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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

Planning a Wedding on a Budget

198462342_45c08920d8photo by Forbes Creative

I will be getting married in the spring of next year, and, needless to say, I am very overwhelmed by the exorbitant amount of money that can be shelled out for a wedding. We have a very limited budget, and I am adamant about not going into debt to have my “dream wedding.”

While most people tell us that we’ll never be able to afford a wedding with so little money, I am determined to do so. I was hoping that you would be able to provide some tips on planning a wedding with a limited budget and ways one can be frugal without the end result looking cheap. -Angel

First off, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Wedding planning and preparation for life as a wife is such an exciting time. Also, I’m very impressed with your desire to stay within budget and not go into debt for your wedding. Starting off a marriage with mountains of wedding debt is just plain unwise in my estimation.

I’m no wedding expert, but I have helped plan a few weddings on a budget — one of which was my own. From those experiences, I’ll share with you a few thoughts. Take them or leave them as they are useful to you in your situation:

1) Plan ahead and start looking for deals now.

We had 5 1/2 months to plan our wedding and this afforded us the necessary time to get everything we bought on sale — mostly at 50% or more off the retail price.

By planning ahead and figuring out what we needed and how much of it we needed, we were able to capitalize on the deals and sales over the months leading up to our wedding. Instead of buying everything all at once, we patiently waited until the item went on sale (which most items do over the course of a four-month period) and then we bought it at a discount.

I bought the majority of the items we needed at Hobby Lobby during their regular 50% off sales. Every week, I’d check the ad online and then check it against my list of items I needed to buy. Hobby Lobby also often offers 40% off coupons which you can print out online and use on any item which is full-price. These came in handy for those items which didn’t routinely go on sale.

We bought all of the tulle for decorating and fabric for sewing the bridesmaid’s dresses when it was on sale at 50% off or using the 40% off coupons we got in our fabric store fliers. We were able to get dozens of yards of tulle and all the fabric and notions very inexpensively this way.

2) Shop around for the best price.

Whether it’s cake decorators, florists, or photographers, don’t settle on the first one you contact. Get at least three different price quotes before making your final pick. The prices can often vary quite a bit and many of them will work with your budget if you ask them to.

I found that it was best to tell them your budget upfront. For instance, “I only have $150 to spend on personal flowers, what can you do for that?” It often surprised me what they could pull off while working with my budget!

However, do not just make your decision based on price alone. Make sure the person or company you are hiring is not only qualified for the job but that they will get it done well. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more for something in order to guarantee the end result is what you want.

For supplies you need to buy, think outside the box. Don’t overlook dollar stores, overstock stores (such as BigLots) or online websites. I found that a number of things were less expensive if I ordered them online — even when paying shipping and handling — than I could find in any of our local stores.

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photo by sifu renka

3) Put your money where it matters to you.

Just because someone else thinks it’s important you have a stunning dress or an elaborate cake, doesn’t mean you need to. Focus on what is most important to you and invest the most time and money there.

Since I’m a minimalist by nature, many of the traditional wedding things didn’t matter to me. And Jesse’s the same way. We didn’t particularly care whether we had hundreds of incredible wedding photos, we just wanted to have a few pictures of us and our families on our wedding day. So, with this in mind, we chose one of the least-expensive photography services we found whose personalities and photography work we liked.

On the other hand, having fresh and beautifully-arranged personal flowers, were more important to me, and so we spent a bit more there (even though it was still quite inexpensive by most people’s standards!).

4) Keep it simple.

As I alluded to above, I like to keep things simple. I like things to be efficient and streamlined and organized. And our wedding was no different. We cut costs in a lot of ways because of this. Just a few examples:

::I wore my mom’s wedding dress. No, it wasn’t any incredible dress and yes, it was dated, but it fit and it was special for me to be able to wear. Best of all, we saved a chunk of money and headache by me doing so.

::We didn’t have a flower girl or ring-bearer. I know some people think these are absolute essentials, but since I didn’t have any little nieces and nephews to fill the part, we decided to just skip this altogether.

::Instead of a fancy multiple-tiered cake, we opted for sheet cakes and a simple little two-tiered cake for the center of the table. Sheet cakes are much less expensive and since the cakes are going to be consumed anyway, I figured people wouldn’t care whether they came from a fancy multi-tiered cake or a simple sheet cake. Honestly, I don’t think anyone even noticed!

::We only had a cake reception. I know in some parts of the country, only having a cake reception is like a travesty, but in the Midwest it’s quite common and much more frugal than serving a big dinner to all your guests.

::We kept our wedding party small. Simple is good, remember? We were actually going to just have one attendant each, but we changed our minds halfway through in order to include our younger sisters as bridesmaids. As a result, we had three attendants each.

::My sister made the three bridesmaid’s dresses. By doing this, we were able to get all three dresses for less than $100 total–which is often the cost of just one bridesmaid dress.

5) Borrow things from others.

My philosophy: if you’re only going to use it for one day, why go out and buy it if you know someone else you can borrow it from?

We borrowed a number of things for our wedding — many of which were actually offered to us and we gladly accepted. Some friends of ours had recently married off two of their daughters, and had had very large weddings for both. They asked if we wanted to borrow any of the leftover decorations and tulle they had from those weddings and that’s where the majority of our decorating supplies for the reception hall and the sanctuary came from. It saved us another big chunk of money and no one could tell they were “recycled.”

6) Utilize friends and family.

If you know someone who is great at decorating cakes, arranging flowers or photography, don’t hesitate to ask them if they might be willing to help out with your wedding. Likely you could work out a great deal this way and save a bundle of money in the process.

Just be sure ahead of time that whoever you ask really and truly is experienced in the area and not just someone who hasn’t much of a clue but generously offered anyway. You don’t want to create a huge headache if the supposedly “wonderful cake decorator” who is also your aunt ends up ruining half of the cakes while attempting to decorating them the morning of the wedding.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on the subject of planning a wedding on a budget. I’d love to hear from the rest of you who have experience in this area. Any words of wisdom or practical ideas for Angel or others who are in the midst of wedding planning right now?

Celebrating a Frugal Valentine’s Day

top photo of graphic provided by Paper-Pixie

Valentine’s Day is Saturday and many of you have requested I share some ideas for celebrating this holiday without spending a lot of money. I briefly considered writing an article, but I have to tell you that we’re pretty plain Jane folks when it comes to Valentine’s Day. In fact, we don’t usually do much outside of a nice meal at home or maybe decorating some Valentine’s cookies.

However, even if I’m not bursting with creative inspiration when it comes to February 14th, the frugal blogosphere certainly is. In fact, there are more great ideas floating around out there then you could probably do in a lifetime of Valentine’s days.

Here are just a few great links I found:

Sarah at Fiddledeedee has some unique ideas and yummy recipes posted including one for chocolate fondue.

Centsable Momma walks you through making homemade chocolates.

Amy at The Finer Things in Life encourages you to celebrate big without spending big.

Thrifty Mommy gives you ten ideas of ways to save money this Valentine’s Day.

Claire from Choyster Cash suggests an inexpensive date idea and Mercedes shares tips for having a fancy dinner on a budget.

Probably my most favorite idea of all came from The Happy Housewife. She and her husband celebrate with a Valentine’s Day challenge:

First decide to
celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 19, 20, 21, or whenever, just as
long as it is after the 14th. Then decide on a set amount of
money, for example $10. Now for the challenge part, see how much candy,
or trinkets, cards, and other treats you can get for $10 or less. Most
stores have everything marked down at least 50% on February 15 and the
prices keep dropping as the days go on. Then on your Valentine’s Day,
you and your spouse can trade gifts and admire each other’s frugality.

———————
Do you have some great ideas, recipes, tips, or inspiration for those of us seeking to celebrate a frugal Valentine’s Day?
If so, post about them on your blog and leave your link below. (Please remember to keep it family-friendly and to leave a link to your direct blog post on this subject–not your blog’s home page.)

 

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: A few things we’ve enjoyed this season

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Inspired by Little House on the Prairie, we made bear pancakes for Christmas week. Kathrynne thought they were the neatest pancakes ever. Talk about an easy and simple way to bring a smile to a little girl's face!

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We made some of our favorite Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists to take to a Christmas gathering this week and will be making more for our Christmas morning brunch. These are just so delicious and relatively easy to whip up, too. I posted the recipe here.

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December just wouldn't be the same without Christmas music! We love it and listen to it almost constantly as soon as Thanksgiving is over with (well, sometimes I can't wait and have to turn on some before then!). One of our favorites is the CD my sister recently produced in conjunction with The WILDs. (Listen to clips here.) Read more about some of the other CDs and music we've enjoyed this season here.

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Cozying up on the sofa with a stack of books and hot drinks has occupied many of our December afternoons. We always tackle quite an eclectic mix of books, but we've enjoyed a number of Christmas-y ones in the last few weeks. You can read about those here.

(By the way, I requested most of these off of PaperBackSwap–one of my favorite sources for building our family library! And since the girls love books so much, I've stashed some of the books away that we've gotten in the mail from PaperBackSwap recently and will be wrapping them up for Christmas presents. They will love this and it's about as frugal as it gets when it comes to Christmas presents!)

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And finally, one way we've sought to keep a Christ-centered Christmas this year is by doing a Jesse Tree. If you've never heard of this concept before, you can read more about what it is and how we're doing it here.

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Homemade gifts

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One thing we did for some simple homemade gifts this year was to make up a bunch of hot drink mixes. I love hot drink mixes in the Wintertime and they're a nice gift to give since they don't need to be used right away but can be enjoyed at the recipient's leisure.

We made: Vanilla Chai Tea Mix, Fireside Coffee Mix, and Hot Spiced Tea Mix.

I bought some gift bags and tags and ribbon at 50% off at Hobby Lobby last week for $0.99 per 20 of each and used these to package up the gifts. While I could have made my own and probably saved a few dimes, I figured that keeping it simple and saving time and effort was worth paying a little bit extra for.

We'll be putting these drink mixes in gift baskets with the mini-loaves of sweet breads I made up yesterday and a bag of this Corny Snack Mix (thanks to Shannon for the recipe link!). All of these items can be stored in the freezer, too, so if the recipient has lots of homemade goodies around, they can save ours to enjoy later.

It's a simple and inexpensive homemade gift, but I think it will be meaningful and appreciated by those who receive it. And we had a lot of fun putting them together, too!

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Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Cookie-Baking Day!

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We took the day off today from our usual routine and had a cookie-baking/bread-baking day. I always try to take at least a day or two the week before Christmas to do some fun baking. And it's especially enjoyable now that the girls are old enough to help some.

Today, we made 32 mini-loaves of different sweet breads (Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Apple Walnut, and Lemon breads) to give as gifts and the girls made and decorated a variety of Christmas cookies to share with others.

There are more pictures of our day posted over here.

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Introduction

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I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I don't start any Christmas preparations until after December 1. Seriously.

That might sound odd coming from a person who usually is a pretty meticulous planner, however, I've found that waiting until December to start Christmas preparations helps tremendously to keep things simple.

And keeping things simple is one of the most important things to me about Christmas. If I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off and feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed, it's not worth it to me. I'd rather keep it simple, do less, and have time to really enjoy the Christmas season and all that it entails.

With this in mind, our family chooses a few things each year to do and enjoy during the Christmas season. Each year, it's a little different–and that adds to the fun!

This year, we're choosing to enjoy lots of Christmas music, put up our first Christmas tree and lights on our home, have a cookie-baking day, make homemade gifts for a few friends and family, read Christmas stories and books, attend a few get-togethers with friends, go caroling to some elderly folks and shut-ins, celebrate Advent with a Jesse Tree, get a few special gifts for our immediate family members, and enjoy lots of memorable time with family. We spread out these activities over the whole month of December so that no week is packed to the gills and we're able to take time to savor each thing.

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing a little peek into our family's simple Christmas celebrations this year. My goal in sharing is not so that you'll feel like you need to do exactly what we do (please don't!) but to just inspire you (hopefully!) to consider choosing what really matters to your family this Christmas and to encourage your family to stop and savor the sights, smells, and sounds of this season!

May your Christmas season be a wonderfully blessed, unhurried, and joyful time of year, a time for making memories, sharing laughter with family and friends, and, most of all, remembering the One Who was born so long ago in a humble manger.

photo by yvestown