The truth is that huge weddings are the norm in our society now, but the age old saying that the bride's parents will pay for everything isn't always the case. I will say that we were very fortunate that my parents were able to cover the catering, DJ, cake, and some other odds and ends. However, the majority of the payment fell on our end. If you're a bride who can handle a little organization and some DIY, this post is going to suit you just fine.
My first goal was to find the venue to set the date. This is when a very huge rule comes to play: find one thing and splurge on it. For some brides, it's the dress, for others it's the food... for me it was the location. I have spent many afternoons staring at Brakefield at the Riverwalk from afar. Mom and I even toured it when they first opened (and I may or may not have pretended to be engaged that day). And with a great location, comes a price. I made it my mission to afford it. I worked our after school program 2 days a week to pay for that space. On the days I found myself stressed and wondering why in the world I signed myself up for more work, I would pull up pictures of Brakefield and remind myself of our upcoming big day. We had a payment plan set up with them where I paid a certain amount every 3 months. The hardest thing about a venue is that you usually have to have 50% upfront for a deposit. For this I set up a travel rewards card with Capital One. I used it to get lots of extra miles and redeemed the miles in for a nice check for our honeymoon. We were able to do two excursions from this rewards program.
The next thing to tackle is to get a photographer. I couldn't believe it when I saw that some photographers cost as much as a down payment on a house! After a google search of "southern photographers" lead me to Southernly Studios, I spent hours looking at photos on the website and facebook page. Then once I started talking to Abbie, the owner, I knew that I just had to have her do my wedding! Guys, she is FANTASTIC. She made us feel so at ease during our engagement shoot, I had so many giggles with her and my mom at my bridal portrait time, and she literally went to set up signs for my wedding while I was freaking out on my wedding day. And not only is she the best, but her prices are so affordable. Here's one of my favorites by her:
The task I avoided at first, but had to do before booking a caterer, was coming up with the guest list. This is when you'll have any potential fights with family members. I have a huge family. Like seriously I will go to the store and point to a person and say to Mr. R "there's one of my cousins." But you can't invite everyone you've ever known, especially when you are on a budget. We had to make cuts on his side, my side, and with friends. Once I saw we were at the 200 people limit, I knew I had to find affordable catering. I went to some bridal showcases with my mom, Mr. R's mom, and his grandma and there I was able to talk to some different caterers. There are so many hidden fees when it comes to a catering service, but I finally found an all inclusive (even tip) caterer in Charlotte called SMS Catering. From the empty plates I saw, I'm guessing that my guests enjoyed the food! I was particularly fond of one of the workers because he danced all night. Any person that dances is a friend of mine!
Next up was the cake. Perhaps the most important step for this cupcake lovin' girl. I spoke to a few commercial locations and about passed out when I was quoted 1,000 for a 3 tiered cake. I posted a facebook status asking if anyone knew of any at-home bakers. Being a small business owner myself, I wanted to give my money to someone who works at home. The art teacher at my school recommended a girl named Rebekah from Rebekah's Treats. She was super nice when I talked to her via facebook, and I couldn't believe how young she is! She's been baking cakes since she was 13 years old. She invited us to her house for a taste testing, and it was seriously love at first taste. We booked her on the spot to make a 4 tiered, almond, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla pound cake for 1/4 of the price that I was quoted from a commercial bakery. Since then, she's made a baby shower cake for a shower I hosted, and made the cake for my own bridal shower. She's my go-to girl, now! (Cake topper is from Letterworld's Shop on Etsy)
Aside from a delicious cake, I knew I had to find someone who would keep the music popping and the party flowing. Once again, big DJ companies just weren't in my budget, so I posted another facebook status about DJ's. A friend from high school recommended Josh Williams because he had done her wedding and her sister's wedding. He gave us a list of songs for us to look over to gauge our interests and met with us 2 weeks before the wedding to plan out the night. He even took on my special requests like Stanky Legg and Tootsie Roll. He was great!
Once I had the big things booked, I started thinking about a theme and decor. I knew I wanted southern- mason jars, pearls, baby's breath, the whole nine yards. I also knew that I wouldn't be able to do everything on my own, so I asked my Aunt Norma for help. This is probably the most important part to pulling off a successful wedding (especially with a lot of DIY). Pick someone who you know will keep your vision, be creative, and doesn't mind hardwork. My Aunt Norma is incredible. She can take an idea and turn it into a reality. I knew that she and I would come up with great ideas and she would be able to get everything ready while I got myself ready. But she really went above and beyond my original ideas. She brought in real china for the tables, gorgeous decorations, and did all of the flowers for us.
Now for the DIY part. Pinterest was truly my best friend during my 13 month engagement. I have roughly 10 secret boards for just the wedding. One for "The Dress," one for the cake, one for the big exit, yada yada yada. But the board I loved the most was my "DIY Bride" board. Here are some things I made and instructions on how to make them:
I bought these two huge frames from Goodwill for about 7 dollars each. The one on the left had such a beautiful frame, so I left it as is. The one on the right was sprayed with metallic gold spray paint. Then I bought a half gallon of chalkboard paint from Lowe's and painted the glass of each frame. My chalk markers are Uchida brand from Hobby Lobby. I practiced on a piece of regular paper with a marker first, then did my final draft. The best thing is that you can erase if you make a mistake!
Card box materials are from Hobby Lobby. I cut holes in the bottom of the top layer and in the lid of the bottom layer. I kept the pieces together by using binder clips. Small Cards and Gifts from from Goodwill for 1 dollar.
Buying 150 programs would have been too expensive. Instead, I used Microsoft Word and Powerpoint to help me make our DIY program fans. I used cardstock paper, trimmed the edges with a paper cutter, used double sided tape to attach the wooden sticks bought from Amazon, and asked Mr. R and my parents for help. After about four hours of folding and taping, they were all finished!
My dad is one awesome dad. He made all of our wooden items for us. After pricing each of the sets above at about 40-50 dollars each, I used a Lowe's gift card that my school gave me and purchased my own wood. Then I printed out stencils in my favorite fonts, traced them, and had dad use his scroll saw to cut them out. A few coats of paint later, and you have these final products. He doesn't know this yet, but when he retires, we're going to start our own letter monogramming business! ;)
For wedding accessories, I wanted to save money on certain items, so I could splurge on others. Check out where I got these accessories:
If you know me at all, you know that I love cake and mimosas. I wanted two Kate Spade sets to use at our wedding so that we could keep them afterward: the Grace Avenue cake servers and the Grace Avenue champagne flutes. My mom surprised us with the servers for my Bridal Shower, and I used a gift card from the Related Arts Team and other Support Staff at my school to purchase the champagne flutes. Now they are in my china cabinet and they are just so purdy.
I am a tall girl. Standing at five foot seven, you know I'm not going to be wearing heels. I knew which shoes I wanted long before I ever knew what my dress would look like. I hit up the Jack Rogers sale when they were giving away a cute Jack Rogers charm necklace with each order. I've had these babies since October and I'm finally able to wear them! They were also my something blue.
I surprised Mikel with Gamecock garters. I ordered these for a handmade seller on ebay. They were super cheap!
I looooved our matching flower girl basket and ring bearer pillow. I got them for free from Amazon after doing a telephone survey with theknot.com about their new website.
This was a definite splurge (mostly because of shipping from New Zealand). I wanted a guest book that I had NEVER seen before. And since I've been to a lot of weddings, that was pretty hard. I found this after google searching "unique wedding guests books" and I fell in love. Each guest wrote a message on a heart and dropped it in. Now it's on display in our office.
Last, but probably most important, you've gotta let your guests know that your wedding is actually taking place. I can be pretty crafty on the computer, but I didn't want to take on the task of designing our STDs and Invites. Here's info on each one:
After we got our engagement photos, I started looking around on etsy for cute ideas. I really loved the postcard formats, but worried about our picture getting messed up if it wasn't in an envelope. The design is from Casala Studio on Etsy, the cards were printed from Vista Print, and the envelopes were bought from Staples. Always search for a coupon code before using vista print. I saved 50% on my order.
I got really lucky with our invites. I found a Groupon to Zazzle and paid $30 to get $120 worth of invites. I had to pay full price for the RSVP response cards, but I still saved $90 in the end. Mr. R and I wanted coral envelopes to match our Navy and Coral theme, so I ordered those separately from Cards and Pockets.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me! I had so much fun planning our dream wedding, but now I'm ready to spend our money on things for us and for our future home!
Venue: Brakefield at Riverwalk
Photographer: Southernly Studios
Caterer: SMS Catering
Cake: Rebekah's Treats
Flowers: Global Rose and Sam's Club
DJ: Josh Williams
Wedding Dress and Bridesmaid Dresses: David's Bridal
Groom and Groomsmen Suits: JC Penney
Hair and Makeup: Salon Naman
Love and Cupcakes,