there’s probably no one single piece of advice that’s the magical key to a happy union.

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Any other bits of wisdom? My childhood BFF was driving me to the venue, stopped the car and very seriously looked at me and said, “Ok, this is it. Are you ready to do this? Or do you want to drive to Mexico?” I about died from laughter, but with all the craziness of the day it was a snap back to the true core of what the day was all about – being ready for a lifetime of commitment with someone. The meaning of it all can easily get lost in the planning and hubbub, so my last bit of wisdom is to keep the reason for your union in sight at all times. And make sure you have a really, really good friend willing to drive you to Mexico, if need be.

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Vendors

Jessica’s ring: Adzias
Andrew’s ring: Jewelry by Johan
Wedding reception: UARK Bowl
Ceremony location: Chi Epsilon Greek Theater
Dress: Unique Vintage
Photographers: Beyond the Ordinary
Caterers: Geraldi’s and Lucky Luke’s BBQ
Cake: Meridienne (very sadly now closed, I believe)
Ring Dish: Crystal Peace Studio
DIY projects: I learned how to make paper roses from blog tutorials and made my own “flower” bouquet and boutonnieres for our friends and family out of old sheet music. Similarly, I learned how to make dahlias out of felt for corsages for the moms. I also made my own hair fascinator from scraps of my altered dress and butterflies from the craft-store. In lieu of a traditional guestbook, we went with a thumbprint canvas. A friend painted a whimsical leafless tree and our guests filled in the “leaves” with their inked thumbprints and names. Now we have a nice piece of art (rather than a book that gets hidden away) that reminds us of our special day and our friends/family. We also designed and printed our own invitations with the help of (again) some amazingly talented friends. It was also worth every penny of the $20 we spent at Office Depot for them to do the folding!!! Other DIY projects included hand sewn felt heart pins for all our guests, whimsical military medals for the dads and gents, huge bunches of balloons, colorful banners of flag pennants, handmade signs aplenty, cootie catchers, large table mats of sheet music, pinwheels, and more. We set up all the decorations, including long bolts of colorful fabric and an arch (we owned and refurbished) at the Greek Theater, with the help of friends and family. We also borrowed and set up PA equipment for the ceremony to save some money.

Budget breakdown

Photographers: $0
Rings: $1,000
Ceremony Venue: $0
Reception Venue (and parking): $3,000
Food and booze: $4,500
Attire: $850
DIY Projects: $125
Other Decorations and Disposable Cameras: $150
Flowers: $0
Band: $500
Cake: $650
Invitations (including postage): $250
Hair, Makeup, and Henna: $200
Dance Lessons: $300

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Real Wedding: Lanny & Destry’s Super Intimate Rustic Vintage Soiree Under 5k

 

Your “I dos” are a moment of gravitas, a quiet but weighty culmination of your decision to spend your lives together. In honor of their serious decision to make this commitment, Destry and Lanny decided on a similarly intimate wedding ceremony and reception: 40 invited guests, immediate family and the closest of friends. By this decision, they were able to spend more time with the community that has watched them sow the seeds of their relationship, helped them nurture it, and witnessed it flourish.

Names: Destry & Lanny

Occupations: Destry is a design drafter,  Lanny was an administrator for a private travel company but currently attends business school full-time

Wedding location: Kingston, Idaho

Wedding date: July 27, 2013

Wedding budget: My crazyperson spreadsheet tells me our final total was $4,300-ish.  We didn’t give ourselves a hard maximum.  Instead, we decided to spend by priority.  Neither of us gave two hoots about centerpieces or expensive favors; instead we cared about food and photos and got INCREDIBLY lucky on both counts.  While we spent a lot less than the national average, we still feel like we spent an enormous amount of money for one day.

Approximate guest count: We limited our invited guests to 40, but counted on 35 attending for sure. We only invited our immediate family members and very close friends.  Destry is the oldest of five, so you can imagine that it adds up quickly.

How would you describe your wedding? At the risk of sounding cliché and ridiculous, I’d describe it as a balance of country, rustic and vintage.  We kept it subtle though. We didn’t want guests to feel like we were beating them over the head with kitschy crap.  We didn’t have time or energy to invest in kitschy crap either.

What was your favorite part of your wedding? It’s a cliché, but it’s so true: It’s really hard to choose one favorite.  I would say that driving from our hotel to the venue together was so special and important to me.  We both had a chance to be alone together, in our own car, just being together, quietly.  Because we knew it was going to be such an emotional day, that short drive was so important to both of us.

We were lucky to have an equally-meaningful moment alone at the end of the night after everyone had left.  The sky was inky black with bright stars and the barn was lit up with twinkling lights woven throughout the Virginia creeper that covered its entire frame; we stood silently at the top of the hill wrapped in a blanket, looking down upon the scenery and reflected on the deluge of pure love we’d experienced that day.

What did you splurge on? Without a doubt, the food and furniture were our most costly expenses.  Our wedding was held over 60 miles from our home in Spokane.  So, we felt it was important that we provide a really solid meal to our nearest and dearest if we were going to drag them to a mountain farm in the middle of the woods.  Have you ever been to a wedding on a Saturday at 6:30 pm, only to find that it’s a cake and punch reception in the church gym/basement/lobby?  Those are basically the worst (in my opinion) and we were against that at all costs.

Additionally, we really scored with a venue that embodied everything we hoped for and wanted to provide some aesthetic continuity by using furniture that didn’t clash.  We found an up-and-coming furniture rental company out of North Idaho who provided some stunning pieces for us.

Also, I know it’s silly, but I totally went all out with my hair as well. I was pretty close with my hairdresser at that time, but after her two previous attempts at formal styles left me crying in the car we decided to go another direction.  My hair is fairly long, but I wanted it longer for the wedding, so she offered to pick me up some extensions with her discount and color them to match my hair.  After several unanswered texts and voicemails left me feeling like a jealous ex-girlfriend, I bought the hair myself and scheduled an appointment with someone else.  I ended up spending a small fortune on the whole ordeal, but it felt worth it:  $200 for the hair, $70 to color it, $50 for the trial and $100 for the wedding day style.  (I feel compelled to note that I’m still pissed that I spent as much as I did on the day of the wedding because the salon’s active price list shows the trial hair as included in the total price.)

So, what became of my former stylist?  Well, I finally heard from her three days before the wedding letting me know that she had blocked out the entire day and we could go get hair, color and style it starting at 9 AM.  A note about that – the wedding took place on a Saturday, and the hair extension shop isn’t open on weekends, so despite the sketchy billing practices, I am glad I opted out.

 

What did you save on? Ev-er-y thing.  We saved by doing our own flower arrangements – actually, we didn’t use flowers at all. We bought raw cotton online and put everything together. The allergic reaction was totally worth it.  Picture, if you will, my then-fiancé and I in our non-air-conditioned kitchen, trimming and cleaning raw cotton bolls.  We spent countless hours picking dried leaves out of the cotton so we could spend ADDITIONAL countless hours stringing each one just-so on jute twine and arranging them into our respective bouquet and boutonniere.

I had intended to splurge a little and treat myself to a morning of girly pampering, however that never materialized.  I scheduled a makeup trial a few weeks prior to the wedding, but I didn’t feel that this woman was listening to me.  I’m 30, and I don’t think it’s in my best interest to try out a new personal style on my wedding day.  I’m old enough to understand what looks good and what works for me.  Since I’m a jeans and hoodie kind of girl, you can imagine how hard it was to mask my disappointment when she revealed my potential makeup.  Winged eyeliner and I are never going to be best friends, nor do I have aspirations of acquainting myself with berry lip-stain.  Adding insult to injury, I paid $75 (after tipping, because I’m a doormat) for a look I couldn’t wait to wash off my face.

Ultimately, I didn’t feel that she was especially honest or talented so I lied and canceled my appointment about a week before the wedding, citing something about the cost being budget-prohibitive.  The (supposedly) agreed-upon rate was $100 for both sessions, but I had already effectively paid the bulk of it after listening to her talk shit about everyone else in town while she applied makeup that didn’t match me or my coloring.  After the rage-tears subsided, I went to Nordstrom (alone) and met with the only kind of makeup artist I can trust with utmost confidence – a gay man.  I showed him a photo and he whipped my look into shape, directing me to all the right products and showed me how to recreate his work at home.  I hugged him, and practiced nearly a dozen times before the wedding and I’m thrilled with my choice to do my own.

The piece-de-resistance, though, were our photographers.  We happened to have two very close friends who are, not only incredibly talented, but provided their services for free.  Without their generosity, as every bride knows, we would have EASILY doubled our expenses.

Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? Looking back, I would have asked more people to help.  We would have had a little more fun during the planning stages if we’d allowed more folks help us out from the beginning.  Instead, we stubbornly refused offers for help until much closer to the wedding date.  That cotton-stringing party I mentioned above?  Ultimately, my in-laws came to the rescue with four additional hands for stringing.

I can’t quite remember why we were so secretive about planning, but I suspect part of it had to do with a bizarre idea that someone might steal our ideas? Weddings make people crazy.  Like, crazy-crazy.

What was your biggest challenge in planning? 1.) Hurt feelings. If I had known beforehand, how personally other people would take our wedding choices, we might have eloped.  We received unsolicited suggestions, advice, and requests for invitations for people we’d never conceive of including in our celebration.  It was an ongoing challenge of (and testament to) our patience, kindness, and ability to tolerate other people.

2.) Money.  It would be so much easier to throw everything on a credit card, but that’s not our style for anything we do in life.  We felt incredibly fortunate to have been in such a position that allowed us to do everything we needed and wanted to do on our own terms.  Still, having more money might have abbreviated our timeline considerably but we don’t regret any of it.

What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? ALWAYS (and I mean ALWAYS) have a contingency plan.  ALWAYS.  For good measure, have three or four backups.  We picked out a favorite restaurant to host our rehearsal dinner and made reservations to hold the date (I can’t remember if we paid a fee or not).  A month before our wedding, my best friend drove up from Portland, Oregon for a bridal shower hosted by my mother-in-law and I had hoped to take her to dinner there … as we were walking up to the building, it dawned on me that they weren’t just not open, they were closed.  Like, for good.

Obviously, we ate elsewhere, but I was determined to keep from getting ruffled by the situation.  Later in the week, my fiancé and I ate at another restaurant that had recently undergone a major renovation and appeared to be a great place to host our rehearsal – so we booked it on the spot.

By sheer bad luck, we were forced to resume our search on June 17 (about a month before our wedding) because our second choice BURNED DOWN.  I crowdsourced suggestions on Facebook and had friends beg me to stop ruining Spokane with our wedding.  It was about this point that I stopped giving a shit about it but it turned out to be better than I ever could’ve imagined.  A family-owned bar/café where we spend Saturday nights playing trivia stepped up to bat and hit a grand slam (those are the same sport, right?) with how they handled our dinner.  We told them how much we could spend, the headcount, and offered a vague suggestion of the kind of food we liked.  It was such a success that our families are still raving about it to this day.

What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding? It was a day full of love and laughter and ridiculously delicious food.  Because we chose to invite literally nobody outside our immediate families and our closest friends it made the day so ridiculously special, I still struggle to elucidate my feelings.


Top 5 least favorite? We had a lot of people offer to help or provide something (mostly food) and we were far more comfortable hiring people to do that job for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to) sanitation.  Remember, if you will, the comment above where I mention that the venue and our hometown are sixty miles apart – now imagine chicken salad, pasta salad, potato salad, and basically mayonnaise-based anything in someone’s back seat for nigh on two hours.  Sounds like fun, right?  Sorry to let the booster club down, but I’m not trying to battle diarrhea on my wedding night.  For the sake of feelings, let’s just say it’s because I want everyone to have a good time and avoid being unfairly labeled bridezilla, okay?

One of my photographers is married to a former marine and bodyguard.  Why on earth is that even remotely of consequence?  Because my husband’s ex-girlfriend (one he’d broken up with before we even met; IN 2002.) has a super-adorable habit of making her presence known.  Neither of us expected anything especially dramatic, but he studied photos as a precaution and kept her out of sight when she did, in fact, show up.

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? “Just relax! It’ll all come together” – Everyone who ever planned a wedding but experienced a subsequently immediate Telenovela-style bout with amnesia. Nothing ever just “comes together” and anyone who suggests otherwise probably didn’t have a DIY wedding if you know what I mean. Are you fucking kidding me? RELAX?  I am relaxed (sort of), but I am still allowed to give like, ONE shit about how this day goes down.  Will I remember all of it, not likely; but I don’t expect to.

The best? From my older sister, more than ten years ago: “Wedding planning is so stupid. It is literally the DUMBEST thing I’ve ever done.”   Having done it, I can confirm that she’s right. The wedding itself wasn’t stupid, but the kinds of things that consumed my thoughts throughout the planning process were so cosmically insignificant; but they felt so god damned essential in the moment.

Second best was between my husband and me – it became kind of a mantra between the two of us: “This is our party; our wedding is not our marriage.”

Any other bits of wisdom? Just Relaaaaax!  Okay, I’m kidding … kind of.  It’s easy to get upset and overwhelmed when people overstep boundaries, but standing up for yourself is the best thing you can do when you’re planning your wedding.  I desperately wish I had just told a few vendors to piss off directly instead of skirting the issue as if their feelings were supposed to take precedent above mine.  I wish I had been more assertive and direct when people acted in a way that made me feel like they were taking advantage of an emotionally charged event.  But there’s nothing I can do about it now. (Except write some passive-aggressive Yelp! reviews.)

Oh, and don’t you dare listen to anyone who has the nerve to tell you that you must spend more or else your wedding won’t be “everything you ever dreamed of.”  Your wedding will be everything you dreamed of because you’re marrying someone you love.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is presumptuous, snide and condescending.

 

Budget breakdown

 

TOTAL

VENUE

$235.00

FOOD

$1,128.85

FURNITURE

$961.57

OFFICIANT

$200.00

LIQUOR

$200.00

FLOWERS

$250.00

CLOTHES (D)

$300.00

INVITATIONS

$105.00

HAIR

$420.00

CUPCAKES

$135.00

REHEARSAL

$400.00

 

    TOTAL:  $4335.42

Wedding vendors and links:

Venue: French Gulch Farm and Garden, Kingston, ID

Furniture Rental: The Attic, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Catering: Couple of Chefs, Spokane, WA

Attire: Bride – David’s Bridal, Spokane, WA Groom – Duchess Clothier, Portland, OR

Hair: Bride – Douglass McCoy, Spokane, WA Groom – Porter’s Barber Shop, Spokane, WA

Bride’s Makeup: BRIDE!

Flowers, bouquet and decor: Bride and Groom designed all decor using dried wildflowers and cotton purchased online. Tabletop arrangements were styled by Groom’s brother and sister in law. (Bride made bouquet, Groom made his own boutonniere)

Rings: Bride (same ring, except blue) Groom

DJ:
iTunes, operated by Groom’s brother

Invitations:
Designed Online, Printed at Home (We purchased the full suite; including save the dates, thank you cards, and custom map)

Photographers: Andrew Callaci (Portland) and Nicole Varnell (Spokane)

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!

Ask Liz: Your Wedding vs. Your Catering

Got a question for Liz? Go to the contact page and let us know what’s up!

First of all, I want to give a shout out to the all the Newbie Brides and Grooms out there. Welcome to Wedding World. It’s very pretty, you’re going to love it!

Photo by Robin Dini Photo

Dear Liz, 

My partner and I are deciding between having our wedding at an upstate location or in the city (New York). We could do a Central Park wedding at 11am with 100 people, then go to a restaurant and do a lunch/brunch with 40 people? and then meet the rest of the dinner folks at a rented venue with music and passed food. But then I thought what if all 100 people go to brunch/lunch after the ceremony and then we pay for only 40 of those people, and the other 60 pay for themselves. Is that a bad idea?
 
Signed, 
A Forty-Percent Solution
Dear Forty,
Yeah, no, you can’t really do that. First and foremost, you’re going to get some serious etiquette-related blowback on that, and I think you probably know that! For another thing, the logistics of making sure that only certain people are paying for their meal would be insane – just think about it.
I totally get that you want to have all 100 people at your wedding/reception, but you don’t think you can afford to do that. This doesn’t have to be so complicated. Invite 40 to the ceremony, invite all 100 to the appetizer reception that night. Sounds a lot cheaper that way, too.

Dear Liz, 
I’m planning my wedding in Rhode Island, and to save on catering, I’m opting (or trying to opt) for a cocktail reception with lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres instead of a full sit-down meal.  We’re hoping to stock the bar ourselves and hire a bartender, as well.Today I received a catering proposal from a company who wants to charge us $10,000 for a cocktail reception for 100 people.  That’s $100 per person for 4 hours of snacks and drinks! When I told her I was hoping to spend around 1/3 of that, she said “We’re not the caterers for you” and told me to check out a local grocery store. Am I crazy to expect to not spend more than $3,000-3500 for this?
Signed, 
Catering Cash Chaos

Dear Chaos,
No, you’re not crazy, that caterer just can’t work with your budget. That’s all. Keep looking, but next time, tell them what your budget is before you ask for a proposal. A little perspective: $100 per person for 100 people over  4 hours, breaks down to $25 per person, per hour –  2-3 pieces and a drink (or two)? That’s maybe a couple of bucks more than you would pay non-happy hour at a restaurant, if you think about it. Plus, and I haven’t seen the proposal, obviously, but it sounds like they’re not only charging for the food and drinks, you’re also paying for staff and labor,  people to make it, maintain it, serve it, and then also clean up after it. So, they’re including that in your $25 per hour price, too?

“Go to a grocery store,” is kind of (!) a snotty response, but seriously, if you want to cap it at $3500, you’re going to have to think small and simple, because that’s only $35 per person. Definitely supply your own alcohol and limit the bar menu. Think less types of appetizers, or more appetizer stations, or less passed appetizers. Consider having the food dropped off and set up,with a couple of staff to monitor it and clean up.  Before you despair, I’ve found restaurants and caterers here in L.A. who can swing that, so Google “(Your city) catering drop off menu,” and go from there.

And, FYI, this is why the answer to the question, “Is a cocktail reception cheaper than a sit-down or buffet dinner?” is, “Not necessarily.” Sorry about that.

How are you managing catering for your wedding? Or do you have questions about catering your wedding? Let me know in the comments below! And, if you want to learn a little more about me and my part of Wedding World, go to www.silvercharmevents.com.
See you at the end of the aisle,
Liz

Can’t Afford It/Get Over It: Claire Pettibone Midnight

Theresa wrote me recently, asking for some help getting over the Claire Pettibone Midnight and its stunning perfection for their upcoming wedding under the UW’s blooming cherry trees. Her dress budget runs $500-$1000 but would prefer to keep things on the lower end if possible. She added, “I am nicknamed Tinkerbell, I am spunky, fun, colorful, and I’ve been told that I “sparkle”. That’s why I think midnight fits…I’m just worried about it on my figure. I love the lace, the purple on it, all of the detail and embellishments. I’m never plain or muted.”

Theresa, let’s make this happen for you! Given your concerns about flattering your figure, I’m including a wider variety of options while keeping your original vision of a sparkling wedding under the cherry blossoms in mind. The Pettibone, with its pops of color, is going to be tough if not impossible to dupe via dress alone, so stick with me and I’ll have some tips at the end for further embellishment.

CAN’T AFFORD IT:

Claire Pettibone “Midnight”, $$$$

GET OVER IT:

Allover Beaded Lace with Illusion Halter Neckline (David’s Bridal, $399)

Cap Sleeve Slim Gown with Keyhole Back and Heavily Beaded Sash (David’s Bridal, $549)

Blossom Print Satin Ballgown (David’s Bridal, $299)

Sheath/Column Sweetheart Court Train Chiffon and Satin, (Lightinthebox, $349)

Sheath/Column V-neck Floor-length Tulle And Lace And Chiffon Wedding Dress ( Lightinthebox, $249)

Textured Tulle Dress With Vine & Floral Applique (Lightinthebox, $199)

Sheath/Column Halter Court Train Lace & Stretch Satin Dress (Lightinthebox, $249)

Theresa, girl, I know none of these dresses are dead-on dupes. Don’t be disappointed! With a dress as unique as the Pettibone Midnight, the object here is to find a dress base you can love at a price you can afford–because then you have the budget left over to embellish the hell out of it. You can always take a dress you love that doesn’t have enough sparkle and add appliques. Appliques are available in a huge variety of colors and styles on etsy and elsewhere–you can even have them custom made!  Next, for that lovely flower on the back of the Midnight dress, you can order a flower like this one, or this one and put it on the dress of your choice! Last but certainly not least, you can always consider expanding your dress search to include prom and pageant dresses–you’ll find they’re more willing to use color than more traditional wedding retailers, so you may feel more Tinkerbell-eqsue in a dress like this! I hope I helped put you on the path to finding the dress of your dreams!

Is there a part of your wedding world that you’re dying to have but can’t afford? Hit me up at mellzah@brokeassbride.com!

Get Lean In 2014 With Me!

You guys, I gained like a lot of weight over the holidays. I wasn’t able to work out for about a month, and let my hormones take over my hunger, and the holidays hit, and my parents were here for two weeks, which consisted of taking them to all our favorite restaurants and always ordering dessert… and, well… you can imagine the implications. The puffy, flabby, droopy implications. The lethargic, lazy, sloppy fallout. It ain’t pretty. And it don’t feel good.

Honestly, I feel like poop. I had been doing so well earlier this year – working out regularly, eating well… and it was paying off! I felt slimmer, straighter, and stronger than ever. It was great. But now it feels like I’m back to square one, and I hate it. ESPECIALLY with my wedding coming up! So I’m taking back the reigns with a vengeance, and I’d love for you to join me!

Remember last fall when we ran our first DietBet? It was a huge success! Over 4 weeks, our team of 512 players lost a total of 3,000lbs! THREE THOUSAND! That’s like, a whole elephant, you guys. And it was incredibly fun! We had an awesome community vibe of encouragement and accountability. And I gave away awesome prizes. AND I’M GIVING AWAY EVEN MORE AWESOME PRIZES THIS TIME!

If you’re not familiar with the concept: It’s the hip new online social dieting game that has far more exciting stakes than just losing weight, or being healthier… if you reach your (very sensible, healthy) goal, you win money! And seriously, what’s better incentive than a healthier you AND free money? I sure do love me some free moneys…

Both times I’ve done a Dietbet, I’m just blown away by what a fantastic system it is. It seems like such a no-brainer for brides and grooms-to-be, because while I’m sure you’re beautiful just the way you are, what better prep for your wedding day than the glow that only a regular exercise regime and healthy diet can impart? I mean, I’m going for the glow, fo sho!

My next DietBet game for anyone who wants to join, starts Monday, January 6th.

Join The Broke-Ass Bride's DietBet: lose weight, and make money!

I love that they set a goal of 4% weight loss. It’s such a healthy, achievable goal. No more than 2lbs per week for most people, it’s definitely attainable. In my last bet, I had to lose 7lbs over the course of the 28 days. It wasn’t too intimidating, and that gave me confidence going in. The buy-in was $25, and we had a lot of successful participants in that bet, so everyone won $40 at the end – making a $15 profit! But I have friends who’ve done Bets where they won over $100 each. It all depends on how many people achieve their goal. But the best part is, as long as you meet your goal, you get at minimum, your initial bet back. So, it’s more like a deposit toward your health, rather than an expense.

Join the Broke-Ass Bride's DietBet!

I also love the community aspect. There’s a cheerboard, where we can log workouts, food choice successes and slip-ups, and cheer each other on. It has such a positive, supportive vibe around it, and it kept me engaged – checking in frequently – which kept me on task with my progress and consistently motivated toward my goal. There is no set diet or exercise plan. How you do it is up to you!

Want more information on how it works? Check out this cute video explaining the system:

To sweeten the deal, I’m giving away one fun, health-or-fitness related prize per week to random participants, as added motivation to keep powering through to the finish line. And at the end of the bet, I’ll be giving $100 gift card from Amazon to one of the “winners” who successfully lost 4% of their weight! During the last Bet, some of our prizes included a FitBit One, the Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred DVD, or an OXO good grips food scale, for example.

Speaking of Fitbit, if any of you use one to track your activity, please add me so we can be FitBit friends and encourage eachother there as well! Paul and I are always competing for steps and achievements. It’s so easy, we just clip them on in the morning, and go about our day!

I’ll also be sharing daily health, diet, and fitness tips on the DietBet cheerboard, and will do a weekly round-up post here celebrating our achievements. I hope to make it as informative and educational as well as inspirational and fun!

Remember the DietBet starts a week from today – on Monday January 6th. The buy-in is $25, and remember, if you lose a mere 4% of your weight, you’ll win it back and probably more! The more who play, the bigger the pot, so come play and invest in your health before holiday season hits! Click here to join in the fun, and spread the word to all your friends!

Dana

Ask Liz: In The Beginning, There Was The Wedding Budget…

Got a question for Liz? Go to the Contact page and let us know what’s up!

Dear Liz,

How do I put on a wedding with only $6,000 to spend?

Signed, 

6k or Bust

Dear Bust,

How? Carefully. Think, small, pretty and on sale. The important thing is to stick to a budget. My rule is that 50% – $3,000 in your case – should be reserved for your ceremony and reception site fee, AND your catering. Don’t let it go over that amount. The best way to stay under a low budget is to keep our guest list short, or in Wedding World parlance, “intimate.” Each guest is a meal, a favor, and a piece of cake. 10 guests is a table that needs a centerpiece.  Venues – Google state parks and city-owned venues and historic sites and museums in your area. Bonus points if they have chairs and tables you can use. Restaurants with large private dining rooms. Restaurants are also a great source if you have to/want to bring in your own catering – start with your favorite ones. And, if you’re bringing in your own catering, bring in your own alcohol and limit the choices.

The other 50%. Flowers – small, elegant, and seasonal. Photographer – again, the “rule” is 5 -10% of your budget so that’s $600, at the highest. I’m in L.A, and that’s umm, tough out here, and it sounds like it would be really, really, really tight elsewhere, too. Google, it in your area, though – Never scoff at Google, there’s no point.  Try not to settle on quality, pics are one of the few things you’re walking away with. But, don’t expect an album, don’t expect unlimited shooting hours, think 4-6 hours, max. Work with them, so they can work with you. Cake – coordinated roughly 100 weddings, cake always gets left behind. I’m serious. Go small, cut the cake into even smaller pieces. Attire! Wedding dresses are always, always, always on sale, everywhere. Right now is a good time to shop, because they are clearing out 2013 styles to make way for 2014. 2013 was very pretty, so no pouting. You can not afford Vera Wang. You may not be able to afford pre-owned Vera Wang. You will be able to find something that looks fantastic on you.

I know I left some points out, but feel free to ask questions in the comments. I also have a Budget Wedding Tips Pinterest board  if you want to take a look.  All I can add is if you start to freak out (as one inevitably does) that you’re not finding stuff you can afford, take a deep breath and repeat after me: “Keep looking. I have time.”

 

Dear Liz, 

When I should I send out wedding invitations?

Signed, 

ASAP on the RSVP

Dear ASAP,

It depends on how many guests are coming from out of town. Three months if that’s less than 25%, four months if it’s more than 25%. Plane travel isn’t getting any cheaper! Save the Dates are great, but people generally wait until they get the invitation to book their flight and hotel.  Set your RSVP date for at least three weeks before you have to give your final count to your venue/caterer, because you will have to track down AWOLS, people who have “forgotten” to get back to you. That’s “will have to,” not “might have to.” That being said, make sure your guest list spreadsheet includes email addresses and phone numbers.

So, how are you swinging your wedding for $6k or less? Worried about your wedding guests from out of town? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you would like to find out more about me and my part of Wedding World, go to www.silvercharmevents.com.

See you at the end of the aisle,

 

Liz

Score Awesome Invitations + A Killer Deal With MagnetStreet

BABs, let’s talk paper. There’s a lot of paper involved in weddings, from checklists, to contracts to the copious amount of dollar bills you shell out, to your invitation suite: the pièce de résistance of wedding paper. And man, they can be expensive, with add-ons like RSVP cards, self-addressed envelopes and rehersal dinner invites, adding hundreds to your final tally.

But Broke-Ass partner MagnetStreet takes the pain out of paper products and helps you keep some of your hard-earned cash in your wallet. With a plethora of free samples (paper samples, color swatches, custom artwork downloads, photo booth props … just to name a few), and a ridiculous amount of customization options and customer service options that will put your mind at ease, MagnetStreet is a no-brainer for wedding stationery shopping.

Add in some rockin’ tools, like being able to save your color palette and shop accordingly, as well as budget guides and checklists, MagnetStreet has got your back for a multitude of wedding planning conundrums.

ALSO: They’re having a killer salethat lets you choose how much you save. Right now on MagnetStreet, you can take advantage of one of these  awesome options:

  • Spend $100, get $15 off
  • Spend $200, get $40 off
  • Spend $300, get $75 off
  • Spend $500, get $150 off

So head on over and start your planning the wedding invitation suite o’ your dreams.