Broke-Ass Tag: DIY wedding

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2/10

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Name: Elissa and Nick

Occupation: College Advisor + Medical Tech

Wedding Location: Pasadena, California

Wedding Date: June 20, 2015

Number of Guests: 80ish

Budget: Less than $15,000

How would you describe your wedding?

Pretty traditional in structure, though we wrote our service with the help of a Unitarian Universalist minister so that people of all faiths would feel welcome. Overall, we wanted it to feel like a fun backyard party, but in fancy clothes. Our priorities were an outdoor ceremony, delicious food, quality drinks and good music that everyone knew and could enjoy.

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What was your favorite part of your wedding?

Having all of our far-flung friends and family in the same place. People traveled from all over the country to be with us on our big day, and it meant more than words can express.

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What did you splurge on?

We were pretty good about balancing the costs of all the pieces, so I don’t feel like we really broke the budget on any one aspect. I was originally planning on walking down the aisle to a Simon & Garfunkel song, but Nick had the idea to find a harpist to play before and during the ceremony. She played a Beatles medley as our guests were seated, and the bridal party all entered to Elvis’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” The harp was such a unique and beautiful touch, and I am SO glad I let Nick talk me into it.

What did you save on?

So many things! Nick’s dad is a videographer, so a friend of his did the filming, and he did the editing as our wedding gift. We also bought a lot of supplies from Costco and antique stores, and made all of the decorations ourselves, including the ceremony backdrop, the centerpieces, the table runners and even the bar! We hired college students to help with set-up and serving, and hired our harpist through a local music school. We also decided to do a small cake to cut and a table full of assorted desserts, in lieu of a big expensive wedding cake.

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Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect?

  1. Hired a day-of coordinator. I almost hired an awesome one, Events by Holly Gray, but a friend volunteered to be my day-of point person at the last minute. A professional day-of coordinator would have taken all the stress off of my friends and let them relax and have fun.
  2. Planned a grand exit at the end of the night. We wanted to stay and say goodbye to all our guests, so we ended up being the last ones to leave the venue. It was pretty hectic trying to get everything cleaned up and out of the venue on time, and weird to see all our hard work getting disassembled.
  3. Invited more people! Life happens, and many guests whom we thought would come couldn’t. We had lots of extra spaces left over, and there were many friends I would have loved to have invited if I hadn’t been so conservative/nervous about the headcount.

What was your biggest challenge in planning?

Finding a venue! I had a couple of freak outs during the first few months of our engagement, as I couldn’t find ANY venues that coordinated both budget and style. In total desperation I ended up revisiting the first place I ever liked, but had rejected because of their availability. It turns out I had misread their website the first time around, and it ended up being absolutely perfect for us.

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

I ended up throwing all my pre-engagement ideas about my wedding out the window once I actually started planning. My fiancé had some awesome ideas and perspectives, and it was fun building our big day together – I didn’t realize when we started how much he wanted to be a part of the planning! And decorations and cool details are great and all, but as long as you have food and music, everyone’s going to have a great time – so don’t stress about the little things. Most of all though, it really does take a village to do anything big in life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be gracious when you receive it.

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What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?

  1. The ceremony. It was over 100 degrees on the day of our outdoor wedding, but shade from the trees fell just right across the ceremony site so that it was still warm, but pleasant. Sunbeams streamed through the trees, birds sang and a butterfly flew around us at the beginning. It was an incredibly surreal moment in time, but there was so much laughter, love, and excitement.
  2. The food. We had our favorite taco place, MexiCali in downtown L.A., set up a taco bar with your choice of freshly grilled meat and veggies. Our appetizers and wedding cake were from our favorite Cuban restaurant, Porto’s, and we had a variety of homemade cupcakes on the dessert table. I only wish I’d been able to eat more!
  3. The music. I gave our DJ a list of songs I’d collected from the MoTown and Seventies Hits Pandora channels, and he filled in the rest with some killer oldies and party favorites. I can’t remember a single song being played that I didn’t love! I danced so hard that I ripped both a strap and the train off my dress.
  4. How authentic it was. We had lots of guests tell us afterward that it was one of the best weddings they’d been to, because it was inclusive, low-key, and … tacos.
  5. A family member Skyped my grandma during the ceremony, and at one point I was able to turn around and see her grinning from ear-to-ear on the phone screen.
  6. Bonus: Nick and I met when we lived in a three-unit apartment complex, all rented by 20-somethings. There was a core group of about 10 or 12 friends who either lived there or hung out there during that time, and were there for the beginning of Nick and my relationship. At one point we all came together on the dance floor for a giant group hug, singing our hearts out. It had been years since we were all together in one place (minus one couple who moved out of the country), so it was an incredibly moving and memorable moment.

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Top 5 least favorite?

  1. I didn’t budget enough time in the days leading up to the wedding to get our DIY projects set up, so we were running late on the morning of. Because of this, we didn’t get a chance to take many pictures before the ceremony.
  2. I’m still on the fence about this, but I kind of wish we had done a seating chart! I’ve been to so many weddings where guests moved chairs around and sat where they wanted to despite the chart, so I figured we’d just let our guests choose. But I’ve also enjoyed going to weddings where all the various friends and family got to mingle more with each other over dinner, instead of just out on the dance floor.
  3. Things that were out of our control, like the hot, humid weather and traffic woes (e.g. President Obama’s surprise visit to Pasadena on the day of our rehearsal dinner).
  4. The wedding had to end and everyone had to go home.
  5. We only get to have one wedding. I have so many more ideas!

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received?

I can’t remember any bad advice, but I had to learn to shrug off all the people who only had negative things to say about wedding planning, like “Oh, you’re about to be so miserable!”

The best?

I got so much good advice from friends, family, and of course The Broke-Ass Bride, but I think my favorite was a reminder to take a few moments alone together as a couple during the reception, to be in the moment and be thankful for everything that’s happening.

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Any other bits of wisdom?

  • I highly recommend pre-martial counseling. It led us to much deeper conversations than usual about important topics, and reminded us that the wedding is ultimately about the start of a marriage, not just an evening of partying.
  • I’m also really glad we have the ceremony on video, because I can’t remember much about it except how excited I felt. It was so nice to listen to the words again, and see details that I’d missed in the moment.
  • Despite my best efforts to be careful while eating, I spilled a big dollop of guacamole on my lap during dinner. Right after, an excited guest accidentally spilled their drink on Nick’s shirt. My wonderful mom saved the day both times with club soda, a Tide pen and a clean towel. Have all of these things at easy access during the reception!

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Budget breakdown

All prices are approximate, and just for the main categories. Even with all the little miscellaneous costs here and there, we ended up sticking pretty darn close to our original budget thanks to extensive research and negotiating.

  • Venue $2,500
  • Food (buffet dinner + appetizers) $2,200
  • Photographer $2,000
  • Bride and Groom’s outfits $1,000
  • Alcohol $800
  • Rentals (tablecloths + dishes + glasses) $700
  • DJ (friend of a friend) $600
  • Decorations $600
  • Flowers $500
  • Minister + Counseling sessions $400
  • Harpist $300
  • Paper goods (PaperSource) + Printing $250
  • Cake $150
  • Event Insurance $100
  • Hair + Makeup: Free courtesy of a wonderful friend, plus about $100 in products from Sephora.

Vendors

Our vendors were all incredible to work with, and I’d recommend each of them in a heartbeat for being kind, flexible, and responsive.

Venue: The Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church

Appetizers and Desserts: Porto’s Bakery

Catering: MexiCali Taco

Photographer: A Sight of Love Photography

Rentals: Ace Party Rentals, North Hollywood

DJ: Cee Brown

Harpist: Jacqueline Marshall

Florist: PoppyHill Flowers

Print shop: Color Images Copy and Print

Hair and Makeup: Sarah Rocksdale

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Congratulations, Elissa and Nick!

Elissa Stooker
  • 2/8

    Here’s a big HELLO to all my ladies out there bride’n on a budget! I will start this off by saying that I am super stoked to be here sharing my journey down the aisle with y’all! My name is Heather, and I am a lady who knows how to pinch a penny when it comes to weddings! I have always kind of been obsessed with the whole wedding process. Mostly because when my friends and family were all getting married before me, I saw the prices and was like, “Let’s find a way to save some cash!” So, I have helped them plan events with guest totals ranging from from 50 to 250 over the course of the years. I then was paid to coordinate a few weddings. I also became very involved in the industry photographing weddings after the photographer from my first wedding hired me, and then a few years later I went out on my own shooting weddings. (That’s right, this is literally not my first rodeo, I was married before). That whole first marriage didn’t work out, but I learned some great lessons along the way about both relationships and weddings.

    Flashing forward to the now, and the wonderful reason that I am here introducing myself to y’all. I found my unicorn! He is an absolutely amazing man. The one person out there who gets me. The man that I look at and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves me. I know that he appreciates the path I walked down to find him because without my past, he knows that I would not be who I am, and I am who he loves. He accepts me for all my good points and all of my many flaws as well. He believes in me and he reminds me to believe in myself. There is so much love between us, and when he nervously asked me to be his wife on Christmas Eve, I was absolutely honored to be able to say “Yes!!!”

    Real Bride Heather: ring shot

    Okay, okay, I will stop being all mushy now! Let’s get down to some wedding deets! We decided that we will be doing this thang in May of 2017. I would marry him yesterday … but in order to budget, and hopefully pay cash for everything, we decided to push our wedding out a little bit to give us plenty of time to make it work. We toyed with the idea of eloping or a destination wedding — there are some great deals to be had on cruises and destinations because I have researched them in our decision making process. Turns out, it is very important to include as many people who want to be there as possible, so the best way for us to do that is to have it locally in Georgia. It will still be pretty small, but it will be what we can afford and will include as many people as we possibly can. It will be a wonderful day filled with commitment and love. It will be the day that a new chapter begins for each of us, and I am so excited to share the process with you all!

    Real Bride Heather: US

    You can expect to see me do a little DIY (quite possibly a lot of it), find some snazzy ways to save some cash, and to look at things a little differently because that is just who I am! If my calculations are correct, you will see us throw a badass bash on a broke ass budget! I will navigate this crazy wedding experience with you, and I hope that you join me for the ride!

    Welcome to the team, Heather!

  • 1/26

    Our first official wedding correspondence is going out in a week or two (as soon as I get around to DIY-ing them) -- our Save the Dates. Everyone we’re close to knows that we’re getting married. It shouldn’t be a secret or surprise to anyone when they arrive in the mail. It’s also not as if our wedding and getting married doesn’t already seem real;…

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    1/21

    Several Real Brides have been honest about the fact that at some point in the planning process, they start to hate their wedding. It happens often enough that I think it's actually kind of normal. Whether it's a shrinking budget, family complaints or vendor mayhem, plenty of things can cause you stress. I'm not here to tell you not to let them; I'm here to…

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    1/20

    Guys, I can't even tell you how stoked I am to share this wedding with you. I've known Marcus and Myndi for, like, ever. We all grew up together in Jackson, Wyo., and I have so much love for these two. There are few things more fun than watching old friends cultivate an amazingly strong relationship and grow a family later in life. Myndi and…

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    1/13

    Being a BAB has been an amazing experience for me. With my limited budget and limited crafting skills (I try, but I’ve learned when it comes to Pinterest fabulous chalkboard direction signs and flower arrangements ... I’m better off using my other talents), I’ve had to learn to be resourceful to get what I want. And I’ve also learned that many things we’re told we…

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    11/25

    Last time, I shared some of the DIY Details of my elegant, jewel-toned wedding, so now I'm back to give you the low down on how you can make some of those projects work for you. One of the easiest (promise!) and most fun projects I tackled was turning plain, inexpensive wine glasses into gorgeous, favor-worthy works of art with alcohol ink. Actually, I used this…

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    11/24

    Hey guys! I am writing this to you today as a married lady! Yay! Here's proof that we really did tie the knot in front of God and everything! Married life thus far is pretty awesome. Matt and I just got back from our “mini-moon” at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass. If you ever have a reason to be in that area, it’s pretty great…

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    11/12

    I knew BAB and I were going to get along when I saw the tagline "Creativity is our Currency." Creativity is something I pride myself on, and when I can glean from the imagination of other awesome people, I'm usually set to create something truly impressive. The hand-craftedness of the majority of my decorations was something that began as a ploy to save some major…

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