budget wedding

Wedding Expenses Lessons Learned

by Melissa on March 16, 2012

Well, I started to talk about this a bit last Thursday, but didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. 

Am I ashamed that we went more than $8000 over our desired wedding budget?

I’m not sure.


Image Source

Yes, I think it reflects badly on me and hints at some overall irresponsibility with regard to spending that Ken and I have. After all, I set out to have a “budget” wedding! What did I end up spending? Close to the national average expense of a wedding.   Although definitely on the low end of what weddings cost where we live.  

I’m confused.

We self-deejayed. I bought two wedding dresses, both of which were less than $200 each. We had no videographer. No floral centerpieces. No fancy limo (or heck, even bus) transportation. We had no bridal party, which meant no bouquets and boutonnieres for them and no gifts to have to buy them to say thank you. I DIYed my own wedding day makeup.

I was doing everything I thought we could do right to save money. 

Allow me to throw a pity party for second and place blame everywhere but on myself.

Those “average” wedding expenses? I think are drastically UNDER ESTIMATED.  Maybe I’m just being a self-important brat here, but I think there are very few couples that have ever tracked every penny of their wedding-related expenses like thumbtacks for their escort card display, parking fees during their engagement session, and tin buckets for s’mores supplies. But, maybe they do track it. Who knows. Maybe those types of expenses are taken into account when determining the average wedding cost

When I read wedding submissions on wedding blogs, I find it very convenient that their wedding cost “total” is something like $12,000. Or $9000. Really? It came out that nice and evenly? Because our wedding expenses were $23,598.91. This doesn’t just include the “major” expenses.

Like here,

Or here.

Am I bitter that some folks can (or at least claim to) have a budget wedding of approximately $8000-ish, and I can’t even have one for $15,000? Heck, or even $20,000?


And here’s why. Despite about $1000 worth of “regrettable” expenses, there is nothing else, and I mean nothing, that I would’ve cut or changed from our wedding. So no, I do not regret our $760 dance lessons or our $87.25 (plus $10.95 shipping) lego ring bearer box. Or renting our wedding venue for three days instead of two or just one. Or spending $490.17 (plus shipping) on some really rockin’ wedding invitations.

Here’s what I really don’t regret. Basically inviting EVERYONE we knew. “They” say the easiest way to keep the cost down for a wedding is to lower your guest list. What fun is a wedding if ALL your friends and family (including their plus ones!) can’t celebrate with you? So, although inviting nearly 300 people was a bit stressful at times, I was so happy that about 150 could make it and celebrate with us. Plus, we were able to keep our costs low on the catering, which allowed us to invite that many people without REALLY breaking the bank. Anyway, we could’ve easily cut our budget without cutting our guest list anyway!

Everything about our wedding really, truly, was “us.” Because we didn’t allow any outside involvement, there was nothing in our wedding that was forced on us. We were cognizant of our expenses. We continued to track them even when we started to go WAY over our budget.

So, while it may seem ridiculous to go more than $8000 over budget on anything, I have zero regrets here!


Our Wedding Welcome Bags (on the cheap!)

by Melissa on January 9, 2012

Several months before our wedding, I gave an overview of what I intended to include in our wedding welcome bags. I’m pleased to report that our wedding welcome bags were a success at our November 11 wedding.

In that previous post, I mentioned that 1) I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the contents of the bag (i.e., no bottles of wine or $4.50 pieces of chocolate shaped like the Washington Monument). But, I did want to include some useful, inexpensive (or free!) contents. Also, as silly as it may sound, it was very important to me that the bag itself be reusable. Not necessarily for environmental reasons (although that is a big bonus), but because I knew folks would probably throw away the contents of the bag eventually, but at least the bag itself would remain useful. Therefore, I didn’t want to use a paper gift bag.

The Bag

So, I purchased 20 of these bags in royal blue from Cheap Totes for $1.49 each. We had blocked off 20 hotel rooms, so I assumed that that would be a safe estimate for the wedding welcome bags. (Total: $40.79, including shipping)


Brochures and Attraction Information

I picked up brochures from the Fairfax County Visitor Center storefront in Tysons Corner Mall. Tracking down brochures was more difficult than I anticipated. I thought I would be able to pick some up at our local AAA office, or at DC hotels with brochure kiosks. But apparently our AAA doesn’t carry brochures for local attractions, and those brochure kiosks are too pedestrian for fancy DC hotels or something.

But, randomly, one day when Ken and I were at Tysons Corner mall shopping for suspenders to go with his suit, we tripped over a nice storefront operated by Fairfax County. The lady in there was super helpful, and we picked up 20 brochures each of several “lesser known” DC attractions, like Mt. Vernon and Old Town Alexandria.

Local Maps

Yes, I realize that maps are a bit old-fashioned nowadays, but I still thought they would be a nice touch. I used my AAA membership to get 20 maps of the DC Metropolitan area, with a focus on Prince William County (where our wedding was being held), a street map of downtown Washington, DC, and a free local magazine called DC Metro Mag. All free!  I also picked up some pocket metro maps (available at any metro station).


Personalized information sheets

This was probably the longest task of the welcome bag process. I created a “Guest information sheet,” that included:

  • Directions from the hotel to attractions Ken and I recommended
  • A list of nearby eateries and their addresses
  • A list of nearby stores, like Walmart, the Supermarket, and CVS and their addresses
  • Directions from the hotel to the wedding venue

I printed these out, double sided, just on regular paper. I realize that a lot of folks put a lot of time and effort into making theirs look pretty, but I just went with a simple table layout, printed it, and voila!



I purchased a box of 30 snack-size bags of chips from Costco for $9.99, a case of water for $6.99, and a huge bag of Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses (separated into small plastic baggies of about 8-10 kisses each) for $6.99. (Total: $23.97)


Note and Tag

I wrote a very quick note using some fun gift tags I already had around the house (purchased from an Etsy seller years ago). Then I tied the note tags around the bag’s handle.


Assembling the bags

This was super easy, and took less than an hour. I set up a mini assembly line on our dining room table, and laid out the brochures, DC Metro Magazine, and Guest Information Sheets (forgive the crappy cell phone picture below. Apparently I didn’t take a real photo with my real camera of the actual assembly line)


First, I put the brochures, DC Street Map, DC Metro Map, and Guest Information Sheet in blue folders that I purchased from Amazon.


Then I put the folder in the bag, followed by DC Metro Magazine and a Fairfax County Tourism Booklet.


Then I added the snacks to the bag.


And voila! We had 20 welcome bags ready to be dropped off at the hotel. This task was completed in early October, more than a month before the wedding, so wedding welcome bags are definitely something you can check off your to-do list far in advance!


Total cost: $64.76. Not too shabby!


I HATED having a day-of wedding coordinator.

by Melissa on December 15, 2011

Are you organized? Do you have a clear vision of what you want for your wedding day? Then do yourself a favor and avoid a wedding coordinator at all costs. They will just add more headaches and add even more tasks to your to-do lists.

Making this statement goes against everything I had read about on wedding blogs. Those bloggers tell you that hiring a day-of-coordinator is a great investment. Those same sites tell you that hiring a coordinator will allow you to sit back and relax on your wedding day. Well, as I talked about earlier this week, sitting back and relaxing was not for me.

Background on our Coordinator

There’s a woman who lives down the street who owns her own Concierge company. That means that she does things like tracks down hard-to-find theater tickets, will stay at your house and supervise home improvement contractors while you’re at work, and she also plans parties and events, including weddings.

We found out about her very shortly after getting engaged.  (These next few sentences are related, I swear).

At last year’s annual Homeowners’ Association (HOA) meeting in our community in November 2010, Ken and I volunteered to help make a website for the neighborhood. A few weeks later, the HOA board invited us to an informal meeting to discuss what they wanted included on the website.

It was a low-key meeting and, during our discussions, Ken and I mentioned that we had gotten engaged about six weeks earlier. When folks at the meeting asked us “How’s the wedding planning going,” we told them how absolutely disgusted with wedding prices in the DC area.

They suggested that we get in touch with a woman from the neighborhood that owns a concierge business. They said they’ve all hired her for various things and she can negotiate excellent prices. They also mentioned that she had planned the neighborhood party that took place the previous summer.

We thought it was worth a try. After all, we were making zero progress on finding a venue and caterer within our price range. So we contacted her the very next day after the meeting. We met with her about a week later.

A Barter Agreement

We were fairly impressed during our first visit with her. She had a contact at one of the preferred caterers for a venue we loved. She filled us in on some shady stuff that that venue had going on. A very reputable venue in the DC area no less!

We negotiated a barter agreement with her. We would redesign her concierge company’s outdated website and, in exchange, she would help us with various pre-wedding things, like helping us negotiate prices with caterers. Then, for the day of the wedding (and any tasks in the days before the wedding) we would pay her and an assistant at a discounted hourly rate. It sounded like a win-win situation!

But, she kept suggesting vendors that we either A) Didn’t like, or B) Were out of our budget. Then Ken and I found the perfect venue in January on our own, about a month after we had made our agreement with her. And that venue had no vendor restrictions, so I thought that would open up a huge pool of cheaper vendors, especially caterers. But she was continually finding caterers for us that were $25-$30 per person for rubber chicken-type food. Not our style!

It reminds me of this post in which wedding planners wonder why a couple would do extra work to find cheaper prices when they’ve hired a planner to do just that.

Two Main Reasons for Hating having a Coordinator

1) Explaining what you want to another person (the coordinator) just so they can explain it to someone else (the caterer or other vendor) is extremely time consuming. Much, much more time consuming than just doing it yourself. Especially when you then subsequently have to hear all the vendor’s information second-hand from the coordinator. I suppose if you want to leave these smaller details up to the coordinator, then it may work just fine for you, but Ken and I wanted to be involved every step of the way

2) I don’t trust that the coordinator will find the best prices. They want to use their own buddy-buddy network of vendors, regardless of the cost to us, their clients.

Once it became clear that we were finally getting good at finding vendors and figuring out all this wedding stuff, a drastic change from the first six weeks of our engagement, we basically stopped asking her for advice.

Plastic Walls and Straw Bales

As we started to solidify the details of the wedding, we asked for her help with some of our “weirder” tasks, like having plastic walls installed on an existing pavilion structure, or buying straw bales as decor. She was useless on both fronts. She knew of one place to purchase hay bales, a local produce market right down the street. But the price was $7.50 per bale!!! She knew the owners, of course, so perhaps she could “negotiate” a discount of 50 cents per bale.

After about 10 minutes of Googling, I found a listing of TONS of local hay and straw bale-offering farms on the Loudoun County Extension’s website. The verdict? I found hay bales for $4.50 each, including delivery. I was also the one to track down a rentals company willing to install plastic tent walls on an existing structure. None of her “preferred” party rental companies could do it, so she told us it couldn’t be done.

The Cake

She did, however, recommend a reasonably priced bakery that had both excellent Yelp and Wedding Wire reviews. The coordinator arranged for a tasting, and both Ken and I thought the cakes were fantastic!

We decided to book the bakery! But, after that, I hated the entire process of communicating with the bakery. Because the bakery was the coordinator’s “find,” any communication Ken and I wanted to have with the bakery had to go through the coordinator. I never even had the bakery’s phone number or e-mail address! It was like a giant game of telephone. I had to tell coordinator what I wanted, then the coordinator had to tell the bakery, then the bakery had to give their response to the coordinator, then the coordinator had to tell me the response. And if I had even a single additional question or change to our order, the entire process repeated itself.

I kept thinking to myself, why on earth would anyone EVER want a full service wedding planner? Just using this one vendor that we found through the coordinator was an absolute nightmare process. I could only imagine how awful it would’ve been if we had used several of the vendors that the coordinator had suggested. I prefer having direct communications with my vendors, thankyouverymuch. It saves so much time and hassle! I thought having a planner was supposed to make things easier, not more time consuming!

Wedding Day Cake Disaster

If you recall from my quick wedding day recap, the cake was our biggest disappointment from the wedding.  The cake story will be an entire blog post on its own, but here’s the short version of the story.

The night before the wedding, the bakery was calling the coordinator asking for clarification on what we wanted. I thought it was pretty fucking simple. Simple round cakes with the flavors, filling, and frosting that we had listed on our contract. No fancy “wedding decoration cake.”  Just simple, elegant, but tasty cake!

The wedding coordinator was at our venue for the rehearsal when she took that call from the bakery. So, the coordinator put the bakery on hold to say that the bakery had some questions and needed some clarification. Ken and I were beyond mad.

1) We sent our contract in MONTHS earlier, so why was the bakery asking for clarification just right now, less than 16 hours before the wedding?

2) We should have trusted our original instinct and used a more traditional bakery or just gotten our cakes at Costco, instead of asking a wedding cake bakery since we wanted simpler, plainer cakes.

Sometimes personalities just clash. And sometimes people are useless fucking morons

It was just more than the cake issue that annoyed us about the coordinator. In fact, about five days before the wedding, Ken and I seriously considered firing the coordinator. She had become such an annoyance and we actually thought it would be better to not have her at the wedding at all.

But because all the wedding blogs tell you how important it is to have a day-of-coordinator, we decided against firing her. Instead, we had her amend the contract so that she could not charge us any more than 20 man hours for her and her assistant (including the day before the wedding – Thursday – and the actual wedding day – Friday). Initially we were going to want her help on Wednesday after we got checked in to the venue, but any time we were around her, we would just get so annoyed at her so we didn’t want her around at all.

Let’s look at some of the things that led us to realize that she was useless:

  • Well, there was the whole “6 people max to a table thing
  • Then, there was a point when Ken and I were considering getting a combination of both cakes and pies. We have found this amazing pie shop nearby and thought it would be a fun mix to have cakes an pies. Well, you could tell she didn’t like this idea at all because that would mean a smaller order with her preferred bakery we already told her that we’d use. Then she asked us “what size pies?” so I showed her the pricing sheet. I think they were like 8 or 10 inch pies we were considering. So, she says to us “I don’t think that would look nice presentation-wise. Perhaps you should get the smaller, individual size pies (which, I would like to point out, were about $3 each, and would feed one person). We asked her to describe what she meant about the presentation. She wasn’t able to articulate it. And anyway, what do I care about presentation if I want pies at my wedding? Ultimately, we never ordered any of the pies, but it was a very strange conversation. I don’t know why the “presentation” of pies was such a concern to her.
  • Then there was that plastic siding and hay bale thing I mentioned earlier in this post. But you want to know why I ordered hay bales as extra seating? Because she told us that our ceremony site, which had existing benches, would only seat 90 people. Ken and I have a photo that we took of our guests right as the ceremony started. We counted 87 people in that shot, and the ceremony site was maybe 50-60% filled. So we probably could’ve fit TWICE her estimate in the ceremony site. So, there went $225 we spent on hay bales to use as extra seating because of her moronic estimate (although we did use some for decor, so it was fine). At least we didn’t spend the $7.50 per bale that she had originally found.
  • She was completely technology incompetent. Ken and I maintained a detailed wedding to-do list in Google Docs. One of the MANY benefits of Google Docs is that you can share a document with lots of people, and they can just view it whenever they want to see the updates. There’s no e-mailing attachments back and forth or anything. We offered to share ALL of our documents with her, but nope, she asked that everything be e-mailed, as an attachment. I would explain to her that she could view the document in Google Docs and then download a local copy, but she would just say something to the effect of, “yeah, I’m just not familiar with it.” Well, give it a try dammit. You’re making your client’s life more difficult asking her to do extra tasks that she wouldn’t otherwise be doing.
  • She didn’t hang up our family wedding photos. This was actually something that bothers me a LOT. Ken and I spent a lot of time tracking down wedding photos of our parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents. I even found a photograph of my great-great-grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary Gala! We scanned them in and had them professionally printed on 11×17 Lustre paper. The fucking coordinator never put them out!
  • She didn’t make sure vendors got their checks
  • She didn’t set up heaters where I wanted them
  • She didn’t put wine or beer keg in mess hall. We were having our reception in a pavilion, but there was also an indoor location about 200 feet away from the pavilion, called the Mess Hall. I had left her specific instructions to leave 6 bottles of wine, one beer keg, and some two liters of soda, along with cups and a corkscrew, in the Mess Hall. We had told our guests that if it got too chilly in the pavilion, they could feel free to venture over to the Mess Hall and warm up and that there would be some drinks and games in there. Well, she didn’t leave any wine, beer, or soda in the Mess Hall.
  • She Didn’t make sure things were being refilled (cider, s’mores, etc.)
  • She didn’t make sure pastor gave blessing (on our timeline)
  • She didn’t make sure pastor signed wedding license or got his check

A few days after the wedding, we e-mailed her to thank her for making the venue look so great. Then we offered just a few items of constructive criticism that she should consider when coordinating other weddings. This was her exact response:

I’m glad you were mostly pleased with our work.  I know you may not realize, but we worked extremely physically hard.  The three of us could barely move on Saturday.  I actually had to cancel another job I had scheduled.  We really should have called it a night and suggested others be hired to clean up, but when you asked on Thursday night for us to stay longer on Friday, we decided to do it.  It was very rough working outside in the cold all day and I believe my team and I did an outstanding job considering the time limits and the amount of work we were given.  We appreciate constructive criticism, but [my assistant] and I have done events for years.

Not even a discussion of the specific items we called out as constructive criticisms. Nope. She apparently knows what she’s doing.

Fuck. That. Shit.

The thing that annoys me the most about the entire situation is that we had to pay her for those day-of-coordinator tasks. Our initial barter agreement seemed like such a good one at the time. We were having such a difficult time planning our wedding and we figured we were going to need as much help as we could get. So the fact that she could help us with all of that and we would just have to redesign her website, it sounded like a great deal.

But then we ended up never using her for that stuff because she was so useless and we ended up getting the hang of it, especially after we found our perfect venue, more than 3 months after our engagement! And then we still had to pay her for the day-of tasks. It was basically like we had to redesign her website and get nothing in return. I realize that this is a risk one takes when doing some sort of barter agreement, but I was SO BITTER and ANGRY that we had to pay her. Especially since she did so many things wrong on our wedding day. I’m torn on whether it was a worthwhile investment. Sure, she set up the venue on the day of the wedding and put everything in the van after the wedding, but couldn’t we have done that ourselves? Everything was according to our instructions, so it’s not even like we relied on her aesthetic. Everything from the cake table arrangement to the centerpiece and table number arrangements, and the hot beverages bar setup. All our ideas.

So, live and learn, future brides! If you’re organized and willing to do a bit of work on your wedding day, you don’t need one!


A few weeks ago, I detailed what I would’ve done differently planning our wedding. One of the items on the list set off a bit of a tizzy on Twitter. That item was #2, “Not hired a day-of-coordinator.” I’ve drafted an entire post about why I didn’t like having a day-of-coordinator, but I realized that some additional context might be needed before I actually publish that post.

One of our main reasons for not liking our coordinator, or really a lot of the other vendors, is their continuous statements like, “Oh, don’t you worry about a thing, we just want you to sit back and relax on your wedding day while we do all the work.” They are, of course, trying to sell you their services. They also come with a lot of pre-conceived notions about couples and weddings. They are also not your friends.

Any time Ken or I even hinted or suggested doing something on our own on the wedding day, vendors would jump in immediately to claim they could save the day. “We don’t want you to have to think about anything on your wedding day. We’ll take care of everything.”

relaxFlickr User Soukup

For detailed oriented folks, like me and Ken, that is a really infuriating statement. Because, here’s the thing, we WANTED to do stuff on our wedding day. It was something we had been planning for THIRTEEN MONTHS. It was very important to us to see it through to the end. But no, folks told us that this would be “impossible.”

I had been thinking about this issue for a long time. I even wanted to write a blog post on this topic before the wedding. But I thought to myself, “let’s not be presumptuous!” Maybe it is, in fact, impossible to do anything on your wedding day.

Well, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s fun!!

Here’s a rundown of what Ken and I did on our wedding day:

  • Set up iPod deejay equipment (Ken did)
  • Moved flatscreen TV outside and set up slideshow (Ken did)
  • Set up lighting equipment in pavilion
  • Troubleshooted (Er, troubleshot?) our DIY Photobooth
  • We made our own deejay wedding announcements (first dance, cake cutting, father daughter dance, etc.)
  • We reminded the pastor to give the blessing
  • We made sure that the guitarist got his payment
  • We made sure the ceremony got started on time
  • I added firewood to the fireplace during the reception
  • We pinned our own corsages and boutonnieres
  • I answered questions that the caterer had when she asked if I wanted a final copy of the invoice.
  • I reminded people to refill things like the cider when I realized it was low.
  • I did my own makeup
  • Drove our own cars
  • Played with our niece and nephew in the morning
  • I changed my dress mid-reception

I found none of these things “annoying” to do on the wedding day. In fact, it made me feel like I played a role in ensuring that the event we had planned for 13 months progressed smoothly throughout the day! It was FUN!

Most importantly, we interacted with ALL our guests at the reception, something we were led to believe would be virtually impossible if we were doing things like self-deejaying or controlling our own lighting system.

And in retrospect, I had a ton of free time the morning of the wedding. In fact, I dorked around on Facebook and Pinterest for a good amount of time. I was so worried about it being hectic that morning, and I ultimately ended up relaxed and quiet.

It was actually MORE distracting just sitting around. At least if I had other projects, maybe I could’ve kept the jitter level down.  I could’ve also made my own bouquet, like A Practical Wedding or Big Day for 10K (something I considered way back, but buying flowers wholesale wouldn’t have made any sense since I didn’t have any bridesmaids that needed bouquets and we didn’t have floral centerpieces. And also since I thought that actually GOING TO THE STORE on my wedding day would be impossible). Or I could’ve spent the morning at the venue instead of at the hotel and set up everything myself and then just gotten my hair and makeup done after I had set everything up.

So, in a few days, I’ll post the full “Why I hated having a day-of-coordinator” post. But hopefully this post gives some better context that the whole “no-way-you-can’t-do-anything-on-your-wedding-day” type attitude is not for everyone, and neither are coordinators.


Post-Wedding Projects!

by Melissa on December 5, 2011

And here I thought wedding-related projects would stop after the nuptials! Wrong! If you follow me on Pinterest, you know that I’ve been pinning a ton of “leftover wedding item”-type projects. I’m super excited to incorporate some leftover wedding items into our home décor!

I’m a big fan of incorporating personal elements into our home décor instead of just buying stuff at, for instance, Home Goods or Bed Bath and Beyond (not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I sit here and stare at candle holder from Yankee Candle). On the walls of our home, for instance, you’ll see framed tapestries I’ve collected from my travels (I love buying tapestries!). You’ll also see other little items from my travels proudly displayed, including a houka pipe from Egypt, a crystal bell from Waterford, Ireland, a bottle of sand from South Africa, frames of foreign money and coins, and various fake flowers – a wooden tulip from Holland, a ceramic flower from an artist store in New Orleans, and a hand blown glass flower from Florence – used as a permanent centerpiece in our dining room.

So these projects will incorporate items leftover from the wedding, like my bouquet flowers, the dried items we used as centerpiece flowers (wheat and craspedia), leftover wedding programs and bulletins, wedding invitations, wedding and shower cards, and the ribbon and fabric from our DIY Escort Card display. This is in addition to our super awesome guest “book” we had (actually a 20×30 cork display covered in fabric that people pinned messages to using different scraps of paper. Slightly different than our original idea for a guest “book.”

What to do with leftover wedding programs

1.  We’ll frame one in a frame with two glass panes so that you can view both sides easily (our program was printed double sided on a full 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.

2.  We’ll make a few Christmas ornaments from them, like so:

christmas ornament 1

via Flea Market Style


christmas ornament 2via Christy Robbins

3. Try a few coasters with leftover programs, and maybe even with a few photographs (to give as gifts to my parents and grandmother).  Like so:

Photo-Coasters-Wedding-Favors-300x225via The Frugal Girls

What to do with leftover ribbon and fabric

I’m going to take the ribbon and fabric we used on our DIY Escort Card holder and make a display of 1’s, since our anniversary is 11-11-11. Mine will be a slightly modified version of this.

display-numbers-fabric-ribbonvia She’s Kinda Crafty

I have a different idea for what to do with ribbon that was on our wedding and shower gifts. For that, I’m probably going to wrap fabric around a piece of foam core (framed or unframed, I’m not sure yet), and simply wrap the ribbons around the foam core in a random pattern. Boom, instant art using ribbon from gifts.

What to do with wedding flowers

I watched several tutorials on YouTube for how to press and or display flowers. (Which no doubt makes me an expert on the matter!) My bouquet flowers have been drying using two methods: Half are sitting in silica gel, while the other half are being pressed between newspaper covered with heavy books. (I opted for two methods in case one doesn’t work. I also opted not to try the microwave method.)

Anyway, I haven’t found any photo inspiration for how I want to display the dried flowers, but I can picture it perfectly in my head. It will be a shadow box or other frame, maybe 12”x12” and I’ll cover a piece of foam core with burlap leftover from the wedding. Then I’ll display each flower nice and neatly. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll be sure to do an entire post on it when I do it! Most sites I read recommended allowing your flowers to press and/or dry for at least 4-6 weeks, so mine are still sitting undisturbed in their respective drying/pressing locations.

For our wedding table centerpieces, we used dried wheat and dried craspedia. Here’s a crappy cell phone photo of our centerpieces when I created them back in September:


Although I only have one specific project for the wheat and craspedia in mind, I’ll save a handful of stems and stalks for potential future projects, and then sell the rest. One project that I know I’ll do for sure is creating another ornament with them. l’ll cut off most of the stem of the wheat and put the actual “wheat” part (what is that called anyway, you know, the part at the top) inside one of the clear ornaments pictured above in the second wedding program ornament photo. Perhaps it would look something like this.

craftsvia Country Living

I doubt that the craspedia will fit in the ornament though. Any other ideas for what I can do with the leftover wheat and craspedia?

What to do with leftover wedding invitations

Like the wedding flowers, this has been something I haven’t been able to find a photo for inspiration. But again, I can picture it pretty well in my head.

Our invitations were AWESOME. (There’s a post coming soon about them, I promise). So, as part of displaying the invitations, I want guests in our home to be able to “interact” with them easily. So, this project will involve some sheet metal and magnets! The magnets will allow us to display the invitation in a non-destructive way and allow people to take the invitation from its display and view it when they want.

What to do with wedding and shower cards

I’m going to do this with our wedding and shower cards. Done and done.

wedding-card-storagevia Traci Thorson Photography


That’s it for now! I’ll let you know how each project goes!

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Wedding Day Morning Calmness

by Melissa on November 8, 2011

Second post in one day? I can’t.stop.writing. No joke.

I would like for my wedding day to start on the calmest possible notes. This will require a delicate balance. Of course, I don’t want to ignore my family as we get ready, but it’s almost like my family is incapable of being calm and prepared. I am, on the other hand, completely prepared for the wedding.

I think this might be completely incomprehensible to someone who does not plan. Here’s an example. As of two days ago, my mom STILL did not have an outfit to wear to the wedding. And for my wedding shower a few months ago, my sister was buying supplies like tablecloths right up until about an hour prior to the event. So I think that, because they plan things at the last minute, they always ask me questions, like “Do you have this,” and, “oh, you didn’t forget about that, did you?” or “shoot, I don’t remember seeing this, have you seen it?” This drives me absolutely batshit crazy.

Also, having people ask me, “are you ready!” and “are you excited!?” and “no cold feet, right!?” every two seconds will be exceptionally annoying to me. I just want to be left alone, in peace, to prepare for the day. But, at the same time, I want to involve them and not seem like a total bitch on my wedding day.  (On a side not, I am SO looking forward to after the wedding so people will stop asking me, “are you ready,” and “are you excited.” One of these days, I really just want to say “No.” just to see what someone says.)

Anyhoo, I’ve made some preparations for the morning of the wedding to hopefully make it as calm as possible and not be a douchebag in the process.

Preparations for Morning of Wedding Day

  • Downloading meditation podcasts to listen to as I relax or start to get ready
  • If I’m feeling restless and full of nervous energy, practice dancing moves, or do jumping jacks and burpees to burn energy
  • Studying up on some deep breathing exercises
  • Perhaps even pound out a blog post about my feelings at the hotel
  • Put copy of the wedding to-do list in the hotel room so people don’t ask me needless questions (a HUGE pet peeve of mine) or ask me “do you have this ready, what about that, etc.)
  • Put up signs asking people to keep a calm vibe when they’re in my hotel room. No panicky voices (ahem, my sister). No loud voices (ahem, my future SIL). Quiet voices might be difficult because my grandmother is very hard of hearing. She’s also a very negative, and sometimes even mean, person. If she says anything negative, I will ask my mom to take her somewhere else.
  • Bring noise canceling headphones in case the volume level does get too high and I need to tune people out
  • Ask everyone to turn their cell phones to vibrate. The sounds of ringing cell phones tend to stress me out sometimes
  • Have a bottle of white wine handy so I can have some drinks and relax if necessary
  • Have my “calming” pandora station queued up


My Wedding Week To-Do List

by Melissa on November 6, 2011

Last week I mentioned how restless I’ve been. So, I’m going to keep myself as busy and productive as possible for the next several days. I thought I’d share with you all the daily schedules I’ve created for myself.  I know a lot of this sounds very general. Tomorrow I’ll be posting more of the details (like what “getting venue organized” actually means!)

Saturday November 5 (yes, I realize this was yesterday. Just wanted to share it)

  • Movers estimate (we’re having movers take our boatload of DIY items to our venue)
  • Go to Tyson’s Corner Mall for wrap/bolero, gifts for Flower Girl and Ring Bearer at Disney Store, and waterproof mascara from MAC
  • Go to fabric store for last minute mess hall decorating idea
  • Go to AC Moore for some wooden crates

Sunday November 6

  • Go to Costco (water, paper towels, large garbage bags)
  • Get eyebrows threaded
  • Go to target for flavored coffee creamers and soda 2-liter bottles (and other various non-wedding household items of course)
  • Go to Home Depot for propane tanks for patio heaters we’ll use at wedding
  • Buy pumpkins we’re using as centerpieces
  • Make sure all details are finalized for the program

Monday November 7

  • Send program to print shop and pick up
  • Drop off handkerchief and string at florist
  • Relax. Maybe do some work from home
  • Organize supplies needed for venue
  • Put escort cards on escort card holder

Tuesday November 8

  • Do some work from home in the morning
  • Massage at 1pm
  • Manicure/Pedicure in evening

Wednesday November 9

  • Buy apple cider from Trader Joe’s (and maybe some other snacks!)
  • Buy ice cream and other sundae supplies from supermarket
  • Pick up beer kegs
  • Organize items needed for hotel Thursday
  • 12:30-2:00 Movers arrive
  • 2:15 PM Depart for venue
  • 3:00 PM Check in at venue
  • 3:00-3:30
    • Movers unload truck
    • Put everything in mess hall at first
  • 3:30-5:00
    • Get things organized
    • Ken to set up messhall deejay equipment, photobooth stuff, and televisions inside
    • Melissa to use leaf blower to clean out pavilion and use push broom to clear “aisle” path
    • Melissa to direct handymen where to put 400 lb picnic tables, how to string lights
    • Post sign listing what family and friends can help with once they arrive later in the evening (blog post about this tomorrow!)
  • 7:00 PM Start fire in pavilion fireplace
  • 8:00 PM Depart venue, drop off welcome bags at hotel
  • 9:00 PM Home, wine, sleep

Thursday November 10

  • 7:30-8:30: Shower and get ready for day (Ken loads up car with items needed for hotel, including dress, suit, etc.)
  • 8:45: Depart for venue, drop of clothes at hotel. Put in family’s hotel room for now
  • 9:45: Arrive at venue
  • 10:00-11:00: Hay bale delivery arrives
  • 11:30: Continue setting up venue
  • 2:00: Go to hotel, get checked in and organized and freshen up for rehearsal
  • 3:15: Head back to venue for rehearsal
  • 4:00: Rehearsal starts
  • 5:00: Family and friends start making rehearsal dinner (will likely be going on all day)
  • 6:00: Finish setting up venue!
  • 7:30: Depart for hotel
  • 8:00: Paint nails, listen to calming music, get all makeup and accessories out of suitcase and organized for morning

That’s it! The details of a bride’s life the week before her wedding!

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DIY Wedding Day Makeup Tutorials

by Melissa on October 20, 2011

I mentioned a while back that I absolutely hated my hair and makeup trial. Well, I’m happy to report that since then, I had a VERY successful hair trial. I booked her services on the spot! I also mentioned that I decided to do my own wedding-day makeup. I’ve been wrestling with this decision, but seriously, when I take a look a pictures of myself with a full face of makeup that I have done myself, I look just fine! My only lesson learned from my engagement photos would be to go a bit heavier on blush.

But, I have been looking for a few tips to finesse my makeup techniques a bit. Several years ago, I went to a class that MAC offered at our Macy’s. That was really the start of actually understanding how to use makeup. Before that, I only used single color eyeshadows. I never wore blush, eyeliner, or mascara. Suffice it to say, much has changed in the last several years since going to that class!

But, wedding day makeup is an entirely different animal. Here are the best tutorials I’ve come across that have helped me improve my techniques

Where to learn DIY Wedding Day Makeup Techniques

Kandee Johnson’s makeup videos are great! Here are some of the best:

Makeup by Tiffany D is another great source

Makeup Geek also has great YouTube tutorials

I think that your foundation routine will be the most important part of your DIY wedding day makeup. So here are some great general foundation tips.

I’ll be posting some of my wedding day techniques soon!

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Planning a Wedding with Job Loss on the Horizon

by Melissa on October 7, 2011

My fiance and I are extremely lucky. We both make good money and have secure jobs. We decided to keep our wedding budget reasonable, even though we make nearly $180,000/year. So, although we make good money and have a secure jobs, we make responsible mostly responsible decisions related to money.Well, I thought I had a secure job. I am a Federal employee after all. The saying goes, “although you don’t make much money as a civil servant, at least you have job security!” 

Well, that’s definitely not the case. The organization that I work for laid off nearly a third of its workforce after budget cuts in the mid-nineties. And now, its budget has been cut again and they’re anticipating laying off around 500 employees. And since I am one of the most recent hires there I’m expecting to be one of the first to go.  (I started just over a year ago. Right after I was hired, they instituted a hiring freeze anticipating big budget cuts),

A few things. A) Although it’s cause for some apprehension and worry, I’m happy that they’re being so up-front about it. I couldn’t imagine going into work one day and unexpectedly told that I was being laid off. So, I know that it could definitely be coming. B) It allows me to get some things up-to-date, like my resume and network contacts.

If this were any other “normal” time in my life, I would also dramatically cut back on my expenses.

But, saving money and cutting back expenses is really, really difficult when planning a wedding.  In fact, last month, I was $1347 cash flow negative. Meaning that I spent $1347 more than I earned. Based on my projections, I expect this month to be about the same. That money comes out of my savings account. Money that I may definitely need to tap into if it takes me longer than I expect to find a new job. Many federal agencies are having huge budget cuts, so there may be a lot of folks looking for new jobs in the next few months.

I guess all I can do is take it in stride. The organization expects to make a decision in about two weeks. Employees will have 60 days notice of their layoff, which means that, if I am affected, I’d still have a steady paycheck until at least Christmas, which is more than a month after the wedding. I’d also have some time to start looking for a job.

I’m hoping for the best, but here’s what I’m doing to prepare for a worst case scenario.

  • Since cutting back on big expenses is not really an option right now, I’m going to take steps to eliminate our smaller ones and maybe start clipping coupons again. I used to do that all the time, but stopped about a year ago. I also go through books like candy, so maybe I’ll take a break from buying books and get caught up on that HUGE stack of magazines I have.
  • Research unemployment benefits in my state. This gets a little complicated because I live in Virginia, but work in DC, so I know that requires some added steps.
  • Research the process for deferring my student loans. Luckily I’m not saddled with huge student loans, but with that said, I would still defer mine to avoid payments while out of a job.
  • With open enrollment season on the horizon, determine the best insurance options now that we’ll be a 1+spouse!  If we decide to choose my insurance, make sure that we’d be able to easily join my fiance’s insurance policies at his employer if I lost my job (we have since found out that my job loss would be considered a “life event” and that we’d be able to join his insurance mid-season)
  • Updating my LinkedIn profile, my personal website (not this blog), and my resume.
  • Reach out to former colleagues for lunch, coffee or drinks to kind of “activate my network.” Also, perhaps attend some events that I typically wouldn’t that would encourage networking, like alumni events.

Well, that’s it. I’m not too worried about it. Although each job I’ve had in my professional life has taken more than 60 days to get (between searching for jobs, applying, getting callbacks, going for interviews and second interviews, and then two-weeks notice – which obviously wouldn’t apply here – and then actually coming on board), things are closer to the 4-5 months range, so I anticipate that I could be without a job or paycheck for 2-3 months despite having 60 days notice. And who knows, maybe this will be the push I need to finally monetize this blog. Have any fellow readers dealt with a job loss, whether while planning a wedding or not? What else should I do to prepare?

Update 11/2/11. I’m not losing my job! Whew! They were able to make enough budget cuts to not lay off any employees!


The nebulous world of wedding expense tracking

by Melissa on September 28, 2011

To date, we have spent $12,704 on wedding expenses out of our $15,000 budget. $214.44 dollars of that has been shipping costs.  We estimate that we’ve earned about $211.89 using cashback reward programs so far. I’ve also earned more than 100,000 British Airways miles after I signed up for a mega bonus program a few months ago as well as many many Southwest Rapid Rewards Points. Given our projected expenses (balances to be paid to vendors, etc.) we estimate that we’ll be approximately $4000 over budget. Yikes. (For those interested, I’ve updated the expense tracking spreadsheet in the sidebar)


Let me tell you though, if you haven’t tracked your wedding expenses to the absolute nitty gritty level that we have, it is a really nebulous exercise.  Just to give you a breakdown:

So far, we have had 93 wedding-related expenses

  • 72 of those expenses (77%) have been less than $100
  • Those 72 expenses add up to $2442.84
  • 18 of the 93 expenses have been between $100-$500.
  • Those 18 expenses add up to $4182.35
  • 3 of the expenses have been between $501-$1000
  • Those 3 expenses add up to $2011.16
  • We have had 2 expenses between $1001-$3000 ($2910 was our max expense)
  • Those two expenses add up to $4067.85

I guess what I’m trying to illustrate with my analysis here is that it’s not always the big expenses that kill your budget. Our 18 expenses between $100-$500 have been a complete budget buster.

There are many other things that leave me scratching my head when I add line items to our expenses spreadsheet.  Let me illustrate with some examples.

  • The other day, I bought a huge multi-pack of scrapbook paper for $14.99 (after coupon). I’m only going to use maybe 15 out of the 100 sheets. So, what do I put down as the wedding expense? $14.99 for the whole pack? Or since each sheet comes out to about 15 cents, do I just put down $2.25 in the spreadsheet (15 cents each (x) 15 sheets of scrapbook paper used)?
  • I bought a hot glue gun from Amazon to assemble my seating chart poster. Now, I never had a need for a hot glue gun before, so the wedding was the reason I had to buy the hot glue gun at this moment in time. But will I use the hot glue gun again in the future?  Very likely yes!  So, is that a wedding expense?  Or, let’s look at it in a different way. Let’s say I already owned a glue gun and glue sticks. Would I have to to deduct the glue sticks that I used as a “wedding expense” even thought I might have bought those glue sticks years ago and was only just using them on the wedding project?
  • Over the past few days, I’ve been purchasing accessories (purse, bracelet, necklace, etc.) to wear on my wedding day. Nothing “bridal” looking, but instead fun, funky jewelry and some plain old elegant pearls. All jewelry that I would wear on future occasions. So, are the accessories a wedding expense?
  • I’ve identified a difference between the cost of “getting married” vs. the cost of your wedding. For instance, should our engagement photos and the amount I paid to get my hair done for our engagement photos be considered a “wedding” cost? The more I thought about it, no. That might be part of the cost of “getting married” but our engagement photos cost have nothing to do with what we’re spending for our wedding day.
  • What if I manage to sell $1000 worth of stuff after the wedding? Would I subtract that from the “cost” of the wedding?
  • What about all the gifts and money we receive? What about all the frequent flier miles earned? Shouldn’t that somehow be taken into account when trying to determine how much you “paid” for your wedding?

Or maybe I am just trying to make excuses for myself as we anticipate that we’ll be nearly $4000 over budget?  What this all boils down to is the need for multiple spreadsheets. So, what you’ll see here on SuperNoVABride after I get married (in just a little over 6 weeks! Yikes!) is all sorts of different expense analysis. One counting supplies (even if it’s a supply I’m likely to use again in the future), one breaking down “wedding day” vs. “getting married” expenses, and all sorts of other fun stuff.  What? Other people don’t think that’s fun?

Has anyone ever taken an accounting class? How are expenses like these accounted for in the business world?

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