Category Archives: Wedding on a Budget

Self-Uniting Marriage Can Save Brides Money


We are not particularly religious people.  Okay, we’re not religious at all.  We try our best to be spiritual, good people.  Just not in an organized, Sunday-church-going type of way.  So a church marriage was just not “us.”  We’ll just be getting married at our reception site by a family member who is ordained.

But let’s say we weren’t lucky enough to have that option.  It would be super weird and inconvenient to pay a religious leader we didn’t know or really even support to officiate our vows.  Or what if we were atheist and didn’t want to go to the Justice of the Peace?  Or get married on a boat or by a mayor?

Pennsylvania can be pretty cool.

Luckily, we live in the great state of Pennsylvania, where reverent, God-fearing people have accidentally paved the way for modern-day heathens.  (At least I’m sure that’s how the 1700s group would view us.)  Quakers played a huge role in the foundation of this state.  One of the many laws that reflects that is self-uniting marriage.  Because they traditionally have no clergy, when Quakers marry they don’t have an officiant, as it’s God marrying  them, not any man.

This is why for all of its history Pennsylvania has allowed self-uniting marriages.  So if you want to just write your own vows, you can.  And skip the clergy fee.  (Just make sure you have two witnesses.) I think it could be kind of beautiful.  (Though I’m happy with our decision to have our family member involved; it means a lot to us.)

When you go in to get your license, be sure to mention right off the bat that you want a self-uniting marriage.  Do your research before you apply.  Some clerks might be jerks and refuse to give it to you.  If you do get a jerk clerk, you really could, and I’d argue should, throw this ACLU case in their face.

Essentially what happened was that Allegheny county asked a couple if they were Quakers. They said no.  So they refused to give them the license.

Let me recap:  they asked them their religion, and because of their answer, refused them a government service.  Allegheny county screwed up royally.  So from what I understand they are now much more accommodating to couples who want to take the self-uniting route.

I also understand that they do not charge a fee for this service.  This is not true in all counties.  Philadelphia county charges $90 in addition to the fee just to apply and get a normal license.  Which may start to get close to the fee an officiant would charge, making this a budget wash. UPDATE:  A reader was recently issued a self-uniting marriage license in Philadelphia county.  Contrary to how it is presented on their website, the fee for that county is only an additional $10, making the entire affair $90 TOTAL.

If you live near a county other than the one you live in, try giving them a call to see what their fees (and jerk levels) are.  In Pennsylvania, it doesn’t matter if your license is issued by a county other than the one you live in or the one you will be married in.  As long as it comes from PA and you get married in PA, you’re good.

Planning a wedding on a budget? Get this free budgeting template!

Other states offer self-uniting marriage, too.

Here are some states that offer similar options, or just options that may be better for some more secular couples:

  • Colorado also offers self-uniting marriages.
  • UPDATE!  Thanks to a reader comment, we now know that Washington DC‘s laws changed in 2013 to allow self-uniting marriages.
  • UPDATE! Thanks to a reader comment, we now know that Wisconsin offers self-uniting marriages in much the same way Pennsylvania does.  It was set up for specific religious purposes, but it is illegal to deny a couple a self-uniting license because of their religion.  Meaning that as it goes it PA, it goes it Wisconsin.
  • UPDATE! Thanks to a reader’s efforts, California now has a precedent for performing non-Quaker non-clergy marriages. (AKA self-uniting marriages where you don’t have to be a Quaker.)
  • Let’s say you don’t have a religious leader in your family.  In Massachusetts, anyone can become a Justice of the Peace for a day, specifically for the purposes of marrying a friend or family member.  (Or just anyone.)  The fee to apply is only $25, so most people would be saving money vs. a professional clergy member.  And you can get married by anyone that’s super close to  you.  Or just anyone  you want.

If you know of any other pretty cool state marriage laws pertaining to the officiating, let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

How to Find Inexpensive Engagement Rings

Explore ways to get inexpensive engagement rings without neccesarily sacrificing quality.

It’s proposal season! For those on the hunt for inexpensive engagement rings, here are a slew of alternatives to walking into a big box store and paying whatever they tell you it costs. An engagement ring is undoubtedly a huge purchase, but there are ways you can save a ton of money so you don’t start your marriage off broke.

Inexpensive Engagement Rings? Try free!

Student Debt Survivor started a great discussion on engagement rings a while back.  In her post, KK asked if it was frugal or tacky to purchase a used ring.  While I was among the few who voted tacky, I mostly did so because I was afraid of the bad juju that could come from someone else’s broken dreams. There was nothing rational behind it.

The rational argument is that a ring is a ring, whether you buy it from a store at the mall or have it passed down to you from your mom after your parents divorced. If it’s pretty and she’ll like it, there’s no logical reason to not take the free ring. You can use the extra money you didn’t spend on a ring for the wedding or honeymoon, or throw it towards a down payment for a house.

Cluster Engagement Rings

Another way you can save on engagement ring is by buying a cluster ring.  Instead of one large diamond in the center, there are several smaller ones.  At first glance you wouldn’t necessarily notice, and you can get a lot more bling for your buck.

If you don’t want this kind of ring, be careful.  The jeweler won’t necessarily warn you that it’s a cluster ring, and rings are  usually advertised with the total carat weight.  For example, “1 carat weight total” could be made up of four 1/4 carat weight diamonds. When you’re looking at inexpensive engagement rings, it’s smart to ask, “Is this one a cluster ring?”

Save Oodles By Buying Online

When I was buying my husband’s ring, I came across an awesome savings hack: buy online. When you buy direct from the jeweler, you save an incredible amount of money over the prices in a physical store. I was a little wary when I did this, but it couldn’t have turned out any better. If you pursue this route, there are a couple things you’ll want to take into consideration.

The first is that you want to have a good view of the ring. If the site doesn’t provide 3D imaging, you may want to find a site that does. To check out a great example of quality 3D imaging on engagement rings, check out James Allen. If you find yourself on a site that’s providing you with images inferior to theirs, I would stay away.

Another thing to stay away from is sites that have tight return policies. You have to order the ring, have it shipped to you, and then actually look at it to make sure you like it and that it’s legit. Tight return policies don’t allow you to do this. Make sure the return policy gives you enough time to go through all of these steps. Look for at least 30 days, and free shipping on returns.

My experience buying online couldn’t have been better. Purchasing this way saved me a lot of money, and I hit none of the snags I was fearful of. The ring was legit and beautiful, and arrived in plenty of time for the big day.

Buy in Pieces

My last tip for purchasing an inexpensive engagement ring is to buy the two pieces separately; buy the diamond direct from a diamond dealer/wholesaler, and then buy the ring from the jeweler and have them set it.  Some cities even have a diamond district, most notably New York City. Using this strategy, you may be better going to a local jeweler than a big box store to have it set, but both should be able to handle it.

Some online stores allow you to use this method, too, so you could save even more money by going that route, matching the diamond with the setting while benefiting from the direct-from-jeweler pricing.

What are you opinions on the ring matter?  How far would you go to save?  Or did you splurge?

You may also like: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to Buy Wedding Jewelry

*This post contains affiliate links. You do not pay more for using these links. In fact, sometimes they allow me to bring you better deals.*

How to Make Your Own Place Cards for Free with Word and PicMonkey—Or Just Use My Template

I don’t know why I thought finding a free template for place cards for the wedding would be a good idea.  

You’d think I’d have learned after the DIY invitation fiasco.  

But I didn’t.  

I spent way too much time online trying to find a decent template in the right colors that looked fancy enough for our trying-to-be-fancy-even-though-we’re-not wedding.

Eventually I got sick of it.

I decided to make my own.  

From start to finish I was done in ten minutes. It was so easy I don’t know why I didn’t think to do it before.

If you like the template I’ve got going on here, feel free to download it and use at will.  If not, you can check out tons of different color options in the Etsy shop.

free place card template

Subscribe to Download the Blue Place Card Template for FREE!

Open up Microsoft Word.  

Select “Create a New Document,” and search for “Place Cards” in the template search.  

Select “Clouds design, fold-over style, 4 per page.”  

Open it.

Select the background.

Select the background on each of the four place cards and delete.  Under “TABLE TOOLS”  select the DESIGN tab.  Under that tab to the right you will see all the border options.  Click on the arrow in the drop down box that says “No Border.”  Select some type of dashed or dotted line border so you will know where to cut the cards.

Go to PicMonkey.  

PicMonkey is super-easy-to-use, online photo editing software.

I have a subscription for work, but you can use the free trial option to access it for free as you edit your wedding templates.

If you fall in love and need it in your life, you’ll save $12 off a regular subscription and $20 off a Pro subscription by signing up here.

Once you’re in, select “Create New” and then “Blank Canvas.”

Select “Background Color” under the “Edits” menu.

You will find this menu on the right-hand side of your screen.

Click on the pallette option on the left. There should be an option beneath the colors to click “Transparent.” Select it.

Go down to the Square, Circle, Triangle image on the left.  

These are your Graphics.  

Pick an appropriate graphic for the border surrounding the name on your place card.  

For our wedding, the best options were under the “Scrapbooky” category.  

Pick your overlay and put it on the big white box. Resize it to make it kind of big relative to that big white box.

Change your graphic’s color to match your theme.

You can change the color by having it selected, and then clicking on the color you want in the little pop-up box that shows up on the right side of the screen.  

Save your image.  You’re done with PicMonkey.

Return to the Word place card document.  

Go to the INSERT tab, and then click on Picture –you’ll find it towards the left.  

Select your PicMonkey image/design from the previous steps. Open and insert it.

Under “PICTURE TOOLS,” click on FORMAT.  

In the center right-ish, click on Position, and then click on More Options.  Go to the Text Wrapping tab, and select Behind Text.   Click OK.

Resize and move your image/border/design thing so that it’s lined up with the names in the center.  Remember, these cards will be folded in half.  

Now copy the image, and paste it in the other 3 place cards, centering as you go along.  The sizing should be identical across all the cards.

Edit your text.  

Adjust size and font to your liking. I preferred any font that had “Script” after it for this specific event.  

Edit the names to reflect who will be at your event, and print!

Cut. Fold. Done.

All that’s left to do is cut and fold your invites. I definitely used a paper cutter to help with this part of the process.

I hope your big day is absolutely beautiful! Congrats on doing it frugally without sacrificing quality!

7 Accessories Your Bachelorette Party Needs

Throwing a bachelorette party?  Make sure to get your hands on these must-have seven accessories.

Are you planning a bachelorette party? If you are the bride, or one of the crew, any girls’ night out is sure to be remembered for a while. The only thing that is missing are the accessories! No bachelorette’s party is complete without over-the-top decorations to let the world know how much fun you’re having. Here are a few accessories your bachelorette’s party needs.


Sashes are a great way to celebrate the bride. Various colours and varieties are available that will showcase both the bride and her friends. The sky is the limit when it comes to decorating yourselves for a big night out. You can even personalise it further with specific details about the nuptials. If nothing else, every bride-to-be needs a sash.

Champagne glasses

Why not commemorate the event with detailed glasses engraved with the bride’s name? Companies like Personalised Favours offer a range of affordable champagne and wine glasses for the classiest of affairs. They can easily engrave a special message that all of the attendees will appreciate for years to come.

Shot glasses

If champagne and wine are not your thing, what about shot glasses? Shot glasses are easy to carry and make a great collector’s item. You can even find shot glasses with a chain attached for a hands-free look. Shot glass favours are sure to start the night off with a bang.


T-shirts are a classic way to remember any event. What better way than to keep track of the party than with matching shirts in bright pink? Unlike a sash, a t-shirt is an item that is likely to be used time and again even after the bachelorette party. T-shirts are for the more casual crew, but can still be mixed with the traditional flair.

Feather boas

A staple for any bachelorette party is the feather boa. Whether the boa belongs to only the bride, or to the girl having the most fun, feathers are a must have accessory for any pre-wedding celebration. Make it a round-robin where everyone has a chance to wear the boa during the night! The last one wearing it, wins.

Shiny tiaras

Every bride-to-be needs a shiny tiara on what might be her last big night out before becoming a wife. Hen’s night tiaras come in a wide array of styles, and who knows – the bride-to-be may want to wear it even after the night is over!

Pink tutus

Much like the feather boas, pink tutus are present at a large majority of bachelorette’s nights. As much as the tutu screams party, it is very much a personality choice for the bride herself. A lot of brides choose the tutu because when else do they get the chance? A bachelorette tutu is a great chance for the bride to be daring!

A bachelorette party is a night to do something different, not only for the bride, but for her friends as well. It is a night to simply have fun and celebrate. What better way than with a myriad of great accessories to top it all off? Shop smart, and you can score all of the above on any budget.



*This post, contributed by an outside writer, is made possible by Personalised Favours.*

DIY or BUY: Kate Spade Style Centerpieces


Please welcome back Katie with another wedding post from her fab, polka-dot, Pi Day, DIY wedding! You can check out previous posts she’s written for Femme Frugality here

I’m not sure if it’s become obvious over the last several months, but I’ve got a polka dot addiction—the expensive kind, to boot, because I love Kate Spade and anything the company puts polka dots on.  When I had the fairytale moment imagining the grand scene that would play out at our reception, I saw dainty polka dot vases filled with frothy white flowers.  I started shopping, though, and the frosted dot vases I found were way too expensive (read:  $60-$90 per vase!!!!) to put on 16 tables.  So I turned to my dearest friends Google and Pinterest to help spark my inspiration and my patient then fiancé, Brian, to help me complete the task.

Luckily for me, I wasn’t the first person to attempt this endeavor and I found these instructions.  Here are a few modifications that we made:

The Vaaaaahses

  • This is hardly news to anyone, but bears reminding: your local dollar store is your friend! We were able to get vases for a $1 apiece.  If you’d like a mismatched look, a thrift store may get you deeper discounts.
  • Soak any dollar store vases in water to get the stickers off.  Man, were those a pain!
  • The bowls are cheap enough that you can buy an extra in case something happens.  As a previous scout, I know to be prepared.

Gettin’ Dotty

  • Instead of using painters tape, we used vinyl dots and dot outlines (courtesy of our best man’s company). The vinyl was a bit thicker so we could build up several layers of paint.
  • A hair dryer was our best friend to stretch the vinyl dots so they would curve nicely against the shape of the bowl.  In any other variation of directions, we didn’t see a way to get the paper sticker dots to mold.  Perhaps using smaller dots eliminates this problem.
  • We did the dots frosted and the opposite version where the dots weren’t frosted, but the rest of the vase was.  While they look pretty, the inverse version requires a lot of tape to mask off the sections in between dots.  Looking back, I wouldn’t have spent time on this, but I’ve included it in the cost.
  • Clean the glasses with paint thinner and let dry AFTER applying dots.  Skin oils make for weird spray patterns.
  • Not-so-pro tip: Don’t try to cover the frosted paint with clear gloss.  It negates the frosti-ness.

Centerpiece Perfection

  • Wrap the vases in newspaper for storage.  They scratch easily since the frosted paints sits on top of the glass, but doesn’t seep in like it would on a porous wood.
  • Using less expensive but fuller in season flowers (carnations, peonies) will cut down costs.
  • Dying the water with food coloring will help your dots show through.  We originally asked our florist for this, but somehow it didn’t happen. Oh well.

The Breakdown

Here’s what we spent:

  • 16 bowl vases  – $17.12
  • 2 tall vases for head table – $2.14
  • 2 cans frosted spray paint – $8.05
  • Vinyls – free, but could be sourced for < $10 with some searching
  • Painter’s tape – already had, but < $4 at a big box store if you need to buy

So if this matches your wedding style (or baby shower, wedding shower, etc) and meets your crafting comfort level, for less than $2.30 a piece, you can have Kate Spade-esque vases.

If anyone in the Pittsburgh area is in the market for some polka dot centerpieces or 40-some votives, let me know!

Wedding Photography // Elizabeth Anne Studios | Florist // Flowers by Terry