Category Archives: Wedding on a Budget

Your Engagement Photoshoot Guide While Keeping a Budget in Mind

Great tips to get your wedding engagement photo session on a budget but still beautiful.

An engagement photoshoot is the perfect way for you and your fiancé to highlight the love you have for each other. Posing in front of the camera, looking into each others’ eyes and smiling an hour away can be just what you need to begin a positive wedding planning process. Thinking about the amount of time, effort and money it takes to prepare for a wedding could lead to you and your partner placing your engagement celebration on the back burner. Remember, this moment is worth cherishing and should be more than just the actual proposal– and an intimate photo session is just the perfect way to honor it. Here are some valuable tips to consider when planning an engagement photoshoot on a budget.

Do Some Research

Searching for the perfect engagement photographer can be difficult and time-consuming if you aren’t prepared with a list of questions to ask about their service. If you have a specific theme, moment or detail you want to incorporate into the photo session, it is important to run those by them. The more requests you share, the better the feedback you’ll receive about their ability to accommodate your needs and wants. Once you’ve scheduled a time to meet up, ask them about their pricing list. Do they charge per hour? How many pictures will you recieve for the given price? Knowing the specifics will give you a clear understanding of how greatly you’re sticking to your budget.

Evaluate Your Current Expenses

Along with the additional costs that will come with a wedding, it is important to divide your current expenses to determine how much you should spend on engagement photos. In order to save as much as you can for your actual wedding, create a budget that includes your engagement session so you see how much money you have left over. Worst case scenario, you can use a personal loan to afford the cost of your engagement pictures to avoid a stressful situation. There is nothing worse than having a pre-wedding financial disaster, especially on something that is supposed to bring you happiness. Though, remember, that loan will have to be paid off, and you don’t want financial stress after the big day, either.

Look for Inexpensive Locations

The great news is that an engagement photoshoot does not have to be as over the top as you think. A great photographer can adapt to any scenery and make it work. To save money, explore local parks, or research inexpensive studios online. Depending on where you live, the location opportunities could be endless.

Look for Photographers with Discounts or Coupons

Before scheduling your session, it is important to look for discount codes or coupons that can decrease the price even more. Groupon is a great resource for finding local photographers in your area that offer a discount. If you find a photographer that you really connect with, see if they can give you a deal for booking them for both the engagement and wedding. This entails that the photographer will have steady work, so it is possible they will combine two discounts to drop the total price even more.

Consider Hiring a Talented Friend

If you’re having trouble finding an inexpensive photographer with years of expertise, consider asking a family member or close family friend to take your engagement photos. Many times, photographers charge by the amount of time they’ve been in the business and their experience with a certain type of photoshoot. Someone in your family may be just as talented and will except a small gift or cash as a way to compensate.

 

 

Easy Tricks to Save Money on Wedding Gowns

This post, which is contributed by an outside writer, is brought to you by JJs House.

Great tips! My BFF just got engaged--pinning for when she goes wedding dress shopping!

Every bride wants to make her wedding day extremely special. She tries to manage everything within her wedding budget. But there’s one thing most brides don’t like to compromise on: wedding dresses.

Fortunately, you can find beautiful wedding dresses at an affordable price. You will need to strategize ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to plan out all the small details. To make your search easy, get an idea of a budget for your wedding gown. Then sit down with these ideas that can help you in the selection of a beautiful dress within your budget.

A Beautiful Trunk Show

If you are crushing on a particular wedding dress, choose a trunk show. In trunk shows, designers highlight their new or current collection at bridal boutiques. These boutiques list their shows in advance, so you can easily shop dresses for your wedding.

While scheduling your appointment, you have to ask the greeter about purchase incentives. In this way, you can get bonus items for free while you buy a beautiful dress. Incentives can be a veil or a unique wedding accessory. You have to do your research before going shopping to make this process easy.

Try Rented Dresses

If you can’t buy an expensive wedding dress because of your tight budget, you can consider renting this dress. There are tons of sites out there that allow you to rent a dress, searching within your budget.

You can rent a wedding dress for almost eight days for $525 or even less. Many times you’ll find high-profile designers for rent on these sites. People wear the dress once and then try to recoup some of their expenses by renting out or reselling the dress.

Make sure to read the terms, conditions, and policies before you borrow a dress. Confirm any payment plans so you don’t accidentally miss a payment.

Pre-loved Wedding Gowns

If you love a designer wedding gown and it is out of your budget, you can consider alternative options. Used bridal dresses are readily available, especially with sites specialized in re-selling designer gowns. You can wear a wedding gown for only once and only for a short time–at least in a way that’s socially acceptable. Reselling is a more practical choice than paying a bunch of money to store it in your attic for some hypothetical grandchild who won’t want to wear it someday.

With you purchase a used wedding dress, you can wear a wedding gown from your favorite designer at a good discount. Or, if you purchase the dress new, you can resell the gown on the market after your wedding to recoup upwards of 70 to 75 percent of the purchase price.

Select Must-Have Items

Start shopping based on the elements on your wish list and eliminate pricey or less critical items. Select a must-have or focal point item for your wedding dress to control your budget while widening your choices. Shop your wedding dress with an open mind. Consider a sequined bodice with a beautiful skirt instead of intricate lace gowns. You can up the glitz by instead accenting with unique jewelery and shoes. You can even browse bridesmaid dresses to find a white gown for your wedding. These options can be affordable for anyone.

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to Buy Wedding Jewelry

Great insider tips for the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry!

It happened right before Thanksgiving.  I got a card in the mail from a jeweler that had somehow found out I was getting married.  Come in to the store and we’ll give you some free earrings, no purchase necessary.  All I had to do was come in between Black Friday and Christmas.

So I did.  Of course.  While I was there, I figured I might as well look at wedding bands as I hadn’t yet gotten one for the fiance.  He hadn’t gotten his ring size yet, but the jeweler showed me the selection and told me I should definitely buy before Christmas.

She told me during the holidays jewelers freeze their prices, regardless of how gold or silver performs in the stock market, and then they put on all these fabulous sales.  After the holidays the sales stop, and they resume pricing their products based on the current value of gold/silver, etc.

I walked out with a coupon, but ended up not going back because the prices were far outside of my budget.  This is my second go around with the whole marriage thing.  The last time I got married was before the housing bubble burst and the price of precious metals comparatively skyrocketed.  So what I had been expecting to spend versus the reality I had just been confronted with had really hit home.

About halfway through the crazy holiday shopping season, we were out as a family at the mall buying the gifts that we still needed to fill in.  We stopped at a different jeweler to get him sized.  He saw some rings he liked, and the prices here were a lot more affordable.

I asked the woman waiting on us if what the other jeweler had told me was true:  would prices go up after Christmas?  Was this really the best time of year to buy?

She told me yes, and confessed that they would continue to have 40% off sales, but that it wouldn’t be on as wide of an array of products and that they would resume following the stock market when pricing their products.

We looked around the mall a bit, and found that the jeweler we had started with had the best prices for their selection.  So we headed back.  I handed the girl at the counter the business card of the woman I had been talking to before; I wanted to talk to her again so she could get the sale she had earned.

She took the card from me, put it under the desk, and started to show me Tungsten rings.  She was talking the fiance into it, too, despite my vocal protests that I didn’t want to spend that much money on a ring that (in my opinion, which may be completely wrong,) is a fad.  On top of that you can’t resize it.  I wanted gold or silver, and I wanted it in my price range.

She refused to show us the rings I asked to see, and lost a sale.

Time went on.  It was the night before Christmas Eve and I was freaking out because I was going to miss the best time of year to get these sales.  So I went on-line, fully intending to price compare and find a store that had a good selection for when I went in person on the morrow.

Of all places, I found it on Sears website.  A ring almost exactly like one he had seen and liked in a “real” metal, and in my price range.  And it was a comfort-fit, which is a bonus the fiance won’t even understand, but he’ll unknowingly appreciate it.

It said it wasn’t available in store because it was shipped by the original jeweler directly.  I checked out the original jeweler, and they had the ring for less on their website. Plus I found a coupon code for 5% off (which can be huge when you’re spending hundreds,) and free shipping.

I held my breath as I pressed the “Complete Purchase” button. I had gone mad. I was purchasing jewelry on-line based off an internet picture, and then having it shipped to my house hoping the mailman wouldn’t just leave it out on the street.

But I did it anyways. I was not going to have to go out on Christmas Eve.

So a few days ago it came.  All my fears were laid to rest.  It was exactly like the pictures.  (Though I can’t take a good one.)  The post office actually left me a note requesting that I pick it up rather than leaving it in the mailbox or on the street.

I couldn’t be more surprised that I didn’t hit a snag or problem. It’s at least as beautiful as the pieces we saw at all those other stores, and so much more affordable.

If you’re comparing pictures online, it’s a good idea to look at sites like James Allen. They provide a 360 degree view of their products, so its easier to see what you’re getting than with simple 2D pictures.

Since I had already seen pretty much the same exact men’s ring before, it made it easier for me to create a mental composite from 2D. Had I not, or if I had been shopping for an engagement ring with a diamond, the 360 degree view would have been something I mandated from my online jeweler.

I did some price comparison after the holidays.  I didn’t save any money by freaking out on Christmas Eve.  I didn’t spend more, either, though.  Prices on the products I was looking at were pretty  much the same.

I did some research independent of jewelry store salespeople and found that the best time of year for jewelry spans pretty wide:  October to February.  (Valentine’s Day anyone?)  So I did well.  I just didn’t need to stress quite so much about my timeline.

Brick & Mortar vs Online Retailers

Since this article went live in January of 2014, there have been several articles floating about the web citing summer as the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry. I’d like to present some context to that argument in a 2017 update.

The first thing to note is that at brick and mortar retailers, this may be true. Shopping online, though, can save you anywhere up to 50% over these in-person retailers–no matter the time of year.

When I asked Oded Edelman, Co-Founder and CEO of James Allen, about the difference, he explained it in this way:

“We take a consumer-focused approach to our promotions in order to make the experience as positive as we can during key times throughout the year. Our research has shown that the majority of engagements happen in the four months between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.”

“Typically brick and mortar retailers have entirely different cost structures thanks to holding inventory, overhead costs, etc,” he continues. “Their operations structures as well as their marketing tactics are very different, which may lead to higher costs for the end consumer.”

This means the biggest sales at online retailers, at least at consumer-oriented businesses like Edelman’s, do indeed happen between October and February.

 

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.