Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Frugal Wedding Planner

11 Jan 2014

As I explained in an earlier post, Ryan and Shera's wedding came on unexpectedly due to their sudden decision to be baptized, giving us a mere 18 days to pull it off. Time was not the only constraint. Our budget was extremely limited since the prospective bride and groom were both looking for jobs and I was myself divorce-lawyer-poor.

Thankfully, I had an idea how to proceed, since it had been only two and a half years since my daughter Sarah and I planned her wedding on a shoestring budget. Expecting perhaps 50 guests this time instead of 200+ also helped simplify things.

That old adage "Many hands make light work" also proved to be a huge blessing for us as we moved forward with our plans. We are so grateful for the family and friends who stepped in to make this special day wonderful.

The first thing we had to do was send out invitations. Shera found a free website with a design she liked, so we personalized it to their tastes and I printed them on my computer. Once the invitations were delivered, we turned our attention to the rest of the items on my very long list . . . 

One important item was reserving the church building. Another was arranging for our bishop, Trace Wengert, to officiate. Both were available, at no charge for either, of course. Too bad we couldn't say the same for the marriage license. The going rate in Navajo County is $76. Aargh!

Shera's new gown as a work in progress.

We began by searching for a wedding gown. Our search took us all over the mountain, looking at all sorts of white dresses, both long and short. In the end, at a thrift shop just a few blocks from home, we found a beautiful, old-fashioned, beaded wedding gown with a long train and a floor-length veil with a Capulet-style cap. We couldn't believe it when they offered it to us for just $40!

Shera didn't care for the sleeves and wondered if we could cut them off somehow. The very idea made me cringe! I told her there was only one person I'd trust to alter that lovely gown: our friend and neighbor, talented seamstress Barbara Badger. Barbara agreed and did an amazing job of not only altering the sleeves, but also the bodice and the bustle, adding beads from her own wedding gown. With only one week to work, she made that dress classy!

And, to top it off, Barbara made the garter, using the pink zebra-striped ribbon we used on the bouquets for the bridesmaids! It was adorable!

Shera and Tahna at the beauty salon before the wedding.

Shera also decided against the veil that came with the gown. She admired Sarah's veil and tiara in her wedding pictures, so Sarah happily loaned them to her. Sarah's veil is scattered with little pearls, making it a perfect match for the dress. Barbara loaned her a pair of pearl earrings and I loaned her my great-great grandmother's double-strand pearl necklace. Sarah's good friend (and former bridesmaid) Tahna Peterson offered to do Shera's hair at no cost, and she did a gorgeous job, with pearls scattered throughout Shera's curls.

As for the groom, there was no tuxedo in the budget. So we bought him a black shirt to go with his black church pants, a white tie borrowed from Dylan, and a black jacket borrowed from Jacob. He was very happy to find in my closet a pair of dress shoes that once belonged to his Grandpa Reynolds, whom Ryan never got to know since he last saw him when he was 3 years old.

Bouquets for the bridesmaid, matron of honor, and bride.

Once we had the gown, we needed bouquets. After much debate and several mind-changes, Ryan and Shera finally agreed upon black, white, and hot pink for their colors. We scoured all the dollar stores in the area for cloth flowers in those colors. 

Initially, we thought there would be only 2 bouquets, one for the bride and one for Sarah, her bridesmaid. Shera selected some funky pink flowers and zebra-striped daisies, and I found some pink zebra-striped ribbon, and voila! We had to color the daisies' yellow-and-brown centers with a black marker to make it work, but in the end they were very cute.

Just days before the wedding, we learned that Shera's sister Christine was going to be able to drive all the way from Missouri for the wedding. We couldn't not include Shera's own sister in the wedding party! So the larger bridal bouquet became Christine's matron of honor bouquet and we went back to the dollar stores in search of more cloth flowers. This time Shera fell in love with more subtle sprays of white and pink flowers, heavy on the white, envisioning a slightly more traditional bouquet with white ribbon to go with her traditional wedding gown. I thought it turned out to be very elegant.

The issue of wedding rings was a tricky one. Both Ryan and Shera have a vision of the rings they want to exchange someday, but those will have to wait until they have jobs and settle into their own place someday. Meanwhile, I loaned Shera a diamond solitaire from my 10th anniversary with my first husband, Mark, and had it cut down to fit her smaller finger ($30) so she could use it as a temporary wedding ring. For Ryan we searched pawn shops for a ring he could use and finally settled on a very cool "Native American story ring," which has symbols carved into it ($40). We have no idea what they mean, but very cool!

Next, we had to plan a table to meet the guests as they arrived. I went through all the pictures I'd taken of Ryan and Shera in the 4 months since I'd met them and chose several to have printed. Only about $5.00 at Walmart for all of them. We put our favorites in $1 frames from Dollar Tree, and the rest went into a little photo album I gave them as my wedding gift, which they can now fill with their wedding pictures.

I had found a childhood picture of Ryan on Facebook, in which I estimate he is about 3 or 4 years old, and we thought it would be fun to have childhood pictures of both newlyweds in a double frame. So Shera called and asked her mom to email us some of her baby pictures, and we unanimously selected our favorite to display alongside Ryan's.

We struggled to come up with a way to have guests leave the newlyweds a message and signature as they entered, but it seemed silly to buy a big guest book for a small wedding, in which most of the pages would be left empty. Then we came across this picture matte with pen, on which the guests could scrawl notes to the happy couple all around their favorite photo. We loved it! Now all it needs is a frame.

The wedding cake was a half-sheetcake from Walmart for just $25. Our Relief Society from church stepped in and paid for the cake after Ryan and Shera ordered the design they liked. The original design featured a centerpiece of red roses, but they decided to go with the cute "Mr. and Mrs." topper instead. It was a very yummy marble cake under the buttercream frosting!

My sweet Sarah offered to pay for nearly all the reception decorations as a gift to the bride and groom. We were able to get the plastic tablecloths, napkins, cups, plates, and forks in black-and-white-and-pink from Walmart for only $1 each package. 

Sharla Gardner made cupcakes and we borrowed platters from the church kitchen to display them. Carissa Flitton loaned us two punch dispensers, and we served up pink lemonade and raspberry lemonade from them. The wine glasses, the pink vase, the cake knife/server, and the candy dishes for the cookies and nuts came from my cupboards. 

The guest tables were fun to do. Instead of vases, which we could have borrowed from the relief Society, Shera wanted a more rustic look. So we bought and drank a 6-pack of orange cream soda and used the cute little glass bottles to hold the flower arrangements made of more cloth flowers from--you guessed it--Dollar Tree. We found the pink-and-white glass gemstones to fill the bottoms of the bottles at Walmart. We did borrow the tablecloths from the relief Society.

Although I had a bunch of candy dishes left from Sarah's wedding, which we'd purchased at every thrift shop on the mountain in 2011, Shera found a bunch of mismatched Mason jars in the cupboard above my refrigerator and came up with her own vision of candy dishes. We bought some pink and black polka dot ribbons and a few more cloth flowers, and Sarah used my glue gun to decorate the Mason jars for the guest tables.

Into the dishes went pink, white, and red M&Ms, pink- and white-wrapped Hershey's Kisses, pink and white Good & Plentys, and Oreo cookies with pink berry frosting in the middle. Some pink confetti and black sequins scattered around the centerpieces finished off a pretty setting for the guests to enjoy.

Dylan and his music set-up

Finally, you can't have a wedding these days without music or a photographer. As the best man, Dylan volunteered to provide the music mix for both the wedding march and the dancing. With the exception of one small surprise at the end of the wedding march, the music was handled very nicely.

As for pictures, I originally planned to do those myself. Thank goodness Eugene and Wyndie Prestwich offered to capably handle that responsibility for us, because I was pretty busy all night. We ended up with some awesome pictures, as well as video to send home with Christine so Shera's Missouri family could experience her wedding day.

While Sarah took Shera and Christine to Tahna's salon to have Shera's hair done, my sons Jacob, Dylan, and Ryan, along with Shera's cousin Sam and Jacob's girlfriend Danielle, provided the manpower to set up and decorate for the reception in plenty of time to go home and dress for the wedding.

I'm not exaggerating when I say we couldn't have done it without the many willing hands who helped make Ryan and Shera's day so special!

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