Budgeting… It Doesn’t Get Easier.

If you’ve ever been in college, you’ve probably, at some point in your four years, referred to yourself as a “broke college student.” Whether it be because you spent all of your money on textbooks that just sit in the corner, beer that goes straight to your thighs, or in my case shopping for “big-girl clothes,” it’s safe to say cash is one of the most stressful parts of college.

That stress doesn’t stop after you’ve received the diploma (duh?). Wedding planning is, in my opinion, the true test of budgeting. My mom and Ian’s parents are kind enough to pay for our wedding, but even though the money isn’t coming out of my pocket, I’m walking on glass when it comes to spending.

Here are some of the best ways to make sure you stay on budget while planning your wedding:

1. Follow a timeline: Not only does this ensure that you’re getting everything done in time for the wedding, but it can also save you money. By accomplishing tasks over a stretched time period, you’ll be paying small amounts each time rather than throwing down a large lump of cash.

2. Price shop: This may seem like an obvious task, but you’d be surprised. Everyone wants the perfect wedding and sometimes that can lead to impulse buys. The very first venue that you see may be your dream venue, but if it costs $5,000 and your budget is $6,000, you’ll be left with almost nothing. Don’t settle, do get prices from multiple vendors. It may be stressful, but you’re saving yourself from thousands of dollars of debt in the long run.

3. Bundles don’t always mean deals: The first venue I looked at required me to use their caterer. To rent the space, it was less than $1,000 so I thought, “Catering can’t be THAT bad.” Boy was I wrong. For only three or four heavy hor dourves, china, and linens, I would be spending nearly $9,000. IS THAT NOT RIDICULOUS? I was immediately turned off from the idea of bundling my services.

Following your budget will be hard. Keep in mind though, the more money you save on your actually wedding means more money to spend on the honeymoon, a house, or a new car!

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Sweeps, Scams, and Sweet Deals

What does college life and engaged life have in common? Free stuff. If you’ve ever walked around on a college campus during a festival or sporting event, you’re bound to be handed SOMETHING free of charge. I’m not talking about flyers and things that will sit in your dorm for months until you throw it away. Here at Radford University, you’re bound to be given a free t-shirt, scarf, or rally towel. I don’t know about you, but free stuff gets me really excited.

Being engaged is a little different than being in college in this aspect. Instead of t-shirts, I’m now offered meals on the house. Instead of entering to win a Starbucks gift card, I enter to win a free honeymoon.  Freebies and high priced sweepstakes are all over the place when you’re engaged. Maybe I’ll just push back the wedding date a few years (Just kidding, sweetheart).

If you plan on entering in any sweepstakes or contest to win prizes for your wedding (or anything for that matter), always make sure it’s a legitimate give away. While that is important, I’m not here to scare you out of getting free stuff. 

This past weekend, Ian and I attended a quick event in order to pick up three gifts that we won since I attended a bridal show in Roanoke, VA. A woman from Virginia Bridal Gifts contacted me earlier during the week to tell me about my gifts: a three day, two night stay at the hotel of our choosing from the list given, two tickets to the Great Bridal Expo, and an on-time gift worth $1,000 (we wouldn’t figure this out until we got there). All we had to do was show up to the Hyatt in Roanoke, sit through a presentation where they feed us, then decide if we want to purchase anything (we weren’t obligated to purchase). I’m not going to lie, I was quite skeptical after receiving the phone call, but after some research online and with my mom, I found that it was not a scam and talked Ian into going. 

We were extremely tired when the day came because we just got a new puppy Thor; he’s a very hyper pup, but super cute. 

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It didn’t help that it was a rainy day and we would have to take the 45 minute trip up I-81 to get to the hotel, but we still went. On the ride up we joked around about what the on-time gift would be. Ian hoped it would be a TV or X-Box, which I assured him it wouldn’t be. Finally, we arrived, sat with the other engaged couples, and filled out a questionnaire. When the woman I spoke with on the phone presented our prizes, Ian and I laughed. The on-time gift turned out to be $1,000 worth of grocery coupons. What a bummer, right!? She did, however, explain to us that if we purchased something from their cookware collection that night at half-price, they would upgrade our three day, two night trip to a seven day, six night trip, an all-inclusive second honeymoon, PLUS wedding bands. We were set on buying something… until she told us the prices: “Since you all are our last show of the day, I’m feeling extra nice so I’m going to give you all the 10-piece set for $1,999.99. It’s only $20 a week!” We didn’t purchase a thing. Yea it may have been worth it, but the thought of spending over two years to pay off our cookware sounded ridiculous! 

Not all gifts or sweepstakes are as much of a let down as the one Ian and I experienced. Bridal shows tend to give out TONS of great door prizes. From photography sessions, to free cakes, to honeymoons or even a completely free wedding (!) this is your best bet for useful gifts. If you’re looking for a way to get your attire for free, David’s Bridal and Men’s Warehouse constantly have sweepstakes going on for free dresses and tuxes!

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There are some things that you get to experience when you’re engaged that you won’t after your wedding. Don’t be afraid to put you’re email down for a few or even one hundred businesses to get your name in a drawing. Yea, you’ll receive multiple emails, but if you’re lucky your wedding could be on the house!

When Something is Missing

When my sister got married, our daddy walked her down the aisle. The excitement in his eyes is one moment I will never forget (Please see photo of my super excited dad, pre-wedding ceremony). I could only imagine the feeling of being surrounded by loved ones and experiencing that moment.

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My daddy (yes, I’m in college and still refer to my dad as daddy and mom as momma, no shame) battled lung cancer for a little over eight months the year after my sister got married. The day he was diagnosed it was a shock to my entire family; he hadn’t smoked in exactly 13 years.  Two days before the start of my Junior year here at Radford University, the unthinkable occurred. On the morning of August 25th, 2012 I ran into a rehabilitation home where I screamed for my daddy when I saw him lifeless in his bed.

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Why am I telling you this? Well, what is the one thing that every little girl pictures herself doing on the day of her wedding? For me, it’s walking arm in arm with my daddy and having him hand me over to my soon-to-be husband. The day that I realized I wouldn’t be escorted down the aisle by the man who had been by my side since I was born, scared me. He coached me through my years of softball, scared my, now, fiance before prom by pointing out that I’m his baby girl and he better keep me safe, and sat me on his lap to tell me everything would be okay when I was in tears from the fear of loosing him, and now he’s gone. How would I be able to glide to altar without him physically there? That is one question I honestly can’t answer right now. It’s something that I will have to find out when the time comes.

Just because he isn’t physically going to be in the church while Ian and I say our “I do’s” doesn’t mean he won’t be there. There are ways to commemorate a loved one on your wedding day, some touches more subtle than others:

I have vowed to wear no other necklace on my wedding day other than my everyday necklace. After my daddy passed away, we got a finger print and had jewelry made with the indention of his finger print. It’s a way to remind us that he is always with us.

My daddy was a Master Chief on submarines in the Navy. We still have his white petty officer hat and I’ve found the perfect way to incorporate it into my wedding. While momma walks me down the aisle, I’ll be carrying his hat along with my bouquet (in a not awkward way of course).

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There is nothing more in this world that I want than to have my daddy by my side on my wedding day. I would do anything to get him back, even just for that day. The best that I can do is surround myself with the love of my family and new family. When you know that something is missing, you can either let it destroy you or let it strengthen you.  I choose to be strengthened.