Broke-Ass Tag: tips


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So we totally got married!

Real Bride Emma is Married!
Us, being all married and weird. Image credit: Matthew Haydn Jeanes

And it was just the most brilliant day ever. I’m awaiting the official photographs from our photographer Stewart McPherson (who was an utter trooper and worked phenomenally hard all day long), but a few friends and family also snapped a bit on the day so I can share some of those with you, along with the hints and tips of how we did stuff. I’ll do a fuller summary when the photos come through, as I know they’ll be epic.

Here is Stewart, being all sexy and photographer-y. Image credit Matthew Haydn Jeanes

1. Time is definitely of the essence

We were really lucky that our venue was not being used the day before our wedding, so we could go in and set up in advance. Since we were doing all the decor ourselves this was a life-saver.

We spent very little on decor, and some of my favourite bits were also the cheapest. Number one being the ivy staircase.

Real Bride Emma's DIY-Decorated Ivy Staircase
Image: My Own

Mike’s dad brought with him a load of, ahem, harvested wild ivy which he delicately threaded through the stairs. I then added a few of the paper flowers which my maid of honour had made (she was 100% the best at making these, although mine weren’t too shabby either!). And voila! One statement staircase for the entrance of the venue, absolutely no cost. And the venue liked it so much they kept it for the next bride!

Detailed Shot of Real Bride Emma's Staircase
Image credit: Matthew Haydn Jeanes

2. Everything looks chic when it’s wrapped in hessian

We re-potted lots of plants into little terra cotta pots which belonged to my grandad, but for the bigger ones we just decided to wrap their existing plastic in hessian. Saved time and looked cute.

Also, the major plus in decorating with potted plants is that there’s no arranging required, you just shove them wherever you need colour and they look great. Here’s one of our fireplaces to demonstrate:
Already-existing potted plants make for simple, chic wedding decoration
Image: My own

3. Cut flowers from your garden can look fabulous

This may be slightly controversial, and I’m sure I’ll get struck down by florists who deservedly find lots of employment in supplying flowers for weddings, BUT it is possible to provide your own flowers for a fraction of the cost.

But here’s the dea:l It’s money-cheap, but time-expensive. So you have to really want to do it. You also definitely need a back-up plan, just in case it doesn’t come off. And finally, prepare to have a house full of earwigs. Just saying, that’s totally a thing. Luckily they never made an appearance at the venue!

Michael grew a mixture of flowers to be potted and others to be cut, and we weren’t particularly picky about colours or types of flower — just whatever was likely to be in bloom in October. That gave us an incredible amount of variety on the day, and so much colour in every room. So it is doable, if you have the time and inclination.

Real Bride Emma's Decor Detail
Image: My Own
Real Bride Emma's Seating Chart
Image credit: Harriet de Winton
Real Bride Emma's Tablescape
Image: My own

4. Embrace the crafting

There were a few other things we made ourselves, either in the run up to the wedding or on the day, and I am so glad we did. They were:

  • Paper bouquets.
    I had my ‘maids over for an evening where we sacrificed awful rom-com books to the greater good and made a bunch (sorry) of paper roses. Afterwards I arranged these into bouquets and added the pearl spray. Simples. And I loved them — they were so personal (I am a huge bookworm), so free, and so indestructible!
Real Bride Emma carried a paper bouquet
Me and my bouquet, with some random dude…
Image credit: Matthew Haydn Jeanes

My maid of honour and all-round medal-winning crafty person, also made the button holes for the men using the same flowers. In about five minutes. She is a witch, but luckily a good one.

Paper boutonnieres
Image: My own
  • Statement pieces using more paper flowers.
    On our prep day we shoved eucalyptus leaves into florists oasis blocks and then attached spare paper roses to the spray to make it look nice. Again, super inexpensive — top tip, if you need loads of foliage to beef up your arrangements, eucalyptus is your best friend. Really cheap and really pretty. You’re welcome.
Eucalyptus and paper flowers make for an inexpensive but gorgeous statement piece
Arrangement created by Michael and my dad. Image: My own.
  • I “made” my belt for the day myself by hastily stitching an embellished piece of fabric to some more fabric. The jewelled bit cost me £7 on eBay, and the other material was a few quid in a crafting store. Was it brilliantly sewn? No, of course not, I am terrible at that sort of thing. But no one notices details like that, they just see the shiny stuff. You can totes get away with it too — don’t be afraid to have things not be absolutely perfect.

And that’s it for now. As I said, a fuller roundup of the day to come with a bit more bridal advice, but hopefully that’ll keep ya going for now! And if not, here’s a pic of my adorable flower girl and page boy … one, two, three … awwwww …

Real Bride Emma's flower girl and page boy
Image credit: Matthew Haydn Jeanes

Am Dram Wife – out!

What did you do that made a big impact but cost very little to decorate for your wedding? Share in the comments!

Emma Watkins
  • 11/7

    It can take a lot of time and effort to find the right vendor for any part of a wedding. And while lots of websites have list upon list of key questions that you should ask each and every vendor, here are the things that send up little flags for me personally as to whether I’ll consider doing business with a vendor.

    1. Timely responses to my phone calls and emails! First  things first–let’s talk about timeliness.  I expect that as a prospective client, when I come a-knockin’, that my email will be acknowledged within a reasonable time frame; say, a week.  I don’t even expect to have all of my questions answered at that time, a “Hey Mellzah, got your message, I’ll have time to give you a full reply next week” response will suffice (provided that they do actually then respond to me within the time frame they’ve now set for themselves).

    I don’t expect anyone to sleep with their phones under their pillow or devote their lives to email outside of business hours, but if a vendor doesn’t reply to an inquiry within a reasonable time frame, they’ve already sent me a message: “Your business is not important to me.” Think about it: when you go out to interview for a job, you’re on your best behavior–you arrive on time, you’re clean and well-dressed, you go out of your way to impress the interviewer because you want the job, even if your natural proclivities tend toward lateness and merely occasional swipes of deodorant, because you want their money.

    As a personal example of businesses doing it wrong, when I was searching for my ideal venue,  I ended up cutting two I had initially loved off of my list: one had asked me if I wanted a tour, and when I responded in the affirmative, fell off the face of the earth and never replied to me again. The other, while beautiful, has negative review after negative review on Yelp for “weeks of no contact” “emails constantly ‘getting lost'”, “urgent voicemails left with no response”…it’s not something that inspires confidence. My personal belief is that if a business doesn’t impress me while still in the honeymoon stage of trying to get my money,  they’re certain to treat me even more poorly after they have it. On the flip side, when a business responds to my questions promptly and thoroughly, I’m nearly overwhelmed by the urge to fling money at them.

    2. A decent website, with GOOD photos. My friends, it is 2012 and there is no reason for a vendor to not have a website. Perhaps back in 1997 when AOL billed for internet time by the minute and it took you the better part of an afternoon to download a picture of a unicorn it was fine to go without, but in this day and age, if you’re a vendor who doesn’t have a website, you pretty much don’t exist to me. The one paragraph blurb you paid out the nose to have placed in the back of Seattle Metropolitan Bride & Groom doesn’t begin to give me enough information.

    Websites are the single best way to answer a ton of questions that many, if not all, potential customers will have, so you don’t have to answer them individually, saving you an assload of phone and email time. Seriously–put tons of information on your website.  Rates, packages, promos, reviews, FAQs–on a well-organized website, no one is going to say “Great googly moogly, I am overwhelmed by this readily available information and wish I could go back to the days of calling someone and maybe not ever getting a response or having to call again later when I remember a question that I forgot to ask earlier and then a third time when I need a clarification!” A great website with a ton of information directly influenced my decision for a wedding and reception venue.  I refer back to it when I’m trying to figure out what size tablecloths I need or what length aisle runner I need to construct if I want it to run from the door to the altar. It has been an invaluable resource to me.

    Speaking of websites: those babies had better be loaded up with pictures. GOOD pictures.  I’m not spending three hours on Pinterest at a crack because of all of the compelling text, and if the pictures of your venue/food/rentals suck, it tells me that you accept mediocrity, and that if you aren’t trying when you advertise yourself, you’re not going to try any harder for me.  Venues:  If all I see when I visit your site are photos of the same fountain or fireplace from several different angles, you are telling me that there’s something wrong with the venue, because it’s the same trick apartment complexes use on Craigslist to hide the fact that their apartments have shag carpeting and no windows by only showing photos of their modern business and fitness centers.

    If you’re a working photographer without a significant amount of photos on your website, this is an even bigger problem to me: how do you not have work available to show? This is your product! It’s what you do!  I saw a local photography company host a sale on one of those “deal a day” websites and the only picture they had to show was a blurry (not artistically blurry, just poorly-focused) first dance photo.  There is no price low enough for blurry, bad photographs to make it a good deal! If you’re a photographer and I can’t see your work, if you can’t show me a full wedding from beginning to end after I’ve inquired, if all you can show me is one lucky shot that you captured out of 300 weddings photographed, it is an enormous red flag to me.

    3. A better than average reputation. I always take individual Yelp reviews with a grain of salt, as I know that people (a) are more likely to write about a bad experience than a good one, (b) like to complain, (c) write bad reviews in the hopes of getting special treatment or perks that they would not receive otherwise in the hopes of getting their negative review retracted, (d) are generally unreasonable douchebags (read: “I visited a steakhouse and there weren’t enough tofu options.” ), but a significant number of bad reviews is likely to sway me.

    I place more emphasis on my monkeysphere; do my non-douchebag friends know or have had interactions with this business?  I put out a call on Facebook recently to ask my friends if there were any local photographers that they knew or recommended. A few recommended a friend of theirs (whom they had not hired); another friend wrote me privately and told me that he had previously considered this same photographer a friend, but that she had offered to give them a significant “friend discount” for their wedding and then pressured them to sign a deal with her that was $1,000 higher than the going local high-end photographer rate, taking advantage of the fact that they hadn’t shopped around on price. Given my friend’s personal allegation of this photographer’s dishonesty, I am not even considering her in my ongoing search for my photographer.

    I love planning lavish parties, and this isn’t my first rodeo–friends still talk about the insane circus sideshow themed birthday party I threw in 2008–so I’m no stranger at throwing gobs of money at vendors to bring my party vision to life. I’m also colloquially known as Seattle’s equivalent of Kevin Bacon; I connect people. So when a vendor impresses me, I intend to use them for future events, and I’ll recommend them to friends as well. Vendors can’t have a “well, they’ll only get married once so it doesn’t matter how I treat them” attitude. It matters.  Websites. Reputation. It’s how you’ll get my business. Timeliness, honesty,  and respectability is how you’ll keep my business.  Because when it comes down to it, I’m just one person and it doesn’t really matter whether I hire you or not…but I’m far from the only person who holds these viewpoints, and the steps you take today will ensure whether or not you have a healthy future business.

  • 6/1

    Dear Liz: If we have enough tables and chairs for everyone, why can't they just sit wherever they want? It seems like a hassle to figure out who is going to sit at what table, and like we're herding cattle. Do we have to have assigned seating for our guests? Signed, Tables For None Dear Tables, Well, nooo, you don't have to have assigned seating,…

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    So the past week, I've been working on the 10k Wedding Workshop website. Built it in iWeb, which turns out was my first mistake, because it has a lot of "junk" code that's not compatible with servers any more.  Stay with me, I have a point, other than the blatant plug. But check out the workshop, it's virtual, so if your budget is in the…

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    Photo: Puruhito Photography A while back, I wrote Three Assumptions They're Making About Your Wedding, a list of what people really won't stop bugging you about, ever. But after talking to a lot of couples in the past few weeks, I'm starting to realize that you're making a lot of assumptions about your wedding too: 1. That the minute you step into Wedding World, everyone is…

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    I know, I know, two weeks in a row. People email me and ask stuff, stuff you might want to know, too, and I didn't want to wait. This is not a precedent. Most likely. :-) Dear Liz, My mother is contributing to part of our wedding, so when she told us we had to invite certain friends from her college days, I obliged even…

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    Dear Liz, I thought I was just another BAB until I came to this site, now I think I am THE BAB.  I see these posts where people have $5,000 budgets, and I have no idea where they come up with that kind of bank!  My fiance and I are both teachers and neither of us have family to attend, let alone help pay for,…

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    Well, it's almost Valentine's Day, which means that Mr. Officer and I have been engaged for almost a year already. Yikes, where did the time go?! Aargggh, that means our wedding is right around the corner....there's so much to do! Okay, now that I've gotten that little panic attack out of my system, I'm ready to talk about getting engaged. I know there are some readers…

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    No matter how you break down your wedding day schedge, there's almost definitely going to be some time that is solely dedicated to photography. For some camera-shy people, this is a nightmare, but a necessity if you want to have a Christmas present for Grandmammy this year.  For other people, posing for photos is a fun side adventure on the wedding day where you can…

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