The Budget Savvy Bride » Casey helping brides create beautiful weddings without breaking the bank Sat, 28 Mar 2015 20:01:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Trash to Treasure: Upcycled Vinyl Table Numbers Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:30:56 +0000 diy (6 of 8)

Surprise, surprise! I’m back with another DIY tutorial. Our September wedding is fast approaching, and I’m feeling the pressure to get my projects completed. With most of our other details already hashed out, I’m lucky to be able to devote my time to hand-making most of the wedding decor.

Back in January, Travis and I had our engagement shoot with our lovely photographer, Erica Clark. During our shoot we had the opportunity to go on location to a real life, rock ‘n’ roll time capsule, Bad Kitty Music, a record store specializing in new and used vinyl LPs, located in my hometown of Macomb, Illinois.

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On location at Bad Kitty Music (photo credit: Erica Clark Photography)


Stepping into the store, which touts “Yes Barry White, No Barry Manilow,” we were enamored with the stacks upon stacks of vintage records, ironic lime green walls, and the laid-back, kind nature of owner, John Gorlewski. On that blustery, snowy January evening, he allowed Erica and us the time and resources we needed for the shoot, going so far as to try to locate a hard-to-find record specifically for the shoot.

Wanting to incorporate elements of our passion for music into our wedding decor, I set out in search of 45s. But I came across a problem. Most 45s I found either had too large of a spindle hole or were priced too high. Around the time I was beginning to get discouraged, John posted a photo to the Bad Kitty Facebook page of six cases of 45s he had in his shop. I reached out to him, told him I needed small holed 45s, in any condition. He generously offered me about twelve records for free since they weren’t sellable.

Bad Kitty Music, located at 233 E. Carroll Street in Macomb, Illinois

With all the records I needed plus some in tow, I thought long and hard about how I could transform them into upcycled table numbers for our wedding reception. My first thought was to paint them which I eventually scrapped, realizing how hard it would be to tape along the round label. After asking my crafty neighbor, she suggested I use paper to which I agreed. Here’s how I made them:


  • Small spindle holed 45s
  • Compass
  • Scrapbook paper in two contrasting colors
  • Number stencils/pencil
  • Scissors
  • Mod Podge/paper plate to use as a palette
  • Small foam brush
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Too bad these were damaged. Gremlins!


  • Wipe down each 45 to remove any dust or debris.
  • Measure with your compass the distance between the center of the spindle hole and the edge of the record label.
  • Use your compass to draw circles on the back of a sheet of scrapbook paper. You’ll need two circles, one per side of the record. Cut out the circles.
  • Trace the numbers on the back of the contrasting scrapbook paper. Again, you’ll need two numbers for each side of the record. Very carefully cut out the numbers.
  • Apply Mod Podge with your foam brush directly to the label of the record and apply the paper circle, lightly pressing out any wrinkles or air bubbles. Repeat on the other side.
  • Lightly brush Mod Podge on the back side of the number, center, and lightly press down to adhere. Repeat on the second side.
  • When dry, apply a light coat of Mod Podge over the entire new “label,” let dry, then repeat on the other side.
  • Display with a photo easel or menu card holder.

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Since the records were free, my only costs accrued were those of supplies, most of which can be used many times over. Only factoring in the cost of the paper, these ended up costing about fifty cents a piece. I even had enough paper left over the make the “mrs. and mr.” signs at the top of the post from old children’s records!

I went into this project rather tentatively, afraid I might have to abandon it and go in another direction. I was so surprised by the ease and simplicity, and I am in love with the end result! By turning these old, damaged records which were destined for the dumpster into something worth displaying, I’ve helped not only our budget but also the environment.

What trash to treasure crafts have you created for your wedding?



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DIY Tutorial: Dollar Store Upcycled Bunting Tue, 05 Aug 2014 15:30:57 +0000  

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During the first month of our engagement, my husband-to-be and I were browsing through the nearby unnamed dollar store, on the prowl for anything usable for our wedding. Most of the “wedding” section in these stores are full of sad fleur de lis patterned napkins, small plastic bubble bottles, and shoddy two piece champagne flutes. However, somehow on that particular evening, I spotted a jewel among all of the plastic trinkets–these bunting banners, in our main color family.

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I ended up purchasing the entire stock this store carried and ended up with twelve six-feet-long banners. Still unsure of how I’d use them, I packed them away in a tote at my mother’s house along with the rest of my wedding stash. After reading through this post by Bianca, I came upon the perfect purpose for the banners. My maid of honor generously gave me about half a yard of contrasting patterned fabric, and I got to work.

Here’s how I made them…


  • (1) Bunting banner
  • Fabric
  • Letter stencils
  • Sharpie
  • Scissors
  • Thread/Embroidery floss (separate out the embroidery floss into one thread pieces)
  • Basting needle (usually used for quilting, I used this kind of needle due to the thickness of the banner material)

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  • First, make a list of things you might need signage for that will fit on the banner. My banners had nine individual triangles, so I made my signs with five letter words to ensure the words would be centered (FOOD!, CAKE!, DRINK, DANCE, GIFTS, WE❤DO)
  • Turn your piece of fabric over, so you are tracing on the back side. Lightly stencil your letters backward onto the fabric lightly with a permanent marker. Carefully cut out each letter.

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  • Line up the letter to the corresponding triangle, and hand stitch around the perimeter. If you’ve never sewn before, here’s a tutorial to get you started. Don’t worry too much about getting a perfect stitch. It’s supposed to look handmade! (I’m sure this can be done on a sewing machine as well, but I don’t have access to one for the time being.)

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  • Repeat the last step and sew the remaining letters to the banner. Hang wherever you please!

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My biggest pieces of advice going into this project are these: First, make sure you do the sewing well before your wedding day. My fingers are currently full of needle stab wounds, and I’m thankful I’ve got about seven weeks for my hands to look presentable again. Second, take your time, especially if you’re a beginner. Nothing is more frustrating than nearly completing a letter only to mess up a stitch.

Total cost for this project came to about $2.00 per banner, including supplies which can be reused such as the needles and stencils. I’ve seen these banners sold on Etsy for around $20 a piece. By purchasing the plain banners at the dollar store, I managed to make six adorable signs for our wedding for 50% of the cost of a single banner sold on Etsy.

How has the community saved money through repurposing dollar store purchases? Do you think I should try to sell these after the wedding for a profit, say about five to ten dollars a piece? I’d love to hear back from you!

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DIY Tutorial: Faux Milk Glass Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:00:38 +0000 Milkglass (7 of 7)

Goodness gracious, has it been a whirlwind of a fortnight for the husband-to-be and me! Pre-hubs, as I’ve become accustomed to calling him now that we’re just two months away from our wedding day (Eek!), just started a new position in a city much closer to our friends, family, and wedding venue and vendors. We found a house to rent and moved in a flash, finding ourselves apartment dwellers no more. Just a few days after moving into our new house, my beloved bicycle was stolen then returned a few days later by the power of social media and some super sleuthing. Needless to say, I fell off the wedding planning wagon, but I’m gearing up for a wild ride to the finish!

My first project since getting back into the groove was creating inexpensive milk glass inspired vases for our centerpieces. Milk glass is an opaque glassware usually blown or pressed into molds to create vases, decorative items, and dinnerware. It’s been around for centuries, and true vintage pieces are highly collectible.

E.O. Brody Milk Glass Vase (c. 1960s)
E.O. Brody Milk Glass Vase (c. 1960s)


While I was searching for mismatched vases in thrift stores, I came upon a quilted milk glass vase which inspired me to create a more “mismatchy-matchy” look. The only trouble is, these pieces can run a much higher price tag than regular run-of-the-mill clear vases. While most thrift stores sold those for a dollar or less, the milk glass vases were running upwards of five to ten dollars. I quickly realized how expensive my idea was becoming and needed a back up plan. With the clear vases being such blank slates, I decided I could easily spray paint them, saving a good portion of the decor budget for other items.

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Thrift store vases before

Here’s how I created the Faux Milk Glass look:


  • Cheap clear thrift or dollar store vases
  • White glossy spray paint
  • Cardboard or newspaper to prevent paint run off


  • Clean the vases thoroughly, and rub the surface with rubbing alcohol. The paint will stick better when the glass is free of debris.
  • Find a well ventilated area, preferably outside, and set your vases upside down.

Milkglass (2 of 7)

  • Spray paint as per the instructions on the can in light, even strokes. Don’t worry if it’s a little uneven after the first coat. Too much paint, and you’ll get drippage. I learned that the hard way with my trial run.
  • Let the vases dry for at least an hour then cover in a second coat.
  • Dry, turn the vases right side up and even out any patchy spots.
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Thrift store vases after
  • Lightly spray the inner rim of the vase, but be careful not to spray too much inside the vase as any water added could cause paint to chip off.
  • Let dry then fill with fresh flowers!
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Sunflowers are part of our wedding floral arrangements, so naturally I tested the freshly painted vases with them. The real milk glass vase is on the far left.

I’m happy with the way these turned out though I’ll admit that a few look rough but could easily be angled to hide any blemishes. If you’re going for that true milk glass look, I recommend choosing vases with some sort of pattern since the smooth surfaced ones ended up looking a little more like ceramic.

My favorite one, definitely due to the pattern!
My favorite one, definitely due to the pattern


I could also see this project working out nicely with a light mint green or other pastel spray paint. I’d love to see how the community might tweak this tutorial to better suit their wedding’s theme!

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Stumbling Upon Our Dream Venue Tue, 01 Jul 2014 15:30:04 +0000 Walnut Grove Farm - Knox County, Illinois
Walnut Grove Farm – Knox County, Illinois

As a young girl, I was never the type to seriously plan out my wedding, but I always found peace in the country. Every great memory of parties and family gatherings took place among the trees. When the time came to start thinking about a wedding (basically after my first date with my husband-to-be), I naturally knew I wanted something rustic and simple.


Rustic weddings are definitely on trend and for good reason. They’re cost effective–If your venue is full of natural beauty, little decorating needs to be done because nature has done it for you! They’re intimate and personal–Many barn and lodge settings offer a smaller guest limit. By keeping the guest list on the smaller side, your budget will automatically be easier to meet (fewer heads, fewer dollars). And they’re just plain lovely.

Wedding in the grove
Wedding in the grove

My hunt for a venue, which we knew we wanted in or around our hometowns, started online. I scoured the big name wedding sites and kept coming up with locations that didn’t quite fit our needs or would’ve completely blown our budget. Finally, in a moment of sheer frustration, I searched for “barns for weddings.” One of the first hits was The Barn Journal, a website whose tagline is “Dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of traditional farm architecture.” Pretty much perfect.


The event barns and homesteads available for rent are located all over the country though not in every state. Obviously, the Midwest has an extensive list. We found Walnut Grove Farm, a working walnut grove which was homesteaded in 1835. Photos from WGF’s website showed a beautifully restored barn which has been standing since 1860. The rich history of the area paired with the natural beauty and simplicity made the place a perfect match.


We’ll have the venue for the entirety of the weekend, starting on Friday morning for set up and rehearsal and ending Sunday afternoon for tear down. We’re not only money but stress by having he freedom to enjoy the day worry-free. Our rental fee will also extend to the guest house on the property which sleeps up to four people which will allow some members of the wedding party to save money on their lodging for Friday night.


The Guest House
The Guest House

Now that the hunt has ended and planning is in full swing, I have a few pointers to finding the rustic venue which will suit you whether it’s a ski lodge, vineyard, or historic barn.

  • While the internet worked for me, you can start your search with the Chamber of Commerce wherever you’re wanting to hold your wedding. They’re a well of useful information, especially when you’re unsure of the area.
  • Ask about bathrooms. Our venue has a real working outhouse, and we chose a flushable portaloo just in case that makes our city dwelling friends uncomfortable. Because the house plumbing system is not equipped to handle 100+ people doing their business, only the wedding party and guests with disabilities can use the bathrooms.
  • Check into event insurance. Some venues will already have this, while others, like ours, requires guest host liability insurance in order to serve alcohol sans licensed bartender. The fee is around $150 which fit into our alcohol budget. Since we’re only serving beer and wine, we’re still saving money over using a caterer.
  • Look at an almanac. Weather can be a fickle thing, but check into the averages on your wedding date. If the location is warm weather only and doesn’t offer heat, your December wedding won’t be very pleasant or even possible. Many truly rustic facilities only hold events April through October.
  • Read your contract carefully. This goes without saying for any location, but especially smaller operations. Some venues don’t allow open flames indoors or non biodegradable confetti, ours included. Thankfully our plans don’t include candlelight or party poppers.

Who else chose a rustic setting for their nuptials? Please add your experiences and tips in the comments! Finding the perfect venue can be daunting, so let’s help each other out!

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Personal and Purposeful Bridesmaids Gifts Tue, 24 Jun 2014 15:30:00 +0000 835715_98986660

Every month or so since getting engaged, I get mailings from various party supply companies. I like flipping through them to glean ideas and compare prices, but I haven’t ordered a single item. And I always flip past the wedding party gifts section which is full of, albeit reasonably priced, canvas bags, water bottles, and the ever present mustache flasks. If I know my bridal party, I know that any of those would sit in a closet unused for months.

While some can’t find room in their budgets for gifts, I do think that giving a little back to your best and hardest working friends can allow a little wiggle room. My philosophy when it comes to gift giving is simple — Will they use it? Is it personal? Is it a little offbeat? If all answers are yes, it’s a good one, and gifts don’t have to be expensive or even bought in a store. Here are a few ideas for Bridesmaids Gifts to get the ball rolling:


Handmade bath and body products

Photo Credit: Cheri Root Photography
Photo Credit: Cheri Root Photography

My personal favorite boutique soap maker is The Dirty Goat. Our fantastically talented wedding photographer, Erica Clark, has been making and selling beautifully scented personal care products since last year.  Her soap line comes in scents of all varieties – Fireside, Fresh Cut Grass, Honey Almond, just to name a few – and are made with natural and organic ingredients such as goats’ milk (of course!), unrefined coconut oil, essential oils, and raw shea butter. The Dirty Goat has also recently launched new products like Rosemary Peppermint Hair Serum and a basil citrus scented cream soap. Giving your bridesmaids a slice of soap made with love also gives them an invitation to pamper themselves, something they’ll surely need after the wedding stress is through!

(Blogger note: My promo of Dirty Goat soaps was not for monetary or compensation purposes.)

Homemade Recipe Jar


There are Pinterest pins galore with recipes and images of tasty treats in mason jars. You could make them something like a pie or cake, already baked, or layer dry ingredients to create a beautiful DIY hot cocoa. To add some extra personal touches, hand letter a tag or jar lid with a note or their initials. And a budget savvy tip for them – after the treats are gone, they can use the jar later for drinking, mixing, or decorating!

Memory Box

Use an old shoebox or cigar box and cover the outside with nostalgic photos. Include their favorite candies, a mix CD of favorite tunes, and other mementos and tchotchkes that remind you of each bridesmaid. This is a great way to show your bridesmaids how much you care for them and value the things you’ve share and your time spent together.


Personalized Cotton Robe


You can find these on Etsy, usually sold in bundles, in an array of colors and patterns. I love this gift idea because not only do they look beautiful in getting ready photos, but your bridesmaids can wear them for years to come. Get them monogrammed locally to skip the up charge through the Etsy seller. You could also purchase one for yourself and have your initials or new name embroidered.

Whatever you choose to show your appreciation, remember to include a heartfelt thank you note. Your bridesmaids are, of course, honored to stand with you on your big day, but everyone likes to feel loved and appreciated. Especially when they’ve worked hard to help you pull everything together.

So, my questions for the community, did you give gifts to your bridesmaids? What did you give them? Let’s add to this list!


And if you’re on the lookout for more gift ideas, check out this list of bridesmaids gifts!

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Going Against the Gown Tue, 10 Jun 2014 15:30:47 +0000
The Beverlywood – Available through Dolly Couture

Before I tried on a single wedding dress, I knew that the traditional long gown wouldn’t be for me. For starters, I’m just not a particularly traditional bride. My personal style has always been a little offbeat, a little vintage, and a whole lot of ME. I also know my limitations when it comes to fit and fashion in relation to my body. I’m considered plus size by all major labels, and, being on the petite side at 5’3″, I’ve always felt swallowed whole by long dresses.

I immediately gravitated toward tea length dresses, loving the vintage vibes and playfulness that come with them. During my first of only two dress hunting excursions, I tried on a couple of long gowns. My preemptive feelings about them were vindicated — I felt boxy, shapeless, and not at all like the bride I wanted to be. As soon as the attendant put me in a tea length, I felt at home.

Oleg Cassini Style CPK437 - Available at David's Bridal
Oleg Cassini Style CPK437 – Available at David’s Bridal

Shorter length dresses aren’t for every bride, I know. Some of us have been dreaming about that princess ball gown or sexy fit and flare since childhood. But for me, a tea length dress means freedom — freedom to dance, to show off my adorable, carefully chosen shoes (which I still need to carefully choose!), to use the bathroom unassisted.

Now going the non traditional route comes with the issue of lack of choices. Unfortunately, not all designers and retailers are on the same wavelength as us tea length gals. Out of over 400 styles of wedding gowns David’s Bridal has in stock, a mere 12 of them are tea length. And I tried on most of them. There were a couple of contenders in that small selection, but, ultimately, I decided that the boutique designer route would be the path for me.

Oleg Cassini Style CMK513 – Available at David’s Bridal

While scouring Pinterest, I stumbled upon Dolly Couture, a small designer with boutiques based out of Los Angeles and New York City along with in-home boutiques in various cities around the US, including Chicago. A quick call to their customer service line, and I was put in contact with the lovely lady in my city who carries several styles of DC dresses. We exchanged e-mails, set an appointment for my friend and me to try on dresses in her apartment, and went from there.

Though their locations are currently limited, they do much of their business through their website, so even the most isolated bride can purchase a Dolly dress for her wedding. The styles start at an affordable $495 and go up to $995 though if you’re in the market for a custom creation, the price could go a tad higher. My custom gown came to about $875 with a holiday discount and free shipping. I’m sorry that I can’t provide more specifics, but my fiance reads my posts. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for our first look!

The Moon River - Available through Dolly Couture
The Moon River – Available through Dolly Couture

Don’t be afraid to turn your back on tradition if it doesn’t feel right for you. Choosing an unconventional gown can do so much and not just where fashion is concerned–It can help set the tone for your entire wedding!

Blogger note: I received no compensation for promoting Dolly Couture. Just thought it was a resource worth mentioning to other brides!

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DIY Tutorial: Wooden Map Letters Tue, 03 Jun 2014 15:30:43 +0000 Map (5 of 6)

We made our first decision after getting engaged to have our wedding near where we both grew up. Western Illinois holds a special place in our relationship, so naturally, we wanted to incorporate the geography of the region wherever we could.

Every month or so, my husband-to-be and I travel four hours southwest of Chicago to visit our friends and family in addition to taking care of wedding business. On the way back during our last trip, we stopped at a rest stop before approaching the Chicagoland area. While waiting for Travis to meet me in the lobby, I noticed a freshly stocked stack of complimentary 2013 Illinois maps. Without another thought, I grabbed a stack of them, unsure of how I might use them, all the while knowing I could turn them into something special.

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While scouring Etsy, I had seen many shops selling map themed wedding and home items, usually with the prices marked up considerably. When I came across a set of personalized Wooden Map Letters, I knew it was something I could pull off for a fraction of the asking price.

We purchased nine inch unfinished wooden letters for about three dollars a piece from a craft store as well as a bottle of Modge Podge for about four dollars. Obviously this project didn’t call for the entire bottle, so I’m not even sure how to figure that into the cost of materials. The total cost for this project was under $12 while Etsy sellers price theirs at about $30 a pop. That makes each letter only four dollars a piece, saving over 80%!

Here’s how I did made the Wooden Map Letters!



  • 9″ wooden letters
  • 2 full sized road maps
  • Sponge brush
  • Modge Podge (or two parts Elmer’s glue, one part water)
  • Pen/pencil
  • Scissors
  • Paper plate for a palette

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  1. Make sure the surface of each letter is clear of debris and dirt
  2. Place each letter against the region of the map you want to appear on the letter (We chose our hometowns for our initials and Chicago for the ampersand) and trace carefully
  3. Slowly, and I mean slowly, cut out your traced letter.
  4. Cover the surface of each wooden letter, one at a time, with Modge Podge, using a sponge brush.
  5. Very carefully align the corresponding map letter to the wooden letter and press down as you align. Watch our for air bubbles. Do these one at a time because the glue will become tacky very quickly.
  6. Let each letter dry for about 30 minutes.
  7. Using your sponge brush, brush Modge Podge over the paper map and along the sides of the letter in an even layer. Press down the sides if there’s overhanging paper.
  8. Let dry for another half hour.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8.
  10. And voila! Personalized map monograms!

I absolutely love the way these turned out. The light sheen the Modge Podge adds is quite lovely in the light. Since these aren’t as wide as I’d hoped to find, I plan to use plastic photo easels to keep them standing upright. I’m still not quite sure where these Wooden Map Letters will go–perhaps on the head table or maybe on the cake table? Regardless of where they go, I know our guests who know us well will appreciate the little details that tell our story through geography!

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Has anybody else incorporated maps in their decor? How did you use them? I still have three maps left over plus the scraps from the two I used for the Wooden Map Letters, and I would hate to see them go to waste.

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New Bride Blogger: Casey Tue, 27 May 2014 15:17:59 +0000 Austin (30 of 57)
photo credit: Erica Clark Photography

Greetings and salutations! Newly minted bride blogger, Casey here! I’m incredibly excited to join the BSB community. For the past six months, I have turned to this fantastic group of brides for tips and tricks, and I can’t wait to share my own with all of you. My fiance, Travis, and I met in November of 2009 while living in Phoenix, Arizona. Although we met in the desert, we both hail from the heartland, our hometowns being a mere hour apart from one another. We knew serendipity struck us big time, and we haven’t looked back since our very first date.


Travis proposed to me in Cancun during our fourth anniversary trip. He spent the weeks leading up to our vacation coordinating the purchase of my perfect ring with my fabulous mother. Setting the tone for our vintage heirloom inspired rustic wedding, he picked out my 1950s sapphire and diamond stunner. He tried to wait for the best moment to ask, but his excitement and anxieties got the best of him, proposing to me the day before our official anniversary. He must have ultimately known that the best moment for me could have been any moment. I’ve always felt our love was written in the stars. Serendipity said so.


Neither of us grew up in households with much, if any, disposable income. Given our backgrounds, we knew that an extravagant affair wasn’t for us. When we returned back to the real world from our vacation in all-inclusive paradise, we sat down and listed our priorities for our wedding ceremony and reception. We agreed that our ceremony has to be earnest, jubilant, and personal. Priorities for our reception? Good friends, good music, good photography, and good beer.

photo credit: Erica Clark Photography
photo credit: Erica Clark Photography

With our priorities set, we started working on our budget which began at the $5,000 mark. Well, after losing our almost free venue and booking our immensely talented and professional photographer, we realized that we weren’t completely realistic when it came to the costs of throwing a celebration with a 100 person guest list. After we found our back up venue (which ended up working out better than our original plan), we set our budget closer to the $10,000. Despite doubling our initial allowance, we’re still finding ways to save money while maintaining the integrity and personal touches we want to showcase throughout our rustic barn wedding.

photo credit: Erica Clark Photography
photo credit: Erica Clark Photography

We’re inching closer and closer to the big day, just four more months, and I’m overjoyed to have a chance to share the trials and triumphs of our planning process. I certainly hope I can be of help those of you who are committed to staying as far away from that $28,000 national average as possible!

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