Florist Tip

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After unwinding from all the stress on a beautiful beach with warm blue water and bright white sand as far as the eye could see, I came home and started catching up on emails. One of them was from my venue asking me when I was going to pick up my flower vases. I was very confused why I still had 30, yes, 30! flower vases waiting for me almost 3 weeks after the wedding. I called the florist asking why they didn’t pick them up. Come to find out, they didn’t need to because I now owned them. Confused, I asked if I could return them for a refund because, let’s be honest, unless I open a glass shop, what am I ever going to do with 30 cylindrical flower vases? Absolutely not. I could not return them. They are now mine to keep.

It turns out that I contracted to buy rather than rent the vases. So my florist price, which I thought was so great, would have been even better if I had taken 5 seconds to ask: “Do you rent them or do I have to buy them?” Since I didn’t, I now have this tripping hazard in my basement waiting to cause an injury. It also means that I didn’t get the best price I could have. This goes to show that even if you’re normally a stickler about contracts and spending, you can never get too comfortable in the planning process. Towards the end, there is always something that can fall through the cracks because we are certainly way too busy to be on alert about every detail.

My tip today? Ask if you’re buying or renting the vase. Try and negotiate a rental (while keeping in mind that you’re on the hook if it breaks) to save money and storage space after the wedding. I promise that once, your registry items start coming in, the last thing you’ll want to waste space on are flower pots.

Do you know anyone looking for vases? I’m willing to unload mine for a marginal cost… Call me! 🙂

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“Two Seats have been Reserved in your Honor…”

wedding invite

I never liked that wording. I could never put my finger on why exactly but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m a fan of the more traditional “The honor of your presence is requested…” In part because I’m all about efficiency. The first one requires you to go in and note a number for every single card. We have enough details to attend to and this shouldn’t be one of them. However, this has also opened the door for people to decide your guest list by making executive decisions and inviting who they think you may have left out.

I received an RSVP card 2 days before the deadline from a husband and wife pair who decided that they were not satisfied with simply checking off the “Will Attend” box on the reply card. Instead they went back, scratched out the check mark and wrote “FOUR” on that line. Who are the other two people? I don’t know them. Maybe they wanted to invite their kids. It could be that 1 set of in-laws live with them. Hell, for all we know, their distant cousin Tim might be in town temporarily, on sabbatical from his Alaska fishing job and they decided to add him and his lady friend of the month to the invitation for a free night out, courtesy of my wallet.

For starters, I specifically addressed the invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Smith*. Not to The Smith Family. That may have gone over their heads, but it was a calculated move. Furthermore, while I think they have kids, their kids are at least high school aged. If they don’t attend my wedding, I’m certain they can watch themselves while mommy and daddy are away for a few hours since they only leave about 15-20 miles from my venue. Given the fact that I was paying per person for each guest, I think it was quite presumptuous of them to assume that I must host their children (or whoever, because frankly, I don’t even know who they intended to save the other 2 seats for) if I invite them. There was no attempt made to call me or ask if it was ok. Just a change to my invitation and my guest list count without my input/permission. Maybe they were hoping they could sneak it in without me noticing.

I set the card aside and I contacted them about this “evident mistake” they’ve made in “accidentally” sending a card back with the “incorrect number of guests” (hehe). I eventually heard back and was advised it was for their (as I suspected) teen aged children. Since I am a take-no-prisoners kind of person, I dealt with this the best way I know how: I sent an invitation for two. Not 3, not 4. TWO. I will either have 2 of them at the wedding or 0. They declined. The attendance of the Smith family was 0.

To be clear, Mr. and Mrs. Smith are distant family friends and were not invited because of their direct connection with me. They were invited as guests of my other family members. So they’re essentially guests of guests, inviting other guests. What do we call that? 3rd hand guests? Which makes the situation even more ridiculous.

People love to tests your limits. This is why I am a firm believer in setting boundaries and remaining consistent. Otherwise, we run the risk of putting people’s comfort so far ahead of our needs that we find ourselves in precarious circumstances that may impact us for a long time. If I allowed every couple to bring 2 additional guests, I would have had a 500-person guest list, a 6-figure wedding and a massive amount of debt.

We are expected to be responsible and spend only what we can afford. Bride and grooms are often criticized, by the very people they hosts, for having a lavish affair. Yet, they continue to insist on creating a situation where we overspend on the most expensive portion of the wedding. No thank you and be gone.

The only people invited are the ones listed on the invitation. If you’re a guest, please refrain from “suggesting” anyone else unless you’re writing me a check.

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty and etiquette violators.

Guest List Battle Royale: How to Win

The gauntlet has been thrown! People are in an uproar and you don’t want to ruffle feathers. You know why you should cut your guest list but you just can’t figure out how. Let me share my top 5 favorite tips on how to reign in your guest list.

Just say no. Say no to people asking to invite random acquaintances. It’s ok, they’ll get over it.

Don’t exclude significant others. People in relationships must be invited as one unit. But you are not required to give EVERYONE  a plus one. Some people who are single will ask for a plus one just so they don’t have to be alone. Showing up somewhere and not knowing anyone happens sometimes. It’s part of life. You don’t know everyone on the train on your way to work, yet you manage to survive without dragging an unwilling party behind you. They can survive vows and a dinner on their own.

Don’t invite someone simply because they invited you to their own wedding. Weddings are not tit-for-tat, give and take events. To explain it better, relationships change over time. If someone got married 10 years ago and invited you to their affair, you may have lost touch with them or the friendship may not be the same today. Do not feel like you have to invite them to your own wedding. They should have invited you because they wanted you there. Not because they were hoping you’d invite them to your own later.

Don’t write “Smith Family” on the invitation if you’re not inviting the kids. Make sure you note Mr. and Mrs. John Smith so you can avoid having to make that awkward phone call because they wrote “2 High Chairs” under the special dietary needs section.

Be clear about who is and who isn’t invited. Believe it or not, people will try to invite themselves to your wedding or assume they’re invited. If they jokingly (or not) say: “Am I invited?” laughing it off without setting the record straight my set certain expectations. You’ll either have to have a more awkward conversation later on, or if you’re the type to shy away from confrontation, you could end up creating a C list and giving out invitations to people you didn’t really want there to begin with.

Happy affordable planning!

Thursday Wedding Tip: Cut Your Biggest Expense

Once you start planning a wedding, everyone will tell you the same thing: food and beverage will be your biggest expense. Whether you have a big or small wedding, aged steak or backyard barbecue, you will spend the bulk of your money on your caterer. So what is your biggest path to huge savings? Cutting your guest list. This is a taboo area for many people. We don’t want to offend our friends and family. We don’t want to make people feel left out and we want to follow etiquette. But at what point does making things right by our our friends and family cross the line into doing something that is harmful to us?

I have no interest in the “this is my day” rhetoric of self-centered bratty brides. I do, however, have a lot of interest in making sure that people do not take on more than they can chew. What purpose does it serve to spend more than you can afford so other people can be happy? All your guests and their flavor of the month +1 are not vested in your life past the point of celebration. When you return from the honeymoon, your utility bill will still be waiting for you. (One month, well before our solar days, when we had electric heat our bill was $620. Thanks National Greed Grid!) You still need to put food on the table, and you still need to save for retirement.

Sure, there are some people who will say: “If you can’t afford it have a smaller wedding!” or my absolute favorite: “Don’t get married!” Of course. I will put off getting married until I am able to pay for your sister who I haven’t seen in 10 years or spoken to in 5, to come to my wedding. /snark

People just love to make brides and grooms feel guilty about setting boundaries by using negative terms such as bridezilla or by calling people selfish. But is the couple really the source of issue? Because, if you think about it, what other kind of event do you go to where you think you can demand to bring people? What other events do you go to where you call the host and find it acceptable to suggest changes to the guest list? None. Your job’s Christmas party? You tend to find a babysitter or you stay home. If your neighbor invites you to a barbecue, do you say “my sister was wondering why she wasn’t invited” or do you just go?

The point of a wedding celebration is for the couple to celebrate the beginning of their (hopefully) lifelong journey with those who are the closest to them. It’s not a block party. Most importantly, as the hosts, they decide the guest list. Not you. You don’t have a say unless you’re writing checks. Period. It is extremely disrespectful, entitled and self-centered to think that you can dictate how others spend their money.

In an attempt at guilt-tripping you into doing their bidding, people will even go as far as giving you the following friendly reminder: “Don’t let this go to your head. Do you really want to ruin friendships over a one-day party? If you were really my friend, you would invite my neighbor’s cousin’s dog along with the litter of new born puppy from Forks, WA.” (Twilight reference FTW!) In those cases, you have my blessing to tell them: “Do you really think I’m dumb enough to let a one-day party put me in a financial hole? If you were really my friend you would be more respectful of my boundaries and be appreciative that I consider us close enough to invite you.”

Why should you cut your guest list? Let’s do some math:
Say you’re inviting 210 people at $100 a piece. But you decide to cut out 10 of them. That’s not just $1,000 in savings. There are administrative fees, for me they were 19%, ($190), there are taxes (6.25% where I am which means $74.38 since the administrative fees are taxable), non-taxable automatic gratuity 15% ($150). 10 less people means 1 less table, therefore, 1 less centerpiece. Centerpieces can range anywhere between $50 to $150. I’ll put them right in the middle at $100. That’s another $106.25 saved with the florist (keeping the same tax rate of 6.25%). Cake costs up to $6 a person if you want anything above basic scroll work (i.e. fondant, fresh flowers etc.), so that’s $63.74 for cake including tax. Don’t forget to budget for favors at $3 a person so there goes another $31.87. If you want those nice chiavari chairs, they will cost between $7 and $10 to rent depending on where you are and who you’re getting them from. But for to avoid complicating this any further, let’s assume all that good stuff is already included in your $100 package (it’s not but humor me).

Have you been keeping track? You can check my math if you want but I’m up to $1,616.24. “It’s just 10 more guests!” doesn’t sound as trivial if I remind you that this is probably a month’s rent for a lot of people, does it?

Frugal Fridays: Reception Details

This is my version of throw back Thursday: Some of the best finds from my own days of wedding planning.

reception

It’s the little expenses that creep up on us. That’s what every couple is told to watch out for. You budgeted $2,000 for your dress but the slip is $120, the bra is $80 and a veil is $300. Oh you think that garter is cute? That will be $30. It never ends. And that’s not just your dress. The reception costs will sneak up on you as well. Your keepsake box will run you $15 to $30. Don’t forget taxes, shipping for the things you can’t get in town, etc.

I couldn’t allow the unexpected to bust my budget, so I hunted for deals like a man lost in the Sahara hunts for water. Here are some of my deals:

1) Small gift bags for my favors: less than $70 for 100 from Amazon
2) Matching color tissue papers to stuff them: $9 for 100 from Amazon
3) ‘Mr. & Mrs.’ wood chair hangers: $15 (50% off sale) from Amazon (I never actually used those as I forgot I bought them!)
4) Personalized hanger* – $3.99 (+$10 for shipping). This was a one-day sale. These are usually $19.99-$25.99. from Etsy

*All items except for the hanger were shipped for free, saving me a lot of money as well. 

Wedding Finance Tips: Getting Hitched in the Black

I live in the northeast and spring has officially started, although you really can’t tell just looking at the weather (it’s supposed to be a brisk 25 degree day today). Unlike our more favored friends in the south, true wedding planning doesn’t begin until spring as many brides do not like planning for winter weddings. Because of that, I decided that the change in season should help usher in some new topics: Weddings! At the very least, they will be in season, at most they are expensive and you might find some tips to help you save thousands.

wedding budget

The average cost of a wedding in the US is approximately $25,000. It certainly doesn’t help that, we are not taught to haggle for anything unless we’re buying cars or houses. We see a price tag and we are sure that we either have to pony up or find a store we can afford. However, that’s what the sales people want us to think. If we don’t haggle, they make more money so they’re not going to tell us that we can get any kind of discounts. When it comes to weddings, things are even worse. They play on our emotions to better deplete our bank accounts (or for the more impulsive among us, inflate our credit card balances).

There are many thrifty wedding blogs out there. However, I struggled to find advice that was sensible. It seems that there was very little balance between having a nice wedding and having a cost effective wedding. Some of the advice ranged anywhere from “don’t invite any of your cousins” to “make your own wedding dress”. I felt that some of the tips were not always helpful. What if I like (most of) my cousins and I am not crafty enough to make my own place cards, let alone a wedding dress? Wanting a cost effective wedding doesn’t mean I have to walk down the aisle with paper flowers or ask my guests to bring their own cakes. Furthermore, most people will tell you that what you save in the little DIY projects is not enough to offset the stress of time constraints and the million other things you can’t outsource. The truth is, while weddings are big business, couples still have leverage and that leverage can be used to hold on to some of our hard earned money.

1) Negotiate yesterday, negotiate today, negotiate tomorrow. No price is set in stone. Everything you pay for can be negotiated to a better price or something else of value can be added to your package. Here are some things I negotiated for and got:

  • 10% off the catering
  • Complementary up lights from the venue
  • My photographer had a Picture/Video/Photo booth package. I didn’t care for the photo booth and requested he replace it with a DJ. (He never said that was an option, I asked.)
  • I negotiated for a bigger flush mount album
  • The baker was offering 10% off for anyone who booked their wedding on the day of the wedding show

2) Look for packages. They want and need people to come and spend money. So if you do the leg work for them they will reward you.

  • My groom gets $40 off his tuxedo for every adult rental. There are 7 males in my wedding party. With only 1 boy, the 6 men add up to a free tux for him.
  • My make-up artist will give me a discount for every one of my girls.

3) Remember that you’re not the only one who needs a break. Weddings are expensive for everybody. Not just the bride and groom. Remember that your attendants have to spend a lot of money to be a part of your special day and they are doing you a favor. Be kind to their budget.

  •  My female attendants got 20% off for buying their dresses at the same store I got my dress.
  • I told them what color but I did not impose uniform shoes on them because I wanted them to be able to use what they had in their closet if that option presented itself.

4) Learn to say ‘No’. Unless someone is financially contributing to your wedding, do not allow them to dictate what happens on your day. Many people do not have boundaries and will try to give their 2 cents regarding who should or should not be invited. How this centerpiece would look better than that one, etc.

5) In direct contradiction to #2: be careful with the packages offered. It is important to consider the packages. However, not all of them will be for your benefit. Some packages need to be assessed against other non-wedding related options. Wedding stores tend to have a huge mark up on everything. While something like a bridal gown can’t really be found elsewhere, other things like your shoes and jewelry are easy to purchase from a non-wedding vendor. Because I wasn’t hasty, I was able to discover that the 20% discount offered on accessories from the store I got my dress from was not the best deal in town. I ended up finding my accessories for 1/2 of what the dress maker sells them for.

6) Give yourself time to shop around. We waited too long to get the MOB dress so my mom ended up paying a surcharge for a rush order. On the other hand, I shopped around for my dress, tried them on and knew exactly what I wanted. But because I had time, I was able to wait until there was a tax-free week-end in my state to make the purchase. This tip not only gives you time to find options, but it also gives you the bargaining power. Being pressed for time will stress you out and the people you deal with could take advantage of your situation to upsell you on things you don’t really need.

The tax rate in my state is 6.25%.

7) Remember that some things will only be used for a few hours and are really not all that important. *GASP* Did I just say that there might be something in your wedding that may not be that important? Yup! And I’d say it again. Do you really need to spend $50-60 on a card box? You will use it only for the purpose of collecting congratulatory cards from your guests. Unless Bill Gates is one of your guests and you know his renown generosity might attract a thief so you’re looking to get a finger print scanner hooked to that thing, what’s wrong with a $15 one? Keep it close to you and have one of your parents drop it off in a secure location for you. Once you’ve made your rounds and closed the box it has no more value. Same goes for a garter that your new husband is going to throw at a bunch of guys tackling each other for a piece of your undies. It serves no other purpose and you shouldn’t get anything over $12. There are many small expenses like these that can add up, be mindful.

8) There’s a right way and a wrong way to borrow for your wedding. If you’re putting your wedding on credit, stop. Just. Stop. You probably can’t afford it. Consumer debt is a huge problem in a consumer-driven society. People continue to get things they can’t afford at the expense of necessities. So far I’ve paid for everything on my credit card BUT a) I pay the balance in full every month (resulting in no interest) and I get 1.5 points for every $1 I spend. After 25,000 points (which take 5 years to expire) I get $250 in cash deposited into the account of my choice. So I’m essentially getting paid to use my credit card. If you are getting charged interest at the end of the month and/or you don’t have an incentive from your credit card company, you’re doing it wrong and the wedding is costing you more than you think.

The interest rate on credit cards can be as low as 7% for those with good credit and as much as 21%+ if your credit is not that great.

9) Know your (artistic) limitations. Overconfidence can make you penny wise and pound foolish. The people on etsy and pintrest, make it look easier than it is. Just because you think you can follow instructions from youtube on how to do that elaborate pop-up invitation doesn’t mean it will look the way you want it to. If you end up buying high end paper, ribbons and an industrial grade laser printer only to turn around and have to place a rush order for your invitations because your product was hideous, you end up spending more than you would if you had simply purchased the invitations to begin with. If you got a lifetime membership card to the talentless club at birth like I did, cut your losses and don’t attempt what you most likely cannot do.

I was able to save $150 on my invitations. I talk about that a little more in this post.

10) Cut out transportation costs. If a place of worship is not critical to your wedding proceedings, or if your religious officiant is willing to go anywhere you request, you can eliminate the need for your limo by having your ceremony and reception at the same place. Some places charge you an additional fee for the ceremony set up, so you can probably try to negotiate a further discount on your venue by asking if they will offer you a package deal/price.

Most limo companies run packages between $375-450.

These are you 10 tips for today. I hope they serve you well. They’ve certainly helped me. I am having the wedding I want to have, while savings thousands. Saving doesn’t mean I have to “settle” for things I don’t want. Ultimately, this is a one-day celebration of your love. The rest of your life is what matters most, don’t start it in the red.