Throwback Thursday: 1 Month From 1 Year

One month from today marks Chris’ and my one year anniversary (married… it’s unfortunate that the four years together pre-marriage get thrown aside for tracking)!

This meant that today’s throwback thursday post was an easy choice. The above photo was taken the moment after Chris and I had officially been declared husband and wife. I had just finished crying after going second in reading our personal vows and Chris had kissed the bride. We walked back up the aisle to a major Chris song (that I also like) called You Make My Heart Beat Faster by The Distillers, you should give it a listen and then take another look at the featured photo above. We had so much fun at our wedding and it was very us – thrifty and quirky!

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Another one of my favourite photos from our wedding!
They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but I wonder if that’s changed since people have started living together more commonly as unmarried couples. Chris and I had two years or so in the house before we got married so it’s not like we needed to get used to each other or were learning about each others’ habits. Our wedding was less like a new beginning to an adventure and more like the third chapter in a novel that has already built a foundation to build a story around.

Wherever we are in our unwritten novel, we’re doing really well. We are just as in love as ever, but what’s more important is that we’re still best friends who watch comedy

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Photos were taken by friend/singer/photographer Caitlin Currie.
specials while drinking bourbon or play board games competitively together. We have fun and appreciate our time together – we also know that no ones perfect and that honest communication is key.

We’ve known each other for almost five years now and expect to continue to learn from our shared experiences (especially mistakes). Just because we’ve been married for a year doesn’t make us experts, but who’s to say that we’re not doing it right? We’re doing what’s right for us and that’s all I hope my loved ones do for themselves too! 

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The Gift to Thrift: $8507 Wedding Budget Breakdown

(Scroll to the end to see screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget)

I first started this blog by briefly introducing the internet to my August 2016 wedding. As I said then, my fiancé and I are really proud of how much money we saved by doing the whole thing for $8507.00. Today I thought that I’d breakdown the budget for you and give you some helpful tips when planning your own wedding for under $10,000.

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Tip #1: Before you start, buy a ‘coupon holder’ from the dollar store.
I used this to organize all of my receipts and the companies’ business cards – it was extremely helpful.

Our wedding was in Brooklin, Ontario Canada. We looked for venues within the Durham Region that weren’t typical wedding venues so that they wouldn’t come with that dreaded wedding price tag. Since our wedding was to host approximately 75 guests, smaller venues were an option and we actually found quite a few that were less than the one we ended up with. We just fell in love with the community centre’s modern architecture and windows.

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Our venue was the Brooklin Community Centre and Library, multi-purpose room.

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Tip #2: Sign up on Wedding Wire’s website.
I actually accidentally got started on the American version of the website rather than the Canadian one, but it worked out fine. Either site is recommended because of how helpful they are. Wedding Wire hosts multiple online services in one place. I personally used the budget tracker, personal wedding website, RSVP counter, and vendor reviews.


Three Highest Costs

The main chunks of our wedding budget went to catering, venue rental, and alcohol.

  • Catering = $3,393.68      
  • Venue Rental + Insurance = $1,215.57    
  • Alcohol = $890.00 (after returns)

Our catering price was actually approximately $2000.00 above what we had initially planned for. Chris and I are pretty laid back and had actually wanted to hire a local pulled pork place and use fancy looking paper plates. Due to ‘objections’ to our super casual dinner plans from both sides of our families we reluctantly upped the budget to get a caterer with better quality serving ware. This is one of the only things that we budged on to please our parents. What I’m saying is, if you’re up for a really casual dinner, you can get yours for about $2000.00 – just do your homework locally!

Our venue rental went through the city of Whitby’s permit coordinating services which was made more difficult by employees switching positions halfway through planning (the first woman was a joy to deal with and the second was not). They provided the tables and chairs without any added price which was great too, our caterer had linens.

We probably bought close to $2000.00 worth of alcohol for the wedding. Chris wanted to be overprepared and if you get help from an LCBO employee that has worked with a bride and groom in the past, they will help you buy the right amount and right size of bottles to help make returns a lot easier. We were very happy that people drank quite a bit, and we didn’t run out of anything. Our bar tender (from the caterer) worked hard that night, yet we still brought back half of what we bought!

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Tip #3: Feel lucky.
Yes, I won my wedding gown, BUT (and this is a big but) someone was going to win and it could be you. The wedding dress doesn’t have to be a big price listed on your wedding budget. You should go to every boring/tiring bridal show you can to enter their contests. Even if you don’t win your gown, there are a ton of other options to save money here. With accessories and alterations, my ‘free’ gown cost me just under $500.00 which was my dress budget before winning anyway.

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I had planned on wearing a gorgeous gown (colourful or not) from an expensive dress store like Melanie Lynn, Laura, BCBG, or The Bay. Do we really need to wear white on our wedding day? I think not. I would have had just as much fun in a bright emerald green dress.

I had also considered buying a used wedding gown – I’ll be selling my own once I get it dry-cleaned. Women only wear these things for one day! ONE DAY – that’s nothing! I wear vintage clothes from the 1960s that have been worn many more times than these gowns that need new homes. Adopt don’t shop applies to both dogs and dresses!


Biggest Cost Savers

Four of our biggest cost savers were using grocery store flowers, not hiring a DJ, having a friend do the photography, and having nimble fingers for DIY projects.

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Have you heard of the cost of flowers for a wedding? Too much to spend on things that cannot be reused. I pre-ordered the flowers that I wanted for my wedding from Sobeys to be ready to be picked up on the morning of the wedding. Our flowers cost $158.28 – total, for centrepieces, bridesmaid bouquets, and one bridal bouquet. We arranged them ourselves and the guys really didn’t care about having boutonnieres. It’s all about considering what is actually important to you.

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One of my favourite photos from the wedding: Chris and I after the ceremony, walking out to Beat Your Heart Out by The Distillers.

We asked one of our best friends to help us coordinate the music that I had carefully downloaded for the night. We used our iPad to have a dinner music playlist, a dance playlist, and separate areas for important cued songs including those used during the ceremony, first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dances, etc. My only suggestion here is that you use a computer with iTunes instead of the iPad. The tablet device didn’t provide the option to fade into songs which as a perfectionist bothered me. Our closest friends and family enjoyed themselves and danced a bunch! My step-mom was actually impressed enough to ask me to provide the music for her parent’s 50th anniversary this past October.

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This is a personal favourite of mine

When we started looking for photography I wanted to ask people that I knew first. Amazingly, after asking my friend Caitlin Currie how much she would charge, she offered her services to me for free out of kindness and friendship. She did us a massive favour and we love our photos, we wanted to give her at least a little something though so we gave her $200.00. What we love most about our photos is how candid some of them are or the way that they look real compared to how overly Photoshopped some wedding photos are these days. They are us and she did a wonderful job.

Things that I did myself/with the help of friends and family:

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  • Cut and assembled paper decorations (bunting and paper airplanes on yarn)
  • Made our cake topper (Dollar store dinos with crafty clothes)
  • Partially personalized bridesmaid gifts (hangers and embroidered makeup bags)
  • Invitations and Guest Coaster favours (Used an easy editing site called PicMonkey.com and then used my own designs when ordering them off of Vista Print’s website when they were half price)
  • Candy Bar bags (bought brown paper bags from the dollar store and stamped 100 of them with mom)
  • Grey table runners with iron on hems (Thank you Heather Luckhart for holding the scary iron)
  • My makeup

 

Tip #4: Thrift shops, thrift shops, and more thrift shops.
When I say this, I don’t only mean storefronts, but also wonderful resale apps like Kijiji and Varagesale. I bought so many of our decorations used and for half or less of their original price. Varagesale became a personal favourite of mine because of their glorious Holidays-Wedding category in which users consistently posted barely used decorations from their own weddings. Often times, you have a large gap between getting engaged and getting married, the key is to always be on the lookout for deals and to convince your fiancé that a wedding item storage room is necessary (half of our office was dedicated to this).

So with a ton of hard work on not only my part, but the efforts put forth by my friends and family, we were able to keep our wedding under $10,000! We loved our special day without spending the price of a house down payment and are happier for it!

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Last bunch of Tips:
#5: Don’t have one set image of how your wedding should be.

#6: Things don’t have to match to work – we used an assortment of different sized glass vases for flowers.

#7: Pinterest and budget blogs are your best friend for DIY ideas, have confidence in yourself.

#8: What matters is that you enjoy your wedding, stop trying to impress people by going big.

#9: Let parental figures have the occasional win, but this is your wedding, they already had theirs and I bet they wanted it their way too.

#10: Have fun. Things will never be perfect, that doesn’t exist. Your attitude is really important in creating one of the happiest days of your life.

 


Finally, here is a screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget page:

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Budget Bride: How I Won My Dream Dress

(Summary of my wedding can be found on an earlier post here and stay tuned for a future entry explaining how we kept our wedding budget to under $8500.00)

Fact: I am a crazy contest lady.

What does that mean exactly? It means that I am a strange human being who actually enjoys spending hours on the computer filling out online forms from reliable entities in order to have a chance at winning a prize. We do exist.

(Sites I like to use are: Contest Canada, Contest Girl, and a variety of others)

I haven’t won an insane number of things, but when I do win something it’s fun and exciting. Someone has to win and you never will unless you take a chance and enter.

Contest Tip #1: Always enter, someone has to win.

Winning my wedding dress was the best prize that I have won to date (next to Chris’ heart [Ba Dum Tis]). It started with winning a much smaller contest – the entire process was very lucky.

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You can see my easy Instagram entry in the comments.

I first saw a random post while searching for #weddingcontest on different social media forums, this is why some contest entering can take patience in research. I found a post by the National Bridal Show (@ntnlbridalshow) on Instagram that was giving away two free tickets to their upcoming convention. The show was in Vaughan, Ontario, which was approximately an hour drive from my house and it happened to land on the weekend of my 25th birthday party that I had been planning for a long time (Cassy-con: everyone had to dress in video game, anime, comic book, sci-fi, or fantasy costumes and I made a lot of DIY decorations).

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Cassy Con event photo I made (yes that’s my face on Leia’s and yes that’s master Roshi’s house from Dragon Ball).
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Photo of me wearing my DIY Saria costume from Zelda: Ocarina of Time with my fur-niece Sidney who I can no longer pick up! 

I entered the contest just in case.

I was happy to win the tickets, but unsure of how I was going to make it work! I decided that I would go on the Sunday, luckily I drank a lot of water during my party and wasn’t hungover. I brought my mom and my future (now) stepmom which is an odd mix, but they got along great and it we had fun.

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Left to right: mom, myself, and my step mom. Having fun trying out one of the bridal show photo booths.

I was excited to be there for mainly one thing – contests. Bridal shows, especially big ones, have a lot of contests with really great odds. I had hoped to have a chance at winning some stuff for the wedding since we were on a small budget, but I never imagined winning my dress.

After entering every contest in the building, sampling food, and collecting too many heavy items in our bridal shower tote bags, we headed home.

Sometime later, I got an email that I had won the chance to choose any dress from a bridal store and I almost didn’t believe it was real.

Contest Tip #2: Always research; do your homework on who is hosting the contest to determine the legitimacy of the prize.

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My Instagram post about winning my dream dress!

The store was legitimate, beautiful, and the prize was better than “you won this specific dress,” it was “come to our store and choose any dress that you want!” I was over the moon excited. My original budget for my wedding dress was $500, but I would likely get to wear a real wedding dress now and all I would have to pay for were accessories and alterations. The boutique sells dresses at discount prices similar to Vows [check out PHD and Pie Filling’s experience there] on I Found the Gown so their prices are quite reasonable for brides on more traditional budgets!

The wonderful dream-granting store was Revival Bridal Boutique in Vaughan, Ontario. The two women who own the store are incredibly sweet, friendly, and accommodating. I recommend supporting their small business not only because they gifted me a gown, but because they have great prices for really beautiful dresses that work within a wide range of budgets.

 

Once the shock of winning died down, I figured out a date that worked for my bridal party and waited with anticipation for December. My bridesmaids (minus my now sister-in-law who lives in London, England), my mom, and Chris’ mom (my stepmom wasn’t able to make it this time) excitedly drove to Vaughan one cold day. The two moms and I met my sister at a nearby hotel where we were going to have a girl’s night after because my sister lives four hours away, this worked out too because my sister is 1000x better at doing hair than I am and helped finish my look before trying on dresses.

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Dresses I loved, but didn’t choose!

Vanda, one of the co-owners from Revival Bridal Boutique, was a joy to work with. She made sure that even though I wasn’t buying the dress I was getting the regular bridal appointment treatment. My support group sat around the dressing room and Vanda helped me try on dresses, she had picked out some gowns that were similar to what she saw on my pinterest board.

The first dress was beautiful and I joked about how on TV women often end up choosing the first dress they try on. It was really gorgeous, but I didn’t have a “moment,” I didn’t cry or anything. I was excited to try on the next one. I tried on around ten gowns that day and loved most of them, but I’m actually a really good decision maker and picked the top three quite easily (ability to do the twist was a priority). From there we tried them on again and it was clear to me… the first dress was my dress.

The second that I realized this I started to cry – which is so silly, but it happens sometimes when you start to get older and you cry about a lot more things than you used to (this is coming from a girl who’s favourite parts in The Lord of the Rings movies were once when people’s heads got cut off with swords – now I’m a sap who cried three times during a Disneynature chimpanzee documentary narrated by Tim Allen)!

I never thought that I’d wear a veil, but I loved the cathedral length one. That day, I purchased a belt and a veil that came to $300 together and placed the order for my Lillian West gown #6349 in Alabaster/Ivory.

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When I chose my dress with the help of Revival Bridal Boutique co-owner Vanda.
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My team on dress-picking day!

A month before the big day I drove to pick up my dress with my bridesmaid Natalie in terrible Friday afternoon traffic on the 401. The gown was exactly how I’d remembered it and fit almost perfectly, it just needed to be hemmed and for a bustle system to be put in. The owners were very understanding in my wanting to have it altered closer to home and were happy to make my dreams come true.

I had it altered by a very sweet lady in Oshawa who also altered my stepmoms wedding gown earlier this year. I really recommend Shimmer Alterations for price and professionalism in Durham Region.

My alterations came to $316.00 making the grand total for my dress, belt, and veil $616.00 which I am VERY happy with.

Collection of dress photos from the wedding taken by Caitlin Currie:

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A Budget Bride in Brooklin Ontario

Weddings are a lot of work – they take even more effort when you decide to keep them within a small budget.

Chris and I are both thrifty people and we pride ourselves on saving money which is why we knew we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on our wedding. The whole thing totaled to approximately $8500.00 with 75 guests (I’ll explain how I came to win my wedding gown from Revival Bridal Boutique in a later post)!

We got engaged in October of 2015 and we were lucky enough to have a nearby photographer (Rosenlee Photography) snap a couple candid photos of the proposal!

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We decided on an August 2016 wedding for scheduling reasons that gave us nine months to plan our DIY wedding. On top of a shorter time period than the average bride, I was in the fourth year of my undergraduate degree and had taken on writing a 93 page honours thesis. All my hard work ended up being worth it when I graduated top of my class with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Digital Media Studies this past spring and had a beautiful wedding this past August.

After many cuts, folds, tape, sweat, and love, family members and friends helped us decorate the multi-purpose room in Brooklin’s community centre/library on the morning of our wedding. By 11:30am we were off to get all dolled-up and try to avoid the inevitable bad weather. Our wedding was indoors, but we still had hopes of outdoor photos that we were lucky enough to get in-between bouts of pouring rain. We married on Saturday, August 13th, 2016. Although it had barely rained all summer, our wedding day welcomed what CBC News claimed was the “most significant storm of summer.” This resulted in less than perfect hair, but we smiled through it all and pushed through.

We decided on a pre-ceremony reveal so that we could take photos with our fur-baby. Just in case anyone gave me a hard time, I researched the origin of the not seeing the bride before the wedding tradition. It is one of the least romantic traditions that I have ever read about:

In a galaxy far, far away (actually on earth, but it was a long time ago), when fathers decided which bachelor would suit his needs best rather than his daughters’, the groom wasn’t allowed to see his bride until the last second. This privacy measure was only taken so that the groom would be less likely to call off the wedding if he found his bride unattractive (The Surprising Truths Behind Common Wedding Superstitions).

Chris and I decided that we’d be okay without keeping this tradition alive.

We had a short non-denominational ceremony with our own written vows and exited to The Distillers song “Beat Your Heart Out” (I let Chris choose, but I really loved it). We had the reception in the same room that we had the ceremony in and proceeded to re-enter promptly to share our first dance to Joe Strummer’s “Mondo Bongo.” Our guests joined us after a couple minutes of this beautiful six-minute song and the night went swimmingly for the rest of the night. After a very successful day, our friends helped us clean up and we were home by 3:30am.

Here is a collection of photos from our wedding day taken by musician and photographer Caitlin Currie.