Our Under $12K Los Angeles Wedding

Friday, July 23, 2010

The average traditional wedding costs more than $20,000--roughly the cost of a new car or a down payment on a home, say Alan and Denise Fields, the Boulder, Colo.-based authors of "Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget."

As a previous bride turned wedding planner, one of the most frequent questions I get asked most is, "how did you do it?" Every situation is so unique to the couple. This is our story~

Vinnie proposed to me on March 18, 2009 and like many couples, we were on cloud 9. Soon after that surreal feeling melted away, the truth set in- how were we going to pay for this wedding?!? With no savings and the option of taking out a loan not being an option, we both decided we weren't going to back down from what we wanted; all of our friends and family and anyone that was special to us was going to be invited. We were literally on a miracle budget, which made the task of planning our wedding even that much more of an adventure.

Choosing the Date
I always envisioned my wedding to be outdoors, dancing under the warm moonlight. Southern California provided the perfect weather for such a scene. I didn't want it to be miserably hot, but I didn't want to have to wear a shawl over my dress either. We decided a late Summer/Early Fall date would be ideal. We chose labor day weekend so our out of town guests could have an extra travel day, which meant we had five and a half months to pull it all together.

Choosing the Venue
After hashing out the guest list (which isn't much fun at all), our wedding was more or less a 300 guest wedding. Before getting engaged I had my eye on two venues, however Marvimon only accomodated 150 guests and Villa del Sol de'Oro did not have any available dates in or around September. All hotel/banquet  halls charged per person and had ridiculous service charges which is the way it is in the service industry, but I was determined to bypass this route and discover or create a loophole. Not having a budget has serious limitations IF you choose to look at it that way. We decided to get creative and rely on FAITH to get us through. God didn't bring us this far to say "sorry folks, I can't provide a way for you to get married." We knew that in our hearts and kept reminding each other that when either of us got frustrated. We looked at a half dozen places in person, and a bunch more online, ranging from city parks to community centers and created a spreadsheet to compare and contrast the pros of cons of each venue. The Monrovia Historical Museum is what we chose. It accomodated 300 people comfortably, you could bring outside catering, choose your own vendors for tables, chairs, tablecloths etc., the staff was nice, helpful, communicated well AND it was only $2300 w/ a $500 refundable deposit. To reserve the venue, we needed to put down a deposit of $1000. Needless to say, we didn't have the cash. However the following weekend, Vinnie got a "once in a blue moon" but very timely call asking if he wanted to work over time and there went the money for the deposit. Can you say "favor!"? !!

The Dress
I wrote an entire blog post on this topic! Please click here to read it.

Grooms Attire
We originally wanted something very similar to what Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas wore for his wedding, but that was a costly custom suit and nothing we saw seemed to come across matched the degree of quality and cut of that suit. Vinnie is very finicky with the way things fit and we thought going the custom route might be the solution. We placed a custom order with a company called Indochino and when we got the suit it was just not the right fabric or cut. We returned it and eventually decided we would mix in something more traditional. The Filipino men wear a Barong Tagalog to formal occassions, which is a semi sheer embroidered button up made of pineapple fiber. We sent the guy's measurements to Vinnie's grandma in the Philippines, had the barongs custom made there, and she would bring them with her when she came for the wedding.

While many restaurants charge upwards of $20 (on the low end) per person, not including utensils, we went with Stone Fire Grill which charged $8.99/person for bbq prime rib, lemon garlic chicken, salad, mash potatoes, breadsticks AND plates, napkins and silverware were included.. can you say SCORE!!!!? Our guests LOVED the food :) Not exactly what one would consider "gourmet", but it's all in presentation. There's also something to be said about food that has that home-cooked feel; the familiar gives you a sense of comfort and keeps you coming back for more. Just because it isn't expensive doesn't mean it can't be good!

Wrote an entire post on this too! It's really interesting how this came about. Click here to get the scoop.

I mentioned this a few times in previous posts but in a nutshell, we knew we couldn't afford to and even if we could, wouldn't want to spend a ton of money on invitations.. but we didn't want any cheap looking ones either! You know those ultra fancy  invitations that weigh a ton with 6 different inserts? Those cost $4-7 a piece! I found this invitation called Send N Seal by Carlson Craft which cost less than $1 per invite. You can buy them at Paper Elegance. This is the template we chose, with mango ink to match our orangey color motif. I also think that this one is cute as well!

Band or DJ?
We totally butt heads on this one.. but you learn to choose your battles and I eventually gave in. I was set on a DJ while Vinnie wanted a band. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE me some live music but they'd have to be SLAMMIN. I had a few DJ friends who I could give a request list and "do not play" list to, but again, Vinnie was dead set on having a particular band. I almost fainted when he told me the band was $2500 to reserve! That's more than my dress, the venue and almost as much as our catering. It just didn't seem logical to me. I was extra skeptical when I found out it was a Filipino band. Ok, I'm a Filipina and Filipinos are talented as any other ethnicity, but i've also seen VERY corny filipino cover bands that absolutely sucked and I could not have this at our wedding. But, he assured me it was one of those things worth splurging on, because he went to a wedding where he saw this band play and no one was sitting down.  The blessing is, my father in law offered to pay for the band as a gift and as it turned it, our entire dance floor was packed! The band "Dark Sunday" was the bomb!

I made a simple excel spreadsheet comparing the various costs that party rental companies in the surrounding area would charge for tables, chairs and linens, including how much they would charge to drop off, possibly set-up and pick up the items. Queen's Party Rentals in Glendale gave us the lowest possible price. I encourage you to make your own spreadsheet so you can clearly see what the best overall option is. Yes, I made spreadsheets for everything! Trust me, they will be your lifesaver :)

Vinnie's friend Krystle Eveza of Bloomeria Floral Design hooked us up. She did a fab job in working with my requests and let me come with her to the LA Flower Mart to see the flowers in person. She also showed me various downtown vendors where I could get items like the flowergirl basket, ring bearer pillow, guestbook, vases, table cloth for our sweetheart table etc.

I wrote a previous post about our wonderful favors! To read more about it, click here

There are tons of other details that I could get into but I won't. We were extremely blessed to have so many of our friends and family chip in to offer help and their services to make this day possible.

You may or may not have the cute give-aways or the designer cake you once dreamed of, but what's important is that you both are committing to be at each other's side from this point forward. All the other details will work themselves out beyond what you could even hope for or imagine! Things that seemed soooo important have their ways of getting set aside for the largest priority at hand- marrying the person you love. And when love is in the air at a wedding.. YOUR wedding, the guests could care less about the absence of favors or fake flower petals.

Venue $2,180.00 ($500 refundable deposit)

Tables/Chairs/Linens $811.00

Catering $3,585

Cups $75.00

All Beverages: ice, water, sparkling cider, sodas $400.00

Decorations $280.00 vase, candles, paper lanterns, lights

Flowers $600.00

Invitations & Stamps $250.00

Music GIFT

Videographer GIFT

Photographer GIFT

Cake $280.00

Favors $100.00

Misc $150.00 Cake Topper, cake cutter, ring bearer pillow, cake stand, guestbook, sweetheart table cloth, garter, table placement #s

Tip "Day of" Coordinator $400.00

Dress $750.00

Alterations $150.00

Heels $60.00

Veil / Hairpiece $75.00

Jewelry GIFT


Make-up GIFT

Nails $60.00

Groom's Attire GIFT

Pants & Shoes $100.00

K's Dress $165.00

His Wedding Band $800.00

Her Wedding Band $625.00

K's Heels $35.00

Bridesmaid's Jewelry GIFT

Grand Total $11,931

Kelly + Kendall

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meet Kelly & Kendall! They're getting married on September 24, 2010 and the minute I saw their engagement pics, I melted. Talk about one fun and steamy couple! Their photographer Sandra Villanueva at NewVillage Photography did a superb job at capturing their personalities, I just love how the colors pop. Photos were taken in Los Angeles at Griffith Park's Travel Town and Ferndell Park garden walk; their inspiration came from Kelly's affinity for bikes and their passion for adventure. Check out their save the date idea- they both work in film and their director's slate board is the perfect prop!

Bridal Emergency Kit

Friday, July 9, 2010

Imagine the button of one of the straps on your wedding dress coming loose and not having anything to fix it! That's exactly what happened to me. After taking photos with the bridal party, I noticed one of my straps kept falling. There wasn't a mini sewing kit around, but luckily, one of my bridesmaids was able to conjure up a safety pin and turn the straps into a halter. It was actually a much more flatering look. Thank God for creative and resourceful friends!

You never know what might be needed the day of, so preparing a handy emergency kit for the bride and bridal party might not be a bad idea.

Here's a list I put together of a few essential items that can definitely come to the rescue. Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

oil blotting papers - reduce excess facial shine

hairspray - tame those unruly flyaways

comb & bobby pins - keep the 'do together

deodarant - keep it fresh

mints - keep your breath smelling like a candy cane

perfume or body spray - keep you smellin like a lady

hand sanitizer - kill those nasty germs incase you can't wash your hands

compact mirror - always a good idea to be close-up ready

bottled water - keep yourself hydrated

straws - don't mess your lips up

healthy snack - for energy

lipgloss - touch up your pucker
flip flops - do your feet a favor

band aids - a must for blisters or cuts

tissue - gotta have something to soak up your tears of joy

cotton swabs - great for fixing eye make up smears

tylenol - incase you need to get rid of a headache

antiacids - don't let gas or heartburn ruin your day

super glue - incase you need to glue a thinestone back on

safety pins - because you never know what might need a fixin!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Every now and then we receive an invitation that graciously says "no kids allowed, adult reception only." More and more couples are choosing this option to either cut down on costs or avoid dealing with a bunch of kids running around while the adults are trying to enjoy an open bar. Although it can be convenient for the bride and groom, it can go one of two ways for the parents- either enjoy a night off or stress on finding a baby sitter.

I'm fond of weddings that include children because children bring their own unique joy to an environment and weddings are about family and seeing the generations come together.

I loved my friends Kelly & Kendall's idea of throwing a picnic the day before the wedding. They decided on an "adult reception only", however this pre-wedding get together gave them an opportunity to mingle with their guests and host a family friendly space where children are welcome.

If you're contemplating on having kids attend your wedding, here are a few thoughts to consider:

-Kids eat less than adults (generally and especially younger aged children). This worked out well for us when we planned our buffet style dinner.

-When inviting children to your wedding, your goal is to provide high entertainment with low supervision. Kids don't have to be running around. You can designate a "Kids Corner" to keep them entertained. Depending on the age range of the kids, you can set up a special table filled with gift bags, snacks or activities such as: coloring books, watercolor, play-doh, card games, cookie decorating or set aside a room where they can watch a dvd and relax.

Photo credit: Richard May Photography, Elizabeth Anne Designs