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Everyone always says your first year of marriage is the hardest – honestly, planning our wedding over two years was much more stressful than our first year. Wedding planning is the first major lifetime decisions you make as a couple (of course, unless you are in the minority who buys homes or something like that first). There were nights we had fights that made no sense and that I look back now as foolish and silly. But what it truly taught us was how we need to learn to deal with each other under times of pressure and stress, especially long-term.
Weddings bring about a lot of little details that only brides and grooms can decide on, so it’s important to make the right decisions for yourself, your budget and your guests. When we planned our wedding, we opted to not follow the traditional wedding planning track and invest our money in areas we felt were most important, which ultimately made our wedding a huge success to be something we and our guests loved. As a future bride-to-be, always focus your decisions on a rational, holistic approach – my rule of thumb was:
This method helped me rule out A LOT of unnecessary investments and allowed us to free up our budget for important things, like food, and open bar and a great photographer. Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks to help you in your decision making and why they were so successful for me!
If you really must, offer a basket of favors on the welcome table, but don’t spend your time or money assembling one for each guest. Most of them will likely leave them or forget them unless they’re food or something truly useful that they need. To bypass this at our wedding, we ordered about 50 custom matchbooks and placed them with cigars on the bar – they were all gone by the end of the night and huge hit! For our bridal party table, instead of standard place cards, we ordered wood cut outs of their names to keep.
Your guests have three primary needs – food, drink and fun. That’s what they come to weddings for so to make them happy, make sure those areas are up to par. Invest in a great caterer or one that gives an experience, like a pig roast BBQ, serve an open bar or pick-your-own drink (no one likes a cash bar), and make sure your DJ brings the beat with plenty of dancing and fun. Everything else can be compromised on, like creating a seating chart versus seating cards, serving a dessert bar instead of a five tier cake, and DIY’ing your centerpieces instead of getting an expensive florist.
Your wedding dress, your photos and your video – these are three musts to invest into. Having your dream dress gives you all of the confidence you need on your wedding day and memories that last a lifetime. You also want to make sure you have an amazing photographer and videographer because these are complete treasures. We originally were going to invest all of our money in a good photographer and not hire a videographer, but all of our married friends and family highly encouraged it, and it was by far the best decision we ever made! Not only did our photographer capture every happy, sad, and straight silly moment of the day, but the videographer got it all on video for us. We look back at these moments all the time and they’re the most cherished things we have from our weddings.
Finding the right venue can make all the difference in your budget – we spent a little extra money to find an all glass walled barn in the country overlooking beautiful scenery rather than a stuffy ballroom and ended up spending a lot less on decor because we let the venue speak for itself. When we went to our florist to pick our centerpieces, we showed them our Pinterest inspiration and set a budget for each piece, then let them work their magic. They found ways to make our vision come to life in a budget that worked for us rather than adding a bunch of extras on to jack up the price! Always make your budget and vision clear, and your decor specialists try to work within both.
Even if you’re not creative, there are tons of tutorials to make your vision come to life at half the price. For us, I DIY’d a ton of our decor that our guests didn’t bat an eye at, including our seating cards, our invitations and our table numbers. Most of my time was spent on our seating charts, which were simply white Sharpie paint pens on acrylic sheets from the hardware store, and our marque letters, which were two-foot cardboard letters from the craft store and $10 bulb lights from Target! For $60, I made a vision come to life that would have cost us over $300 to rent!
Almost everything we bought for our wedding had a secondary purpose afterwards – our lantern for our unity ceremony is now displayed in our home, our guest “book” were corn hole boards we now use at family parties, and all of the frames used to house signs and photos are now displaying our beautiful wedding photos in our home and offices at work. They may cost more than cheap disposable alternatives upfront, but in the long-term, you already now have decor for your home!