Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cutting Costs: Wedding Edition

You just got engaged and are ready to dive into wedding planning. You've got a Pinterest board full of ideas to make your day perfect - but can you achieve that dream without breaking the bank? Here are some lessons I learned over the past year...

Before you start - have a vision.

This might sound a little cheesy, but before you even start the wedding planning process sit down with your groom and talk about what your vision for your wedding is. What do you want to highlight? What do you feel strongly about? Do you want something big and loud, or small and intimate? Not only will this help set the tone for your wedding planning, but it will also help you as a bride determine what is important to your groom (something that often gets lost), and will help you recognize what is important to you both, and thus where you want a larger portion of your spending to go.

In our case we chose 2 main goals - we wanted a celebration that reflected and centered around our faith and love for Christ and good food! We also decided we wanted to include as many friends and family as possible and we wanted a simple, yet elegant event. 

1. Have a budget and stick to it.

Money can be an awkward topic, especially when you are potentially dealing with multiple people contributing, but before you start planning figure out who is paying for what and what your overall budget is. Are your parents paying for it all? Are his parents contributing a lump sum or are they offering to pay for specific traditional groom items? Are you and your spouse-to-be covering the costs? The last thing you want to do is go out and put a deposit on an out-of-this-world reception venue that you can't afford, or spend what you later realize to be is 50% of your budget on flowers.

Once you know your budget - STICK TO IT. Don't fall victim to the little upgrades that are at every twist and turn. Remember that while going "just a little" over on a lot of little things can really add up. 

This is also where your prior "wedding vision" talk comes in handy. I mentioned before that Brandon and I wanted an elegant reception with good food. This meant that I put more of our budget towards the reception hall/food catagory and cut back on things like flowers, favors, extra decor, music, etc. It's all about prioritizing. You don't want to regret spending a large portion of your budget on something that really isn't that important to you.

2. Get married in the off-season

Reception halls and other vendors offer great discounts if you are willing to go with a non-traditional month or time for your wedding. January through March are typically considered the "off" months, but discounts are often available if you are willing to get married on a Friday night, Sunday, or really any other time other than Saturday afternoon/evening. 

This was one of our biggest assets in wedding planning! While there were several factors that contributed to us getting married in January (one of the primary ones being that we got engaged in April and really didn't want to wait a year to get married - 9 months was even too long in my opinion!), one of the biggest draws was that we would get a huge discount on our reception hall. Truthfully, we never would have been able to get married there during the on season - braving the cold was totally worth it! While we didn't have a ton of vendors that were able to offer discounts, we did have a huge selection of vendors to work with (since fewer weddings are happening in January), which allowed us to really do some extensive price comparisons and find some great deals.

3. Embrace your inner DIY

Some of my favorite elements of our wedding ended up being the cheapest. Pinterest is full of cute, crafty things you can do yourself to add personal touches to your wedding. Two of my favorite projects were a set of frames featuring some of our favorite love quotes/verses and our wedding favors.

The frames were a simple combination of garage sale frames and matting spray painted, and quotes we printed at a local print shop. Our church had a plethora of easels we were able to borrow to use as stands. The frames were great because we were actually able to move them and use them as decor around the reception hall as well.

The favors were my mom's homemade hot chocolate recipe (12 batches of it!) in clear party bags topped with a label I made and printed off at home and ribbon in our wedding colors. I think the total cost for these was something around 61 cents per favor!

I also made the escort cards, table numbers, our guest book, and various other small decorations.

4. Avoid the up costs

I'm petty sure anything with the word "wedding" in front of it costs more :) But seriously - be carefully not to allow yourself to get sucked down the up charge train....there is always more. For just a little more you can get fancier dishes, nicer chair covers, better uplighting, something personalized, etc. When you are dealing with a vendor, make sure you know what you are getting for your money up front.

Another suggestion is to look outside of the wedding industry for discounts - i.e. buy your bridesmaid dresses from a department store rather than a bridal store - the same goes for hair pieces and jewelry. Also, when looking to get your dress altered, be sure to check out the prices of other tailors in the area...don't just automatically go with the bridal shops seamstress (but be careful here, because if you take the dress out of the store, you are likely also giving up any protective coverage on the dress if something were to happen to it).

5. Shop used or borrow

The internet has opened up a plethora of essentially "thrift store" wedding shops. Keep in mind, many of the items being sold have only been used once or twice and are likely still in great condition. While I didn't buy anything second hand, I did do a LOT of borrowing from friends. From picture frames to votives, vases to my veil, I gladly accepted (and sought out) any offers from friends. 

Be sure to return the favor too! I have a friend whose granddaughter is getting married last month and I gladly passed on several items to makes the money you do end up spending on items a little less rough when you know something can get used more than once.

6. Seek out help from your friends and family

You likely have a wide variety of talented friends who would love to help out with your special day. We had friends and family help us out with videography, invitations, programs, music at the ceremony and reception, and decorating. Many gladly gave their services as a wedding gift, while others were able to offer a reduced rate. This was a big help and made our big day even more personal with all the friends and family that were involved along the way.

A friend who does graphic design helped us out with our program design. She lived out of state but sent us the layout and we had it printed and cut at a local print shop for a nominal fee.

My awesomely talented brothers helped us out with the music at the ceremony.

7. Remember the purpose of the day

Above all else, remember the purpose of the day. With all the hoopla that comes with wedding planning today it is easy to get caught up in the over priced magic of a wedding....but remember, a wedding is just the beginning. You can have your dream wedding without personalized cupcakes or a 10-piece band, but spending $5,000 on a dress won't guarantee a happy marriage. 

Keep things in perspective - and keep Christ at the center of it all.

Happy Wedding Planning!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Man-Approved Meatless

One of the things I've tried to incorporate in our weekly meal rotation is a vegetarian meal (or two if I can sneak it past B). This has been a slight challenge because my husband (1) loves meat, and (2) hates beans. But he also loves saving money and being healthy - hence my search for hearty, husband-approved meatless meals.

Here are my goals when looking for vegetarian meals:

1. Something hearty enough that Brandon won't be looking for a snack 30 minutes later.

2. Flavorful

3. Nothing too bean based. He will generally go for beans if they are incorporated in a dish, but has a strong aversion to them simply being used as a substitute for meat.

And so, here is my list of husband-approved vegetarian meals that leave my man not only satisfied, but also asking for more!


This one is our absolute favorite - whole wheat tortillas stuffed with cheese (usually marble cheddar), and sauteed red onion, zucchini, squash, and corn. I sauté the veggies beforehand (just toss some frozen corn in right from the freezer) and then add them to the quesadillas before cooking. We like to top these with avocado, cilantro, and salsa.


I've been having a lot of fun trying different vegetarian soups. Two of our current favorites are Bean and Barley Vegetable (barley packs a lot of protein) and Potato (although you have to skip the bacon on this one if you are going strict vegetarian). Brandon also loved this Mushroom Barley recipe.


Nice and simple. Using the same whole wheat tortilla recipe (it is our favorite - and the leftovers freeze great), we top them with brown rice, black beans (very light amount for B), corn, and roasted zucchini. 


We have both fallen in love with whole wheat banana pancakes (which also freeze well)! Paired with some eggs and you are good to go!

Another breakfast for dinner option we love is egg sandwiches - I love to top mine with cheese and spinach or avocado. This is my go-to whole wheat bread recipe.


I've tried several fried rice recipes, but this one is by far the best and easiest! I've found that it works better if you cook the rice beforehand, or at least let it cool for awhile before adding it to the veggies. We also will occasionally throw some chicken in here on a non-meatless night (and it is even better :))

And for the record, my go-to meal when Brandon is not home for dinner, and absolute favorite vegetarian meal is grilled cheese on peasant bread. Seriously the best grilled cheese bread EVER. Brandon absolutely hates grilled cheese, which I do not understand and think is possibly un-American.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Love - Giveaway

Chelsy has a great give-away going on on her blog - the just released Growing Up Dugger! Be sure to head over to check it out, and then stay awhile because Chelsy is a great blogger herself - with some great insight and modest fashion ideas!

You "Do" Too?

Brandon and I headed to MN this weekend for a much needed visit with friends and family, and to attend our first wedding together as husband and wife!

I loved weddings before I was married, but I love them even more now that I have a husband by my side. Perhaps it's because our own wedding was just 2 months ago, but B and I both caught ourselves tearing up at the vows (which we both cried through saying on our wedding day!)

But since we're on a budget, we started this weekend adventure on Friday, when we drove to a hotel an hour away to prep to get up at 4 a.m the next morning for our flight out. Yes, staying at a hotel and parking our car at the airport was still cheaper than flying out of the airport closer to our house. Thanks to 3 hockey teams staying in the same hotel, we both managed to get about 3 hours of sleep before we were up again. Have I mentioned I am not a morning person? And that B loves to have deep conversations as soon as he wakes up? Even at 4 am?

We touched down in MN just after 6 am and spent our early hours at a coffee shop before we met friends for breakfast. B started out with a light appetizer....

(Chips, salsa, and fresh squeezes OJ) Before following it up with eggs, bacon, fried potatos and toast. We had been up for 6 hours by now...

The day flew by and before we knew it we were headed to the wedding - a fabulously unique event where the bride looked beautiful and carried a bouquet made of broaches collected from family members, where the ceremony was held in a pasta bar and the reception at a theater, and where I completely gorged myself on coconut shrimp and peanut butter chocolate pops.

The beautiful bride.

Piper's first wedding. She was completely entranced!

A glimpse of the decorated theater - which has award winning bathrooms (seriously) that make you feel like you've stepped into Alice in Wonderland.

Still getting used to this! :)

Their first dance - how cool is that lighting?!

Me and my man.

And then we tried to take a picture with Piper...

And since no trip is complete without an adventure, we learned your flight can be excessively delayed when the airlines has to track down paperwork for the new seat cushions they just put in. You learn something new everyday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Weekend Re-cap

This was one of those weekend where we found ourselves praying a little harder and holding each other a little tighter.

After several business trips the last few weeks, Brandon got the news late Thursday that Josiah, one of his best friends who has been battling with cancer for the last 10 years, was heading downhill fast. Brandon and another friend made the quick decision for a last minute visit to Minnesota and spent some much cherished guy time with Josiah. Amazingly, after several days of 24-hour prayer, Josiah seems to be making progress! However, he remains in a state where his condition is very fragile and each day brings a new set of challenges.

Before Brandon left on Saturday morning we joined up with my parents to attend the Celebration of Life Gala for the Kirsten Haglund Foundation. This is only the second year the KHF has held this event and it was beautiful. My recent joining of the KHF board allowed me the opportunity to volunteer and be more involved with the event this year and I had such a great time. The night included several inspiring speakers, including Jenni Schaefer, author of Life Without Ed – a raw, honest book about Schaefer’s battle with an eating disorder. 

With Brandon in MN, I spent Saturday deep-cleaning the apartment, visiting the library and coming home with way too many books, working on some sewing projects, and hanging out with these girlies. After babysitting for awhile, the rest of the family (i.e. my parents and other brother and SIL and their son) decided to drop by for a visit. Not only do these girls LOVE their baby cousin, but the rest of us love watching them interact with one another. Lexi had meticulously lined up all her littlest pet shops, but as soon as Isaac arrived he proceeded to pick up and throw everything in sight. Oh the difference between boys and girls.

While this pic is actually from last weekend when we were on babysitting duty for this little man, I just have to share. At 14 months Isaac is an absolute joy! While part of my wants to dig my feet and tell him he absolutely cannot grow up anymore, I know he is just prepping to rock the role of big brother when his little sister arrives in about 2 more months!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Things They Should Really Tell You in Pre-marital Counseling

After almost two months I've started to realize that there are some pretty critical things they don't warn you about in marriage counseling. Sure they cover the basics - how to communicate, money, intimacy, etc. but lets face it, those aren't the day-to-day challenges you face during the first few months of marriage. 

So here is my list of what I've learned so far....

1. Sharing a bed is hard work. Especially if you are used to sleeping in a large bed alone with 3+ pillows. If you do, your husband will probably complain that he only gets 30% of the bed while you take up the other 70%. But considering the alternative is to sleep without your beloved pillows and instead turn him black and blue by your violent tossing and turning all night long, he might just be willing to accept that 30%.

The truth - falling asleep in each others arms is for the movies. Reality is the kiss and roll (as in a kiss goodnight and roll to opposite sides)

2. Changing your name is a pain. Really, whoever decided that the social security office should only be open from 10 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday (except for closing at noon on Wednesday) was not thinking of the working newlywed. 

And in case you were wondering, you can't just show up at the DMV and smile for a new license with your new name and address on it....there are steps you have to take before that...

3. Some friend/relative/distant acquaintance might have been upset or offended by something you did or didn't do at your wedding. Don't dwell on it to much or let it effect how you remember the day. 

4. Your new wedding dishes won't last forever. In fact, you should probably drop one on the floor as soon as you open the box just to get it over with.

5. Don't register at Target. You will probably end up with 3 Keurig machines because their registry system is awful and they might happen to mix up your returns and put the store credit back on the purchasers credit card rather than a gift card for you. This can make for potentially awkward moments when thinking of how to phrase a thank you card. On the positive side, they will consolidate all the gift cards you receive into one lump sum, which is much more convenient.

6. If you marry a Finn beware. No one will ever be able to spell or pronounce your last name again. In fact you will probably have to practice spelling it as well....

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wedding Portraits

Growing up, when I would dream about my wedding, I always pictured myself waiting to see my groom until I was walking down the aisle for the first time. But, once the realization hit that we had the opportunity to take advantage of some pretty stunning architecture (which is a great bonus when you get married in January in a slightly unattractive church and it is nasty outside) we jumped at the chance to do a first look and take the majority of our wedding portraits before the ceremony. It was completely worth it.

Our First Look

My Man

Our Wedding Party

Our bridal party (minus a groomsman who wasn't feeling too well)

The Girls - Jess, Heidi, Allie, Kirsten, Stacie, Holly

The Boys - Nate, Rob, Todd, Terrence, Paul

Yes I did wear Toms as my wedding shoes, and yes it was possibly the best decision of the day!

Pictures around the Henry Ford Museum

Our favorite group shot!

The picture when we braved the cold/rain/snow for about 2 minutes.

The whole wedding party.

My girlies

My parents

My siblings

This little man (just 3 more months and they will be a family of 4!)

Our bell-ringing crew (aka the flower girls and ring bearer) - Gianna, Alexis, Sasha, and Jonah

Uncle Brandon and Gianna

Post-Ceremony Portraits

After the ceremony, and before we joined the party in the ballroom upstairs, we grabbed a few more pictures together in the library of the hall. Brandon and I are both avid readers, and so wedding pictures in a room full of books was a perfect fit for us! These are some of our favorites of the night.

And if you made it to the end I commend you! Up next - the ceremony and reception! (I really am being selective....I promise :))

All photo credit goes to our amazing photographer - Jenn Anibal. Jenn and her husband Jonathan were an absolute joy to work with. If you live in the Midwest we highly recommend them!