Traditional Anniversary Gifts (the Remix)

Today I will have been married to Josh for four years.  (What?!)  It’s interesting because on one hand, I feel like we’ve been married forever and I can’t really remember what it was like to not have him in my life; on the other hand, I feel like we got married yesterday.

Never a dull moment…

So, following the lead of other clever bloggers before me, I decided to do my own take on the “traditional” wedding anniversary gifts… but with my own Courtney/Ginger Penny Pincher spin.  Yeah?

(Who knows who decides these things, but I really like tradition — just with a little remix.)

Of course, I didn’t do all of the years (though there are “traditional” gifts for each year, I promise); I just hit the first four.  When possible, I linked up these gift ideas with their websites, so you could browse (or buy!).  Enjoy!

1st Wedding Anniversary: Paper

I love any kind of map art, so I thought framing a map (paper) of the city where you met and/or fell in love would be a lovely way to mark your first anniversary.

Atlanta Latitude Longitude Map Art City Print, 11 x 14

{Mr. City Prints Etsy store}

Or a framed invitation or save-the-date card from your actual wedding?  Or in this case, a family tree to commemorate the beginning of a new family:

Personalized Wedding Gift - Family Tree - Engagement Gift - Custom Colors for the home 8x10 Print

{You and Yours Prints}

And being the eternal list maker that I am, I never tire of new notebooks and journals, especially if they’re upcycled from old paint chips:

PAINT CHIP NOTEBOOK / Recycled Upcycled Journal - Spiral Bound and Eco Friendly - Turquoise

{Ivy Lane Designs}

And I love these pretty embossed notebooks (I’m really digging the typewriter one):

Set of Three Assorted Pocket Notebooks: Mix and Match Embossed Small Notebooks Cahier Stocking Stuffer

{Paper Jayne Debbie}

Another one of my favorite paper gift ideas are these awesome mounted animal heads from Cardboard Safari:

{Cardboard Safari}

And of course they’re available in the traditional brown cardboard color:

{Cardboard Safari}

One day when I have more wall space, i.e., when I upgrade from 400 sq. ft., I am buying one of these (and they have more than just animal heads — check them out!)

And of course I have to include typography in any paper gift round-up.  Here’s my own take on it, complete with the Bible verse that was read at our ceremony:

{The Ginger Penny Pincher: Subway Art Tutorial}

(Click on the image for a tutorial!)

2nd Wedding Anniversary: Cotton

I like this anniversary because it can encompass so many different types of gifts, like these cotton Mr. and Mrs. pillows my mother made for us:

And in the Mr. and Mrs. vein, I thought these aprons were cute:

Matching Couple Aprons for Mr. and Mrs.

I have a growing love for the amerpsand symbol (that’s “and” sign, y’all), so these ampersand tea towels were right up my alley:

Ampersand Flour Sack Towel

{B. Poetic Home}

Speaking of tea towels (that is the first time I’ve used that clause), I LOVE these tea towels of the four seasons:

{Uncommon Goods}

I want them now.

I love chevron.  I love picnics.  So how could I not love chevron picnic blankets?

As Seen on HGTV - Waterproof Picnic Blanket - Portable Eco Friendly Quilted Beach Blanket in Teal Chevron

{Sewn Natural}

3rd Wedding Anniversary: Leather

This is probably Josh’s favorite (he would say it’s the “manliest” of the anniversaries), but I can certainly name many a girly leathery gift.  For example…

I heart leather gloves, but when they’re lined in cashmere, “heart” upgrades to “LOVE.”  These lovely turquoise ones come from J. Crew:

Cashmere-lined leather gloves

{J. Crew}

(Obviously a perfect gift if your anniversary falls in the bleak mid-winter.  Like ours does.)

And I especially fancy this leather tassel keychain:

{Melvin Avenue}

I love mint green and gold together anyway, and leather tassels are something I’m always drawn to — try not to read too much into that — when it comes to accessories.

Honestly, I could go crazy in the leather gift ideas category (belts, headbands, purses, shoes, these are a few of my favorite things), but on to “manlier” leather gift ideas:

Men’s monogrammed money clip (which is the only way Josh carries around his money and cards since pickpockets are so rampant in Times Square where we work):

Personalized Mens black leather wallet with money clip - monogrammed credit card holder

{Fat Cat Leather}

Leather iPhone case for the win:

Iphone 4 Leather Case

{The 1813 Co.}

And I personally think this watch is fantastic:

Leather Watch (WAT0041)

{Vinatge Lovers 2012}

And now, moving on to our current anniversary:

4th Wedding Anniversary: Fruit or Flowers

Admittedly, I was less excited about this one because both flowers and fruit are perishable, so these gifts can hardly stand the test of time.  But then I realized this was “the Remix,” so… I offered ideas for actual fruit and flower gifts, then I gave the theme a little staying power with some fruit and flower themed gifts.

First, the real thing:

{The Brooklyn Salsa Company}

After visiting the Union Square holiday market and buying some of this stuff back in December, we fell in love the Brooklyn Salsa Company’s unique salsa varieties (and you can bet they use conscious methods, direct trade and source local, organic farmers).  Yum.

I’ve never had chocolate dipped grapes, but something tells me these would be oh-so-good:

Chocolate Dipped Grapes

{Harry and David}

(Or anything from Harry and David.  They seem to know a thing or two about fruit.)

As far as flowers go, I’m a huge fan of any and all, so I’m pretty easy to please in that category.

On to flowery/ fruity goodness that will last more than a week…

I love these felt cactus flower pin cushions:

Felt Cactus Pin Cushion with Clay Pot

{Butterfly Bags n Things}

And I’m all about this retro-inspired pineapple print:

Pineapple - 5" x 7" Print

{Green Girl Canvas}

resin jewelry pressed flower necklace. peach daisy mum pressed botanical Pendant on music

{Studio Botanica}

Arrested Development fans, pay attention:


I want this shirt.

How about any of you out there?  Do you follow the traditional anniversary gift guidelines?  Or are you like me, a little late to the party?  Share!

courtney gpp signature 2


A Belated Mother’s Day LuncheonI

After I got settled into my summer home in Atlanta, i.e., my parents’ house, the first order of business was to throw my mom a well-deserved and belated Mother’s Day luncheon.  Yes, June is the month for Father’s Day, however I was in NYC for the real Mother’ Day, so I had some catching up to do.  And I decided I didn’t want to just give her a gift or take her out for dinner — I wanted to cook for her.  And to make it more special, I decided to make a tablescape.  (Yes!)

My mother is the master misstress? of party decor so she has more plates, tablecloths, napkin rings, napkins, glasses, and vases than should be legal.  So while I considered the full-on DIY route, it just made more sense to use some of the great stuff she already has, but in a new combination.

I took a round tablecloth otherwise intended for the outdoor patio set, but whatever.  It was pretty and paisley and just happened to match these plates perfectly.

The napkins were some leftovers from a previous party/bunco night/fundraiser/something that she had hosted.  I rolled them up and wrapped them with some (faux) pearl naking rings that she had made for… some other party/fundraiser/bunco night thing.  She stays extraordinarily busy.

The glasses were actually just some plastic cups with blue dots.  She uses them every day, but they looked so aahhh…. with the dotted plates, it just seemed the obvious choice.


The centerpiece was super easy and fantastically free:  I took a lime green vase and stuck in three hydrangeas from her yard.

Then I took two strand of pearls (we both have the same ones) and loosely wrapped those around the vase.

Even my left-brained, fashion-and-decor challenged, electrical engineer father said he really thought “the flowers really tie the whole thing together.”  (Success!)

Here was our lovely suburban garden view:

(It makes my fire escape view back in Brooklyn look both sad and comical by comparison.)

The menu for the luncheon included Waldorf salad, Quiche Lorraine, and raspberry tea.  I was all ready to take pictures of our meal, but then… we ate it.  However, Scouts’ Honor, it was both pretty to look at and delicious to eat.  And that’s the general consensus (my dad even ate the quiche, which I consider a big step for him!).

Anybody else find a reason lately to throw a party or decorate a table or make yummy food?  Or all three?  Share!

Wedding Wednesday: Favors


***Check out the previous installments in this series here.

Today marks the final installment of the wedding series, “Tying the Knot without Breaking the Bank” (somewhere I know that my seven male readers are rejoicing).  To the best of my ability, I’ve tried to shape this series in a sort of chronological order: we began with setting the date, then we moved on to picking a caterer, venue, florist, dresses, music, and then the decor.  So logically the next (and last) thing I want to talk about are the wedding favors.  You know… those things you give your guests on their way out to give one last thank you (if the free food, cake, and booze didn’t already do it)??

I speak as both a frequent wedding guest and a one-time bride when I say that there is no reason in the entire universe why this part of the wedding should break the bank.  However, as I’ve discussed before, the wedding industry — through ads and magazines– tells us that we need the cutest, most thoughtful, and most expensive favors or our wedding will be less than special (and I’m not knocking wedding magazines — they’re a great source of inspiration).

However, even the nicest wedding favors don’t have staying power —  I’m sure most people who have attended weddings will agree that they don’t usually hold onto wedding favors for very long.

In light of this, I think it’s ideal to budget less than a dollar per wedding guest (if not less, especially for handmade items).  Also, wedding favors that double as something else, like whatever you use in your send-off are another good way to get around your budget.

With our wedding, we gave guests small bottles of bubbles to blow for our send-off.

photo by jkDallas Photography

We got them at a Dollar Tree store, as they were the best deal in bubbles by far, beating Oriental Trading and Party City (they were only $1 per 9 bottles).

I got 16 cases (or 144 bottles) for a whopping $16.  Then I took address labels and printed off “Courtney and Josh” in our wedding colors (c’mon, they wouldn’t be wedding favors if they weren’t slightly narcissistic).

These weren’t the designated “favors” per se, but they did make for a great send-off as they didn’t create a mess to be swept up later (like rice or flower petals) and they made for especially unique pictures (some of the bubbles look like ghost orbs).

Now for our favors, we went a non-traditional route.  Like I mentioned, I’m not the biggest fan of favors as a wedding guest, so we chose to make a donation in our guests’ honor).  We picked the Special Olympics — something near and dear to all of us as my brother has autism and is an Olympic swimmer and basketball player.  In exchange, we were sent cards to be given to our guests, explaining the donation as well as providing more info about this great organization.

Choosing to donate was a win-win in every sense because not only did it raise awareness of the Special Olympics for my guests, but it also helped this organization financially with money that would have been otherwise spent on “insert overpriced wedding favor idea here.”

To further alert our guests (because those cards were kind of tiny), I typed up a little note, stuck it in a frame, and propped it up on one of the tables guests passed as they entered the ceremony.  Obviously no one complained about not getting a more tangible favor, but I did have quite a few guests comment on how much they liked this idea!

This donation-minded favor should work with any charity or organization, and if they don’t give you cards, you can just make your own for your guests.

However, if you’re more into giving your guests a little something extra, there are a bazillion (yes, a bazillion) options out there… and many of them can be bought or made by hand for super cheap!  I’ve rounded up a few for your browsing pleasure….

Sandwich Cookies

Homemade Cookies
{Source: Martha Stewart}

Cookie buffet with favor bags
{Source: Martha Stewart}

green wedding favor - bird seed hearts

Bird Seed Hearts
{Source: Green Wedding Slices}

Seed Bombs
{Source: Etsy, Big Rock Paper Co.}

A set of beer cap magnets
{Source: Sunday Afternoon Housewife}

Wedding Favors - Sea Salts Jar

Jars of Spice and Herb Blends
{Source: style Me Pretty}

Mixed CD’s of the Couple’s Favorite Music
{Source: Recycled Bride}

Cake Pops
{Source: Belle Magazine}

Chocolate Dipped Spoons (for stirring in coffee or hot chocolate)
{Source: Instructables}

That’s it!  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I enjoyed writing it!  As always, feel free to send any questions you have via e-mail ( or in comment form (click on this post’s title, then the white thought bubble in the upper right hand corner).

Happy Wedding Planning!

Check out the rest of this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Flowers

Ceremony Decor

Reception Decor

Wedding Music

Travel Registries

Wedding Wednesday: Guestbooks and Guestly Stuff

I’m aware that guestly is not a word (so is the predictive text on my iPad).

But I wasn’t sure what else to call the various activities that you might want your guests to participate in at your reception, i.e., everything that isn’t eating and perhaps dancing.

Even the most unusual weddings have some form of a guestbook, but nowadays brides and grooms seem to be taking it a step farther with more personalized traditions.  And since most of these can be relatively inexpensive, I thought this was good cause for a round-up.

First off, our wedding:  Aside from the traditional guest book, we also had a “Wishes” jar.  We took a simple glass apothecary jar, attached a sign made from super fancy (not) printer paper, then cut about 200 pieces of paper and fanned them around the table.  Guests were encouraged to write a wish that they had for our future, then place them in the jar.

Aside from the fact that I was able to incorporate our wedding colors (orange and green), this activity also made for some interesting reading later.  (Wishes ranged from hopeful and sweet to hilarious and naughty.)

Since I already had the jar and the paper (and even still, I used very little paper), I spent zero dollars on this project, yet it had a big impact in that it occupied our guests while the catering staff changed over the room and got the food out (and like I said before, it made for some very interesting reading material later).

Ok, enough about us.  I prowled the Internet, as I often do, and came up with a few more cost-effective options for your wedding guests’ pleasure.  The image is linked up to the original website, where it was available (many of these have corresponding tutorials to help you with the tricky details).


Guest polaroids {Source: Girly Wedding}


Guestbook Tree {Source: Chanelleaxis Flickr}


A Letter for guests to sign and display in your home
{Source: So into Weddings}


Guest fingerprint balloons
{Source: Oh Amanda}


Picture matte for guests to sign
{Source: Exclusively Weddings}

wish tree :  wedding Wish Tree

Wish tree
{Source: Wedding Bee}

Wish tree!

Wish tree
{Source: Pinterest page}


Wish tree
{Source: Here Comes the Guide}

Check out the previous posts in this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Flowers

Ceremony Decor

Reception Decor

Wedding Music

Travel Registries

Wedding Wednesday: Travel Registries

Hey! Hey!  Check out the previous eleven wedding planning posts here. We wouldn’t want you to be left out

Last week I talked about how to save money when it comes to your wedding music.  This week I want to take a little field trip (minus the sticky-fingered children and juice boxes), and talk about your wedding registry and honeymoon.  The reason I group these together will become apparent in just a moment…

I know most people don’t factor these two things into wedding planning, after all they have virtually nothing to do with the actual ceremony and reception.  However, we were able to put a sort of money saving spin on these things, so I felt it worthy of note… especially since this whole series is about having a fabulous wedding — for less!

When it came time to do our registries, Josh and I realized that we just didn’t need a whole lot of stuff.  Because we both lived in on-campus apartments while at school, not to mention my brief stint living on my own in Amish Pennsylvania (only half kidding here), we already had a lot of the essentials: kitchenware, towels, furniture, et al.  Of course, we registered for a few fun things that we probably wouldn’t buy for ourselves (at Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond), but otherwise we were pretty much set.

When we had some friends and family point out that our registry was looking a little barren, we decided to go with registry alternatives.  Combining this and the fact that we needed cash for our honeymoon, we decided to explore travel registries.

In case you’re not familiar with these, I’ll explain:  you sign up for a free account (in our case, we used  From there, you create a profile, explaining what your honeymoon plans are.  Then you can make an itinerary and itemize your activities into a list so that people may pay for a specific activity that you’ve planned.

For example, we went to New Orleans for a week, so we listed some of the restaurants that we planned on going to and some of the things we wanted to see and do, including carriage rides, jazz clubs, and even a few museums, and then estimated (or just listed) the cost of each.  From this list, our friends and family could pick whatever that they wanted to give us (“admission for two to Haunted New Orleans Ghost Tours” or “a one night’s stay in a French Quarter inn” or whatever), and we would receive an e-mail with a notification of our gift.  From here, we could deposit the monetary gift into our bank account and apply it to this activity.

(cue gratuitous insertion of honeymoon pics)

So yeah, basically you’re asking for cash… and I can see why some critics view this as “tacky.”  I get it.  We had some family and friends who weren’t set on the idea at first, but once they actually visited the website and saw it for themselves, I think their qualms dissolved.  Especially since we took the time to explain the meaning of each item and link it up to its respective website, giving our friends and family a clearer idea of what we were going to be doing.

In fact, we even had some folks say that they loved being able to pick a specific activity because it had a personal significance for them or it was something that they had always wanted to do (never underestimate the value of vicarious living).  And I am being 100% honest when I say that we applied all of this money to the honeymoon (and then some, cause NOLA is expensive, y’all!).

Now, there is a catch: (and all of the other honeymoon registries) take a small cut of your monetary gift (for us, it was 7.5%).  But we went with it anyway, because we thought it sure beats the hell out of asking for cash (undeniably tacky).

Ok, so why did we go with TravelersJoy over some of the other honeymoon registries?  (Because you know I didn’t just go with the first thing I saw in the Google search results, God forbid).  After comparing registries, we really fancied the low percentage that TraverlersJoy took.  Not to mention, their website was super straightforward and easily navigable, a major concern for us, since some of the folks that would be giving us gifts were… oh, let’s call them… technologically challenged.  TravelersJoy had an easy-to-use site, and they seemed to have the biggest pros list at the end of our research, so we picked them.

That was over four years ago; now there are even more options in the honeymoon registry department.  Here are just a few that I found to help you get you started:

So if you’re planning on going this route, read the fine print.  Compare the cut they take (it’s gonna be something — they can’t do it for free).  I would even Google search the company, see if it’s Better Business Bureau-approved, all of that stuff…  Anything to give you peace of mind that it is a legit business that’s not going to swindle you or your friends and family.

Your turn:  Anyone else there use any unconventional registry options?  Any honeymoon or travel registries to recommend? Or are you still shaking your head at the “tacky-ness” of it all?  :)


Check out the previous posts in this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Flowers

Ceremony Decor

Reception Decor

Wedding Music

Wedding Wednesday: Music

***We’ve been wedding-series-posting our faces off over here, so in case you missed anything from the past few weeks, go here!   Then pat yourself on the back for your wisdom and forethought.


Hi wedding planning people!   The past few weeks have been very wedding decor- oriented, but this week we’re going to talk about wedding music.

Typically, you’ll have two types of wedding music: ceremony and reception.  Instead of doling out advice from the onset, I’ll tell what we did in our wedding — what worked, what didn’t work — and then I’ll talk about the economic effectiveness of these choices.

First, ceremony music:  Before Josh and I decided what we wanted in terms of music, we first talked about what we didn’t want.  From the start, we decided that we didn’t want organ music (honestly, I can’t stand it) — which worked out fine anyway since our venue wasn’t a church and didn’t exactly have an organ at their disposal.  They also didn’t have a piano, and we were pretty sure we didn’t want an electric keyboard for the ceremony (we actually used one for the reception, but more on that later).  We also decided to cross off a DJ and the iPod playlist idea — we just really wanted live music for this particular part of the wedding.  Eventually we decided strings would be the best option (and good string music?  I mean, c’mon).

Josh and I were both music (and theatre) majors, so we tend to hedge on the picky side of the spectrum when it comes to choosing instrumentalists.  However, we knew we were on a budget and we couldn’t exactly afford a full-blown orchestra (and it’d be too much anyway).  After searching on gigmasters and other websites, we found a great (and affordable) group, all of whom are professional, active musicians in the Southeast.

We did a little price negotiating, did a lot of song research, settled on a few selections (we even paid them a teeny bit extra to make a strings arrangement of the jazz standard “In the Mood”), and that was about it.

by jk Dallas Photography

Looking back, while I think they were great musicians and very affordable, I would do things differently today.  Though I was distracted by the fact that it was my wedding day, I still listened while waiting to walk down the aisle and what struck me was their lack of familiarity with our music selections (and our choices are very well known ones, so this is a little bizarre).  In fact, for one of those songs they looped the same part over and over (and over) again.  And I know they weren’t stalling because there were entire sections that they didn’t play at all.  In fact, I was about to turn into a Bridezilla and say something, but fortunately, I chillaxed and just decided “whatever.”  In the end, I’m probably the only person who cared, but still… if I were planning my wedding today, I would do things differently.

What would I do, you ask?  I would re-visit the iPod playlist idea, but instead of the usual wedding ceremony choices, I would pick some of my favorites from the Vitamin String Quartet.  For those not familiar with them, they are an amazing group of musicians who do string covers of popular songs.  They do a lot of top 40, but they’ve also gone through the songbooks of a lot of other classic bands like Queen, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.  (Their versions of “Yellow,” “Fix You,” and “Beautiful Day” are some of my favorites.)  It might sound a little hokey — like an opera singer attempting “All the Single Ladies” — but I assure you, their interpretations to all of the covers they do is always fresh and exciting.  Honestly, I’m CRAZY about them.

And going the iPod playlist route would also have been a lot cheaper — free, in my case — since the theatre department at our Alma Mater graciously loaned us their sound equipment for the reception…  Ah well, that was before I discovered VSQ and before I’d heard of Pandora radio (which is where I usually make my new music discoveries nowadays).

And still, I make complaints about the way our musicians handled our song choices, but in the end, their stringed version of “In the Mood” for our recessional was spot on, so I wasn’t really too upset.  :)

Okay, reception music time.  I know that a lot of folks out there will set aside a chunk of their budget for a DJ or a band, and I could sort of understand that (to a point) if they were having an evening wedding and /or alcohol, as both of these go hand in hand with raucous spirited dancing.  But you may remember (from this previous post), that we had a dry, Sunday morning wedding (don’t judge, just read the previous post).

And honestly, though I go through phases where I fancy the top 40/typical dance music, this just wasn’t something that Josh and I were interested in at the time.  And if we had had an outdoor wedding (in an appropriate outdoor month, i.e., not January), we probably would have hired a bluegrass band and called it a day.  But this wasn’t really appropriate to our setting, so we voted for jazz music (you hardly had to twist our arms — we happen to both love jazz).

by jk Dallas Photography

As I mentioned in the ceremony music section, the technical director from our Alma Mater had very generously let us borrow the sound equipment so that we could plug an iPod in and just play a big ol’ long playlist (our awesome friend, Mack also kept tabs on the iPod, faded the sound in and out when we had announcements, things of pageantry, ya know).

The jazzy jazz playlist played while folks trickled in and got their food, but once the general crowd was seated, out came our showbiz friends (I just broke my own personal promise of never using the word “showbiz” in earnest… Ew).

by jk Dallas Photography

Prior to the wedding, we had asked some of our friends who sing if they wouldn’t mind dong a song or two at the reception, preferably a jazz standard or something equally classic and low key (so, no Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson).  They all agreed, and thanks to their generosity and talents, it was one of the highlights of the reception — people still talk about it, and that was almost four years ago!

by jk Dallas Photography

We arranged our singer friends into about three 20-minute sets of music, with a little time in between for the usual reception stuff (garter and bouquet tosses, father-daughter and mother-son dances, cake cutting, etc.).  When our friends weren’t singing, we relied on the iPod jazz playlist for ambient music.  Purely to the credit of our enthusiastic friends, ambient music soon turned into dance music, which soon turned into amazing picture opportunities.

Go go gadget dance pictures!

by jk Dallas Photography

by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

Yeah, and that’s without them being liquored up!  I was impressed.

Like I said, our music choices were mostly low key classics, but we did venture out a little for the bouquet toss (“All the Single Ladies”) and garter toss (I don’t remember, it was something top 40).

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

So for what we paid for in ceremony music, we definitely made up for in reception music costs (free!).  Yes, we were super lucky to have the connections we had and an amazing pool of talent at our disposal, and they really helped make the reception.  But even if you don’t have a theatre department or free sound equipment available to you, there are still inexpensive ways to do these things without forking over thousands for a DJ.  Ask friends — maybe someone you know has this kind of equipment already — or maybe they know someone who knows someone?  You may be surprised!

How about you?  Any ideas for inexpensive ceremony or reception music options?  Or free ceremony or reception music options?  (We like free.)  Share!

Check out the previous posts in this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Flowers

Ceremony Decor

Reception Decor

Wedding Wednesday: Reception Decor

As I approach the end of this series, I’m starting to get into the stuff I really enjoy: the decorating part!  I mean, I like planning and choosing and making lists as much as the next gal (actually, I probably like making lists more than most people I know), but the fun part comes in the personal details.

Last week, we discussed ceremony decor; this week, I want to address reception decor.  Regardless of your individual choices, most receptions have the same, general components, and usually the biggest money-sucker of all of these components is the dreaded centerpieces.

Even the penny pinching-est out there would say that $10-15 for a centerpiece and table cloth isn’t so bad.  But when you do the math, the dollar signs add up pretty quickly.

Ready?  Math time:

200 guests @ 8-10 people a table = 20-25 tables

20 tables @ $15 = $300

25 tables @ $15 = $375

And that’s just if you have 200 folks.  Woe to you if your wedding is bigger (ours was).

If you have ugly tables at your venue and must cover them, factoring the cost of buying or renting table cloths or runners is very important (in fact, this can be one of the biggest expenses for the tables).

Then if you want flowers in vases, tea lights in glass votives, and some other clever nonsense decorating your table, well… you can see how all this stuff adds up.

Fortunately for us, we were able to negotiate a great deal on these fancy schmancy table cloths, and because of their color and sheen, they dominated the table and our centerpieces were simple in comparison.

photo by jk Dallas Photography

For the centerpieces, we ordered orange roses and some cool berry thing I can’t remember the name of, then took green filler from my parents’ backyard.  Each arrangement was placed in a silver pitcher (my mother used her own then borrowed the rest from every aunt, neighbor, friend, and suburban lady we know).  The effect was elegant and simple, but not exactly the same at every single table (we like variety).

photo by jk Dallas Photography

So, here are some cost-effective options I have found on the interwebz.  And I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that a lot of these involve Upcycling.  (I mean, aren’t these the things we have come to expect by now?)

Daisies, mums, and zinnias in empty cans {Source: Rachael Ray via Something Green}

cheap and easy to make centerpieces

{Source: Interior Design}


{Source: Bronze Budget Bride}

Party Table Numbers for Wedding Party Centerpiece Handmade Chalkboard Message Charms  Custom Order by TreasureAgain

{Source: Treasure Again Etsy shop}

DIY Tin Can Vases centerpieces

tin can vases covered in scrapbook paper {Source: Ruffled}

Paint dyed mason jars {Source: Bride Finds}

{Source: Martha Stewart}

An ombre effect with carnations {Source: Martha Stewart}

Ultra modern branches with handmade paper flowers attached {Source: Martha Stewart}

Ribbons on the backs of chairs {Source: Wonderful Day Weddings}

Sharing time.  Tell me your ideas, whether realized or imagined, for some cost-effective reception decor!  Don’t be shy.


Check out the previous posts in this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Flowers

Ceremony Decor

Wedding Wednesday: Ceremony Decor

***To check out my other wedding related posts, go here.


Continuing the wedding series, I wanted to discuss ceremony decor today (we’ll talk about reception decor next week).  Obviously, the reception is the big, fun celebration, but the ceremony is definitely the more intimate part, regardless of what type of ceremony you have.  It is a wedding of two people, after all — that’s serious stuff!

When trying to plan the decor for a ceremony, aside from going the thrifty-but-fabulous route (of course I’m going to say that), I think it helps to put yourself in the shoes of a wedding guest:  What will they see when they first walk in?  What will they see as they are sitting and waiting for the ceremony to begin?  What will they hear?  (There will be a music post in a couple of weeks, but it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and consider that as part of your decor, too.)  With this perspective, you are able to consider all of the details, with hopefully no last minute surprises (last minute surprises = last minute expenses = gross).

So, I thought I would put together a round-up of ideas for ceremony decor — because sometimes the best money saving ideas comes from real life inspiration (I know this helped me more than anything when I was planning my wedding).

First up, here are some aisle decor ideas…

I know I’ve posted this one here ad nauseum, but this was what we did for our wedding (this is the last time, promise).

Green lanterns {photo by jk Dallas Photography}

We ordered the paper lanterns from Oriental Trading for about $20 and bought the ribbon with a 50% off coupon at Michael’s.  The whole thing was less than $30, which is a huge savings when compared to the usual cost of floral aisle arrangements.

These tissue paper poms could be made or even less moolah:

Tissue Paper Pom Poms

{Source: Koyal Wholesale Blog}

Or take the same idea, but make smaller flowers out of the tissue paper and attach to a foam ball:

tissue paper pomander

{Source: Intimate Weddings}

Here, Asian paper lanterns are used to decorate each aisle chair:

Paper parasols used as wedding aisle decorations

{Source: My Wedding Reception Ideas}

Cheaper still, mason jars with one hydrangea (or any inexpensive floral or non-floral), tied to the aisle chair with a pretty ribbon:


{Source: We Be Girls}

Here’s another idea that promises to be frugal — a single daisy and a lot of ribbon:


{Source: One Fine Day}

Tulle wrapped around each aisle chair.  You can buy this stuff at the Dollar Store.  Crazy cheap.

I am in love with these chair decorations!  Braid some tulle in your wedding colors around the sides of the aisle chairs and walk down the aisle surrounded by bright, creative decorations.  Also, a very cheap substitution to those expensive traditional flowers.

{Source: The Love of Weddings}

Then there’s the focal point of every ceremony: the altar.  It’s basically the stage you set your wedding on, so make sure you consider what it will look like both with and without the bridal party standing on and around it.  Especially factor in what colors your bridal party will be wearing so the picture isn’t a clashing or monochromatic mess.

This first one is definitely more modern than most, but since this couple used Ikea frames and fabric, it is definitely a thrifty option:

{Source: The Knot}

When I first saw this next idea, I was sure it had been painstakingly (and expensively) made with real flowers, but as the tutorial says, it is made entirely from faux flowers and a leaf garland:

DIY do-it-yourself easter lilies altar ceremony decor backdrop

{Source: Ruffled Blog}

This altar is similar to the one above, but in this case, they chose to evenly space the strings of flowers:

Wedding Decor :: Floral garland Kathy Beymer, Photograph by PenCarlson

{Source: Merriment Design}

I love this next idea, featuring a wall of flowers and medallions — that could all be handmade:

{Source: A Beautiful Mess via All You need is Love Events}

This next altar was made from receipt paper — yes, receipt paper.  I looove the ruffled look of this, but I’m sure this could easily be achieved with another thin type of paper.  I love this in white, but it’d look great in color, too…  I’m thinking an ombre effect…  Mhmm….

{Source: Glitter Weddings}

And here’s a closer shot:

{Source: Glitter Weddings}

Venturing into shabby chic land — emphasis on the chic — here are a few ideas using old doors… This especially appeals to the penny pincher in me, because I see these kinds of doors on the side of the road or on Craigslist all the time.  All they need is a little bracing action, and that ain’t no thang.

For this first one, I’d nix the letters and use flower garlands or bunting:

{Source: Intimate Weddings}

Flowers… pretty…

{Source: Intimate Weddings}

What’s better than one shabby chic door? Three shabby chic doors!

{Source: Intimate Weddings}

Ok, I’m thrifty-ceremony-decor spent.

Your turn!  Share any ceremony ideas you might have seen (or have dreamed up).  The more the merrier!

Check out the previous posts in this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Flowers

Wedding Wednesdays: Wedding Flowers

When it comes to wedding flowers, there are basically three categories: ceremony flowers, reception flowers, and personal flowers (the latter referring to flowers that are carried or worn, i.e., bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres).  In all three areas, it is really easy to blow a lot of your budget without even trying — but don’t!  After all, memories may last a lifetime, but flowers die (eventually).

With this week’s wedding post, I want to address all of the different ways to save money on wedding flowers, including a few tips on some flower alternatives. 

  • If using a florist, consider only asking them to do some of your wedding flowers.  In our wedding, we used a florist just for the personal flowers.  My one stipulation was that I wanted a bouquet of green flowers, including the ever elusive and high-maintenance green cymbidium orchids.  I knew this was something I really wanted, but I didn’t want to bother with the complicated wiring process, especially since they’re so delicate and expensive — I didn’t want to mess up and potentially have to order new ones last minute.  However, the ceremony and reception flowers we took care of ourselves by ordering them from the Fresh Market floral section and having them delivered a day before the wedding.  We assembled everything the night before and brought all of the arrangements to the site the day of the wedding.
  • Consider buying the flowers wholesale (find a friend with a tax I.D.) and arrange them yourself (or have a floral arranging with bridesmaids or family).
  • Explore different online vendors that will ship them to you.  There are a lot of companies that offer incredible savings if you order them this way.
  • Try a grocery store’s floral section.  Sometimes you can even place a larger order with them (this is what we did with the Fresh Market for our reception and ceremony flowers).
  • Try a wholesale warehouse, like BJ’s, Sam’s, or Costco.
  • If you have a green thumb,  a little bit of land, and time, grow your own flowers or fillers!
  • Forget the flowers all together!  It may not be everyone’s preference, but I’ve seen some very elegant evening weddings where the wedding party each carried a candle (except the flower girl and ring bearer, of course).

Tissue paper topiary {Photo by jk Dallas Photography}

  • Amazing advances have been made in silk florals, and you can save a lot of money (especially if you’re armed with a JoAnn or Michael’s coupon).  Needless to say, there are also countless websites that sell some varieties at greatly discounted prices.  But a word of caution: just because some fake flowers are cheap, doesn’t mean they all are across the board.  In fact, if you’re not careful, you can spend as much as you would have had you gone with the real thing in the first place.
  • Explore other non-floral options as well:

◦        A cluster of curly willow can look great in a tall vase:

Curly willow and hydrangeas {Source: The Knot}

◦        Peacock feathers!

Peacock feather boutonniere {Source: Brideorama}

◦        Spray painted or yarn-wrapped sticks can also look very elegant, and can reflect the color palate of the rest of the wedding.

DIY Manzanita Branch/Curly Willow Branch Centerpieces :  wedding centerpieces diy manzanita curly willow crystals crystal wedding tree branches Crocketkeeneywedding45

Spray painted branches {Source: Wedding Bee}

◦        Try hanging small paper lanterns or kissing balls covered in tissue paper flowers at the end of each aisle seat for ceremony decor.

Green lanterns {photo by jk Dallas Photography}

◦        Silk rose petals, when used sparingly, can make a beautiful walkway (we did this in a mix of cream, orange, and red rose petals on either side of the aisle and we loved it).

◦        Colored rocks, glass stones, fruit, or seashells can make great centerpieces when filling a hurricane or apothecary jar.

{Source: Young House Love}

With help from friends and family, Laine crafted the centerpieces. They painted manzanita branches coral and dropped them in low vases with seashells.

{Source: The Knot}

◦        Use plants that you already have or buy plants that you or a family member will want to keep after the wedding.  For the entrance to our ceremony, we used 5′ tall evergreen topiaries on either side of the aisle.  They weren’t necessarily the cheapest option, but they were something that my mother had been wanting for either side of her front door, so she chose to buy them so they could be used for the wedding, too.  We just added a few orange rosebuds to some of the branches (a la Christmas tree decorating) and spiraled a wire edged orange ribbon around each topiary.

{Photo by jk Dallas Photography}

◦        Make flowers!  As I showcased in this previous round-up, there are so many ways to make “flowers” from found objects and things bound for the recycling bin.  It may take a little time, but that just means you have due cause for a crafty party!  Of course they won’t fool anyone into thinking they are real flowers, but so what?  They’ll be fun and funky, and totally unique to your big day.  This bouquet (below) has a mix or real and fake, including some flowers made out of comics:

The bouquet

Comic book flower bouquet {Source: Offbeat Bride}

Button bouquet {Source: A Paper Proposal}

◦        Use a mix of florals and non-florals, like some of the ones mentioned in the bullet point above.  That way you’re still achieving the look of real flowers (for less money), but you can also have something that is a bit more original in the mix (and probably cheaper).

Hope these tips help!  When making wedding flower decisions, haggle, or better yet get your hands dirty and make some of the stuff yourself.  Of course it takes a little more time and energy, but you’ll save money in the long-run and you may even enjoy a little DIY  (I hope you do — you are reading this blog after all.)


How about you folks?  Any tips, tricks, recommendations, or ideas for saving money on wedding flowers?  Share!

Check out the previous posts in this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Wednesday: Bridesmaids’ Dresses

***Check out the other posts in this series, “Tying the Knot without Breaking the Bank.”

In the balancing act that is wedding budgeting, one thing that you don’t traditionally have to worry about is the bridesmaids dresses (or at least, that’s what Emily Post says).  Of course, this doesn’t mean you should abuse your bridesmaids’ obligation/generosity.  No one likes a Bride-zilla with crazy-town expectations, and since there are a bazillion ways to save money on bridesmaids dresses, there’s no need for this faux pas in the first place.

photo by jk Dallas Photography

In my case, I wanted to find relatively affordable dresses that were unique to each bridesmaid.  Though the whole every-girl-wearing-the-same-dress thing is a long standing and lovely tradition, I wanted a little more variety.  I picked the color and material (a Kelly green silk from Aria Bridesmaids), as well as the length (tea length), but let them choose the style of the dress.  This worked out beautifully because Aria Bridesmaids has many options fitting these parameters (it was also the only dress company of any kind that had multiple styles of dresses in that particular shade of green).  And the dresses didn’t have one of those $800 price tags (I’m thinking of the movie Bridesmaids).

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

While I highly recommend Aria Bridesmaids (seriously, their dresses are gorgeous), there are also many other ways to save money yet retain the style that you’re wanting.  Here a few tips:

  • If you’re not set on a particular color like I was, then David’s Bridal is a great and affordable stop.  Gone are the days of duchess satin in muted tones (though if you want that, they can offer that too).  Now more than ever, they offer a wide range of colors, materials, styles, and price ranges (though by and large, they are definitely one of the most inexpensive companies out there).
  • Instead of requiring your gals to buy a new dress, just request that they all wear the same color (or a specific pattern, i.e. polka dots, stripes, etc.).  If you’re worried about clashing colors (there are at least 573 shades of red, after all), you can give them a fabric swatch or a paint chip so they have something tangible to compare.  Maybe they’ll already have something in their closet!
  • Don’t necessarily limit yourself to bridal stores.  There are so many other places that carry formal dresses, including mall and department stores.
  • If you’re wanting the all-the-same-dress thing, check out sales at a department store like JC Penney or Macy’s, especially after prom season (Macy’s actually has their own bridesmaids section now).
  • Make them by hand!  I have zero sewing skills, so if you’re like me, maybe you can enlist the help from someone else, like a mom!  And if you buy all of the fabric at the same time and use one of those awesome 50% off coupons from JoAnn or Michael’s, you can stand to save even more money!

Previous Posts in the Wedding Series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography