Broke-Ass Tag: Real Bride stories


After spending six years in the military, I’m known to apply my military training in daily life, even after getting out. For wedding planning, I liberally applied the strategic planning cycle theory. Mostly unintentionally, but once I realized what was happening, I went with it.


The down side is that I begin to use military terminology around people that have no idea what I’m talking about. I considered the beginning of the wedding planning process like research and development (R&D). In the military it means that you should brainstorm all the best ideas! But just go ahead and be aware that we won’t select any of those. We’ll select the cheapest option, probably.

R&D is the best and worst part of any project for me, for multiple reasons:

– Ideas are endless. (But, I need somewhere to start. Someone please point me in the right direction, otherwise, I’m going to drown in all these ideas.)
– I could do all these things!  (But all of these things have to be within my budget.)

See how bittersweet R&D is?

Wedding R&D was simultaneously overwhelming and exciting. After getting a date range from our potential German guests, I got the ball rolling. At any given point in time, my computer had no less than 10 tabs open at once, with a majority of those tabs being potential wedding vendors. At first it was way more than that, but eventually, I started narrowing down realistic options.

Timo told me that he wanted to be involved in the process which was great for me. It meant that he vetted all decisions or helped me choose between several options before I sent out notification to the vendors we had selected. What this really meant for him was that for one week, we had appointments every day after work. We met with a photographer, a coordinator and scoped out two different venues. We rarely plan things on “school nights” because we’re actually old people that live inside 30-something bodies and we thrive on routine and consistency. It was truly an exhausting week, but well worth the exhaustion.

While Timo went to those appointments with me, there was a constant stream of activity that he wasn’t seeing. Activity that was leading to frustration and heartache and disappointment.

I’m a nerd at heart and I often struggle with the belief that my way is the right way and if you’d have done it my way the first time, we wouldn’t be here rehashing the thing. This wouldn’t have mattered except that I was using the Internet as my primary resource of all things Wedding R&D. The problem I was running into was crappy websites. Another struggle I have is my high expectations. I feel that businesses have expectations to meet with their website. If people go to a website, they are often looking for specific information.

In the case of wedding vendors, people who visit the website are often looking for availability, prices and how to contact said business. So many websites I was looking at were missing pertinent information. Other websites were disappointing in other ways. They may have had all their pricing info, but to find the contact info was a hurdle. They may have had a contact page, but the page would be practically illegible because of contrast/font issues. Even worse were the vendors that didn’t actually have a website, only a Facebook page.

As I mentioned, I may have some high expectations. But as a bride-to-be and someone that is about to drop some cash into the wedding industry, I feel like my expectations were mostly reasonable. You should have an actual website (a Facebook page does not count in my book). I should be able to read your website. I should not have to contact you to find out pertinent information about your services. While I understand that initiating contact means that I’m possibly more likely to use your services, I’m just as likely to waste our time when I find out your services are way over my budget.

I spent a week and a half in R&D before moving on to the decision-making part of the cycle when I started presenting Timo with options.

Our budget is $10,000.
The initial breakdown looked like this:
Music: $500
Food/Cake: $1500
Alcohol: $500
Venue: $1200
Photography: $4000
Dress, etc.: $1000
Suit, etc: $300
Rings: $1000
Paper: $300
Wedding Planner/DOC: $1000
Tips/Paperwork: $500
Decorations: $500
Total: $12,500 (oops).

Already something had to give and I knew, much to my dismay, where it had to come from: photography.
I am well aware that a good budget that is flexible, so I was prepared to sacrifice.

With options in mind and numbers to beat, we started making decisions.

Did you have to make sacrifices in your budget?  Where did you cut from?  What did you add money towards?  Did you over or under estimate?  Did you include your honeymoon in your wedding budget?

  • 2/20

    Affiliate Disclaimer NewEtsy Cayteelynn You're Invited TinyTalk Pillow

    TinyTalk Invitation Pillow available from Etsy seller cayteelynn

    Ah, invitations. So simple in theory, so complex in reality. They look like innocent paper beacons of joy, but they come with a lot of, well, baggage. This is my how the invitation process of my wedding has gone down so far:

    The Save-the-Dates (aka. The pre-invitation): I get this. The vast majority of our family and friends are coming from out of town and will need to book vacation time off very far in advance. Our wedding is being held on a long weekend, so advance purchase of flights and hotel rooms will save them a lot of cash. Our venue was booked over a year in advance, so once we knew the general gist of when and where, why not let everyone know with as much notice as possible?

    The one issue I noticed is that by the time the STD was sent, pretty much everyone already knew. Why? Because we were excited, so we told them! It seemed a little redundant. However, still a nice gesture in theory. Keeping that in mind, however, I got the impression that for a simple “heads up” about something most people knew about, I wasn’t about to spend a lot of money or kill a lot of trees, so we elected to send them electronically. We made a personalized e-card on Paperless Post, and it cost approximately $30 total. As a bonus, the card also prompted people for their mailing addresses, which made my life a lot easier with not having to email everyone and ask for their address. 10/10, would do again.

    Invitations: As for the invitations, we’re about halfway through the process. We’ve explored a lot of different options. We decided to design ours online and have them printed and mailed to us. I pinned all the pretty invites I liked on Wedding Paper Divas and Minted. Then, I asked my partner to pick his favorites. Then, I had samples mailed to us (which cost about $1 each) for IRL inspection. As a bonus, the sample package came with a coupon, in the event we did order from the company. Score!

    The choices were lovely, and we’ve also narrowed it down. But man, oh man, did they come with a lot of other stuff to think about: Matching reply cards. Matching postage-paid reply envelopes. An enclosed photo print of the couple. A second page with detailed information about how to get there. Envelope liners. Customized postage stamps, addressing, return addressing. Ribbons. Confetti. Glitter. I was a little disappointed, however, that they stopped short of selecting a flock of live birds to deliver each envelope directly into each guest, then serenading softly as the guest muses over menu choices.

    We’re minimalists, mind you, and very untraditional, so we don’t need most of that stuff. For one, I’ve heard using paper reply cards can be a bit of a nightmare — they get lost, people don’t write their names on them so the couple doesn’t realize who the RSVP is for, people try to RSVP for people who aren’t actually invited, having to keep track of all of them, etc. etc. Thankfully, the wonders of technology offer the lovely opportunity of the wedding website where people can RSVP digitally and the RSVPs get organized into a simple list for the couple to view. So, I’ve decided that when my invitations finally get sent, this is what they will consist of:

    • An addressed, stamped envelope
    • A customized invitation, with a link at the bottom to a wedding website which will contain all further pertinent information.

    How are you handling the excess of paper invitations? Share in the comments!

  • 2/14

    Real Bride Ciji's Invitation

    Invitations are just one of those things on my list that are not super important. At least they weren't important in the beginning. Of course, slowly but surely as I started to confirm my wedding vision my thoughts started to shift. I naturally began to consider foil cut designs, envelope liners and beautiful calligraphy until I realized that these extras were costly and time was…

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    Greeting lads and ladies, its that time of year again -- Valentine’s Day. As a newly engaged couple, this is probably one of your least stressful romance holidays. You’ve already got the ring, so there is no sitting on the edge of your seat and quietly hoping. One huge hurdle down, but here’s the clincher: you’re planning a wedding and broke as church mice. Wedding…

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    I am totally married and stuff, but I just realized I never filled you guys in on my amazing bachelorette party. For shame! My bestie/bridesmaid Adrienne went above and beyond and made it the perfect day. It's such a fantastic feeling to know your friends just get you and want to celebrate with you. I love sports. Other than the whole marrying Russel thing, my…

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  • 2/7


    Now that we're introduced, let me tell you about some details of our wedding! There were two reasons that I hesitated when it came to starting the wedding planning adventure: 1) When I Googled "how to plan a wedding" (yes, I seriously did that), the one big thing that every site said we "must" do was figure out a budget. Money is gross. Budgeting is…

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    I want to talk about body image. The pressure to look "perfect" in your dress on your big day. Bridal boot camps! Shredding for the wedding! Your 28-day pre-wedding detox diet! Finally drop those last 5/10/20 pounds for your big day! Blah blah blah. I’m going to get real with you for a sec. I have more than my fair share of body image issues.…

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    Real Bride Ciji's DIY Project

    My Pinterest board is filled to the brim with ideas. I've considered everything from building an altar from used pallet boards to growing my own rose garden and assembling the bridal bouquet. It's time for an intervention! I've known for years, well before I was officially engaged that I would be a "do it yourself" bride. Not just because of the cost savings but also…

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  • 1/30


    Free notebook from Cornell Catering I love shows and conventions; there is always swag, raffles, and free snacks. All things right up my alley. Good news my fellow brides and bros, bridal shows are huge and plentiful. Now, I’m essentially done planning my wedding, but I still like going to shows for inspiration and a few last minute vendors I need. Here are some tips…

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