Wow... Time Flies!

I was just noticing that it's been almost a month since I lasted posted about my wedding planning happenings! Yikes! Too long! So... here's a little update, and my engagement pictures!!!

I sealed a contract with my second cousin to do the catering after going in to try the prime rib. It is amazing! He was so excited to do the meal, and had so many suggestions on other things I might want to consider, that I think he'll end up being a huge asset in the wedding planning! I am going to be able to go through him for the kegs of beer and he'll even supply a place to hold them during the reception! Not to mention, since he's family, it's easier to just casually talk about some things and throw ideas around!

Also, I decided to enlist a wedding coordinator. My mom's friend does wedding and party planning, so we asked if she would help with the wedding. I have a meeting set up with her in December to talk reception decor and planning! I was hesitant at first to have a coordinator because I want to think I can do it all myself, but now that she's here, I am so grateful! My stress level has dropped drastically by incorporating someone who can handle this big chunk of my big day!

Finally, here are some engagement pictures! :)

Come Together... Right Now... Over Me

Oh how good it feels to have things quickly and smoothly coming together! Last week, I was stressed about many things: colors, catering, save-the-dates, pictures, and the reception. Now, thanks in large part to friends and family, all of these are off my list of serious stressers.

First, my color scheme finally is working flawlessly! As you have read in a prior post, I added sage green to my color scheme. I did this for a couple of reasons: 1) it helps bring spring into an otherwise fall color scheme 2) you can actually find green/purple color combinations when  you shop for decor. If you are interested in an inspiration board and examples I put together, click here.

Second, my catering dilemma is over! This, again, is with help from family. I have talked time and time again of the importance of asking family and friends what they may be able to do to help, and it has paid off ten fold. If you would like to refresh the other help I've received from friends and family, read here. My post about catering issues told the problems I was having finding someone to provide the guests with a meal at the reception. Originally, I came up with a plan to make our own lasagna (you can read about these issues here). This was definitely compromising what S and I had wanted at our reception: prime rib and potatoes.

My dad suggested that I call my second cousin (his cousin), Jeff, and find out if he would be up for doing the meat since they make prime rib every Friday at his restaurant. He emphatically said 'yes' and offered up many other services he may be able to provide. He said that depending on the cost of the meat, he may be able to get me the dinner for under $20 a person! He said if we are willing to be patient and wait for sales to come through, we can have a choice beef for cheaper than market price (wonderful to live in cattle country!). He also agreed to supply the kegs of Coors Lite at cost, and bring his portable fridge to keep them in until they are used. Additionally, he is going to talk to the guy who drives an old limo for him on Thursday and Friday nights (for those who enjoy the pub a little too much), and see if he'd be willing to come down and help my guests get safely to their hotels! He was also full of suggestions for how to set up the buffet and keep everything hot/cold. Excellent!

Finally, the invitations are made and off to the printer. Yes, off to the printer, not ordered online. One of my wonderful friends happens to be a graphic designer out of work due to the economy. When we were chatting about wedding plans, I told her the invitations were becoming a little daunting for my budget. She reminded me that she was a graphic designer and could probably produce what I wanted. We collaborated over Chinese, and she put together some beautiful samples for me. The save-the-dates are off to the printer and will be sent out shortly with my engagement pictures (also taken by a friend, Brown Road Photography). Although my friend insisted that I am doing her a favor by improving her portfolio, and that I wouldn't owe her anything for her time, I plan on giving her a fair cut for her work. I actually prefer paying a friend over some internet company.

If only my friends could help me figure out how to de-stress my life as a Middle School teacher!

Change Isn't Always a Bad Thing!

So, I've been throwing the idea around in my head for a while, and I've finally settled on changing my colors slightly. I was stressing about the change for quite some time because I thought there was NO logical way I could change colors NOW!!! Then, I remembered that I have over 6 months left, and no real decorations or stationary bought- what do I have to lose?

My colors have now shifted from eggplant and champagne to eggplant and sage with accents of champagne. The color champagne was just too difficult to find anything in!! Instead of continuing the stress over this color, I decided that I really liked the combination of purple and green, and, even better, the combo is all over the place! This makes invitations, decorations, and all other coordinating features of my wedding much easier. Now, the stress is in the creation of everything, and not in just finding the "stuff" to make the creations out of- MUCH BETTER!

I am including some samples of this color combination. Also, the sandals from Sseko Designs are in the mail!!! Pictures to follow :)

This is an inspiration board from Prima Donna Bride showing the color scheme- I don't know that I'll implement THAT much green!

Modern Girl Invitations
This is the new invitation sample I was thinking about using- a little more reflective of our casual feel!

I love Givaways!

I have found that there are 1000s of giveaways out there! Similar to how you apply for 1000s of scholarships hoping to hit the jackpot with at least one heading into college, I hope to get something useful from at least one of these giveaways. If not, it is always fun to see other budget conscious brides' blogs! I have learned more from reading a variety of bride blogs than from any magazine, book, or T.V. show. It is just so much more real when you are getting the information from someone who's "been there, done that," not a "professional" hired to say and promote certain topics!

Anyway, the lastest (and I think greatest) giveaway out there right now is at The Broke-Ass Bride. She is giving the "gift of favor" to one lucky bride- free favors for the wedding! She points out that many times, the favors are the first to go on a tight budget (my wedding included), so she is giving away the opportunity to have that desired item, for free!

Check it out!


Staying with the budget-savviness (just made that word up!) I was planning on making my own invitations. My plan was to have my maid-of-honor visit this huge paper warehouse in Hillsboro, price out paper and supplies, and have a big "invitation-making" party. Then, I realized that for the money I save, I will be putting in quite a few hours; hours that I don't currently have available! So... here are my top two choices for invitations (already made). Both are from Wedding Paper Divas and both are very affordable!

What is nice is that I will be able to mimic both styles pretty well, and incorporate them into the theme of the rest of the decorations. The first style goes very nicely with my pomanders I made (pictures to come), and this is the one I am leaning towards. Both would work wonderfully, and I don't mind spending the money on them. After all, I have saved EVERYWHERE else in this planning process. Why not save myself some time and get the invitations all ready to go!?

The Test Was a Success!

So... as I have mentioned many times, I am having an atrocious time finding catering! This is seriously the one sore spot in my wedding planning. I have even gone so far as to take this as a bad omen on the whole day! One night a couple weeks ago, I called S (as I do every night) and we were talking about wedding planning. The food situation came up, and I started in on how difficult it is to find someone to do what we want for a price that makes sense. From this, I broke down into a blubbery mess. I was telling him that I didn't think the colors would work, that the decorations at the reception would be horrible, that the flowers wouldn't be nice because it wasn't a professional doing them, and that the DJ probably wouldn't show up.

He, of course, reminded me that all I was really supposed to be worrying about at this point was the fact that there does not seem to be a caterer in the area willing to make meat for a fair price! In fact, adding to the story about the horrible meeting with one potential, economics is actually thrown out the window for some of these rednecks (no offense, I take pride in living here!). I was informed by one, who will remain nameless, that in the restaurant prime rib costs $22 for the dinner. So, Eastern Oregon redneck economics enter stage left, that means the wedding (a guaranteed 150 people!) will be $25 per person. WHAT!!!? How does that even work!? Are you serious!? Sir, I have a degree in Accounting and Finance, and I would like you to know that it just doesn't work that way! If I can guarantee a number much greater than the two people who eat a prime rib in your restaurant any given night, your cost drops drastically; thus, the price per person should DECLINE, not increase! Crazy!

Needless to say, I have began to seek alternatives. One such alternative was cooking up my mom's great lasagna in mass quantity and freezing them about a week before the wedding. I would then hire a few good Young Life girls to throw them in the oven at the reception venue an hour before, and "viola," a meal everyone likes. But, I was concerned that freezing the lasagna would ruin the homemade taste. The only way to know was to try it!

I made up a lasagna and threw it in the freezer for a week, planning to thaw it and bake it- a test run so-to-speak. Tonight, was the moment of truth. I took out the lasagna this morning, and baked it this evening with my mom, sister, friend, and myself ready to critique the results. It was perfect, just like it had been made up that day.

This is great news! Now, the stress of finding a caterer is off my shoulders. At least I know I have a good fall back plan. I can make lasagna, and everyone likes lasagna!


There is always a lot to be said regarding a honeymoon. I have received advice ranging all over the board on where to go, when to go, why to go, etc. In fact, the one thing my mother told S when he asked if he could marry me was that we needed to take the time to go on a honeymoon. She told him that if you think you can just do it later, you won't. This tidbit is convenient when S starts dragging his feet about going! I kindly remind him that it was my mother's one request. Besides, I think he's just huffing for my benefit! :)

I have spent many hours researching various locations from Europe to Tahiti. It is important to note both the high and low seasons of a particular location. These seasons are mostly structured around weather, so finding great deals in Tahiti during the monsoons may not actually be worth the savings! It is also important to remember that the "deal" rates that you see listed on certain resorts are probably posted for the off-season. Be sure to look into the exact dates the deal is good for, don't just assume that will be the price you will pay all year round! Another thing to avoid (unless you want to be there) are the large holidays in certain countries. For example, you may want to avoid going to Hong Kong during the Chinese new year!

Based on high/ low seasons, S and I chose to go to either Greece or Fiji (very different, I know). May is a relatively easy time to go just about anywhere as it is usually categorized in the "middle season." Typically, prices are still low, but rising sharply depending on your destination. In Greece, May is arguably one of the best times to go. The rainy season is well out of the way and all of the spring flowers and color starts to arrive. It is still a month or so off from the high tourist season, so there is just a slow trickle of people into the country. May in Fiji is, again, a "middle" or "shoulder" season. It comes between the end of the wet, typhoon-ridden October to April, but before the hot, dry June to August. Fiji, however, has a very short, almost non-existent "low season" as it is a desirable place to go year-round.

One piece of information that came up quite often when looking at honeymoon tips was the benefit of knowing someone whose "been there, done that." This seemed reasonable to me; of course it would be easier to know what to expect and where to go if someone had already been there. Then, someone else could make mistakes for you to learn from, not do! They would also be able to let you know where the best bang for your buck will come from. Knowing that having a friend "in the know" would be helpful, S and I chose Fiji as our destination. S has a close friend who was raised there, and lived there for many years in his adult life before moving to Washington state. We called him and asked for suggestions for resorts and he listed a few of his top picks.

So, at this point, we are looking at Tokoriki Island Resort or Matamanoa Island Resort. Both of these resorts were recommended by our friend because of their secluded setting. Each is a small island with little family tourist activity. They both would be fantastic for a honeymoon! Check out the links to the websites! Here are a few of the pictures from the Tokoriki site:
And from the Matamanoa site:

It's been a while!

Some of you may have noticed that it's been a while since I last posted. School just started back up, and I am desperately needing to get back into the routine of teaching all day and having a life at night! I also notice that with my days now filled by a job, I have much less time to get anything done wedding-wise. This has become a concern in the catering department.

A caterer was one aspect I wanted to have taken care of prior to school starting back up. S had high hopes for a restaurant just out of town being able to accommodate our needs, but they fell short. They were a testiment to going with a gut feeling! Within two minutes of talking to the guy, neither S or I felt good about having them do the food. Regardless of the quality we know we get when we eat there, the thought of them being in charge of the catering on our big day scared us to death!

So, this leaves me still with the catering delimma. S really has his heart set on a full meal, but I am apprehensive to spend too much money. Does anyone have any suggestions on full meals that are budget-friendly?

New Look...

... Same great taste!

Thought I'd do something a little closer to a wedding color :)

Ring the Bell for a Fond Farewell...

I have been excited for this idea since I first saw it on Style Me Pretty. As guests file out of the ceremony, they will be encouraged to grab a bell and line up to greet us. Each bell will have a tag that says "Ring the Bell for a Fond Farewell."

Of course, being budget conscious was VERY important for this project. Hand bells run around $5 each. However, there are many wholesale websites that offer these bells for cheaper. Price Wise Favors has these bells for $1.66 each if you order over 96, but this still leaves you with a $166 for 100 guests. That was more than I was willing to part with while staying on a budget. I found a great alternative at American Bridal. I bought 192 of these bells for $39.60! They will ring us off to the reception while still remaining budget-friendly.

I am so excited to start preparing these bells! I think it is a super cute, and unique way to send off the bride and groom. No bird seed or bubbles for us!

Don't Fear Enlisting Friends!

You all know the guy: he plugs a "name drop" in every conversation, stretching the subject to fit in his you-know-who-I-know opportunity. But, knowing the right people does not always mean the president of Intel. Sometimes, the best people to know are family and friends with skills in areas you are lacking.

As you can see from this blog, I am dedicated to doing as many projects by hand as I can. The driving force behind this goal is saving as many pennies as possible! At the end of the night, folks, all that will matter is that you are married to your best friend, your soul mate. What won't matter are the Swarovski crystals you spent a small fortune adorning your centerpieces with, that ended up ignored when the dancin' got started.

To this end, I have been recruiting as many of my friends and family as possible. My sister (who is an AMAZING seamstress) has agreed to bustle my dress. Most bridal salons charge a flat rate of $200 for this service. Many brides just factor this cost into the cost of their dress, without considering who they know that might be willing to provide the service for nothing (or, as I plan for my sister, a bottle of wine). In addition, we have talked about adding some buttons to the back of the dress to smooth the look of the zipper.

I was also able to drastically reduce the cost of a DJ by using a friend. The average DJ runs around $800 for 4-6 hours of service. This seemed expensive, and that cost doesn't include travel and a hotel for out-of-town companies. In fact, many couples spend upwards of $1200 to have some directed tunes at their reception. A friend of mine I met through YoungLife (awesome, awesome, awesome youth outreach program) happens to work for a DJ in EO, and has done a couple weddings solo. I had planned to try to use this company (I do wish to shop local as much as possible), and hoped WS would be able to do my reception. After asking him about pricing, he told me their flat rate for 4 hours was $700 with additional cost for time after that, as well as cost for travel and a hotel. Although steep, I had planned for this to be the case. I was shocked when he went on to tell me that he would charge me only $600, no travel, and no hotel if I could find him somewhere to stay! Additionally, he would stay until the party fizzled for no additional cost!

John Lennon got it right: "I get by with a little help from my friends."

Floral Centerpieces

As I have continually stated, I am trying to keep my wedding within a modest budget. One of the best ways I have found to do this with the reception decorations is DIY. Additionally, staying away from multiple flowers and heavy arrangements can save you a ton! I just discovered that 200 tulips in shades of white and purple will only cost me around $130 if I order them through Albertsons!

My centerpieces are going to be two single vases with a single stem submerged in water. A candle will float on the water, and marbles will disguise the base of the flower. This is going to be a great way to save money, but it could end up more expensive if I am not cautious. Below is an example of this type of centerpiece.

Each vase can kill you if you are purchasing them at $3 or more a piece. Many run closer to $5 each. The dollar store vases didn't run in the right size, but that would definitely be an option. My next place to look? IKEA!! The vases in the size I wanted (even beautifully frosted around the base) ran about $8 each- far more than I hoped since I needed to buy about 30! I did, however, find a budget friendly alternative: drinking glasses.

Ikea has a "beer glass" that has straight sides and is about 8 inches tall. This would be perfect for my arrangements! And, at $6.99 for a half dozen, these glasses fit perfectly into my budget goals! These glasses are going to work perfectly; I am very excited to get started experimenting with the centerpieces!

Budget Savvy Wine Labels

I am so excited about my new budget-friendly find for the reception! To save money on the alcohol, I will be purchasing 2 Buck Chuck (Charles Schwab) wine- honestly, who doesn't love this stuff!? To personalize the bottles, I have been scouring the internet for water-proof wine labels. I have found them! I will be ordering a dozen of the purple for the white wine, and two dozen of the champagne colored for the red and blush wine.

I found these on one of my new favorite websites Etsy. The labels are $9.99 for one dozen, so to beautifully cover all of my wine I will be spending a mere $30!

A Forgotten Element

In telling the stories of my planning journey, I have left out one of my favorites.

SL, as I have mentioned, works out of town for three weeks at a time. During this time, his days start around 4:30 am because he has to leave the apartment by 6 am. Due to the early rising time, we usually say our goodnights by nine o'clock each night.

Although he has supported all of my decisions whole-heartedly (especially the decision to spend as little as possible), he was slow to make too many suggestions. The day after he proposed, he had to return to work, so I drove him to the airport. While in the car, I made a comment geared toward wedding planning to which his response was "whatever you want is fine with me, this is your day."

This comment was shortly followed by a myriad of suggestions focusing around what he has and hasn't liked at all of the previous weddings he's been to: "I really liked the chorizos * had after we had all been drinking for a while," "I didn't really like the food at * wedding, I think I'd rather have a full meal: meat and potatoes with a salad bar," "I really liked the way the tables were set up..." etc.

I just grinned and listened to all of these ideas he had that, he informed me, he hadn't really been thinking about; they were just thoughts. Haha. I believe I caught my fiance getting excited about the planning! Who knew guys paid that much attention at weddings!?

After he had been back at work for a few days, we said our goodnights per usual. About an hour and a half later I get a text that said, "a bundt cake on every table might be nice. or not, just a thought."

My first reaction is "bundt cake! really?" Soon, I moved towards more surprise that this short text meant that SL had been laying awake for an hour and a half thinking about our wedding (at least long enough to formulate that thought)! Yes, ladies, I have truly found the perfect man. As I thought about the text, I thought "bundt cake, why not!?"

So, my friends, do not be surprised if sitting in the middle of each table is a perfectly baked bundt cake. And, yes, SL has volunteered to make each and every one of these scrumptious desserts (he's an amazing cook- his chocolate lava cake thing is to die for). He even mentioned that a lazy susan might make frosting the cakes easier. Sigh... I'll be hard pressed to ever love him more than that moment.

First Try...

Here is my first true attempt at making my own inspiration board. These are all pictures I have clipped to save as ideas for decor, cakes, etc.

An Inspiration Board for Purple and Champagne

Here is an inspiration board I found on the internet that shows the color scheme I am picturing for the wedding. I am building my own as well... I'll post it when I finish it.


We are down to three dress options. I think I may go with allowing each to decide which one they like and have multiple styles, but who knows. Here are my choices (picture them all in the color of the first one- I couldn't get the picture to copy in the right color for the others), feel free to comment about which one you like best! My sisters (and hopefully a couple other BMs will try some on this weekend and we can narrow it down even further). Here are the links to the styles if you would like to look at them in the right color (lapis) the last one doesn't show the color online, I'd have to ask in a store: Style 1, Style 2, Style 3

I think any of the three would look cute with the sandals. If I do multiple styles, I may limit it to one of the two strapless and the other dress, that way there is some consistency. I am excited to see how they look on the girls!

The Sandals are Official!!!

So, my girls all loved the sandals! I am so excited to have this unique aspect incorporated into my wedding! The programs at the ceremony will probably have the story of these amazing sandals on the back, so everyone will know what my girls' feet represent. Plus, how awesome is it that these are flats and won't need to be shed to tear up the dance floor later that night!? (Do all of the exclamation points tell you how pumped I am for this?)

Here are the ribbon colors (the purple will be the color I am going to wear, the champagne will be for the girls):

I have decided to pay for the bridesmaids dresses, and the girls are buying their own sandals. However, one of the best parts about these shoes are that they don't break the bank! Due to popular demand, these sandals can be special ordered for weddings from the company, and I have been in contact with Liz from Sseco Designs to get them made- they should be very reasonably priced! Additionally, these are shoes that the girls will wear again, unlike your typical dyed pump.

Pre-reception ideas

SL is set on having his first sight of me at the moment I stand at the end of the isle, headed down to become his wife. I cannot argue with this since he seems very adamant about the importance of this one aspect of our wedding. Understandably, I have been a bit concerned about what to do with our guests while they wait for us to arrive at the reception. I found these little cheese and cracker trays at the 101 DIY projects page and think they would be a great way to start! This, coupled with the wine and beer, should get the party started while our guests await our arrival.


One of the best ways to save money is to do as much myself as possible. I have been searching for fun ideas for some projects and ran across this website: 101 DIY Projects and Ideas. I am super excited to try out some of these ideas! Stay tuned to see the results.

Budget Dresses

My wedding dress. I feel secure in SL not venturing to look through this blog, so I will post some pictures of the dresses I tried on and the dress I bought.

Most brides would agree that the dress seems to steal the show, and this fact makes it stand as one of the single most important items on the wedding list. My budget for the dress (including tailoring) and accessories was $1500. I figured I could get just about anything I wanted at this price, and that more would be somewhat extravagant and unnecessary; especially since I am working on being frugal. That being said, I was hoping to find a one-of-a-kind dress that not everyone had been married in; nothing taken from the "Capri Marie" by Maggie Sottero, but I wanted something different!

My first dress shopping experience was at a wonderful little bridal boutique in Western Oregon. I tried on about ten dresses and narrowed my choices down to 3 (all by Maggie Sottero): Carrie, Milana, Vienna. The latter was my favorite, but was verging on my price limit at $1300 without accessories or alterations. Still, I loved the lace and beading detail.

I just recently headed down to San Francisco to visit my friend from college and my cousin. My cousin, conveniently enough, works at the Priscilla of Boston downtown. I knew these dresses would be out of my price range, but she said model dresses can sell from $500!

The first shop we wandered in to was a boutique downtown. The saleswoman had a spot available to show me some dresses, so we jumped on the opportunity. I told her my budget, and she grabbed some styles. (*NOTE: when telling your price point, slightly reduce your maximum amount. The representative automatically brings styles "around" your price, none seem to be below your highest price. So, help yourself out, and let the higher prices still be in your price range by dropping what you tell the representative. This way, you won't be disappointed by falling in love with a dress you can't afford.)

Right away I told the consultant my goal for a unique dress and she brought me her favorite style. She informed me that she had never seen anyone buy this particular dress, but that it was far and away her favorite style. This dress was stunning, but much out of my price range: $2863. I loved the floral detail and vintage feel of the dress, but wasn't willing to part with that much of my budget.

The next dress shop we went to sold dresses that had previously been displayed in boutiques around the city. These dresses were selling for up to 80% of the retail price! While some dresses were rough with use, others seemed like new. Of the dresses I tried on, I liked (actually LOVED) only one; a Rosa Clara design. This dress, like the one above, had many unique aspects: vertical detail in the skirt, polka dots on the bodice, dropped waist. This dress actually had the potential to be "the one." Until, that is, I saw the price: $2300. I was getting pretty discouraged. Granted, this dress was discounted from a retail price of $5160, but it still exceed my budget. Additionally, it was going to need to be hemmed and altered; all more cost.

As I said, I was very discouraged. I knew that many of my friends had found their dream dresses within a budget, I was wondering where mine would be! My friend, A, had a different idea: go to a cheaper bridal shop to prove that I needed to spend the higher amount to get a unique, well-made dress.

This is why we headed back across town to the David's Bridal in San Francisco. Our theory was two-fold a) it would validate the necessity for spending more money when I didn't find something I loved at DB's prices b) if I DID find something, I could head back to the DB in my area and buy the dress closer to home. I ended up wrong on both hypotheses!

I tried on all of the "typical" princess-type dresses, and, no surprise, I did not like them. I told the consultant I was looking for something unique and she brought out this dress: (just kidding, you have to wait until the wedding pictures to see this! What if SL DOES get on here and snoop!?) Let's just say, it is perfectly unique and fits me like a glove- no tailoring necessary. My sister is able to do the bustle and any alterations that may arise before the wedding in 8 months. The best part was that this dress cost only $950; high for DB dresses, but under budget, even with a veil and shoes.

Ok, so I found the perfect dress! I asked the consultant to look up a couple of the stores in my area to see if they carried the same dress. She came back with a half smirk, and informed me that the dress I had fallen in love with was a preview dress- not on the market. The dress was only available in that store in San Francisco and a store in Colorado. I would not be able to buy the dress anywhere else!

Airlines allow one carry-on, wedding dresses count!

Total Wedding Cost: $1550

A quick, important interjection

My friend Amanda so graciously got me stuck reading wedding blogs. To say I have become addicted to them is an understatement. I am especially drawn to the blogs that encourage and suggest budget saving solutions for planning your big day. One such blog, The Budget Savvy Bride, posted unique bridal footwear I wanted to share with you here. I have been searching for a unique touch to my wedding, and I think these sandals are fabulous.

Sseco Designs has partnered with a school in Kampala, Uganda to provide an income to girls transitioning from secondary school to a university. Uganda mandates a nine month period between the two stages in school to allow students to raise money for tuition. The problem is that girls are rarely given jobs during this time. The website gives a full background on the company and its mission. The money from these sandals will move the students from making sandals to becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Click on the link above and check it out!

They encourage brides to email the company to inquire about special ordering for weddings! I sent out an email tonight to ask about what is available; my bridesmaids may just be sporting these sandals... stay tuned!

Where, oh where, is the party at?

Although the ceremony sight is usually the first thing on the list to decide on and book (love The Knot for month-by-month checklists!), I happened to look into reception sights first. In my little town there are only a few options for a reception: someone's house, the church, Community Center, an old grange building, the old armory, and a local hotel. I also had to consider that I had budgeted $1000 for renting the sight (also a convenient tool on The Knot).

A personal residence was out because that is a lot of stress for that household; especially since this could not be done at either of my parents' houses. It would inevitably be up to other close friend or family member, and I want these folks to have fun not worry all day about the state of their home/ property! As far as a budget is concerned, having a personal residence for a reception can get expensive. May whether is hard to predict, so a tent would be a must. In addition, you have to rent (or purchase) the tables and chairs, linens, and other staples of many other rentable sights.

The church was out merely due to size, as was the grange building and hotel. Past receptions held at these sights emphasized the need for more space in mid- to large-sized weddings (guest list is not secured as of yet, but we're getting there- it has been impossible to get lists from my parents and future in-laws. If anyone has suggestions for assuaging this issue, post as a comment below).

We are left with the Community Center (CC) and the old armory building, now fondly known as the "Event Center" (EC). The decision between these two venues was difficult. The CC would cost $175 up front for the whole day of the event, with the option to pay another $100 for each additional day needed to set up and tear down. We wanted a day for each. The total initial outlay would come to $375. The draw here was that a) it fell far below my budget b) the deposit for the kitchen would be returned if no damage was incurred, putting the actual cost at $300 for the three days! Of course, this price point makes this venue almost impossible to turn down, but there were a few drawbacks. It would take a multitude of decorations to turn this senior-center-by-day into a reception-by-night. More decorations means more money, and it may eliminate the savings for booking the sight. In the end, even with the decorations, I felt it would still scream "senior center cafeteria!" Although not completely eliminated, the CC was now in the "if we have to" pile. I knew I could make it work, I was just worried about the logistics of making it work.

From the minute I called the coordinator for the EC, I knew this was the place I wanted. I hadn't even seen it yet! She had so much enthusiasm and ideas; it was refreshing to know someone else might be excited for my wedding. She showed me the sight. The first thing I noticed was the character it had without any decorations. It also had a large room you could use for getting ready, or for a quick pep-talk from the MOH if needed. The kitchen (twice the size of the CC) is included in the rental fee, and there are two very large bathrooms right off the main reception room. Getting to the price, it quickly became apparent it would be more than the CC, but I may have already been sold. The rental for the day of the event was $300 with a $100 additional cost to serve alcohol. For each day added (either before or after) the cost to rent the building would only be $100. Originally, I thought the day of the event and a day to tear down would be sufficient: $500. My mother, told me to spend the extra to eliminate the stress of having to coordinate someone to set up the day of the wedding. So, the final cost of renting the EC would be $600.

Days of deliberating passed; I love pro/con lists. The final decision fell on the EC for several reasons: a) still $400 below budget b) much less required decorating= more savings c) larger, more accommodating space d) friendlier management (important since you may be dealing with them frequently in the planning process) e) less restrictions on decorations and food service and, most importantly, f) I felt more comfortable at the EC.

Total cost of wedding: $600

First things first...

Being engaged in July, my dream fall wedding was out. My fiance calls me CDO (OCD, alphabetized), so needless-to-say, I was not going to plan a wedding in three months! Due to where we live, I also was not about to have a winter wedding. For about five months a year, our little town is sporadically closed to outsiders due to snow and inclement conditions on the roads entering town: not worth chancing on your big day!

All said and done, we chose May 15, 2010 for our nuptials. Not a bad date for cards, either; it looks nice in calligraphy (05-15-10). This date is out of the snow rush; save for some uncharacteristic blizzard in May (has been know to happen even in July!). This date also opens a lot of doors for planning: 10 months to book sights, ALL flowers available and in season, and at the end of the school year (I am a teacher).

Most of these perks play into my main goal while planning: saving money. Using the website I was able to look at estimated costs for my zip code. The average wedding in the US costs around $20,398. In my area things are a little cheaper, so the average is around $15,000. I am hoping to stay around $10,000. I believe this can be done if I think frugally. So far, things are looking good. I will run a cost counter at the end of each blog to update my investment.

Total cost of wedding: $0

The Engagement

Now, if your first date with your future husband is in an helicopter, can you imagine the engagement!? However, as the man asking, how do you out-do your first date?

The answer is to go completely in the other direction and be as UN-romantic as possible. My fiance did just that. SL and I decided we should clean the house because it is usually the lowest priority for us while he is home from work (he works three weeks at a time and is off for two). I was cleaning, as planned, and noticed that he was following me around watching. Finally, I turned around and asked him what he was doing. To this he responded, "nothing, what are you doing?"

"I am cleaning," I informed him sharply. "Like we said we would today!"

"But I don't want to clean," SL slyly told me.

After throwing out a few alternative suggestions for the day, and having them all struck down, I soon realized he must have something in mind. I decided to play his game, and asked him what HE wanted to do since none of my ideas were sufficient. He looked me in the eye and said, "I would like to get engaged."

At this point I was going to kill him if he was kidding, but he got down on one knee and asked me if I would marry him. Because I was standing in my grubbies cleaning the house, my response was, "seriously?!"

He told me that, yes, he was serious. I, of course, emphatically said yes.

So although our first date was a flight over the valley, and ridiculously, perfectly romantic, I wouldn't have our engagement any other way. Plus, SL got what he wanted: I was completely surprised!