Saturday, February 12, 2011

Throwing money at problems

Okay, I'm going to level with you guys, and I know most of you aren't in the position we were in.  We didn't pay for our wedding.  Our parents very generously chipped in and paid for our wedding.  So we set a budget early on, and then came in about $10k over our budget but still came in about $6k below the maximum budget my parents had set for us.  So if you don't have any spare money in your budget or you are sitting at home thinking, "well, do we really need to spend $500 on a florist?, this post probably isn't for you.  You can write this post off as, "they had way more chickens than us."* But if you have a decent size budget and are trying to spend an amount you are comfortable with, and spend it on the right things, keep reading.

Our plan was to have a family-community-homegrown-DIY-friendly wedding.  We had that.  But we also saved ourselves a lot of stress and worry by throwing money at the following problems:
1.) The flowers
2.) The music
3.) The bar

1.)  It had always been my plan to do the flowers ourselves.  It sounded like a fun project and a great way to spend some downtime with the female members of our family.  We were "just" making bouquets and how hard could it really be?  Then I stabbed myself with floral wire, concluded I wanted to spend the weekend with family and friends, and hired Judy.

The day before the wedding, we were at WholeFoods and I looked at their beautiful fall floral bouquets.  I thought, "oh, how pretty." Then I thought, "oh, thank goodness I'm not buying these so we can make bouquets instead of going to the aquarium tonight."Our bouquets were beautiful and we had enough to worry about without making our own floral arrangements.

2.)  It initially bothered Mark to hire a DJ when, "we could just do that ourselves" and it bothered me because I hate DJs.  Hate 'em.  Eventually we gave up and started looking half-heartedly.  Then Mark's parents went to a wedding with a "great" DJ and told us we should definitely hire one.  We were pretty sold by that point, and then we went home to try to come up with a playlist - we felt baffled and confused, and finally contacted DJs.  We met with a few and hired the one who wasn't pushy and DJ-ish, or representing a company that would send a total stranger to our wedding.  (I'm sorry, but is it crazy to actually want to meet with the service provider when I'm paying $800 for something?)

Our DJ was great, and incorporated last minute changes - we hadn't given him a song to enter to, but told him how we were coming in and he said, "how about Rock 'n Roll Part II?" which was completely perfect.  Our dinner playlist was fantastic and during the dancing, he read the crowd and played the music it took to get people on the floor.  

3.)  We talked about having a bartender early on, or doing self-serve and having people make sure the bar didn't run dry.  Ultimately, we went with a bartender because that way we didn't have to bring our own sodas or other drinks, and we didn't have to worry about where to set up the bar or where to move the bar to.  It worked out really well, and we still saved a lot of money on the bar.  I think the cost of the bartender was $7 per person or so, and the cost of doing beer/wine would have been $14 and full bar would have been $20, but it's likely I'm making that up.  I know somebody quoted us prices similar to that.

There were a number of other problems that we threw money at closer to the wedding - I made countless trips to AC Moore, Staples, Michaels, and JoAnns to make sure we had all the supplies we needed to make the day look and feel right.  (Hot tip from the Sister Of the Bride: buy extra of anything, and then return it after the wedding if you don't use it.)  On the day before/on the wedding, our cousin's wife picked up everything else we could need at WalMart and JoAnns and generally saved the day.  Which is where I come to the one problem we didn't throw money at:  We didn't hire a day-of coordinator.

We initially didn't hire a DOC because we thought, "hey, how hard can it be?"  Also, this is a point where Mark and I strongly disagreed - I thought that we needed a DOC, he told me that we/he could handle everything.  I'm not going to tell you that I was all stressed out on our wedding day because we didn't hire somebody - that would be a lie.  I will tell you that Mark and the groomsmen spent all morning running around and setting up and generally feeling like there was not enough time to get everything done and sending people out to buy stuff that they left at home.  I also will tell you that my cousin's wife served as our DOC and we would have been lost without her, but that I also felt really guilty about not hiring one when I knew we could have afforded it.

Look, everyone tells you to hire one, and I looked into it but not very hard.  By the time I realized we should hire one, we were six weeks out and I was working from 7am until 11:30 at night.  There was no time to find and hire a DOC, even if one was available on the most popular wedding day of the year.  So we did without, and we made do, but if you have the money, please hire somebody.  Otherwise, please designate a few specific people to be generally around and helpful on your wedding day - your bridesmaids have better things to do, and you need a few extra hands on deck - in this case, my cousin and his wife showed up early to help out, and the significant others of the bridal party were EXTREMELY helpful.  All it required of us was giving them space to get ready.

Do you throw money at problems as well? What are your biggest "cheaping out" regrets?

*I feel like I need to apologize for having enough chickens at my disposal to have a fancy wedding without stressing over the budget.  I am choosing not to feel any guiltier about this than I do about having a mom who wasn't a control freak about my wedding or about having drama-free bridesmaids.  Simply put, I got lucky.  Oh, and we spent more on our wedding than I might very well make both last year and this year combined, so my life does still kind of suck.  Just before you get too angry.


  1. Agreed about having some designated people to take charge on the wedding day. I didn't want a DOC that wasn't a friend/relative, so we did this:

    1) I typed up a ridiculous wedding schedule including times we'd be setting things up and sent out an email to guests asking for help, making it clear they should only help if they wanted to. A ton of family and friends came to pitch in and apparently had a fun time doing it.

    2) Our pastor was in charge of the rehearsal, with some guidance from us. When people asked too many questions, I simply said, please listen to the pastor. It worked great.

    3) On the day of, two of our friends served as point people at the church. We asked two sets of aunts & uncles to be our reception hosts, which means they led the set up crew, told caterers what to do, found whatever was needed, etc.

    Because of all this, I really didn't feel that stressed on our wedding day, and I don't think we stretched any one family member too thinly. I felt strongly that all these systems needed to be in place and it seemed to have worked well.

  2. Paying for a reasonable wedding for young people who are expected to be in school for a long time goes back several generations in the Bride's family. FOB was unemployed and deep in debt when he married the MOB. MOB's parents paid for everything, including the honeymoon and never mentioned it again. I never ever ever forgot.