Category Archives: Bride On A Budget

Bride On A Budget: The Venue!

Week 2 of Bride On A Budget.  This week, our whimsical and flustered bride-to-be tackles wedding venue–not an easy feat when the groom’s immediate family come to 140 peeps and both bride and groom have sweat issues….

Bride On A Budget searching for a venue–but first, a martini!


Venue shopping is not what it’s cracked up to be.

I love shopping. I love shopping for clothes. Shoes. Groceries. Toilet paper. So I thought I would love shopping for a wedding venue. I was wrong.

It started out fun. We looked at a million places online to decide what we liked and didn’t like. We live in Raleigh, and we wanted to get married at the beach which is 2 hours east.  One of the biggest concerns in choosing a venue was space. This is because I’m marrying into a wonderfully large family; to put it into perspective, his family, including immediate aunts, uncles, and first cousins, come in at roughly 140 people. Mine is a solid 25. This number doesn’t include our large social circles.

Another concern was what month to have the wedding. June, July, and August are brutal here in the south. Walking from the car to the office involves sweating through clothing. L (future hubby) and I are hard-core sweaters, and while we have accepted that about ourselves it makes it impossible to get married in the summer in the south. So May and late September were our first choices. We did thorough research, contacted 20 venues, and ended up making appointments to check out our top ten.

Venue shopping is tiring. L and his mom were troopers though and stuck to the tight schedule I made. It was nice to have a 3rd party involved (in this case, my future MIL) to offer advice and sanity during the process. After two Saturdays of venue shopping, here are the things I realized:

1. I should have budgeted for chairs.
Of all the venues we saw, only one place had chairs we’d consider using. The others had either a) no chairs or b) the most hideously colored chairs you’ve ever seen in your life. Do yourself a favor and throw chairs into your budget. Don’t be surprised like I was. (Oh and btw, chairs rentals range from $3-$10 each, unless you want to rent a folding metal chair for $1…)

Seriously, this is the kind of stuff we saw.

2. Event coordinators at venues will say anything so that you choose their venue.
At one of the venue visits, we found out that the dining room can only hold 75 people–even though in our research it claimed to hold more guests. The event coordinator’s solution – have guests eat in sittings. WHAT? I am imagining announcements like “Group 1, please report to the dining room and have your dinner tickets ready.” Just because a venue says it has space for a 200 person sit down reception doesn’t actually mean they do. It means they will squish 200 people like sardines into a room.

3. We had to be willing to be flexible on our date.
A lot of people plan their wedding waaaayyyyy in advance. And they take all the good dates – i.e. every Saturday in non-humid months are not available until like 2017. After finding this out, L and I thought, heck, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to get married in early June, because maybe there’s a slight chance that it won’t be humid by then.  And we were pretty convinced until the MIL reminded us about our sweat situation.

The happy couple looking good!

4. Nothing is perfect.
I went into this thinking we’d walk into a place and be like, THIS IS IT. That never happened. Instead, we checked out places and said, ‘I wish this place would have a baby with that other place and be located in this part of town, and then it would be perfect.’

So instead of walking into a venue and imagining the string quartet here and the swan ice sculpture there and the chocolate fountain over yonder, while the sun sets over the ocean and unicorns frolick around the champagne bar–we ended up using a scientific method to decide.  We quit dreaming of the perfect place, and instead looked at our short list of venues, considered the pros and cons of each, checked our budget-and made our decision based on that.

As I mentioned, I love shopping. What I didn’t mention is that I’m more of a window shopper. When it comes to making a decision to buy, it’s hard for me to pull the trigger. I’ll peruse the gourmet cheese section at the grocery store for an hour to pick a nice cheese. I’ll carry it around the store with me. I’ll think about the price. I’ll think about Kraft cheese and how I could save $10 if I buy that instead. An hour and a half and four cheese exchanges later, I’ll walk out with 2 blocks of Kraft because it was on sale 2 for $5. What can I say, I like deals.

Who needs camembert when you can have monterey jack??

The hardest part about the venue shopping is that there weren’t any deals. The price to rent the space is about the same across the board. A wedding is expensive.  When I finally realized this I PMS-y cried 4 times in 24 hours. Poor L.

Finally–a decision!
After setting a 24-hour deadline to make a decision– and lots of tears– we had decided. We chose the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher because it had enough space for our guests, it’s a unique venue, and the ambiance is great. Not to mention we can save money on decorations (I mean, there are fish swimming around you while you eat – what other decoration do you need???) The alcohol policy at the aquarium is also saving us money – they only allow beer, wine, and champagne – no liquor. And liquor can be a big expense, for both the liquor itself and the number of bartenders you need to serve it.

Now that we have our date (May 4, 2013) and our ceremony and reception space, we’re ready to tackle the photographer, caterer, and DJ!


We’re Engaged! Yay and Yikes!

Great news!  My brother got engaged recently!  The family is thrilled about the engagement and I’m excited to have yet another perky blond sister-in-law join the family!

And I’m really proud of my bro; he seems like he’s ready and excited to start the next chapter in his life.  Then again, this was the guy who sold my hard-earned Coach bag without my consent–the one that I had scrimped and saved for back when I was 20 and working at Lord & Taylor.  I had waited for the extra 10% employee discount to use on top of my regular 20% employee discount, saved money for months, walked by my bag countless times, admiring the soft leather, marveling at the perfect tan color and slouchiness of the bag, counting the days until it could be mine.  Years later, probably to pay off some poker debt, my brother cleaned out the house, held a yard sale and sold my beloved Coach bag to a lady for $5.

I’m over it but I just thought I’d mention it one more time.

And since “J”(future sis-in-law) and bro are about to plan a wedding on a  budget, we both agreed it would be great for J to document the emotional and financial rollercoaster ride on which they are about to embark.  Thanks J!


We’re engaged!

It couldn’t have been more perfect – the beach, the champagne, the proposal…the fact that he had flown 900 miles in 24 hours to ask my parent’s permission to marry me.  It was such a special day, so well-planned by him (except that he didn’t quite plan for the tide to go out, stranding us and the Wave Runner for three hours on the small barrier island where he’d proposed.)  We got back to a fabulous family dinner and spent the rest of the evening on the phone telling friends and family the big news. 


That was Saturday. 

Sunday – panic. Questions were asked, like “When is the big day?” Really?? We hadn’t even been engaged for 24 hours!  Although we’d been dating for about a year and we were pretty serious, I hadn’t actually planned for a wedding.  I’m in my mid-thirties; at this point in my life, I don’t fantasize about the 20-person wedding party like I did when I was younger.  I was happy to find a great guy who puts up with my stuff and keeps his to a minimum.  I imagine how he’ll be in five years, whether he’ll make a good dad, whether I will grow resentful that he spends fourteen hours on the couch every Sunday watching football.  I am definitely not day-dreaming about the centerpieces at our wedding.

But now that we’re engaged, the topic of the wedding comes up pretty often.  And more, important–who’s going to finance this shin-dig?  If I was twenty-three years old and heading towards my first marriage, my parents would probably pay.  But I’m a 30-something bride planning my first and hopefully last wedding, and I don’t feel right asking my parents to help me pay for their late-blooming daughter’s wedding.   Where will I get the money because I definitely didn’t budget for this?

A wedding planning book from my future sis-in-law  put things in perspective a bit, and gave me a good place to start.  Also helpful was talking to “L” (future ball-and-chain) about what’s important to us at the wedding and what isn’t.  We agreed that  the venue, food and drinks are important.  Save the dates, an expensive dress, and the small things that add up to big $$ aren’t.

More research, lists, talking to people who’ve been through this have helped ease my stress but I’m still panicking.  A slice of wedding cake can cost up to $10 PER PERSON. That’s like I’m buying approximately 200 of my closest friends and family a dirty martini …all at once! I’m thinking of going ‘retro-quirky’ and serve everyone Ho Ho’s instead of traditional cake. 

To keep my sanity I’ve decided to tackle the wedding planning by knocking things off a list one thing at a time. Concentrating on the venue and the date now and literally nothing else. We’ve thrown together a tentative budget, but we’ll really have a better idea of that once the venue shopping gets into full swing.  And we’re hoping that although he has about 400 first cousins and I have a pretty big family, not to mention our friends, that we can find a decent place to accommodate our reception.  Here we go…