Broke-Ass Tag: Seattle

9/3

Since my last post was about things I’m glad I did before the wedding, today’s will be about what I did after that I’m pretty happy about: Going on my awesome honeymoon immediately following the wedding. Honeymooners are divided into two firm camps, it seems. Many couples I know decided to take a few more weeks or months to rebuild their savings before heading off on a grand adventure (or simply couldn’t get enough time off work). Other couples vehemently told us GO RIGHT AWAY, enjoy the newly-wedded bliss and relax after such a huge event!

Nick and I are both of German descent, so we initially thought we’d join the former group and plan an early fall trip to Germany. Since the idea of going straight back to work 36 hours after one of the most momentous occasions of my life sounded like the worst thing ever, I thought maybe we’d also take two or three days that first week and rent a cabin in Big Sur, only a few hours north of Los Angeles. But by the time I finished crunching numbers and doing some scouting, I realized that if we don’t have time and money for Germany now, we likely won’t have it only a couple of months later. Plus Big Sur in June in pretty darn expensive, on its own. Life also tends to get in the way, so I realized that I really wanted to do something special before anything could throw a wrench in our plans. As if to tell me to follow my gut, I was bombarded left and right with stories from friends and even strangers about how they wished they hadn’t waited so long after the wedding to go away together. At what point would it cease to be a honeymoon, and become just a trip together? So we changed our focus and decided on the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle and British Columbia, immediately after the wedding (we’re mountain people, as opposed to beach people). Besides choosing an unusual honeymoon destination (so no crazy markups), here are a few things we did that saved us time, money, and stress, that are hopefully applicable to everyone’s idea of a good time!

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At the base of a glacier in Whistler, B.C., right before we saw a bear!

1) First of all, don’t forget to take care of the marriage license before you leave! I thought we had 90 days to get it mailed in, but it turns out we had 10. I only found this out on the 11th day, and scrambled to get it to the county clerk. Before you go, make sure your minister or parents or bridesmaid or someone can get it sent in while you’re away.

2) We waited until Monday morning to leave. Since our wedding was on Saturday, that gave us Sunday to say good-bye to family and friends, do laundry and pack. The week before the wedding was waaaay too crazy to have time to do any of those things, plus flights were a little cheaper on a weekday.

3) Made reservations far ahead of time (for the first leg). This turned out to be pretty crucial. I made a car rental reservation back in February, just in case, thinking I could cancel it and get a better deal once we got to our destination. Thank goodness I did, though, because it turned out to be an insanely busy weekend in Seattle (Seattle Pride!) and the only cars available without a reservation were the super-luxury rentals. We were also able to get an amazing deal on our splurge hotel because we booked so far in advance — the day after I booked it (also in February), the same room had already gone up $75 a night and kept climbing for the next few months. It was nice to know that we for sure had a place to go after a long day of traveling.

4) Did NOT make reservations for the rest. We weren’t sure how long we’d want to spend in each city we planned on visiting, so we decided to leave the middle few days up to chance. We scoured last-minute deal sites and ended up staying in one-bedroom suites with full kitchens in each location, for far less than the cost of a regular room had we booked in advance. We did end up having to stay a little further out of town in Seattle, but it worked out well because we were able to get out of the craziness of the city and get a solid night’s sleep in a local suburb.

5) Told anyone and everyone that we were on our honeymoon. Obviously don’t do this expecting to get freebies and upgrades, but it was fun getting the good wishes from those we told. And it didn’t hurt that our splurge hotel upgraded us from the most basic queen room to the $800 a night, harbor view suite, along with a special delivery of chocolate-covered strawberries.

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Hello, free upgrade! The view from our suite at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C.

6) Called credit card companies ahead of time to find out about foreign transaction fees, and to let them know we’d be spending money in unusual places. I can’t think of anything worse than having my account frozen on my honeymoon while they verified it wasn’t fraud. We also got tips from one company on how to avoid the foreign transaction fees in Canada.

7) Opened up a joint back account before the wedding, so that we could cash checks that were written to us both immediately after. Thanks to the generosity of our family and friends, we were able to pay for a lot of things in cash and not have to worry about those fees in the first place!

8) Called our cellphone company to find out about foreign calls and data. While most smart phones are world phones, it turns out you have to buy an extra data and messaging package to use them if you leave the States. I think Verizon was $10 for 10 gigs of data, so we bought one for each of our phones so we could at least Facebook message each other in case of an emergency. We used the free WiFi in our hotels and in coffee shops to plan our activities, but it was also nice to have an excuse to turn our phones off the rest of the time and focus on each other.

9) Signed up for local Groupon alerts for the cities on our itinerary. For example, we found an awesome deal on kayaks for two that was valid the weekend we’d be in Seattle. That saved us a huge amount of money and was one of the most memorable things we did. And though we didn’t buy them, there were tons of great massage deals, too! We missed a deal for the Vancouver Aquarium by a day, so sign up as far in advance as you can, and don’t forget their local deals section while you’re actually in town.

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Post-kayak, pre-oyster binge in Seattle, WA.

10) Researched package deals. I got a screaming deal on ferry passes and a one-night hotel stay in Vancouver Island, and if we’d had more time, the Seattle City Pass would have allowed us to see five of the bigger tourist attractions for the price of four. Our splurge hotel, the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C., had a tea and gardens package that gave us one night’s stay plus their world-famous afternoon tea and two tickets to the historic Butchart Gardens for about $100 less than if we’d booked them separately. Poke into every single corner of the web for deals, and especially read traveler’s forums! Many attractions also give discounts for purchasing tickets online in advance.

11) Took advantage of happy hours for many of our meals. So much amazing Canadian beer! So many $1 oysters at Pike Place Market! And this allowed us to not feel too guilty splurging on the large-size smoked duck poutine, for example, and allowed us to really go all out at our last meal. We also ate a lot of snacks from the local supermarkets, which allowed us to try some unusual things without breaking the bank at restaurants during meal time.

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Duck poutine at the Heron Rock Bistro in Victoria, B.C.

Basically, a tl;dr summary: No matter where you go or for how long, do your research so you’re prepared, but leave some room for spontaneity, and save on the little things so you can splurge on a few big ones! Happy honeymooning!

Elissa Stooker
  • 6/29

    Affiliate Disclaimer NewParental gross out! || Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Weddings are a celebration of love but also of those who will be saying vows. In June 2012, Mike and Alison decided to not only exchange rings but also celebrate all the geeky things they love in an $8,000, 55-person wedding in Seattle. This couple relied on the help of friends and family to stick to a tight budget, add extra special touches and celebrate the uniqueness of, well, them. Their work resulted in a super personal wedding that included personalized 20-sided dice and a pub crawl. Yep, you want to party with them.

    Names: Mike and Alison
    Occupations: Mike – mild-mannered computer technician; Alison – full-time biology student

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Wedding location: Rainier Chapter House, Daughters of the American Revolution in Seattle, Washington
    Wedding date: June 10, 2012
    Wedding budget: $8,000
    Approximate guest count: 55 and ⅜ (Not everyone could make it.)

    First look || Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    First Look || Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    How would you describe your wedding? All of our favorite things: costumes and board games and time travel and cake and friends and family and also, we got married!

    What was your favorite part of your wedding? There was so much! I think the best was that we’d put together such a great team that once we arrived on-site, our worries evaporated and we just had a great time. We assembled a group of friends and vendors who were genuinely excited about helping us and thoroughly geeked out about their part in it.

    What did you splurge on? Photography was really important to us. Mike and I both volunteer as event staffers, so we know how a big event can turn into a haze of barely remembered moments. Photos mean we’ll remember.

    We couldn’t talk ourselves out of Madres catering, either. They’d been very impressive from the very beginning. Anyone who’s been to a bunch of catered events knows that there are two kinds – catering that’s good and catering that’s good enough. If Madres ran a restaurant, I’d be excited to go there as often as I could. I dream about those shrimp cakes.

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    What did you save on?

    • Dress. I found my dress on Etsy for under $300! If you take your time and don’t let yourself be discouraged, you really can find the dress you want.
    • Handmade paper bouquets and centerpieces. I think the paper and supplies ran us a little over $100. You could do it for even less, I just really like fancy paper. And at the end of the day, most of the centerpieces and little boutonniere-sized flowers I made were taken home by guests, too!
    • No booze. We had a dry wedding, just tea and lemonade and water and coffee, no alcohol. We added a note to our wedding site and program about a pub crawl after the reception, and several of our guests joined us at a bar down the street from the venue.
    • Venue. The venue itself was inexpensive and easy to work with, and they provided all of the furniture and tableware, and even an iPod dock for our music!
    • Shoes. My shoes came from my existing wardrobe. It’s surprisingly difficult to find lime green shoes and I already had a few pairs.
    • A new approach to dressy dudes. For the men, getting over the tuxedo idea saved us a bunch of cash. Our best man came in costume pulled from his own wardrobe, and Mike bought a nice plain suit for the same amount of money we’d have spent renting a tux.
    • Volunteers rather than gifts. The biggest money-saver was probably asking for volunteers instead of gifts. In an apartment as small as ours, more stuff is almost a calamity. Once we convinced our friends what we really wanted was help, things came together very quickly. In fact, a few friends we’d intended to pay donated their services entirely!

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect?
    I think I might have arranged in advance to have someone pick me up from my hair appointment. I thought it’d be easy to catch a cab to the venue, and it usually is … when there aren’t a bunch of commencement ceremonies going on all over town.
    There were no cabs. Thankfully, Mike was able to come pick me up in his smoke-belching rattletrap of a truck. (I should note that he insisted I describe the truck this way.) We arrived a little bit late and I’d had time to freak out about everything, but in the process I’d also texted everyone I could get a hold of to let them know what was going on, and we didn’t drop a beat.

    What was your biggest challenge in planning?
    When we first started out, we had no idea what the wedding would cost, so we waited until we had a better idea. And if we’d answered any of those questions in the beginning instead of trying to wing it, we could have saved ourselves a lot of headaches.
    If there is a lesson to be learned from our mistakes, it should be to establish the budget at the beginning of planning.

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself?
    A wedding is a socially appropriate opportunity to shout your love from the rooftops, to say “this is who I intend to build a life with.” It doesn’t have to be anything else. I learned that we could make it the party we wanted and throw out or ignore or mutate all the parts we weren’t comfortable with, the parts that weren’t us or our families or our friends.

    What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?

    • NO ONE QUESTIONS THE BRIDE HAVING A FLASK OF WHISKEY. NO ONE.
    • Our vows.
    • Our good friend and officiant’s excellent ceremony, and our readings.
    • Costume party!
    • Board game reception!

    Top 5 least favorite?

    • No cabs. I mean, really? I thought I was going to pop a vein in my head.
    • Close friends who couldn’t make it to the wedding.
    • Crinolines are difficult!

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received?
    The notion that there is a “right way” to design your wedding, and that someone other than you gets to decide what that is. Don’t let others define your needs for you. The only way to do a wedding wrong is to let it turn into something you didn’t want.

    The best?
    Think about your deal breakers: What are a few things you must have or must avoid for your wedding? Once you know what you’ve got to have, it’s really easy to compromise on the things you’re less interested in.

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Board games! || Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Any other bits of wisdom?
    Be true to yourself and what you need.
    A wedding is a big project with a lot of moving parts, and it’s a big event. We’re socialized to think of a wedding as something people just up and do, without need for specialized training or research, but it’s not like there’s a high school class on how to throw a tightly scheduled party for 40-300 people. I’m not kidding when I say people go to college to learn that sort of thing. Don’t try to plan or run this party alone. Ask loved ones to pitch in. Hire experts to help. Do research. Give yourself lots of time. If you do the research and ask for help, you don’t have to lose your mind planning a wedding.
    Hire vendors who are genuinely excited about your plans and can’t stop talking about how they can help. They’ll be there for you, and the results will be better than you imagined.
    The wedding industry will sell you on tradition any chance they get. Be wary of “tradition,” and realize that if a lot of these traditions are only a few years old, you can definitely create your own new traditions too!

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash Real Wedding: Mike and Alison’s Super Fun, Costumey, Budget-Friendly Seattle Wedding Bash

    Budget breakdown with vendors
    Photography: A little under $3,000 for an engagement session and wedding package with a few extra goodies. Firstlight Photography

    Catering: Just over $1,700 through Madres Events.

    Venue: About $1,500, including tables, chairs, linens and tableware.  DAR Rainier Chapter House

    Email invitations and wedding website: $30 per month through Glo.

    Cake: $300, the designer is a friend of ours. Clever Cake Studio

    Dress: Roughly $270 for a custom designed dress. Pixie Pocket 

    Shoes: Came from my wardrobe, but were between $120 and $200 new. These shoes last forever if you take good care of them, can be repaired by the manufacturer, and look awesome. Fluevog 

    Suit: $250. Men’s Wearhouse

    Paper and other supplies for the centerpieces: About $100. Paper Source 

    Centerpieces: My centerpieces were half of a flower ball. Here is a good set of instructions.

    Favors: $135 for 100 gorgeous 20-sided dice. We called them directly about the Precision Gaming dice (they’re really pretty) and they were amused by the idea when we explained they were for a wedding. We got a discount out of it! Gamestation 

    Stockings and garter belt: Something like $30. It’s easy to spend a lot more here! Sock Dreams

    A super shout out to our bride and groom for showcasing the memorable fun that can be created when you embrace who you are. With their help, other couples can save cash as well as learn how to make a number of the projects at home. What else could a girl want?