Tag Archives: wedding planning

I love wedding planning – anything and everything about it. I’ve always been the person my friends would come to for wedding planning advice, so when I got engaged, I was so excited it was finally my turn!


The Planning
We were engaged for about 15 months, giving me plenty of time to plan (or so I thought!). I was still in college, which meant school, an internship, work, and wedding planning kept me plenty busy! I’m pretty organized, so I didn’t get too stressed out. Plus, I had the greatest help I could ask for — my parents. Yes, BOTH of my parents. You don’t see too many dads get involved with planning but I’m a “daddy’s girl,” so he jumped at the chance. He came to every vendor meeting from decorating to catering. It helped that I lived only 30 minutes away from home.

Brooke and her parents

The hardest part of the wedding planning was the food. My family loves to eat, so naturally it was hard for us to decide what we wanted to serve our guests. We went with a buffet style because it satisfied all of our wants and it accommodated our guests with food allergies. We saved money by not having to pay for a plate service. We also saved money by having our host and hostess serve the wedding cake.

Food at Brooke's Wedding

Brooke and Travis' Wedding Cake

The easiest part of the wedding planning was choosing our photographer. I met Jenn, owner of ElisePhotography, at college. She was a senior when I was a freshman, and shortly after she graduated, she started her own business. Jenn had taken photos of Travis and I before, and we loved the way they turned out. She has such a neat and unique vision, which made our photos stand out from “traditional” photos. Plus, she’s got such a great personality! The day of the wedding, she told me she “always cries at some point at every wedding” she shoots. To me, that shows she truly cares about her clients.

Travis and Brooke

Brooke's Wedding Party

The one part that we decided to splurge on was our DJ. I knew right away that we wanted our guests to be entertained all night, and picking the right DJ was very important to us. We loved our pick! We had an MC and a DJ, which was a little more expensive but they kept the crowd entertained! We played little games throughout the night, which were a huge hit.

I didn’t have a theme starting out, but with my choice in dress and decorations it turned into a “bling” theme of rhinestones and diamonds! If I would’ve had the time, I would have definitely gone the DIY route, but still being in school made that difficult. I would’ve spent hours that I didn’t have trying to make centerpieces, etc. Hiring a local decorator was affordable and saved us a lot of time. We were amazed with her work. She was great from start to finish. She took my fairy-tale dream and made it into reality. We got so many compliments on the décor.

Centerpieces for Wedding

Our ceremony decorations were done by one of my mom’s co-workers, which also saved us money. She doesn’t have any daughters so she really wanted to help! She was so great, she really should be a professional! Ceremony Flowers

We went to our local floral shop (right down the street from my church) and they handled all of our flowers. We had real bouquets and flowers for the whole wedding party, plus a few bouquets at the altar. We used fake flowers for the reception because it was less expensive.

Real Bouquets

The BrideWould I change anything about my day? No. Everything turned out as I thought it would! If you plan on having a big wedding, make sure you’re realistic about the big picture and costs, and remember, there are still plenty of ways to save!

bride on the beach with bare feet
bride on the beach with bare feet

Planning details for a destination wedding, in my experience, is drastically different than a traditional wedding. Unlike most people in the States, Jamaicans are known to be laid back and go-with-the-flow, so that is how I eventually learned to be.


Our wedding package was very affordable, being that Kuyaba is a small, family-owned resort and it is located on a public beach. The $850 package included bridal flowers, a wedding arch covered in fresh flowers, a bottle of champagne, a reservation of half of the restaurant to have our dinner, a Jamaican minister, and all the legal paperwork. The wedding dinner was a separate charge. I used email and an occasional phone call (although we tried to avoid those due to sky-high phone charges) to do all my planning.


The most challenging part about planning was figuring out flowers for the bridal party, as I didn’t know what kinds of flowers were available. I ended up just telling them I wanted tropical flowers, with purple and any other colors, and they turned out even more gorgeous than I imagined. We were also able to pick our reception food off their regular menu, which we had tried (and loved) on our first visit there.

wedding flowers

In an effort to save money and at the same time be completely unique, I used Etsy to purchase my jewelry. I found a gorgeous hand-made necklace made with stone from my home state of Minnesota. It was a nice touch of home to incorporate into the wedding. I used my own skills and made earrings to match the necklace.

photos of wedding jewelry and wedding dress

I also found some adorable foot jewels on Etsy, and they went perfectly with the laid-back vibe of our wedding day. I didn’t want to mess with shoes at all, since I knew they would get filled with sand, A LOT of sand.

wedding jewelry for feet instead of shoes

I had found some local salons in the area, but decided this was an area where I could definitely save money. My bridesmaids and I all ended up doing our own makeup, and a good friend of mine did an excellent job styling my hair.

photo of jackie looking in the mirror

I gave each of my bridesmaids a personalized compact mirror from Ann’s, which definitely came in handy during the warm day. Jason gave his groomsmen personalized pocket knives from Ann’s, which any man can find a use for.

bridal party gifts

The decorations were effortless, on my part, thanks to all the hard work the Kuyaba staff put into making it beautiful. The dinner area was already set up before the ceremony even started with bouquets of flowers to match the arch. I gave them some white lanterns I had ordered from Ann’s, and they hung them up perfectly for me. Guests were also handed program fans from Ann’s to keep cool during the ceremony and dinner. I stained the handles back home so they would match the style of my wedding.

wedding arch with flowers and wedding reception decorations

Our arch was adorned with fresh-picked local flowers, and the “aisle” was sprinkled with the same petals and lined with helconia flowers. We wrote our entire ceremony and vows, and made it extra personal by having Jason’s talented best friend sing and play “Is This Love” by Bob Marley on his guitar.

wedding arch and guitar soloist

We took a big risk for the dinner entertainment by waiting to plan it when we got to Jamaica. We knew there were always musicians walking up and down the beach playing for money, so we decided to ask one of them to come into the restaurant and play for our guests. We found a talented duo the day before and offered them $100, and they turned out to be a big hit!

wedding musicians

During dinner and music, our guests passed around signature mattes and frames from Ann’s and wrote personal messages to us. They turned out to be priceless wedding keepsakes and will be displayed in our home for many years to come!

signature mattes with photos and wedding reception sign

I still feel like having a Jamaican wedding was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Despite travel costs, we ended up spending far less money on our destination wedding then we would have if we had gotten married in Minnesota. As long as you stick to simplicity and are willing to take some risks, your destination wedding can be a great bargain!

invitation with response wording

banner: 10 Wedding Planning Myths

Every couple learns as they go when it comes to wedding planning but we wanted to put your mind at ease about a few things by highlighting a few common wedding myths and misconceptions.


Myth #1 DIY wedding invitations will save you money.

Don’t get me wrong, they can be cheaper but you have to really research all the materials needed and how much those materials will end up costing. In the end, you might find a simple, professionally printed wedding invitation is similar in cost and A LOT less work.


Myth #2 Response cards are still the norm; there are no acceptable alternatives.

This is no longer true. There was a time when response cards were the most acceptable method for responding to a wedding invitation, but today some couples are choosing online response services or providing email addresses and phone numbers on their invitations. Some couples do both response cards and an alternate response method on the invitation. Do whatever you think you, and your wedding guests, will be most comfortable with. Be sure to be considerate of older guests. We recommend providing them a non-electronic way to respond.

 mason jar invitation with response wording 

Myth #3 Every guest will respond to your wedding invitation.

People forget and they procrastinate. It’s okay. Just assume you’ll be making some phone calls prior to the wedding. Ask the person in charge of responses to do this for you. If that person is you, ask your mom or a friend to help make the calls.


Myth #4 You shouldn’t have an adult only wedding.

Sometimes the wedding venue is simply not conducive to children, and that’s okay. However, we don’t recommend including “Adult only reception” on the invitation or reception card. Let your guests know children aren’t invited by clearly addressing the invitations to those who are invited. Check out these helpful tips for addressing your wedding invitations.


Myth #5 It’s not okay to invite your exes.

Granted, we do believe you should carefully consider if it is appropriate to invite your exes to your wedding, but we also understand that sometimes your exes become good friends or are a part of your close social network. Most importantly, make sure you and your soon-to-be spouse are perfectly comfortable with the idea. If not, don’t invite the ex.


Myth #6 You have to invite all of your coworkers or none.

There is no reason to feel obligated to invite all of your coworkers. A wedding is for your closest friends and family. The same rule applies to coworkers.


Myth #7 You should invite people who invited you to their wedding.

Just because you attended someone’s wedding doesn’t mean you have to invite them to yours. If you’re already questioning whether to invite them, they can probably be cut from your guest list.


Myth #8 You should include registry info with your invitation.

Wedding guests are not required to give you a gift, and including registry information with the invitation can make people feel obligated. Place registry information on your wedding website and let your closest friends and family spread the word. The same goes for cash gifts. Tell a few friends and family and let them spread the word. It is never appropriate to ask for cash gifts directly.


9. Plan to give one favor to each guest attending the wedding.

Wedding favors can get spendy and sometimes time-consuming if making them yourself, but one way to cut down on the cost and effort is to give one favor to single guests and one favor per couple. The tricky part is handing them out. We recommend having assigned seating and having place cards at each setting. This way you can provide one favor for single guests and you can place one favor between the place settings for couples. That being said, wedding favors are often sold in bulk. So if you want to make sure everyone gets a favor (and maybe an extra or two), you can probably up the quantity for a reasonable price.

 yellow favor boxes with black ribbon and square, white seal

10. Guests should not have to pay for drinks.

Sometimes it’s simply not in the budget. Guests aren’t going to refuse to celebrate with you because they have to pay for a drink or two. They are there for you, not the bar…hopefully. Many couples avoid the cash bar by limiting drinks to beer and wine, which can dramatically cut down on costs. You could also consider a cash bar but still provide one or two signature drinks and soda for free.


We hope this helps ease your mind as you’re wedding planning and you run across some of these common wedding myths. Check back often for more helpful advice, or feel free to comment and leave us a question. We’re happy to answer it!



Confirm Appointments with Wedding Vendors
You’re one to two weeks out from your wedding day and there are just a few final details to address so everything goes smoothly. We’ve put together some tasks you’ll want to check off the to-do list at this point in your wedding planning.

Confirm Appointments with Wedding Vendors

 First, we recommend making final payments for all services that require payment. That way you won’t have an overabundance of bills to deal right after the wedding. If you want to give your vendor a tip the day of the wedding, have it ready in an envelope and choose a responsible family member or friend to hand them out.

One to two weeks out means you will want to confirm all dates, times, locations, services, reservations and arrival times for the following:

Call Guests – contact guests who have not responded to your invitation. This is the only way you will truly get an accurate count for your ceremony and reception.

Rehearsal Dinner – Meet with your contact at the rehearsal dinner site and/or your caterers for final details.

Hair and Makeup – confirm your appointment. Be sure to take any hair adornments to the appointment.

Ceremony – review details with the wedding contact at your ceremony venue. Review plans for the rehearsal with the officiant and wedding party.

Reception Site / Caterer – Recap with an overview of the reception. Give them a final guest tally. Typically you will need this information anywhere from two weeks to 72 hours in advance so items can be ordered and organized ahead of time. Tell them the names of the cake baker, florist, band or DJ and ask whom those vendors should check-in with when they arrive.

• Plan for your wedding toasts and be sure a microphone is available.

• Prepare and plan seating for the reception. Prepare place cards.

Specific questions for your reception site are:

• How, when, and where will the wedding vendors deliver their goods? Who do they report to?

• If there is a caterer, what electrical or kitchen needs they will require? What kind of delivery needs do they require and can they be accommodated?

• Where can equipment be stored when not in use (i.e., photographers, musicians, etc.)?

• What kind of delivery needs do the musicians have and can they be accommodated?

• Is there adequate parking for guests?

Cake Baker – confirm their delivery needs, set up day, time and location. If needed, give him/her a map to the reception site.

Florist – review all items ordered and give him/her a map to the ceremony and reception sites. Finalize arrangements for delivery day, time and location.

Photographer / Videographer – provide maps for your ceremony and reception locations. Provide a list for both vendors about any specific pictures or video you want and when.

Musicians / Band / DJ – review starting times and any special song requests. Learn if there are any special set-up requests at the reception site. If needed, give him/her a map to the reception site.

Transportation – How will you get to the wedding site? To the reception? Arrange for friends or family to drive you and confirm pick-up times, schedules, and locations with the driver. If you’re having a limousine driver, confirm times and locations.

Last, but not least – compile an emergency list of all wedding vendors with phone numbers to give to your go-to person (wedding coordinator, parent or personal attendant).

Plan now for returns and pick-ups – know the time line and return requirements for any rental items such as candelabras, tables, chairs, tuxedoes, etc. Make arrangements for these items to be returned if you’re away on your honeymoon.

Make your way through this list a week or two before the wedding and the rest will be smooth sailing!

Terry & Kristi's Real Wedding
Terry & Kristi's Real Wedding - Part 3

Photos Courtesy of Kendra Elizabeth Photography and Terry & Kristi's Family

The Ceremony Venue

My husband and I got married on June 16th, 2012, at the church where we are members. We got to know the pastor very well through marriage counseling. He is awesome! He took the time to tailor our ceremony to our personalities and the challenges we may have in our relationship. It was perfect. My only regret is not having it videotaped.

Our church has a gorgeous, ornamental alter and beautiful stained glass windows, so we didn’t feel the need to decorate a lot. We rented candelabras, white bows and ivy from the church to decorate the ends of the pews, which the church’s wedding coordinator’s took care of.

The Reception Venue

We had our reception at Farmamerica, a venue dedicated to preserving a bit of Minnesota’s farm history. The land is home to a 1850s farm, a 1930s farm, a country church and a schoolhouse. These made great backdrops for our outdoor photos. Our reception was in the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center (a.k.a. visitor’s center). The tables and dance floor were set up in the ballroom. The guest book table, cake table, food and bar were set up just outside the ballroom.

How We Saved

1. When choosing wedding vendors, we did two things to help keep prices low. We used local vendors as much as possible, and we used our connections for the rest. All of our wedding vendors were wonderful.

2. I purchased my dress from a store that includes alterations in the price of the dress. I chose a dress that fit my personality and figure, at a cost that was much lower than most dresses ($671).

3. We are members at the church where we had our ceremony, and that made it very affordable. We paid $140 for the ceremony, wedding coordinators, the pastor and the decorations for the church. We did hire a musician, but she was also a member of the church and gave us a very good price.

4. We chose the local bakery for our cake, and found out she does catering, too. We had a buffet to avoid additional costs of table service. We chose plastic plates, plastic silverware and paper napkins to keep prices low. We bought them online to save even more money. We chose a small, decorated cake for display and sheet cakes for our guests.

5. The caterer’s mother was the local florist, so the caterer recommended decorating the cake with fresh flowers to match our bouquets (super cheap). Our bouquets included inexpensive flowers, such as gerbera daisies, alstroemeria, mini carnations and a variety of greens.

6. Our reception venue did not have a liquor license, so we brought in liquor and beer ourselves. This allowed us to offer unlimited free drinks to our guests. We used plastic cups for the drinks and can coolers, which doubled as favors, to keep the beer cold. The venue had a portable bar we could rent, which had unlimited soda.

7. My stepdaughter works part-time for a DJ. Naturally, she asked him to DJ the dance at our wedding. He also brought the pink up-lighting we used to enhance the decorations.

8. My husband and I set a budget before we started planning and agreed to stick to it, but we both chose one thing that was most important to us to splurge on. That happened to be photography. We felt it was important to have quality pictures to remember our wedding day. We interviewed ten different photographers, but the ones we liked were out of our price range. My sister’s friend, who is a photographer herself, helped us out. She found us five different photographers who were available on our wedding day in our price range. She recommended one in particular, which is the person we chose. Her price was excellent for two photographers, unlimited time and rights to reproduce the images.

So there you have it.  All the things we did to have a beautiful wedding on a $15,000 budget. Feel free to comment!  We’re more than happy to answer your questions.

Photos Courtesy of Kendra Elizabeth Photography and Terry & Kristi’s Family.

Terry & Kristi's Wedding - Part 2

Terry & Kristi's Wedding - Part 2

Our wedding turned out absolutely wonderful. There were things we could have done better, but I wouldn’t change them for the world. We had 200 guests at our wedding, served a full meal, had unlimited drinks and beer, and a dance with a DJ — all for about $15,000. What was even better is that our vendors, friends and family were so great that we didn’t have to worry about a thing on the day of our wedding. We were able to enjoy every minute of it.

Planning the Wedding

I don’t consider myself a fashionable person, and I hate decorating. I’m not good at it. So when it came time to plan the wedding, I kept things simple. I started with the color fuchsia and from there we chose our invitation. We wanted an invitation that was simple, yet formal enough for a wedding. We chose Ann’s Filigree Perch invitation with black ink. Filigree Perch is a thermography invitation, which means the ink is raised. That made the invitation elegant yet simple. After choosing our invitation, we decided our colors would be fuchsia, black and white.  I wanted my bouquet to be full of bright colors, including fuchsia to match the bridesmaids’ dresses and some greens to balance it out. We planned our reception decorations using the flowers from the bouquet and the filigree design from our invitations.

Planning the Reception Decorations

You might remember me mentioning above how much I hate decorating. Well, planning our reception décor was probably the most difficult thing for me. We were on a budget, but I didn’t want it to be so plain that it was boring.

We started out thinking we were going to have to buy or rent all of the pieces for the decorations, and then take the time to assemble them. We did a bit of shopping around and found the rental prices for vases, table cloths and lighting to be very expensive. Plus, we would be the ones decorating the reception venue before the wedding. My mother-in-law suggested we see how much it would cost for a decorator to do it.

The Decorator

We met with the decorator at her showroom and she had all kinds of centerpieces and other displays. I would never have been able to come up with these ideas on my own. She told us to pick items as if we were going to be able to afford everything we wanted. When she told us to dream big, we were a bit scared of the price tag. About a week later she sent us the estimate. It was too much, but not so much that we couldn’t handle it if we did some trimming. We met with her again to make some changes.  She pointed out the more expensive items and gave us some alternatives that cost less. We ended up choosing four different centerpieces to have on the tables. Our initial estimate was $1,400. After adjusting our centerpieces and removing a few items that were not needed, our new estimate was $1,200. The estimates were based on 300 guests, but we ended up having only 200. In the end, we paid $1,050 for the decorations and decorating services. They set it all up, and they took it all down. It was stress free and gorgeous!

Suggestions for Decorating

A good rule of thumb when shopping for centerpieces is the higher the centerpiece the higher the price.  Choose multiple styles of centerpieces that range in price. Use the expensive centerpieces less and the inexpensive ones more. This works out really well because taller, more expensive centerpieces can block the guest’s view of the people sitting across from them.

Another way to save a ton of money on wedding decorations is to use silk flowers instead of real flowers. If we had used real flowers in our centerpieces, we would have had an additional $500+ in costs. As you can see by the pictures, our centerpieces were beautiful and the overall look of the room was gorgeous.

Come back tomorrow for more pictures of the wedding and to find out how I saved money when choosing our venues and vendors. We’d love to hear what you think or answer questions if you have any. Just leave a comment on this post and we will respond.

Photos Courtesy of Kendra Elizabeth Photography.

How to Set a Wedding Budget
How to Set a Wedding Budget

Congratulations – You’re engaged! Now comes the fun of planning your special day! But where do you begin when there are so many decisions to make?


An easy first step is to create your budget. A budget will be the most important factor in planning your wedding. To give you a general starting point, here is a breakdown of percentages for important wedding needs.


Expense Percentage

Ceremony                                                             2%

Reception                                                           48%

Attire (bride and groom)                             10%

Flowers and decorations                                8%

Music                                                                      7%

Photos & Video                                                10%

Wedding Stationery                                          3%

Wedding Rings                                                    3%

Transportation (limo)                                      1%

Gifts for wedding party                                    3%

License, Fees, Tips, taxes and overages   5%

Wedding Consultant (optional) up to 10% of budget


Your budget is not only a way to keep track of what you’re spending, but it’s also a handy checklist of things that need to be done. For a printable wedding budget worksheet, click here.


This general guideline will help you decide where your money will be best spent. However, every couple’s priorities are different and there may be areas that are more important to you. You can certainly allot more money to those areas and scale back the ones that are less important.


Be sure to check out the blog posts in our “Wedding Planning Guide.” We go into detail about each of the topics listed above to help you make well-informed decisions.