Posts in the 'Wedding planning' Category

Real Bride Amy: Who Makes the Cut?

As I mentioned, I’m trying to keep my wedding small as one way to save money. I want my guest list to be more “want tos” than “have tos.”  There are inevitably a few in the “have to” category, mostly extended family. Another perk of having a wedding at a bit of a distance is that it weeds out those that care from those that just want a free meal. Even though my wedding is over a year away, I’m sending save the dates out soon. Since it is a destination, we want people to be able to plan for the trip.  I’m also hoping if things come up, people will let me know in advance so I’ll have a better idea of my numbers when it’s formal invitation time. So now, I have to decide who is really invited — who’s in and who gets cut.Real Bride Amy: Who Makes the Cut?

Spreadsheets for dayz!

Determining who’s in and who’s out is probably one of the hardest parts of planning. Over the past 6 months, the list — er, lists — has been constantly changing. There are definite A-listers, a B-list composed of the “have tos” and the”‘invited, but not sure they will comes,” then the “if we have room” C-list, and the final “I just can’t decide” group. Perhaps, what is even harder is that the people that I want to invite seem to be more understanding of my desire to keep the list to a minimum than those that aren’t on the list. Plus, I’m already arguing talking to my mom about all the people that she apparently planned to invite.

So where do you draw the line without going from 50 people to 200? And how do you break the news, if necessary, to those that don’t make the cut?

How to Swing Your Destination Wedding


Photo: Persimmon Images

Almost half of my wedding calendar this year involves couples who are coming from far and farther to get married in Los Angeles. I looked up, and all of a sudden destination weddings are one of my things. Here’s three tips to help you feel confident about making it one of yours, too:

Find your Savvy Local

You know, the person that lives in your wedding city, works there and can be your resource on how to get things done. Try and find a professional, too. Your best friend from college might know how long it takes to get to the beach from your hotel, but they probably won’t know if you need a permit to get married there, or if you have to pay for parking. That sort of thing. If you don’t have a wedding planner, make your venue manager, your hotel manager, your officiant, or your caterer your new best friend. Mostly you’re looking for leads, and potential roadblocks to avoid. If you’re worried about bugging them beyond what you’re paying them, spread the questions around. And, follow up every question with one last question, “Is there anything else I need to know?”

Keep it Simple

Just … Keep it simple. The less moving parts that are involved, the less there is to drive you crazy. One location, two if a meal is involved. No more than 45 minutes to get from point A to Point B at any time. If something requires more than three steps to get done, give it two days instead of one, or turn it into two steps instead of three. And if you are going to remember one thing, remember this: Nothing is going to take less time to do. If anything, since you’re dealing with so much unfamiliarity, in an unfamiliar place, it’s going to take more.

Practice Patience

… Because the last sentence above is where the frustration is gonna come in. You’re hundreds or thousands of miles away. You’ve got to think about time zones, and fitting all of this into your already busy life. You have to ask the right questions, or ask enough wrong ones until you figure out what the right ones are. You’re not there, and you feel like you’re flying blind. There are a lot of details, and a not-so short learning curve, so be patient with yourself, with what you can do from where you are. Be patient with the process. Be patient with everyone you have to deal with during the process. It doesn’t all have to be done quickly, it just has to get done. Look forward to it being done, and having a wonderful day, okay?

In the meantime, while I’m here, do you have any questions about your destination wedding? Let me know in the comments below, and we’ll figure it out. And, if you’d like to find out more about me and my part of Wedding World, come find me at

See you at the end of the aisle,


Real Bride Elissa: The $20 Cake Stand that Didn’t Break a DIY Sweat

It took me infinitely longer to write this post than it did to DIY a crucial piece of my reception decor: The cake stand.

We’re doing a dessert table in lieu of a large cake for a few reasons: One of my guests is a trained pastry chef and is making us a tiramisu as our wedding gift; a number of family and friends are gluten-free, so we’re ordering a handful of awesome gluten-free cupcakes from Pasadena bakery Confexion to put out for them; we wanted to include Porto’s cheese rolls (basically a glorified danish and one of our absolute favorite sweet treats in L.A.) somehow in our wedding … so why not as part of a dessert buffet? In addition to the tiramisu, cupcakes and cheese rolls, we’re also going to buy a few pre-made cakes in various flavors from Porto’s cake counter. Pre-ordering the cakes would have cost about three times as much, so we’re going to show up right when they open and get the prettiest ones.

I had a few friends offer me the stands from their wedding, but I felt like I needed my own spin on the standard (pardon the pun). Plus, with so many desserts on one table, I wanted my little two-tier wedding cake to stand out from – and above – the rest. Turns out that tall, 14” cake stands are not easy to find, especially on a budget. I found several beautiful wooden ones on Etsy; I was even a click away from ordering one, until I saw the shipping for the bulky wooden object was half the price of the item itself. I couldn’t justify paying nearly $100 for an item I am definitely only using once, so I decided to look into DIY.

cakestand etsy

Gorgeous, but this costs half as much as my wedding dress. (via Etsy)

A lot of DIY cakestands are old candlesticks, cups, or goblets flipped upside down and glued to a platter or plate. We were told to get at least a 14” cake stand, which rules out a lot of awesome plates from the local Goodwill. Plus, many platters have some sort of angled side or lip that might not hold the cake correctly. In my quest to find something relatively flat, pretty and cheap, my first stop was the wooden shape section at my local craft stores. I found a 14” wooden plate (similar to the one below) but it was pretty plain for what I had in mind. I wasn’t sure if my cake was going to go directly onto the plate, either, so I didn’t want to mess with finding food-grade paint.


ArtMinds Country Basswood Plate (11″), $14.99 at Michael’s

Finally, inspiration struck. After searching through the aisles of Michael’s, I found a 14” round mirrored candle tray for $7.99, and a beautiful stained wood candle holder. It’s tall but very sturdy, and cost a whopping $12.99. The shorter size was just as nice, and only $9.99. Knowing wedding crafting was coming up, I had signed up for Michael’s email program a few weeks before, and used my new-subscriber 20% coupon to buy the two items. Total cost after taxes: $18.29.



ArtMinds Beveled Round Mirror, $7.99 at Michael’s



Ashland 8″ Wood Pedestal Candleholder, $12.99 at Michael’s

At home, I put the mirror face down on a table and marked the center with a dot. I put the candleholder upside down in the middle, and traced a circle with a pencil around the edge so I knew where to put it once I’d applied the glue.


I squeezed a line of Gorilla Glue around the lip of the candleholder, and placed it firmly inside my traced circle. I held it down for a full minute, just to be sure it attached.


Voila! Cake stand complete. I let it dry upside down for the rest of the afternoon.


I even tested it out later with a few Ho-Hos (crucial step).


I may paint the black bottom teal to match my wedding colors, or I may not – it looks fine as is, so we’ll see how motivated I feel in a few weeks, when crafting really gets going.

Real Bride Katie: The Checklist Check-In

Does time ever fly!

On Friday, I will hit the 6 month mark until our Halloween-themed wedding. It’s exciting but also pretty scary, so I’ve decided to do what I always do in these types of situation: I tell my emotional right brain half to hush, and let my analytical left brain drive for a while.

While I have a couple spreadsheets full of wedding info and lists, I’ve always found it very soothing and helpful to make lists by hand. It’s rare that I’ll refer back to them, but it helps me organize my thoughts and calm my emotions.

With this in mind (and because you can only let your brain go on so many anxiety spirals about where all this money is going to come from before you risk becoming *completely* insane), I sat down and made a list.

image1 (1)

All in all, I feel like we’re in pretty good shape. We scheduled our meal and cake tastings for later this month, and many of the rest of the items on this list could wait until the week before the wedding if they absolutely HAD to. (There’s no way that’s happening!)

I have 3 large DIY projects and a handful of small ones, so that’s where I’m going to focus my attention going forward. I also work a desk job that’s mostly solo work, so it’s easy for me to listen to possible music options as I work.

Left brain came to my rescue once again. Seeing all the information in print shrinks everything down to its proper size again … with one exception:


The struggle and the fear is real, you guys, and I know some of you are feeling it too. It’s a lot of pressure to carry, especially having already signed contracts and sent out save the dates. Every time I swipe my debit card, I feel a little twinge of guilt, even if I’m buying a necessity. We have to pay the minimum spend for our venue by 90 days before the wedding, which suddenly seems horrifyingly close.

We’re going to make it, because:

1) we planned what we could afford

2) I’ve created two budgets, one with the bare minimum and one with what I would really like to have

3) we’re pretty sure we could lean on family for a short term loan if we needed it to keep our venue.

In the mean time, we’re doing our best to tighten our belts — it’s sunny out, Katie, do you really need to pay $9 to park at work when you could pay $1.50 and walk a third of a mile? Do you really need the $150 motorcycle jacket when the $80 one will do, Andrew? How many times is it *really* reasonable to be too lazy to cook in one week?? — stay calm, work together, and keep our eyes on the prize at the end of the aisle.

Real Bride Laura: Be Considerate of your Broke-Ass Bridesmaids

As a Broke-Ass Bride I want to be as equally wallet conscious for my Broke-Ass bridesmaids. As much I love being in many weddings, I have been known to silently shed a tear looking at my bank account during wedding season. Between the dress, shoes, makeup, hair, bridal shower, bridal shower gift, bachelorette and wedding gift, it adds up. However, I am lucky that the weddings I have been in haven’t been extravagantly expensive (a friend of mine who was a bridesmaid last year had to spend $450 on a Marchesa dress!).

After much deliberation I finally decided on four bridesmaids. These are my ride or die bitches — the kind of girls that you can be your absolute total gross self with and they still love you. Now that I had my girls I had to find that damn dress for them all to wear. I wanted something different and not your run of the mill chiffon dress. However, I didn’t wan’t my girls to spend more then $100 on the dress — a bit of a tall order. I scoured Pinterest but half those dresses I pinned were stupid expensive or I couldn’t find them. I went to bridal salons, tried on bridesmaid dresses myself and hated them all. I spent hours scrolling through department store sites. I considered renting them from a particular site but the Yelp reviews turned me off. I browsed through bridal store catalogs and magazines. Defeated, I eventually ignored my task of finding their dresses.

In February, my six-month mark before the wedding, my bridesmaids told me I had to get my shit together and pick a dress. I finally found the dress through an online clearance event from David’s Bridal. I found out about it via a promotional email, the ones I normally trash right away. So always make sure you read through those emails when you are on the hunt for wedding savings. Then when you get what you want, re-route those emails to spam … I shouldn’t say that though since I am an a digital advertising professional … actually open those promotional emails and click on banners often.

OK I digress. Anyway, I found a pretty dress on sale from $149 marked down to $79. Plus one of my crafty bridesmaids found a promo code for free shipping so I felt triumphant in my frugal find. It ended up being friggin chiffon but that’s OK. I have made peace with it.  To make it “different” I had the girls order two different shades of purple so they would have alternating colors. 


My Bridesmaid dresses: David’s Bridal Chiffon Sweetheart Short Dress with Cap Sleeves Style F15406

I nervously waited for the dresses to be delivered to my girls. I had read the reviews, which I highly recommend always reading, and saw it was a mixed bag averaging out at 3.5 out of 5 hearts. The dresses came in and yep, they were a solid 3.5 out of 5. I was disappointed when I first saw them. The picture showed an A-line cut with capped sleeves. In real life it is a bit limp and has more of a thick strap. I kept asking the girls, ” Are they comfortable? Do you like the color?” No one told me they hated them and they did say they were comfortable so I settled. I am ultimately happy with them, though. 

My Advice: 

*Be wallet friendly to your bridal party. These are suppose to be your bestest friends. You don’t want them bitching behind your back for making them spend $300 on a dress they will never wear again. You may not get to have them in your dream dresses but you’ll be sure to find something that will satisfy you.

*Sign up for wedding email lists and be on the look out for promotions in your inbox. If I didn’t know about that clearance event from David’s Bridal I’d still be searching feverishly. 

*Always Google promo codes before you order something online. (Or pay attention to BAB’s Ten for the Weekend column) You never know how much you can save!

*BTW Did you know Target sells cute bridesmaid dresses?? None of the colors worked for me but they might work for you! Just search “Bridesmaid Dresses” on their website.

Real Bride Amy: Size Does Matter


Credit: Alicia Robichaud

The Guest List — how big it is, who’s on it — is probably one the most important and difficult parts of the planning process.  My primary saving strategy has been to keep my wedding small.  When there is a per person cost, it seemed like the best way to keep costs down.  Mostly, though, I prefer quality to quantity. I’d rather spend time with a more select group then have lots of guests that I don’t even keep in touch with (I’m looking at you, mom’s friends from work). When I say I’m having a small wedding, some people suggested it wasn’t worth it because with bigger groups you “make” more in gifts.  Well, I’m not in this to make a profit. Most people I’ve talked with say one of their major regrets was not having a smaller wedding and not having so many people they didn’t know well or care about. And if you can save money in the process, it’s a bonus, right?!

It turns out the small wedding hasn’t helped control costs as much as I had hoped.  We struggled to find a venue due to minimum head counts or costs that many venues imposed.  The only way we could have avoided those restrictions were to have our event on a weekday or in the off season.  Unfortunately, the off season in Upstate NY can mean a foot of snow.  We were so glad (relieved) when we found our venue! They have zero minimum; they accommodate 20 or 200. There are also several places on the property to hold the reception so that our small party won’t be overwhelmed by an empty space meant to hold 300. So important for a small group!

Although I’m not saving a ton of money on overall costs, we will still save some per-head costs by having a smaller group of people. Keeping it small also helps to keep other costs down.  I will have fewer tables, which means fewer centerpieces and table decor, fewer favors … but most important more of the most precious currency: time. More time to spend with the ones I love.

DIY Your Day-Of Schedule with Timeline Genius

Sponsored Post Disclaimer

Timeline Genius
One of the great perks to hiring a great wedding planner is that you have someone who already knows their way around a wedding timeline or two. But a wedding planner certainly doesn’t fit into every broke-ass’ budget, and you still need some sort of schedule to tell you — everyone else — what to do and where to be on the day-of.

You already know some of the basics: Ceremony at 5:30. Hair and makeup at 3. Reception at 7. Gotta be donezo and outta there at 11. But …

When does your partner and their crew arrive? What about the band? And the caterer? When is all the photoing supposed to happen? How about the cake cutting, first dance and toasts? Timeline Genius

Guys, that’s a lot to wrangle by your self when you’re DIYing your own schedule. But Timeline Genius can give you a little peace of mind. For about $60, you can plug in the pertinents — who, what, where and when-ish — and it’ll spit out a super profesh timeline for you and your crew to operate off. Timeline Genius is totally customizable by what you actually plan on doing during your wedding day — no first dance? No problem. Want to do a first look? There’s a button for that. If you’re wrangling tons of peeps or are just super nervous, you can spring for the VIP package — $99.99 — that includes a review with a Master Bridal Consultant (schmancy!) who’ll make sure all your shizz is in place to help you be a zen bride on your wedding day.

Once you get your super fancy sched from Timeline Genius, pass it out to your peeps — everyone from your photog to your hair and makeup to your flower girl’s mom — to make sure you’re all on the same page so you can glide down that aisle with your sanity firmly intact.


Keep Your Wedding Balances in Balance

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Photo: Lauren Lindley Photography

You know it — your wedding money is being thrown around fast and furious. Hundreds, thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands of dollars. Not all at once, mostly. But the word “eventually” looms closer every day.
So, what I’m trying to say is this post isn’t so much about budgeting as it is about stress relief. And a lot that means getting ahead of the stress in the first place.

Do This One Thing

Put all your payment due dates, with the current estimated cost in whatever calendar you look at the most — the one in your phone, the one on your wall, the one in your wedding notebook. Do it right now. Set or write an alert for a week or a couple of days ahead of time, whatever works for your schedule or will work with your bank account. Not so far ahead that it’s easy to forget (like a month before) but close enough so that you have enough time to pull together the funds, if you need to. You know how you are, so proceed accordingly. Bonus points for noting the method of payment, too.

Do This Other Thing

Any payment you can automate, do it. I take automated payments from my couples, and odds are your venue, you photographer and most of your other vendors do, too. Combining it with your alerts will keep you on track, or give you time to change tracks (or credit cards) if you need to. Also, Venmo is a great way to pay vendors quickly and easily right from your phone. It’s the app of life, y’all.

Have This One Place

So, you’ve taken care of the wedding payment trees, don’t ignore the forest that’s your wedding budget! Have one place — an Excel sheet, a Google Doc spreadsheet, heck, a Word document — where you list the total cost of all this stuff! One place where it’s all accounted for, all added up and where you always know what you’re spending and what you’ve spent. When you can see the big picture, you’re setting yourself up to make the best choices, and take many, many deep breaths of relief.

So, what’s your calendar of choice? Do you have any questions about automatic payments or wedding budgets? Let me know in the comments below. And if you would like to find out more about me and my part of Wedding World, go to

See you at the end of the aisle,


Real Bride Meg: Real Advice From Real Brides

Spring is upon us, BABs, and you know what that means: wedding season is just around the corner! In honor of this fabulous time of year, I reached out to some of my favorite former BABs to ask them for their tried-and-true wedding planning advice. Every bride’s wants and needs are different, and it really shows in their answers. Needless to say, each one of them gives great advice!

Erin & Eric: Northampton Country Club, 6/14/2014

What is something you splurged on? I was honored and blessed to have an opportunity to wear my mom’s wedding dress. It ended up being the project that never ended, with the small tweaks and additions rapidly adding cost to the bottom line. I would never dream of changing a thing and I truly believe that it turned out perfect, however, it did end up going way over my originally estimated budget. I’m glad its the “something I splurged on.” I hope the dress will be considered a worthy option for future generations in my family.

Did you skimp on anything? What and why? I wouldn’t qualify this as “skimping,” but I ended up choosing a venue that was all-inclusive. My original vision was a venue that allowed for the selection of my own caterer, decorations, etc. However, I quickly learned that the a la carte wedding can be quite pricey.

Is there anything you wish you had spent less money on, or tossed out all together? I wish I would have done my own makeup. The makeup artist I hired was lovely, but I ended up wiping off quite a bit of the makeup after she was finished. I read all the articles but for some reason the desire to up the ante for my wedding trumped my common sense. I also spent stupid money on robes for myself and my bridesmaids. It was part of the gift I gave to each of my bridesmaids, but I doubt any of us have ever worn them since my wedding. They sure looked cute in pictures though!

Do you have any money-saving tips when it comes to wedding planning? Take advantage of personal connections. My in-laws had a close friend who was a florist who was just starting to do weddings. Due to her recent entry to the industry and relationship to my husband, she kept mark-ups low and went above and beyond in many ways. I had 180 guests at my wedding. The “display” cakes at my reception only had 60 servings. The rest were in sheet cakes that were kept in the kitchen. You wouldn’t believe how much this cuts down on cost!

Any other advice for brides? Don’t skimp on your photographer! I don’t feel like I skimped, but I was definitely cost-conscious.erin

Birds of a Feather Photography

Corrie & Jim: Spring Mill Manor, 10/4/2014

What is something you splurged on? I really splurged on the photographer because of a problem I had early on in planning. I had signed a contract with a company for a photographer and videographer. The package came with free engagement photos, however, the session was rushed and I wasn’t happy with how they came out. And to top it off, the session wasn’t free! I was offered two 8x10s for free and the rest of the package was over $650, a lot for someone who is planning a wedding and did not budget for that extra session. As it turned out, I absolutely loved working with Lynda Berry Photography, who ended up doing my wedding. It was totally worth every cent! I can’t stop looking at these beautiful, Pinterest-worthy pictures.

Did you skimp on anything? What and why? We didn’t skimp out on much due to the financial help from my parents. One thing I wanted and wound up turning down was having a calligrapher do my invitations. I’m not sure why people spend money on that.

Is there anything you wish you had spent less money on, or tossed out all together? I wish we would have spent less money on DIY items. For example, the centerpieces were made up of silk flowers by my mom, my sisters and myself. By the time we had finished with the centerpieces and made many, many runs to the craft store, they ended up costing us way more than if we would have just paid the florist to create our centerpieces.

Do you have any money-saving tips when it comes to wedding planning? I would say plan far in advance so you have time to save up or pay for things as you go without taking too much of a hit. Also, I would suggest picking the top two or three things that mean the most to you and make sure you have budgeted enough to spend what you want on those items.

Any other advice for brides? I found that when you look back on the day, it’s a blur. You don’t remember the details and it’s probably better that way. There are probably a bunch of little things that went wrong or you would have changed, but on that day, none of it really matters. So don’t drive yourself crazy — you only get to be a first-time bride once, so enjoy every single crazy second! corrie

Lynda Berry Photography

Meridith & Kyle: Fonthill Castle, 10/5/2013

What is something you splurged on? My own personal beauty prep. I really embodied the nature of “treat yo’ self.” I got custom nail art in NYC to match my decor, had a facial and wax, had my makeup/hair done for my shower, had individual eyelash extensions – the works! I felt that it was the only time in my life that I had to be the center of attention and I wanted to be the best “version of myself,” if you will.

Did you skimp on anything? What and why? I only spent $20 on shoes for two reasons. 1) I was wearing flats because of my height. 2) my dress totally covered my feet so they couldn’t be seen anyway. We also opted out of a cake and had friends and family bake and make various desserts for a sweets table. Our guests were able to grab a cookie here and there and keep dancing! Last, we did not provide transportation for our guest after the wedding. Our ceremony and reception were on the same site and I had it in my head that we needed to be responsible for everyone getting back to their respective hotels when the night was over. I went so far as to price out school busses, but the costs were outrageous. In the end, I has to trust that my guests were responsible adults and that they take care of themselves after taking the time to celebrate with us.

Is there anything you wish you had spent less money on, or tossed out all together? I (via my mom) impulsively spent way too much money on a custom veil. I fell for the famous rookie move where the seamstress put a veil on my head at my fitting and then I just had to have it. It’s still one of my favorite things from my wedding and the photos are beautiful, but I could have been smarter in my choice.

Do you have any money-saving tips when it comes to wedding planning? Despite my aforementioned veil story, my advice would be to avoid snap decisions unless you’re really sure. The first dress I tried on was the one I chose — I just knew and was ready to pull the trigger. I think trusting your gut on things that feel right doing the due-diligence to research and educate yourself on other things creates a good balance in wedding planning. It’s different for everyone. You may have something that you just can’t live without and it could be totally impractical, but it’s your day, and if you can juggle the budget to squeeze it in, I say go for it. Also, if you can, avoid anything custom! Personalization, “made to order,” catered to you = big bucks. There are ways to bring in your wedding theme or your personal touch without adding monograms to everything.

Any other advice for brides? Have the best day. You will probably never again be in one place with literally every person you love most in the world. Everyone is so happy for you and it’s like being wrapped up in a big blanket of happiness. And you will notice things that go wrong or didn’t pan out the way you wanted them to, but you won’t even care. If you have to, spend a few minutes of your honeymoon venting to your new husband about how the champagne was flat and they forgot someone’s vegetarian entree. When you’re wearing the dress, in a circle of all of your favorite people, screaming your lungs out to your favorite song, never stop dancing. mer

Littlewing Studio Photography