Bring it on, 2017!

Like me, you might be hearing a lot of people saying that 2016 sucked. We lost what seems like countless artists, scientists, and icons. A lot of people are scared of what the future holds, and scary news articles are clogging our Facebook feeds. Heck, 2016 gave me my first broken bones and crazy medical bills.

Babies make everything okay 

BUT, because I think it’s good to see the silver lining whenever possible, let’s find some good. No matter what, our lives are going to be filled with ups and downs. If our lives were perfect 100% of the time, we wouldn't grow. So, in honor of a new year, here are a few things that I loved about 2016:

  1. I got to travel a lot, including a bunch of places I’ve never been. Not only did I go to New York and Chicago for the first time, I got to go on my belated honeymoon and spent 3 weeks in Europe. That’s amazing.
  2. I have a new cousin, and I got to visit with him in his first days. And thank goodness for technology, because I get to see pictures of him and his adorable brother all the time.
  3. I went to a few weddings, and several friends got engaged! What’s happier than love??

I used selfies from each country we visited in 2016 for our holiday card, and I love how it turned out!

And then there’s the little things I know I take for granted each day - those mundane things that don’t seem like much, but make me among the luckiest on the planet. I have a house to call my own, there is food in my fridge, I have two sweet furry babies who love me (or at least recognize that I’m the bringer of food), and every day I get to wake up next to the man I love, the guy who makes me smile, the boy who knows how to make me feel special. 2016 was full of tiny, wonderful moments.

We also can’t just expect 2017 to be better purely because it’s a “New Year”. We need to work for our happiness - pursue goals to enrich our lives, and fight for what we believe in. We can't be complacent - we need to donate to organizations we are passionate about (when we have the means), we need to volunteer, and we need to show compassion for those less fortunate than us, and do what we can to show them that they are valued by society, that we want them to succeed.

My favorite crafting project of this holiday season!

2016 was also the year I was the most tired, I think. Maybe that's just part of being an adult, but I know that I don't sleep enough, and I often take on too many projects. But how lucky am I that I'm exhausted because I have so many people in my life I want to share my time with, and so many hobbies/passions that I would rather pursue than sleep?

I also know that more artists and actors and musicians will die in 2017. Unfortunately that’s life. So we need to appreciate it while we can, and celebrate the little things, the big things, and everything in between. Honor the legacy of those we've lost, whether we've known them personally or not. Take pride that you've gotten to live in the same world with them, and never, ever forget them.

Life is sweet (and often bittersweet, and sometimes downright sucky). We can’t forget that.

Budget Wedding Planning: Part 7 - Celebration Logistics

It's been a little over a month since everyone came to celebrate with us. We had a very belated "reception", which allowed everyone to come party in a low-key sort of way. We didn't have much structure to the day, no seating charts, minimal decorations... just a giant party. And while this day was definitely much more expensive than our intimate celebration, it still doesn't even compare to the national average cost of a wedding, which is over $25,000!

Now, while I've been detailing small projects as ways to save money, I thought I'd share a bit about the ACTUAL party, and show you where we cut costs, and what we splurged on.

Sanitas Brewing Company in Boulder, CO

So, here are the details of our July Wedding Celebration:

Our venue was Sanitas Brewing Company, here in Boulder. A lot of my family from across the country was able to come, along with Nathaniel's family, and countless friends who made this party even better than I ever could have imagined. We had close to 200 guests.


We had tacos for dinner provided by McDevitt Taco Supply, and for dessert we hired a cupcake truck called The Dessert Stand. I would highly recommend both for any events you may be planning! We had an open bar, which exclusively served the beer the brewery had on tap. Adding other types of alcohol would have made it so we needed to modify their liquor license for an extra $1,000, pre-buy all the beer, and purchase all the other alcohol. We decided for financial reasons and ease that we would just have unlimited beer.

Our wonderful DJ :)

Our wonderful friend Jason was our DJ. He set up playlists, spun some sweet sets for fun dancing, snuck in some Disney, reminded me when it was time for me to sing, and coordinated a very sweet first dance. We also had Dazzling Photo Booth come, and it seemed to be a hit! They even provided a scrapbook! Check out the pictures here.

Most of our photos were taken by our good friend Jesse. My uncle John, Nathaniel's dad Marc, my cousin Alexa, and my sister Maddie also took some that are peppered throughout this gallery.

Here is the cost break-down for our vendors:

  • Securing Sanitas for the whole day: $5,000
  • Beer: $1,000
  • Tacos: $2,400
  • Cupcakes: $700
  • Photo Booth & Guestbook: $800
  • Tips: $400

Other expenses included:

  • A white mailbox, painted like the mailbox in Up, and some balloons tied to the flag ($40)
  • Mason jars and baby's breath ($40)
  • Personalized sunglasses from LogoLenses, and a crate from Joann's to put them in ($300)
  • Soda, water and ice ($100)
  • Picture frames turned into Instagram hashtag signs ($20)

So in total, we spent under $11,000. We never ran out of anything, and everything went smoothly. The only times I got stressed out were when I was getting ready to sing, and for a bride, I think that's pretty good. Yes, this was very expensive, but we got through it alive, and for less than half the average cost. By having a friend DJ and a friend photograph, we saved a ton, as well. We tried to pay them, but they wouldn't let us! I'd still say this puts us in the category of "budget" wedding. I decided to not include the expenses from March that we re-used in July (for example, my dress), because I'm focusing on the party itself. If we had had one day where we did everything, (and if we had a bridal party who needed to carry flowers, among other traditional things we discluded), it would have been more expensive. I just wanted to give you all a breakdown, and show that it's possible to throw a kick-ass wedding celebration without touching that $25,000 price tag.

The most expensive part for us was securing the venue. We had thought about doing it at a local park, which would have been a fraction of the price, but had we done it that way, we would have needed to rent tables and chairs and a generator for the sound system, get approved for a liquor license, figure out lighting once it got dark (and worry about park hours), buy and transport multiple kegs, worry about cops busting us for being loud, and then clean it all up afterwards. This probably wouldn't have quite reached $5,000, but I do think it would have been a pretty decent chunk of change, and it would have stressed me out. I have zero regrets about how we did things, and it seems like everyone had a great time. Can't beat that :)

Budget Wedding Planning: Part 2 - Spend vs. Splurge

Now, I can't claim to be any sort of expert on wedding planning. I can only tell you what I learned from planning my own, from watching my friends plan theirs, or from blogs I've read.

Moments like this are important to me, and we didn't have to shell out too much for everything you see in this picture.

Moments like this are important to me, and we didn't have to shell out too much for everything you see in this picture.

The biggest thing to realize is that, if you're doing more than just going to the courthouse in your jeans (which could be the perfect thing for you and your partner!), you will be spending more money than you probably realize. Something important to do, though, is to decide what is important to you (and your partner) and what isn't as important. The things that are important, well, you may find that you splurge on those things. The things that are not as important have some room to help you save money.

The most important things for us were/are:

  • Small intimate ceremony on a fun day, dinner to follow
  • Party in the summer to celebrate with our family and friends (much bigger)
  • Open bar
  • Plenty of food
  • I make my dress
  • Fun photos
  • Good DIY Projects
  • Music to dance/party to

Some less important things:

  • Decorations, like centerpieces, aisle runner/hangings, etc.
  • Invitations
  • Traditional ceremony
  • Programs/menus/other paper stuff
  • Wedding planner
  • Flowers
  • Engagement party, bridal shower, rehearsal and dinner
  • Cake (I baked a pie for Pi Day, and we're still figuring out dessert for the summer)
  • Seating charts and a sit down dinner

Proof that something inexpensive can be absolutely lovely :) This was my non-priority way of having flowers at our ceremony.

Now saying that something is not as important doesn't mean that it's trivial to us - for example, we saved a ton of money on our invitations, but I spent a LOT of time on that aspect of our wedding to make them as pretty as possible (see my previous post about invitations). And we did have a ceremony (less than 10 min) in Nathaniel's parent's backyard. I carried flowers from the grocery store that I arranged myself. We had baby's breath in mason jars around where we stopped to say our "vows" which we wrote ourselves. We picked a song ("Here, There and Everywhere", Beatles covered by Jake Shimabukuro) that meant something to us for us to enter (separately) to.

We won't be making any other paper things, except our thank you cards (because I love sending mail like that). There won't be any extra parties. Just the one big awesome one this summer, and I'd rather be the planner of that day, with a little help from my sisters (because I have two now!) and my mom and mom-in-law. Also, I have amazing friends who don't stop offering help. I'm extremely lucky!

One of many amazing pictures from our wedding day. Photography is typically a priority for most couples, so if you are having a non-professional do it, make sure you trust them 100%

On the flip side, just because something is important to you doesn't mean it has to break the bank. My sister took our photos and they turned out AMAZING. She's a photography student so she knows what she's doing (you could look for students in your area, just do your research!). Had we not had my sister available, I would probably have splurged here, or worked incredibly hard to make sure any non-professional was someone I trusted enough with this. At our party, we might have a friend doing candid shots, and we are toying with the idea of a photo booth. Our food at our party is also going to be awesome - we went with a reasonably priced taco truck. People will get to sit/stand wherever they want and eat whenever they want.

Also, I ended up making my own dress. While this was a lot more work on my part, I spent about $200 for all the fabric, thread and zipper. The stress level was high sometimes, but I wanted something simple and classic looking, so I wasn't trying to overachieve with a giant princess gown. I was also completely accountable for everything - rather than going to the dress shop several times for fittings, I could put it on, pin it, tweak it, and try it on again. Of course I know I'm strange for doing this part of my wedding, but there are other ways to get an amazing dress without breaking the bank (ModCloth, Consignment shops, just find something white [or not!] that suits your personality that you feel beautiful in).

Another important thing to me was that my dress twirled nicely. Nailed it!

I literally could go on and on about this, but maybe I should wait for the next installment :)


Budget Wedding Planning: Part 1 - Invitations

As you may or may not know, I recently got married! We had a super small, yet special, day with our immediate families, partially because we just can't afford the "average" wedding that costs as much as a brand new car. We'd rather save for a downpayment on a house.

Over the next few weeks (or months, who knows how long I'll be able to go on about this...) I want to share some of my experiences in wedding planning with you! How we added special touches to our day, and how we cut corners in certain areas.


Today's topic is invitations. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't have a secret Pinterest board dedicated to invitation ideas, and that I never went to those websites where you can order beautiful stationery sets. However, these can cost a pretty penny. For an envelope and one card to go inside it, you could easily be looking at $2 per invitation, not including postage. Then you can add on things like RSVP cards and envelopes (and more postage), direction cards, reception cards, etc., or go for a fancy foil-pressed look or nice paper, which can be more than $10 per card. If you're sending out 100 invitations, that's $200-$1200, NOT INCLUDING POSTAGE. And many of these sites offer addressing services, or you could hire a calligrapher... basically you could spend a small fortune on paper that someone may or may not keep after your wedding.

Want to know how much we paid for our invitations total, including postage? Less than $150, and we sent out nearly 140 invitations. That's just over a dollar per invite, and I'm pretty proud of that!

Personal info is blurred - I love you all, but can't have you crashing anything ;) Also, how lucky did we get that the post office had cute heart stamps on hand??

Personal info is blurred - I love you all, but can't have you crashing anything ;) Also, how lucky did we get that the post office had cute heart stamps on hand??

So how did we save so much on this part of our wedding costs? Each envelope contained a picture and a postcard sized card. Each picture cost 10¢ (Walgreens was having a sale on 4x6 prints), each postcard was less than 5¢ (black and white sheet of 4 from Staples is 19¢, and we cut them ourselves), each envelope was 24¢, and a stamp is 49¢. Add tax and the fact that we bought several silver sharpies to address them (I hand addressed each envelope) and you've got just over a dollar per invite. We opted to skip RSVP cards and just directed everyone to our (free) wedding website to respond and to view more details.

I know that they don't look as professional or perfect as they do coming from one of the awesome wedding stationery websites. Believe me, I read a lot about how to save money on invitations, and I disregarded some of the etiquette suggestions I wish I could have listened to to help our wallet out a little. However, I got to design them myself (Photoshop, free fonts, and free clipart!), and we included just enough that maybe some people will want to keep them for posterity, and if they don't, I don't feel as if too much money was wasted.

Stay tuned for more ways we saved some money on our wedding!