I was never the girl who dreamed about her wedding, I didn’t dress up as a bride and I didn’t think about one day working in the wedding industry but I now get it and I understand that planning a wedding is stressful, it’s crazy and it’s all consuming because you’re spending a ton of money, time and effort to put on an amazing day for you and your spouse to be. That’s what this series is about, it’s about creating the best day possible, making it beautiful, while keeping it reasonable and starting your marriage on the best of terms. One that is rooted in love, compromise and laughter through drama.
The “Wedding Adventures” Series
When we were planning our wedding, we were committed to keeping our wedding budget in check and being sensible about how we spent our money. We both felt that our wedding should be a great time and party for our friends and family who were traveling in (we had the wedding in Lubbock where we were going to school but most of our family and friends lived in Dallas, Midland and Albuquerque so everyone had to travel in) but we wanted to be more intentional with our funds because even though the wedding is a fun time and is a celebration of the relationship, the marriage is more important and we didn’t want to start with tons of debt over our heads. Originally we wanted to get eloped but we decided to have a bigger wedding (not that big as you’ll see) and really celebrate the life that we had created and the commitment we were making to each other and to our families. So what was our budget and how did we break it down and stick to it.
Let me start by saying that in Texas, the wedding average is almost $28,000 on a wedding. You read that right, 28 THOUSAND dollars. Now I’ve seen many couples take that number and make a stunning wedding that is absolutely amazing and worth every penny but we didn’t have that kind of money when we were planning our wedding so we knew that we were going to have to be precise and figure out what was most important to us (and spend more there.)
We had a total budget of $15,000 (which still seems like a lot now that I read it) and we stayed just under that, but let me break everything down for you.
Venue – $6,000
Photographer – $3,500
Dress with alterations – $1300 (dress and alterations)
Florals – $300 (bouquets for me and our bridesmaids, centerpieces and the boutonnieres)
Centerpieces – $15 (we borrow mason jars and spray painted recycled wine glasses, the tea lights and the fake pearls made up the costs)
Gifts for the party – $400
Favors – $50
Rentals for Dustin’s tux and the bowties/suspenders for the groomsmen – $200
Headpiece, shoes, jewelry and makeup for me – $200
Alcohol – $200
Our Ribbon Wall (DIY coming soon) – $100
Signage (Chalkboard Program, signs for tables, etc…) – $25
Cake – $400
Catering – $2200
We originally wanted to stay around 10,000 but I knew that we would go over so I upped our budget and thankfully we did because our catering was a surprise (we originally planned a sunday afternoon wedding and that changed and we forgot about catering until three weeks before the wedding so that added a ton of money to our costs otherwise we would have been well within our budget.)
WHAT WORKED AND WHAT DIDN’T
So was our money well used? Yes, it was. Could we have done much less and have been just as happy? Yes, of course. In fact, there are several things that I would re-do if I could that would have made the day “better” but really it doesn’t matter. We spent what we were comfortable with and had an amazing celebration with our friends and family. It wasn’t as simple or as intimate as I wanted but it was the most incredible thing ever.
That being said, we wish that we could have better utilized the money in some ways – our venue and photographer were so amazing and we wouldn’t re-do those at all. Spending more than half of our budget on those two items was exactly how I wanted to use it (I would have used more if I could have, alas.) We had our venue in mind for nearly a year before our wedding and couldn’t have imagined it anywhere else and photography was so so so important to me (obviously). At the end of everything, our memories fade and people forget the food but the photographs are so vital because otherwise it was a waste. I have my marriage and memories but the evidence of our start would be gone if we didn’t have our photographs.
We would definitely have thought twice about a saturday wedding because of the catering, the cost was normal but we weren’t prepared to spend it and that sucked. The food was AWESOME though so it was definitely not wasted, in fact we made the venue box up the left overs and take them to a local homeless shelter so we ended up being completely okay with the costs because nothing went to waste and others were able to benefit from our food.
We also saved a TON of money by using silk flowers in place of live florals, I created the bouquets for myself, my bridesmaids and the centerpieces this way and not only did they look good, they were super affordable! If you’re really tight for money it’s a great option, you can also work with florists who are affordable with great connections and they will do a good job too. And we also let our party wear dresses and outfits of their own choice, which was affordable for everyone (the bridesmaids picked their own dresses, as long as they were black and knee(ish) length – that way my only requests, they loved it!) and we supplied the guys with the suspenders and bowties but they all just wore white button downs and black slacks, something that (most) guys already own.
ADJUSTING FOR THE UNPLANNED ITEMS
Not only did we adjust to include the catering but originally my dress wasn’t as important to me, I never thought about a wedding dress and had no direction for what I wanted. If I had not really looked, I imagine that I would have worn something with an empire waist and cap sleeves probably, I had tried on close to 20 dresses and couldn’t find THE one. There were ones that obviously didn’t work and ones that were okay but nothing that made me cry. I thought you were supposed to cry and scream when you found the one!
I was in Austin with one of my bridesmaids and her mom, trying on dress after dress and after admitting defeat for the day, (but having two good options in mind,) the sales girl asked me to try one last dress on saying “I didn’t bring it out because it’s the last one we have and no one has liked it lately,” which didn’t inspire confidence and she kept it bagged as she came out of the storeroom with it but the name didn’t escape me “Monique Luo” and my heart dropped, I couldn’t even think of spending the kind of money that her name demands. I almost told the girl to put the dress up, saying “ummm….mama has got a budget.” and she laughed saying, “it’s on sale.”
My three favorite words.
I tried it on and of course, the damn sample dress fit like a glove. I looked in the mirror in the dressing room, with my bra and my pants hanging on the hook next to me, with the sales girl standing behind me and a single breath escaped my mouth. The dress. This dress. I was never the girl who thought about my wedding dress. But now I was. I saw everything then, I saw all of my stress, tears and impatience melt away. No tears came just a calm feeling that told me that this dress HAD to happen. The ruffles fell down the length of it, the waist cinched perfectly and hugged every curve just right. It was strapless and sat exactly where it should, making my collarbones look like I could cut glass. The pearls, lace and beading shined with my every movement, sparkling along the wall of the dressing room. It could have been a trick of the dressing room but I swore that I was glowing. It was absolute and utter perfection. Even if it meant I ignored my Irish Catholic side and had no alcohol at my wedding so that I could afford it, I was willing to sacrifice – I couldn’t leave Austin without this dress.
The sales girl was slick she leaned forward and said “I double checked in the back, this is the last sample in the state of Texas and it is normally $5,000 but right now it is $1,000. It’s a Monique Luo, you know.” She made sure to stress her name, knowing it was the clench she needed to get me to keep this dress.
I shook my head and looked at her through the mirror, “Well, I can’t pass Monique up.”
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
When you are making the decision on your budget, you have to sit down and decide what is more important to you? The food, the location? Figure out where you want to spend that money the most and make those work, keep your remainder in mind for the rest. This is what worked for us and I would definitely recommend keeping it in mind when you’re making yours! You don’t want to go into debt over your wedding because your marriage lasts much longer than that day so in my opinion, the budget is the most important aspect to planning. What items did you feel were super important in your wedding? Tell me below!
All photographs courtesy of Jennefer Wilson