Caitlin and Tim absolutely love the outdoors and adventure. After all, he proposed on top of Half Dome in Yosemite after a 3-night backpacking trip! So, when it came time to picking their wedding venue, Sanborn Park in Saratoga, CA was the perfect pick. The park has a stunning redwood grove with a deck built in – perfect for ceremonies!
We always have a wonderful time with wedding parties, but this group was truly memorable. In the middle of shooting their portraits, they all burst into song! They started singing “Make a Man Out of You” from Disney’s Mulan – so of course, we joined in! In true Disney fashion, it was magical.
After the ceremony, the guests headed to the History Club of Los Gatos to start the festivities. We loved Caitlin & Tim’s special touches: the “Just Married” banner on the head table, steins for the groomsmen, and little jam jars as gifts. They even had an ice cream bar instead of cake, which was amazing!
It was a beautiful day, and Caitlin and Tim are sure to have many adventures together. Plus, love is the greatest adventure of all!
Melanie and Adam seriously give us wedding goals! After a stunning Hawaiian wedding on the beaches of Maui, the couple returned back to the mainland for a harvest winery reception at Kirigin Cellars. That way, friends and family could enjoy the celebration even if they weren’t able to make it out to the islands. This couple is all about including those close to them, and it makes everyone feel like family! They even made sure that their little dog was part of the celebration!
We absolutely loved their fun harvest theme. It was done so beautifully and was perfect for an October wedding. To add to the family feel, the couple even brought in a mariachi band and even a piñata! The bride and groom even got their turn with the bat!
At the end of the night, the couple brought everyone to an after party at a Morgan Hill Bowl! It was a perfect day!
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!
We were immediately excited when we learned about the locations for Stephanie and Jason’s big day: the beautiful Hotel De Anza for getting ready photos, followed by a traditional ceremony at the breathtaking Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, and finishing with a reception at the San Jose Police Officer’s Association. It was the perfect blend of urban and traditional looks. Plus, when you have such a great couple like Stephanie and Jason, you’re bound to get amazing shots!
Hotel De Anza brings their guests back to the class of the 40s, so it was a great backdrop for Stephanie & Jason and their bridal party. Located in Downtown San Jose, we were able to utilize the the city and even the roof of the building to bring in a classy urban feel. The sweet details of the sunflowers in the bouquet and the stunning cathedral length veil really captured the couple’s traditional and yet fun side.
The majestic cathedral was absolutely breathtaking, and we were so honored to be able to photograph there! Add in the gorgeous bride and groom with her beautiful Trudy’s gown, and we were definitely having all the feels! Of course, the best part was simply seeing Stephanie and Jason together. These two are clearly crazy for each other, and it shows! We were so delighted to be a part of their beautiful day.
Lichy and Ken chose the stunning venue of The Ranch at Little Hills in San Ramon, CA for their gorgeous June wedding. The venue provided so many fun backdrops, including a beautiful forest for their ceremony! It was the perfect fit for the couple who love the outdoors. They love it so much that they even got engaged on a 30 mile backpacking trip!
Their beautiful forest ceremony was straight out of a fairytale. Bridesmaids shone in mint, and groomsmen were dapper in their navy suits. Instead of an arch or statement piece at the front of the altar, the couple chose to let nature be their decoration – and we loved it! They also put a piece of pallet art at the entrance to the ceremony space, which was the perfect minimalistic touch.
When we learned that one of their favorite activities is rock climbing (and noticed there was a rock climbing wall at the venue), we mentioned posing with the wall to “stage” a climb. We should have known these two would want to actually ROCK CLIMB IN THEIR WEDDING CLOTHES! We were blown away when Lichy kicked off her shoes, and started climbing! Needless to say, that was a first!
Lichy and Ken made sure to make their guests feel at home with a great reception. Guests danced under the stars and bistro lighting and enjoyed Gelati Creation popsicles. The minimalist decor was perfect and well-suited to their laid back style and personalities. The wood slices, succulents, baby’s breath, and tea lights looked great with the natural backdrop of the venue. We loved everything about it!
After a sweet ceremony at San Francisco City Hall, Jenna and Jack created a beautiful wedding in the scenic Los Gatos hills to share with their friends and family. Every moment of the wedding was simply stunning – straight out of a magazine! The wedding had a very intimate feel both in setting and in feeling. As a photographer, we absolutely love when couples have sweet private moments in which they can only see each other despite being surrounded by others. Jenna and Jack had so many of these moments. You can tell just by looking at the photos that they truly are each other’s best friend and the love of their lives.
As Jenna and Jack got ready for their big day, there were no nerves or fears, just tranquility and pure joy knowing what was coming. You could feel the support and love from all the couple’s friends and family as they prepped for the big day and entered the ceremony site. The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s good friend, Sean, and included little anecdotes about the couple – such as their love of Netflix and Facebook!
After the ceremony, the guests delighted in taking a big group shot with the couple and mingling with a glass of Regale Wine in their hands as dinner was set up. The long rows of tables had a gorgeous view looking out over the mountains (and bocce court!) under beautiful bistro lights. As wedding photographers, we’ve heard lots and lots of toasts. These were some of our favorites. To start, the groom’s siblings gave them funny gifts for their lives together – including a flag that had been created especially to combine their two home countries, Canada and the United States. The maid of honor and parents of the bride had truly touching toasts about their beautiful daughter / sister and how clear it was that the couple constantly made each other better and happier than they had ever been before.
Once the dance floor opened up, the guests really started to show off their skills! The floor was constantly occupied, as was the nearby photo booth! We managed to sneak the bride and groom away for a special photoshoot though. In the Bay Area, it’s rare to find someplace where you can see the Milky Way, and it’s quite hard to photograph surrounded by so many lights of the city. We knew the couple loved the idea of night photography, but we didn’t tell them until that night what we hoped to get. At this mountain venue, we had limited lights around us, and the venue kindly turned off their outdoor lights as well. As the saying goes, “the starts aligned perfectly” to get the shots we had hoped for – the beautiful bride and groom under the Milky Way.
As we watched everyone leave at the end of the night, every single person had a huge smile on their face. Jenna and Jack wanted to make sure they had a wedding everyone could enjoy and cherish, and they certainly did just that. These two light up when they are together, and their life together is sure to be a beautiful one.
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!
Let’s face it. Though a wedding is a very important day, it is just one day. Sadly, some couples spend so much on their wedding, that their savings are hit hard. There are ways to make the day great without breaking the bank though. After all, being able to afford a home someday would be nice!
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to know what aspects of the wedding are the most important to you. Those are the aspects where you should spend the money. For me, it was photography, details, and the venue that were the biggies. Photography was the number one because, besides the marriage, that’s what will last, so it better be good!
Catering is really expensive – I mean REALLY expensive. When we were planning our wedding, I talked to several caterers and provided them with our catering budget and our overall budget for the whole wedding so that they knew what we were working with. Every single caterer came back to me with a quote that was more than our ENTIRE wedding budget! How is that right? The second they heard the food was for a wedding, their quote skyrocketed.
So, we decided to have a restaurant cater. A restaurant doesn’t care if it’s a wedding or a birthday party or a small dinner with friends – their prices remain the same. They are also a lot easier to deal with, in my opinion, because they aren’t trying to sneak in extra costs like the caterers were doing to me. You also can spend a little more to give your guests more options and yet it still comes way under the price of a wedding caterer. We used the Old Spaghetti Factory, and everyone loved the food at our wedding, and it worked out perfectly!
By going this route for our 150-person wedding, we saved around $4,300 when compared to the 2013 average for a wedding caterer.
Wedding Dress and Bridesmaid Dresses
I was quite lucky when it came to my wedding dress. I love fashion, and I do feel the dress is one of those places where it’s okay to spend a little more. I’ve seen women who bought a cheap dress just because it was cheap, and they were not happy with it. That shows on their face, and this should be the happiest day of your life – so feel your best! Luckily, I found THE dress straight off the rack. It was a sample dress. The price was so low that it cost the same as my mother’s dress cost 30 years ago! So, don’t forget to check that rack – you may just find the one! As for the veil, I knew purchasing one was out of the question for me. As a seamstress myself, I’m just amazed how much money a bit of tulle can go for once it’s labeled as a “veil.” So, I made mine. Grand total cost to make it? $3. Yup, $3. That’s much nicer than the 2013 average of $128 (and they can go for a lot more than that!)
For bridesmaid dresses, I was determined to find something that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s important to realize that though the wedding may be the center of your life, it is NOT the center of theirs. When I was a bridesmaid, the bride did not take into account how much each girl was spending on her. It ended up totally over $1,000 each, and that was money we didn’t really have to spend on someone else. I was determined not to do the same to my girls. Instead, I went to Amazon.com to get ideas. I ended up finding a pretty mint/turquoise dress by Ever-Pretty. The cost? $43 plus another $5 for the add-on lace.
By buying a sample dress and making my veil, I saved around $805 when compared to the average. By buying a dress online instead of an official bridesmaid dress, each girl saved around $75-$250.
I was very blessed to have a bridesmaid who is an absolute natural when it comes to all things “wedding” – including flowers. That being said, we still needed to buy them! She came up with an alternative to a florist: buying them from Costco and Whole Foods! We went with Baby’s Breath, Chamomile, Hypericum Berries, and Spray Roses. Then, she assembled them herself. They were stunning! I also added fabric flowers that I had made. Each had a memento from a family member.
By going this route, we saved $1,500 off the average cost of flowers.
Like catering, cake can also be very pricey – especially if you have a multi-tiered masterpiece. We liked the idea of cupcakes better (and it’s becoming more and more popular), so we used a local bakery that is actually quite famous for the heaven that is their confectionary goodness. This way, you also don’t have to worry about cake cutting fees (which are just silly!). We also made the cake stand ourselves – or rather, my father did. He’s an expert wood-worker, so he created the perfect stand for our cupcakes.
So, by buying cupcakes and a small cutting cake instead of going the traditional route, we saved around $290 off the average cost.
I love crafts, and luckily, so did my bridesmaid! Between her, my mom, and I, we made most of the decorations at the wedding. The signs were all handmade by my bridesmaids using frames I had bought for cheap at garage sales. I made the props for the photo booth, my mom made the table numbers by hand, and I made the guest book online using a freebie coupon. Though not handmade, the old books and cameras that served as our centerpieces were from our own collection, so we’ll continue to display those for years to come.
By making most of the decorations, we saved around $850.