Posts in the 'real weddings' Category

Real Bride Elizabeth: The Drama Has Arrived

Oh, how naive I was to think I could cruise through these 8 months of wedding planning without any drama. And, much to my surprise, all this drama came from the groom’s side! You don’t hear that very often, do you?

Elizabeth drama.jpg


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Back in December when we got engaged, Bryce’s best friend from childhood, Ron, was back in their hometown of Greensboro. Ron has lived in Amsterdam as an artist for the past few years. Bryce asked Ron to be his best man almost immediately after they got engaged, and Ron accepted with no hesitation. He seemed genuinely excited to be a part of my day, and I was happy.

A couple months after our initial engagement, Bryce and I set out to get the tuxes sorted. Bryce got in touch with all the groomsmen and told them what they needed to do. We told Ron to just send us his measurements as I am pretty sure there aren’t any Men’s Wearhouses in Amsterdam. No response. Several other Facebook, Whatsapp and emails ensued. No response. Finally, in the midst of bachelor party planning, Ron’s brother Dan (who is also in the wedding and was planning the entire bachelor party) mentioned to Bryce that no one in the family had heard anything from Ron as well.

This baffled me. Ron was very active on Facebook and Instagram, and nothing indicated that he was in trouble or that anything was wrong. Bryce and Dan were trying to get in touch with him, asking if he was still planning on coming over for the wedding. Eventually, I messaged him on Instagram, saying that it would really mean a lot to Bryce if he would let us know either way so we could make further arrangements. No response.

Finally, less than two months before the wedding, Ron finally messaged Bryce and told him he couldn’t afford to fly out for the wedding in August.

Now, if anyone can understand about not being able to afford being in a wedding, it’s me. It has never been easy or convenient for me to be in weddings, and if I can’t do it, I tell that person ASAP. If he would have told me way back in December, “Hey, I don’t know if it’s feasible for me to fly over for the wedding,” I would have totally understood, and tried to come up with a way to get him here. He’s my fiance’s best friends, and if I had to contribute money towards his ticket, I would have had no problem saving some extra money for that. However, less than two months before the wedding … I just can’t make it work.

While I have since cooled down over this incident, I was pretty enraged at first. Like, who does that? I live in the Midwest, I get that kind of passive aggressive bullshit every day. It drives me crazy! Not to mention I was angry for my fiance. I was angry that he didn’t seem that bothered. Apparently, this is “Typical Ron” and “not unexpected.” How is that an acceptable excuse? How is this a good friend? F that.

However, my sister pointed out that if Bryce really, truly was not that bothered by it (which, as far as I could tell, he wasn’t), why should I waste negativity on it? I just had to take a deep breath, let it go, and focus on the positive parts of the wedding. I’m getting married in a month, that’s more than enough to make me smile!

 Have any of you BABs had a bridal party member disappear from the radar? How’d you deal with it?

Real Bride Peach: The Pros and Cons of Being an “Older” Bride

You’ve all read my past entries here at The Broke-Ass Bride, from the gnarly to the mushy. But today, I thought I’d weigh in as a Real Bride with the Pros and Cons of being an “older” bride. Yes, I am tackling a hot-button topic here at The Broke-Ass Bride. But before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, let me come out and say that I am 36 years old. I’ve never been married before. I have no kids. No pets. And only two long-term relationships ever (late bloomer, hi). Sorry, I don’t know y’all well enough to give you my “number.” The groom is also 36, never married, no kids, no pets. There. Now you have the facts about us.

According to TheKnot’s 2013 Wedding Statistics Release from March, the average marrying ages are: Bride, 29; Groom, 31.

I know I am hardly alone in my current situation of being a 36-year-old bride, especially as more and more career-driven women actively choose to wait for marriage and kids until later in life. But the reason I waited for marriage is simple: I wanted to be 100% sure.

If I’d met someone at the age of 21 and had known beyond a shadow of a doubt that *this* was it, I would have not hesitated to say “yes” to a proposal. But that wasn’t my journey.  It took me a long time to fall in love. Then out of love with that person. And then in love with the person I am marrying. And even then, I waited years to be sure.

Now? I am ecstatic to be a bride, even at my so-called “advanced age” <– read that with an eye-roll, please. Or put me in the geriatric ward.  So here we go …


Freedom: My mid-twenties and early thirties allowed me the chance to travel and explore. I checked off some major must-dos from the Mighty Peach Life List, like hugging sequoia trees and revisiting London. I was unattached and stable enough to roam this earth as I wanted. And despite some lonely times in there when I cried constantly longed for my person, I do look back with gratitude and awe at the opportunities I had and accepted wholeheartedly. But this is not to say that my adventures have ended simply because I’m engaged! I still have a Life List to complete, after all. But now I’ll have a partner who encourages me to always go for my dreams (and someone to prevent me from having to take so many selfies!).

50Peach - Life List Yosemite

Life List #29 – Hug a Sequoia. ~Yosemite, July 2013 | London Life List


Life List #43 – Revisit London with the BFF. ~November 2013 *bonus for the self-photo-bomb.

No family pressure: Normally this would go under the Cons, but my family was 99.75% awesome about not pressuring me about getting married or producing another grandchild for them. And after I got engaged, they were super amazing about NOT saying the dreaded “it’s about time”s or “we thought it would NEVER happen.” Instead, they simply said, “We knew you were waiting for the right one.” In actuality, I was waiting for the one that would give me a marriage most like theirs: 41 years strong and filled with laughter, joy and love. I am truly a lucky woman.

Self-confidence and awareness: I cannot speak for anyone else out there, but personally I am grateful that I’ve had these past 10+ years to grow into the person that I am today. I’ve had my share of heartbreaks, yes. But I’ve also learned some difficult life lessons and endured some crappy, crappy things on my own — and those experiences have made me stronger. They gave me a self-assurance that I am capable of not just powering through life’s hard times, but that I can thrive on my own as well. Some say that you receive back what you project out into the world. I truly believe that I found my love at the time of my life when my light was shining the brightest. There is a power in that.

Financial freedom: In a bridal world where the average costs are hitting nearly $30,000.00 on average*, we all know how stressful finances can be with weddings. Given our ages, and thereby years of experience and salary increases, my fiance and I are self-sufficient enough that we are not solely relying on the help of our parents. If our parents weren’t able to contribute at all, we could get by with covering all the costs ourselves. Lucky for us though, our parents are able to gift us a generous amount and alleviate much of the stress.


Enduring YEARS of the question from people: “So when are you getting married?”  Let’s just say I have a special place in my heart for “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” It was my lifeline.


On the same lines, now that I’m engaged, “What took you so long to get married?” Ugh. Just ugh.

Enduring YEARS of the statement from people: “You know the clock is ticking, right? Your ovaries only produce a set amount of eggs in your lifetime.” As if I wasn’t already stressing this fact enough. And now I’m going to go face-eat a pint of Häagen-Dazs.

Our wedding well-wishes are sure to be riddled with those quotes above that my family was kind enough to avoid, along with continued nudging about having children like, tomorrow. I just hope I can keep a semi-smile plastered on my face while I soldier through it. Because it would sure be a shame to get blood on my wedding dress (kidding!). Or maybe I’ll just tell them we’re already planning on sextuplets in vitro and watch their jaws hit the floor. Hmmm …

In closing, it would seem that there are more pros than cons about being an “older bride”!

What did I miss? I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on being an older bride. Cool? Not cool? Doesn’t matter? Leave me some love.




BAB Throwback: Dana & Sheldon’s Outdoor Southern Fete Full Of Whimsical Handmade Details

You guys have a copy of our book, “The Broke-Ass Bride’s Wedding Guide,” right? Right. That’s what I thought. (If you don’t, get thee to Amazon and snag it, yo!) Since you have it, and you’ve read it cover to cover, you surely are familiar with the Sample Budgets from Real Brides section (p. 194-223) that illustrate in words how these amazing couples pulled off their big day with the budgets they had to work with. And that’s all well and good to have the words, but what do those weddings actually look like? Oh, well. That’s where I’ve got your back, homedizz. Many of the weddings had been featured on The Broke-Ass Bride prior to the book’s release, but I’mma go ahead and bring that sexy back. So, every once in a while, we’ll have a BAB Throwback, featuring a wedding or post that visually coincides with the words in the guide. Pickin’ up what I’m throwing down? Let’s get it going with Dana and Sheldon’s amazing celebration, featured on page 201 of the book! – Christen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We spent about $6,000 total.

The following items were free!:

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

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


Lydia from Ever Ours

Real Wedding: 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:  $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

iTunes, operated by Groom’s brother

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 Wedding: Jason & Melissa’s $11,000 DIY Battlestar Galactica Wedding

Today we have quite a treat for you, BABs … it’s our beloved Real Bride/BAB Editorial Assistant Extraordinaire MELLZAH’s wedding! (She’s chosen to use her formal name here, but trust me, it’s her.) If you’ve read her DIY/real talk-centric “Real Bride” columns, you already know that Mellzah and her man Jason were faced with the arduous task of keeping it Broke-Ass in the pricey Seattle metro area. Of course, they met the challenge with mad aplomb, and turned their wedding into a glamorous, sci-fi themed, Friday the 13th pizza party that none will soon forget! We love you, Mellz! 

Names: Jason and Melissa Bolton
Occupations: Jason, software engineer; Melissa, editorial assistant at Broke-Ass Bride, propmaker, furniture refinisher, and internet wiseass

Wedding location: The Antheia Ballroom, Snohomish, Washington
Wedding date: September 13, 2013 — Friday the 13th!
Wedding budget: Approx $11,000–we’d planned for $10,00, but little things add up and there’s ALWAYS something else. Toward the end, we just started flinging money at things in an “I DON’T CARE, JUST GET IT DONE” manner and also in a “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had _____?” manner. Neither are recommended if you want to save money!
Approximate guest count: 90–we’d planned for 100 but had some no-shows.

How would you describe your wedding? Glowing outer space lovefest dance party! Before the wedding, we called it our “beer and pizza party” because talking about a beer and pizza party is way less stressful than talking about a wedding. Also, we were serving beer and pizza so it seemed appropriate.

What was your favorite part of your wedding? Our first dance. Not because we danced particularly well, but it was probably the only time all day we got for just the two of us until the wedding itself was over…and then we basically passed out after taking care of our dog. Also, the song we picked was perfect.
What did you splurge on? The venue, the food, the flowers, and my dress.


What did you save on? Just about everything else! We got super lucky and won several things: our wedding photography from the amazingly awesome Brilliant Imagery (Hire her! DO IT NOW!), sparkling wine for our toast from Veuve Ambal, and Jason’s wedding band from Ben Bridge. We also ended up getting our photobooth from BrideRush at about half price! Most everything that we could do ourselves, we DID do ourselves.

Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? I would have gotten a venue that let us party later into the evening–we had to have the music off at 10:30 and be out by 11:30, which makes for a short evening when the wedding itself is at 6:30. I think if I had looked at the contract more closely, we would have selected somewhere else based on that alone.

What was your biggest challenge in planning? Honestly, dealing with all of the influx of wedding stuff on all sides, owing to my job here. I was constantly surrounded by weddings and it made me second-guess everything. Was it “me” enough? Did it look fancy enough? Did it have enough impact? Could we spend a little more and get something better? About six months into planning, I changed EVERYTHING save the venue, which we’d already booked. The colors, the look, everything, wasting some money and leaving some projects in the lurch. It turned out for the best as the wedding ultimately reflected us both better for it instead of being inspired by something I oohed over in a magazine, but it was a frustrating time.

What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? Make time for the things that are most important to you–I was insistent upon having group photos taken in Seattle prior to the wedding, and those are some of my absolute favorite shots. It made for a long day but it was absolutely worth it.


What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?

  • Seeing everything we worked on for the past year and a half come to life. Up until that point, they were just individual projects. Once they were all together, it was breathtaking.
  • The ceremony and especially our vows. The friend who introduced us acted as our officiant, our friends and family shouted “SO SAY WE ALL” as part of the ceremony, and Jason’s vows were terribly sweet.
  • I got to be with many of my favorite people in the world all at once–we may never all gather in one place again, so it was truly special.
  • The dance party! The dance floor was never empty, and having everyone fling their hands up while singing along to Macklemore is a moment I’ll never forget.
  • Our Seattle photo shoot–I only wish the Iron Throne had still been at the Experience Music Project so we could get a picture of House Bolton on the throne! Our house sigil wouldn’t be a flayed man, though, it would be the laughing/crying masks. House words? “Strange, that’s never happened before.”

Top 5 least favorite?

  • Not having enough time with the guests–one friend I hadn’t seen in 13 years happened to be in the States from Australia and was able to make it to the wedding. I wish I could have spent more time with her, I wish I could have spent more time with everyone.
  • Remember how I was quite certain I didn’t want kids at the wedding? I backed down for the family children and the only baby there fussed through our entire wedding vows. You literally can only hear the baby squealing on our wedding video. I still get livid when I think about it, which I don’t think is unreasonable, given that we spent upwards of eleven thousand dollars to have this party, the whole point of which is the vows. Stick to your guns, people! STICK TO YOUR GUNS.
  • The caterer was extremely late, which pushed back our reception, which cut even MORE time out of the dance party.
  • Like I said before, the venue made us shut off the music at 10:30 sharp when the dance floor was still full.
  • Someone was super late and arrived mid ceremony, talking loudly on their cell phone. To this day, I have no idea who this person was, and it’s probably better that I don’t, because seriously, who does that?!

To counter all of that negativity, this is one of my favorite wedding photos. You can tell from everyone’s expression that something particularly wiseass just came out of my mouth, and my dress looks particularly frothy and magical.


But I am also capable of sincerity!


What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received?
“Everything will fall into place.” Malarky. If I hadn’t planned and prepared meticulously and had an amazing day of coordinator to handle everything at the venue, things would have fallen apart rapidly. Everything will fall into place is the motto of the naive.

The best?
“Do not touch your phone the day of the wedding!” Aside from getting in touch with a friend to escort us up the Space Needle, I was so glad to be able to NOT run point on other people’s questions when I had enough to do as it was.


If you’ve been married for more than a year, what have been some challenges?
Even being engaged has its challenges. Over the course of our engagement, we bought a house, we were at odds about wedding details, we had to learn to discuss money with one another and we had to learn how to compromise.

Any other bits of wisdom?
If you can build it, and the process of building it doesn’t drive you mad, then you SHOULD build it. I loved having our hands in just about every pie as it made our wedding unique. We made our wedding website, I made our matching save the dates, our invitations, our centerpieces, our Battlestar Galactica dog tag escort cards. I spent hours creating the perfect ipod playlist and tinkering with levels so the volume would be consistent from one song to the next. I wrote our ceremony, we wrote our own vows, I made my hairpiece and our table numbers, we made our own wedding wine, I made our programs, our cake topper, and our napkin rings. We also made some of our photobooth props, and a custom photostrip background. We even assembled our own favors! I could literally bore you to death with photos of every detail we worked on, step by step, from my hairclip to every page of our wedding program. (I want to carry a copy of it around with me and show it to strangers, THAT’S how good I think it is! Would you like to see it? I’ll show you! I’ll show you everything!) That said, your wedding isn’t a competition and you shouldn’t feel badly if others do more than you–at first I was eyeballing doing our own catering and I am SO GRATEFUL that we decided against it because I know I would have spent the majority of the wedding in the kitchen despite my best intentions.

Also, while I’m happy I let my bridesmaids pick out the style dress they preferred, it took over six months for said dresses to be made and shipped–the store insists that it’s because they were different styles, and while I think it’s more likely that they forgot to put in our order for a while, it’s worth mentioning in case it is true and you’re running short on time.

Also also, instead of hiring a limo, we rented a giant SUV that we could haul everyone around in for the day. Not only was it easier than trying to coordinate with yet another vendor, but we absolutely would not have been able to haul everything to and from the venue without it, since we needed to cart in EVERYTHING, from linens to beverages (Three kinds of wine! Two kegs of beer! Sparkling cider! Sparkling juice beverages! Oh, our aching backs!)

Also also also, enter every single contest you see that could possibly apply to you, no matter how slim you think the odds may be.  We saved over $4500 by getting lucky three times. (Psst, I make sure to include every contest I find in The Broke-Ass Bride Newsletter. Sayin’.)


Budget breakdown

Venue: $1800
Food: $2800
Decor and Flowers: $2000
My Dress and Accessories: $1600
Groom’s Outfit: Free
Bridesmaids dresses: ~$200 per bridesmaid; they bought their own dresses.
Groomsmen Outfit: ~$200 per groomsman, we provided the ties.
Hair: $300 for the wedding party
DJ: Free, we used an ipod on the venue’s sound system
Photobooth: $800
Invitations and Stationary: $200
Photographer: The photography itself was free as we won a contest, we paid $700 in travel expenses.
Lighting: $150
Bartending: $500

Aaand let’s just assume we spent at least another $500 on other assorted things, because I’m not good at tracking receipts.



Photographer: Brilliant Imagery by Rachel Anne Garcia

Wedding Dress and Bridal Accessories: San Patrick Argelia from A Princess Bride, Breckelles Ronda from ShoeOcean

Venue:   The Antheia Ballroom

Flowers: Flowers by Tiffany

Cellist: Alex Ho

Food: Pompeii Woodfired Pizza

Beer: Mac & Jacks African Amber & Serengeti Wheat

Wine: My Sun & Stars Shiraz from Classic Winemakers, Ghost in the Machine from Columbia Winery, Veuve Ambal Brut

Bridesmaid’s dresses: Bari Jay

Bride’s rings: Greenlake Jewelry Works

Groom’s ring: Ben Bridge

Wedding Cupcakes & Cutting cake: New York Cupcakes

Lighting:  DIYUplighting

Photobooth: ShutterSpeed Photobooth

Linens: Purchased from ClothConnection Outlet

Macaron favors: Mon Amie Bakery

Groomsmen’s ties: CyberOptix Tie Lab

Groomsmen’s tuxes: Jos A Bank

Ask Liz: Some Want to Booze, Some Don’t. Where’s Our Happy Medium For Our Wedding Day?

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

Alcohol. A permanent wedding accessory?

Dear Liz,

Our current plan is for my fiance and me to have a local celebration party with friends and my family, and a destination wedding with his much larger family.
The hitch with the local celebration is that he and his friends are Muslim. My fiance is also a nurse and so he absolutely has no time or patience for drunken antics. My friends and family, on the other hand, are largely not of the faith, some of them are raucous Uni students, and they expect to be drinking.
I know that having a bar that runs dry is a definite no-no, but I was wondering what the etiquette is for an alcohol-free event, if such a thing is possible? The last time such a prospect was raised it was met with derisive laughter.


Where’s the Party?

Dear Party,

I’ve never coordinated a wedding where alcohol wasn’t served at all, but I can certainly think of a few examples where that would happen: Couple isn’t old enough to drink; an alcoholic getting married; the wedding of a  close family member of an alcoholic; and, of course, if there are religious restrictions. But it sounds like you’re going to get more flack than it’s worth, if there’s nuthin’ to drink. So, why don’t we talk about limiting the bar as opposed to nixing it. What about any of these or a doing a combo of:

  • Sticking to just beer and wine, no hard alcohol. Two choices, both of which take a while to get lit off of. Even better if you can decide how many glasses or bottles get served.
  • Forgoing a 5-6 hour party. Do a long dinner instead … 2-3 hours? Three to four? Less time for drinking, and to get out of control drunk.
  •  Keeping the bar open for a shorter period of time. Three hours as opposed to four? Two hours as opposed to three? Figure out how long you want your party to be, and make the “last call” for the bar a couple of hours before that. Sodas, water and coffee are the only drinks available once alcohol service is over.
  •  Having a Cash bar. I don’t really like this one, because it doesn’t go over very well, and it’s not particularly hospitable. That’s my personal opinion, but still. You could convert the bar into a cash bar after last call for the hosted bar, but be prepared for grumbling. It is what it is.

The other thing to remember is that your fiance is aware of how your friends and family are,  how they behave, and what they will expect. It’s one night, you’re hosting a party. He and his friends don’t have to drink if they don’t want to. You should definitely discuss the options with him, though, and see which ones he’s the most comfortable with. Go with those.

Anyone else out there with the same issues? Or are you not serving alcohol at your wedding? Tell me below! And, if  you want to find out a little more about me and my part of wedding world, go to

See you at the end of the aisle,



{Real Bride: Mellzah} My Dress Shopping Experience Part III, Or I Said Yes To A Dress, & What I Learned

No, not my wedding dress, but I adore it and I’m hoping to find something similar for my roaring 20s bachelorette party!

This weekend, I made a proper appointment at The Princess Bride in Bothell and was accompanied by only two other people: my maid of honor and another of my bridesmaids, both assertive enough to ensure that I wouldn’t allow an opinion other than my own to determine my ultimate purchase. It was by all accounts a smashing success, as I ended up buying a dress that I absolutely love. Here ‘s what I learned from my experience:

1) Consider dresses in the context of your theme.

No one’s saying you can’t wear a ballgown to your beach wedding or a sarong to your church wedding if that’s what you really want, but a dress that fits in with your overall scheme will look more cohesive. If your overall theme is ‘vintage’,  bringing in elements of the time period you want to emulate will help tie everything together. Same with bridesmaid dresses, but that’s an article for another day!

2) Have a good idea of what you like.

Browse Pinterest, look at other weddings, watch a boatload of Say Yes to the Dress, read bridal mags, and really look at the dresses. Not necessarily specific dresses or specific designers, but fabrics, common elements between dresses that speak to you. You might not be able to afford that Jenny Packham that you’re dying over, but that and a few other dresses may help you figure out that you’re all about the beading–and that’s a great start! Bring examples of the things you love to the bridal salon, point out the elements that really speak to you, and you’ll avoid having dresses pulled that just waste your time and exhaust you mentally (it’s hot, emotional work trying on dresses, and the more you try on, the more confused and upset you can get!).

3) That said, be flexible. 

You can read all of the magazine articles in the world about which dress will actually suit your body type best, but no amount of reading can replace actually seeing them on your body yourself.  A chart may tell you that as a short, full-figured person, you shouldn’t even look at a fit & flare and should resign yourself to empire,  but I can tell you that as a 5’2″ (on a good day) full figured person, I tried on a fit & flare and everyone was dying over how great I looked in it. And if you are really in love with a shape, try several if the first one doesn’t work out–I tried on a different fit & flare at another shop, and it looked like I was in my second trimester with a baby conceived in a threesome with Ben and Jerry. All I’m saying is, don’t knock out a shape off the bat because someone else says it won’t look good on you–see for yourself. Try them all. You may end up surprising yourself! The dress I ended up buying, while it is one I pulled myself, is one that I wouldn’t have ever even considered if I had only seen the promotional photos. You really can’t tell what you’ll love until it’s on your body.

4) Research your shop before you book an appointment.

I saw The Princess Bride‘s booth at the Seattle Wedding Show, which put them on my radar. I checked out their website and saw that they carried designers who reflected the aesthetic I was looking for, which increased the odds that I’d find something that I’d like. (It also didn’t hurt that they gave me a coupon for $100 off a dress purchase at said wedding show…so definitely check out wedding shows in your area!) Going to a different shop that focused on different materials and shapes might have meant that I’d have wasted my time, or ended up being talked into buying a dress that was something other than what I really wanted. For example, my maid of honor was talked into buying a very princessy gown at a shop with more dramatic gowns for her wedding this past October, when she really wanted something simpler. This week, while looking for dresses for me, she found exactly the kind of dress she’d been pining over and ended up kicking herself retroactively for not sticking to what she really wanted.

5) Start at an actual shop, not at a sample sale.

Starting at a sample sale like I did made me feel very discouraged about the dress-finding process, because the samples they had in my size were dirty, torn, and poor quality–and they fit me very poorly, to boot, which left me feeling like the odds were against me in terms of finding a dress that I love that fits me. At A Princess Bride, I was shocked, SHOCKED, that I fit into their samples with no issues, because I expected a repeat performance. No, no, no. You may strike gold at a sample sale, or you may end up looking through the poorly made, ill-fitting crap that no one else wanted, and that is no way to start off your dress-buying experience. My problem during an actual dress appointment was choosing only one of the dresses to purchase when so many looked so damn great!

6) Before you go in, make sure you set a hard budget.

Know exactly how much you’re willing to spend, and figure in several hundred dollars of alterations into that amount. If you’ve got $1500 to spend, you may want to cap your dress at 1000 so you have money to add sleeves, or a bustle, or cups, or modify a neckline without going over your budget–alterations and sales tax adds up fast! Whatever number you set, stick to that number. Don’t even think about trying on a dress you can’t afford, because once that dress hits your body and you fall in love, nothing else will compare and you’ll be heartbroken, or you’ll devastate your budget, or put a financial strain on anyone who has kindly offered to help you purchase your dress.  Or maybe you  have some wiggle room in your budget but know you’d feel sick about spending that much money later–don’t say yes in the heat of the moment and regret it later! Stick to your number. You’ll find a dress, I promise. The lower the number and the more exacting your specifications, the more legwork you’ll have to put in, but you will find a dress.

7) Hydrate!

Seriously, who would have thought that trying on a bunch of dresses could make a person so thirsty?

8) Leave the crew at home.

Bring just a couple of people–three, max. The more people you include, the more opinions there will be about what actually flatters you, and again, you may end up getting confused or being pushed away from a dress you love or into a dress you’re ambivalent about.  Put these people in charge of taking pictures of you from the front, and especially from the back so you can see what everyone else sees. You can show it to everyone else later, but while you’re shopping, make sure that the collective voice of others doesn’t overpower your own.

9) Start early.

Start looking earlier than you may think you have to–if you’re not buying off the rack, gowns can take 6 months or more to be made. Occasionally dresses can be rushed for an additional fee…but not always. You don’t want to fall in love with a dress that you can’t have, and you don’t want to be stuck with something you don’t love off the rack because you don’t have time to find anything else.

10) Have fun!

If you aren’t having fun, if you don’t like your sales rep, if you feel pressured or hassled or ugly: you need to leave. Give yourself a break and try somewhere else, maybe with other people. Just because you spent an hour and a half on a dress appointment does not mean you owe the shop a sale. Buying your dress should be an enjoyable experience, and if it isn’t, all you’re going to be able to associate with your dress is how unhappy you felt in the shop.

How did you go about finding your dream dress? Any tips/tricks you’re willing to share?

Editor’s note: Be sure to check out Part I and Part II of Mellzah’s dress shopping extravaganza! 

{Real Bride: Carrie} The Best Thing About The Wedding Is The Honeymoon!

Editor’s note: Carrie hasn’t actually made it to the altar yet, so her declaration that “the honeymoon is the best thing about the wedding” is not founded on actual facts or experience. We felt the need to tack on a legally irrelevant disclaimer alerting you, the reader, (henceforth referred to herein as “the reader”) of that fact. 

As you must have realized by now, Zach and I have a pretty hardcore love affair with travel going on. I started traveling internationally at age 16, when I went to Australia and New Zealand through a student exchange program. That experience was all it took to get me hooked on exploring and wandering the globe.  After that, I went on volunteer trips to the Bahamas and Kenya. If you remember all the way back to our “falling-in-love” story, you’ll remember that I left Zach in Ohio when I went to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. After I got back and things got more serious between us, Zach caught my wanderlust disease hardcore. For the last few years, we’ve basically worked to travel, working overtime and saving all we could and then taking off on epic road trips and adventures. We’ve done multiple road trips through North America, and our seven-month Latin American Odyssey was the biggest adventure yet.

Our world map with pins in places we’ve been!

Needless to say, one of the wedding traditions we’re most excited about is the HONEYMOON!!!  There are just a few small obstacles to overcome first…

  1. We have no money.
  2. Zach has a real job now.
  3. We can’t decide where to go!

Yep, the sad fact of the matter is that just paying for our broke-ass wedding is going to clean out most of our excess funds. Will it be totally worth it? I’m sure! Do I sometimes think we should just go to the courthouse and then book it to Thailand for a month? Hell yes!

There’s also this whole “growing up and getting a real job” issue.  It’s something we’ve somehow managed to avoid…until now! Actually, I still don’t have a “real job” but rather a seasonal internship AND four shifts a week at a bar/restaurant. Zach however, stumbled his way into an awesome job as a line cook in a 4-star restaurant, complete with salary and benefits and everything! It’s a great new phase for him in a lot of ways, but unfortunately ample vacation days are not part of the deal. In the past, we always just up and left our jobs to travel and found new ones wherever we ended up when we got back. Not something we want to do anymore!

Suffice it to say, we will not be able to go on a big honeymoon anytime soon after the wedding, probably not anytime this year.

While it is kind of sad, we’re going to make up for it in a couple ways.

#1. Vegas Friendy-moon!


A lot of our Ohio and east coast friends have never been out west at all. Because they’re a fun-loving bunch, a lot of them are planning to tack on some Las Vegas adventures to their trip when they come out and see us get married. Although Zach and I aren’t really “Vegas types”, we decided to join, realizing we’d never, ever again get a chance to party on “The Strip” with so many of our best friends.  Plus, I’m hoping the hotel will throw some perks our way if I tell them it’s our “honeymoon.”

#2. Real honeymoon in the future.

Despite our more settled, awesome life in San Diego, we can’t go very long without traveling abroad. We’re hoping to go somewhere, anywhere, for at least a few weeks as soon as we can swing it financially and job-wise.  The problem is, we have no idea where to go! Top contenders…

 Spain & Morocco

Gorgeous Spanish beaches


Possibly the most hipster honeymoon destination ever?


We’ve heard Turkey is an amazing country to explore.

Thailand or Indonesia

Southeast Asia would be a dream, but flights are so expensive!!!

Do you think planning two crazy nights in Vegas on the tail end of our wedding is a terrible idea?  And where should we go for the big trip?

Real Wedding: Tori & Trey’s Woodsy, Shabby Chic Fall Wedding

Our fab BAB contributor Tori had a simple goal: to have a lovely little, perfectly reasonably priced 10K wedding. But Tori is an only child – and her parents just weren’t having it – despite the fact that she actually writes for a little blog called The Broke-Ass Bride. Tori’s wedding ended up costing a little more than 10K – in fact, she’s a little too embarrassed to tell you just how much it cost here. Sometimes the best laid plans…ya da ya da ya da. Never the less, Tori’s big, slightly less than broke-ass day is absolutely worth sharing. There’s plenty of gorgeous wedding inspiration and great advice to absorb here! Congrats, Tori and Trey! 

Your Names:

Victoria (Tori) Ward &

Wade (Trey) Traynham III

Your Occupations:

His-  Outside Machinist and Ship Builder New

Hers- Civil Servant in the Mental Health field by day & The BrokeAss Bride CAI/GOI Goddess by night.

Wedding Location:  Virginia Beach, Virginia

Wedding Date: Friday, September 21st, 2012

Wedding Budget:  I wanted to do the entire wedding for $10,000.00 or less but I’m an only child and my parents weren’t having any of my budget wedding nonsense!  They wanted to throw me the wedding of my dreams and that was the sweetest thing!  So we compromised. I saved money on the details, my wedding dress, the bridesmaids’  &  flower girls’ dresses, and where ever else I could and they splurged on the big stuff like venue, catering, photography, & florist.

Approximate Guest Count: 75 guests

How Would you describe your wedding?

My theme was an amalgamation of concepts.  I wanted a fall theme, I loved the color combination of orange and blue, shabby chic, and my honey is a hunter, so I wanted to include some of the things he loves too!  I ended up describing it to my vendors as a woodsy shabby chic.  Trey had a custom camo tie & pocket square. The cake had acorn cake toppers and one of my guests brought acorn shaped cake pops!

It was very family oriented and kid friendly. I encouraged my guests to bring their kids. I remember going to weddings as a kid and being bored out of my mind. So, I did everything I could to make sure the kids had a blast!  It was a relaxed, fun, family-oriented affair.

What was your favorite part of your wedding?

There are several. Trey and I are not religious people but we do have religious family members so we decided to have a ring warming ceremony.  Since the rings were warmed prior to the ceremony, I didn’t get to see it while it was happening but I was truly touched to see the photos!  It was one of my absolute favorite things about the wedding even though I never saw it.

Trey is a big dude. His ring size is 16!  When we exchanged rings, my hands were so sweaty that his ring wouldn’t go on! There was a ripple of laughter through the guests because they all knew that I’d been waiting 11 years for this and the ring wouldn’t go!  We did get it on, but it was a moment of levity in the ceremony that I’ll never forget.

During the reception, we had an open mic instead of scheduled speeches because the members of our wedding party were all very shy.  So I wanted to leave the option to say something open ended.  I made a speech and then, the Best Man spoke. We knew that took a lot for him so it really meant a lot.  But to my great surprise, my Flower Girl and Nephew took the mic!  They are my new husband’s niece and nephew and I’ve known them all since birth.  They were adorable and they spoke about how happy they were that I was finally their Aunt and how much they loved me.  It was adorable.  Then my Ring Bearer took the mic.  He’s my Cousin’s 3 year old son and he wanted to say something like the big kids did but the second he spoke into the mic, he spooked and ran.  It was too cute.  I’ll treasure those memories for the rest of my life.

What did you splurge on?

I splurged on my guest book. I found this amazing seller on Etsy (Lizziemade) who makes hand bound books!  I fell in love. The book was $80.00 but it was so worth it. Lizziemade and I collaborated on the creation of this book and it turned out to be a, one of a kind, truly special book that I will be displaying in my home for the rest of my life!  I also spent $100.00 on custom buttons and temporary tattoos from another Etsy seller Ali of Buttonhead.  And now I have a beautiful monogram to keep and use however I want forever!  My mom splurged on the photographer who I absolutely fell in love with when we met him & his wife at a wedding fair in Norfolk.  And my dad splurged on the venue and the catering that was worth every penny!

What did you save on?

We saved on the actual wedding date.  Did you know that a week day wedding is significantly less than a weekend wedding?  We saved about $2,000.00 by reserving the ceremony site and the reception hall for a Friday.  We also got grandfathered into a lower rate for the venue because we booked prior to their big renovations.  I also chose not to have a wedding coordinator which saved us about $1,000.00.  I also saved on my wedding gown. I bought it at a bridal consignment store in Hampton, VA for a fraction of it’s retail value. I ordered my veil for $35.00 through an Etsy seller and I made my own aisle runner from canvas drop clothes that I found at Walmart.

One of my friends and I picked out the fabric for my bridesmaids’ & flower girls’ dresses and she made them for cost as a wedding gift.  My Aunt Jane bought the burlap and made all the table runners and the ring barer pillow as a wedding gift.  My Aunt Hilary paid for the marriage commissioner, and for the professional art design of our save the dates, and she helped my mom and I shop for the milk glass that held the flower arrangements.

Was there anything you would have done differently?

Looking back, yes. The venue I chose had a list of vendors that we could choose from.  I went off the pre-approved grid to find my baker, my photographer,  my make-up artist, & my hair dresser. I should have chosen a different florist.  While the florist was well known and recognized in the area, he did not listen to my vision and he chose to confront me about the flowers the day of my wedding!  While our flowers were beautiful, I simply didn’t like the florist’s attitude and his reluctance to communicate with me prior to the wedding day. If I had it to do over, I’d find my own florist.

What was your biggest challenge in planning?

There were 2 big issues. It took me forever to find a dress that I liked.  Dress shopping for me was not that one single “AHA!” moment. I tried dress after dress, after dress! It was depressing and exhausting.  Until I found my dress in a consignment shop!  Four months of searching and I found a pre-owned wedding dress that must have belonged to a very thin, very petite bride.  I had to have a corset back put in and had to have length added but the price was right and the dress was perfect.

The date was the was another problem in the planning.  We saved a bunch of dough by choosing to have our wedding on a Friday, but the date proved to be a problem with a lot of my family members who live out of state.  Thankfully at least some of my extended family were able to make the trip for our wedding. My Dad’s family came down from Northern Virginia.  The whole brood came with spouses and significant others. My Aunt and her family traveled from Pennsylvania. My Grandmother (who’s my only surviving grandparent) and my Uncle made the trip to Virginia from Maine.  My Grandmother had a fall and suffered a head injury a few months before and there was some question as to whether or not she’d be able to come. I burst into tears of joy and relief when I saw my “Nammy” after the ceremony.

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

It is imperative that you have some sort of rehearsal so that every one knows where they are supposed to be and what their role is.  We skipped this step in order to save money.  Delegate responsibilities to those offering assistance.  And have a wedding aftermath plan.  After our wedding the venue staff swarmed me with questions about what to keep and what to toss. Our biggest mistake was staying until all our guests had left. We should have left an hour before the scheduled end of the party and left specific instructions with our family and wedding party as to what to collect and what to leave for the clean up crew.

Thirty minutes before the scheduled end of our reception, the venue staff started clearing the hall! I was completely overwhelmed by the inundation of questions. The bridal changing room was locked and we still had all of our bridal party belongings down there as they were shoeing us out the door!  Thinking back, I should have been more prepared and I should have prepared my friends and family better.

What were your top 5 favorite things?

1) Ring Warming & the big ring exchange snafoo!

2) The cohesion of my DJ, my photographer, my hairdresser, and my makeup artist.  They all got along incredibly well and seemed to have the same easy going professionalism.

3) Open mic speeches

4) The cake was beautiful and amazingly delicious!

5) The overwhelming support of my family and friends

Top 5 least favorite?

I do wish that more of my long distance family could have made it to the wedding, and I had envisioned the table arrangements differently, but in the grand scheme of things, none of that matters.  I married my best friend. we had a lovely ceremony  we were able to share our love and joy with the people who know and love us. In the end, that’s all that matters!  And for that reason, it was perfect.

Best/worst wedding advice?

I really didn’t get a lot of wedding advice.  But the best advice I’ve ever gotten in general is to pick your battles.  And I applied that advice to my wedding planning.  Being an only child, I knew I wouldn’t win the budget wedding war.  My parents divorced when I was eleven but they both love me fiercely and I know that I am spoiled.  But I’m not ungrateful!  I chose to get my broke-ass bride fix in the details.

Budget Break Down:

Tori’s folks footed the bill for the big ticket items like venue, cake,  florist, caterer, & photography. Tori has chosen to only indicate what she and Trey ended up paying for here.

Save the dates= $50.00

Invitations= $100.00

The dress including alterations= $1,000.00

Aisle Runner= $20.00 (hand made by me)

Table Runners= $0 (hand made gift from Aunt)

Hair- $60.00/ Makeup- $35.00

Milk Glass- $0 (gift from mom & aunt)

Guest book- $80.00

Pinata- $20.00

Paper Lanterns- $15.00

Buttons & Tattoos- $100.00

Pinata filler- $25.00

Flower Girl Leaves – $15.00

Flower Girl Baskets- $30.00

His Tux- $165.00

His Tie & Pocket Square- $65.00

Photo Booth- $1, 000.00

Marriage Commissioner- $0 (gift from aunt)

Cake Topper=$58.00

Rings- His =$500 Hers =$300

My total was about $4,000.00 after the veil, shoes, jewelry, and gifts for Bridesmaids.


The Yacht Club at Marina Shores

Black Iris Floral

Patti Cakes Bakery

Cuisine & Company

Love Minus Zero 

Shutter Booth

DJ Rodney Charles

Blush Bridal Consignment

Valerie Todesco – Professional Makeup Artist

Clay – Hair

Etsy Sellers


LizzieMade - wedding guest book

Buttonhead - custom wedding favor buttons and temporary tattoos

Pearl Beach Treasures - groom’s camo tie

Bejoyful Paper - wedding stationery

Indigotwin Weddings - acorn cake topper

Ellen Marie Designs – bridal headpiece/veil

Thanks so much for sharing your special day with us, you guys! And special thanks to Love Minus Zero for providing the wedding pics!