Our $6,000 Wedding; Or How We’re Penny Pinchers

Typically my blog posts consist of me just emoting all over the place: talking about feelings and friends and wine and all that is lovely. I’m a feelings person – it’s what I do. But since Timothy and I got married a year and a half ago, I’ve wanted to do a post that shared how we saved money on our wedding. Saving money and budgeting is my life long hobby (mama didn’t raise no fool) and it was really thrilling to watch everything come together.. and under budget. So, this is how we had our wedding for (just under) $6,000.

I will say, this wasn’t our dream wedding. Our dream wedding would have been outside, mountainside, in a meadow of wildflowers. Unfortunately, living in Tampa, that would have meant oodles of money flying to said mountainside and expecting all our friends and family to also spend oodles of money flying to said mountainside. During the planning process I would say “If someone gave me $50,000 and said I HAD to use it on our wedding… I could easily use it on our wedding.” But we didn’t have $50,000. We had $6,000. And as our idol Tim Gunn says, we made it work. Having a budget friendly wedding can absolutely mean cutting back on some of your “dreams” but for Timothy and I, we chose not having any kind of financial burden (for us or our family) over having that wildflower wedding.

I will also say it is incredibly possible to have a wedding for a lot less than we spent too. We could have done more DIY, a potluck instead of catering, a cheaper wedding dress, etc. Our goal wasn’t to have the cheapest wedding in the world, but rather a wedding that fit into the budget we felt good about spending, and for us that number was 6k.

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All photos are from our wonderful photographer, Sindy Gonzalez 

 

WHERE MOST OF OUR MONEY WENT: Three things took up about half of our budget – our venue, the food, and my dress. We chose to get married in our church here in Tampa, Watermark, entirely because of sentimental reasons. Watermark has been a big part of my life for about 7 years and getting married in that space (that space where so many other big things in my life had happened- good big and bad big) was really satisfying to my soul. We had both the ceremony and the reception there to save money, and to make it easier on us. We didn’t hire any kind of coordinator or staff to help with the transition, so we just set up the tables for the reception ahead of time and our guests just transitioned from the ceremony side of the church to the already decorated reception side of the church. The church (plus officiant) was $1,000.

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We were originally going to do the food ourselves (seriously trying to save money) but my dad graciously offered to pay for catering from this local, delicious Mexican restaurant called Taco Bus. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING… “Taco Bus” doesn’t sound very sophisticated. But the thing is, we’re not that sophisticated and we really love tacos. And so did our guests, it turns out, because folks were going up for thirds. It worked out to being $10 a person which is infinitely cheaper than most catering, but frankly it was also a lot more delicious than many catering options. And, it was a very “Tampa” decision. Half our guests weren’t from Tampa so they got to try a local delicacy… in the form of tacos. Friends made home made salsa & guac to go along with the tacos and we bought big bags of chips when they were BOGO. Drinks weren’t a big budget item – we didn’t do alcohol for personal reasons and we just stocked up drinks as they were on sale at Publix before the wedding. Since we didn’t pay servers, I had three detail oriented friends (and even one of their mothers!) come to the church before the ceremony when the food arrived and they put together the food tables and made those last minute set ups look lovely. We purchased some affordable drink dispensers and no one went thirsty. In total, we spent about $950 on food and drinks

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I expected to spend $200 on a wedding dress. I spent more than that. By a lot. The wedding dress was easily the thing that was the most important to me – which was surprising because if you see how I dress normally, fashion is OBVI not my life blood. But for whatever reason, this dress was really important. Because of how important it was, Timothy and I agreed that we didn’t have to be set at $200. If I saw something  I loved that cost more  we could nix something else on our list. So, renting chairs and having flowers on every table, got nixed because the dress that I fell in love with was four times that measly $200. Everything about buying a dress surprised me: I found it the very first time I was out looking (I went out with two trusted friends who ended up being honest enough to say “yeah that dress makes you look Amish” and “you look extra pale in ivory”, bless them). I didn’t even like this dress when the girl at the store showed it to me, I only tried it on to be polite because blush and embroidered flowers? Too much. And then I put it on… and I kind of liked it. So I went out and showed my gal pals.. and they kind of liked it. And then I walked around in it … and we all kind of loved it. And the loving grew exponentially over the next half hour as I tried on other dresses that made me feel like I was wrapped in toilet paper. So I bought it. And we used chairs that were already at the church and didn’t put flowers on the reception tables. Additionally, since the dress was so pricey, I wore shoes I already owned. My dress was very billowy as it was so no one noticed I was wearing nude flats from Target I had owned for a year.

WHAT WE DIDN’T DO: There were several traditional wedding customs / expectations we decided weren’t worth our money and thus didn’t do.

We didn’t have favors because of one main reason: we have never cared about favors at any wedding we have ever attended. I have enough koozies already, I don’t like plastic ray ban sunglasses, and I really don’t need a mug with two names on it from a wedding I went to one time. Favors, I’m sorry, are unnecessary. And can seriously add up in cost. Because Timothy’s last name is Dills, we did think for about two minutes that it would be cute to have homemade pickles in small jars for people to take, but then we thought about the price, how half the guests wouldn’t take them – leaving us with more pickles than we would know what to do with.. OH, and also that we had never made pickles before and didn’t want our tiny apartment turned into a pickle factory.

We didn’t have a bridal party. This I think was the strangest to people (though I suspect no one missed watching people they didn’t know walk down the aisle) but there were a lot of reasons for this decision. Firstly, I wouldn’t have known how to pick just a few friends. I’m sentimental as heck and I would have wanted to include every friend who ever had even the slightest impact on my life.. and that’s a lot of friends. Basically my guest list. More over, I have had my feelings hurt on a few occasions when I wasn’t asked to be someone’s bridesmaid and I really didn’t want to accidentally do that too. There was also a money saving angle: bouquets, bridesmaid gifts (because apparently you have to give bridesmaid gifts), longer photography time… small things add up. Plus my friends would have also had to spend money on dresses and maybe even shoes. And to be honest, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having bridesmaids. My closest friend still threw me a bridal shower and a bachelorette party, so many incredible friends helped with setting up and steaming table cloths and making home made salsa. They all understood the decision to not have bridesmaids, and they all knew that if I had had a bridal party.. they would have been it. Turns out they didn’t need to be in my wedding to know I loved them.

HOW WE SAVED $$$: There’s infinite ways to save money on your wedding but a few things that we did are as follows.

When we made our guest list we were really strict – more so than we wanted to be. We wanted to invite every single person we like, but the more people you have the more money you’re spending. So, we listed our families first then only the friends who we had actively spent time with the last year (or friends who I have known since first grade and had to be there). This was a bummer to do, but it was a good rule for us. Total we had about 75 guests attend.

I hunted the internet for fake peonies and found a bouquet I really liked for $13. I then got a bouquet of greenery from Trader Joes, put it together and had a bouquet I really loved for a grand total of $17. I had greenery on the reception tables as well, some from the same $4 Trader Joes bouquets, but also from a big pretty bush at my parents house. I had a floral garland on our altar  (pictured below) that I made entirely from stems from my parents home, so it cost $0. Total, I spent $25 on flowers. Yet, according to a survey from The Knot, the average amount brides spend on a florist—including personal flowers, centerpieces and other decorations—was $2,141. So yeah, I like my number better.

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Timothy isn’t a suit guy and I saw no reason to make him be one on his wedding day. We bought him a nice pair of Express pants and a button down he liked a lot when the store was having a 40% off everything type sale and he wore a pair of Clarks shoes he already had and loved. Easy, affordable, and he was really comfortable.

Our photographer, Sindy, was a friend of ours who we adored and she gave us a rate that she shouldn’t have because she’s incredibly talented. We only had her come for 4 hours because it was a few hundred dollars cheaper. That meant we had to be really particular with our time, so Timothy and I did our first looks before the ceremony and had pictures taken beforehand. This ended up being really sweet and intimate and I’m glad we did it. When we saw each other for the first time it was just us… and Sindy. We were able to cry and freak out “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING” together, and we hugged a lot. The pictures from this moment are some of my favorite from the day.

We didn’t use a DJ and just made a playlist on our iPod. It was really fun picking out the songs with Timothy and deciding what order they should be. When we needed things to be announced (like time to eat, time for our first dance) we just asked a friend with a good speaking voice to grab the mic for a second and do it. If you give the people music – even on just an iPod – they will dance.

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Our wedding invitations were actually free, besides printing. I found them as a free template online (from http://www.weddingchicks.com – but there are SO many sites with really nice free templates) and our friend who is wildly helpful and a designer tweaked them for us so they were perfect. She even coordinated them to be printed for us at a local print shop and I believe we only spent $40 to print them. Because we were only engaged for 5 months, we didn’t do Save The Dates which also saved us money. We sent out invitations out about three months in advanced (earlier than miss manners would say to send out invitations) but we did that to take the place of save the dates.

I really wanted to attempt our wedding cake myself.. but even I know my limits, so we decided to ask a friend who bakes to make it. We still paid for it, but it feels nicer paying a friend than someone at a bakery you don’t know. We didn’t pay for an extra top layer to bring home to save for our anniversary (freezer burn cake? Gee no thanks) and I had my sister who had worked in a bakery cut it when it came time to serve. Both choices saved us some green. Plus, my sister had strict instructions to bring me the first piece because I wasn’t going to be one of those brides who was so swept up in the day she didn’t get a piece of cake at her wedding. I wanted the cake. We spent $150 on a strawberry cake with buttercream frosting (drooling at the thought) that fed 80. And for those of you who remembered that we only had 75 people come.. yeah, we took home the leftovers from our wedding cake and ate it all week.

I paid $12 for hair and make up thanks to two kind friends. The hair style I wanted was really simple so one of my sweet friends came over that morning and helped me with it. The $12 was for a gold hair piece that I found online that I used in place of a veil (seen below). I was going to do my make up myself – even though I knew it wasn’t going to be amazing – because getting it done professionally seemed to be at least $100 (and remember my dress was over budget so other things got cut). A few weeks before my wedding, a caring friend and the wife of my pastor, told me that she wanted to do my makeup for me as a wedding present. I’m pretty sure I cried. This was particularly exciting because she is literally a make up artist by trade and someone I absolutely couldn’t have afforded. My mother and I went over to her house the morning of my wedding and she did my make up in the same room where I attended house church for years. “Sentimental” really was the theme of our wedding.

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It took a lot of work (which wouldn’t have gotten done without our amazing support system called friends and family) and the closer to the wedding we got, the more my apartment looked like a storage unit with boxes full of sodas and decorations. But.. our day was our style, fun, free of financial burdens, and really full of love. Voila!

 

Subway Tile Doesn’t Add to the Fullness of Life.

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When I see photos like this on instagram & pinterest, I imagine people fighting. I imagine oven doors getting slammed. I imagine hurt feelings and shouts filling the space. I imagine clutter and misunderstandings and vases without flowers. I imagine crying children sitting in those chairs and angry teenagers stomping out of the room. I’m not a cynic, I also imagine reconciliation. I can hear the apologies being spoken across the table, and the sweet laughter that escapes lips as tears are sheepishly wiped away. These spaces are lovely (and boy are they meticulously styled to look that way) but they will never be as lovely as the life that fills them. All the wildflowers arranged “just so” in thrift store and antique vases will never be more beautiful or more important than the intangible events happening around them. Truly, the flowers and anthropologie knick-knacks are not the most exquisite part of a home. Not by a long  shot.

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A few weeks ago I was with a friend who I adore for her creativity and honesty. I mentioned a woman I followed on instagram who always shared photos of her white-on-white living room and images precisely styled bookshelves and well behaving children (who I am certain are not always so well behaving) playing with vintage and folky toys. My friend crossed her legs, looked at me, and delicately remarked, “Everybody is full of crap.”

And they are. And I am. And we are.

I have found myself trading eternal things for material things. I have found my soul degraded by materialistic idolatry. I have placed Jesus and love and others on the shelf and have surrounded myself with instagram accounts and pictures on pinterest that make me dream of my “one day home”: the home that I will share with one husband and not 18 roommates. The home that I will turn into an instagram worthy gem. I think of the way our bookshelves will be styled and the tile in our bathroom and the dinner parties we will have and the garden I will grow and the Bon Iver album that will waft through the living room.  I blatantly ignore things happening around me at times because they just don’t seem as important as taking photos worthy of the #livefolk hashtag. I want people to be impressed with my style. I want people to be envious of my life. I want to weep at the selfish person I have become.

My pastor always says that idolatry is taking Jesus off of the throne and putting something else on it. I have plopped materialism in His spot and am pleading with it to give me all the things that I am supposed to receive from Jesus.

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I am willing to accept that not everyone who pins and posts these type of images are drowning in the sludge of materialism and the slime of conceitedness, but I am confessing that I am. My motive is never innocent. My eyes have not been focused on the things above, only on the things around me that will look trendy in a vsco filter.

I have bought into the delusion that having sleek kitchen tile matters. That having a home (or wardrobe or vacation or meals) that others are envious of is a feather in my cap. That gold silverware will contribute to my wholeness.

When the day comes that I marry that boy of mine and we have a space that is ours, we might very well have dinner parties, and we might have pretty bookshelves, but we will also most definitely have fights. Probably fights so loud Bon Iver is completely washed out. We will hurt one another’s feelings, we will cry over sickness and missing loved ones and feeling far away from God. We will laugh and love and forgive one another. We will leave dirty dishes in the sink. If we have children, they will shriek and cry and break things. They will also run and giggle and wrestle and create… and break things. Yes, our home will be filled with pretty things, but those pretty things will mean a pittance compared to the wholeness that we will experience through sadness and frustration and love and partnership.

I don’t want to ever be afraid of coming across as anything other than perfect. I don’t want to be an instagram account someone follows and remarks to her friend, “this kathryn girl looks like she has it all together”. I want to be known so intimately and so fully by the people around me that they wouldn’t think for a second that I belong inside a Kinfolk magazine because they know I am a mess and have no idea what I’m doing. They have seen my dirty home and endured my grumpy moods and tolerated my screaming children. I don’t want to stuff all those real things in the closet like clutter I am trying to hide. In fact, I want to spend so much time loving others that I simply don’t have time to worry about rearranging my living room. And I don’t want to apologize for it.

This is not how I feel right now. Right now, I still don’t want you to know how dirty my kitchen is and just how much the two hand-me-down couches in our living room do not match. But my God is a miracle worker – He turns dirty hearts into loving ones. He turns selfishness into active love. And praise Jesus, He also forgives me for every time I have made the number of ‘likes’ I receive on instagram mean more than the simple and freeing fact that I am His.

So here’s to the nights when our kitchens are filled with anger; may we celebrate the fact that part of a full life is yelling and forgiving and loving. When our home is a mess and a dear friend comes over in tears, may we be so fully aware that that moment is more precious than any pinterest inspired dinner party.

Homes hold many things. The most valuable, however, will never be able to be posted to instagram.