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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links: 3/31/11

Princess Cake from Martha Stewart Weddings

Welcome, spring! The first blossoms are dotting the fruit trees in my neighborhood, so I’m turning to all things flowering for this week's links:

Plantable Seed Wedding Favors

For a favor with minimal detriment to the environment, these are a great option. Friends and family will think of your wedding when the first wildflowers appear.

Cherry-Blossom Princess Cake

If you’re unfamiliar with a dessert called the princess cake, here’s a brief introduction, and a recipe as beautiful as it is sweet. A friend in D.C. tell me the cherry trees are starting to bloom...

How to Choose Edible Flowers

From the more traditional (roses, squash blossoms) to the more exotic (fuchsia berries, yucca petals), here’s an extensive guide to incorporating blooms as recipe ingredients and garnishes. Lavender crème brulee, anyone?

Flower-Pressing Basics

Whether to adorn invitations or for favor bookmarks, pressed flowers add romantic charm to all things paper. And if you have a few smaller blossoms from your day, preserve them to include in the wedding album.

Have a beautiful weekend!


When Anna-Marie isn’t searching the blogs, she’s writing romance stories, cooking for her wife, or freelancing as a cake decorator and floral designer.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guest Post: Entertaining Kids at a Wedding Reception

By Hollyanne

Since my fiance Kevin and I happen to be giant kids ourselves, we didn't have to think twice about whether we wanted to allow children at our June 2011 wedding ceremony and reception. For us, our big day simply wouldn't feel complete without the love and laughter of all the favorite kids in our lives!

However, we also knew that we would need to do something to keep kids entertained, so that their parents could actually enjoy themselves instead of spending the afternoon chasing their little ones. The fact that our reception is outside makes this even more important to us.

We have decided to have the following two things available for kids at our reception:
  • Our reception is outside under a tent, but the surrounding area is relatively large and very grassy. We're planning to set up a few yard games in the grassy area to keep older children occupied, like a bean bag toss, croquet, and ladder golf. We'll also set out some fun paper and instructions to make paper airplanes.

  • For younger children, we plan to set up a couple of picnic tables just outside the tent, so that parents can still keep a watchful eye on their kids. We are hoping to put together a little "activity bucket" for each child decorated with their name (we found some adorable yellow buckets in the Target $1 aisle that coordinate with our wedding colors - score!). A few weeks before the wedding, we'll go to a dollar store and look for items we can fill the buckets with. A few of our ideas are:

-coloring books
-blank paper
-crayons and/or markers
-small frame that can be decorated
-cheap, disposable cameras
-small bag of blocks
-assorted other small toys
-and last but not least, a juice box and crackers for a small afternoon snack

We are also planning to set up a DIY photo booth
, complete with a box of fun dress-up clothes that children (and adults!) of all ages can enjoy!

One thing that we haven't planned yet is whether to designate an older teenager or adult to monitor the kids' table so parents can be even more at ease. For those of you who had kids at your wedding, is this something you would recommend?

Hollyanne is a 2nd-year graduate student at The University of Arizona, and will complete her Masters in Public Health in May 2011. Originally from Southern California, she loves the ocean, the mountains, cupcakes, and of course, wedding planning. Her fiance, Kevin, recently completed his Masters degree in Higher Education and begins a new job in campus activities this January. Hollyanne and Kevin met in college at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, were engaged in November 2009, and are planning a budget-friendly June 2011 wedding. For more about their wedding planning process, please visit their blog, two become one.

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on April 3. Register today!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Post: : When In Rome ... (or Madagascar)

By Laura

I got married in Madagascar in October 2010 – not as an exotic destination wedding, but because my hubby is Malagasy and we will be living here for the next couple years while I conduct research for my PhD in cultural anthropology. I don’t have a lot of practical advice about budget wedding planning that will apply to many readers of this blog. So I’d like to take this as an opportunity to step back a little and reflect on how my experience has given me some perspective on what makes American weddings unique, and what I learned from getting married in a completely different cultural context.

I love reading this blog, and other resources like it that encourage brides to be independent and think outside the box, and not blow their life-savings on their wedding. I also have indulged in the guilty-pleasure of reading bridal magazines and doodling around Macy’s bridal registry website. And while in most ways these two kinds of resources are very different, they have some central similarities: a focus on the individual and a search for control. These factor into American weddings, be they quirky budget to-dos or extravagant country club affairs, since a wedding is seen as an opportunity to express one’s unique individual identity, and couples try to control the details of their wedding so that it feels right to them and shows other people their values and interests. I’d never really thought about this much until I got married in Madagascar, where both concepts – individualism, and the goal of control – are, if not absent, then VERY different.

In Madagascar, the focus is on relationships rather than individuals. Your identity is more about the relationships you have with others than your personal traits and quirks. A great example is names: once you are an adult and have children, you are no longer known by your first name but as “Mom-of-so-and-so” or “Dad-of-so-and-so.” This is very different from America’s focus on individual identity coming from your past accomplishments, your hobbies and likes, and your future goals.

Also in Madagascar, controlling how an event like a wedding goes is kind of impossible, for several reasons. First, things are just not very stable here – the government is in a constant state of flux since a coup d’etat in 2008, which makes lots of other things unpredictable. Second, for logistical reasons I personally had very little control of the wedding planning, since until a month and a half before the Big Day I was in the states finishing up my doctoral coursework while my fiancé was in Madagascar. (He did all the work of scouting location and vendors, bless him!)

I think I was also (overly) sensitive to the customs and expectations of my fiancé and my in-laws, since I wanted to be considerate as a foreigner and a future anthropologist. If I had gotten married in my own country, I probably would have advocated a lot more for my own wishes, but I found myself leaving lots of major decisions to my fiancé and his family. In Malagasy culture, respecting your elders and your extended family is very important, as is honoring guests and being generous. There is also a different cultural view of what is aesthetically pleasing -- since Madagascar is a poor developing country where a majority of people live on less than $2 a day, manufactured items and anything with a little glam is preferred. That means that anything "homemade" or "DIY" that might fly in the states would not go over well here. Also, many Malagasy people get married through traditional ceremonies only involving the two families or forgo an official wedding altogether due to the expense ... so there was a certain amount of social pressure to host a big lavish party since we were actually having a "modern" wedding, and I as an American am relatively wealthy compared to most people in Madagascar.

As a result, my wedding was VERY different from what I personally would have wanted. My ideal wedding would have had wooden rings, linen suits, an informal outdoor ceremony and reception on the beach, handpicked wildflower bouquets, and about 50 guests. In my real wedding we exchanged gold rings in front of almost 200 guests in a city hall, and then drove in a parade of air-conditioned SUVs to a beach-side hotel for a seated dinner reception. Whoa!

As a result, it did not feel like MY wedding at all … but like OUR wedding, “our” meaning me, my fiancé, my many in-laws, and my adopted country of Madagascar. But unlike some brides who are frustrated when their weddings get high-jacked, I found the experience of giving up control very liberating and fulfilling in the end. By respecting the wishes and expectations of other people, the wedding became a manifestation of my relationships to those people rather than an expression of my individual personality.

Posing with a small fraction of my in-laws (and some adventurous members of my own family!)

I am not exactly sure what lessons other people can take from my experience. On the one hand, I think it is important to respect customs and the expectations of others. On the other hand, there are a lot of American wedding customs that are frankly expensive (embossed invitations, floral decorations) or outdated (“giving away” the bride, the garter toss). If I’ve learned anything from my anthropology classes, it’s that cultures are always changing, and customs are never applied universally. So I am NOT saying that you should always bow to the wishes of your mom, or your mother-in-law, or society in general, if it imposes exorbitant costs or just plain feels wrong.

But if you do find it difficult to control your wedding so that it reflects your own individual personality and desires, here’s my advice: take a step back to get some perspective and breathe. You may find that relinquishing some control, and having a wedding that reflects not just you and your fiancé but other people in your lives or the culture(s) from which you come, might not be such a bad thing.

Any other thoughts or experiences for negotiating cross-cultural expectations in the wedding planning process?


Laura is working towards a PhD in anthropology and currently conducting her dissertation research on rural-urban migration in eastern Madagascar. She writes about her experiences with fieldwork and cross-cultural romance at her blog Going Native.

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on April 3. Register today!

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Monday, March 28, 2011

How Do I Love My Partner?

And if you do head over to his blog, please click on the Facebook "Like" button. It would make his day/week/month. Seriously.

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Guest Post: Wedding vs. Marriage - The Fight for Focus

by Rachel Lowe

My husband, Greg, and I consider ourselves to be practical people. So we embarked on the wedding planning journey with a practical, meaning-seeking mindset. Shortly after our engagement, we simultaneously read a book entitled, The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams: Planning Together for Less Stress and More Joy and actively discussed each chapter. We were determined to have a wedding that was intimate, authentic, and just plain fun! For the first few months, it was pretty easy to stick with this plan. I had all the checklists handy, we made a list of all the things we wanted our wedding to be, and took our time finding venues and vendors that fit our priority list - local/independent, friendly, affordable, and talented. We were on a roll, and knew we'd have a great wedding, without letting the planning rule our relationship or allowing our budget to get out of control.

Then life hit, as it tends to do.

In mid-March, after a 9-month search, we finally started the closing process on our condo. By the time our closing was finalized in late April, I had begun the transition to a new job, was hosting my mom in the new condo for a few weeks, and finally graduated with my Masters degree. Yay! So needless to say, during the months of March, April, and May, wedding planning was not even on the back burner...it was still in the cupboard. By the time I got back into the full swing of things in July, there were only three months until the wedding day. I'm not sure if it was the time away from the process, or the feeling of severe urgency, but when the planning continued, I felt much more consumed by the stuff than the substance. I became more concerned with checking things off the to-do list than building our relationship and finding meaning in what was about to happen. I was more focused on the wedding than the marriage. This was particularly heart-breaking because Greg and I set out on this journey with such high hopes of having a ceremony-centric wedding; and yet up to this point, we had barely even discussed the vows, the unity ceremony, the readings, or anything of the sort.

Additionally, we were both absorbing an abnormal amount of stress from some strained relationships. Greg and I both encountered some bouts of severe loneliness throughout the planning process. To start things off, our pastor, whom we were extremely fond of, took a position at another church out of state and would no longer be able to perform our ceremony. That was a pretty tough blow.

Next, my fiance felt misunderstood and pressured by his employer, who didn't seem to think working 60+ hour weeks throughout the entirety of our engagement was an issue.
I, on the other hand, felt supported at work, but abandoned by many of the women I thought would stick with me most during this process. About seven weeks prior to the wedding, my Matron of Honor informed me that she would be unable to fly to the wedding because it would be unsafe for her pregnancy. I completely understood the situation, but it was still heartbreaking. Not even one week later, the other girls in the wedding party were experiencing high stress levels of their own and became closed and distant. I took this personally, because I did not understand at the time that they deal with stress by going inward, while I deal with it by going outward and being social. For a number of weeks, I continually felt a sense of guilt, as if I had done something to drive them away.

We felt very unsupported as individuals, and as a couple.
Thankfully, and serendipitously, right about the time all of these challenges - the stress, the lack of support, and the pressure - were coming to a head, we attended an engagement weekend that changed the direction of our planning and helped us refocus. The mantra of the weekend was: your wedding is a day, your marriage is a lifetime. Throughout the weekend, we discussed crucial topics such as why we first fell in love, openness in communication, why marriage is a vocation, decision making, sexual intimacy, and what it means to become a family. Let me tell you, that weekend, away from life and everything "wedding", was EXACTLY what we needed.

Right before we left on Sunday afternoon, we covered the two topics that springboarded us into the final six weeks of planning. We had a discussion on the wedding as the beginning of our sacrament, and then ended the weekend by writing each other a betrothal letter (which we both looked at as the precursor to our vows). I don't even remember the last time I cried so much. Whoo boy! These two discussions gave us the focus we needed to keep the right focus until it was all over; to stay on the right path until the wedding was finished and the marriage had begun.

Soon after the weekend, we began meeting with the new pastor at our church to begin the premarital counseling as well as the hammering out of the details. Finally, the ceremony was once again our number one priority, like we had wanted all along. As much as I hate to admit it, this situation worked out perfectly for me. I thrive under last-minute pressure and was bound and determined to work with Greg in creating a ceremony we would always remember. And about three weeks later, we finalized our entire ceremony. And at that point, we knew all the last minute crises didn't matter. No matter what else happened on October 3, 2010, we were going to be married. Our vows were meaningful, our readings were going to be read by people who meant the world to us, and our unity ceremony was special and spiritual.

Although we wanted to focus on the real meat of the wedding from the beginning, I truly believe everything happened the way it was supposed to. All the trials and tribulations we went through brought us closer together, and made the ceremony so much more focused, intense, intimate, and meaningful. Our pastor still comments on how it was one of the most unique and special ceremonies he has presided over. That feels so good to hear.

I still remember talking to other couples at the resort on our honeymoon (as is natural for newlyweds I'm sure). While many women could not stop talking about their reception, my HUSBAND (I still love saying that) and I lit up whenever we looked back on our ceremony. The reception was awesome, don't get me wrong, but we were both still in awe of what took place that day. We entered the alter as two separate people with two separate lives, and left as two individuals with one life. It was so surreal, so special, and so worth it all!!

So if there is any lesson to be drawn from our journey it is this: remember that the wedding is one day, and the marriage is for life. Try to stay focused accordingly. However, when life shows up with a load of challenges along the way, cut yourself some slack and realize that as long as you're in it together, everything will work out exactly as it's supposed to. I wish you ALL the best in both your wedding and your marriage.

Rachel Lowe is a very part-time blogger and photographer living outside Washington, DC. Along with her brand-spanking-new husband, Greg, she loves to ride motorcycles, look at random things through her telescope, and go hiking in her new Vibram Five-Fingers. Read more about their journey toward a balanced life at Lowe on Balance.

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on April 3. Register today!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Real Wedding: Kelly + Joel

By Kelly Alberts

Ever since (my now-husband) Joel proposed on May 1st of 2010 (and let's be honest-- even before that...), I've had wedding/marriage on my mind and way up near the top of my to-do list. Through the whole process, my honey and I have done our very best to focus on preparing for marriage, not simply planning a wedding.

All that to say, we did things a little bit differently.

What we did, and why:

1. I bought my dress used.
  • I couldn't stomach paying an insane amount of money for something I would wear one time and then keep in a box for the rest of my life (or until I got fed up and took it to the thrift store!). Plus, I've done a lot of blog stalking & knew the website Once Wed had a section for used wedding dresses. I found one I loved, went to the store to try it on, and purchased it for half price from a girl in my area. We met at the mall one morning, I gave her the cash, and she handed over the dress. All I had to do was have it steam cleaned. I also know someone locally who does sewing repairs so I had her put in a place to bustle the dress in the back.

2. We invited every single person we wanted to invite.
  • We decided from the beginning that people were a high priority so we didn't cut the guest list at all. We just made other adjustments. It was SO special to celebrate the day with all our friends and family!

3. Our time was spent mostly listening to each other and planning our future.
  • I can only remember a few specific conversations where Joel and I were talking about mundane wedding details. During the last six months we talked a lot about marital roles, expectations, fears, and the anticipation of spending our lives together. We also had six weeks of awesome pre-marital counseling led by the pastor who married us and his wonderful wife.

4. Traditional wedding food = way too expensive and unoriginal for our tastes.
  • I was at Qdoba one day this past summer and noticed that they did catering... BRAINSTORM! Qdoba is one of my favorite places to eat, so why not have it at our wedding?! We ordered a hot naked burrito bar for 166 people. The cost was roughly 9 dollars per person, including plates, napkins and silverware.

5. Our bridesmaids all had the same dress in a different color.
  • They ordered them online at Target for 30 dollars. They looked SO awesome and I couldn't be happier that they were inexpensive and wearable for future events. Our groomsmen wore suits they already owned. The idea of renting tuxedos for a day, which costs about the same as purchasing a new suit, made me cringe. Joel's groomsmen looked totally rad and you couldn't tell that some had black, some had gray, and some had navy.

6. We served dinner ourselves.
  • Instead of a traditional receiving line (which I hate because I feel awkward hugging strangers), we stood behind the buffet table and served our guests as they came through for dinner. It was so much fun to greet everyone this way while also beginning our lives together serving others. (P.S. We were very hungry by the end, but it was worth it!)
7. Our photographer was a friend of my bridesmaid.
  • She was absolutely perfect because I had in mind mostly candid photos, a very short bride/groom photo shoot, and quick, fun pictures of our wedding party. All in all, "official" photos took one hour. She also gave us a great deal and shot our wedding for much less than she usually charges.

8. The bride, groom, and bridal party all got ready together.
  • OK, so I totally understand the whole wanting to have that moment of sheer joy/surprise when seeing each other as the bride walks up the aisle. We sacrificed that a little, I suppose, but it was totally worth it to have everyone getting gussied up all at the same time at the same place. We're very fortunate to live right next to our church, so we could all walk to the ceremony straight from our house. There was no running back and forth to grab forgotten supplies, no stress of people arriving late. Plus our first look at each other was quite special, even without hundreds of people witnessing it.

9. Our wedding favors = kazoos.
  • You can buy personalized kazoos online for about a dollar per person... cheaper than most traditional wedding favors. Plus, on our second date we went to a goofy outdoor concert and they gave us kazoos so we could hum along with the music. I threw mine out (of course) but Joel kept his and a few months later I noticed and felt all sentimental that he still had it.

10. We had a wonderfully hilarious photobooth.
  • Our friend let us use her SLR & tripod. We set it up with a vintage sheet as the background and left it running throughout the reception. The pictures from the photobooth continue to make me incredibly happy. It looks like everyone was having SO much fun!

Eight weeks into marriage, I have absolutely NO regrets about how we did our wedding day. The lessons we learned, the laughter we shared, the money we spent (and saved!), the conversations we worked through... all made the before, during, and after completely wonderful!

Kelly is a fourth grade teacher in Philadelphia. She and her husband are thoroughly enjoying newlywed life while fixing up their first home, changing the world through education, and spending time with those they love (especially each other!)

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guest Post: Putting Away the Engagement Ring

By Mindy Wood

The choice to have an engagement ring was not much of a choice at all; it was just what was expected. My sister had an engagement ring, my friends had engagement rings, and not having one didn’t seem like an option. I happily wore my ring until the thrill of just getting engaged wore off.

I started to notice that whenever someone would ask to see it, I felt embarrassed. Instead of feeling empowered by the rock on my hand, I was feeling vulnerable. Instead of feeling loved I was feeling spoiled. I started to realize that the ring didn’t symbolize how much Matt loved me; instead it represented values that I disagreed with. That ring started to look more like stuff than love, but making the decision to take it off was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I didn't exactly need it or want it but Matt had given it to me, and that meant a lot. So I kept it on for no other reason than that I didn’t know what else to do.

When I finally put my engagement ring away it was like all the doubt and vulnerability I had been feeling was captured in that little black box too. All of the anxiety and stress of wedding planning, all of the “but you have to have this” and “it’s not a wedding without that” could be boxed away with the engagement ring and, in essence, the engagement. I had a wonderful time being engaged. It was a great time to transition toward married life and discover new things about each other but I’m glad that it’s over and that I can be a wife now. I had a wonderful engagement ring but I’m glad to have my simple wedding ring that really represents me, my values, and my commitment to my husband.

Mindy is a writer over at purposefullysimple.wordpress.com. When she's not writing, she's playing outside with her husband, cooking yummy food, or discovering something new to learn about.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Post: Not Just My Milestone

My mom and dad. Aw.

By Chris Wolfgang

"But you have to have a first dance

His mother didn't plead. It wasn't a question. It was this is what shall be done.

I tried to stand my ground. "Well, neither of us particularly enjoys the idea of dancing with hundreds of eyes on us. I'd rather just get right to the dance party part of it all."

She didn't blink. "Your father will want to have a first dance with his daughter."

Jeremy's mother has never met my father. My dad and I, in fact, had already decided that a father-daughter dance would be torture for both of us.

"Oh, it's not really his thing," I tried to say gently. "Neither of us is much of a dancer."

She waved a hand. "He would do it for you."

Now, this is true. If I had my heart set on a father-daughter dance, my dad would suck it up, grin and bear it, and die ten thousand slow deaths while we danced to Butterfly Kisses. Fortunately, it's within my power to make this a nonissue, so I'm simply not going to put him through it.

But in the face of my fiance's mother, I was helpless. I ended the conversation with a feeble, "Well, we'll see."

That night, I related the exchange to Jeremy. "I'm so sick of being told what to do," I whined. "I don't want to dance, my dad doesn't want to dance, you don't want to dance ... why is this so important? It's not! It doesn't matter at all, so why on earth ..."

"Maybe she's afraid she won't get to have a first dance with me."

I stared at him.

With one calm, non-accusatory suggestion, he had forced me to get over myself. I had been so adamant about my day, my comfort zone, that I hadn't realized I might be taking away a mother-of-the-groom moment that my future mother-in-law had been looking forward to.

That nonchalant statement was like a splash of water in the face. As important as a wedding day is for the two people joining in marriage, it's important for so many others. It's a milestone for Jeremy and me, but it is for his parents and my parents too.

Yes, I want the day to strongly reflect the relationship I have with Jeremy. But I want to make room for the supportive people in our lives to be represented too.

I mean, if not, why are we having a wedding at all? Why not just find a shaman, hike up the Rockies, and say our vows, just the two of us? The reason it's a party, the reason it's a celebration, is because our relationship and individual lives have been so cared for by so many people. I need to find ways for us to be comfortable while allowing those people to be honored.

I'm still working on how exactly to get my dad and me out of a first dance while giving Jeremy's mom her special moment with her son. But we'll come up with something!

Don't worry, Dad! We'll figure this out!

Chris is an editor in the publishing world by day and a home-cook extraordinaire by night, as well as an avid volunteer, dog lover, and very amateur photographer. She met Jeremy when she heeded the siren call of the west a few years ago. They will be married at his parents’ place in Nebraska next fall. She’d love for you to look her up on Twitter @chriswolfgang.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Links, 3/17/11

Lucky Vanilla Cupcakes from Sprinkle Bakes

Céad míle fáilte, everyone! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Whether you’re celebrating at the pubs tonight or opting for a quiet night in, here’s a little Celtic inspiration for any time of the year.

Irish Soda Bread

I’ve seen so many beautiful ways to incorporate bread into a ceremony or reception, why not give a nod to Celtic custom with soda bread? Here are a few traditional recipes, and a little of its history.

St. Patrick’s Day Wedding Garter

In addition to this shamrock-adorned style, The Garter Girl offers a wide variety of wedding garters, including a line made with materials derived from recycled plastic bottles.

Lucky Vanilla Cupcakes and Celtic Knot Cookies

Ground pistachios lend a dusting of green, and chocolate horseshoes top off these wedding-worthy desserts; these sweet Celtic knots would make a memorable favor.

St. Patrick’s Day Inspiration Board

If you haven’t seen Snippet and Ink’s St. Patrick’s Day inspiration board, check out the soft green, cream tones, and touches of Guinness brown.

Claddagh Rings on Etsy

One of the most recognizable Irish symbols of love—Jim Morrison and Patricia Kennealy even exchanged a set at their handfasting ceremony—Claddagh rings date back to the seventeenth century. Nelly Van Cleeff and a number of other etsy shops offer a broad selection.

Irish Wedding Traditions

Brides marrying on a Sunday or weekday, take note: the Irish considered it unlucky to marry on a Saturday. But no matter what day you plan to wed, add a little luck to your celebration; traditions and folklore include wildflower wreaths and a few protections against the mischief of fairies.

Erin go Bragh!

Have a wonderful weekend!


When Anna-Marie isn’t searching the blogs, she’s writing romance stories, cooking for her wife, or freelancing as a cake decorator and floral designer.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Real Wedding

by Modfrench

My husband and I met six years ago while working at a summer camp and decided to get married last year. We wanted our wedding to have both a meaningful ceremony that incorporated the people we love and a really fun reception with lots of dancing and good food. We wanted to have some traditional elements (a bridal party, vows, and the giving of rings) but still have a wedding that reflected us.

We decided to rent a summer camp that was about 30 minutes away from where we live in Baltimore. They gave us a great price and we were able to rent the entire camp for the night so all our guests would have accommodations if needed. We did basically everything ourselves with lots of help from awesome friends and family. My husband and I designed and made the invitations and save the dates. We bought our wedding clothes online (we both wore vintage bought on e-bay) and had it tailored by an amazing local tailor. We told our bridal party to wear whatever they wanted, and I made embroidered bow ties for the boys and hair garlands for the girls. We had several talented photographers, including two good friends, and two hired photographers--a wonderfully talented high-schooler who was a past student of my father (and who took all the pictures shown here) and the other was a co-worker of my father.

The ceremony was held in the woods on the camp property. The guests all walked there as a group. We were married by my husband's best friend who got licensed online. We really wanted our friends and family to be incorporated in the ceremony so we asked my husband's uncle to play trumpet and his parents to play recorder, and my parents and sister spoke. It was one of the most wonderful, touching, and magical moments of my life, filled with both tears and laughter.

After the ceremony we all walked back to the camp's dining hall, a rustic wood paneled hall that we decorated with zinnia's my bridesmaids and I had picked on a farm the day before, white dove garlands I made, and mismatched tablecloths bought from thrift stores. The food was prepared by a local chef and family acquaintance. It was middle-eastern/french inspired and insanely good and affordable. It was really important to us to have great food and we got so many compliments on our food. We bought cakes from a local restaurant we love, and my mom's close friends brought some amazing home made treats as well. My husband and I love to dance so he worked for months preparing a play list which we played on his ipod.

It was a wonderful night--I really felt like since we had all put so much work into the wedding it really felt personal and unique to us. It was not perfect, and we had a very small budget to stretch, but the kindness of others who pitched in, from the farmer who gave us a special deal on the flowers, to the tailor who let us swap her skills for a painting, to all our friends who worked their butts off getting set-up really made the day so special and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Post: How to DIY Wedding Table Numbers

By Mindy Wood

Matt and I went through a million possibilities for our wedding table numbers, all of which were fabulous, but either too costly or too time consuming. Though I enjoy crafting I'm not willing to spend a huge amount of time on a project that is such a small detail.

So I came up with a simple way to display our table numbers, which might not be super unique, but is definitely simple and beautiful. I purchased the card stock at Joann Fabrics on clearance for 10 cents a piece. All of our other supplies were things we already had.


  • cardstock (you can make 2 table numbers with one piece of 8 ½ x 11)
  • printing paper (I used some leftover cream resume paper)
  • glue stick
  • measuring tool (I used a self healing mat but you could use a ruler)
  • paper guillotine (I used one with a sliding razor rather than the handle kind)
  • printer

1. Open a word document. Using a font size around 200, type your table numbers into the document. Leave two spaces between each number (you will want to have enough space to cut out the numbers in a 3-inch square). Print on your chosen paper. You will need two copies.

2. Draw a 3-inch square around each number. I used a scrap of card stock, cut to the right size, as a template to trace. You could also use a ruler. Cut out each number. Set aside.

3. Using your guillotine, cut two 8 ½ x 4 inch pieces from each piece of card stock. Cut as many as needed for your number of tables. Fold each one in half so that they are 4 ¼ x 4 inches.

Note: I used 8 ½ x 4 inch pieces so that I wouldn’t have to make a second cut, but if you prefer, you could make them 8 x 4 to be a bit more precise and symmetrical.

4. With a glue stick, glue the table numbers onto the piece of card stock so that when the card stock is set on the table like a pyramid you can read the numbers (the bottom of the numbers should be near the edge of the card stock and the top of the numbers should be near the fold).

That’s it! You can get really creative and choose different colored paper, card stock and printer ink. Mine are 1) brown card stock with cream paper and gold numbers and 2) gold card stock with cream paper and brown letters. You can also experiment with different fonts from flowing script to blocky and bold.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Post: Taking the Self-Doubt Out of DIY

By Diana of The Backyard Bride
Hello, loyal 2000 Dollar Wedding readers! I’m very grateful to Sara for allowing me to share my thoughts with all of you while she’s off enjoying her new baby.
When my fiancé and I got engaged, we knew instantly that we didn’t want a formal, ballroom-style wedding. We’re low-key people so one of the first things we did was brainstorm ways that we could celebrate our marriage in a way that’s meaningful and special, but still relaxed and fun. We quickly settled on a casual-elegant barbeque bash at my mother’s church. I'm hoping our big day will feel a lot like this:

I must confess that we aren’t resisting all aspects of the wedding industry. With 115 people to feed and no semi-professional photojournalists among our family and friends, we did end up hiring a caterer and photographer. But basically everything else will be DIY: favours, flowers, music, dessert table, decor, you name it, I (with the help of my lovely friends and family) am DIY’ing it!
Unless you are a decorator or stylist who creates fab things for a living, DIY is sure to create self-doubt. Can I really pull this off? What if I don’t get it done in time? What if it doesn’t turn out? While I am by no means an expert, here are some tips I’ve found for staying true to my vision in the face of a wedding industry that treats every little detail as something that requires professional intervention.
1. Read wedding blogs, not magazines. Ok, seeing as you’re reading this on a blog, I assume you’ve got this one down. Magazines are filled with delicious eye candy, but they tend to assume that weddings should involve as many vendors as possible - which makes sense, seeing as vendors buy ad space in those magazines. Fortunately, there is a wonderful online community of wedding bloggers, who provide plenty of creative alternatives. Instead of reading a magazine article about how to choose the right DJ, you can read a blog post about how to DJ your own reception with your iPod. Instead of perusing ads for 47 different reception halls, you can see photos of couples who got married in fields, forests, libraries, backyards, barns, science centres, and art galleries. Seriously, how awesome would this be?


If all you read is wedding magazines, even the slightest deviation from the Wedding Industry can seem scary - I know it was to me. I thought I was nuts for even thinking about having two friends and their iPods DJ our reception...until I read a few blogs and realized that plenty of people do this, and so can I. Sure, the slick, professional wedding blogs sometimes feature events that are out of most people's budgets, but they also gush over simple and beautiful backyard weddings.

2. Get your friends and family on board. It’s easy to brush off random vendors who seem shocked that you would even consider doing your own flowers/favours/cake - and many vendors I spoke to (and did not book) were indeed shocked at the slightest outside-the-box thought. But what if your friends and family are the ones asking, with a look of genuine concern, “are you sure you’ll have time to do that?” So far, I’ve found that involving them in the planning is key. I’ve been test-driving recipes for my guest favours and dessert bar, buying flowers from a local flower wholesaler to make practice arrangements, and sharing the results with family and friends. Many people have since gone from “are you really going to bake 350 cookies, and arrange all those flowers?” to “let me know when you’re doing the baking and flowers, I’d love to come help.” Their support (and free labour!) really go a long way in reassuring me that I can, in fact, pull off a DIY wedding.

Pumpkin cheese cake bars: an early dessert table experiment

3. Make sure you're DIY'ing things that you enjoy doing. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that you need to have home-baked favours, floral centerpieces, and a huge dessert bar at your wedding. I just happen to enjoy baking and flower arranging. If I didn’t enjoy doing this stuff, I might hire a vendor to do it...or it might just not get done. I also have some ambitious plans involving making bunting out of repurposed material and place cards out of salvaged scrabble tiles, but if that doesn't get done it's no big deal. And you know what? No one will even know it was missing.

My future mother-in-law gave me some great advice when I was debating about hiring a caterer. She said, "In 10 years, nobody will remember what they had for dinner or what colour the flowers were. Everyone just remembers how happy the couple was, and the people they got to spend an evening with." So true.

So that's my story: I'm hiring a couple of vendors I don't think I can do without, DIY'ing as much of the rest as I can, and not stressing if a few things get left off the list. A wedding, after all, is about marrying the person you love - the rest is just gravy.

Diana is a PhD student from Toronto, Canada whose greatest ambition is to become a contestant on Jeopardy. She and her fiance Dave foster cats, play old video games, and are strangely addicted to BBC nature shows. They're getting married in August 2011, and Diana blogs about the wedding planning process at The Backyard Bride.

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