This Labor Day weekend was unique not just for the record-breaking heat (it reached 114 degrees in Gilroy), but also for the beautiful wedding of Fatima and Robert! They began the day with a beautiful ceremony and mass at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Morgan Hill, and then the bridal party and their guests continued the celebration at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy. We always love working at that venue since they really kept photography in mind when designing the building and grounds. There are just so many great backdrops!
We absolutely loved Fatima and Robert’s wine-meets-rustic-glam decor. They perfectly used deep reds, warm browns, and pops of glittery gold throughout the tablescapes and decorations. It went great with the wine theme. The cake even had wine glasses as the topper with little marzipan grapes decorating each tier! To continue with the theme, guests signed corks and even wrote little messages on them to be stored in a custom shadow box for the couple to hang in their home. Fatima and Robert also brought in the comforts of summer to their big day by having lawn games outside, cold alcoholic treats inside, and even free flip flops for the guests to use! We also set up our ShootAnyAngle Photo Booth for them as well, and the guests had a great time.
Fatima and Robert were absolutely on cloud nine and nothing could put a damper on their perfect day – not even the heat! It’s such a treat for us when a couple can make each other laugh and smile with just a glance. These two definitely could! We just sat back and snapped away as they exchanged cute moments as if they were the only ones in the world. As photographers, we love when that happens!
When planning a wedding, you should know the three things that mean the most to you (apart from marrying the spouse of your dreams because that’s just a given!). For me, it was photography first, details second, and location third. I feel the details are what make a wedding special. It’s a glimpse into a fairytale romance. Little details and two people in love make for the best photographs! Take a look at the following photos for inspiration for your big day! Remember, these are just inspiration shots, so alter the details to make the final product your own. In my opinion, a wedding should always be unique to the couple. That’s what makes it special!
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out Parts One and Two.
We decided against having a band or DJ. Instead, we used our pre-existing collection of AirPlay speakers and created the sound system with those. Then, we created our own playlists for each part of the wedding. We did a lot of tests of the system and even had backup plans just in case. We trained a friend to work the system, and it all worked seamlessly!
By using our own equipment and playlists, we saved around $3,900.
This was an interesting learning experience. When we started our search for the groom and groomsmen’s apparel, our first stop was naturally a well-known tux rental chain. The prices were way higher than I had anticipated. We just couldn’t pull the trigger and ask the boys to do the same. Then, my husband’s aunt suggested Nordstrom Rack. We went and found that to buy one of their suits was CHEAPER than renting one – and they each got to keep it in the end!! Plus, their sales brought prices down even more. There would be no rushing down to the store the next day to return the suit! So, it was a no brainer.
By going this route, my husband (and each groomsman) saved around $50 each, and they got to keep their suit.
Yes, this is one of the places I’m going to suggest you spend the money on. That may sound biased, but I felt that long before I became a wedding photographer myself. The reason behind this is simple: the flowers will die, the wedding dress will be trashed or stored away, the food will be digested, the silverware will be put away, the alcohol will be ingested (and hopefully not regurgitated), the bridesmaid dresses will be donated, and the leftover cake will go stale…. So, besides the marriage and the rings you wear, only one thing will last from that day – the photography. That’s why this is an area I do feel is worth the money. That doesn’t mean you should spend an arm and a leg though. Do your homework! For example, we offer prices for those on a budget, and that’s the kind of thing to look for. We used our own side-shooters for our wedding, and to give a more realistic estimate of savings, I’ll calculate it as if we had hired ourselves to shoot the wedding.
If we had used the second of our ShootAnyAngle packages, we would have saved $800 (and gotten an engagement shoot and canvas print out of the deal). Okay, enough of the self-promotion – onto the rings!
Ah, yes, the big purchase that starts the whole thing – the rings! This is also an area I feel it’s okay to spend more. That being said, you need to do your homework. There is a lot of jewelry out there that is WAY too overpriced. The big name stores will charge you more for their name to be attached to it, so avoid that route if possible. On the flip side of that, don’t be stingy. These rings need to last a lifetime. Buy the best materials to ensure they will. That may cost a little extra, but it’s worth it. I’ve seen both sides of this coin. I’ve seen a groom spend more money on his ring than both my husbands’ and my rings combined! I’ve also seen a couple pick the most inexpensive ring they could find, and the bride still hates it to this day. So, do your homework, and get the right rings.
To the men out there, now I’m talking to you. Part of doing your homework is talking to your bride-to-be. Find out what she likes. James actually came to me six months prior to proposing and asked me to give him a list of rings I liked and the reasons why. The ring I liked best was a unique antique-looking ring that I had seen at a hole-in-the-wall shop. I actually kept going back to “visit” the ring. I just loved it so much – and that’s the ring I got! He did it perfectly, and I couldn’t be happier with my ring. Not only did he get me my favorite ring, but he also had it already sized by the time he got down on one knee. So, plan ahead!
As for the wedding bands, that took even more research. My engagement ring is a unique shape and design, and I didn’t know where we’d find a wedding band to match it – but I’m not afraid to do a little work. We ended up finding the perfect match to my ring online. It looks as if it was designed for it! Then, to make sure we weren’t swindled, we took it to a jeweler to confirm that it was indeed gold and diamonds (it was!). We liked the ring so much that we ended up getting my husband’s band from them too. He’s an adventurer, so he wanted a very strong metal – Tungsten Carbide to be exact. The great thing about those rings? They are inexpensive! We’re talking around $20 even. Mark my words, as that metal becomes more and more popular (and it’s already getting there), then the price will go up, up, up. For now, though, it’s a great deal. Now, these bands cannot be resized, but since the price is so low, we just got him some back-ups in different sizes for down the road. I’ll probably even get a thin Tungsten band for myself to wear in place of my real rings for those adventures that are a bit too dangerous for my beautiful rings.
By doing our homework, and using the strategies above, we saved around $5,900.
For the most part, if you need rentals, they are going to cost a pretty penny. Again, always do your homework, and find the most inexpensive rental place you can. We lucked out by choosing William’s Rentals (located in the Bay Area, CA). They helped us out every step of the way, and I can’t recommend them enough! Since our venue didn’t provide tables, chairs, etc, we did have to rent it all, but we saved money in our choices. Yes, the silverware may mean a lot to you, but your guests are more interested in the food. Choose a more inexpensive setting. When in doubt, do something basic. If it’s not unique, odds are it won’t be noticed – and it probably won’t be noticed even if it is unique. Another option for a more eclectic wedding is to buy mismatched silverware from thrift stores. You can do the same with plates and bring the look together with plastic charger plates that you can find at craft stores or dollar stores. When it comes to linens, basic colors are just fine (and they cost less). To bring in some flare, put the money towards fancy runners rather than the tablecloth itself. You’ll save money, and it will look nice. Where the money should go to are the chairs and some unique pieces. We splurged to get a Farm Table for our cake stand. We only got one, but it looked really nice.
By going with the cheaper rental options, we saved around $1,000.
To recap, the areas where I personally advise spending the money are the venue, the dress, the photography, and the rings – but this all depends on what is most important to you. By following the tips in these blogs (and by finding other routes on your own!), you can have your dream wedding without spending your life savings.
And, what was the grand total saved by all these tips, you may ask? The total my husband and I saved off the 2013 national averages by using these strategies was $21,840!! Which, by the way, is way more money than we spent on the entire wedding and honeymoon combined!!
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out Part One!
Invitations and Other Paper
I was lucky to have such crafty people help me for our wedding. For invitations, I had a fantastic card-maker ready to make them for me – my mother! I come from a very crafty family, if you couldn’t tell already! My mom and I worked on the design of the invitations together, and then she made each by hand. This is a bit of a long process to be sure, but they came out beautifully. She also made my shower invitations even though friends hosted the event. She also made simple “reserved” signs for our front row. For the Save-the-Dates, my husband and I took point on those. We did a nighttime long-exposure shot that utilized a technique called “light painting.” We did the photography ourselves (it’s our job after all!) and I designed the final product around the image. I had them printed at Costco. By using these techniques, we saved around $450.
I think the ring pillow is a place where you can let your imagination really come out. James, my husband, actually came up with the idea to use an object we already owned that had special meaning for us. Since we had gotten engaged in Disneyland, and we had gotten Mickey and Minnie wedding ears to commemorate the occasion, we decided to tie the rings to his Groom Mickey Ears. It was adorable on its own, but to make it even better, our ringbearer ran down the aisle waving the ears behind him! It was so cute. By going this route, we saved around $45.
Odds are, you are going to spend a good chunk of your budget here, and it’s one of the places where you should if you want a specific look. It was very important for us to be outdoors in an area that we both loved. We had previous connections to the Rengstorff House, and we loved the grounds, so we went for it. They do quite a few weddings there, but it’s not well-known for being a wedding venue. That kept their cost down, so they were pretty reasonable. If you go with this particular venue (or any that does not have sufficient lighting), just note that you will have to buy twice as many hours as your event to allow for set-up and break-down of lighting. Of course, if you or your fiancé have a nice big property available to use for free, go for it, and save even more! By going with a venue that wasn’t known for weddings, we saved around $200 off the 2013 average for venues (their national average venue cost is listed as $1,993, which seems quite low to me – at least for the Bay Area, California, so this is an underestimation of what it saved us).
In some venues, an officiant may be assigned to you – like at a Church. However, we weren’t able to have a priest due to rules about being married outside. So, we decided on using a friend of ours as the officiant. He did such a great job, and he really cares about us, which made it much more special. He got “ordained” online for free, and then we gave him a gift as a thank you. So, we saved around $150 here.
As I mentioned earlier, one of our bridesmaids was a born planner, so she handled this role for us. We did get her nice gifts as a thank you, but even with that cost, going this route saved a lot. I worried that it was too much work for her, but luckily, she loved it! Check with your friends and see if any love planning parties. By using a friend, we saved around $1,600.
Stay tuned next week for the conclusion, Part Three!