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.

See?

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 PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com 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

You’re engaged! That’s adorable. Show everyone your ring, make a lot of unnecessary gestures with your left hand, get your friends all curious about who you love enough to ask to be a bridesmaid, start saving your cans.

Seriously. You’re about to get poor.

If you’re lucky enough to have your parents paying for your wedding, congratulations princess, this won’t apply to you. If you’re like me, you’ll be eating a lot of weird combinations of things you have in the fridge and pantry while you wait for the next payday. We won’t be like this for long though. Our wedding was two weeks ago, and we’re looking to be back to normal within a couple of weeks. The goal here is to only get a little bit poor. Just barely poor. Poor-curious.

The first thing you’re going to need is a budget. Whether you’re paying for this glorious day yourself, or you have some help, you need to know what you can realistically afford. This is the kind of boring shit you don’t think about when you’re busy dreaming about how stunning you’ll look in a veil. But, it’s the real of it. It’s going to be your every day. There aren’t a lot of people who are afforded the luxury of an unlimited wedding budget. We made the mistake of starting without one, and for that, I did a lot of math that could have been avoided. We went into this woefully unprepared. Initially, we thought my parents were going to pay for it, they had paid for both of my sisters’ weddings, and I had always been told they were going to pay for mine too. But, times is tough, and we ended up shouldering the majority of the cost. Because of this unexpected development, we had nothing saved up, no bridal war-chest to unlock. Everything was paycheck to paycheck. If you can, start saving now. Every little bit helps to get you just that much further ahead. Luckily, overblown and overdone weddings are way gauche. Glam is the name of the game, tacky is not.

Let’s say you have a budget of $12,000. Some people will think this is a lot, some people will think it’s not. It is a very doable amount though. We shot for $10,000 and ended up somewhere between there and $12,000. Not too bad. In retrospect, there were some things we could have saved on if we had started out with a clearer approach and budget.

So let’s break it down:

Reception – 50% ($6,000): venue, rentals, catering, beverages, cake and misc.

Attire – 10% ($1,200): gown, alterations, headpiece, veil, shoes, jewelry, hair & makeup, groom’s tux and suit, grooms accessories and misc.

Flowers & Decorations – 10% ($1,200): arrangements for ceremony, flower girl’s petals and basket, ring pillow, bride’s bouquet, bridesmaids’ bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, reception decorations, lighting and misc.

Music – 10% ($1,200): ceremony musicians, cocktail-hour musicians, reception band/deejay or entertainment, sound/dance floor rental and misc.

Photography & Video – 10% ($1,200): photography, videography, additional prints/albums and misc.

Favors & Gifts – 3% ($360): welcome gifts for out-of-town guests, bridal-party gifts and misc.

Ceremony – 2% ($240): site fee, officiant fee or donation, misc.

Stationery – 2% ($240): save the date cards, invitations and RSVPs, programs, seating and place cards, menu cards, thank you cards, postage and misc.

Wedding Rings – 2% ($240): bride’s ring, groom’s ring.

Transportation – 1% ($120): limo for bride and groom, limo for bridal party, transportation for out-of-town guests, valet and misc.

This is compiled from several different wedding budget worksheets. They’re basically all the same. The same percentages, the same purchases, the same everything. These are NOT my recommendations for what you should have at your wedding. Some of these things are so tacky and wasteful, I can’t even stand it. This is what the establishment wants you to buy. THE MAN. Damn the man! And damn these bourgeois trappings! Think about what’s really important to you, what you really want to spend your money on. These percentages aren’t set in stone. Next, I’ll tell you where to cut and where to splurge.

Until then, remember this…

Limousines are for high schoolers and bachelorettes.

Photo: Brian Henderson

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