October 11, 2012

The Wedding: Budget and Advice

Welcome to the last installment of our wedding series! If you want to relive the fun or you accidentally missed some of the previous posts, you can go back and refresh here. For those of you who have followed along with our storytelling journey, we made it to the end! It's certainly bittersweet, but before you get too upset I will tell you I am planning an after-wedding post. I can't tell you when exactly it'll hit the blogosphere, but I can tell you that it will give you a peek at what wedding items and decorations we kept as well as what I've done with them since.

Also, I'm in the process of putting together our wedding scrapbook. With more than 1,000 pictures, it is proving to be more of a challenge than I thought. That said, you might just see a post about how to assemble and organize your own - with some helpful advice I learned along the way.

But, back to our last wedding series post! Let me explain for a moment how this post is going to work. First, I will give you a rough, categorized budget. I think you'll be impressed with how far we stretched our dollars! Second, I'll go through the budget point by point and explain what that category included. Third, while I'm going through the budget point by point, I'll include any advice/tips/suggestions which will be highlighted in yellow in case you are just interested in those. Lastly, after the budget breakdown, I'll conclude with any general advice that didn't fit into any of my categories.

My hope is that this post and this series as a whole has served as an inspiration for future brides who are on a budget. I don't know about you, but my family and I couldn't afford a $25,000 wedding. If we could, I definitely would've had a Ferris wheel ride at the wedding though! Honestly, I don't know if I could stomach spending that much. However, I think this series has shown that you can have a really awesome, fun and personalized wedding without spending an insane amount. For those of you who are not future brides, hopefully you found the series at least entertaining. I'll stop blubbering now and get to the good stuff.

The General Budget 
Note: You'll notice that the items we spent more money on are, for the most part, those that were most important to us. Your budget will typically reflect the items you care most about.

CEREMONY                                                   $754.13
RECEPTION                                                $3,007.50
INVITATIONS                                               $132.82
BRIDAL ATTIRE                                            $578.56
FLOWERS                                                      $513.89
OTHER VENDORS                                     $1,100.00
GIFTS                                                              $343.40

                                       GRAND TOTAL: $6,430.30

Now then, I'd like to note my budget at the beginning was $6,000. I got pretty close, right? Well, my father-in-law and mother-in-law graciously offered to cover the cost of the corn dogs, tater tots and servers. That knocks my total spent from my budget to $5,900.30. Though I tried my best to keep every receipt and track every dollar for the breakdown below, I'm sure I missed a couple hundred dollars here and there. So, I'd say I hit $6,000 pretty darn close!

Like I said in previous posts, the reception was where we wanted to spend most of our money - and indeed, we did from the looks of the budget! Half of our money went to it!

Budget Breakdown

Wasn't it beautiful? If you want to reminisce, you can here!

  • CEREMONY                                                                                        
    • Walker Horne Outdoor Theater                                                                  $300.00
    • Officiant donation                                                                                         200.00
    • Chair rental                                                                                                    90.25
    • Decor                                                                                                            60.81
    • Waters                                                                                                          36.57
                                                                                                                        TOTAL $754.13
SIDE NOTE: We made three separate trips to the rental company to order chairs. No lie! In the end, we rented a total of 95 chairs. The fairgrounds already had 85 for us to use outside. 

TIP: If you get married outside, I'd highly recommend having iced waters outside for your guests! Our day-of coordinator, Corrie, suggested it. She'd witnessed too many people pass out or get ill feeling while waiting for a wedding to start in the heat. The 100 waters we had outside only cost around $25, but the total above we spent on them was bumped up by the personalized labels we purchased to put on them. 

SIDE NOTE: The decor category above includes the cost for: the twine on the mason jars, the shepherd hooks, outdoor direction signs and the cost to make the ribbon streamers. 

TIP: If you get married in a venue that requires you to rent chairs, I'd keep an open mind about choosing a chair color other than white. While white is usually the preferred wedding rental chair, the brown chairs that we rented were 55 cents cheaper per chair than their white counterparts! In total, we spent $90.25 to rent 95 brown chairs. If we had rented 95 white chairs, we would have spent $142.50! In the wedding world, that extra $52.25 can go a long way!

In love? I am! Read more about it here and here!

    • Sandy Creek Room                                                                                    $400.00
    • Table Linens                                                                                                   70.00
    • Food (corn dog, tots, cotton candy, staff, popcorn)                                        635.13                                                                                                        
    • Drinks (waters, cokes, labels, straws)                                                            277.75                     
    • Rentals                                                                                                          195.00
    • Cupcakes and pies                                                                                        510.97
    • DJ                                                                                                                450.00
    • Favors                                                                                                          133.84
    • Table signs                                                                                                        9.00
    • Gift/Guest Registry Table                                                                                 24.09
    • Decor (bunting and ribbon steamers/wands)                                                    120.16
    • Misc.                                                                                                           ~250.00  
    • Photo Booth                                                                                                    31.56
                                                                                                                       TOTAL $3,007.50
TIP: If you are looking to keep your food cost down or stretch your dollar, have your wedding during the afternoon to avoid having to feed your guests a meal. Our wedding started at 2 p.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m. All of the food at our wedding was served in a snack portion which helped our budget greatly. 

TIP: If you are renting anything for your wedding, take the time to shop around. My mom and I spent one whole day driving ALL around the metro area visiting rental companies to see what they had and what their prices were. After we collected all the pricing brochures and figured out what we wanted to rent, the best selection and price was in our backyard at Coweta Equipment Rental. However, one thing we learned was that each rental company had completely different prices for the items we were looking for. Also, don't forget to ask about the delivery and pick up charge! That can make it or break it too. 

ADVICE: Like with the previous tip, really do your shopping before you make a purchase or sign a contract. The time you spend doing your homework will pay off in the long run for your budget. I spent time shopping around, gathering quotes and researching my vendors like the DJ and the cupcake baker. For example, I contacted two local bakers for a quote on the cupcakes. Bakeshop Betty quoted me $240 with the free use of the cupcake stand. Her competitor quoted me $100 more and would charge me an additional $50 for the use of her cupcake stand.

    • Invitations, RSVP cards and Thank You notes                                                 $76.57                                                         
    • Postage                                                                                                            56.25
                                                                                                                        TOTAL    $132.82
So, you may be wondering how in the world I got away with spending such a small amount on my invitations. Well, I had two things going for me. First, I'd like to think of myself as a paper goods designer. I've done some freelance work and also sell other invitations and digital creations in my Etsy shop. If you haven't check it out, you can do so here. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to design our wedding invitations. Plus, it's rather difficult to find carnival-themed wedding invitations. Once again, my wedding theme forced me to be creative.

Second, I purchased two awesome Groupons from VistaPrint. I paid $17 for $70 worth of VistaPrint goods. Between the two Groupons and paying for shipping, I only shelled out $76.57 for my invitations. It cost almost as much to mail them.

While everyone may not have the desire or software to create their own invitations, I do still have a tip for you!

TIP: Pick your invitation to reflect the overall feel or theme of your wedding. Your invitations are meant not only to invite guests, but get them excited about your upcoming nuptials! That said, don't be afraid to step out of the traditional "wedding invitation box." There are so many creative, unique and personal invitations on Etsy. That's where I'd recommend you go!

    • Rings (his and hers)                                                                                       $175.00
    • Wedding Dress                                                                                                 50.00
    • Reception Dress                                                                                               38.00
    • Alterations                                                                                                        51.50
    • Shoes                                                                                                               37.09
    • Headpiece                                                                                                          8.00
    • Undergarments                                                                                                 37.00
    • Jewelry                                                                                                            25.59
    • Sash                                                                                                                  5.00
    • Bridal hair                                                                                                        50.00
    • Manicure and Pedicure                                                                                    65.00
    • Makeup                                                                                                          13.88
    • Garter                                                                                                              22.50
                                                                                                                        TOTAL    $578.56
TIP: Don't be afraid to call in favors and tap into the resources around you when planning your wedding. Since R.J. did not have to pay for my wedding band since it was a family heirloom, we only had to purchase his wedding band. In high school, one of his wrestling coaches was the owner of Morgan's Jewelers, Jim Morgan. As a wedding gift, Mr. Morgan sold us the ring at cost. 

If you'd like to read more about my bridal attire, check it out here if you haven't already!

    • Sunflowers                                                                                                     503.44
    • Baby's breath                                                                                                      -
    • Roses                                                                                                                 -
    • Greenery                                                                                                            -
    • Florist supplies                                                                                                 10.45
                                                                                                                         TOTAL   $513.89
Again, when it came to my flowers, my budget had a saving grace: my granny. As I posted earlier, my grandmother made all of the bouquets in my wedding. Also, if you saw flowers at my wedding that were not sunflowers, roses or baby's breath, then my granny grew it. When she came into town the Wednesday before the wedding, she brought a small garden in the back of her van with her!

Seeing as my granny would be assembling the bouquets, we really only needed the flowers. Newnan Florist sold them to us wholesale and I cannot sing their praises enough!

TIP: Ask questions. We were a little afraid at first to ask a florist to give us flowers at wholesale and not pay to put them together. However, the ladies at Newnan Florist were more than happy to help us all they could. You never know until you ask!

TIP: Again, another example of how I used the talents of those around me to help with the wedding. People who love you, want to help all they can! And trust me, you'll need their help because it's impossible to plan and execute a wedding alone!
    • Photographer                                                                                                   $600
    • Day-of Coordinator                                                                                         $500
                                                                                                                         TOTAL   $1,100.00
I'm going to be honest, I didn't want to hire a day-of coordinator. If you haven't noticed, I'm somewhat of a control freak. I had that wedding day planned down to a T. For Pete's sake, I gave my bridal party a pocket schedule of where they needed to be and when on that day! I was really resistant to allowing someone else to have some control on that day. However, I conceded because I knew that day I wouldn't be the one having to control everything. It would - by default - fall onto my mom's shoulders and I wanted her to enjoy that day. So, here's your tip:

TIP: At the very least, hire a day-of coordinator if you don't want a wedding planner. If a professional coordinator doesn't fall into your budget, ask a family member or friend who you know to be reliable and naturally organized to fill the position. It'll make the day less stressful and more enjoyable for you and your family. 

ADVICE: The NUMBER ONE place where you NEED to spend your money is on your photographer. After all, you have your wedding pictures for a lifetime and even after that your children and grandchildren will have them. 

TIP: Negotiate with your photographer if their packages are out of your price range. I hired my photographer by the hour and instead of having a pack of pre-ordered pictures included, I only purchased a CD with all of the images on it. 

TIP: Keep a running list of pictures that you want as ideas for them pop in your head. Before the big day, describe in detail what pictures you are wanting and what he/she should be looking to take pictures of. 
    • Bridesmaids' gifts                                                                                         $128.40
    • Groomsmen gifts                                                                                            116.14
    • Parents' gifts                                                                                                    84.00
    • Gift wrapping                                                                                                  14.86
                                                                                                                         TOTAL  $343.40
The Last Word

Planning our wedding was -hands down- the most challenging, intense and stressful project that I've ever taken on in my life. It was more stressful than managing staff of 50 college students and trying to put out a newspaper every Tuesday like I did my senior year of college. However, it was -hands down- the most rewarding experience and the best day of my life thus far. By the end of my wedding day, I knew that every tear of stress I shed and every ounce of frustration I'd had over it was worth it. 

That said, as you have seen, much of my wedding was handmade. While homemade is not always cost effective, for the projects we selected to tackle, it was. Therefore, don't forget to cross check which is the most cost effective option for you. Not only do you have to consider the financial cost of the project, but you have to consider how much time you'll spend completing the project. 

At times, my wedding definitely became a labor of love for myself, my mom and even my granny. Wedding planning and wedding craft LITERALLY became my full-time job. However, as craft-oriented as I am, I wouldn't have been satisfied if it had been any other way. 

Lastly, you need to have a wedding partner-in-crime. This person can be your maid of honor, your significant other, etc. For me, it was my mommy. 

Without her, my wedding would not have come together. Along the journey of wedding planning, we'd each occasionally have a crazy, hair-brained idea, but the other would keep the idea in check and focus on the overall theme of the wedding. 

Another great thing about having a wedding partner-in-crime is they start reading your mind after a while. Because we spent so much time together working on the wedding, my mom knew exactly what I wanted and what I would and wouldn't like. For example, if I began to feel overwhelmed when someone was asking me questions, all I had to do was look at my mom and she would finish answering them exactly how I would have. That is such a relief and blessing towards the end of the planning process. Believe me!

Lastly, you need to have a wedding partner-in-crime so you always have someone in your corner. My best example (and favorite memory) of my mom being in my corner during the planning process has to do with the alterations on my dress. I had taken my dress to the seamstress five weeks prior to have it hemmed and to have the ugly bow on it removed. I had been told it would take two weeks at the most. Needless to say, by week five, I was freaking out. The two previous Fridays the seamstress told me it would be ready the following Tuesday. Yeah, right. 

When the Friday of week five rolled around, I called and was told the same story that it would be ready by the following Tuesday. I had my one and ONLY bridezilla moment by threatening the seamstress that I was getting the dress Tuesday whether it was done or not. (My bridezilla-ness was justified though, right? My wedding was only three weeks away!) 

Anyhow, my bridezilla threats were not good enough for my mom. She took the liberty of visiting the seamstress in person, demanding to see the dress. When she saw that the dress had not even been touched, she had a mom-zilla moment and told the seamstress off. She told the seamstress that she had no idea what kind of stress she was putting me through. Lastly, she told the seamstress how pathetic it was she'd had the dress this long and hadn't even hemmed it. 

All I'm going to say is that I got my dress that following Tuesday along with ample apologizes from the seamstress. (Thank you mom!) 

Well folks, that's about all I got for ya! I hope you enjoyed this series. The responses I've gotten from it have been phenomenal. I hope I've inspired some future brides and entertained the others. 

You should stick around even though our series is over! After all, it's Organization October in our house and I'll think you'll be pretty impressed with some before and after pictures I have to share - not to mention my pending after-wedding post. Until then, thanks for sticking with me. I appreciate the support, the kind words and allowing me to share a piece of my life with you. 

See you next time!
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