Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Contest Winner

A huge congratulations go out to Catie Ea.! Please e-mail me to claim your prize, Catie.

She won a free spot in the Conscious Weddings E-Course. I've been a big fan of Sheryl's work for a long time, and I was so excited to hear about her new course mentioned at APW. Just a couple weeks ago, I was talking about wedding books at a brunch, and one of the women said that Sheryl's book was the one book that truly helped her stay grounded throughout the wedding planning process.

As a consolation prize, Sheryl is offering a $75 discount to the first 15 people who enroll in the course today. Just enter the code thanks2010 in the coupon box at checkout. Thanks, Sheryl!

Congratulations, , and Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Budgets Help Keep Costs Down

When Matt and I were planning our wedding, we were really strapped for cash. We were trying to save up for a 20% down payment on a new house, I was getting ready to leave my current job and transition into independent educational consulting, and we were about to incur moving costs to trek from Denver to Houston. Plus, we didn't want our wedding to grow bigger than our relationship. We wanted to stay focused on what really mattered and not get carried away in a tidal wave of unnecessary details. We knew that a $2,000 budget would force us to stay away from the Wedding Industrial Complex completely.

That's why we set a really strict budget for ourselves. We managed to come in $38 under budget. More importantly, our budget forced us to prioritize only the most important things. We couldn't get everything we wanted (sorry, photo stamps). Our strict budget also forced us to get creative (hello, plain $15 dress from Target that we can embroider with our life story).

Two and a half years later, as we outfit a nursery for our upcoming baby, I'm realizing that we should have set a budget for ourselves, just like we did for our wedding. Without a budget, I find it so easy to spend a little here and a little there, without realizing how it all adds up, especially since our planning is stretched out over several months. When I want a cute new tape dispenser from Etsy for my desk (which is going to be in the baby's room for a while), I buy it. When I see the perfect mirror to hang above the baby's Montessori floor bed, I buy it (even though it's $80). I justify it by telling myself that it was 20% off! If I were working within a budget, I could easily get more creative by scouring thrift stores for frames and adding Plexiglass. Not only would that alternative be more economical, it would also be better for the environment.

I think it's time to reign myself back in. I might just need to whip out the receipt for the mirror and take a little trip back to World Market...

P.S. Don't forget to enter to win the Conscious Weddings E-Course! Today is the last day to enter.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win Conscious Weddings E-Course

I'm delighted to announce today's contest! I've been a huge fan of Sheryl's work for several years. While so many of the wedding planning books out there focus on all the stuff, her book, The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings About Getting Hitched, focuses on the emotional aspects of transitioning from one life stage to another.

And now she has an e-course!
Tired of feeling anxious about getting married? Wishing that you could feel close to your partner again? The Conscious Weddings E-Course is the anti-anxiety medication for your soul. Give yourself this gift today! It’s an instant download of comfort, inspiration, and practical tools for managing your anxiety and realizing your clarity and love.
And here's a list of everything that's included in the course:
  • 11 exclusive videos totaling over 2 hours of information
  • 4 exclusive one hour podcasts from women who were anxiously engaged and are now happily married and 1 podcast from a man married 29 years
  • Three email sessions with two different clients
  • Hundreds of pages of posts from the Conscious Weddings Message Board Archives (which many happily married women credit is the single most influential reason why they didn’t run)
  • 18 articles (9 exclusive articles)
  • Checklists to help you identify the areas of this transition that are most affecting you
  • Notecards for the anxiously engaged with positive, truthful statements that you can print and cut out to keep handy in your bag or pocket
  • Exercises from The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner
  • A Wedding Day Meditation MP3 to help prepare you for your wedding day

And you could enroll for free by winning this contest!

To enter:
  1. Leave your first name and the first two letters of your last name in the comments section.
  2. Enter by Monday, November 29 at 11:59pm EST.
  3. The winner will be announced Tuesday morning!
  4. Only one entry per person, please.

Happy Entering!

I'll be back after Thanksgiving...

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oil Cloth Basket Liners

Image Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Leave it to the folks who work with Martha Stewart to come up with cute and crafty ideas!

I love these baskets lined with oil cloth. Oil cloth is so easy to clean, and it's super-easy to work with because you can cut it into the shape you need and it won't fray. No sewing required!

I had to share this tutorial, in case any of you are inspired to put it to wedding use!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Staying Grounded (Over and Over Again)

As I try to do everything in my power to prepare for the birth of our first child, I worry that my tendency toward Type-A planning will actually hinder my ability to let go and be in the moment when it comes time to deliver.

When Matt and I were interviewing doulas, I asked one of them, "How do I open myself to the process of birth and live in the moment?"

She said, "It's a decision that you make over and over again. With each contraction, you have to decide to open yourself to it."

Her response was such a relief! The idea of deciding to be open to each moment over and over again really resonated with me.

I think the same advice can be applied to weddings. Throughout the process, you have to decide over and over again to stay grounded. It's not something that many of us can simply do at the outset. It's a process that we must work through over and over again. When we face new obstacles or emotional crises, we can re-decide to stay grounded. When we are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless tasks or hurt by something a family member said, we can decide all over again to stay grounded.

And then when the day arrives, we can decide to let go of the stress. We can decide to let the day unfold--mishaps and all--with mindfulness and faith that it will all work out in the end (with full knowledge that any mishaps will make great stories!).

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making Choices That Make Sense for You

Matt and I took a pretty nontraditional route with our wedding rings. First, I didn't want an engagement ring. Even though I got many strange looks when my ringless self audaciously announced that I was engaged, I simply didn't want one. I don't wear much jewlery on a day to day basis, so the thought of wearing two rings after the wedding kind of overwhelmed me.

Secondly, since I didn't really want to wear two rings, I definitely didn't want to spend money on one. We were trying to divert as much money as possible toward a downpayment on our first house.

Third, I personally find it a little odd that women in our society publicly declare their engagements with physical objects but men do not. It's just weird to me in principle (although my feelings about the subject do not lead me to judge other women who do choose to wear engagement rings!).

In addition to our whole engagement ring non-traditionalism, we also took an unconventional route with our actual wedding rings. We asked our friends and family to donate their old gold to an eco-friendly company that would melt it down and craft it into "new" rings. Plus, I opted for a super-small gem (2mm, to be exact) because I didn't want it to get stuck on stuff as I went through my day-to-day business. Further, it was a synthetic, orange sapphire, rather than a diamond.

While we were making these choices for ourselves, I definitely felt insecure. I worried what other people would think about our choices--ranging from our families to our neighbors and colleagues. I worried that I would regret deviating so far from the "normal" path.

Preparing for a major life transition, such as a wedding, can be an emotionally tumultuous time, which can elevate one's anxiety or insecurity. In the end, I'm so glad we made the decisions that felt right to us. That's the best any of us can do!

In fact, to live our authentic lives, that's exactly what we must do.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Once-in-a-Lifetime Delusion

Inspired by the wedding bunting trend that has saturated the internet, I decided to make a "Happy Birthday" banner to hang for the birth of our first child in February.

As I undertook the process of searching for an inspiring idea and selecting the fabric, I realized that I was suffering from a very common wedding planning disorder: The Once-in-a-Lifetime Delusion.

I started to obsess about getting the bunting "just right." I mean, I'm going to hang it for my son's birthday year after year! It has to be perfect! I have to pick the perfect colors! I have to get the dimensions completely perfect!


When we plan our weddings, it can be so easy to bring undue anxiety and stress onto ourselves because we hope that our weddings will be once-in-a-lifetime events (knock on wood). We pressure ourselves to have The Perfect Dress or The Perfect Centerpieces or The Perfect Playlist because it's The Big Day and we only get One Big Day.

Baloney! It's true that our weddings are special, but they aren't our only chance to plan celebrations or bring together a significant number of friends and family or publicly declare our vows for each other or to wear a pretty dress. We can create those opportunities for ourselves over and over again. The more we remember this, the more we can keep our our choices in perspective and keep our stress down!

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Q & A: Finding Inexpensive Wedding Venues

Reader Question: I first want to say that I LOVE your blog. Since first reading it a few weeks ago, it has changed my "I want the most beautiful wedding ever and I want everything The Knot tells me is "in" right now" wedding views and really opted for something practical and that truly represents me and my fiance.

So I wrote
wedding planning vows to myself that I would not covet anything that I could not afford, ask myself questions before making a decision, and to relax and take a break if all of this gets frustrating. I feel that I am doing a good job at steering a way from what the WIC has deemed perfect for weddings and toned a lot of things down to make this process and our wedding simple and about us.

The thing that I am having a problem with is that I live in Philadelphia, a very expensive city, not as much as New York or Los Angeles, but expensive for an adjunct professor and a school psychology intern. Everywhere I turn, the prices are crazy expensive. I have looked at getting married in the park, but Philly charges $500 permits for weddings (for 2 hours) and we still have to rent chairs and port-o-potties (which I am EXTREMELY opposed to!) I have looked at smaller venues that offer beautiful outside spaces or restaurants, but once I say wedding the price gets jacked up.

Are there any suggestions you have for me in your research that could help me find a space that is accommodating and inexpensive? I try not to get stressed out, but I find myself taking breaks from planning about twice a week :) I could really use your help, if you have any at all!

I love the idea of writing wedding planning vows to yourself! What an amazing way to stay grounded!

As for planning a wedding in an expensive city: I feel your pain. We got married near Rocky Mountain National Park, and the town of Estes Park is a major tourist attraction in the summer and in the winter.

To keep costs low, we had to do a couple major things:
  1. Look slightly outside the city: We ended up getting married at a small town outside of Estes Park (called Allenspark). Looking beyond the immediate city limits helped expand our options and helped us significantly reduce our costs. However, the city of Estes Park was still close enough that people could comfortably commute from the city to our wedding. So the people who preferred to spend more money by staying in Estes Park could do so.
  2. Find a place that doesn't typically do weddings: Once a venue starts hosting weddings, it's highly likely that they will get sucked into the vortex of the Wedding Industrial Complex (although there are notable exceptions). Either they've worked with an extremely demanding and difficult couple and have decided that they need to charge more to cover the cost of the stress that can come from helping a couple plan their wedding, or they've realized that it's common practice to jack-up the prices, just because the word wedding is involved. In my opinion, the best option is to find a place that hosts events (which means they are likely to have all the things you need like tables, chairs, etc.) but doesn't typically host weddings. You have to be creative and think outside the box. Also, try thinking about places you already enjoy going to as a couple.
  3. Focus on what's important: The Bed & Breakfast we eventually found wasn't "blog-worthy" in a lot of ways. It looked a lot more like Great Aunt Mary's living room than something you would see featured on the wedding blogs. We had to eat our reception dinner in their parking lot (at least it was under some beautiful trees and it wasn't paved!). My point is, we had to sacrifice some of the more superficial aspects of a "traditional" wedding in order to save money. However, that choice worked out so well for us in the end. The owners of the Bed & Breakfast were so kind and willing to help us out in any way possible.

Your choice of a venue is one of the most important decisions you will make during the wedding planning process. It will determine how formal or casual your event is. (which will affect attire, invitations, the need for decorations, etc.). It can impact your catering and alcohol options. You will likely need to interact with the people at your venue site a lot, so make sure you have a good relationship with them! Definitely choose wisely.

I wish you the very best with your process. Our process was very, very difficult, and I thought we would NEVER find a place. Everything we looked at was too pricey and already booked. It was a nightmare! I shed tears during the stressful process. Even when we found our B&B, I had so many doubts. In the end, however, I wouldn't have done it any differently. Just think about what kind of wedding represents you as a couple (regardless of the kind of wedding you're "supposed to" have), prioritize good relationships with the venue, and remember that there will be a lot of other things to spend your savings on other than a one-day celebration!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Organizing Your Wedding Inspiration

I am in love with the Springpad website!

Last week, I was talking about meal planning on my personal blog, and one of my readers recommended Springpad.

It makes me weak in the knees!

I can find recipes online, add them to my list of recipes, and then create a shopping list, depending on which recipes I want to cook for the week.

But I can also use the site to collect and store ideas. For example, I created a list for "Wrapping Ideas." Every time I see a cleverly wrapped package, I can store a link to it. That way, when I need to wrap a present and am looking for some inspiration, I can simply click through the links in my list.

It seems like it would be a great tool for wedding planning. You could create whatever lists you needed, like rings, attire, decorations, ceremony scripts, etc. and collect everything in separate centralized lists. Hooray for centralized lists!

Yes, it's similar to bookmarking in your internet browser, but in Springpad, you can share your lists with others, and it seems less overwhelming.

And the site is completely free!

Okay, enough with the exclamation marks...(and, by the way, no one is paying me to say this...).

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Establishing a Relationship Vision

Last week during my Purposeful Conception e-course about preparing your mind, body, and life for pregnancy, I worked through an exercise about what I think it means to be a good parent.

The process reminded me that, a long time ago, Matt and I came up with a vision for our relationship. We used to be good about pulling out the vision from time to time and rereading it, but we haven't done it lately. It was really nice to pull it up again and read over our thoughts.

When we first created the vision together, we spent a few minutes of independent reflection going through each category by ourselves and giving our relationship a rating based on how well we thought we were doing according to that particular criterion. When we were finished, we went back to compare our ratings. Any areas of discrepancy provided good fodder for conversation.

Looking over the list again reminds me that we've come a long way in terms of strengthening our relationship, but we still have areas to work on. For example, I recently walked away during one of our fights, which is a major no-no, according to our vision.

I think I need to print this list out and put it in my Life Binder. That way, I'll happen across it more frequently and will keep it closer to the surface of my consciousness.

Our Relationship Vision

We enjoy spending time with each other.

We introduce each other to new ideas.

We create adventures together.

We create together.

We maintain our individual identities.

We lead a lifestyle that is healthy for our bodies and the environment.

Our relationship inspires others to love and live more fully.

We support each other through hard times and we bear each other’s burdens as necessary.

We treat each other the way they want to be treated

We contribute equally (intellectually, emotionally, and physically) to our relationship and the maintenance of our life together.

We touch each other lovingly and frequently

We support each other’s goals and celebrate each other’s successes.

We inspire each other to be better people.

We share all of ourselves with each other.

We speak our minds and resolve issues as soon as possible; we do not walk away.

We solve problems proactively, peacefully and lovingly.

We trust each other without a doubt.

We are reliable.

We are happy to wake up next to each other every day.

We keep our living space clean.

We laugh with each other.

We bring people together.

We are fiscally responsible.

We are socially conscious.

We listen.

We prioritize our life together.

We backwards plan.

We do not assume.

We use a constructive tone in conversation.

We reflect on the extent to which we are living our relationship vision and make adjustments as necessary.

We share.

When decisions affect our life, we will decide together.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Staying Grounded: When It's Time to Close the Computer

Image courtesy of the lovely cakies

Last year, I didn't do anything to festively decorate our home for the holidays or even anything particularly creative to celebrate them. Honestly, with the onslaught and quick succession of Halloween, Matt's birthday, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, I barely did much of anything except pull together a Halloween costume (I was a melting polar ice-cap) and drag my butt to nine holiday parties (or was it 14?).

At the time, I decided that this year I was going to be more prepared. I was going to start everything earlier so I could properly space out my crafting and the demand on my creativity and time. I bookmarked all the cute, crafty holiday ideas I had seen floating around the blogosphere and left it at that.

So when September of this year rolled around, I started working on my Halloween costume. In October, I started working on our holiday decorations. By the end of the month, I had made a fabric bunting banner to hang, a quilted table runner, and an advent calendar. I felt really proud of myself.

And then November rolls around and all the blogs start talking about their crafty responses to the holiday season and their ideas for festivizing, and I start to doubt the choices I've made and the things I've already produced.

Take the leaf garland pictured above, for example. When I saw it, I immediately thought, "I must make that! My bunting looks so dowdy in comparison. Her bunting is much more my style."

And in an instant, the pride I felt around completing my projects early (and thinking they looked pretty good), started to melt away. Instead, I started to feel regret, remorse, and longing for something different and better.

And then my small little sane voice chimed in with: "Sara, you are being CRAZY! Shut your computer this instant."

Oh, how I appreciate that voice! It's the same voice that rescued me countless times during the wedding planning process. It's the voice that realizes there is always something better, different, more creative, more my style, more unique, more interesting--the list goes on and on. It's the voice that appreciates the internet with its countless blogs, tutorials, images, websites, and message boards, but also the voice that acknowledges that the internet can be too much of a good thing. Too many options and too much choice can create a downward spiral of self-doubt and coveting.

It's so counterproductive to spend hours collecting ideas about something, make a decision, implement that decision, and then see new ideas and start doubting your previous decisions (or to start thinking that you have to do more than you originally intended to do, just because another new idea has come up).

When that happens to me, I literally have to rescue myself. I have to throw out a life preserver to the part of myself that is sinking into irrationality, despair, and futility.

I start by closing my computer. And then I usually tell Matt about my silliness. The act of saying it out loud helps me see the full extent of said silliness even more. Then I do something productive like read (a real book) or cuddle with Matt. Finally, I thank my lucky stars that I was able to avert yet another bout of blog-induced insanity (at least for the moment).

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

DIY: Book Wedding Ring Holder

Found via Style Me Pretty, photograph by Tonhya Kae Photography

What a simple and lovely idea for pulling together a DIY wedding ring holder!

For more inspiration about how to incorporate books into your wedding, check out this post about using them as centerpieces...

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Blog Worthy Weddings"

I've been making a concerted effort to make more friends, as I try to bring more connection and a larger support network into my life. One of my newest friends asked me to trek to a new knitting store with her. I've been wanting to make a baby hat with bloodhound ears (to match Hoss, of course), so I was happy to join her.

We inevitably started talking about weddings (not because weddings are a common topic of conversation a couple years after-the-fact, but simply because I was telling her about the things I do for fun, like this blog).

She immediately began sharing the frustration she had with her own wedding planning experience. She confessed that she became obsessed with creating a "blog-worthy" wedding. She even had a specific wedding blog in mind that she wanted to feature all the pretty, pretty details of her wedding.

The process of trying to create a "blog-worthy wedding," however, became tiresome and stressful. She confessed that at several moments throughout the process, she just "wanted the whole thing to be over."

In the end, she was so done with her wedding that she didn't even submit it to the blog!

I think one of the best ways to avoid the spiral into wedding planning exasperation is to set a vision at the very beginning, instead of immediately jumping into the Pool of Wedding Details.

Matt and I wanted a "memorable and meaningful wedding focused on community, connection, and fun." Specifically, these were the goals we established for our wedding during our first planning meeting (over Mexican food):
  1. We want to bring family and friends together to reconnect and form new friendships.
  2. We don’t want the experience to feel overly-orchestrated. It’s a celebration of our love, not a show.
  3. We will fight consumerism by spending only $2,000 max. The Wedding Industrial Complex is conspiring to make us think we have to spend more money. But we want to make the event special with sincerity, not money. Plus, we need to save money for a house, and we certainly don't want to start our life together in debt.
  4. It will be good for the environment and connected to nature.
  5. We want to have real time to spend with guests. We want to be able to spend quality time with our friends and family. We don’t want to follow the traditional pattern of a few wedding “events” where the bride and groom only have time for a “meet and greet”: rehearsal dinner, reception, brunch the following morning. We want more of a family and friends reunion.
  6. We will make all the decisions ourselves so our wedding represents us (hence another reason why we need to pay for it ourselves).
  7. We only want to be surrounded by our closest friends and family.
  8. We want to be relaxed and fully present.

When I started to go C-R-A-Z-Y about how something looked or what color it was, I tried to bring myself back to our vision. It helped me remember that many of the smaller details that drive us mad are actually not as significant as the bigger pieces. By focusing on fewer, but bigger pieces, we can hopefully eliminate some of the stress of the planning process!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Helping Your Helpers Help You

It can take a village to pull off big, life events, and yet, ironically, modern society is becoming more and more nuclear. We're separating off into our smaller and smaller families, living farther away from extended family, and seeking out more virtual community, rather than getting to know our neighbors. (As a side note, if you want to read a great book from my American studies days in college, I highly recommend The Pursuit of Loneliness).

I'm no exception in certain regards. Matt and I live many, many miles from family. We're smack-dab in the middle of Houston, and his family lives in Bloomington, IN, while mine lives in Tampa, FL.

As we prepare for the impending arrival of our first baby in February, however, we're thinking through ways to tap into the generous love and support of our families and friends to help us face the experience with maximized joy, connection, and an ability to keep ourselves grounded in the present moment.

Of course that's exactly what we did for our wedding! We knew that we needed help to pull off a two-day wedding extravaganza in the woods of Colorado. Since we couldn't afford to purchase a lot of extra help and--more importantly--because we wanted our wedding to help build community among our nearest and dearest, we asked for as much help as possible. We delegated more than 30 jobs, which helped us enjoy our DIY wedding more (because we didn't feel responsible for taking care of everything during the Welcome Picnic, ceremony, and reception). It also helped us feel even more connected to our friends and family because we we're making something happen together. Finally, it helped free up our mental space and allowed us to truly immerse ourselves in the experience and enjoy it!

My mom is planning to come take care of Matt, me, Hoss, and the house right after the birth, so that Matt and I can rest, heal, and learn how to take care of the baby. When asking people to help (with the express purpose of trying to take pressure off of yourself and to make your life easier), I've found that it's not enough to just say, "Please help me with _________." While that is enough for those friends and family members who have a lot of vision and initiative, it's often not enough for everybody else. Most people are afraid of doing something wrong because they desperately want to help you in the best way possible. Most people need more specific directions about what it means to "help with ____________."

That's why I'm using the months leading up to the birth to figure out ways to help my mom best support us after the birth. She and I brainstormed a list of everything she might need:
  • a list of vegetarian meals (with recipes) to cook
  • directions to our nearest grocery stores and pharmacies
  • take-out menus from local restaurants
  • descriptions of what goes in our cabinets, so she can help unload the dishwasher
  • directions for running the washing machine (specifically how to use our side-loading machine)
  • routes for walking Hoss
  • Hoss's feeding schedule
  • directions about how to care for the chickens

I keep the list in a centralized place and add to it throughout the week as I come up with more things. I never trust myself to make a comprehensive list the first time through.

Matt and I followed the same process as we figured out what kind of help we needed with our wedding. It took a lot of work during the planning phase to think through all the details and to communicate those details to our helpers (via e-mail and phone), but the upfront investment was totally worth it. During the execution phase of our wedding, our helpers weren't bombarding us with questions about what to do, how to do it, or where to find the supplies they needed. We tried to answer all of those questions for them in advance.

It's not really delegating if you have to hold everyone's hands while they are carrying out their tasks!

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Chime In: How Much Is/Was Your Wedding Budget?

Please share your experience with fellow kindred spirits over here at 2000 Dollar Wedding! You can anonymously share your wedding budget with a simple click in the poll below. Then head over to the comments to explain the process you used to decide what your wedding budget would be.

How Much Is/Was Your Wedding Budget?

Please head over to the comments section to discuss:

How did you decide what your wedding budget would be?

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