I’m fantastically excited (and a little bit honored) to introduce our newest wedding graduate, Ellie of Mint. Ellie is, in no particular order: a graphic designer, a resident of North Carolina, and a possessor of exquisite taste. She also has her head firmly planted on her shoulders, and I like that in a girl. Her wedding graduate post is one of those that I read and kept nodding “uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh,” because she gets it exactly. She gets being practical by knowing that you want to have *everyone* you love at your wedding, even if that’s a lot of people. She gets knowing that sometimes you need to spend, and sometimes you need to save. And she gets that planning a wedding is about learning to make your own choices and stand by them. So, ladies (and a few gentleman) I bring you the fabulous Ellie:
Although Brendan’s proposal was technically a surprise, we had dated for over six years and marriage was something we talked about very openly. We even had a rough wedding date in our minds. So, even though we were only “officially” engaged for about ten months, I had plenty of time beforehand to sneak peeks at wedding magazines and subscribe to more than a few wedding blogs.
Once we were truly engaged and I started thinking about the money side of things, I got pretty panicky. And stayed that way. I remember running across the “$10,000 only” blog early on and thinking, $10,000, are you kidding me? I could have a hell of a party for that! Innocence is bliss.
Our parents were very generous, but I still worried about every single penny and whether it was wise to be spending it on one day of our lives. I worried that my idea of a perfect wedding wouldn’t match my family’s, or Brendan’s family’s. (And since they were paying for the majority of it, their opinions certainly mattered to me. A lot.)I am a details person, and very visual, but fortunately my idea of a perfect wedding was casual and simple. I had no interest in things like wedding favors, signature drinks, or anything else I felt was cooked up by the wedding industry. I did, however, want a big wedding where we could invite the majority of our friends and large families.One of the first things you’ll read in wedding books and magazines is that you need to make priorities and figure out where your money should go from there. If you’re like me, this does not work, because how can you say that your dress is not important? The food? The music? It all seems important! Thinking vaguely was not helpful; I needed numbers. I took a budget out of some wedding book, and started adjusting. For example, if I knew I wanted to help pay for my bridesmaid’s dresses, that meant I needed to subtract a few percentage points from somewhere else. There was a lot of pushing and pulling, until I felt like we had a number that I could work with for each category. This is where some categories got dropped completely. (Champagne toast? Day-of Coordinator? Professional makeup? Dropped).From there, I put a lot of thought into who we knew. At first, I thought we didn’t know anyone who worked in the wedding industry. But once my parents and I sat down and thought about it, we realized that we knew someone who arranged flowers out of her home, we knew a photographer, I had crafty friends who could help me with invitation-printing or luminary-making, my mom had a friend who knew someone who made cakes out of her home, I had a hair-dresser friend, etc. Things started falling in to place. We really didn’t interview any vendors at all.
How we got creative with our money:
- We rented a space with benches and rocking chairs, that was surrounded by beautiful scenery. This meant fewer decorations, and our guests could eat on their laps instead of at tables. This saved money on rentals, centerpieces, and even food. We served things like chicken fingers, finger sandwiches, and pasta. Anything that required two hands or a knife was out.
- We worked with a caterer who was OK with us supplying our own non-alcoholic drinks. My Dad stocked up at Costco, we set up some coolers under a table, found a friend who didn’t mind keeping an eye on ice levels, and at the end we returned the bottles we didn’t drink! It was easy, and saved us hundreds.
- My mother-in-law bought flowers from Costco for the rehearsal dinner (did you know you can pre-order ahead of time?) and got her family to help arrange them. The next morning, they took them to our reception location. The florist arrived with extra stems, and spruced up the arrangements. That way, we had lots of flowers for a whole lot less money. It’s important to work with vendors who are flexible in this way!
- We loved the idea of driving away in an old car, but our budget was right around $100. We didn’t have any friends with old cars who could drive us, and so we called Vintage Car Clubs. We found a couple who just enjoys driving people in their car, and drove us for a $100 donation to a charity.
- A friend did my hair, and my bridesmaids did their own. Everyone did their own makeup. I figured anyone who cared about their makeup would know how to apply it, and those who didn’t would feel more comfortable without it anyway!
It was a lot of work, but what kept me sane was thinking creatively about every single line in our budget. It meant being practical, and thinking about which things our guests would even notice. It meant forgetting about some details that only I would remember. If I didn’t feel like making something, it didn’t get made – or bought.I approached our wedding the same way I approach my life, like one giant design project. Spending my Saturday night tying ribbons on programs was a perfect Saturday night. Making birdseed packets, a joy. But, I guess the main thing I really want to say is: if tying ribbons to programs sounds miserable, then for God’s sake don’t do it! If you’re a chef and you care about how things taste, then forget about the tissue paper pom-poms! If you have the money and want to spend a million dollars on your wedding, then I think you should do it. Hate writing? Don’t write your vows. If you want to (and can afford to) splurge on signature drinks, you should. And don’t feel guilty about it.
At some point you have to stop reading (or listening) to advice and start doing what feels right to you as a couple and (maybe) as a part of your growing family. For me personally, if I hadn’t put so much creative energy into our wedding, then it wouldn’t have been our wedding – something would have been just wrong! And if I hadn’t compromised with our families here and there, that wouldn’t have been right for me either.
The best compliment we got after our wedding was that it was “real.” So, think about what feels real to you and your partner… come up with a budget that doesn’t keep you up at night… and learn how to say no.
Congratulations Ellie and Brendan! And hooray! Now if you want to read more about this wedding, go check out Ellie’s posts on Mint. Go, Go!