Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Budget Yeses

To counterbalance my budget freakout from yesterday, I thought I'd list out our moments of Yes.  Like some of my wise commenters pointed out, all of us have to make decisions about our Nos, but it's the Yeses that will stay with us from the wedding.  The moments of Yes already give me a glowy happy smile whenever I think about the marriage ceremony/celebration J and I are crafting together.  So, without further ado, these are the yeses I'm trying to hold onto when the budget numbers try to nudge me towards hyperventilating, crying, hurling, or a combination of all three.

YesYesYes Expenses
  • Venue - I lovelovelove our venue.  We found a beautiful, indoor/outdoor flexible non-profit venue and we couldn't be happier about it. Cost - $1000 (plus everything we'll need to bring in, but oh well. I'm cheering every budget victory I can here.)
  • Photography - We're both aesthetic snobs with very particular points of view. I'm probably slightly edgier than he is, but we're honing in on a shared wedding photography aesthetic.  We're willing to compromise on the full package to hire amazing artists, but we're not willing to go for the highest end photographers out there.  We just can't.  We also can't go for standard wedding blah (even if it's pretty wedding blah.)  It would make me cry.  I need art and I need a photographer who gets us, even if it's a 5 hour package instead of all day.  We also have tons of extremely talented friends and family whose photos will fill in the blanks around a more limited photography budget.
  • Catering - we're still working through this one, but I'm pushing for local, sustainable, high-quality fare. We try to eat farmer's market non-chemical laden food at home and I'd like the same for our wedding.
  • Eco-friendly decor - Our ceremony location is pretty enough to need nothing.  Our reception site is a bit of a rustic open book, so we're decorating with succulents, thrifted glass, collected jars, feathers, fabric & paper flowers, strings of lights, candles, paper lanterns, sparkles, and jewel tones. I like color, I like eclecticism, I refuse to spend money on things that will die/are ecologically wasteful, I have a vision, and I'm already collecting and thrifting.  I'll leave the succulent planting up to J and his green thumb.  
  • Jewish Wedding - we're having a progressive Rabbi marry us.  We're spending money on a work-of-art ketubah.  We want to take a pre-marital planning class through the American Jewish University.  I want to make a chuppah quilt (with help from our community).  These things cost a lot of money and time, but they are huge marriage priorities for us and we think the value is immeasurable. 
  • Alcohol - I like to party.  I like to drink when we party.  Our venue only allows beer and wine and we're planning to bring kegs of good beer and bottles of reasonable wine.  It won't be Bud Light and Two Buck Chuck but it won't be imported micro brews or $30 bottles of wine either.  I may splurge on sangria, if the budget allows, instead of a champagne toast.  I couldn't care less about champagne but I have an absurd love of sangria and memories of living in Spain.
  • Music - J is a musician so it's a priority for him that we have good music.  To him, this means a DJ.  This is a battleground topic for us because I already love his mad playlist skills and I would be just as happy with a friend MC/borrowing sound equipment. We're both treading carefully here and we'll see how it works out. At some point, I'll probably say eff it, the $1500 battle isn't worth fighting and he'll get his DJ. (even if I'm right, ahem.)
  • Attire - more on this later, but I scored on my dress. It was a splurge-for-me, but barely registers in the wedding world cost scheme and met my comfort/style/cost criteria.  I am happy. 
  • Accessories - I have an obscene love for jewelery-as-art.  I'm planning on special earrings for the dress, since I don't have anything that works in my current collection.  I'm also planning on a colored shrug (it will be coooold at night) and ballroom dance shoes or broken-in pretty shoes (I'm going to dancedancedance). I am excited about all of these things.  In fact, I am excited enough to buy them and use them now, and so I may not include them in the wedding budget. So there.  

We-Are-The-Luckiest-People-Ever Expenses:
  • Ceremony musicians - We have tons of talented friends.  In fact, J's former a capella group (yeah, that's right, he sang in an all-male a capella group) may make an appearance here.  Yay!
  • Invitation and paper design - we have several incredibly talented graphic designer friends too.  We already have a tentative offer for paper goods design help as our wedding present and we are over-the-moon excited. 
  • Dessert - We have amazing friends.  No, really, we have A-Ma-Zing friends.  Several of these friends are incredible bakers.  We are tentatively thinking of making a dessert buffet registry and seeing what the world brings us in joy and sugar and not giving a d*mn about traditional wedding cake.   

Necessary-But-not-Thrilling Expenses:
  • Rentals - Our site has tables and reception chairs but, besides that, we're on our own for plates, silverware, linens, ceremony chairs etc.  I may have found a way to borrow silverware, I may seriously consider bamboo compostable dishes, and I'm more than okay with basic white linens, but this is still going to be a hefty sum.  Blerg. 
  • Guest Shuttle - if we were getting married in the city, it wouldn't be an issue.  But we're getting married at the top of a winding narrow canyon.  We don't want either the older folks or the drunken younger folks to drive.  Also, WE don't want to drive.  So we'll take the shuttle with everyone else.  I'm hoping for some late night singing.  Hear that, guests? You would totally make my wedding (and justify the shuttle cost 1000 times over) if you joined in for a tipsy late night bus ride hootenany.   

Possible Splurges:
  • Day-of-Coordinator - I might be able to hire an acquaintance from my event planning days at a discount, I might try and work out a bridal DOC trade (let me know if you're interested!) and I might cave and hire someone.  I know exactly how important it is to have a point person for events.  I will be this person until about noon the day of our wedding, and then I am handing off the reins.  I will be dunzo and I will (try to) wash my hands of caring.  Therefore, for my own sanity, I need a point person.  I'm not sure I'm willing to put this responsibility on a friend at the wedding, so I may need to suck it up and hire someone. 
  • Engagement photos - I'm going to preface this by saying I hate most engagement shoots. I find it odd that weddings have become a narcissistic photo shoot opportunity and I don't feel the need to participate in that. People get some stunning photos, but I'm not sure what they have to do with weddings.  In my case, however, I am not photogenic.  Like, maybe 1 in a 100 photos of me are reasonable (not even good, just reasonable.) I need help feeling comfortable in front of a camera (I had actual panic attacks in front of cameras as a child) so I'm strongly considering an engagement shoot with our photographer out of almost-practical considerations.
  • Hair and makeup - My hair is fine and sometimes straight/sometimes wavy and, whenever I try to style it, it generally wins.  I can do decent makeup, except when my skin freaks out (as it may, based on past history with stress).  I am lucky enough to have a long-time stylist who does wedding hair and makeup who I adore and I can book her at a discount compared to the going wedding rates (of $500 or so, for perspective.)  It's still not inexpensive, but it's a possibility.  It's either that, or DIY, since I don't have friends with hidden hairstyling talents. (Do I?  If you're reading and I'm wrong, please let me know!)  Since I don't have anyone to trust with my difficult hair, I may suck it up and splurge.  Yes, I am vain.

We're-Not-Counting-It Expenses
  • There's really only two things that aren't on our list - the honeymoon and the rehearsal barbecue party.  The honeymoon, because we save up for a big annual trip each year anyhow and the rehearsal barbecue party because it's my parents gift to us. Everything else is on our plate and is being counted. 
Whew.  I feel better now.  These yeses feel good.  These yeses feel right, which is why we don't want to cut them, despite the expense.  Even if we top out over $15,000 (which is likely, at this rate) it will be because we're crafting a meaningful event that matters to us.  Our budget will not kill us.  Our budget won't even put us into debt or derail our retirement planning (nevernevernever.)  We can (and will) certainly make some additional cuts as we ignore what doesn't matter for us, but I'm taking a deep breath now.  We're crafting a wedding that's in tune with our bank account and our values, and that's what's important to us in the end.


  1. How many people are on your guest list? Sangria is supposed to be cheaper than other alcohols (punch is always cheapest!) so if you have a small enough list, maybe you can ask some friends to help prepare sangria the night before? It might be too much work, but it's a thought that might help :).

    BTW, I have a really good and reasonably-priced DOC (I paid $350 for 8 hours, and we've been in touch a considerable amount already--she's giving me way more than I paid for). Let me know if you want info.

  2. Ms. LA Love - what a great list of YESes and so similar to mine!
    It's YOUR day so you pick your battles. If you can use it after, DOESN'T count as an expense because it is indeed practical.
    Also an idea can be simply executed without going past your budget and using things you have (e.g. my photobooth with my existing hats and borrowed boas)!
    Definitely try to see if you can barter, look on ebay, Craigslist etc. Perhaps you can split the rentals with another bride?

    Oh and just my view, but I LOVED having my hair done (it was a braided up style). I did my own makeup, but would have loved to have had fake eyelashes. You can only rightfully be the undisputed center attention this time, so might as well look good!

  3. Fabulous yes list.

    About the sangria, we are also having our event at a outdoor/indoor nonprofit park setting, so we also can't serve the hard stuff. We looking for kegs of good beer and serving wine and sangria. Sangria actually tastes way better when you make it a day in advance, because that allows the fruit to really mingle with the wine. And you can get dirt cheap red wine and gussy it up with all the other ingredients, so it can work.

    Good luck!

  4. Sangria! Yes! Way cooler than champagne.

    Anyway I think you are getting to the heart of the "point" of budgeting. The number is not that important at the end of the day, and don't hate yourself if you don't live up to it. What IS important is that aiming towards that number is forcing you to think through what is, and isn't, important to both of you, and not to just buy without thinking. It makes your wedding about conscious consumerism and not about wantwantwantwantwant. And that is awesome.

  5. Thanks for sharing your list...I think you are right on to focus on all the things you love and will have at your wedding. The shuttle bus singing seriously better happen...I would insist upon it as 'the bride.' :)

  6. Yay! Sounds like you wrestled your budget into in control, in the way that Accordians refers to above. This list is what matters - especially if it's not going to drive you into debt or slow down your retirement savings.

    re: the wine & beer: don't forget about BevMo's 5 cent sales - buy a bottle of wine, get the second for half price - decent bottles of wine for ~$7! I think there's one going on now... And on that account, people may drink less than you think. We had at least 6 cases of wine, ended up giving away two to the serving staff and bringing two home!

  7. Good call on focusing on the yeses, I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by the nos!

  8. See, you're doing great!! I feel the same way about investing in photography. You forget pretty quickly about the quality of, say, the chicken, but those photos stare back at you a good long time.

    I don't know the quilt tradition, will you tell us more? It sounds cool!

  9. I love your Yes List. And, honestly, I'm not really sure what could possibly be missing from it. I'm sure the day of you won't notice either. PS: I emailed you about DOC schtuff and would love to chat about it.

  10. I loved reading this list. Nothing makes me happier than a couple who knows what their priorities are and has realistic expectations. Perfect.

    And, I have to chime in on the engagement session bit - I think they're important exactly for the reason that you'd be willing to participate in one. It gives you the chance to get comfortable in front of the camer and it let's you see how your photographer works and gives them the chance to figure out what makes the two of you tick, so getting you to relax and have fun on the wedding day is much easier.

    That's the only reason why I include them in all of my packages - I don't care if the couple never looks at them again, at least we had a "dress rehearsal" of sorts and are totally comfortable with each other when it matters.

  11. sangria and a shuttle bus hootenany!? that alone will make up for any budget no's you were upset to leave behind. i think this is a fabulous list . and yay for the friendor musicians and invitations! that is HUGE.


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