Ditch the Professionals

If you’re truly on a strict budget and are willing to stray from professionals– listen up.

Welcome to the future. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the 21st century and in case you haven’t noticed technology has significantly advanced. Tablets and smartphones have become a key ingredient for the budget wedding. You can find apps for just about anything, from photo booths that lock your iPad so guests can’t hack your Facebook to an app that lets you virtually try on engagement rings.

Here are 2 DIY apps that I’ve considered for my wedding:

1. MyWeddingDJ for iPhone, iPod, iPad: Just add a boisterous friend to do the announcing. This app allows you to set up your songs under playlists (processional, cocktail hour, dancing, etc.), take requests from guests, and even add crossfades. PRICE: $5 (SAY WHAT?!). Check out some of the features here http://www.steamclock.com/weddingdj/

2. Wedding Booth for iPad: If you’re a bride-to-be who’s must have list includes a photobooth, consider this DIY alternative. The Wedding Booth app allows you to customize the app to match your wedding colors and guests can even leave a guestbook message with their photo. Price: $9.99. Watch the video of more features here http://www.weddingboothapp.com/

Congratulations, you just paid $15 for your DJ and photobooth. You’re welcome 🙂

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…While We’re on the Topic of Social Media

Instagram.

Most of us are familiar with the app, but what some may not know is you can incorporate it into your wedding. With the use of a hashtag (#) you and your guests can create a stockpile of pictures pre, during, and post-wedding. I know I plan on doing it, but there are always pros and cons to each choice you make.

Pros:

  • While your professional photographer is busy taking fabulously posed pictures of you and your new hub, your guests are taking awesome candid photos behind the scenes.
  • You can order prints (even framed ones!), photobooks, posters, stickers, and more from this nifty site: http://printstagr.am/ of the photos that are added to your hashtag.
  • Everyone can easily look at all of the pictures by simply looking up the hashtag on Instagram.

Cons:

  • That hideous picture of you where you were crying with the most unattractive face, yea it’s there until you can bribe your Uncle Joe to take it down.
  • Unless they have an Instagram account, your Grandma Betty can’t see the pictures.
  • Some guests may become so consumed with posting the best Instagram photo of the big kiss, that they interfere with the professional photographer who was actually hired to do that job.

I’m all for the Instagrammed wedding. I find it way classier and subtle than the old disposable camera idea. Plus, you don’t have to drop a single penny on supplies. What about you, are you pro or con an Insta-wed?

In case you wonder how to inform all of your guests of your specific hashtag, here are some cute ideas!

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For the Pinterest Bride-to-Be

Before I was actually engaged, I had five Pinterest boards for my future wedding (doesn’t every girl?). One for wedding dresses, the second for engagement rings, another for photography, the third for bridesmaid dresses, and one for general wedding stuff. Together I had pinned over 1,000 pins.

I would talk with my friends who shared the same bridal obsession about our pins and would gawk over the ones that we would definitely feature at our weddings.

Everyone could see each and every pin I pinned and I hadn’t realized it until I got engaged, but I don’t want everyone to see exactly what I plan to have at my ceremony and reception. There would be no sense of surprise once my guests arrived.

When people (at least people like me) are invited to a wedding they wonder, “What will the bride look like,” “What kind of décor will there be?” That’s one of my favorite things about weddings; the sense of surprise. When the double doors swing open after the flower girl has set the aisle with flowers, I FINALLY get to see the bride in white.

Pinterest can be a great tool while planning your wedding. If you’re like me and prefer not to show the world your wedding before the big day, you’re in luck! Pinterest has this nifty new feature called “secret boards.” Anything you post to your secret board is for your eyes only.

Happy wedding planning, Pinterest Brides!

Top 5 Ways to Save: Invitation Edition

1. Do it yourself. If you have and are familiar with Adobe InDesign or any other design software, I highly recommend that you try making your own invitations. It’s more personal and most likely you will save in the long-run. If you aren’t comfortable designing them yourself, sit down with a friend who has the experience and is willing to help. Pinterest can be a HUGE help for getting ideas here too!

2. Students, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR PRINTING SERVICES DEPARTMENT (if you have one). Here at Radford University, our off campus printing services allows students to print just about anything at an extremely low price per print. 

3. Take advantage of your smartphone. There’s this super cool new app, Touchnote, out that you can actually upload a picture, enter an address, write a message, then input your credit card info and it actually sends a postcard to the address(s) you entered. No waiting in line at the post office for tons of stamps and no taking hours addressing and putting stamps on envelopes!

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4. Don’t waste money on a calligrapher. Instead, enlist your family and bridesmaids to hand-write addresses. If you prefer beautiful cursive, print addresses on their envelopes in the font of your choice and with high transparency, then trace!

5. Stay away from square. Here’s a little known fact: Square envelopes cost extra than the norm because they are classified as an “odd-size.” No bride wants to get charged an extra fee! 

A Sigh of Relief

What brings people together even quicker than two people falling in love? Food. What costs more money than we could ever imagine? Food.

Catering has proven to be the most difficult project in my wedding planning journey. I’ve emailed back and forth with more than 10 different caterers each giving me quotes ranging from $4,500 all the way to almost $9,000. RIDICULOUS RIGHT? After stressing over prices I decided to give the whole catering thing a rest until Thanksgiving break… which creeped up quick! I set up two appointments– one with a local caterer and the other with one about twenty minutes away which I met at a bridal show– to go over food choice and prices. When the day came, my mom and I were on a mission to get this taken care of.

The first lady we met, from Sister to Sister Catering in Bedford, VA,  just so happened to be the mother-in-law of a girl I grew up with! Plus ten points for her right off the bat. While we talked, she didn’t try to control the options, she let me tell her what I wanted. When she did give a suggestion, we were on the completely same page! When it came down the big question, I was so nervous, but here’s how the conversation played out:

Helen the Caterer: “What’s your budget.”

Me: “We’d like to stay under $3,500.”

Helen: “Um, okayyy.”

Me: “Can you give me an idea of what all of this will cost?”

Helen: “Not THAT much. It’s easy to get to the quantity, the cost pays mostly for the labor and time. Probably $1,500 no more than $2,000.”

Me: “OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE YOU.” (So I didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure that’s what my face said).

The second caterer we met with ended up doing far more than just catering. By the end of our session, we had over 2 and a half pages of ideas from catering, to flowers, to decor, and even cake! I didn’t get a rough quote, but I’m expecting one soon.

We know that catering will be the most expensive thing we will purchase for this wedding, but going in we honestly weren’t expecting $6,000. Meeting with Helen from Sister to Sister Catering saved my reception as well as my mom’s wallet.

(Speaking of my mom, here’s a picture of us before our Thanksgiving meal!)

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Top 5 Ways to Save: Catering Edition

1. Go for heavy hor d’ourves. It’s a wedding, you shouldn’t be expected to dish out $20,000 to feed guests lobster tail and filet mignon (unless your filthy rich and I’m the guest, then I want that on my plate). For our reception, we’re choosing foods that remind you of a picnic, with a little flare.

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fruit kabobs mac n cheese

jalepenos poppers  veggies

Just make sure you mention that your reception is hor d’ourves only and plan your wedding at a time later than the average dinner time. This gives guests a heads up and is a way to make sure guests don’t show up starved and looking for a full meal.

2. Purchase your own alcohol. Believe it or not, specialty stores such as Trader Joe’s have great prices on wine sales. Or go for no alcohol at all.

3. If you must have alcohol, stick to beer and wine only. Unless you really want your groomsmen climbing the walls to take a picture with a giant deer head mounted on the wall (yes, that’s a true story), say no to liquor.

4. SHOP AROUND. I cannot stress this enough. When you only speak with one caterer, you’ll never know if you’re getting a good price, because there’s absolutely no comparison. $4,000 may be in your price range, but you may be able to get a better deal.

5. Purchase your own dining ware. These days, you aren’t forced to make your guests eat off of white paper plates. Smartyhadaparty.com offers a huge variety of decorative plates and plastic ware.

The website offers 120 of these plates for only $55.39.

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And if you absolutely hate those white plastic forks, you can get 24 plastic but looks just like silver forks, 12 knives, and 12 spoons for $4.99.

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Vendors, On Vendors, On Vendors.

So you’re engaged. Now what do you do? If you’re anything like me, you head straight to Wal-Mart, pick up tons of wedding books, then when you get home you turn on Say Yes to the Dress and pull up Pinterest to start planning.

Little did I realize when I started planning, I can’t do everything from behind a computer. Yes, it is the digital age, but wedding planning is an experience that allows you to meet new people and gain relationships with vendors. You’re not going to get a feel for the personality of a vendor by reading their “About Me” section of their Facebook page.

But how do you meet vendors? BRIDAL SHOWS.

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Bridal shows allow brides and their fiances (if it doesn’t interfere with football of course) to meet vendors and even try out their products in one place. These things are usually huge and the best part is they ALWAYS have door prizes. I recently attended one in Lynchburg,VA with my wedding planning sidekick (so excited to have someone who is also planning a wedding by my side!), Victoria, and she won a gorgeous bridal jewelry set. They usually have prizes ranging from free engagement sessions, to free honeymoons, even a FREE WEDDING. How awesome is that?

Going to a bridal show can be overwhelming though. There are usually a lot of vendors, some of which you probably aren’t even interested in. I’m not going to lie, I tend to go to these events solely for the catering and cake tastings as well as the door prizes. To make sure that you don’t end up lost, dazed, and confused here are a few dos and don’ts for surviving a bridal show:

1. DO stop at every vendor. Even if you know that you won’t use that 90’s rock tribute band, stop and see what they have to offer. You never know, they may have other options that aren’t visible on their poster or a drawing you can enter.

2. DON’T give your email to every vendor. I’m guilty. I have a tendency of putting my email down on everything. The caterer who said their packages start at $5,000– pass. You’ll just get extremely confused once that email ends up in your inbox.

3.  DO take a flyer from each vendor. If you’re just not sure if you should take a flyer, take one. When you get home at the end of the day, dump out your nifty tote you most likely received at the door and start organizing your flyers. Put them in piles of: vendors to contact, vendors to research, vendors to throw out.

4. DO come ready to eat. You may think that you won’t eat much at a bridal show, but trust me you’ll leave feeling stuffed. From hor dourves to cake samples, there will be something for every taste bud possible.

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5. DON’T go it alone. Grab your mom, sister, cousin, friend, bridesmaid, fiance, whoever. This is supposed to be a fun experience. Being engaged is something you shouldn’t do alone. The people you take along are there to have fun with you and scope out possible vendors. They are a shoulder to lean on when you get confused and an extra arm when your bags get heavy with free stuff.

So start looking for bridal shows near you! It’s never too early to go, so here are some upcoming shows in the Lynchburg, Roanoke, New River Valley areas:

November 16, 2013– 16th Annual Bridal Showcase, Lynchburg,VA Kirkley Hotel & Conference Center

January 19, 2014– Greater VA Bridal Show, Roanoke,VA Roanoke Civic Center (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvP146cQ7cU)

January 26, 2014– Greater VA Bridal Show, Blacksburg,VA The Inn at Virginia Tech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvP146cQ7cU)

BONUS!

January 5, 2014– Great Bridal Expo, Washington, D.C

The Great Bridal Expo is a HUGE traveling bridal show that goes all over the U.S. Tickets can be ordered online at greatbridalexpo.com for only $16.

A Walk in the Park… With Cameras

Things have been so busy here lately in Radford. I’ve been slammed with projects, papers, pictures, and work.

Speaking of pictures, Ian and I have received most of ours back from the photographers! How much did we pay you ask? Well, we paid a whopping $0. And how much are we going to pay for wedding pictures? As much as I want. Yep, you read that right.

Ian and I went to high school with a guy (ironically named Ian) who also attends Radford University as a Graphic Design major. He’s done quite a bit with photography and even introduced us to one of his design buddies, Zack, who also is fantastic with a camera! As if that wasn’t enough, one of the girls I work with has a photography-inclined girlfriend, Hayley, that agreed to take pictures as well. Hayley and Zack have been gracious enough to be our wedding photographers, and I am stoked! Of course I’m not going to let them do it for free.

I had our whole photo shoot planned (thanks Pinterest) with the perfect poses. Once we got to the site for our pictures, a beautiful public park here in Radford called Bissett Park, all of our photographers huddled around to look at the pictures I wanted. The last time I had my picture taken professionally was for my senior photos in high school and I was directed on exactly how I should pose. It was completely opposite on this occasion. At first it was extremely awkward. How do I pose? Does this look awkward? Am I awkward? Eventually Ian had to take over because I was too scared to tell my photographers what I wanted. Let me tell you, he was a pro! At one point he even told me, “Heather you’re the one who wants all of these pictures done in a certain way, speak up!” Once he took control though, it was the most fun I had had in a while.

Just like anything else in wedding planning on a budget, you’re going to have to compromise. You can either spend thousands upon thousands of dollars and receive top-notch direction for your photos, or you can pay close to nothing, hang out with great friends, act a little awkward, and still receive beautiful (REAL) pictures.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Is she just going to send us on our way without some sample engagement pictures?” Of course not! I would never!

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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!