Wedding on a budget

I have had this post mostly written for months, but could not bring myself to post anything wedding related.  Just couldn’t do it.  Now that time has passed, here goes.  I promise this will be my last and final on this subject matter as many of you know my  feelings towards it.  True reason for this post is that I have several friends, former students etc. planning their upcoming nuptials and have been asking questions about some things we did, how we kept our budget etc.  I know when I was in that stage I was DESPERATE for any advice/tips of any kind on how to pull this thing off.

But this is ALL YOU GET OKAY?  Kidding, please feel free to ask me anything about this I am an open book and happy to help all my fellow frugal brides.

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First and foremost, let me start with this.  There is so much ridiculous pressure to make your wedding day perfect and special and unique.  From what colors you choose, to the food,  to all those little Pinterest details that you want to use in order to make it reflect you and your partner… or to make it “different”.    I totally get it, Shain and I wanted those things too.   However, here is what I will say in hindsight. None of those things make your wedding special.  NONE.  It is special 100% on it’s own, seriously.

I know this is a terrible statement I am about to say and will get some comments for it… but I am just being honest: I just don’t know that is was all worth it.  I would marry Shain over and over again, but I don’t know that I would do the wedding again.  Yes, it was an awesome day and we were so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who are so important to us, but the emotions, stress and financial burden made it difficult.  I personally have been harboring a lot of guilt over the last few months about the wedding, which I realize is very silly.  I feel guilt that even though we tried to include as many people as possible, we still had to leave some out.  I feel guilty that my family didn’t get to enjoy the music they wanted.  I feel guilty not everybody heard our amazing Maid of Honor and Best Man speeches, due to some sound issues.  And I feel guilty that we crammed so many people in that hall (apparently the “20%”  of guests RSVP NO rule does not always apply).  So even after all the planning of trying to NOT have this guilt, I still have it.  Again, silly I know.

What I WOULD pay for again and again was just the ceremony alone, which ironically didn’t cost much.  There is just something so surreal about standing up there and exchanging vows, it is almost like we were on this island all by ourselves, even though we were surrounded by lots of people.  It was so amazing.  It would not have mattered if that ceremony happened when we were in sweatpants or if it wasn’t under a perfectly decorated arch, or at a courthouse, or in a backyard- the moment alone was so wonderful and special without all of that.

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 So please please please I beg you- don’t worry that if you don’t spend all this time and money on details that your wedding will not be “special enough” I promise you it will be.

How we cut costs:

We Borrowed pretty much everything

We borrowed half of our linens from a friend and  90% of the decorations were used at a Shain’s cousins wedding the year before, the only decor we bought were the large mason jars ($20 at a garage sale for all them), fake flowers for the tables ($80) and the green wine bottles ( $100)- literally everything else was given/donated/borrowed.

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We enlisted the help of our talented family and friends:

This is a big one, before you book who is going to make your cake, take your pictures, etc.  Ask around to those people who you love and maybe would be inviting to the wedding anyway- you will be surprised and people’s hidden talents.  And they may even cut you a deal or do the service as your wedding gift.  Our amazing cake was made by my long time neighbor as our gift and a friend from high school cut us a deal on the cupcakes that she made for us.

Personal attendants:  Instead of spending money on a wedding planner, I enlisted the help of my two very good friends who did an amazing job.  No seriously, AMAZING.

Photographer:  Our lovely photographer was actually one of my student tour guides and I found out through the grapevine that she was starting her own photography gig on the side, so she charged us $250.  Steal of the century.

Renting space instead of an all inclusive package:

We found that renting a facility (pending it was affordable) was more cost effective then some all inclusive places, because we could pick and choose what we wanted, bring in our own alcohol etc.  Our facility was $1,000 to rent for 8 hours which came with tables and chairs and you could basically do whatever you want.  BUT it is more work, just a forewarning.

Find the right Caterer:

This is THE big one, if you are able to bring in your own catering, really do your research.  This  is where your money will just FLY out the door.  We paid a little bit more of a premium for our caterer than we wanted (about $40 a person) because we knew we would need the extra help doing everything ourselves and they were amazing took care of things they did not have to.

Catering/Alcohol Details:

When we received about 50 more “yes” RSVPS then we planned for (no really, only 15 people said no) we began to seriously panic about our budget and our space in the venue.   This was the main reasons we went over our 10 grand, otherwise we were right on track with everything else. Thank god for a friend at work who is an event planning guru, we were able to cut almost $3,000 off our catering bill by doing the following:

  • Linens:  like I said, we borrowed a good chunk of these, but the ones we had through the caterer were all the way to the floor linens.  We simply asked to have shorter linens that did not go to the floor, and that was $12 cheaper PER table.
  • Coffee:  Originally we had coffee for 200 people, but did not even consider that we didn’t need that much-so we did enough for 50 instead and it was fine.  Saved $300
  • Meat:  Originally we had 3 meats to serve at the buffet as that is what came with our package.  But a few weeks before we asked if we could cut it down to two instead (and we had more than enough food)- saved over $1,500
  • Silverware:  We asked for a cheaper option that looked like real silverware but was really plastic, saved $1,000.  Only complaint is people couldn’t tap on their glass to see us kiss, which we were totally okay with 😉
  • Alcohol:  In addition to our beer truck and wine that we purchased in bulk…we also chose to buy our own hard alcohol, which did have its downfalls.   But because we wanted an open bar, it saved us having to pay thousands for it, instead cost us $800.   Only mistake with that was we did not think to get pourers for the alcohol bottles…so our guests went through it much quicker, but that also let to some good stories…

Flowers:

This was something I decided on last minute as well, originally bouquets and boutonnieres for our army of a bridal party was about $600 but I decided a mere 2 weeks before the wedding I could just do it myself and I did.  It was actually a lot of fun and I am glad I made that decision.  I didn’t do anything fancy with them and you could certainly tell they were not done by a florist BUT I also really loved that they kinda looked like we just gathered and picked them out of the woods.   I also decided that boutonnieres are stupid so we just didn’t do them at all except for Shain.  I found him a cool fake burlap one at hobby lobby for 50 cents.  Bridal party flowers cost a total of $60.

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So, I hope this helped a little bit to you future brides.  It is a lot of work to plan a wedding and it is even more work when you are paying for it and trying to be frugal.  STAY STRONG and stay blessed in that big ole wedding planning mess 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passion.

Parking spots are rare to find, the quad is filled with activity… and I find myself getting less work done due to all the student workers stopping by my desk.  Fall is HERE.   I could not be more excited for this school year to begin for many reasons.  For our staff, this past year was a tough one.  It was truly one of the most challenging times in my career to date and even though I am well aware I will endure more of these (and maybe worse ones), I am happy to be moving forward.

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This was a year filled with constant negativity and stress that I could not seem to get away from and that sometimes I myself had a part in creating.   I think I can speak for our whole staff when I say that we are excited to leave all of that behind and start fresh.  That is what I always loved about school, there was always an new semester, new year, new class, new opportunities to say “Okay, let’s make some changes and try again”.

I found myself many times this year wondering if  I was in the wrong profession, which is funny because I have loved this profession and it’s people from the moment I started.   But my job became more than just serving students.  It  became more about managing people, managing conflict, managing reports I didn’t understand, managing data I didn’t understand and managing my overflowing email inbox and constant needs of others around me.  For a girl who doesn’t like to drink much, I have gone through my fair share of wine bottles these last 12 months.   I feel as though I let others down this year, not on purpose…but because I had trouble balancing all these priorities that were so new to me.  Some call this the crux of middle management.

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I just recently read a book called “The Seed”,  by Jon Gordon and I happened to read it at the EXACT time in my life that I needed it.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  The premise of the book is that, often times when we are faced with challenges, resistance, or maybe when we don’t feel the fire any more in our job…our first instinct is to leave, change jobs…clearly we would be happier somewhere else right?  Sometimes that might be the case, but in other times we give up too soonWe give up when things get tough and we give up when we are about to face things that will help us GROW in our lives, careers and relationships.

We look for happiness, purpose and passion in other places and forget that it lives inside of us!  Accessible at all times!  I have not been feeling the passion this year within my job because I LET it die, but I have the power to bring it back.  I  have the power to get excited for all these new roles I get to play and I have to remember that all these roles DO ultimately service the students whom I care so much about.  All these years when I wished so bad I could be at a level to make decisions and make a bigger impact on the students we serve and here I am in that position…and I am complaining that it is too hard?!  Shame on me.

seedI have had some really hard lessons in the past months.   And in the midst of learning these lessons I had thoughts like…

“I can’t take this anymore”

“I am not cut out to be a leader”

“It must be this place”

“I would be better off somewhere else”

“Maybe I can go work at Starbucks instead”

I am glad I let those thoughts pass.  Because I know our growing process is not always pretty, we won’t always like it, but sometimes we just have to push through it to the end.   And let me tell you,  doing some reflecting, reading that book and then coming back and spending the last few weeks with my new team of Spartan Ambassadors (one of my FAVORITE parts of my job) has given me the extra boost I needed to bring that passion back.  I am lucky to work at such a wonderful school with so many opportunities and that I have the ability work closely with some of the coolest students in the world (no really look at them they are awesome).

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Before you think you will be happier somewhere else, take a really deep look inside before you make that decision.  You just might have everything you need right in front of you and need a little re-igniting of your passion fire again.  Stay blessed in the mess 🙂

 

Refuel

It has been WEEKS since I have written!  Well, not technically.  I write all the time, but it has been weeks since I have officially shared on my blog.  My computer at home has been a pain in the butt and truthfully I have also not even been home much at all, work and life have been crazy, per usual.  The stress that was going on pre-wedding was insane but then I feel like when we got home from our honeymoon all these things that were left un-done at work, home, etc were just slamming us,  so I feel like I am NOW (two months later) just starting to catch up a little bit.

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I was lucky enough to have a “staycation” the week before last to give myself a little re-set and refuel before the students come back and the Fall season of craziness begins.  It is something I have done since my second year here at AU and I always look forward to it. I almost look forward to a stay-cation more than a regular vacation.  It gives me time to enjoy my home, my patio, my community and get re-organized.  It is usually the time were I do a lot of reflecting on where I want the school year to go, I read a lot, I re-organize and deep clean our house…overall it’s kind of like a “get your sh*t together” kind of week.

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napping at Shain’s parents

Do you ever have that feeling where you have so much stuff to do or so many lingering projects on your to do list that you have a hard time focusing on anything at all?   That is how I am, which is why taking time like this is so important for me to be a productive human.  If Shain and I happen to have a busy weekend and we don’t have time to do our weekly clean, cook and chill out Sunday- I feel like my WHOLE week is off and behind.  So having a whole week to work on projects and cross off things off that to do list, make me feel like I am ahead of the game.

I am very lucky because we get 4 weeks paid vacation every year on top of personal days at AU and I USE the heck out of it.   I am also very lucky because my boss allows us to use the heck out of it. Unfortunately, not every department is that way here.

There were a lot of “Didn’t you just take a honeymoon a month ago? And now you are taking another week off?” comments, which I will be honest, always leave me feeling a little guilty and frustrated.  But I know my work ethic and I know what I deserve, so I have to be better about letting comments like that go.  I plan my vacation time months in advance to be sure I am prepared and things are taken care of.

There is no way I could just jump into the first few weeks of school (which consist of a lot of long days due to student worker training and just general craziness) without having a full tank.  I want to be good at what I do, I want to put forth my best effort, I refuse to just go through the motions and collect a paycheck.  That is never who I have been or ever will be.  But I can only be my best if I take care of myself and refuel, especially if it is a benefit that I am lucky enough to have!

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How often do you “refuel”?  Once a month?  Once a year?  You do not have to be blessed with ample vacation time to do so, sometimes it means just saying no to things and reserving that time for yourself and for your family to just BE.   Maybe it is 15 minutes a day, maybe it is once a week you allot for nothing.  I am sure your first response to this is,  “I don’t have time for that”.  I totally get it, I  have a full time job,  a part time job,  grad school and many other responsibilities that take up time and make this difficult, so it has to be a conscious effort.   I cannot tell you how many awkward conversations I have had when somebody asks me to do something and I have no excuse as to WHY I cannot do it, but that was my day/night/afternoon to myself…so I just have to say no.   And then sometimes I really suck at saying no because my guilt gets the best of me.  Taking time for YOU will make you a better employee, parent, spouse and friend, I guarantee it.

We live in such a fast pace world, and most of us have come to accept that this is just how it is.  Running around all day from one thing to the next.  But don’t you want to enjoy your life?  Don’t you want to be GOOD at whatever it is you are doing?  You can’t do that, unless you refuel that tank.

Stay blessed in the mess 🙂