My Frugal Wedding!

I'm not a huge "anniversary buff."  I've never been that woman who kept track of dates, like when I first met my stud (I know it was some time in early July 2009--or was it in late July?), let alone the first time that he kissed me.  However, this morning I just happened to be thinking back on our beautiful wedding day, and that's when it hit me: in only 6 more days it will be our six-month wedding anniversary! No, we won't exchange gifts or anything like that.  We'll be lucky if we even get a to enjoy a nice meal together.  But it's fun to realize how quickly time has already flown by, and now we're only 3 months away from bringing Baby "C" into this world (yep.... you did the math, didn't you?).

Ever since our big day came and went, I've had quite a few people ask me how I planned our wedding for less than $3000.  We paid for almost everything, ourselves.  Part of my parents' wedding gift to us was that they paid for our venue, but we still chose to keep the location affordable.  So, in honor of our anniversary I'm going to share with everyone my own, personal tips for how to have a lovely wedding on a very tight budget. 

Everything about my wedding was pretty much DIY.   It was a lot of work, but it was also fun and helped us cut costs tremendously.  Most importantly, it made our wedding a heck of a lot more special!

Step 1: Picking a location and a theme:

We live in Florida, so you can probably guess where almost EVERY SINGLE PERSON chooses to have their wedding at.... Yep! You got it: the beach! Well... I'm a Florida Cracker.  I grew up seeing the beach any day that I wanted to, so I chose to be a little different.

I knew that I still wanted an outdoor wedding; not just for the ceremony, but for the reception as well.  That helped me to determine a picnic theme pretty easily.  I researched the parks around our town and settled for one that I also grew up going to, at least once a week, with my brother and cousins. They had two gazebos that I could choose from for the ceremony (both cost $35 to rent for the day) and a screened-in pavilion which included ceiling fans, a kitchen and bathrooms for my guests (It cost $200 + a $100 fully-refundable deposit).  It was really the perfect location for exactly what I wanted.

Step 2: Choosing a guest list and sending out invites:

Originally, we wanted a small guest list and just an intimate wedding.  We had planned on inviting no more than 40 people ... but when we realized that I had more than 40 people in my family, alone, and at least 10 family members and lifelong friends of Stud's who wanted to fly over from Ireland (none of this includes all of the friends who we also consider to be just like family to us) we knew ... a 40 maximum guest list was next to impossible.

We ended up inviting 180 guests, and that was still limiting our list.  About 160 guests showed up for the ceremony, only a few left before the reception.  That list included friends and family who came from Chicago, Colorado, Ireland, and even Iraq, to attend our wedding.  We consider ourselves very blessed with all of the love that surrounds our family.

My groom and his buddies
Step 3: Choosing our wedding party

Plain and simple: we decided not to have any bridesmaids or groomsmen.  This is one of the aspects where we saved ourselves a lot of money.  We didn't have to cover the cost of dresses or suits, except for our own.  We also didn't have to worry about buying "thank you" gifts, matching shoes, hair bows, or other fun-but-expensive accessories.

TuTu was our flower girl.  I was originally planning on hand-making her dress (a long and elegant tutu, of course) but I ended up finding one on for cheaper than what I would have paid after the cost of all materials ($35, s&h included).

Ninja walked me down the aisle (since the time he was a baby I promised myself that if I ever got remarried I would have him walk me down the aisle).  However, Stud also called him his "Best Man" to make him feel like he had a very important role that day.  Along with me and Stud writing and exchanging our own vows, Stud and Ninja also wrote and exchanged their own vows as step-dad and step-son.

We asked my cousin (whom I call my sister) Heather to be our officiant.  She is a notary public.  I had my dad walk her down the aisle during the processional, where he opened up the ceremony with a prayer over Stud and I, and Heather took it from there.  She bought her dress at TJ Maxx and she looked adorable!

TuTu, Heather & I

Step 4: Deciding on our clothes

The one thing I wanted to splurge a little more money on was my dress.  I set my budget at $500 for a dress, and ended up finding the one I loved for $350.  I also paid an extra $100 to have the dress cleaned and preserved in a David's Bridal box after the wedding was over (which reminds me, I need to send my dress off to be cleaned!).

The dress came with a pretty white sash, but I decided to make my own sash to match the colors that the groom and flower girl were wearing.  I literally just bought a roll of ribbon for $3, cut the edges at an angle and tapered them with an iron, then hot glued some flowers that were originally attached to a head band for my daughter's dress to the front of the sash (her dress had the same flowers on the shoulder straps, so now our dresses matched each other).

{{As much as I loved my dress, I was so unhappy with it on the day of our wedding.  For some reason, the eye hook at the top of the dress was just a sewn-in thread.  It was not a metal hook.  Literally, 5 minutes before I walked down the aisle I bent over to say something to my son and I felt the hook rip.  For the rest of the day, I walked around with my bra exposed in the back.  I was embarrassed and even more distraught when I got all of our photos back, to see that my bra was showing all day long, and there was nothing I could do about it.  SO TAKE NOTE, LADIES.  If the dress you're  considering to buy has a thread-hook on it, have it altered to a metal hook or don't buy the dress at all!}}

I plan to sell my dress.  I'm not keen on letting it take up space and collect dust in my closet for years, and I don't want to save it for my daughter; she's going to want to pick her own dress out for her own special day.  So, being the cheap-o that I am, I figure I'll try to make as much money back on it as I can (with a metal hook sewn in for the next bride to use, of course!!).

Since it was a laid back, country picnic-style wedding, I, of course, completed my dress with a pair of cowboy boots. ;)

Cowboy Boots Complete The Look!

My flowers were fabric.  I researched a lot of DIY paper and fabric flowers on Pinterest before the wedding, but of course I never saved the actual web site that I referenced, in order to be able to share it with you.  Just Google it or search for ideas on Pinterest.  You'll find an endless amount of resources, I promise.

Fabric Flowers

Resting my flowers on our memorial table, where we placed photos in memory of loved ones we had lost and wished could be celebrating with us

Resting flowers as we do our unity painting

Again, because the wedding was very laid back we decided to dress the groom and "best man" (Ninja) in a nice pair of washed-out jeans with dress shirts and vests.  I loved it, and quite frankly, my husband knows how to rock a nice pair of jeans.  I'll never forget how handsome he looked on our special day.

Looking yummy in his jeans! We bought his shirt at Wal-Mart and his vest off ebay for $11. Ninja's came off a suit set that we picked up at our local Once Upon A Child shop.

Doesn't Ninja look so happy? Just before this picture was taken, he asked me if he could go play on a friend's tablet.  I will let you guess what my answer was to him...

Step 5: Picking out our wedding bands

We chose to go cheap.  REAL cheap.  And neither of us had a problem with it.  We bought our wedding bands at Wal-mart.  Mine cost $50, Stud's was $60.  Our plan is to buy each other nicer rings on one of our future anniversaries.  Maybe our 5th, I dunno.  We have a lot more important things to invest our money in, right now.

Cheap or not, I love our wedding rings and what they symbolize; that's all that matters to me.

Don't bother asking me how much my husband spent on my engagement ring, because he won't give me that information. ;)

Step 6: Getting the message out

For wedding invites, I went completely cheap (surprise, surprise!).  I spent no more than $60 on them in total.  My cousin, Carmen, took our engagement photos and she helped me design the invitation.  We chose two photos to use; the one on the front was simply a fun-loving family shot, which could later be reused and framed by any guest who chose to do so (it has made my heart happy to walk into quite a few of our friends and family's homes and see this photo hanging up):

On the back of the invitation, we chose a more intimate shot to use as our background and wrote the invitation details in the foreground:

Rather than including an RSVP card, I very simply gave my phone number and personal email address on the bottom of the card.  I then asked people to either call, text or email me their RSVP.  I would say that 95% of our guests did not forget to respond within the first week of receiving their invitations, because they didn't have to bother filling out a card and mailing it back to us.  I really think people should save RSVP cards for extremely formal weddings.  Otherwise, they are a thing of dinosaur ages with all the technology we have today.

I also included at the bottom of the invitation a link for a separate blog, which I had created specifically for our wedding:
I used the blog to keep all of our guests up-to-date with any necessary information.  It was free and it took 5 minutes to set up! You really don't have to be a typical blogger, like myself, to create one for your wedding.

Step 7: Involving friends and family

Here is where things got real fun in the wedding planning.  Almost everything in our wedding was contributed by a friend or family member.  The only "professional" we hired for anything was our DJ/MC, and that was only because the friend who originally agreed to DJ for us backed out at the last minute.  I was about to settle for putting together my own playlist of music and having someone press "Play/Pause" on my que when I came across a great deal for a "less experienced" DJ.  I have to say, he did a good job for us, considering he had never MC'd a wedding before.

As mentioned before, my cousin Heather was the one who married us.  She also "stood in" as my maid of honor and helped me stay sane and focused throughout the months building up to the wedding.  She helped entertain my husband's family when they arrived from overseas while I worked my butt off to finish tying all loose ends on the wedding.  She took our kids for us one night so that we could throw ourselves a bachelor/bachelorette party (yeah, yeah, we're that couple who had a joint party because we just love each other that much.heehee).

Stud and I at our bachelor/ette party, with our friend Laura who flew down from Colorado for the wedding

Trying to take a nice picture with my mother-in-law and our friend Stacey, while my goofy husband is laughing in the background (you can tell we don't get out much!!)

Another cousin, Tanya, made my wedding cake...... let me tell you, not only was my cake BEAUTIFUL and beyond what I expected, it was absolutely D-LISH too!

Burlap and lace with apples to decorate -- chocolate cake on the inside, and a cinnamon butter-cream icing on the out.

Apple Toppings

My cousin, Carmen (yes, I have a lot of cousins), who did my engagement photos, also did my wedding day photos.  She did an excellent job capturing the day and all of the work that went into it, as you can see through all of these photos!

As for food, we knew there was no way that we could afford to pay by the plate for all of our guests.  However, we also didn't want to serve just dessert.  We were reluctant at first, when we decided to make our wedding a pot luck, but I can honestly say now that it was one of the best decisions we made for our wedding.  
I have never had such awesome tasting food at a wedding as what we had at ours.  Stud, being the avid fisherman that he is, took some of his friends and family deep-sea fishing two days prior to the wedding.  All of their catch went towards the wedding, where our friend Chris deep-fried it.  Everyone loved it!!  Meanwhile, another friend, Rick, made his own special chicken wings which were to DIE for! Another cousin of mine (yeah, yeah, yeah... another cousin), Ginny, baked delicious chicken parmesan for us, and soooo many other friends and family brought side dishes which were heavenly.  

We didn't leave the floor open for people to cook just anything that they wanted.  Instead, on my blog I listed specific items for our "wish list" (such as, pasta salad, dinner rolls, sweet tea, etc.) and people were more than happy to contribute.  We also made it clear that we weren't looking for gifts or money as well as food.  We wanted everyone to feel comfortable knowing that if they contributed food that was enough of a gift to us as far as we were concerned.  For us, celebrating with our family was all we were honestly looking for.

Setting up our drink bar (note the posters in the background, which my friend Jenn designed and I printed from

My friend (aha!! See? I do have friends and not JUST cousins), Jenn, who is amazingly creative, did the videography for our wedding.  While she is currently still working her heart away on editing the final copy for us, she did allow us to see one very cute snippet a couple months ago. You can view it here:

Another dear friend, Heather (not to be confused with my cousin, Heather -- which, I actually have two cousins named Heather, but only one that I call sister ... yeah, I know.  This is getting confusing), played my "director" on the day of our wedding. She made sure that everyone was where they needed to be throughout the day, and corresponded with the MC on the schedule and announcements for everything.  She was a life saver! She and her husband also helped tremendously with the set-up on ythat morning.

My cousin (go on and say it: this is getting reeeeeeeeeaaaal old ... ), Amber, did my hair.  I wanted an up-do with a bit of a unique country look to it, so she incorporated a braid.  She did a fantastic job!

My friend, Kathleen, did my makeup. She, too, did great! It looked just as good as any professional makeup work that I've seen. ;)

But the person I owe the most credit and thanks to out of everyone, is my mom.  Without her, this wedding would not have happened.  She spent endless hours for months before the wedding, helping me research DIY projects and shop for the best deals.  She measured, cut, glued and pasted more than I did -- and that's the truth.  

On the morning of our wedding, she was there before I was to begin setting up.  While I was getting pampered (by mostly cousins) with hair and makeup (oh, and let's not forget the mimosa's! mmmmmm) she was running around, frantically trying to get everything set up before the wedding started. She was AWESOME, and again, I couldn't have done it without her.

My mom & dad on our wedding day

My beautiful mama

Below are some photos of different decorations we had around the reception area...  All were very simple and cost-efficient ideas that we mostly pulled from fellow bloggers on the wonderful world wide web.

Treacy Wedding

Apples & Decorated Jars

I had a lot of my friends and family save bottles and jars of all shapes and sizes for me, prior to the wedding.  Together, my mom, friend and I spent an evening wrapping burlap, lace, twine and ribbon around them (we used spray glue and hot glue for the adhesives and months later, they're all still in tact).  We stuck tea-light candles and babies breath in the jars just before time for the ceremony to begin.  We bought paper table cloths in bulk from Costco, took a roll of burlap and cut it into smaller strips, and draped them across the table cloths.  We cut the burlap long enough to allow approx. 13 inches to hang off the side of the table (some tables were left with the burlap frayed and draping down the side, while others were bunched together on the ends with a rubber band and then a flower or bow was hot glued over it).  We sat one wine bottle along with 2-3 multi-sized jars on each table, and stuck a few apples around them for that extra country rustic look.

Cloth pennants

We used pennants everywhere in our wedding -- the ones pictured here were made from material swatches that we bought at Joann's.  We also made some for the trees outside from the leftover burlap material that we used on our tables, and we even bought heart-shaped paper doilies from the $1 Tree to make pennants for the wedding gazebo.
Cards Box

The white crate was $11 at Joann's.  The wooden hearts were $1 each at Joann's, which I painted and then sanded down to give a more rustic look.  The letters were stickers which came from a package that I already had from my scrap-booking days (notice how I made that sound past-tense... that's because I don't know what having time to keep a hobby is like, anymore -- it's a miracle that I found time to plan this wedding!).

We borrowed a friend's canoe boat, filled it up with ice, and stuck canned sodas in it.  As you can see, the children really enjoyed playing in the ice.

All in all, our wedding day was perfect.  Not all of the decorations made it up in time, not every "i" was dotted or "t" crossed, but it was a perfect day to remember.  I married my best friend, we were surrounded by so many loved ones, and it was a relaxing wedding where everyone seemed to truly enjoy themselves.

One thing I forgot to mention.... and this was probably the biggest thing that saved us money.... we did NOT serve alcohol at our wedding.  We did this for a number of reasons.  1. Because it was such a family-oriented wedding, we didn't want to chance anyone getting belligerent with children all around. 2. We didn't want any drama or fights at our wedding.  3.  Our wedding was at a state park, which did not allow alcohol. 4. We couldn't afford it.

The solution to this problem, for those adults who wanted to celebrate "in style" with us, was that we held an "after party" at a restaurant in the marina where Stud works.  We opened up the dance floor and invited anyone to meet us there for a few drinks.  Because it was technically not a part of the wedding, everyone who attended the after party was fully aware of the fact that they needed to pay for their own drinks.  The added bonus was, being the bride and groom, Stud and I had all of our drinks bought for us!

It was a beautiful day and I will never forget it.  My husband, along with all of our friends and family, helped me to achieve my "dream wedding" at such a low cost.  

I absolutely loved my frugal wedding!


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