Noted Fashion Photographer Nigel Barker thinks you need to Smize. Also, don’t stick out your chest so much, it makes you look porny. And, please, please, please try not to look like you’re sitting on the toilet.

Photography & Video – 10%: photography, videography, additional prints/albums and misc.

This is an area that’s definitely worth cutting that cheesy string quartet for. The drinks and food will be gone that night, your dress will go shoved into the closet, your flowers will be dead within a week, but your photos and video will be forever. The one thing, besides a new spouse, that you’ll take from this day are your images. Want to remember that day the way it was to you? Hire a good photographer. I was in such a haze the entire day of our wedding, I felt like my eyes wouldn’t focus. It’s been really great to get our photos back, and finally SEE everything. We got back nearly 1,000 pictures, and I’ve intently studied every one.

When looking for a photographer, you’ll want to find someone who has a style similar to yours. If you’re a couture bride with fashion sensibilities, you’re not going to want  a photographer that takes a hundred prom style pictures of your and your groom. You’ll get your pictures back, and hate them. And you know what? There are no reshoots on this day.

Check out portfolios and websites. See a bunch of matching sweater/white background photos? Pass. Lots of babies in assorted pumpkin patches? No, thank you. It might take a little work, especially if you live in a smaller town, but if you can find a photographer with a distinct creative style and a keen editorial eye, you’ll be set.

So, you found this amazing photographer. Are they a colossal asshole? DO NOT WORK WITH THEM. On your wedding day, there should only be room for one demanding starlet, and it should be you. Mothers, bridesmaids and vendors need not apply. Do your best to find someone who you can easily spend time with. This person will be following you around on one of the most stressful days of your life, they shouldn’t be an added, all day annoyance.

We were very lucky to find our photographer. I had been searching and searching for a photographer that fit our aesthetic, and had come up empty. I really just stumbled upon her card, and when we saw her photos, we were IN LUST. She was around our age and seemed to share a lot of common interests. Most important of those interests: good photography. We met up with her, she liked my Shins t-shirt, and the rest really was history. I am not a huggy person, but every time we met with her, I had to fight the urge to squeeze her. Our engagement and save the date photos came out absolutely gorgeous, and our wedding pictures are TO DIE. TO. DIE. Once the photos started being passed around, she quickly became a major celebrity among the members of my family. Her team was amazing, she was amazing, and our photos are amazing. These things are not a coincidence.

My mom wanted me to find someone cheaper. She thought we were overspending, and yes, we went over our alloted budget to work with the photographer we wanted. But, it has been more than worth it. She went above and beyond our expectations, and I plan to give lots of pictures of myself to family members for Christmas this year. It was worth the Veruca caliber whining I did to convince my mom to let it go. Why was I even arguing the point when we were the ones who wrote the check to her? I don’t know. I like it when my mom is on board with my ideas. So what? Spend the extra money here, on someone you want, and you’ll be happy. This is a subject where I really can’t, within reason, condone cutting corners.

A lot of cost cutting wedding blogs and articles will advise you to have a friend take your pictures. Unless your friend is a professional photographer, I really can’t think of a worse idea. You don’t want your friend trying out new effects on your wedding day. This isn’t like hitting play on an iPod, or making a cake. If your pictures don’t come out, it can be truly crushing. I’ve had friends that hated their pictures, and they will only serve as a constant reminder that you didn’t get what you wanted. I would freak out. Seriously. Then again, this would never happen to me. I went out of my way to make sure it wouldn’t.

I know this post is sounding like a review of my photographer, and not general advice. But, my general advice to you, is to find someone who will give you the same experience I had. Years from now, you’ll be glad you did.

Tomorrow, favors that aren’t sexual in nature.

Is this your wedding singer? No? Then you should probably have a deejay.

Music – 10%: ceremony musicians, cocktail-hour musicians, reception band/deejay or entertainment, sound/dance floor rental and misc.

Everyone is really so happy to see you get married. And, yeah, it’s nice to have dinner and cake. But really, your friends are there to get their party on. Probably you guys used to party every weekend, and a few days during the week. But now, everyone has kids and real jobs. The parties have been relegated to wedding receptions and the odd birthday or holiday. You love your friends, right? It’s up to you to make sure they get their freak on!

The entire time I was planning our wedding, when I’d freak out about paper lanterns or some bullshit, I’d remind myself of what our pastry chef told us on our first meeting with him, “Don’t let yourself get too stressed out about the little things. People aren’t going to remember what they had for dinner, or what your flowers looked like. They’re going to remember whether or not they had a good time.”

And that’s really true.

I’ve been to approximately 57639572638 weddings. I don’t remember the details of most of them. What I do remember is whether or not I danced the shit out of it. Was there a break dance fight? Did I do the Humpty Dance? These are the important questions, and the answer to both should be YES.

Luckily, it’s really easy to cut costs in this area without affecting whether or not your guests have a good time. I don’t recommend it, but you can cut out a deejay or band altogether. This rarely works out very well. Unfortunately, you sort of need someone to keep things moving. This is where a deejay comes in handy. If you have a friend you trust to man an iPod and a microphone, by all means, hand it over. You’ll have to make a mix, and that’ll be one more thing to do. But, if it’s worth it to you to cut this expense, better fire up that internet and get to downloading! When some friends of ours got married earlier this year, the groom deejayed their reception. It worked out fine, so it can be done. It just opens you up to a whole other list of things that could go wrong. If your venue doesn’t have a sound system, you’ll have to rent or borrow one. If your laptop takes a spill, you’re fucked. However, like I said, it can be done, and it’s a completely reasonable option. In my opinion, unless you’re experienced like our friend, the deejay groom, it’s best to leave these things to professionals.

Most deejays have a set price for so many hours, and then additional hourly rates after that. The set number of hours probably isn’t enough for you to have your ceremony and reception without going into extra hours. That’s kind of the point. You don’t really need anyone to narrate the ceremony, cocktail hour or dinner, so you can totally get away with using an iPod during this time. We couldn’t afford to pay our deejay to do the wedding and the reception, so we used a wiped iPod and a good friend to set up the music during the ceremony and cocktail hour. We could have used our iPod during dinner too, since our deejay just stood there most of the time, but once it came time for toasts and cake cutting, we needed him. We were able to get the most out of our time with him by cutting all the stupid shit we hate.

Garter toss? Not in my short dress.

Bouquet toss? Fuck you.

Introductions, toasts, cake cutting, first dance, dance with my dad, and BOOM! DANCE PARTY!! We had it clicking along as quickly as possible. Let’s face it, usually I’m outside having a smoke when cake cutting happens. Your guests aren’t really that interested in these things. Get them to the pay-off! Give everyone a chance to wipe that tear away from your daddy/daughter dance and kick it!

Unless you’re on the grass, you don’t really need to rent a dance floor. Those things can get EXPENSIVE! We were originally going to have to rent one, and even a smallish one was going to cost $700. $700! Just make sure the area is designated, and it won’t matter. String some ribbon around it, put up some cones, shit, I don’t care. Just make it known. Usually, dancing in the area you want to be the dance floor will get the point across.

Of course, the alternative to a deejay or an iPod is a wedding band. I’m sorry, I just can’t get on board with this. It reeks of like, a boring rich lady wedding, and that isn’t the vibe you want. Plus, you’re supposed to feed AND tip all members of a wedding band. If you have some friends that are musically inclined, and they want to do a couple of songs, that’s awesome. Use those friends during your ceremony too! But, an actual wedding band is probably a bad idea. They most likely won’t do justice to “Push It,” so it’s best to not even give them a chance to mess it up.

The bottom line here is that you want your guests to have the best time possible. You’re going to need drinks and dancing. Thoroughly cover these things, and you’ll have a wedding people will remember! Throw a gorgeous wedding AND an awesome party, and, well, that makes you me. Good luck with that! No, seriously, you can do it! I believe in you! Just make sure you heed my advice about “The Humpty Dance.” People really, really like that.

Next in my “No money, mo’ problems” series, you’re going to make love to the camera.

Bad news. The topic of today’s post doesn’t make me feel very snarky. Flowers are pretty! Every time I leave a flower shop, I talk about how much I would like to work in one. I’m sorry if my tone is disappointing.

If it helps, your hair is looking kind of fucked up today.

No offense.*

Flowers & Decorations – 10%: arrangements for ceremony, flower girl’s petals and basket, ring pillow, bride’s bouquet, bridesmaids’ bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, reception decorations, lighting and misc.

Here’s the weird thing. If you think about it, flowers are just like food. It’s all produce, really. So, the same rules that applied to catering your wedding, almost apply to your floral arrangements. The word “SEASONAL” is always our friend. If the flowers you want are out of season, you’re going to pay more for them. And, just like your caterer, you want a good florist, not a cheap florist. A good florist will not only be able to help realize your vision at your price, but they’ll also be able to adapt to any changes that you need to make.

If you haven’t set a date yet, our florist told us flowers were more expensive right before major floral holidays. Our original date was the same weekend as Mother’s Day, and she flat-out let us know that our arrangements were going to be more expensive then. So, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day…all bad. You’ll pay a lot more for your flowers, and they might not be as nice. Very expensive and not fabulous? The exact opposite of my point here.

The best approach isn’t to go to your florist with specific flowers in mind, but specific colors and textures. Be up front about your budget and be willing to be flexible. I really wanted peonies, but peonies were really expensive. I told my florist that what I really liked about peonies were their luxurious, ruffled petals, and she put together centerpieces that were not hurt for their lack of peonies, lush English garden roses took their place, and I never missed them. Take pictures of what you want to your meetings, and allow them to be your jumping off point. We went through several different styles before I finally realized what I wanted, but once I did, everything clicked into place.


When you have an interesting mix of textures and colors in your arrangements, you don’t need giant centerpieces and bouquets. Nobody will know you picked the smaller option, they’ll just know you have exquisite taste. Unless you picked red roses. If you picked red roses, I can’t help you. Your taste has flatlined. It was probably stillborn. Awww….what a sad story.

Detail is what makes your look seem expensive. I wanted black vases and urns to hold our flowers, but our florist said the ones she had were going to be really costly. She suggested I buy them myself and have them shipped to her shop. I bought a combination of vases from Ikea and Jamali Gardens, for much less than we would have spent if we had used her vases. I got exactly what I wanted, for less money. You have to dress your table up with more than just flowers. Your touch really shows on your tables and decorations. I really wanted mercury glass candleholders. Do you know expensive those stupid little things are? More than you should spend on candles. I was determined to make it happen though. I spent hours combing the internet for a good deal on them, but I could never find anything. I lucked out on one of my many, many trips to Michael’s. There, in the middle of their Halloween display, under the watchful gaze of a maddeningly obnoxious talking skeleton, were silver mercury glass votive holders for $1.99! About $3.00 cheaper than I’d been able to find anywhere else. I bought up all of them, and then made my own in gold. I ended up being able to put 3 candles on each table for less than the price of just one internet mercury glass votive holder. Success! Keep looking, be willing to compromise and adjust, but keep your style and theme in  mind, and you’ll have what you want without going too far into debt. If you say you did this without going into any debt at all, I’ll probably think you’re a liar, so don’t even bother saying it.

There are lots of wholesale craft and floral stores online and in your town, they’re full of good ideas and fun little pieces of inspiration. Ribbon, confetti, glitter, sequins, feathers, color, MARTHA! These things are there for you! Use them! Utilize the things you love, your guests should know this is YOUR wedding. The most “wedding-y” weddings look so cookie cutter and almost sterile. White roses, white tablecloths, giant gown, blah, blah, blah. You might as well just hang a giant, “I’M BORING: ENJOY YOUR JORDAN ALMONDS” banner across the front of your reception venue.

Being boring is almost worse than being tacky. However misguided that thought may be, at least tacky people think they’re stylish. Boring people just gave up before they even started. Your friends will go to so many weddings over the course of their lives, make yours stand out! Be super chic or be super gaudy, just BE something! Your flowers and decor are as much a display of your personal style as the dress you send yourself down the aisle in. Don’t neglect this opportunity to show who you are!

If you let red roses and baby’s breath speak for you, do you know what they’ll say? “Put me out of my misery.”

Tomorrow, get ready to put on your red shoes and dance the blues. We’re going to talk music!

*If I say no offense, you can’t get offended. I’m sorry if you don’t like it, those are the rules. I don’t make them, I just take advantage of them. The system works!

Photos: Jennifer Williams Photography

He told you to use the Piperlime accessory wall thoughtfully, but you didn’t listen. Now, he’s not sure about those shoes. He’s just concerned.

Frankly, I am too. That tiara is super fug.

Walking down the aisle is probably the closest you’ll ever get to stomping it to the death down a runway. You really have to make it count. This is your moment to really be the center of attention without people thinking you’re just desperate. You might think that there’s no way anybody will be looking anywhere else, but you would be wrong. I mean, yeah, they’re going to stand up for you when you come down the aisle. But, one or two fierce bridesmaids, and you’ll just look dowdy. I mean, white dresses aren’t the most universally flattering. There’s a reason you’re probably only going to wear one once. And don’t think dressing your bridesmaids in ugly dresses is the way out of this mess. Then, you all just look dumpy, and you’re the one to blame.

They’re talking about how much they hate you.

Attire – 10%: gown, alterations, headpiece, veil, shoes, jewelry, hair & makeup, groom’s tux and suit, grooms accessories and misc.

The good news is, style is not dictated by how much you can spend. Don’t get me wrong, lots of money helps. But, it’s not necessary. The most expensive dress isn’t always going to be the best looking dress. Have you SEEN those really expensive dresses? I don’t know why tacky costs so much. It’s baffling. Like, you’re paying someone for the privilege of looking like an ostentatious, indulgent asshole. You can really go one of two ways here: simple dress/statement jewelry or statement dress/simple jewelry. Trend-wise, both looks are on point. I don’t favor one over the other. I went with a simple dress and an amazing Betsey Johnson statement necklace. But, they both look hot.

Even though you’re going to want to run out right away and pick a dress, my advice would be to get some of your other costs locked in first. That way, when you come in under budget on some items, you can allot more money to the areas where you need it. I bought my dress for less than $400. It was a short dress, so it wasn’t as expensive as most dresses, and I happened to be shopping during a storewide 30% off sale. The planets had aligned. The only downside, was the dress at the shop was too small to cram my juicy booty into, so I had to order it without knowing how it would look on me. If it comes down to it, this is what you’ll have to do. But only do it if you’re really, really sure that you can NOT live without this dress. Most bridal sales are final, and buying multiple dresses just so you can try them on, sort of defeats the point of this whole thing. Another option is buying a preowned dress. I know it doesn’t sound like the most appealing idea, but if you really want that Vera Wang “Diana” dress on a budget, you might want to look at the boards over at and Once Wed. Also, you might want to talk to the seamstress at your favorite bridal boutique. A lot of them actually make dresses, and you could possibly get a really great deal there too. Etsy has a lot of really gorgeous dresses for sale, but unless you live close to the person making your dress, you’ll be buying your dress without ever seeing it in real life. I’m not warning against it, I plan to feature several dresses from Etsy in the coming weeks, I’m just saying be careful. Always be smart when buying online. Check out reviews, email previous reviewers if you can. Do your research before setting the wheels in motion on a wedding dress.

Regardless of where you get your dress, there will be alterations. And they will be expensive! If you have someone you trust to do your alterations, let them do it. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of your bridal shop, and they aren’t shy about charging you. My alterations ended up costing almost another $300. We were shocked, but when it was done, my dress fit perfectly. I didn’t have to wear a strapless bra the night of our wedding because the seamstress was able to construct a cup/boning combination that contained my divine DDDs without incident. I looked like I was about to nip slip most of the reception, but that’s ok. I was going for a certain look. That look being, “I really want to make sure he knows why he’s paying for this wedding.”

Do you? YEAH, YOU DO!

Veils aren’t really that expensive. I bought my bubble veil off the boutique floor, in perfect condition, for 15% off. Those tiaras are crazy pricy though! Whoa! I ended up buying a tiny, Holly Golightly style crown for $17 from the Lifemix in my mall. Look around, don’t buy from the bridal shop right away. Also, don’t buy a feather fascinator. They’ve been done to death. To. DEATH. The only feathers I can condone are floaty ostrich feathers. And I really like feathers. I put one of my flower girls in a feather hairpiece. But she wasn’t trying to look quirky, she looked like a tiny show pony. It was adorable.

You’re really going to have to shop around for shoes. But I can really only recommend buying from Endless or Zappos. They both have 365 day return policies. You don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of different wedding shoes. I have a pair of painfully uncomfortable heels that I’ll be stuck with forever due to a 30 day return policy. If you think you can figure out a way to make them work, you probably can’t. If you think you’ll get used to the pinching/cramping/wobbliness, you probably won’t. It’s just better to find something that fits you properly. It’s boring, I know. What’s the fun in that? Everyone loves only being able to concentrate on their throbbing pinky toes.

I can’t really tell you much for cutting costs on your hair and makeup. Cut those costs too much and it’ll show. Obviously, if you have friends in the beauty industry, hit them up. Don’t expect free services though. This is how they pay the bills, and they’ll cut you a deal where they can. If you have friends that aren’t professionals, but always look hot, ask them to do it. I was that friend for a long time. I’ve been doing makeup for friends and family since long before I was ever schooled and licensed. Or, learn to do it yourself. YouTube is brimming with hair and makeup how-to. On our wedding day, I had my hair done in the morning, but I did my own makeup. Like I said, I have a professional background in this though, so it wasn’t a stressful or new experience for me. In fact, it was really calming to just sit there in the middle of all the commotion, with my makeup and brushes all spread out in front of me, and slowly put on my face. If you get comfortable with your look, you can completely handle doing it on your own. Take some pictures first though, so you know how you’ll look from an outside perspective. You don’t want to get your wedding pictures back and find out you looked like a sloppy whore all night.

Let’s hear it for the boys! And their rentals. Renting a tux can be almost as expensive as buying one. You can totally get them for free though! Men’s Wearhouse will give you your groom’s tux for free if your bridal party rents five other tuxes or suits from them. Groomsmen, ring bearer, fathers, they all count. That’s what we did, and it was a welcome break.

I’m not really sure what “groom’s accessories” is supposed to mean. Pinky rings? Gold chains? Let’s say no.

When it comes down to it, as far as your bridal look goes, you’re going to have to work. In both the “you better” and “make it” departments.

Tomorrow, we’ll tiptoe through the tulips together.

Sexy Photo: Jennifer Williams

On our first round of wedding vendor meetings, someone tried to sell us a custom monogrammed spotlight. For f’ing serious? That’s some tacky shit right there. Yeah, I’ll shine that spotlight on my horse-drawn carriage and call it happily ever after. Vendors are going to try to sell you a million dumb, bridezilla-y things. Things you really don’t need. Bridal magazines are going to have you convinced you need to be giving away paid vacations as wedding favors. There’s a lot of pressure to have the most expensive, excessive wedding around. Even the folksy, Etsy-styled weddings set in the middle of a fairyland forest somewhere are way more expensive than you think. Those ironic mustaches on sticks don’t stitch themselves, those oh-so adorable photobooths aren’t cheap.

I know. We tried to rent one.

There are some things that just aren’t worth the money, and some things that are. Having just come off of figuring these things out for myself, I have a brand new perspective on what’s really important that day. On my last post, I showed you a breakdown for a budget of $12,000. Some of these percentages can be moved around, some need to be increased, some decreased, some eliminated altogether. Allow me to elaborate…

Reception – 50%: venue, rentals, catering, beverages, cake and misc.

This is where you’re really going to have to make it count. Amazingly, we came in under budget on this one.

Find an interesting venue, and you’ll cut costs. Try to rent a ballroom, and you’re going to pay for it. We held our ceremony and reception at the same venue, an art gallery. They supplied all the tables and chairs, the liability insurance and the alcohol license for one very, very low cost. Seriously, it was less than $1,400. We only had to rent linens, flatware, plates and glasses. Those rentals are kind of unassuming. You’re like, “Oh! 35 cents a fork? That’s nothing!” But, it adds up. I wasn’t very happy with how much our rentals ended up costing actually, but that was sort of a rub. We didn’t get anywhere close to the most expensive plates, but they weren’t the cheapest. Close, but not quite. I guess you can have paper plates, but do you really want to open yourself up to that sort of criticism? Rentals can be as cheap as you can get them. It’s up to you which plates and forks you pick. But, people aren’t going to care. I picked out a very specific flatware for our wedding, the handles looked like feathers. Nobody noticed. I guess in the grand scheme of things, they all contribute to an overall look, but you don’t need the most expensive design.

Catering is a big one here. You need to really do your research and find a good caterer. Not the cheapest caterer, a good caterer. A good caterer will be able to take your budget and turn you out something really amazing and delicious. I was embarrassed to tell our caterer what our budget was. I covered my eyes when I said it. Really. But she didn’t even flinch. Our dinner was incredible. People were raving about it all night. Be flexible, plan seasonally, and ask your caterer for their advice. You’ll end up with a dinner that’s fresh, unique and delicious. You don’t need a bunch of fancy finger foods for your cocktail hour. Little bites with clean flavors are where you can really stretch your money. Things like fruits, cheeses, crackers or breads, olives and nuts are easy for your guests to eat while socializing, and they won’t overshadow your dinner, which should really be the star of your food show.

Cake and beverages are up to your personal preference. We had a local restaurant make our cake and it was incredible. We opted for two sheet cakes and a display cake to cut and for pictures. Sometimes, this really won’t be the cheaper option, it just depends on where you’re buying your cake. Fondant is EXPENSIVE, and it tastes like ass. Your guests will just peel it off and throw it away, it’s a huge, costly waste. If your pastry chef is even halfway capable, the same smooth effect can be achieved with a buttercream frosting. You’ll be paying for the different levels of decor on your cake too. The gaudier your cake, the more expensive it will be. This doesn’t mean you must have a plain boring cake, it just means you have to get creative.

This was the inspiration for our cake. It didn’t cost us any extra for decor, and it was really different. We used my grandparents’ cake topper and our florist added a dahlia. It was gorgeous! When it comes down to it though, it really depends on what you want. You’ll have to make the decisions as to where you want to spend, and where you want to save.

If you have your unreasonable little heart set on a cake like this:

Be prepared to pay for it.

Beverages can be tricky too. There’s really no shame in a no host bar. In my experience, most people expect to pay for their own cocktails. We bought wine and champagne from BevMo, and a family friend bought a keg. At the end of the night, the keg floated, the champagne was (barely) gone, but we went home with a case of red wine. Our friends are big drinkers, but everyone had a good time, and we had plenty. The caterers included water, tea and coffee, we bought glass bottled Mexican Coke and Dublin Dr. Pepper. It was a definite splurge, but people loved them. I’m a hardcore Dr. Pepper fan, everyone knows it, so it was one of those personal little touches that made our wedding us.

LAWD HAVE MERCY! I wish I had one of those Dr. Peppers right now.

Obviously, the bulk of your money is going here. We considered doing just a cocktail reception, I think they’re killer fab, but our contract with the gallery allowed for so many hours, we had to have dinner. Find a cool space, start your wedding late enough, cut out dinner, and BAM! you have more money for drinks and interesting underwear. Two great tastes that taste great together.

You can have all the things you want for your reception, you just have to be realistic about what you’ll ultimately get. Creativity and patience goes a long way in figuring how to get more cost-effective versions of the things you want. I’ll eventually get into some ideas for individual aspects of a reception. But, for right now, we’re looking at the big picture. You have to start there. Jump right into minutiae, like I did, and you’ll end up very disappointed when your numbers don’t add up to what you can afford. Don’t take the time to get a good idea of where you are financially, you’re only making more work for yourself. And that’s on you, cupcake. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Just…don’t.

Measure twice, cut once, and you’ll stay within your budget while still achieving your desire effect.

Coming Soon! My very favorite part….FASHION! HAIR! MAKEUP! As a beauty professional/addict, this is a subject near and dear to my little heart. Can’t wait!

First Photo: Jeff Keen

Second Photo: Cake Coquette! by Nancy Liu Chin

Third Photo: LovinSullivanCakes

Fourth Photo: Jennifer Williams Photography

  • Sponsored By

  • Buy Something Cute