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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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.

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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DIY Wedding Photobooth in 6 Easy Steps: How I Saved $650

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive. As a brand new bride, I spent the past year and a half planning my wedding and agonizing over every little detail. I was a budget bride dealing with the ideas, opinions and advice of a not-so-budget peanut gallery. It wasn’t until a few months before my wedding that I decided to stop letting all of the traditional ideas discourage my creativity and my fear of all things generic. So I decided to come up with aspects of the wedding where my husband and I could save money by doing things ourselves.

One incredible way that I found to save money was by making our own photobooth. Prices vary for professional photobooths depending on your location, but near Boston where I got married, prices were upward of $700 for four or five hours. By making our own, we saved about $650, after materials. If you want a photobooth at your wedding, but don’t think you have room in your budget, or perhaps you just want to add your own personal touch to your wedding, here are 6 easy steps you can follow to make it happen:

1) Decide on a vision.

It might seem a little cliché and overkill, but a photobooth adds a lot of character to a wedding. It acts as the meeting spot for guests; a place where guests go to let loose and pretend they’re someone else, even if only for the blink of an eye (or the flash of a camera). Decide what kind of photobooth you want. Do you want a standard square frame or would you rather one that is more rectangular? Do you want it to be flat-edged or have beveled edges? Or maybe, like I did, you want it to look like the frame of a Polaroid picture? This is your chance to make your wedding stand out!

2) Gather and buy your supplies.

Materials you will need:

  • Skinny wooden dowels
  • A few pieces of sturdy felt in any color
  • Piece of plywood large enough to fit your frame
  • Glue for glue gun
  • Pencil
  • Sandpaper
  • Rope
  • Old tablecloth or bed sheet
  • Scissors
  • Spray paint
  • Acrylic paint and small paintbrush

Tools you will need:

  • Glue gun
  • Straight-edge
  • Skill saw

3) Make the frame for the photobooth.

With your supplies in hand, you are finally ready to make your vision a reality. Take a pencil and the straight-edge and draw the frame out on the plywood, so you have a line to follow when making plunge cuts with the skill saw (How To Make a Plunge Cut). Once you’re happy with it, cut the frame out (wearing your safety glasses of course). Sand down the edges to make them smooth and spray paint the entire frame. You will probably have to do a couple of coats to make it look just right. Once the frame is dry, take a small paintbrush and some paint (I used acrylic because I had it on hand, but most paints would do the trick) and write whatever you want on the frame. You could paint your names, wedding date or a meaningful love quote. This is the perfect opportunity to get creative with it!

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4) Make the props.

When the frame is completed, you can begin to make the props for the photobooth. Decide what shapes you want to use. I chose mustaches, beards and lips. Fun, right? Cut the shapes out of the felt. Use the wooden dowels as handles for the props and glue the felt shapes onto them. There you have it, easy yet stylish props! Often times even dollar stores carry fun masks and hats, to add some variety.

5) Be sure to have a sign with directions for guests.

I found this to be super important. I decided to create a wedding hashtag on Instagram for my wedding. This allowed guests to take pictures at the photobooth with their own phone cameras and, using our unique wedding hashtag on Instagram, tag them online so that my guests and I are able to see their pictures in one location. This works in other areas of the wedding, too, not just the photobooth. It is worth noting that not everyone uses Instagram, but it is fun to see the pictures from the people that do! Once you decide on your hashtag, or another way to link guest pictures, make sure you have some signs to put out to let guests know how to share their pictures.

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6) Set everything up and enjoy.

Finally, the photobooth is ready to be put together! Use the rope to tie the frame up to the ceiling, or whatever structure is available, and make sure that it’s secure. Next is the backdrop. Use an old tablecloth or bed sheet and hang it up behind the frame, leaving enough room for a group of people to stand behind the frame, but in front of the backdrop, for pictures. Set up a table for the props, put your signs up and take a couple of test shots to make sure that the lighting is good. Adjust if needed. Now you and your guests are finally ready to enjoy your very own DIY wedding photobooth!

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How Planning My DIY Wedding Saved My Soul

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Well, my creative soul, that is! If you had asked me three months ago, I would have told you that planning my DIY wedding was horrible, wretched, brutal and downright miserable. But, in reality, that was not the case at all. If only I could have realized it then.

After all, it was my own fault for deciding to plan a wedding amidst working full-time and going to graduate school in the evenings. But as they say, hindsight is indeed always 20/20. Together with my husband, who should undoubtedly reach sainthood after all of this, I created and pulled off the wedding of our dreams. What our dreams lacked in tradition and fanciness, they made up for in uniqueness, creativity and simplicity.

I was my own wedding planner. Over the course of our year and a half engagement, I spent hours (I’m talking hundreds of hours) researching online before making any decisions. Being on such a strict budget, I was forced into being a jack of all trades. Not only was I my own wedding planner, but you can add baker, interior designer, foreman, landscaper, event manager, handyman, seamstress and craftsperson to that list as well. Overwhelmed and anxious, I spent every spare second that I had planning.

Looking back, our wedding saved me. Since getting my life back on track nearly eight years ago, I have struggled day in and day out with my creativity. Before my life hit various speed bumps years ago, creative was the first word that I would’ve used to describe myself. I happily filled my time with crafts, sewing, photography and writing. But life got in the way and I had more important things to worry about at that point than fostering my inner creativity.

Once I steered myself onto my right life course again, I tried desperately to be creative. To write. To brainstorm. To craft. But to my dismay, I felt washed up. I started to question life and my purpose. Even worse, I started to question myself.

And then I got engaged and everything just clicked. I have no explanation other than that maybe the pressure of needing to get everything done, and making sure our 150 guests were full and happy, outweighed my own personal struggle and hesitations. As an admitted procrastinator, I was accustomed to putting everything off until it absolutely had to get done. But with a wedding, that’s just not possible (trust me, I learned this the hard way with a few wedding projects). I had to step up and make it happen. I was determined to make our DIY wedding dreams a reality.

In the end, we pulled it off (with the gracious help of family and friends, of course). My husband and I crafted our own invitations, arbor, bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, photobooth, guestbook, card box and the décor for the ceremony and reception, to name a few. I personally baked 14 loaves of various dessert breads! But we did it (thanks to many “all-nighters”). We were able to have our dream wedding with 150 guests for $7,500, including our one “splurge”: the photographer.

Since the wedding, I feel like I have my soul back. That creative drive that I felt so many years ago has reemerged. Part of me was scared that, once the wedding was over, I’d go back to being my mundane, creativity-lacking self. Boy, was I wrong!

My mind races now with different writing and craft ideas. I started this blog to help people realize their creative potential, with a budget-friendly twist. Planning my wedding saved my creative soul, unquestionably. Slowly but surely, I’m becoming more confident in my abilities and I can’t stop. I won’t stop.