Skip to main content

Budget Bride I: Put Your Friends and Family to Work

Welcome to the Budget Bride series, in which I share wisdom from my "recessionista" wedding in 2007 on how to treat a small budget as a creative opportunity rather than an obstacle to the beginning of a shared lifetime of gorgeous memories. Over ten Thursdays, I am sharing updated tips on how to use the friction of financial restriction to spark the kind of light, warmth, joy, and graciousness in a wedding that money can't buy anyway. My husband and I have enjoyed almost 15 years of happy marriage (not without ups and downs but with the tools to handle challenges while remaining best buds with benefits), and we'll always have our wonderful memories of our wedding day to look back on--not just in shiny, retouched photographs but in the visceral reliving of the actual experience.

Whether you've struck it rich in the stock market or you're just grateful to have survived the past year, there is timeless wisdom in starting a marriage by setting an intentional rhythm, mood, and feeling of expectation with a well-designed wedding celebration. I am not referring specifically to aesthetic design; visual aesthetics are only one part of the whole multi-sensory and emotional presentation of a properly hosted event. A joyful experience can be had at any price point, and sometimes it actually helps not to be distracted by too many supposed shortcuts or unnecessary add-ons that can be purchased.

Today's post, "Budget Bride I," highlights the engaged couple as members of a community. If you are planning a wedding with guests you want to invite to witness your union, then despite what you may have observed from American pop convention, the day should not be all about you or even about you and your fiance but about the whole web of relationships in which the two of you are embedded. Each one of us owes our culture, elements of our personality, genes, and understanding of love largely to the people we come from and the people we've chosen to share our lives with. A wedding invites a community of family and friends to bless the union between two people, and it also gives the couple a chance to let their loved ones shine through contributions of personal talent and flavor.

To avoid coming off as a bridezilla, don't begin with an assumption that everyone you know with useful skills is obligated to contribute them for free or to be micromanaged in how they contribute their skills, if they choose to do so. As you begin planning your wedding, before you send out your registry, let your loved ones know that you would appreciate gifts of skill in creating the wedding itself in lieu of purchased gifts. You can also ask people individually if they would like to contribute in that way and how they would like to do it. Allow them a generous measure of creative freedom that feels good to both of you. Make sure you’re on the same page from the beginning in terms of big stuff like your moral values and the accessibility needs of your guests, and then give your volunteers just as much guidance as they want.

If there are non-negotiable aesthetic details that you want done a very specific way, consider taking care of those elements yourself or hiring a paid professional at a fair price. As much as possible, though, let it go and open your mind to a more collaborative vision of your big day so that feelings of gratitude and appreciation can flow between you and your loved ones and so that your big day can become something more than the sum of its eclectic--and extremely personalized--parts.

A collaborative wedding is one that honors the married couple, the friends and family who contribute to it, and all of the relationships among the collaborators. It might not turn out as slick as a professionally produced event, but it will be more personal, memorable, and meaningful. To process all worst-case scenarios and laugh off any anxieties about relinquishing control and navigating conflicts, revisit a 2000s-era classic wedding comedy such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding! Then...


Put Your Friends and Family to Work

If you are planning on getting married in a recession, congratulations! High unemployment can work in your favor. Gather together all of your friends and family with mad skills and nothing to do, and put 'em to work on your fabulous recessionista wedding!


Businesses will try to make you believe that you need to hire a hundred different people to perform a bunch of services for your wedding--not so. You can have an extremely fabulous celebration at any budget with enough creativity and help from your friends and family. Allow your favorite people to give you gifts of their time and talents for free or at a VIP discount. These gifts can include musical performances, cooking, baking, photography, beauty treatments, sewing, jewelry lending, growing and arranging flowers, setup and cleanup, even officiating your ceremony.


My wedding had a budget of $6,000 for about 100 guests. With a little ingenuity, we stretched that budget into the most glorious wedding and reception that we could have dreamed. Years later, our friends are still talking about our wedding and using it as inspiration to plan their own!


The bridesmaids and I had our hair and nails done by a student at an educational salon on the cheap. But you can save a lot more by enlisting your cousin in beauty school to lend their artistic flair to your wedding party's beauty regime. Our makeup was done on-site for $10 a face by a friend of the Maid of Honor who was working the MAC makeup counter at the mall. If you go and talk to the workers at department store beauty counters, you'll find that they often own their own arsenals of makeup products and tools, and they can freelance for very low fees.


Make sure your bridesmaids and groomsmen know they aren't just there to look pretty. A formally dressed bride and groom need people who can get them dressed, bustled, tied, whatever. Also to help you pee if you wear a traditional dress. Ah, so elegant.


All of my jewelry was "something borrowed" or gifted by my mother-in-law.


We rented chairs and tables from A-1 Rental and had the groomsmen and a few other friends and relatives set them up.


Having a friend who is a minister comes in handy at a wedding, especially if you are not a member of a church. I was married by my boss! A coworker played cello during the ceremony, and many of the flowers were provided by my mom's and grandma's gardens. We bought tulips from a florist, but the other flowers, including bleeding hearts and lilacs, were homegrown. They smelled amazing.


The musical entertainment at our reception was performed by a fellow my husband met playing a gig at a local bar: Lord of the Yum-Yum, a.k.a. Chicago musician Paul Velat. Nobody even knew what hit them when the show started with classical music beat-boxing, throat singing, and absurdist performance art. After dinner, he entertained us some more with spontaneous break dancing.


Getting lots of friends and family involved in your wedding is beneficial in so many unexpected ways. It's worth all the chaos. This is YOUR big day, princess, but what could possibly be more important to you than sharing your joy with the people you love?


The wedding photos were taken by a pair of photojournalists, one of whom is a big success these days but worked for cheap when he was just starting out, and another who offered her services to us free, as a gift. They managed to capture all of the authentic, spontaneous moments, and those photos mean more to us than the formal and cutesy staged shots.


Enlisting your own family and friends to contribute to your wedding with their skills, talents, and connections makes for a richer experience and a more personalized, meaningful set of memories than anything you could pay strangers to provide.

Happy planning!

Comments

  1. Seriously one the the happiest days of my life, and I wasn't even the one getting married!!

    Still, the joining of the lives of two of my bestest friends (not to mention two of the coolest people to ever walk the planet) was celebrated that day!

    The cherry on the sundae was that it was so chic and so cheap! Well done, wifey!!

    besitos!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your wedding was absolutely fabulous! I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but you should really submit a form to www.offbeatbride.com. I bet they'd feature your wedding in a heartbeat! Seriously. You'd be net-famous for a few minutes. At least among hippie and retro brides!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

Pocket of Joy: Renovating to Love, Not to List

My mom and I have watched Love It or List It for years, and it's no surprise to us that most families choose to stay in their own, customized home rather than move into a new, blank box. The qualities that make a house a home are not the same qualities that make a marketable real estate property. Houses sell better when they are whitewashed into sterile, blank boxes where a new homeowner can come in and add their own personalized color and texture. If you're rich like the people on LIOLI , you can custom build a personalized home from scratch or personalize a market-fresh house in a short time, but even so, it's easier to stay in an already-customized house than to start over.  For regular people who aren't rich, turning a house into a home takes even more creativity, hard work, and time. But working class people certainly can create beloved homes. I've seen dream homes created from the tiniest of tiny houses in the humblest of neighborhoods, in trailer parks, in a

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

A Lightbulb Moment

All the lights are on! This weekend, my dad finished installing our kitchen cabinets as well as three pendant lights that hang above them. Hallelujah, let there be light! Now we can finally see what we're doing, giving us a boost of productivity by providing both visual access and a more pleasant work environment--which will soon become a warm, welcoming place to cook and eat and converse! This bright, warm light is a great metaphor for something else I've realized over the course my month-long home renovation staycation--which, though hard and busy, has been a clean break from my nonprofit work, my novel-writing creative work, and most of my social life too. I had an "aha" moment about illuminating the kitchen that my family has designed and built ourselves with a set of clear, warm lights that my husband and I chose together, as well as the fact that we are no longer living in other people's stuff. We're approaching 40 now, and we've finally been able t

No Cook Summer Snacks

We've been living without a kitchen for over a month now while we renovate, and while I miss baking and cooking, it's also a little bit nice to not have to cook. My family doesn't have a daily takeout budget (or else we'd be paying someone else to renovate our kitchen, obviously), so we've relied on my parents to share their kitchen and home-cooked meals with us in addition to setting up a makeshift pantry in our living room filled with foods that don't need to be cooked. During a hot summer, even when we have a fully functioning kitchen, it's nice to have some things on hand that don't need to be cooked with a stove or oven--or even a grill outside on scorching days. Whether or not you have a lovely kitchen that works, anyone can stay a little cooler and enjoy a little more time to relax this summer by stocking up on no-cook snacks such as... in-season fruits and veggies that can be enjoyed raw hummus, salsa, liquid nacho cheese (no judgment), or any ot

Pocket of Joy: Heirloom Tomatoes

Among the joys of homegrown veggies and fruits, heirloom tomatoes rise the highest above their grocery store cousins. Nothing cultivated to survive mass production and shipping to supermarkets can compare to the flavor of a homegrown heirloom tomato. Heirlooms come in a startling variety of shapes, sizes, and colors with great variation in flavor and texture as well. The bright, shiny, red, smooth, uniform-looking tomatoes that show up in grocery stores have been hybridized to enhance production and durability at the expense of flavor. There isn't anything wrong with eating grocery store tomatoes in terms of health, but once you taste the sweet, brilliant complexity of an heirloom tomato, you understand right away how different and special they are. If you can't or don't wish to grow heirloom tomatoes yourself, and if you don't have green-thumbed and generous family or friends willing to invite you over for grilled bruschetta this summer (oh, the tragedy!), you can usua

Pocket of Joy: Old Books

Old books! You can judge them by their shabby chic covers, because they function as objets d'art and objects of desire on a shelf no matter what stories they tell inside. Books with leather bindings, books embossed and edged in gold, books with plates and illustrations and fancy lettering inside, books that give off the subtle scent of an aged library, books with fraying ribbon markers and tactile spines. Old books are charming, comforting, and, when they aren't first edition antiques, they are usually cheap. The stories told inside of old books can also be wonderful and so thick and rich that you can revisit them again and again, each time discovering something new or forgotten, as fans of Jane Austen and George Eliot know well. Those were stories built to last the ages. An old book can be a roundly multi-sensory experience. I once picked up an old maiden volume by Anthony Trollope that had never been read--and I know, because I had to rustle up an antique book knife to cut ap

Pocket of Joy: Hot Gourd Summer

The corn has grown past "knee high by the Fourth of July," and so have the sunflowers. The delicious bean plants keep trying to climb up their tall sisters' stalks, though the cute, fuzzy creatures of the neighborhood keep trimming them down. And in one very green corner of the garden, the zombie trash gourds have returned! Last year, they volunteered to take over my compost and apple wood stick piles, and this year, they popped out of the front yard garden (after I spread compost there) to say: it's time for another hot gourd summer! The Fourth of July fireworks are all used up and done; it is now legal to look forward to Halloween. Pumpkin spice girls and bog witches, rejoice with me! And pray to every curly shoot and warty bump that by the time these decorative gooseneck gourds ripen, my witchy kitchen will be finished and ready to display them on rustic cherry open shelves against shady green walls. Until then, it's a joy to let the gourd plants' broad gre

Check Out My...

Pantry! We slapped in some fun and easy, removable wallpaper and dug around in the garage until we found this functional beauty, a commercial-grade speed rack abandoned by a former roommate long ago.  The wallpaper is also pretty old, leftover from a project in my parents' former house. Weirdly, I just saw it featured in a bookcase in an episode of Love It or List It . As seen on TV! While we renovate, we've been going through lots of old stuff in the garage, attic, and shed to donate, throw away, or, occasionally, use in the new kitchen. I've unearthed some VERY interesting and exciting treasures from deep inside the garden shed, which I hope to show off soon.  Things are getting very bog witchy around here indeed!