Broke-Ass Tag: San Francisco


Ladies and gents, today we’re SO pleased to feature the wedding of our fabulous contributor Heather (our resident “Can’t Afford It/Get Over It” maven), and her adorable new hubs, Chris. You can tell from these pics (and her regular blog posts) that Heather has excellent taste and fab personal style – and she absolutely brought both to her wedding day. Heather and Chris opted for a time and cost-saving wedding package from a gorgeous golf course in Burlingame, CA, which is half an hour outside of San Francisco. Metro area weddings can be twice the price of this beautiful celebration, but Heather and Chris have graciously provided us with an extensive wedding budget breakdown that shows how they pulled off a wedding with 120 guests for around 20K. So without further ado…

Your names: Heather Murtagh, Chris Vega

Occupations: Reporter at the San Mateo Daily Journal, Vice President for a San Francisco-based R&D startup, respectively

Wedding location: Burlingame, CA

Wedding date: Aug. 31, 2012

Wedding budget: $20,000 (But we went a bit over)

Approximate guest count: 120

How would you describe your wedding? Short reception, big party

What was your favorite part of your wedding?

Heather: The moment we first saw each other. We decided to see each other before the wedding so we could get some of our wedding party photos done before getting things started. The photographers set up a moment where Chris had his back to me and turned around to see me. He was so happy I actually thought he was drunk. He wasn’t. It was very sweet.

Chris: The time we spent together, the alone time.

What did you splurge on? Alcohol. We wanted to have an open bar for longer. And we really wanted to have a big party. We succeeded.

What did you save on? We went with a venue that offered a package deal. That was really helpful in keeping costs in check as well as for planning. Also, my dress was much cheaper than we originally budgeted thanks to a going-out-of-business sale at Priscilla of Boston.

Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? We would have gotten a videographer.

What was your biggest challenge in planning? Gathering contact information was difficult at first. Other than that it wasn’t too difficult. We went with a location that offered package deals. That made things much easier.

What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone wants to help, they just need to know how.

What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?

Heather’s list:

The first time we saw each other

Spending 30 minutes after the ceremony alone taking pictures. It was really nice to have that time to

ourselves. Turns out we giggle a lot when left alone.

Having so many friends and family together in one place.

My brother marrying us! It was so personal. He took it very seriously but also got in some jokes, which is what we wanted. There was a moment when he got really emotional; thinking about it gets me emotional. But my favorite part was when he said to Chris, “You may now kiss my sister.”

The after party! We went to our favorite local bar after with a smaller group of people. It was so much fun. The owner knows us and was very sweet by letting us stay late and providing free drinks for the bride.

Chris’ list:

Heather – she showed up.

My groomsmen were awesome.

Great supportive family and friends.

Photographers were great.

Venue and DJ were great.

Top 5 least favorite? (We failed and only came up two each… I guess that’s a good thing.)

Heather’s list:

Some people had attitudes on the big day. It was hard to not let that get to me. But ultimately no good would have come from focusing on it.

Our venue had a new person on hand to coordinate on the day. We made it work, but it was an inconvenience. Everything did work out though and we’d still recommend them highly.

Chris’ list:

The hangover.

Delta canceling our honeymoon flight multiple times the morning after.

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received?

The best? It’s your day. Enjoy it.

Any other bits of wisdom?

Heather: We both were a bit bummed when everything – wedding and honeymoon – was done. It was like there was nothing big to look forward to after having a year of so much activity. It was weird to get back into the swing of non-wedding planning life.

Chris: Remember to savor the moment. It goes by so fast. Also, if you can, get away on a honeymoon right after. It will give you time to enjoy the high of your new marriage.

Heather & Chris’ wedding budget breakdown:

Venue: Crystal Springs Golf Course – $14,028.23

Food/Drink: Included in our Venue fee — We opted for a lower per person package cost then added on additional hours of a open bar. In total we covered the cost of three hours of bar and had a cash bar for two hours.

Attire/Accessories: Dress – $700 from Priscilla of Boston during their going-out-of business sale. Spent $150 on alterations. Bought Badgley Mischka shoes through Rue La La’s Sunday sale for $50 with tax and shipping. Rented Chris’ tux for $120 from Men’s Wearhouse.

Flowers: Flowers for the reception were included in the package. Paid $936.36 for the bouquets from Rosedale Floral Design – one for the bride and six for the bridesmaids; 10 boutonnieres and two corsages for our moms.

Décor: We really didn’t do much in terms of decor except add votive candles and little hershey kisses on the table. We had enough children for a kid’s table. So I went to the local dollar store and grabbed $15 worth of stuff. It was actually a total hit and hilarious to watch the kids decide who got what.

DJ/band/entertainment: Our DJ was included in our venue package.

Photography: Paid $2,706.25 for the Kermit and Miss Piggy package from Chasing Glimpses Photography, which included: 6 hours of photography at your wedding and nearby locations, Two photographers, 2500+Photos Taken, 6 hours on Site; 20 hours Post production, 75 photos in a modern flush mount photo album, Private 60 days Online Gallery for viewing, sharing, and purchasing DVD of approximately 500 of the best images of your wedding day. All images are enhanced, retouched, if necessary, for beautiful reproduction. We ended up with a DVD of 850 photos. Also, the girls were willing to stay an extra hour with no notice when I realized we hadn’t really gotten some shots during the reception.

Videography: Didn’t do it, but we regret that.

Cake: A delicious cake from Burlingame Cakery was included in our venue package. It was delicious and super easy to get put together. I emailed a photo of the cake design I liked and tried all the combinations. I think Chris liked this part of the planning the best.

Favors: $130 — I made our favors. I’m a huge supporter/volunteer of Make-A-Wish. Using scrapbooking paper, I put together little paper favors that asked people to “Make-A-Wish for the Bride and Groom.” Each had a $1 coin attached. We asked people to either put the coin in a vase near the door or make a larger donation. Anything collected we donated. In the end, we donated $310 to the Greater Bay Area Chapter.

Invitations/printing/postage: My friend designed the invitations and RSVPs. I work at a newspaper. After I asked the publisher about a printing contact,  he offered to cover the cost as a gift. We spent $91.75 on postage. Our Save the Date was a video made by a friend who is starting a side business. Check it out here!

Hair and make-up: $120 for a friend who is also starting a business. She did a test and also bought new makeup on the wedding day which I kept for touch ups.

Wedding bands: $600, we got simple bands and ordered them through a family connection who works in the jewelry industry.

Bridal party: Necklaces for the girls, personalized on etsy. $85

Coordinator/planner: Didn’t use one.

Officiant: My brother got ordained online for free.

License: $40

Other: $500 for rehearsal dinner. We hosted it at Chris’ grandfather’s house, which was less than a mile from the ceremony site. We hired a local taco vendor to come and make food. Then we took advantage of a local winery’s case sale for the booze. We ended up with lots of leftovers.

Also, we spent $310 on hotels over two nights. We did stay local but wanted to be separate on the day of the wedding. We let our siblings, who couldn’t really afford the hotel, crash at our apartment and stayed at the hotel on our wedding night.

Total: $21,792.44

Thanks so much to Heather and Chris, for sharing their big day with BAB, and special thanks to Chasing Glimpses Photography, for providing the gorgeous wedding photos! 

  • 11/29

    I’m having a ball sharing these weddings with you all.  What I’ve truly loved is the fact that couples have always managed to allow their personalities to truly shine through for their wedding day and have had fun sharing it with their guests!

    Jen and Stephen’s wedding is no exception!  I love how they infused two different cultures into their wedding day. The venues are just one example. The marriage ceremony took place at Four Seas Restaurant in Chinatown, San Francisco, and the after party was at Maggie McGarry’s in North Beach, San Francisco.

    Huge thanks to Jen and Stephen for sharing a few details with us about their wedding day! (And yes, we have another budget breakdown for you!)
    Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!

    Decor Details || Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!
    In Jen’s own words“The wedding centered on a pair of purple, hot pink and lime green wedges the bridesmaids wore. The groomsmen’s pocket handkerchiefs were hot pink, and the fathers’ were lime green, matching the bridesmaids’ shoes. The candle centerpieces, invitations, wedding cake, etc., all had the same colors too.”

    Jen's brigade rocks some serious style || Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!
    “For our marriage ceremony, my husband and I had three main goals: throw a “fun party” themed wedding, merge my Chinese culture with his New Orleans background and keep costs low. Growing up with a modest background and as a child of immigrants, I was taught to use my money wisely and to do what I can, myself. When it came to my wedding, I planned every aspect of it and involved my husband and entire wedding party in all the DIY. My parents also taught me that friends and family can be the best resource for things so I used my network of contacts to find good deals.”

    Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!
    Jen's wedding style was infused with her Chinese heritage and her own modern tastes || Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!“My favorite color is purple and for the longest time, I have had a passion for shoes. I had multiple dress changes with matching shoes and Steve changed his tie to match each dress. I wore a tea length 1950’s vintage dress from a trendy consignment store in the Haight with some awesome gold shoes. For the Chinese tea ceremony, I wore my grandmother’s Cheongsam (an elegant Chinese dress) trimmed in purple with hand-painted butterflies and Steve dressed in a Chinese outfit. I also wore two after-season Betsey Johnson prom dresses right off the clearance rack, for the cake cutting and after-party.”

    Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!

    Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!“We decided to save on venue rental fees. Most places have an up-charge when they hear the word “wedding” so we opted to host our wedding at a large restaurant with a sizeable banquet hall. The restaurant charged us per-head, and allowed us to bring in our own alcohol as long as we met their minimum required headcount. Since we were able to purchase our alcohol elsewhere, we took advantage of the BevMo ‘Buy One Get the Second for 5 Cent’ Deal Days.

    We felt that our day would be special no matter where we held it. We didn’t need to have a fancy winery backdrop or luxurious venue. By having the ceremony and reception in a restaurant, close to hotels, we added convenience for our out of town guests, ensuring there wouldn’t be drinking and driving. Additionally, we were able to block out rooms at nearby hotels at a low rate and didn’t have to hire shuttles to get people around. This not only saved us money but saved money for our traveling guests as well which was important to us and added to the DIY general savings.”

    Traditional Chinese symbols made an appearance || Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!

    Stephen and Jen cut the cake! || Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!

    Jen rocked a Betsey Johnson after-season dress for part of the celebration || Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!


    We splurged on the dresses, wraps and shoes, pedi and mani for the bridesmaids and the tuxedos and shoes for the groomsmen. Our friends mean a lot to us and we wanted our wedding party to be a part of our special day, but not at their expense. We saved money in other areas and we thought we should pass the savings onto them, to show how much we appreciated their friendship and help throughout the wedding planning process. As a side note to this, we wanted to express our style in our wedding by having the girls wear brightly colored hot pink, purple and lime green 4 inch platform shoes and having the guys wear matching purple high top Converse. The theme for the wedding was “fun” and had to include cool shoes because I, as the bride, love shoes!”
    Who says your dress has to be white? || Real Wedding: Jen & Stephen's New Orleans/Chinatown Budget Extravaganza!
    “Our favorite moment of the day was mingling, drinking Champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres with the guests prior to the ceremony. This allowed us to greet people as they came in and ensured we were able to say hi to everyone by the end of the wedding. We started the wedding on a positive vibe and kept that energy going.

    Since we had to move a large number of guests through a buffet line, we didn’t want them to be bored. While releasing the tables, one of my cousins performed a Tahitian dance and another cousin did break-dancing. After changing into my party dress and purple heels, we did a traditional New Orleans second-line, where the guests waved white handkerchiefs, which were the wedding favors, and danced to music following me, dancing and holding a parasol, to a bar in North Beach. We contacted a bar who agreed to open early for us and as luck would have it, a live band performed that night and dedicated their show to us. A friend from Extreme Pizza sent pizza as a wedding gift, throughout the night and we had a second wedding cake, which a pastry chef friend made. It was a really fun day and night!”

    Jen and Stephen’s DIY list includes:

    • They drew the centralized symbol that was used throughout their wedding pieces (the symbol was a vase with two lilies to represent the Fleur de lis of New Orleans and a Chinese character for love)
    • Save the Date cards
    • Invitations – Each one was printed at home and handmade
    • They built their own wedding website –
    • Centerpieces of candle holders wrapped in ribbon
    • Place card holders from wine corks
    • Printed and folded each wedding program
    • Folded each restaurant napkin to hold an individual wedding program as a place setting
    • Made the placards for each table – Identified each table with a name of a local winery
    • Each “out of town” couple received a handmade gift basket containing a bottle of wine, cheese, crackers and a personalized booklet (DIY) providing a map of the area, directions to and from the hotel to the wedding events, list of popular restaurants and activities to do… plus phone numbers of the local groomsmen and bridesmaids for questions
    • Ironed on the centralized symbol on white handkerchiefs as favors and were used in the traditional New Orleans second line
    • Created the wedding playlist
    • Developed the picture montage

    But I think you all are waiting for the Budget Breakdown.  Jen and Stephen’s budget was $16,000… but in the end, they spent $15,884.51.

    Area Percentage
    Favors 1%
    Décor 2%
    Flowers 3%
    Cake 4%
    Refreshments 5%
    Photography 6%
    Stationary, Ink and Postage 6%
    Entertainment (Band and Lion Dancers) 9%
    Gifts (Wedding party, helpers, “Thank You” brunch, gift baskets, etc.) 10%
    Clothing 22%
    Food 33%
    GRAND TOTAL 100%

    Lastly, Jen and Stephen leave you with some wedding planning advice:

    “Plan early and do a little bit at a time as you move towards your wedding day. Have weekend wine and pizza events with your girls and even your groomsmen and have them help make things. Assign each bridesmaid and groomsmen a specific role for the day of the wedding, so that you know the task will be handled. We gave each wedding party attendee an itinerary with time slots and responsible parties so that everyone knew what occurred when and who was responsible. If you plan early and leave nothing to the last minute, you’ll be stress-free on the wedding day and the day prior. You’ll be able to enjoy everything and have your special day just the way you dreamed it would be.”

    Congratulations to Jen and Stephen!

    Thanks to Heather Elizabeth for sharing her photography as well.

    There’s more this wedding here and don’t forget to stick around Heather Elizabeth’s blog to see the rest of her work.


    Lydia from Ever Ours