Truly Engaged: Avoiding Wedding Budget Blindness

Categories Budget + Resources

I’m getting married! Now what? Truly Engaged is a new blog series written by Rachel, our *newly engaged* staff writer. As she wades her way through the wedding planning process, she’ll be sharing some of the emotions, inspiration, and insight she uncovers along the way.


Pretty soon after getting engaged (and actually, even before I was engaged, since I write for MagnetStreet Weddings), I found myself being slowly submerged in a beautiful sea of all things “wedding”: wedding blogs, glossy magazines, and TV shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” and “My Fair Wedding”.

Of course, I can’t forget the newest (and most addictive) species in the wedding sea: Pinterest! Don’t get me wrong: I love Pinterest and find it incredibly helpful for capturing inspiration and ideas. However, while pinning pretty pictures of custom cake toppers and sparkling Jimmy Choo wedding heels, I often forget to picture the actual price tag behind all these glittery items.

I’ve realized how easy it could be to go temporarily “budget blind” while planning a wedding. I knew that I needed to get a firm grasp on values–not only monetary values, but personal values, too. I knew I needed to clearly define what was most important to me and my fiance on my wedding day.

After sitting down with my fiance, we nailed down our top priorities. Now, just because an item is a top priority doesn’t mean we have to spend “X amount” of dollars on it. If I can snag a great deal on a top priority item, then wonderful! (I’m a bride who loves a bargain.) However, these items are important enough that we are willing to spend more money on—if need be.

That said, we do have money set aside for the top items, and any surplus will go toward the items farther down on the list. (After all, I’d hate to get distracted by a couture gown, only to realize I ran out of money to hire, or pay, my talented and reputable photographer—something that is much more valuable to me when I don’t have my “wedding budget blinders” on.)




Our Top Wedding Values : 

The Big Three (Must Have)

1. Venue: Booking a venue that matches our personalities, passions, and life as a couple. The overall vibe is very important to us, and that begins with the location and venue.

2. Officiant: Hiring an officiant that is open-minded, OK with interfaith weddings, and allows us to create a highly personalized ceremony. We come from different backgrounds and want to have a ceremony that is meaningful, unique, and honors our beliefs and backgrounds.

3. Photographer: Hiring a photographer that can produce beautiful, vibrant photography—especially candid shots that capture emotion. I don’t want to stress about whether the photos come out great or not–I want to enjoy my wedding day with the full confidence and comfort in my choice of photographer.






Inspired by: Romantic Mason Jar Wedding Stationery


The Middle Three (Prefer to Have)

1. Attire: We don’t need our wedding apparel to be couture or trendy, but we do value quality clothing that captures our creativity and culture.

2. Food: As Indo-Caribbeans, Tim’s family loves spicy, flavorful dishes. We hope to find a caterer that specializes in these dishes.

3. Stationery: As a writer for MagnetStreet, I’ve come to really value high quality, personalized stationery that I can infuse with my own creativity and personality.


The Final Two (Good to Have)

1. Music: I love music, and come from a musical family. Since I already know some good musicians for the ceremony and/or reception, I put this farther down on my list. But, if I didn’t know any, then I would’ve put this item higher up.

2. Decor: My fiance and I want vibrant colors and a cozy, yet eclectic ambiance. But, we’re willing to accomplish this through DIY and browsing thrift stores and wedding consignment shops. For us, the general mood/tone is more important than the types of materials used to achieve it.


I’d love to hear from my fellow brides and grooms out there: What are your top priorities? Or what methods have you used to help prioritize your wedding budget?



Rachel for MagnetStreet Weddings


Wedding Budget Guide- Download

Categories Budget + Resources

I think we can all agree … we love to save money … but we hate watching the budget- no fun at all!

And, because wedding costs add up very quickly, many couples go way over their wedding budget. That said, it’s important to know your costs so you’re not taken by surprise and have to cut things later. Continue reading for 10 creative ways to help you save …

First, check out this post Who Pays for What for a traditional breakdown on who pays for what- it’s one of the first things on the “to do” list after getting engaged. Then, soon afterwards you’ll want to talk about what you really want in your wedding- the desires of your heart stuff. Then, do your research on what things and services actually cost while comparing prices and perhaps doing a little negotiating for those things. In fact, check out this post to see read how Nicole and Nick bartered many of their wedding costs {very creative + cool e-session photos}.

10 Ways to save on your wedding budget:

1. Save postage by sending RSVP Postcards.

2. Wedding dress: shop off the rack, clearance or sample sales. Go vintage and restore your mom’s/grandmother’s dress and her jewelry.

3. Veil: DIY.

4. Decorations: DIY. Clip coupons from local craft stores. Choose pre-decorated venues at holiday times. Rent or borrow rather than buy. Nature provides a lot of her own decorations.

5. Flowers: Arrange by color rather than flower type and choose in-season. Use single flowers rather than bouquets. Silk over fresh. Grow your own flowers from seeds.

6. Venues: Generally less expensive are university chapels or your home church, backyards, flower gardens, zoo, city or state parks, your home etc.

7. Reception: Buffet or hors d’oeuvre meal style rather than a sit-down. Host the reception on a Friday night or serve earlier rather than later. Cupcakes instead of cake. No alcohol or limited alcohol. Consider a venue that allows you to bring in your own food and drink.

8. Professionals: Although I am a proponent of using professionals, hiring or not hiring depends on your needs but alas, you set the limits on their time and services. Check with the local college or university for interns in photography, floral, music, etc.

MagnetStreet Weddings has created a Budget Guide to help you track and categorize expenses. Plus, cool interactive features help make the categorizing and tracking all the easier! Download our Budget Guide here.

Two other ways to save with MagnetStreet Weddings:

9. Subscribe to Bride Vibe- and receive exclusive discounts {and other cool stuff}

10. Check MagnetStreet’s coupon codes – for the latest and greatest deals and discounts

What is one way you’ve saved big or are saving big on wedding costs?

image source


Real Bartering: Nicole and Nick

Categories Inspiration + Real Weddings + Wedding Planning


Bartering~ the age old process of trading goods or services.

Meet Nicole and Nick. Nicole is one of the sweetest and savviest brides who was so generous to share with me how she and Nick have bartered for many of their wedding expenses!

For instance~ let’s talk about these fun and steamy engagement photos for a second {see more below} Nature vs. Urban… Gorgeous!  And bartered!

Nicole and Nick traded normal yard work and some painting, with Heidi Munson of Chocolate Sushi Photography for their e-session shots.  They will also receive day of ceremony photos too.

“I found that photographers, wedding planners/day-of-assistants and florists to be the most interested in bartering” said Nicole.


Other Bartered Agreements:

Flower assembly {exchanged for childcare-fulfilled}
Favor assembly {exchanged for childcare-fulfilled}
Decorations assembly {exchanged for childcare-fulfilled} …Flowers, Favors and Dec bartering is through the same person.
DJ: steep discount {Nicole works at a printing company and will be designing & printing the DJ’s business cards that he will receive at the reception.}
Day of Assistant The only non-professional Nicole has traded services with. Her D of A is another bride-to-be whom Nicole knows to be as organized and good at event planning as she is; Nicole will be help this b2b on her wedding day too.

Because of bartering and saving in other areas, Nicole and Nick will be able to have a $12,500 wedding on their $9000 budget.

Additional ways they are saving

Reception Meal: The catering was originally planned to be a trade as well.  Unfortunately, agreements could not be reached.  So~ instead of a more traditional dinner, Nicole & Nick are having a pig roast catered in with all the picnic trimmings at $10/plate.  They’re also making their own potato salad and Nicole’s Mom is making her famous baked beans
Wedding Dress: “off the rack” via Amazon.  The original ideas was to wear her grandmother’s wedding dress {w/bartered alterations} but just wasn’t feasible in the end. But~ buying “off the rack” was a 1/3 of the price for similar dresses in bridal stores.
Stationery: Nicole is designing and printing: Invites, RSVP cards and Thank You cards.
DIY: Favors, decorations and centerpieces. Nicole also makes jewelry and is making not only her own jewelry but jewelry for her BMs as well.

Definite Costs:
Ceremony Venue {park site}
Reception Venue {VFW- Nick’s dad is a member so they still received a discount}

If you’re a Bride & Groom-to-be who is thinking about bartering or negotiating…

READ Nicole’s savvy bartering advice:

1.Treat this as a professional relationship: provide references or proof of your work, show up when you say you will, and work hard to fulfill your part of the bargain. Of course, expect the same.

2. Work with experienced vendors: just working with someone who “knows how to cook well” or can “bake a great cake” could work out but it’s riskier than working with someone who already has an established reputation. This goes the other way, if you’ve never cared for a child before, don’t offer childcare services because it might not be worth it in the end.

3. Agreements that have you working for “credit” ($X per hour) are only good when the credit is worth more than you can normally make in an hour and/or it’s work that you’d want to do anyway. My friend is actually doing a work for credit arrangement with a wedding planner and this works out well for her since she’s really interested in wedding planning and she’s now going to receive free draping plus free items for rental (table linens, napkins, decorations, etc.) at her own wedding.

4. If you barter for objects you either create or own this gives you the advantage of being able to exchange the item on the day the other party is suppose to fulfill their end of the agreement. This gives them more incentive to follow through and if they don’t you don’t really lose out on anything.

5. Make sure you have the time before you commit to a barter.

Wow.  Solid advice.  Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us Nicole.  You make it sound so easy!  

Have you or are you bartering for any of your wedding expenses?


Additional resources


Kusudama Flower Balls as Decorations

Categories Wedding Decor

If you’re intrigued by Origami, then you just might fall in love with a Kusudama flower ball!   Much like Origami, a Kusudama flower ball is made by using a very old Japanese technique of paper folding {sometimes cutting & pasting}…  So delicate yet  so strong.  And, so pretty!


Kusudama pedal


image: Paper Unlimited Origami blog

If you’re looking for a beautiful and easy DIY decorating option for the pews, ceremony chairs or even to hang from the ceiling at the reception… Kusudamas would make a lovely and budget-friendly choice.  There are so many varying styles and color options to choose from.  FUN!


Butterfly Kusudama with hanging tassel


Intrigued?  Want more? Check out this YouTube video featuring a variety of very beautiful Kusudama flower options… and yet another video for HOW TO instructions.

Let me know what you think!