Category Archives: Wedding on a Budget

Cactus Invites and Free Wedding Websites

This post is in collaboration with Basic Invite.

I love how this website matches the design of your free wedding website to the design of your customizable wedding invitations!

Did you guys know cactus-themed weddings were a thing?

Apparently they became all the rage in 2017 and are still going strong. I’ve been out of the wedding game for a minute, but I can see it. Southwestern themes. Saving a ton of money on flowers. I could definitely be into it.

Cactus Wedding Invitations

You guys know that I’m all about not DIYing wedding invitations. I still have flashbacks to all that time spent in front of my printer years ago. Ordering them is the way to go.

Just as I was learning about cactus-themed weddings, I learned about Basic Invite–a custom invitation company that offer a slew of stationary options, including cactus wedding invites.

I’m loving playing around with the site because not only can you pick a design from a plethora of options, but you can also customize everything down to the color. There are literally 180 custom colors to choose from, which means matching to your wedding’s theme would be easy breezy.

It’s also really cool that you can order custom samples so you can see how your invites will look in person before ordering 200+ of them. On top of that, they have an address collection system which automatically gathers postal addresses from your family and friends via a link, and then allows Basic Invite to use that data to print your envelopes for free.

So there’s a lot of free and there’s a lot of customization. Which is awesome for budget-conscious brides-to-be.

Free Wedding Website

Oh, you were interested in more free stuff? Well, then. You’re in luck.

On top of all the cool stuff they offer with the wedding invitations, Basic Invite also offers free wedding websites. Free wedding websites aren’t too hard to come by, but I love this option because it’s just as customizable as the invitations. You get to pick from those 180 colors, and you can even coordinate your website and invitations to match.

Yes, that means you can have your cactus-themed wedding invitations match your cactus-themed wedding website.

Now you just have to do the calculations on how much cactus leaves are going to save or cost you over florals.

 

Ideas to Save Money on Your Wedding

Today’s author is QL from Smart Money and Travel Blog. She and her husband write about personal finance and maximizing your miles and points. 

I would have never thought of this to save money on a wedding dress! Tons of other ideas in here, too.

Our first wedding anniversary is coming up in April and we have recently taken time to reflect on the experience. Back in 2017, we weren’t exactly focused on FIRE (financial independence/early retirement,) but as first-generation immigrants, we have always been frugal and into saving for retirement. Toward the end of the last year, we decided to be more purposeful about our retirement goals. Thus, as we look in the rearview mirror on our wedding day, we wanted to share some thoughts on wedding planning. As we went through it, we didn’t always choose the cheapest alternative, but there were many areas where we either saved money, wished we hadn’t spent the money we did or were happy with our investment.

 

pink bridesmaids dress

Do the math on BYOB if it is an option

Alcohol is a staple at weddings, and it can sometimes cost more than the food itself. Over half of our guests were our parents’ friends. On top of that, our venue was in a secluded location accessed by a poorly lit, windy highway. Thus, we didn’t expect many of our guests to get very aggressive at the bar. Luckily, our venue had a BYOB + corkage fee option. We made some estimates and ran the math, comparing it with the all-you-can-drink option, which was $22.50/person. In the end, we went with the BYOB option and spent a little more than $6,000 on beverages.

Ask yourself if you really care about a wedding cake

At other weddings that we attended, we noticed that the cake was rarely eaten by guests. We also do not value taking a portion of our cake and freezing it to enjoy at some point in the future – that concept never really took hold with either of us. Therefore, we asked ourselves what we and our guests would more enjoy than an overpriced wedding cake.

We ultimately decided to go with che, a Vietnamese dessert, from our favorite chain Bambu. We worked out some details with the local franchise, and the morning of the wedding we picked up 200 servings and stored them in the venue’s walk-in cooler. After dinner, we had it brought out and set up. Our vendor provided all the cups and utensils so our venue did not charge us any additional fees. Our guests loved the unique dessert idea and our only regret was not purchasing more as it quickly ran out. The che station was more popular than the bar! We spent $400 on the che.

Make your own wedding favors

Another thing we noticed at previous weddings we attended was that many guests did not take home the wedding favors and some even threw the favors away. Thinking this through, we wanted to give something that was inexpensive, practical, and tied to our East Meets West wedding theme. We decided to go with a decorative and usable pair of chopsticks from eBay for each guest, pairing it with a printed card. Together with our wedding party and families, we spent a few hours tying everything together with a ribbon. In the end, we spent less than $100. Many of our guests collected the extras so we didn’t even have any for ourselves.

Shop around for your photographer and videographer

When we started evaluating photographers and videographers for our wedding, we noticed that the more established ones charged a significant premium for their services. These costs easily broke $10,000 and in some cases could exceed $20,000. This was significantly more than we were expecting to pay (we were hoping to spend ~$5,000).

We searched harder, looking for lesser known local photographers in Northern California on Facebook. A few stood out, and I scheduled appointments with them and flew back one weekend to meet everyone in person. I picked the one I liked the most and it ended up costing about $5,000 for an engagement session, a photo canvas, an entire day of photography (16 hours total), a photobooth, and a 5 minute wedding video.

Don’t get too hung up over a fancy dinner

For our wedding, we hosted two dinners. One welcome dinner for out-of-town guests and the second was the formal wedding dinner.

The welcome dinner for out-of-town guests was held at our brother’s restaurant about 50 miles south of the wedding venue. Our guests flew from all over the country so no one complained at all about driving the extra 50 miles. By hosting it at our brother’s restaurant, not only did he offer us a generous discount on the food, but we were also able to bring our own beer. This meal for ~30 guests cost about $100 and we gave another $100 for gratuity.

For our wedding, we could choose between a plated or buffet dinner. The plated dinner cost about 50% more. Obviously, we chose the buffet option as we did not think it would negatively affect the experience for our guests. In the end, there were no complaints about the food or the environment. If we could do it again we would not change a thing. Dinner cost over $12,000 with tax and gratuity.

Sometimes it makes sense to pay for things like flowers instead of doing everything yourself

Keeping your wedding small and doing everything yourself can save you a ton of money, however, we did neither. We wanted a wedding to include a lot of friends and family, and we did not have a lot of time to cobble things together ourselves before the wedding.

We flew back to California from Chicago two days before the wedding and not only didn’t have the time but also didn’t want to place a large burden on our friends by asking them to help make centerpieces and other floral arrangements. Therefore, we decided to have the florist handle everything. This ended up costing us over $5,500, but we and our friends were able to enjoy the day.

Utilize miles and points for wedding dress shopping

Many brides spend thousands of dollars on wedding dresses. I didn’t want to spend that much on a dress that is worn for a few hours. Therefore, I used my airline miles to book my mom and myself tickets to fly to Vietnam. There, I was able to buy 3 wedding dresses for $150, total, as well as get all clothing and accessories for the wedding party, which ended up costing about $170. I also got our invitations made for $115 and picked them up while I was there.

If you want to see a detailed summary of our wedding costs, check out the numbers here.

 

Insure Your Future Self with Separate Finances

Must-read for every bride who is getting married. It's awesome that you're in love right now, but the numbers don't lie: you might end up divorced someday. Take action now to protect your future finances.

Very few people walk down the aisle with the expectation of pending divorce. Yet only 52% of women will see their first marriage reach its 20th anniversary.

The odds of experiencing this life catastrophe are high. But unless you’ve got money coming into a marriage and drafted a pre-nup, we do almost nothing about it. Most of us do nothing to financially protect ourselves.

To give you some perspective on the numbers, here are some things we do tend to financially insurance against–along with the odds that they will actually happen.

  • The odds that your household will experience a fire bad enough to report is 25%. Yet we insure against this risk with homeowner’s or renters insurance.
  • The average State Farm auto policy holder gets into an accident once every nineteen years, making the odds admittedly higher than divorce in a first marriage. You’re about half as likely to get divorced in the first 20 years of that marriage than you are to get in a car accident in 19. Still, we insure against auto crashes.
  • If you’re an American woman, your current odds of dying between ages 15 and 60 are 7.4%. Yet how many of us carry life insurance?

We insure against all of these instances of tragedy or inconvenience, yet only one of them is more likely to happen than divorce.

Insure Your Money Against Divorce with Separate Finances

Sure, you can get a prenup to guard against future financial disadvantage, but for most people that’s not reasonable or necessary.

Instead, you can just keep all of or a portion of your finances separate throughout your marriage. This allows you to maintain your own savings, and prevents the other person from absconding with money out of a joint account should the worst happen someday.

There’s many different ways this can work. Here are just two of them.

Completely Separate

Keep everything in your name only. Bank accounts. Car loans. Etc. And have your partner do the same.

If you’re going to have a marriage with separate finances, it doesn’t have to be contentious or self-guarding. You can still work together towards financial goals, budget together, and talk about money transparently and openly while keeping everything legally separate.

In community property states some of your accounts may be up for litigation anyways. But the barrier of litigation is still better than someone legally just up and leaving with all the cash.

Separate Savings

Some couples opt to have their own accounts for things like personal savings, personal spending and birthday/anniversary surprises. Their paychecks are deposited here.

But then they send some of that money to a joint account every paycheck. This joint account covers things like the mortgage/rent, groceries, kids’ activities, etc.

You can split these costs 50/50 or work out  a different ratio that makes more sense for each spouse’s respective income.

Separate Finances Do Not Demonstrate a Lack of Trust

Some argue that if you can’t trust each other with money, you shouldn’t be married. I agree with this. You should be able to talk about money matters and work together towards financial goals.

But some take the argument even further to say that having separate finances is a protectionist move that demonstrates an inherent lack of trust. To this point I argue.

First of all, taking a rational look at the statistics, it’s not about not trusting your partner; it’s about a rational mistrust of long-term relationships in our culture. You have to trust the data rather than your current feelings in the moment.

Second of all, just because you have separate finances doesn’t mean you don’t trust each other. In fact, I view it to be just the opposite.

When you trust each other enough to believe the other partner will follow through on the money moves you have discussed and budgeted for together–even though you don’t have access to their bank account and can’t touch the money yourself–you’re demonstrating the exact definition of trust.

I’m of the opinion that partners that decide on separate finances can have an incredible amount of respect for each other on top of trust. It takes a lot of respect to say to someone, “I know there’s an almost 50% chance I may hurt you someday. I don’t plan on ever joining that group, but I love you and respect you enough to encourage you to protect yourself. I’m not going to take offense.”

But we’re never going to not be in love.

I really hope you’re right.

But so, so many people before you have thought the exact same thing and ended up divorced. Women in particular tend to end up on the short end of the financial stick. They’re more likely to have cut back their careers to support the marriage, have gaps in their resume, and are often thought of as adversarial (even when they’re not) by a judicial system that is dominated by male officials.

If you’re reticent to believe me, I’d highly encourage you to research Terry Hekker’s story.

It’s about numbers–not love.

At the end of the day, we can’t let our feelings cloud our judgement. The numbers show a statistical likelihood of relationship breakdown that can’t be ignored.

We wouldn’t ignore those numbers if we were talking about car accidents.

We wouldn’t ignore those numbers if we were talking about house fires.

We wouldn’t ignore those numbers if we were talking about death.

It’s financial folly to ignore these numbers simply because we’re in love.

 

 

 

 

This is a part of the Personal Finance Pro/Con Series organized by PeerFinance101. You can read the opposing view here.

How to Find Conflict-Free Diamonds

I'm impresed. They literally monitor the movement of these conflict-free diamonds at every point. Then you can verify it before you propose. Plus Black Friday sales!

When I was expecting, my then-boyfriend/would-be husband and I talked about getting married. We talked about all the different ways it would impact us from taxes to the fact that I was already overwhelmed enough and didn’t want to walk down the aisle pregnant.

We also talked about engagement rings. He wanted to get me something really nice, so he wanted to save up for it.

Which he did.

He also told me he didn’t want to get me a diamond.

“Why not?”

He pointed to a Leonardo DiCaprio movie sitting on the bookshelf.

“Blood diamonds,” he said. “Do you really want to wear something on your finger for the rest of your life knowing that’s where it came from?”

I pointed out that there were ethical ones, and he pointed out that you can’t be sure that the sourcing of the stone wasn’t lied about somewhere along the way. They very easily could have come from slave labor or horrific working conditions or child miners. Or a mix of all three.

“That’s fine,” I said. And it really was. “I’m totally cool with a stone sourced locally–it doesn’t even have to be a gemstone. I’ll show you some of the ones I like. You won’t have to save up for as long, either.”

Eventually, he ended up deciding that he’d try to buy ethical, but he did want to buy a diamond. He thought that everyone would judge him for the rest of our lives because his wife didn’t have a diamond on her finger.

I told him that was stupid, but this was his thing. So I let it be.

The Gold Standard of Conflict-Free Diamonds

He was told the ring was ethically sourced–that conflict-free was the only way the jewelry chain rolled.

But we still don’t really know. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to think about. More than uncomfortable.

What we didn’t know then was that there actually is a way to be sure you’re getting a conflict-free diamond. You can do it by making sure your stone is a CanadaMark.

Where do CanadaMark diamonds come from?

There are two CanadaMark diamond mines in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The stones are mined by workers who make a fair wage. CanadaMark works with the local communities–many of whom are Aboriginal and have a knowledge of the land like none other–to make sure they’re mining in sustainable ways, and taking care to bolster the environment rather than destroy it.

They also give back some of their profits to these communities through literacy, education, and health/wellness programs.

Yeah, but how do I know that’s where my diamond actually came from?

Fair question. This is an industry where tracking is always in question.

That’s why CanadaMark diamonds are literally stamped with a serial number. Each stone is tracked and verified by independent auditors–from mine all the way to polishing.

Okay…where do I get my ethical diamond?

CanadaMark only works with select retailers. I’m a big fan of shopping online as it can save you over fifty percent compared to shopping brick-and-mortar, but they only work with one online retailer.

If you’re going to shop online,  you can find CanadaMark diamonds exclusively at James Allen. Otherwise, you have to go brick and mortar and risk paying a marked up price.

You Can Still Save Money on Conflict-Free Diamond Purchases

Just because you’re going ethical doesn’t mean you can’t save money on your engagement ring purchase. By being smart about carat size, color and clarity, you can get her a gorgeous, ethical ring at a lower price.

Here’s the deets on how to make that happen.

Holiday Deals

Currently, James Allen is running a sale of 25% off your purchase for Black Friday.

If you can’t get your money together before the end of the sale, come back. I’ve been watching them for a few years now, and they have great deals throughout the holidays. Twenty-five percent is a pretty huge one, but I’m willing to bet you’ll run into another sale if you’re still trying to get your stuff together.

But how do I really know?

These rings are the gold-standard for conflict-free diamonds.

The serial number is great, but only if you can verify it. Get the diamond’s history. Certify every single time it changed hands.

Luckily, you can do just that. Before you purchase the ring, you can look at the certificate on James Allen’s site. You’ll find it under the image of the diamond. You can take the serial number and carat weight and verify it with CanadaMark before you even purchase.

After you purchase the ring, you’ll be able to enter the serial number you see on the stone using the online verification code. It will be the same, but it’s always good to check.

To top it all off, James Allen has a 30-day, 100% money-back return policy—no reasons or justifications required. They even pay for return shipping. In the unlikely event you aren’t satisfied with your purchase, you can simply return it hassle-free.

 

Did you purchase a conflict-free diamond for your engagement? What was your experience like? Do you still have concerns like I do, having not purchased a CanadaMark? Let me know in the comments!

Get the Biggest Bang for Your Engagement Ring Buck

Super great savings tips from this industry expert. Showing these to my partner before they buy my engagement ring!

Engagement ring shopping isn’t something you do everyday. If you’re lucky, you do it once in your lifetime. If you’re brave enough to move on after a failed first attempt (been there,) you might do it once or twice more.

But it’s not a shopping muscle we flex on a regular basis like groceries or cell phone providers. It’s something we really have to research if we want to do it right.

Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, which allows us to access insider information like the following money-saving tips from Oded Edelman, co-founder and CEO of James Allen. James Allen is an online jeweler with a ten-year history of bringing customers beautiful, conflict-free diamonds at a fraction of the price of brick-and-mortar retailers.

Here are Edelman’s top three savings tips.

Save Money by Shopping for Your Engagement Ring Online

ways to save on engagment rings

“Typically brick and mortar retailers have entirely different cost structures thanks to holding inventory, overhead costs, etc,” says Edelman.

He notes that these cost structures may result in higher costs for the end consumer, and that by shopping at online retailers like James Allen, you can save up to 50%.

Look for Underweight Diamonds

Save money on engagement rings

Most diamonds are going to come in standard carat sizes. For example, you might find a 1.0 carat diamond or a 1.5 carat diamond.

“Look for an under-size diamond—one that’s slightly below one of the standard weights,” Edelman advises. “These diamonds cost significantly less than their standard-weight counterparts and are nearly identical to the naked eye.”

Get the Most Bang for Your Buck by Shopping Color and Clarity

Insider savings tips from jewelry expertsYou want to get a nice ring, and you can do it without breaking the bank. In fact, Edelman notes that the best way to achieve optimal value is by shooting for slightly lower than optimum color and clarity. These differences are minuscule–most of the time they’re not visible to the naked eye. But they make a huge difference to your wallet.

Which means you’ll be looking at rings in these ranges:

  • Color. Shop for rings with slightly lower colors–in the G to J range.
  • Clarity. Shop for rings with slightly lower clarity–in the SI1 to SI2 range.

“They can cost half as much of high color/high clarity options, without any visible sacrifice in beauty,” says Edelman.

Now is a great time to shop.

At least for customer-centric online retailers like James Allen, you’re going to find the most sales at this time of year—October through February. Here’s why.

 

Find any of these tips helpful? Use different methods to save on your engagement ring purchase? Leave your story in the comments!