Where I Splurged and Where I Saved

Splurge is such a silly word.  It’s fun to say.  Try it.  Splurge.  Doesn’t it feel satisfying?

Okay, back to the point.  Not all of us have an unlimited wedding fund (because if I’d had one, there would have been an epic ice cream sundae station and a gigantic chocolate fountain at our reception).  The average bride has to prioritize and figure out exactly what is most important.  Enter: the budget.  In the words of Mrs. Wallaby, talking about money is so awkward.  But I’m going to bite the bullet and do it.  Here is what we spent, category by category.  (Sorry for so many approximations.  I can’t imagine how some brides get everything right down to the cent.  I’m just rounding.)


  • The dress, veil, and alterations were a gift from my aunt.  But for fun, let’s guestimate.
  • Dress: A gift.  Price was approx. $1800, LaRaine’s Bridal Boutique, Lis Simon Constance
  • Veil: ?? $250? (Yikes! But also a gift.) LaRaine’s Bridal Boutique
  • Alterations: approx. $350 (and also a gift) (bra purchase included)
  • Tights: Free! They were already in my closet!
  • Shoes: Free! Bought years ago and never worn.
  • Earrings: A gift!
  • Hair Flower: $5 handmade from Michael’s
  • Hair: Free! Friendor 🙂
  • Bouquets: $3 each (so $15 total)
  • Make-up: Free! DIY ftw.
  • Mr. Whale’s suit: $400 from Men’s Wearhouse


How we saved: Ummm… by getting gifts?  But seriously.  I didn’t buy new shoes.  I made my hair flower.  I did my own make-up.  The shoes and hair flower alone probably saved close to $200.  And the bouquets! At $3 a pop, we had some serious savings there.  We also chose not to do boutonnieres for the guys or corsages for the moms and grandmas.  No one seemed to miss them (though Mr. Whale recently said that he wishes he’d had a pink boutonniere!).

But let’s be real.  My dress was a splurge!!  For me, it was the second most important thing about the wedding after the actually act of getting married.  So I wasn’t going to settle for something I didn’t absolutely love.  Hey, we’ve all got to have some splurges.

Our Wedding!!! 506


  • My engagement ring: $67 from QVC
  • My wedding band: $400 from Zales + insurance plan with free sizing and cleaning (approx. $100)
  • His wedding band: $250 from Zales + insurance plan with free sizing and cleaning (approx. $50)


How we saved: We obviously saved a ton on my engagement ring.  And I have no regrets.  I LOVE my ring.  We also saved on my wedding band.  I chose a very thin band with very tiny diamonds.  Since the diamonds are so tiny, I didn’t care at all about their quality.  Oh, and the ring was originally $600.  Yay for sales!

Did we splurge? Oh yeah.  Mr. Whale could have gotten a $40 tungsten carbide ring from amazon. But he wanted a nice white gold band.  So we splurged.  He loves his ring, and it was totally worth it. (Funny story: We just bought him a stand-in ring to wear while his is getting the scratches buffed out.  It cost one cent. One cent!!! Amazon is an amazing place.)

Our Wedding!!! 032


  • Venue: $1200 (Included all chairs and all set-up and take-down.)
  • Marriage License: $66

How we saved: We had absolutely ZERO decorations for our ceremony.  It was outside.  The place is gorgeous.  We didn’t even have an arbor, because we didn’t want to block the view of the mountains.

Did we splurge?  Sort of but not really.  I don’t think we splurged here.  The ceremony spot was right next to the reception spot.  So they were packaged together for $2500 total.  For our budget and what we wanted, I think we found a steal.


Venue: $1300

How we saved: A lot of nearby places had big food and beverage minimums.  Southern Tree Plantation did not.  They also allowed us to bring in all of our own alcohol.  AND, she allowed us to set-up the day before and take down the day after.  That alone is almost worth the money.

Did we splurge? Eh, maybe. We could have found a cheaper place.  But it wouldn’t have been in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As far as that area goes, we saved big time.

Our Wedding!!! 642

Food:  $1700 ($17 per person)

  • Cocktail hour snackies: veggie tray + meat & cheese tray (Nothing too fancy, but guests were pleased.)
  • Dinner: Buffet of pasta with choice of pesto sauce or marinara, grilled chicken, garlic shrimp, julienned vegetables, caesar salad, and garlic bread.

How we saved: Food can destroy your budget.  I am so glad we served dinner for all our guests.  But I’m also soooooo glad we didn’t splurge on some outlandish dinner.  I didn’t even eat anything.  And as long as the food tastes good (which it did… I had a few bites), the guests are usually happy.

Did we splurge?  There was another menu options for $15 per person, so you could say we splurged on this option.  But really… we were all about saving here 🙂

Our Wedding!!! 557

Alcohol: $600

How we saved: Our venue allowed us to bring in our own beer and wine, which was fabulous.  We were a little bummed that we couldn’t have liquor, but flasks for the groomsmen solved that problem pretty quickly 🙂

Did we splurge? Kind of.  Because we could bring whatever beer we wanted, we could splurge a little.  We bought Fat Tire, Newcastle, Blue Moon, and Angry Orchard Cider.  Yum!!

Our Wedding!!! 698

Centerpieces: $110-ish for 15 centerpieces:

  • $50 for a lot of Skittles
  • $30 for lollipops
  • $5 for glitter squares
  • $25 for table numbers
  • $2 for tea lights (from Ikea)

How we saved:  We chose not to do floral centerpieces.  Also, for a year I saved salsa jars, jelly jars, pasta sauce jars… all jars.  So all the containers were free.  When each table had 5 or 6 jars, that expense could have added up.  I definitely endorse DIY centerpieces (as long as they’re relatively easy… mine were).

Our Wedding!!! 210-edit

Photobooth: $130-ish

  • Sparkbooth software: $55 (soooooooo worth it!!!)
  • Random props from Target and Amazon: $65-ish
  • Backdrop: $10 of crepe paper taped to the wall 🙂

How we saved:  We made this a DIY project.  I was SO skeptical about whether it would work well.  But it was the center of the party.  Everyone loved it.  I made sure to have a TON of props.  And I never spent more than $5 on any one prop. (I think the pricey item was the feather boa.)  Most props cost less than $1.

Our Wedding!!! 668


  • Cake + Cupcakes: $225

How we saved: Oh man, I so wanted an epic wedding cake.  It was my dream.  But at the end of the day, I just wasn’t ready to pay several hundred dollars for that cake.  So, we went the cupcake route.  And the six-inch cake was a gift from the cake lady.  Oh, and my mom gathered cake stands from all kinds of people.  That way we didn’t have to pay a stand rental.

Our Wedding!!! 531-crop

  • Candy Buffet:
    • Candy: approx. $100, all purchased at Wal-Mart
    • Jars: $60.  Some were free. Others ranged from $5 – $15.
    • Spoons and such: $10

How we saved: This might sound weird, but I bought some of our candy in Mexico!  The unicorn pops and the brightly colored marshmallows were brought back in a suitcase.  The other stuff I bought on sale at Wal-Mart right after easter.  If you’re planning on having a candy buffet, think about whether any holidays have your colors.  Then go to the store the day of or the day after the holiday.  Cheap candy! (And you get the good stuff!)

Did we splurge? Oh yeah.  I mean, we didn’t even have to have a candy buffet? (Who am I kidding? I had to have one.)  But I did splurge on some of the candy.  Specifically, Reese’s peanut butter cups, peanut butter M&M’s, and Rolo’s.  Those things are freaking delicious.  While planning, Mr. Whale said to me, “We had better have good candy at this candy buffet of yours.  Because otherwise it’s a stupid idea.” (He’s a charmer.) 🙂  So, we had some delicious candy.  And it was worth a few extra bucks, because the good candy was devoured.

Our Wedding!!! 523

DIY Projects and Various Miscellany

  • Painted Signs: $1
  • Bubble Machine: Free!
  • Mad-libs: approx. $10
  • Escort Card Set-up: $30
  • Card Box: $25
  • Sparkly Hearts Garland: $15
  • “Mr” & “Mrs” Sign: $5
  • “Just Married” Banner: $5

Photographer and Videography

  • Brenda Upton Photography: $2950
    • Eight hours of coverage with two photographers
    • Digital rights to all photos
    • Engagement shoot + all photos (extra $200)

Splurge or Save? Neither really.  Brenda is a fabulous photographer.  Her assistant is also a fabulous photographer.  They cost a lot of money, but I adore our photos.  No regrets here.

  • Edwin Hammond of Hammond Studios: $1455
    • All day coverage (at a single location) with one videographer
    • Highlights reel of the “getting ready” portion of the day
    • Multiple-camera coverage of the ceremony
    • Final DVD with full ceremony, reception entrance, all toasts, cake cutting, any special stuff (we had several music performances), and a montage of dancing/partying

Splurge or Save? Big save! Edwin could definitely be charging A LOT more money than he does.  He is so so talented, and my only regret in the videographer department is that I didn’t get his gold package instead of the silver package!  He is so good that I wished we had paid more to get more great stuff.  I cannot recommend him enough.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/70124263″>Erin & Matt’s Wedding Sneak Peek</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/hammondvideo”>Hammond Studios</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Gratuitous re-posting of our video sneak peek? Yes. I have no shame.

The Band

  • Suckerpunch: $3000
    • Included five band members for the full reception
    • Included all emcee-type stuff.
    • Band provided all sound equipment and lights.

Let’s not even pretend we saved. The band was a splurge.  (Realistically, they’re not too expensive as far as bands go, but $3000 is a serious chunk of change.) Mr. Whale and I both reeeeeally wanted a band.  So we pared down other parts of the budget (like food or a pricier venue) so that we could have a band.  And they rocked.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Did we end up over or under budget?

I’m honestly not sure, lol.  I think we went a bit over, but not many thousands over.  But we paid everything off, and we had  a great time.  If I could do it all over again, I don’t think I’d change a thing.


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