About Kimberly Nalen

Kimberly is a writer, blogger and typical dreamer. When not plotting to start her own animal sanctuary, she enjoys poetry, Mexican food and anything DIY.

DIY Wedding Invitations on a Budget

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When it came to deciding what to do for our wedding invitations, I did a lot of research on prices, styles, sizes, inserts – you get the point. I had no idea going into it just how many options were available and decisions were needed to be made in regard to invitations. It came as quite the surprise. I was overwhelmed. We are inviting 150+ people to our reception!, I thought, as dollar signs flashed through my mind.

Once the reality of the costs involved had sunken in, and I knew that we had to think outside the box due to our very tight wedding budget, I made up my mind that I would make our own wedding invitations – one of the many DIY projects that I decided to take on. After surfing Pinterest for what felt like eternity, I didn’t really see anything that stuck out at me. The invites I saw were crafted to perfection, don’t get me wrong, but the design and overall feel just wasn’t what I was thinking. I just felt like I could go a little bit further in my own direction and create some kickass invitations with a uniquely personal feel.

Before I get into the different tricks I used and tips I have, I want to say that making your own invitations does take quite a bit of time. And I highly suggest that you are familiar, if not proficient, with certain computer publishing and design programs. I used Microsoft Publisher because I already had it on my computer (see also: free).

First, I began the design on the main reception invitation using Publisher. I wanted it to have a semi-rustic feel, but a simple, yet meanignful, visual appeal. Being a poetry-crazed freak (no, really, I am), I wrote a little poem to include here. Since my husband and I were having an intimate, immediate-family-only ceremony, I wanted to make sure that, upon reading the invitation, people knew that our ceremony was private, but also, more importantly, that we truly wanted to share in the moment with them at a party right afterwards. Once the poem was included, and I designed the header of the invitations, I added all of the necessary information (our names, the date, location, etc.). When I was satisfied with the final product, I saved it and went on to the next task.

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Next, I started work on the ceremony information card that I would include for the few people that we were being invited to the ceremony. Knowing that I would be attaching the “inserts cards” that I would be making to the main reception invitation, I made the cards all smaller, close to the size of business cards. Again, I added the necessary information, while this time opting to include one of my favorite love quotes instead of a poem. I also found a free cartoon wedding image online (I made sure that I had the right to use it for my invitations). The picture I chose worked out way better than I could’ve imagined because I swear we have the exact same picture of us from our wedding, pickup truck and all! I used DUMPR Photo Pencil Sketch to turn it into a sketch and – voila! – a snazzy ceremony card.

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Early on in this process, I created our wedding website (I used MyWedding.com) and did some research on online RSVPing and decided that it was something that I wanted to do. I set our website up so that our guests could go right on and RSVP. I created a card that listed our website, directions on how to RSVP and the food options that would be offered. The website even allowed our guests to choose their food options! We saved a lot of money not having to pay for an extra set of enevelopes and stamps for guests to RSVP through the tradtional mail. I also added a sketch image of a mason jar and using the “text” tool in Publisher, overlaid our names onto it.

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Then, I made a card to inform guests that all of the hotel and guest information was on our website. Though I imagined that this would be somewhat assumed with the online RSVPing and all, I also knew that a few of our guests were not tech-savvy and I wanted to make sure that they knew where to go to get all the details. A fan of my new picture-to-sketch tool, I found a picture of the entrance sign to the town where we got married and I turned that into a sketch too.

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Just for fun, I added a card that listed the “celebration rules”. These weren’t meant to be real rules, but just funny, little quips that I thought might make people laugh. But even more so, I added it to try to get across to our guests that we were having a very casual, informal wedding, short of saying “the groom is wearing jeans”. Keeping with the theme, I added a sketch of a funny picture of my husband and I.

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Once the cards were complete, I saved copies of each part as PDFs (you can do this right in Publisher “Save As”). Then I printed them. Please be warned that, if you decide to go this route and make your own invitations, it might take a few tries before you get them to print just right. I had mine set to print two per page, but I had to do some tweaking. If you just focus for a bit, I promise that it’s totally doable.

We borrowed a friend’s paper cutter and we spent $0.99 on a single-hole puncher. It took my husband and I a few hours to do the cutting and the hole-punching, but it allowed us to spend a lot of time together, using our hands to – literally – put our vision onto paper. Once every piece was cut and punched, we used some twine that we already had to tie all of the pieces together for each invitation. With only about ten invitations left, we ran out of twine. My husband went to the store to get more and came back with a roll of candle wick (pictured here). Hey, not what we planned, but it turned out looking nice and was far easier to tie and knot!

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I designed our invitations so that the guests could untie them and all of the cards would fall to the side, but still remain attached, to make sure that all of the pieces of the invitation stayed together, but that the main reception invitation was able to be seen. Note: I would suggest adding another small card that says “untie me”, or some other direction that helps the guest know that it’s okay to untie it. We found that almost none of the guests we asked untied theirs. That was a small oversight on my part, though, no biggie!

My favorite part of this whole process was, not surprisingly, seeing the final product. I was, and am, pretty damn proud of myself for this particular wedding project and I got a little boost of DIY confidence. Stuff these babies in envelopes (we bought ours for very little at Staples) and you’ll be good to go. At the end of the day, from all of my research, I’d say we saved about $300+ with our DIY invitations and the online RSVPing.

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Switch Up Your Wardrobe Without Spending a Penny

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Being a homemaker doesn’t mean that you always have to sacrifice your wants and needs for those of the members in your household; for your family. It’s a common misperception that, when you have a family, you no longer can put yourself first and do any of the things that make you happy. Well, I think that’s a load of bull. If you want something, then make it happen.

In these tough economic times, and at all times for my fellow thrifty folk, most people are stretched thin, as far as what they are and are not willing to spend money on. Or, worse, many times people don’t have a choice; they simply can’t afford certain things. When it comes to their wardrobe, I’ve noticed that people are a lot more likely to cut back in this area than in other areas in their lives. With this in mind, I want to share 5 ways that I have found to switch up your wardrobe without spending a penny. I’m serious. It can be done and here’s how:

1) Get inspired.

The reality is that we all need a little inspiration sometimes; you know, that kick start, that oomph, that push that we all need every now and again. Have you sorted through your clothes, separating them into piles of what you wear and what you never wear, and thought now what? Well, my friends, it is 2014 and we have this lovely tool at our fingertips, called the internet! So use it. Search the web. See how others wear the items in their wardrobe. Or, if you’re a magazine reader, scan through some issues. This will help to spark your creativity and give you ideas which you can implement in your own life. If you can do this, then you are well on your way to reviving your wardrobe.

2) Learn to sew.

Taking sewing in high school (thank you, Mrs. Fogg!) was one of the best things that I could’ve done to benefit my wardrobe… and homemaking in general. Having less going on in my life then allowed me to focus on ensuring that I was learning and retaining everything that I was taught. I instantly fell in love. The types of stitch patterns, the importance of accurate measurements, and the finished products – I was mesmerized. With my newfound knowledge, I started to make clothes for myself. I made purses, quilts, throw pillows, potholders and more. It was like I finally had the key that unlocked the door to endless possibilities.

You can feel this way too! I see sewing machines on sites like Craigslist all the time, and many times they’re free. So, even if you don’t have the money to spend on a sewing machine, you can still get one. Keep checking back and be patient. Your time will come and make sure to act fast because free items go like hotcakes. Once you acquire a sewing machine (borrow one from a friend if you need to), look into free courses and seminars at your local craft and fabric stores, or in your community. Almost all craft stores offer some type of basic 101 courses on sewing and they’re usually free. Learn the basics of sewing and you’ll have more power than you know.

3) Revitalize the items you never wear.

Here’s where the sewing will come in very handy. Once you get some inspiration for those pieces of your wardrobe that you never wear, and you know how to sew, you can get to creating! I’m a huge fan of finding an article of clothing that needs revamping, finding another one that I never wear and am okay with using for material, and then meshing the two together to make something uniquely me. This is super useful in fixing clothes that don’t fit anymore too! Take those pieces that you never wear and add some lace, some trim, some sequins – your imagination is the limit. I recently posted about turning a shrunken sweater into a new and improved sweater that actually fit me. There are also ways to reinvent certain pieces that don’t involve sewing, like dyeing and cutting/tying, so consider those options as well.

4) Sell the items you never wear.

How many times have you thrown clothes out? We might all have been guilty of it at some point in our lives. Luckily, people are getting involved more and more in donating the clothes they never wear to charity. This is a great way to do some good for those less fortunate. While I think it’s very important that everyone donates old clothes, I don’t feel that this needs to be the case every time the closet is reorganized. If you’re like me, you can’t remember the last time that you bought a new article of clothing for yourself. So if you want to be able to buy new clothes, but don’t have the funds, consider selling the clothes you never wear. Consignment shops and boutiques will almost always buy your gently-used clothes from you for a decent price. Referred to nowadays as “neutral shopping”, you can splurge and buy some new duds with all of the money you make from selling your unwanted clothes.

5) Have a swap with friends.

This option is one of my personal favorites. Growing up, I was always getting hand-me-downs, which is actually ironic because I was the oldest sibling (living in the house, at the time). But I had a lot of older neighbors and cousins. Even now, my future sister-in-law will give me a trash bag or two filled with the clothes she never wears and I’ll sort through, usually find some pieces with potential, and then donate the rest. This tool can be priceless. Call up your friends, plan a time when you can all get together and swap away! And you don’t need to feel embarrassed. Embrace it. You’ll be surprised just how much you can improve and refresh your wardrobe without even spending a penny!

Wedding Envy: Is It Happening to Me?

Oh my gosh, her shoes, I love them! The heels, the sparkles, the lace! Look at that bunting, so perfect! Cake pops and a vintage vanity sitting in a meadow, with a strategically placed barn in the distance, with fairytale turquoise doors, grinning newlyweds and a horse. A HORSE*! A Notebook inspired wedding – ahhhhh! It’s almost too much for me to bear!

And I snap back to reality. Please give me a minute to get my feet back on the ground. One, two, there we go…

I spend my life in front of a computer. Working, doing schoolwork, writing – always in front of a computer. So, unable to break my habit of following my favorite wedding blogs post-nuptials (Offbeat Bride, Ruffled, The Broke-Ass Bride, DIY Bride, to name a few), I often find myself gazing through pages and pages of real weddings. I scroll through amazing dream dresses, colorful couples full of character, artisan hand-crafted decor and desserts that would make even Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, jealous. I see whimsical woodland weddings and beautiful, beachy weddings, rustic barn weddings and fancy golf course weddings. You picking up what I’m putting down? Good.

Anyway, I catch myself comparing these weddings to mine and, sometimes, I ask myself the question that no new bride ever, EVER, wants to ask herself: do I have wedding envy?

I imagine that most new (and maybe even not-so-new) brides feel the same way sometimes. As time passes, we long to go back to the happy times; the times that made us laugh, cry, scream, stress and feel. We long to go back to a time that made us feel alive. And, for so many of us, our weddings provide this needed escape. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the full definition of envy is “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”

Though I am aware of the beautiful and amazing and OMG weddings in existence, I do not consider those brides and grooms to have an advantage over anyone else, especially my husband and I. And I mean absolutely no disrespect to any newlyweds out there because those weddings were their weddings, perfect for them. We all have our own quirks and idiosyncrasies that make us who we are and those are the things that make weddings so wonderful. It’s the little things, the reflections of two personalities destined to spend their lives as one. If we lose sight of those, then what do we really have left?

The second part of the definition of envy deals with having “a desire to possess the same advantage.” Aside from not considering advantage to be a factor here, I also would not say that I have a desire to possess said advantage. What’s perfect for one couple may not be the right thing for another couple. My husband and I had the wedding that we wanted, that fit us, that suited us, that meant something to us and that we created with our own hands. And it was truly magnificent.

Photo by John Munson | Beacon Photography

Photo by John Munson | Beacon Photography

And I mean that. Not only did our crafting, building, painting, sawing, sewing, wire-tying, glue-gunning, pinning, cutting, designing, baking, glazing, drawing and paper-cutting (and thus blistering and bleeding) add to the decor and feel of our wedding, it also brought us closer together. We spent months making everything perfect for us. So to answer the question I’ve been asking myself lately, despite what it might seem like, I am happy to announce that I am most certainly, awesomely, definitely not suffering from wedding envy! I wouldn’t change a thing about our wedding even if I could… because it was ours. Our first of many endeavors as a married couple. And the boost I needed, and thus my handy hubby needed, to dive into the life of domestic DIY!

*Silly bit of info: Horse was my first word.

5 Easy Tips for Saving Money at Home

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Most of us try to save money and most of us do a decent job of it. We face a lot of external factors (like which store is having a deal, the state of the economy, etc.) on a daily basis. So much so that, often times, we forget about the actions that we can take right in our own homes to save some extra money.

Hurry, hurry, step right up, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – my 5 easy tricks for saving money in the home, that you might not have thought of before:

1) Freeze candles.

There’s no need to clean your ears, you heard me right. Before you plan to use your candles, put them in the freezer for a couple of hours. This will help them to drip less and last longer, while saving you some dough because you won’t have to buy as many or as often!

2) Use the (underestimated) back side of papers.

I am a paper magnet. No, seriously, my apartment is the heaven of trees. Between work, school, mail, writing and my inclination toward reading from actual paper versus a computer screen, I have acquired a ton of paper. Just when I feel proud of one of my recent paper purges, I turn around and there’s more paper stacking up!

Over the years, one way that I’ve found that helps to combat this mess is using the back side of papers. Naturally, it’s not the first thing you’d think to do with that used piece of scrap paper or that newsletter from your child’s school. But, when it comes time for you to make a grocery list (as any thrifty gal should do), leave a note for your husband or print your online coupons, this back side of the paper will come in really handy. Take a moment and think about how many times a day you scribble on a new piece of paper. Now multiply that number by 365. That’s how many pieces of paper you could be saving per year if you just started embracing the long-snubbed back side. And think of how many trees you’ll be saving too!

3) Pry open (get creative) flattened tubes and bottles before throwing them away.

I understand that some of you might find it “cheap” or “below” you to do this, but you’re just missing out! A great way to save money on usually-expensive cosmetics and toiletries is by making sure you’re using them “till the last drop”. If you pay $10 for a bottle of conditioner, then gosh darn it, you should get $10 worth of that smooth and silky hair-gold! By slicing open your used tubes and bottles, you can get several more days – even WEEKS – out of them. What’s that noise, you ask? Oh, that’s music to your ears!

4) Wear clothes twice before washing.

You might be cringing right now. That’s okay – let it out. I mean, this tip goes beyond the borders of what we perceive as “normal”. To most people, my suggestion is unheard-of and precedent-free. But I ask this in all seriousness: if you wear an outfit once, and deem it stain-free and not covered in dirt, why not wear it one more time before you wash it? This will help you save money on laundry detergent, electricity and the cost of water – cha-ching! Even better? Your clothes will last longer this way, with less wear and tear. Go one step further and, if realistic, opt to use the clothesline instead of the dryer and you will save even more mula!

5) Use Freecycle and Craigslist.

Believe it or not, these sites are not only saturated with crazy people and hoodlums, scouring the internet for the most gullible people on the planet. Yes, you need to be careful and mindful when using these sites, but they are truly great tools for anyone trying to stick to a budget. If you haven’t looked at Craigslist lately, please do it. Pay special attention to the section that says “free” – that’s “free”, as in free stuff!

People that don’t need an item anymore will post a listing on these sites and, most times, if you have the means to go pick it up, it’s yours. No questions asked. The best way to get the most out of this tip is to look for items that you need. That being said, if you don’t necessarily need something, but you’re a DIYer (like I am), THIS IS YOUR CAMELOT. You can get all sorts of goodies to inspire your upcycling dreams, and best of all, they’re super cheap (or free)!

Declutter Your Home: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

declutter2With a new year upon us, many of us find ourselves struggling to come up with ways to do things a little differently this year, to beautify and simplify our homes, relationships and lives. Though we should not let the stress of a forced New Year’s resolution get us all flustered, we should take a minute to evaluate each aspect of our lives; what is wonderful as-is and what we can improve upon. The improvements don’t need to be anything huge. I’m not saying that you need to move mountains to prove your strength or ride a bull to prove your bravery – I’m simply saying that there are little ways that we all can make changes and benefit ourselves and our families in the year ahead.

One of the greatest, most effective, and easiest ways to breathe new life into any home is by decluttering. After all, it’s a new year with new memories and new items to fill that space up! So read on to find out what 4 questions you should ask yourself each time you consider whether to keep or toss an item:

1) Does it have sentimental value?

I’m a pack-rat at heart and I’ve always been this way. So, admittedly, I struggle with decluttering. It is a source of major stress for me because I somehow always seem to find a reason why I should hang on to something, or why something is simply too good to get rid of. Since moving in with my (now) husband 5 years ago, I have made a conscious effort to become better at the art (it really is!) of “in with the old, out with the new”.

I make a point to ask myself if an item has any sentimental value to me – a.k.a. will I freak out in a few days once I remember it’s gone. If you ask yourself this question and the answer is no, then toss it. Don’t wait, don’t question it, don’t second-guess yourself – just toss it. Trust me, you won’t miss it and you’ll have something to replace that item in no time at all, as is life.

2) Does it serve a purpose?

If an item provides absolutely no benefits to you or your family and you realize that you rarely ever use it, here’s your chance to give it a proper send-off. Say goodbye, give your hugs, do whatever you need to. As long as it serves you no purpose, then it is time for the item in question to hit the road.

3) Do I have the space needed to store it?

Now, if you’re like me, you battle on a daily business with trying to find storage space. My husband and I currently live in an apartment, so space is seriously limited. Even if an item has no sentimental value, but serves a purpose, I still take into consideration whether or not we have the room to store the item. If it is an item that we use, but only sparingly or seasonally, and it would take away much-needed space from more useful and important items, then it only makes sense to get rid of it.

Don’t worry – if all of this “tossing” of still-useful-to-someone household items is making you queasy, make sure to read the fourth, and last, question you should ask yourself!

4) Would someone else benefit more from it than I?

So, you’ve answered all of the questions up to this point and you’ve found that an item is worth keeping. Before you store it, consider this: is there someone out there that could benefit from this product more than you (within reason, of course)? Obviously it’s not realistic for you to give every perfectly good and useful item in your home to every homeless person in your area. However, if there is an item that you have found that you do indeed use and that you have the space for, but it’s realistic for you to donate it to a homeless shelter, the Salvation Army, or other programs like that, then I ask that you at least think about it. Maybe you’ve been hanging on “just in case” to that old baby crib, those baby clothes or those boxes of wedding decorations (like our attic – eeek!). The fact of the matter is that there’s probably someone out there that needs a crib or baby clothes or wedding décor right now, a lot more than you do. This is clearly not an option for every family, but, if you have the power to help others, I ask that you at least consider it.

Decluttering allows you to have better knowledge of what items are in your home, which prevents things like item duplication (we’ve all been there!), giving you a thrifty start to the year ahead. Bonus – you’ll have a kickass, organized living space to boot!

Save a Shrunken Sweater in 4 Easy Steps

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So I shrunk the sweater I wore in my engagement session. Oops! BUT I made it even prettier by using the material from an old cardigan that I had laying around and adding a few different embellishments. These details allowed me to “widen” the sweater so that it would actually fit me again!

Note: I always keep old sweaters and cardigans if I think that they’re something that I could use in the future for crafts and sewing. It’s just something I’ve always done. If you don’t do this, start. You never know when an old gem might come in handy!

Read on to find out how to fix a shrunken sweater in 4 easy steps:

1) Grab Your Shrunken Sweater and Another Old Shirt of Your Choosing.

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On the left is my shrunken sweater and on the right is an old cardigan with ruffled trim. You can choose any old shirt you like, depending on the embellishment you want and the look you’re going for.

Note: Turn both shirts inside out, since that’s how you’ll need to sew.

2) Cut Along the Seams of Each Shirt Then Start Pinning.

First order of business is cutting the old shirt you chose so that you can maximize the material that you’ll be able to use from it. Your best bet is to cut along the seam so that everything looks neat. Make sure to keep the back piece intact, as it will give you the most material. Next, cut the trim off of the old shirt. The picture on the right below are the ruffle trim of my old cardigan.

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Now it’s time to cut the shrunken sweater. Since the sweater doesn’t fit no matter how much you suck it in, the only realistic option is to add some extra fabric to the side seams of the sweater. To do this, you need to cut along the side seams, all the way up to the armpit.

Then take the back piece material from the old shirt and cut it into two rectangles, of the same size. You will have to use your best judgement for this, as there are so many variables (some shirts shrink more than others, etc.). Once you have cut along the seams of the shrunken sweater, take the rectangles and line one of the edges up against one of the bottom edges of the sweater side seam [see bottom left picture below].

Note: My post assumes that you have basic sewing knowledge (aka you know what things are and you can work a sewing machine). If you have no idea what you’re doing or if you just need a refresher, check out this Dwell on Joy post on sewing machine basics and this Simply Modern Mom post on sewing tool basics. I frequently refer to these both.

Start pinning along the edges, but you will have to begin to pin the fabric unevenly as you move toward the armpit of the sweater because you have to create triangles where the seams meet at the armpit [see bottom right picture below].

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3) Sew Triangles to Sweater.

Bust out that sewing machine, it’s time to get sewing!

Sew along the pinned edges, making sure that the triangle tips will end up in the armpit when it all comes together. Once you’ve sewed a one side of one of your rectangles to the sweater, take a look at the seam you made. Inspect it. This is your chance to make sure the machine is working correctly and nothing is out of place with the thread [see middle picture below].

Do the same thing you just did – pinning and sewing – with the other side of the already-sewn rectangle to the other edge on that side of the sweater. When done, all of your seams should meet at the armpit and one triangle addition will be complete!

Follow the same steps to complete the triangle on the other side of the sweater.

triangledone4) Pin and Sew the Trim on Sleeves and Bottom Hem.

Next, take the leftover embellishment or trim (or, in my case, ruffles) and cut to the size you will need to become the trim around the sleeves of the sweater and, if you have enough, the bottom hem of the sweater. Pin the edges of the trim to the edges of the sweater sleeves and bottom hem, making sure everything is still inside out. When completed, go ahead and admire those hems… I can wait.

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Now that you’ve done all that, it’s time to admire the finished product!shirtdone

My Budget, DIY Wedding: 6 Ways I Saved a Bunch of Money

I am going to join everyone else in doing a bit of reflecting today, on this past year and all that it has blessed me with. One thing stands out (quite obviously) and that is my wedding. Being admittedly obsessive-compulsive, the fact that I can look back on that day without any worries, anxiety or regrets is truly an amazing feeling.

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*Credit: All photos in this post were taken by John Munson at Beacon Photography.

With that in mind, I want to share a post that I’ve wanted to write for a while now. As I mentioned previously, planning my wedding is what reignited my creativity and inspired the creation of this blog. Since weddings are super expensive and only getting more so, and planning one can be extremely stressful, I want to share the 6 ways that I was able to save a boatload of money in planning my wedding:

1) Discounted and DIY Stationery.

Save the Dates: When it came time to make the save the dates, I was still very new to the whole wedding planning process (or strategy, if you will). I knew we had a very tight budget (I’m talking incredibly tight to the point most would find it unattainable) and large families. So I waited until there was a 50% promo code for save the dates at Minted and I ordered them. Easy enough – and I saved about $150 with the promo code!

Invitations: As the wedding got closer, I started pondering what on earth we were going to do for invitations. Knowing how expensive they are, I panicked a little. Once I got back on my one-minded, budget-planning track, I weighed my options. We could either order really crappy invitations because it would be all we could afford, OR… wait for it… we could make our own! If you can’t already tell by my enthusiasm, we went for the latter.

I had a bunch of leftover envelopes from a friend’s baby shower that I planned a few months earlier, so I decided to use those and then get more of the same. My husband (bless his soul) and I bought the extra envelopes at Staples. I ordered cardstock paper online from The Paper Mill Store in the texture and color I wanted, using a promo code to save me 40% on my order.

Once I had the materials, I used Microsoft Publisher to design the invitations which consisted of a main invitation, guest information card, ceremony info card (for our immediate family, as we had a very intimate ceremony), a silly “celebration rules” card and an RSVP instruction card. We had everyone RSVP online through our wedding website, so we saved money on an entire set of envelopes and stamps! We tied all of the pieces together with some twine and called it a day. *There will be a tutorial on DIY wedding invitations coming soon. In the mean time, check out this printable stationery checklist from DIY Bride. I used this and just adjusted it to fit my own vision.

2) Free Ceremony Venue and Discounted Reception Venue.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We had an intimate ceremony with just our immediate family, and we had it in our backyard, overlooking the ocean with a view of the Boston skyline. And just like that we had the beauty of nature (free décor!) and a budget-friendly venue (free!). Aside from décor and attire, all we shelled out for the ceremony, other than the champagne and beers purchased by my new in-laws (I can’t thank them enough), was the $100 officiant fee.

For our reception, we chose the yacht club down the street from our house, at which my (now) husband is a member. Not only do local function halls tend to be less expensive than the bigger, more popular venues, but, with his member discount, my husband was able to save us over 50% on the fee for the hall! I knew that I would just have to create decorations that would give us the most bang for our buck, so to speak. The amazing views also helped, as they drew a lot of attention away from the hall itself.

3) DIY everything… no, really… everything.

My husband and I made our own photobooth and saved over $600. We also made our own centerpieces, arbor, bouquets, boutonnieres, guestbook, card box and the rest of the décor for both the ceremony and reception. A major way that I found to save money was by not having any real flowers. Yes, you heard me right. We did not have any real flowers at our wedding!

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4) Open Seating Plan and Delicious BBQ.

The key to keeping most any wedding guest happy is good food. It was really important to my husband and me that we choose yummy food options that would keep our guests full and satisfied. If you’ve ever planned a wedding, then you know how terrifyingly expensive catering can be. That being said, we chose a BBQ joint in our area (Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q… yummmmm) to cater our reception. We saved some money by having them drop the food off and having the staff at the reception venue serve it. We also opted to have an open seating plan and let our guests choose where they sat. By doing this, we saved money on place cards. We also decided not to have a cake. Instead, we had a dessert table; I baked a lot of dessert breads and froze them ahead of time, while various friends and family members brought desserts to add to the table.

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5) No Professional Band or DJ.

We paid a friend to be our DJ. This allowed us to create the entire playlist ourselves, so we could ensure that the music being played would be something we liked. This did provide for a bit of a challenge because, as it turns out, we underestimated the length of our playlist, but it was just a minor hiccup in the day and really didn’t make much of a difference. In fact, I’m not sure if anyone else noticed. Since DJs can run upwards of $1,000+, we saved oodles of money in this area.

6) Thrifty and Fun Attire.

The total cost of both my attire and my husband’s, including the boutonniere and bouquet materials, was under $500. And $150 of that was for my cowboy boots (splurge!). Being shy and, I think, sometimes socially inept, I knew I wanted to buy my dress online. This might not be the best option for everyone, but it worked for me. After months of searching, I found my dress at Macy’s for $70 (and I got a promo code for free shipping). My husband and his groomsmen wore jeans and I ordered my birdcage veil and flower clip from Etsy. I chose to do my own nails and my future sister-in-law did my hair and makeup (she’s amazing). All in all, it worked out better and we saved more money than I could have ever hoped!

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