Saturday, October 15, 2011

Free Music for Reception

As soon as we set the date, Jacob and I began going through our itunes library to construct our epic wedding playlist. We went through each artist and chose the songs that we felt 1. were lyrically appropriate 2. we absolutely adored 3. were dance-able and 4. were appropriate to the theme of getting married (which is why, sadly, no Adele made it to the playlist). We knew that our reception was only going to be 2 1/2 hours long, but we made sure to have over 3 hours of music to make way for any song skipping, non-groovy choices, or just an unexpected time shift.

Once we chose all the songs, we spent an evening sorting them by priority and which songs we thought transitioned best with one another. We went by the standard of 3 dance songs, 1 slow song alternating. In a separate playlist we placed the songs for our first dance, father/daughter dance, and mother/son dance to be queued after dinner. We chose not to play music during dinner because everyone seemed to be enjoying their conversation, and I didn't think it would be a good idea to drown it out with music. On the day itself, we had our playlists on an ipod, plugged into some speakers that a friend let us borrow. Once the ceremony was over, one of my bridesmaids began the playlist, and we just took it from there- walking out to I Would Do Anything For You by Foster the People. Music was obviously turned off for the speeches, and we had designated certain people to announce different parts of the reception (flower toss, first and last dance, etc).

And that is how we spent $0 on our wedding reception music.

For the precession, our friend Andi Fawcett played a cover of City & Colour's As Much As I Ever Could acoustically. Not only did the timing of our walk to the pavilion from the main building worked perfectly with the verses of the song, it is also one of our favorite songs.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Decorations and Floral

Pretty much all of our ideas for decorations came from a variety of DIY blogs. Young House Love, 100 Layer Cake, and primarily My DIY Wedding Day were my main resources. The first thing I knew I wanted was to have crudite/cheese plates on every table. One pet peeve I had always experienced with weddings were that people expected you to sit still during the speeches while you're starving your ass off with nothing to munch. I wanted to cure that immediately by providing people with food at their tables and no effort on their part. Next, I knew I wanted mason jars with buttons to be involved with the centerpieces. The night Jake proposed, he brought me an orange and blue bouquet of daisies and hydrangeas and I immediately decided that those would be our colors and flowers.

(gerbera daisies for the larger arrangements)

Sarah, the creative soul that she is, volunteered to make paper hydrangeas for the centerpieces. She somehow read my mind because I had been wanting to have paper flowers but had no idea how I would make them. Life saver that she is, she took to the task and executed it flawlessly. We got our jars between visiting flea markets and Goodwills, and bought big tubs of buttons from Michael's for $6 per tub. 4 tubs were enough to get me through. My bouquet was a combination of paper and cloth flowers wrapped in ribbon and adorned with a sparrow charm. The same sparrow was used in Jake's boutonneire inspired by this design. The sparrows were used to reflect our use of Dallas Green's "As Much As I Ever Could" for the precession.

Knowing that I would not want to be throwing my paper bouquet (as it was also full of pins!) and that I could hardly expect Sarah to create 7 dozen paper hydrangeas, I also decided to get my hands on some gerbera daisies. 1/2 dozen of these would be used in my throwing bouquet, while the others would be used in the larger flower arrangements throughout the reception. The most difficult part of the decorations was that we were not allowed to see the reception hall until Jake and I were let in. I could tell Sarah every detail I wanted (I even created blueprints for how the tables needed to be arranged), but Jake and I were not allowed to see any of the decorating. As for the bouquets that Sarah and I walked down the aisle with, we had a girls night dedicated to a cloth flower frenzy at AC Moore where we gathered a ton of gorgeous orange, purple, and blue faux flowers to go around the paper hydrangeas. I am so happy with how they turned out, and better yet, that I get to keep my bouquet forever.

(memory table)

For our guestbook, I desperately wanted to do something untraditional. Because travel is something that has brought Jake and I through so much as a couple, we went on a mad hunt for vintage postcards. We then provided the guests with these postcards to write their well wishes on and place in an old suitcase. I don't know what we will do with them, but they look so much cooler than just a book. The best part is that most of the postcards are from places we have been together. We placed this setup on our memory table next to some wedding photos of our parents and grandparents.

Wedding Cake

Originally we had very much wanted to do a Build Your Own Cupcake bar inspired by this blog. After realizing that is would not be at all feasible to have 50 people gathering around one table, we decided to bring the decorating to them. Since we were already going to have the crudite centerpieces, we decided to create a second group of trays for our food runner to change out before the cake was cut. These trays would have various toppings- sprinkles of varying colors and shapes, m&ms, reese's pieces, etc. for everyone to use as they wished on their cupcakes.

We had also originally planned on having a giant cupcake at the top for Jacob and I, but after a brutal first-run, we decided that it would be better to go with a different plan. Luckily enough, as we were leaving the town hall freshly applied to marry and absolutely giggly, some cream horns caught my eye through the window of Foley's Bakery in Monument Square. We went in for some celebratory pastries, and while inside we fell in absolute love with the tiny chocolate mousse cake in the display case. We promptly placed our order, and that Saturday picked up our little cake for $16. It was seriously the most delicious cake I have ever eaten. Though I was a bit busy smashing it in my husband's face to taste it the first time, we ate the rest at our hotel later that night and I was reassured that we had made the right decision.

As for the cupcakes, they turned out beautifully. Jacob's aunt is an amazing baker, and whipped up 75 blue, orange, and purple frosted cupcakes that looked absolutely stunning. Perched on top of the cake were two bird salt and pepper shakers that we had bought through a shop on Etsy. Unfortunately the shop no longer exists, but we managed to grab a couple of the last birds they sold before leaving Etsy. We got the bare birds and Sarah decorated them for us with our colors. As thank yous to our parents and friends, we got more bare birds and painted them ourselves for them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


We debated for a long time on whether or not we would have our reception catered. In the beginning, it was really not a priority- Jake and I are both experienced in cooking, and we figured we would just save the hassle and do it ourselves. After realizing how much we already had on our plate (haha), we decided to look at some affordable options for catering. We looked at deli's around town, but it wasn't really the vibe we were going for. There was no way we were going to have someplace like Amato's or Subway cater our wedding, again, as food service folk we had our dignity to uphold! That is not to say that deli's or chain businesses are not suitable for catering- in fact they might be the perfect fit for your wedding and your budget, however, it was not the perfect fit for us.

The day after our engagement, we stopped by a new place in town called Exchange Street Cafe. They have typical American Italian food for pretty reasonable prices, but what came as the shock to us was that it was all handmade. We had anticipated precooked or frozen food, not real homemade stuff. As we ordered, one guy in the back was rolling meatballs while the other was dredging eggplant for Parmesan. The food was amazing- it definitely made an impression, so we took a shot in the dark. "Do you do catering?"

Turns out, they had just started pulling together a catering menu and were looking for some business to get it rolling. Catering in Portland is just as competitive as in-restaurant dining I'd say, and I'm pretty sure Black Tie has the market right now. Heck, before I asked these guys, I was positive I would have to spend $5000 to go with Black Tie or have no caterer at all! Paul and Ricky were great, though. From the very beginning, we were exchanging phone calls. I'd tell them what I wanted, and they would one-up my expectations. They designed a menu that not only fit my budget, but also my estimated number of guests, timeline, and the diet of my guests.

As you may have read in my previous entry, we redid the labels on two cases of our favorite wine for the our alcohol. We also had our favorite tea shop Homegrown Herb and Tea create a special blend of tea for us to have brewed at the reception, as well as to use in our guest favors. For those who wouldn't care to have wine, there was also soda available in large a large blue tub of ice. Including the champagne for the toast our beverage expenses totaled $150. And that's including the sweet vessel we bought to put the iced tea in! Unfortunately, after we brewed all the tea, we realized the nozzle hadn't been screwed on properly so we had to chug the tea and use the vessel for ice water (which was actually pretty great).

I knew from the beginning that instead of passed h'ordeurves I wanted to have vegetable and cheese platters as a part of the centerpieces. My #1 gripe whenever I have catered weddings has been watching guests mumble hungrily through the speeches, waiting for the food line to begin. I wanted our guests to be able to sit, munch, chat, and enjoy themselves before we were announced, and to be able to eat during the speeches without feeling rude. For $50 we made it happen- plastic serving trays from iParty, and a variety of cheeses, veggies, and grapes from Whole Foods (with lots of extra food left over btw!). This is also how we were able to incorporate our cupcake decorating station that you can read about later.

My recommendation is that if your venue will let you choose your own caterer, go to your favorite restaurants and ask them if they cater. Ask around town for recommendations, and scope out new and growing restaurants who might be interested in developing a catering menu. You really never know until you ask.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Invitations, Announcements & Posters

We were fortunate enough to have an expert card maker as my Maid of Honor, so the main costs of our invitations were the postage and raw materials. We designed our invitation suite in Photoshop along with the rest of our paper materials. For the invitations we ended up getting them printed at Kinkos for pretty cheap. We fit 6 invitations to a page, and printed 8 pages for a total of $11 on cardstock.

As we began creating more paper items, I invested in a paper slicer for $12 at Staples, 100 sheets of cardstock for $9, and began printing things myself. Looking back, maybe we should have made this investment sooner, but at the time it was just was just easier to go with Kinkos. We made postcards as our RSVPs so our return postage was much less than if we had sent cards with envelopes. I think that in total we spent $80 in postage between announcements, invitations, and RSVP postcards. In total , our invitation/announcement/paper product spending was around $150.

Beverages were a tough decision, but in the end we thought it would be best to stick to wine only for alcohol. We got a few cases of our go-to wine company, and made our own labels in Photoshop to reflect our sense of humor and wedding design.

Programs were irrelevant for our wedding because we chose to do a short ceremony with no readings. Our credit for the musician who performed during the ceremony went into the favors that everyone received at the reception (a slip with a shout out and thank you). As for placecards, you can read about them here.

Our thank you cards turned out to be easy and fun as well. We used one of the photos from our engagement shoot and ordered 100 custom postcards through VistaPrint. Not only were the postcards very affordable, but they also reflected the well-wishes table postcards that our guests wrote on for us at the reception.

Dressing the Groom

I was more stressed out in figuring out Jacob's attire than my own, to be honest. Neither of us liked the idea of buying a tuxedo, let alone renting one. Since our wedding wasn't "black tie" we chose a more affordable route. Jake really liked the idea of buying a suit so that he could always have it, and I really liked the idea of having a lighter color to match the theme of the wedding. Therefore, we came up with the following perfect puzzle-pieced suit.

(Jacob walking the mothers down the aisle)

First we purchased his jacket at Goodwill for $4.00. We chose this stop first because the jacket is easily the most expensive aspect of the suit, and it would be much easier to match pants to jacket than vice versa. Jake chose a jacket that had barely been worn, and fit perfectly. Next we picked up his matching dress pants at Macy's for $49- we brought the jacket in and matched it to every pair until we found the right color. We picked up some cologne on the way out ($60) because when would there be a more appropriate time to indulge? For his dress shirt, JC Penney was having a sale and he managed to grab it for $20, which was a deal considering the whopping $40 is spent on his tie at Express (but so worth it!). Shoes were proving to be a pain so we bought a pair off Zappos! for $40. In total (including cologne and shoes) Jake's look cost $213, and is a suit he will have for a long, long, time.

For the boutonniere, my maid of honor (who is also his sister), Sarah, pulled together an adorable paper arrangement inspired by this article my My DIY Wedding Day. It incorporated everything we needed- buttons, sparrows, our colors, and Paris (we honeymooned in France). I'm not at all surprised at how perfect the boutonniere turned out, afterall Sarah was also the one who created our invitations and my amazing paper bouquet and arrangements.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wedding Bands

This was by far the most discouraging part of planning the wedding. Everyone kept telling me that they were able to find their bands for less than $100 each, yet everywhere I went couldn't quote me a price less than $300 a pop. I searched on Etsy and found a couple of options. There were some gold-filled rings that would be around $100 each with engraving, but there was no telling how they would react with my skin/if they would turn green. Finally, I gave up and went to the mall. I tried GM Pollack & Sons first, having heard great things (plus the 70% off posters sounded good at the time), just to find out that I would still be looking at a $500 total.

My friend had told me that she and her husband had gone to Kay, so I dragged Heather with me and sat down in their very short chairs. I was immediately relieved to see a catalog- at last someplace that would actually show me their prices without leading me on first. I saw that they had women's rings for as low as $109 and men's for as low as $79. I pointed these out to the woman, and she brought them out for me to take a look at. They were perfect. Exactly what we were looking for. They needed to be resized, so she sent them out, cashed me out for a total of $200 (including a lifelong guarantee on both rings), and sent me on my way. A week later they were done! Even better- I had brought my engagement ring in a few days later to be resized and they had that back the same day as my bands.

While my service the second time was a little bit pushier, my first experience is the reason I will keep going back there. They were very affordable, and the woman who had helped me was so willing to help in any way she could. I highly recommend Kay!

Mason Jar Placecards

Since our centerpieces are going to be ball jars filled with buttons and paper hydrangeas (and because I saw them on Etsy) we decided to go ahead and make some of our own. I feel like I could get yelled at for this, so here are a few disclaimers:

1. This is not an original idea by me. I found these at a great shop called ohmelisa. If you do not want to spend the 8 hours handmaking your placecards, she has amazing custom ones available for a spectacular price. Ordering from her will get you the same look for a lot less stress on you!
2. PLEASE do not copy this and sell them yourself, it's just plain rude. I will not be selling any of the ones I make- I just want to share this crafting recipe with other low-budget brides.

Anyways, on with the show. I scoured the internet for that mason jar stamp and found out that it was for sale at Michael's. I managed to snag the VERY LAST ONE for $11, and after debating with myself for a good 10 minutes (meanwhile pee-dancing like crazy) I decided it would be worth it in the long haul. I dug into my huge jar of buttons, gathered up my modge-podge, and unrolled my kraft paper- and we were open for business (the figurative kind of business where you don't actually sell anything.) As previously mentioned here are the tools you will need for this project:

a roll of kraft paper
mason jar stamp (found at Michael's)
needle & thread (I only had sewing thread, but I recommend embroidery thread!)
newspapers to lay down

Lay your newspapers down. I had very thin kraft paper so I had to cut strips long enough to fold over. If you have thick strips, however, you can just cut them to the desired size. Anyways, cut out your kraft rectangles and stamp them with the mason jar.If thin paper, sew your buttons onto the top side of the kraft paper (where you can see the stamp) and glue the two sides together (thread should be inside this little glued mess). If you have thick paper, skip the glue part. Cut your placecards down to size, and add names & table numbers above the buttons.

NOTE: Do not store these in stacks with elastics around them, or you might have a last minute panic because they will look slightly wrinkled and you may or may not decide to scrap the idea and come up with a brand new one two days before the wedding.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Affordable Dresses & Accessories

I knew right off the bat that I did not want the traditional flowing gown for my wedding. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am clumsy, and I do not need an extra 20lb of fabric around my buttocks to prove that point. I wanted to get a dress that was longer than knee-length, but not all the way down to the ground. The first places I checked were local- Spoil Me! in Falmouth (way out of my budget), Material Objects (not the style I was looking for), and every Goodwill in a 20mile radius. After that I took a peak at some of the dresses on Ebay- I found several that I loved but was very concerned about shipping times since my wedding would only be 2 months away.

Then my mom sent me to where I fell in love with how easy it was to browse through dresses. I found 3 options that I really liked, and one that I knew was THE dress. I ordered it immediately, opted for the $35 express shipping, and played the waiting game. Now, I didn't realize until AFTER that they include a 15 day "processing" before shipment because they are physically creating the dress as soon as you order it. My dress only took 7 days to process, and another 2 days before it was on my parents' doorstep. As I'm sure every bride fears- it didn't fit. Luckily for me it was too big, so it would be an easy fix.

I called Old Port Tailoring and Alterations and was able to bring it there that afternoon. She stuck some pins in, and told me to come back in a week with $24. Sure enough, a week later my dress was done. It was perfect- didn't look like it had even been touched and yet fit like a glove. So far my bill for attire had come to $200.97 and the dress was complete. I wanted to have bright shoes that *popped* so I ordered a pair online from Aldo. They have a shop with limited selection at the Mall, but online they have shoes in every color with *freeeee shipping!* - $43.21

I got my garters (decorative garter + toss garter together were $18.95) online through Etsy at
hellodesigncrew and my birdcage veil from beautilulartist for $22.79.