Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Buying the Wedding Dress, It's Easier Than You Think!

So another big expenditure in weddings is the wedding dress.  You can spend thousands on it, depending on your taste.  If you only want a simpler dress, than you shouldn't need to worry about the price.  But if you want something big or ornate or with a special fabric, you need to put a part of your budget aside for it.
wedding dress shopping

Unfortunately my taste was on the bigger side and I definitely wanted buttons down the back which adds on a lot of money.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get a ballgown, with a train, and the buttons.  I also thought my best bet was to go to a large chain store, thinking they had a much larger choice of cheaper gowns.  Boy was I wrong.

I headed to David's Bridal for my first fitting.  It was HORRIBLE.  Don't get me wrong, I think David's Bridal or similar department style wedding stores are great options for your bridal party because they offer a large selection at decent prices and a number of stores throughout the country, in case you have bridal party members out of the area.  But DO NOT go there for your wedding dress.

The mood isn't the dream setting of finding your dress: it's cramped (there was nowhere for my guests to sit, they had to stand for an hour!), you're rushed (my consultant even was helping another person at the same time!), and they don't really listen to your wants.

But the biggest point is, especially for this blog, they actually didn't have that many cheap options.  Well let me rephrase that, they had plenty of "cheap" options.  Meaning, when I asked for lower priced dresses, they gave me that but they were terrible looking -- terrible quality, horrible materials, they looked like prom dresses.  They said for what I wanted, there was no way to get it at a lower price (under $1,000).

I left disheartened, thinking I was not going to be able to get the dress of my dreams.  I scoured the internet for other places.  And decided to go with a local boutique that had great reviews that said they had many options for those not wishing to break the bank.  This is where I ended up finding exactly what I wanted for a price that couldn't be beat!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I cannot recommend Gesinee's Bridal in Concord enough!  They have a fabulous upstairs boutique for brides only with a huge selection of beautiful dresses all under $2,000!  They spend time and really feel what you want to be able to find you the perfect dress.  While I will say their alterations are a bit pricey, just know that now and you can shop around for a cheaper alterations place. (http://gesineesbridal.com/)

The moral of the story is, don't be pressured to go to a huge store to find a deal on a dress.  There are plenty of local boutiques that have what you want for a price you can afford.  Search the internet (Yelp is your friend as reviews from other brides are priceless!) and try it out.

Where did you find your dress?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wedding Items That Are a Waste of Money

Continuing on my theme of saving money on weddings, I wanted to talk about things that you don't necessarily need or cheaper alternatives.  As I've stated many times before, just being for a wedding, something as simple as a pen gets marked up to insane amounts!

RSVP Cards
Save yourself the extra weight in your invitations and having to buy double the stamps by having your guests RSVP online.  Plus it makes it easier for you to track everything and it's simpler for most guests.  Chances are, you will be creating a wedding website, and most of these already come with a way to have an RSVP section.  My favorite free wedding website was through mywedding.com

Boy, oh boy are these expensive!  They generally start at $30 and go up from there, all for a notebook and pen!  I thought I'd just find a nice looking notebook and pen but, as you'll discover, it's hard to find something white that isn't in the wedding section which makes it more expensive!  A great alternative is to make a customizable guestbook on Shutterfly.  They start at $12.99 and you can add your own pictures to make it really unique.  Plus I got a lot of offers for a free 8x8 by shopping at David's Bridal and registering at Target.  Don't worry about a fancy pen, nobody cares and you end up needing multiples anyway.  Just buy a pack of nice quality ballpoint pens, or get some colored gel ones.

Shutterfly wedding guestbook

Why pay someone to play a bunch of songs that might not even suit your style?  iPods were made for a reason.  Just using your iPod for music is a great alternative, plus you get to handpick all your songs.  Find a friend or family member that has a great personality to be the announcer and to operate the iPod and you've saved yourself $1,000+!  Just make sure you ask the venue before they book if you can use their sound system and you aren't required to have a DJ (yes some places REQUIRE that!). 

Bridal Toss Bouquet
Flowers can be a huge part of your budget, so anytime you can cut something out that can save you tons.  I had no idea that usually brides get a separate bouquet for the toss (it's not quite as ornate and so you can keep yours).  That seemed insane to me to pay for a bouquet just to get thrown and mangled by some girls which would probably just end up being left or thrown out anyway.  I ended up just asking my bridesmaids if any of them didn't mind that I toss one of theirs which worked out great (and a bridesmaid caught it anyway).  But there are some other fun ideas to make one like a candy bouquet which gives a little prize to the winner!

I really wanted for my husband and I to be driven away in a fancy antique car.  Then I saw the prices.  Even for just the short time and distance you need it to exit can be hundreds.  Plus I realized it would be dark by the time we left, so nobody would really see it anyway.  To pay to be able to have the car at the location the whole time for guests to see and to take pictures with is astronomical.  Just use your own car, or a regular rental which can just be about $50 for a day (you can specify white or silver to make it look more wedding). 

Ugh another per person expense that most people could really care less about but you're really expected to do.  DO NOT spend more than $1.00 each on these, it's really not worth it.  My goal was to find something inexpensive that people would actually be able to use.  What we ended up going with was quite fun: plantable wedding favors -- it's a cute thank you note that you can plant in the ground and it will grow flowers!

There are definitely more, but those tend to be quite obvious.  These are just the ones that sort of surprised me.  Are there other things you think should be on the list?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cutting the Guest List: The Plus One Problem

guest list
One of the biggest wedding hassles is creating a guest list.  Not only is the size of your guest list important for location requirements and aesthetic, it is one of the biggest factors in the cost of your wedding.  Almost every cost in a wedding is a per person cost and when you have 100+ person wedding, each dollar per person means $100 more . . . it adds up quickly.  I hated how planning a wedding made me view each person we invited as a number (a big number that added to the number that would become our debt).  But it is a part of it none the less.  Thus comes about the question, how do you keep numbers more manageable while still being able to invite all the friends and family from all walks of life that you want to share your special day with?  The first thing that comes to mind for those with a budget: the plus one.

Weddings have a lot of rules.  Some are very old and outdated, but no matter how you feel, someone is going to be offended if you don't follow the proper "etiquette".  I worked long and hard trying to make sure that everyone was pleased with our choices, where we chose to follow tradition and where we chose to go a little modern.  The plus one debate is one that still goes strong today.

Let me clear things up for you, if you're wondering what I keep meaning about the plus one debate.  Wedding etiquette dictates that whomever the wedding invitation is addressed to, is exactly who is invited.  Meaning, if John Smith is the only name on the invitation, John Smith is the only one invited, even if he is in a relationship (you are supposed to always invite a spouse if the person is married, even if you don't know the spouse).  If you want John to be able to bring someone, you should write John Smith and Guest on the invitation.

This is was the rules state, but most people don't know that.  Most people assume that when you are invited to a wedding, you are allowed to bring someone with you (I blame movies for that).  While this is true at many weddings, as stated, it should say on the invitation.

Now, as you can see, if every person you invite automatically gets to bring someone, that adds a lot of people to your list.  People that fill up slots of other potential friends/family.  Usually plus ones are going to be people you don't know and paying $100+ for someone you don't know is difficult to accept (my per person cost was about $120).  As I said before, I hate how horrible it sounds viewing people as numbers but it's not just the cost.  My husband and I didn't really want people at our wedding that we didn't know.  But then again, we didn't want to offend people by telling them they couldn't bring someone, especially for those that had been dating someone for a while and we just didn't know them.

Here's the solution we came up with, I think it works well and offends the least amount of people:

  • All the people in our bridal party got a plus one
  • Married and engaged couples were both invited regardless of whether we knew them or not
  • Dating couples where we knew both parties got invited
  • Everyone else, did not get a plus one unless they didn't know anyone else at the wedding (we didn't want anyone to be lonely)

Luckily, most of the people we invited were from a large group of family or friends that knew many people at the wedding.  That's why we felt it was okay to not give plus ones to everyone as they would still be able to have a lot of fun with all their friends.  And those that didn't know anyone else (I think there was one or two people that fell into that category) got to bring someone.

To nicely explain to people that plus ones were not allowed, we put on our wedding website where they RSVP'd this nice note:

         "We have worked really hard to create a celebration featuring all of our closest and dearest        family and friends. In order to do this, we kindly request that you do not bring any guests that were not invited. If you have a question about this please contact us. Thanks for understanding."

Now there are going to be some people that just invite someone anyway.  You can decide on a case by case basis what to do and how to handle it.  Welcome to planning a wedding!

I hope this helped you in deciding what to do for the plus one debate.  Just know that it is your wedding and you can invite whoever you want.  Don't worry about people too much, in a month or two they'll forget all about it!

What did you do for your wedding?  Any other suggestions for brides regarding the guest list?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wedding Venues, How They Get You

Happy New Year!

So sorry for the long delay in posts, the holiday season got the best of me!  But I am excited to continue my focus on weddings with another article on venues!  (Shout out to all of you who got engaged in 2014, congrats!  I hope this helps make planning your wedding a little easier and lighter on the wallet!  If you're just starting out, take a look at my first bridal post: Setting a Wedding Budget)

Now that you have chosen your venue (if you haven't, check this post, Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Venue, to get started), you'll soon have your first meeting with the wedding coordinator at the venue.  While you don't need to have all the details set for this first meeting, it is important that you have in mind the general feel and needs for your wedding.  It helps them get an understanding of what you want and most importantly, it can stop them from overselling you too much.  Even the friendliest venues are going to try and get you to upgrade, and believe me, there are upgrades for EVERYTHING!!!

Here's a list of areas that they will try and get you to upgrade and some thoughts about the choices.  As I've stated before, weddings are not a place to skimp on, so having a few upgrades isn't the worst decision but there are definitely ones that are not needed.


The lowest of chairs I've seen are those plastic folding chairs (yuk!).  Luckily my venue had a nicer wooden chair as their basic so I didn't need to upgrade.  Upgrades could included padded, wood stains, non folding, etc.  The costs for the upgrade could be from $4 to $10 a chair.  This doesn't sound like much but multiply it by 100 and you'll see it adds up quickly!

Aisle Runner
For most decoration items like these, I always say if you do want it, get it yourself.  It not only allows you to be able to get exactly what you want and to customize it, but it also allows you to shop around for a better price.  Plus, afterwards, it may be something you'd want to use in your home or resell later (I'll have a post about that down the line).

Microphones and Speakers
Some places charge for the use of their electronics.  While I don't think this would be something that would be better to buy yourself, do keep in mind if it's necessary.  Electronics look ugly and can ruin the whole aesthetics of the ceremony, plus you run the risk of technical issues and cord tripping.  Keep in mind the size of the room or if you're in an outdoor space, the natural acoustics; how many guests you'll have and how far back they will be seated; and if you and your fiance can project (especially when you get sentimental).  If you're not sure, test it out!  See how far back you can go while your fiance talks and then switch.  Most trained pastors or officiants shouldn't have a problem.  


The same thing as with the ceremony.  Sometimes places can use the same chairs from the ceremony which can save you money.

This isn't really an upgrade, but keep in mind the amount of tables.  The more tables you have, the more centerpieces you need.  So maybe opt for the bigger tables if there are different size options.  I actually think it's fun being a guest at a wedding with a lot of people at a table.  Don't worry about it being crowded, it actually saves space to have larger tables with more people than more smaller tables.  They know exactly how many people can fit comfortably at each table.

A picture of my linens, simple white tablecloth with colored napkins
This covers the tablecloths, overlays (a smaller tablecloth to layer and have two colors), napkins, chair covers, and sashes.  This is where the plethora of options come out.  You have a myriad of choices between material and color.  I'd say stick with the basic material unless your dying for a sheen (which I think usually ends up looking cheap).  The place where you can opt to upgrade is in color.  I actually kept white tablecloths with no overlays and just added color to the napkins.  Sometimes too much color is overwhelming and keeping a lot of white is much more calming and lets your centerpieces stand out.  I made our sweetheart table stand out by having a tablecloth and overlay with our colors.  As far as chair covers and sashes go, I think it's overload.  They're annoying to sit on and usually get messed up throughout the night anyway.  But everything is preference.  Just know that each add on, is another $1 - $5 PER PERSON.  This can easily add on a few hundred dollars.  

Food Service Fees
A lot of places charge a cake cutting fee, usually $1 per person.  Most place charge a corkage fee for wine you bring in yourself which can be $20 per bottle!  Some places even charge corkage fees for their own wine!  Just be aware of all the fees and plan accordingly in your budget.

Again, for microphones there can be a charge.  Also, if you want to use their sound system or any TV's or projectors they might have, there can be fees.  These can run from $50 to $500!

Lights and Decorations
They'll show you lost of pretty pictures of how the place can be decorated and often they'll tell you they can provide you with that.  If they don't say it comes with it, make sure and ask how much it is!  Often, this can be easier then decorating yourself, but just know to ask how much it all is! 

Extra Tables
Some places charge for guestbook and present tables (ridiculous!).  If there are any other tables you may want for other crafts or stations, they will probably charge you for those. 

End of Night

Late Fees  
This one is kind of a no-brainer -- if you stay past the allotted time, they'll charge you extra and usually A LOT extra.  Just know how much it all is and try and keep things on schedule!

Cleaning Fees
Make sure you have people scheduled to clean up all the things you are responsible for cleaning.  If things are not left as they were, there can be some steep charges. 


Couple Extras
This is the champagne flutes for you and your fiance and the cake knife and server.  Most people get their own special ones which I just thought was a given.  I didn't realize that most places have their own and they can provide you with these for no extra cost!  Of course you don't get to keep it, but that's something I didn't really care about so bonus!

Cake Stand
Make sure you ask about this.  Again, this was something I assumed that most people provided themselves but there ended up being a nicer one already there for us!       

I think that pretty much sums up everything.  I'm sure some places charge for even more ridiculous things that aren't on this list, maybe try and find that out before booking a place just so you don't get overrun with extra charges!  There are going to be a lot of things you didn't plan on when it comes to financing a wedding no matter how hard you try (believe me!) but hopefully this can help you going into it.  If you think I missed something big, please let me know in the comments below!  Happy planning :) 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Venue

Choosing a wedding venue is one of the hardest and most important parts about planning your wedding!  It is important to find a place that suits you and your fiance's personality while meeting all the needs of your wedding.  And the venue is going to be one of the biggest finances in your budget so it's important to look around at all your options.

Hopefully you've already made your budget so you know what's in your price range (Look at this post for major ways to save on your budget: Setting a Wedding Budget).  Once you know that, it's good to start a preliminary search based on the location and setting that you want most to see if your dreams are within your budget.  My favorite website to use was Here Comes the Guide because you could get really specific in your search like views, setting, guest count, etc.  And what makes this guide even more handy is that in the description of each venue, it gives a breakdown of all the rental costs.  That is super handy to have because sometimes it is hard to find on each venue's site and it also explains it all in an easy to understand way.  Those that didn't have their prices available for the Here Comes the Guide site, I assumed were too pricey and trying to hide things.

Once you've looked at a few places that you were thinking of, you'll be able to see if what you were envisioning is within your budget.  You may have to make some compromises, but don't get discouraged!  There are hidden gems, other ways to get the feel that you want, or if you're really set on a place, you can make compromises in other areas that have a big impact on price as suggested in Setting a Wedding Budget.

Areas that are important to a venue (I will be focusing on Northern California as that is where I live, but the same idea applies to all places):

This may be what makes a price the most expensive.  Bigger cities are going to have higher price tags.  Try going a little outside the city to save a few bucks (and probably make it easier on the guests too!).

Are you really set on a winery?  Of course everyone thinks Napa, but those wineries are the most expensive.  Try the nearby Sonoma Valley or even the Livermore Valley has a lot more wineries now at a much cheaper price!  (My wedding was at a beautiful winery in the Livermore Valley, Elliston Vineyards.  Check it out!)

Really want an ocean view?  Most people gravitate towards Monterey but there's a whole coastline full of wedding spots!  (Here's a great place that I loved but was too small for my wedding, Landmarks Art and Garden Center.)

Catering Offered
This may seem like it makes a place more expensive but, trust me, it saves a lot of hassle and usually ends up being cheaper in the long run.  In fact, the really packaged places can save you A LOT of money.  It wasn't my thing because I wanted more say in the decision-making process.  But if you're not big on the whole details thing, you should really check out some awesome packages like this cool company that has a lot of great venues throughout California, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada: Wedgewood Wedding & Banquet Center.

Hope this helps and happy venue hunting!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wedding DIY Project: "Mr & Mrs" Hanging Sign

Here is a really easy project for what I think is one of the cutest decorations to have at a wedding, a "Mr & Mrs" sign.  Again, I was surprised to see how expensive these signs seemed to be.  And I also thought most of them looked pretty boring.  I thought, "I can easily make this on my own and then I can also customize it to match my colors!"  So I headed to Michaels, but all they had were really large wooden letters and really small wooden letters.  I wanted something large, but since I wanted this to hang off the tablecloth of our sweetheart table, I was afraid the large wooden letters would be too heavy.  I figured cardboard would be the best.

So I hit the internet and found a person on Etsy who does customized cardboard letters in many different fonts.  I also asked for a heart that was slightly larger than the & sign so I could fit the & on top of it.  It worked perfectly!  You can find the artist here.

wedding sign

 For this project you will need:
  • letters and heart
  • twine
  • paint
 Step 1
Get your letters.  As stated above, I wanted lightweight so I found someone on Etsy who cuts out letters on cardboard (go here) but if yours doesn't need to be, you can find wooden ones easily.

Step 2
Paint the letters and heart.  Since I knew mine would be in front of the colored tablecloth, I thought white would be great to stand out.  But I wanted the heart and "&" to be special so I used our two colors on those.  Luckily one of my colors was pink but any colors will work!

Step 3
After the paint has dried, attach the twine.  I didn't want the twine going through the letters, so I cut twine to go between each letter and hot glued it to the letters.  I think that looks nice.

And voila!  Easy!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wedding DIY Project: Birdcage Card Holder

One thing that I had seen a lot of when looking at wedding ideas was antique-styled birdcages for guests to put their cards (for those that don't have a large gift) into.  I loved the idea, it's so beautiful and works perfectly with the classic garden wedding theme that we had.  But when I started looking at birdcages to buy, I was flabbergasted at the prices.  Most start at $30 to $40, a lot come in a pair (why you would need two, I have no idea!).  These were from websites that sell wedding items and it is a particular theme you'll notice that anything dealing with weddings, the price gets hiked up.  So it's always better, when you can, to shop for things not on a wedding site or the wedding section.

But even when I tried searching at other places for birdcages I found that 1.) they're actually hard to find, especially ones that have enough space for large cards to fit through and 2.) the ones I did find were almost just as expensive!  I knew I would have to get one at Michael's because, at the very least, I could use one of their weekly 40% Off coupons and a $30 birdcage would be cut down to $18 (See Wedding Decorations, Michaels Coupons).  I found a birdcage I liked, but I didn't like the drabby gray color it was.  So I kept searching . . . uneventfully.

Then it dawned on me: spray paint!  Duh!  I went back to Michaels and the birdcage was actually 50% off so I got it for only $15!  (I guess it paid to wait this time)

Here's how it turned out:

wedding card holder

To do this project you'll need:
  • a birdcage (get it cheap!)
  • spray paint (if you don't like the color)
  • pretty paper (to line the bottom)
  • ribbon
  • "cards" sign

Step 1
Paint the birdcage if you need to.  This may take several coats.  You may want to add a clear gloss coat on top if you want that shiny look.  I liked the kind of weathered (but clean) look the spray paint itself gave so I didn't do this.

Step 2
Once dry, flip the birdcage upside down and take a make a template of the bottom with scratch paper.  Then use the template to cut out your paper to line the bottom and make it look pretty.  I would suggest wrapping paper so it's wide enough to fit the bottom without multiple pieces and having edges.  I'd also suggest the paper be one of your colors and the ribbon be the other color.

Step 3
Place the paper on the bottom of the inside of the birdcage.  You may want to secure it down with double sided tape on the bottom of it.

Step 4
Make or find a "cards" sign.  I got this one from one of my favorite sites:
Wood Heart "Cards" Sign 5in

Step 5
Cut the ribbon to fit around the top of the birdcage.  You can also do some weaving action between the spokes if you want.  And attach the card sign.


I really love how my birdcage came out better than any of the other ones I saw and I spent less on it!