Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Wedding Photographer's Wedding

I get a lot of brides on a budget. Of course, who isn't? Some of you who are getting married are always looking for ideas and to see how others did it. So here's my story. Maybe it will help, maybe it won't.

For my husband Andy and I the most important thing to us was that it was like a family reunion. We were going to have family coming in from all over the country and Puerto Rico.

For most weddings, the wedding is held at a church or park and then the reception is inside. As people get bored or tired they go home or to their hotel. I wanted everyone to hang out as much as possible, for me, I wanted to rent a resort where we could feasibly do the wedding and have EVERYONE stay. That way if one person got tired they could go to their room and come back later if they liked.

We searched the web for places. Most required a week stay. We figured if we rented a beach house or something we would have several bedrooms and ALSO have the option of having the reception and/or wedding there, also saving money. We wanted it to be in Florida or Georgia, for travel reasons.

Another big concern is, we have a labrador, Onyx. With everyone we know coming to the wedding we wanted somewhere where she could come as well. (She has seperation anxiety, so leaving her at a kennel would not be a good idea, she tears through things when she is left somewhere she doesn't know.)

Here are some of the places we checked:
VRBO had tons of listings, like this one http://www.vrbo.com/10941

These didn't allow pets, last I checked:

The actual one we went with was: http://www.vrbo.com/52590

We chose it because it had a main house and then like little hotel rooms for everyone. It was also right on a waterway, with a dock. It had a pool and a cabana with an ice machine. Plus a screened in room on the water that the guys smoked cigars in and plaid cards most nights.

WEDDING SITE $2,000 aprx.
At first, we were going to get married around the pool and then have the reception at the same location, but I started getting worried that would be too stressful. We went to the mall in Naples, Fla (where the wedding was, and about 7 hours from here) and I just randomly asked someone where people got married at around there. The lady told me that her daughter got married at a park on the beach and told me how to get there.

One of our first ideas was to get married on the beach, but we HATED the idea of sand all over our feet, etc.

So we went to the park the lady told us about and it was overlooking the beach, but with a regular sidewalk and grass. And I LOVED the palm trees.

We contacted the city and it only cost like $50 to reserve it! (Most city places are like this, just call!)

PHOTOGRAPHY (I gave him a room for the week and a tip. He also used my camera.)
I used to work at a professional photography lab in town and my manager Clinton did my photography. He hates doing weddings, they stress him out, but I conned him into coming down and shooting mine.

While I realize, that I'm a photographer, and you're going to thing, "of course she is saying that," for me, honestly, having nice wedding photos was extremely important to me. Because, even a year later, you may not remember a lot of stuff about the event, but the photos will capture everything you worked so hard on. For me, planning the wedding became all consuming, and the pictures kind of helped save all those memories for me.

This is a shot after the wedding. I told him I wanted some photos of just the two of us with the mass of trees around us. And it is my FAVORITE photo from the wedding.


We didn't hire a videographer. My sister had a video camera and she filmed it. I asked about a year ago where the tape was and was told that the camera messed up. A tape would have been nice, but because we had such great pictures, I'm not as upset about it.

FLOWER GIRL'S DRESS (Fabric was like $2 a yard.)
Below is my wedding party. Our flower girl Calista has a purple bear she ALWAYS carries around with her. We were looking for a dress for her and they were all at least $50 or more. Her mom was in the wedding as well and I didn't want her to spend more money on something like that. I'm not a great sewer, but I decided to make her dress. And because I knew she would be carrying her bear too, I made her a matching dress as well.

I also had my labrador in the wedding. Some people hate this idea, some people like it. Onyx is a well behaved dog, so I thought it would be fun to have her as another "flower girl." So I made her a dress as well.

Some people, including my husband, would probably hate this photo because Onyx just plopped right down on my dress and went to sleep. I, personally, thought it was funny. She's a dog, that's what she does!

When walking down the aisle, our ring bearer held Onyx's leash in one hand (we had him practice walking her before the wedding, to make sure he understood how to control her) and held the flower girl's hand in the other. Calista was holding Justin's hand, her teddy bear AND her flowers. I don't think she actually dropped any flowers, but she did drop her basket! Onyx saw Andy at the end of the aisle and started walking faster, so there was Onyx leading the way, pulling Justin, who was still clinging to Calista, who was trying to grab her basket. To me, it's cute when things go wrong with the flower girls and ring bearers. (Her daddy came to the rescue and gave her her basket.) I have noticed however, that the new trend is not to have either. It can save some money and some extra problems, for me I didn't mind.

CAKE & FOOD (Aprx. $500-800 for several meals & the wedding meal, plus a broken stove $500)
For our cake, Andy's cousin made it. He also made our food. If we had to do it all over again, I would NOT have hired family. 1-If something goes wrong, who's going to pay for it? You think nothing will go wrong, but it does. We had issues of misunderstanding about "payment/gifts" to him as well as him just kind of doing his own thing when it came to decorating the cake, among other issues.

(We were dying in our wedding attire, so we changed when we got back to our hotel.)

Here's a pic from the second floor of the resort looking down. We had to rent it for the week and I think we ended up paying about $2,000 for it. That was our largest expense. But for us, it was well worth it. As you can see, this is about 2 days before the wedding and everyone is hanging out by the pool or swimming. It gave us all a chance to relax and hang out.

WEDDING FLOWERS (under $80, plus ribbon, $10)
For my wedding flowers, I wanted white and yellow daisies. I didn't want anything fancy and I just wanted them tied up with a ribbon, no bow (I'm not a frilly kind of girl). This isn't a great crop shot of the flowers, but it might give you a little better idea of what they looked like.
I called several flower places in Naples and finally found one that gave me a good deal. I paid $70 for a couple of boxes of daisies and a box of the greenery. My maid of honor and I then put the flowers together and tied them off with some ribbon I got from Joanns.
THE WEDDING DRESS (Dress I wore, $100, alterations, $75)
My dress I got from Ebay. I actually had I think 3 dresses total. I originally found one on the clearance rack at David's Bridal and bought it for $107. But it was really simple and I didn't like it that much. The dress wasn't extremely important to me and I didn't want to spend a fortune on it.
I bought another dress on Ebay with tags for a little over $100. It didn't quite fit right for me. I'm a bit top heavy and decided a 2 piece with lace up back would be ideal. There was one at David's Bridal with red that I really wanted but didn't want to pay the price for. I scoured the web for a second hand one, but couldn't find one in my size.
I also decided I wanted an ivory color, because I'm SOOOO white. I ended up finding this two piece dress, but it didn't have a lace up back. I found a seamstress in OP who charged me $75 to take out the zipper and add the lace up.
VEIL (less than $10)
For my veil, I bought tulle at Joanns. I was at a consignment shop and found the comb lying on the ground and tried to buy it, but the lady gave it to me instead. I took some white thread and sewed the tulle to the comb. I also bought some little beads with my blue color and put some accents on the veil.
The guys got their tuxes from Michaels. With us getting married out of town, I was really concerned about us getting to Naples and finding a rip or something not fitting right. The Michaels at the OP Mall said they had a sister store in Naples and if anything happened I could call them.

The day of the wedding, we found that my father's tux was missing. My sister in law had picked up the tuxes but didn't know how many she was getting, she just asked for all of our tuxes and took what they gave her. On the wedding morning, my dad ran to Michael's sister store, explained the problem and was basically told "too bad." If you know my father, he is a good "managerial" type and if there is a problem, people will usually fix it for him, because he's good at handling those situations. But not the tux store, he ended up having to pay for a SECOND tux rental and at a rush fee, which was nearly $200. When we got home, I tried contacting the manager at the OP store on several occasions and sent letters but NEVER got a response.


Because we had the resort for a week before the wedding, we invited everyone to come in and stay with us early. Few were able to do it. But those who did we made sure to provide lists of things to do in the area and scheduled events for each day. For example, we were close to the Everglades, so we went and did those airboats, which was a blast.

WELCOME BASKETS, GIFTS & DECORATIONS (Maybe $20 a basket, if that)

In each of the rooms we had a basket (2 for $1 at the $1 store) with a thank you note, lists of things to do in the area and a gift from us. We bought each room a nice deck of playing cards in a metal box. My mother has an engraving machine so each metal box was then engraved with the family's name on it who was staying in that room. My mother bought them in bulk and I think she spent less than $10 on each of them.

I think our groom's gifts were a nice knife set or all in one handy tool thing or something like that. We knew what we wanted and found a vendor who had them and then got a bulk discount. My mother engraved each person's name on them.

For the girls, I bought spa gift certificates in bulk (discount). This was great for two reasons, one-we could all do this together and two it gave everyone a chance to relax a bit.

On each of the wedding tables I had potted candles in my blue color. I found them at the $1 store.

Our wedding was in October, and we were having an evening wedding with an outside reception, so I wanted a bunch of lighting. I didn't want anything to drastic and I didn't want a bunch of decorations everywhere. I went to Home Depot and got about 30 strands of white lights and put them all over the trees. This provided a nice party atmosphere.

We had floating candles in the pool. I got those from Garden Ridge for like $3 a bag.


My husband and I rarely drink. And there's always that one person in every family who drinks too much, so we didn't want to spend a bunch on alcohol. I bought some Rum Runner and other mix tubs for $2 on clearance. The night before the wedding, Clinton and a couple of us did make an alcohol run (dad and brothers wanted some beers, and I needed rum for the girly drinks) and it cost about $100 total.


I was trying to save money where I could and decided not to hire a DJ. I got married in 2005, people were just starting to listen to burned music, but not all the CD players were capable of playing burned CDs. My friends brought over all their CDS and I copied what I wanted and also bought some CDs off of Ebay and Amazon.com and made my own mix CDS. A couple of days before the wedding, I went to Radio Shack and got a CD player. We tested a CD on it and all seemed to be fine. The day of the wedding, during the reception, the CD player started acting funny and stopped playing the burned CDs. We had to find a radio station, which sucked when the commercials came on.

Nowadays, you could probably get away with an IPOD and speakers, but I would def. test it on loud before you do it.

If I had to do it again, I would have hired a DJ. After shooting weddings, I realize that a good DJ can really keep the party going and everyone there!

As for dancing, I don't have any rhythm and don't know how to do much more than slow dancing. Andy and I took lessons for several months before the wedding. There is a place on 103rd, called Universal Ballroom that had a package deal for less than $100. We learned a basic cha cha, and some other dances. I still do the cha cha while I watch TV sometimes as it's good exercise.

Hubby has great ryhthm, so I was constantly screwing up the steps, but we were good and rehearsed for the wedding dance. It was nice to be able to do something different than a standard slow dance. Plus it's good to try and find other things to do with the hubby.

I had the bridesmaids walk down the aisle to "Its a Wonderful World" and I walked down the aisle to "Can't Help Falling in Love With You," by UB40. It's a song, Andy and I had heard on the beach before, and with the location of the wedding, I thought it was perfect.

Our first dance was to Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing," which we also used the lyrics in our invitations. The father/daughter dance was to "Stand By Me," by Ben E. King, because that is my favorite song and has a meaning to me and my father. Same is true of my mother dance to Rod Stewart's "Forever Young."

HAIR (aprx. $50 a person)

We wanted someone nearby to do our hair who was also affordable. There ended up being a hairstylist, right across the street from our hotel/resort. She was very reasonably priced. She had a book of pictures of hair she had done in the past, which was helpful to see her skill level. However, her photos weren't very nice looking. Because I was getting my photos on CD, I worked out a deal with her where I would send her professional copies of my hair, as well as my bridesmaids hair in exchange for a group discount. She liked this idea and I think our hair cost about $50 a piece. After the wedding I sent her several 8x10s of all of us girls.

MAKEUP (whatever we bought)

Someone told me to call Mary Kay or Avon, so I did. Typically, they'll do your makeup, usually if you buy some product from them. So I found a lady nearby who met us a week before the wedding to do a trial run. She was nice and I bought about $100 worth of makeup from her. She showed up on time and everything was great.

I do however, think there is a big difference between a Mary Kay agent and a professional makeup artist. I know this now. A lot of times, the agents are taught basic tips but don't know much more than that. It's kind of like the photographer's at (insert box store name here), they know how to click the button and make the kid laugh, but they usually don't know much more than that.

A professional can really help even skin tone (some have airbrushing machines!) and really make your makeup look good or bring out your eyes. Most makeup artists will do a trial run with you before your wedding to find the look you want. No matter who you choose, this is a GOOD idea. Not only can you make sure you like the person, and that they listen to what you want, but you can feel better knowing that you'll get what you want on your wedding day.

Makeup looks different on film then it does in person. And most people get scared of a little heavier makeup, but don't be! A good makeup artist knows how to make you look good. Plus if you do your trial run you can get photos done (maybe formal bridal or engagement session) and SEE how it looks on film to make sure you like it or to tell the makeup artist if you want anything changed.


One of the big things I wish I would have splurged on was someone to help clean up and do a lot of the little things, like a day of coordinator. After a wedding, most people plan on going home the next day, sometimes the first flight out and they get tired. So everyone started to clean up early even though I wish they would have relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Plus, it would have been nice to have allowed family members to relax more then run around putting up chairs, lighting candles, etc. At the very least, we should have hired 1-2 people and paid them $50 each to do that stuff. Would have saved a lot of hassle.

OFFICIANT & VOWS (aprx. $100 tip plus a room for the week at the resort)

We chose our friend and my husband's old music teacher John Shaffer to officiate over our wedding. He used to be a teacher at Forrest HS and he is an awesome Jazz musician. He also married my mother and stepfather. We sat down with him and went over the vows and he was very considerate of differences in people's religious beliefs.

The only thing I didn't clear up with him, which I should have, is how we were to be introduced. Many people like to say, "Introducing Mr & Mrs John Smith." I do not like that, to me, it's like saying I am no longer an individual person or that I am now property owned by the other person. If you like it that's fine, it's all a personal preference. But it might be something you want to consider.

Also, when choosing an officiant, I've heard some that are really religious, others that go on and on about their own wife, etc. Find someone that you feel comfortable with and matches your style.

INVITATIONS (aprx. $100)

Because we were doing the wedding out of town and wanted everyone to come in for a week, we immediately sent out a "save the date" to everyone. We did photo greeting cards, the 4x8 size that everyone sends out at Christmas.

We found a stationery company and ordered stationery. Then I printed the directions to the place, another note with activities and an official wedding invitation, plus another one for the mail back note. I still have some of the plain invitation paper, several boxes left actually. We used blue paper to make them coordinate and blue ribbon as well.


If you are having an outdoor wedding, you might want to ask the photographer when would be the best time to start. I got married right before I started doing a lot of weddings, so I did just that. I didn't know until the night before what time I was getting married exactly. Whenever anyone would ask, I would say "whenever Clinton says is a good time." We ended up getting married about 2 hours before sunset, which is an ideal time for lighting the wedding, but not so much for an outdoor reception, lol!


If you are getting married out of town, go down early to find vendors and meet with them face to face, who knows, you might not like them, or find someone better!

We got married out of Duval County, obviously. Because of this, we had two choices, either get our wedding permit 3 days before the wedding or take a marriage class in Jax that would allow us to bypass that rule. Because Andy had to work until the last minute, we took the class, so we got our marriage permit the day before our wedding in Naples.


Just a side note on vendors. Everyone always expects to see an album of photos from a photographer to see what they have done in the past, but remember, you want to be that way with EVERYONE!

Ask hair stylists, makeup artists, cake makers, florists, etc for photos of THEIR work. While you may not like the style of some of the things you see, look at the overall quality. And try a trial run. Sometimes if you book a vendor for a wedding, they'll refund you the trial. For example, some makeup artists will do your engagement photos makeup for free or discounted if you book them for your wedding day.

For vendors, like DJS, see if you can go to another wedding they are working and listen to how it goes. Is everyone bored? Does the DJ stay on top of everything and introduce things as they should?

If you go to a large company to book something, remember they have a lot of people working for them. Make sure the samples you are shown and like are being done/made by the people who will work on YOUR wedding. For example, large photography studios may have 100s of photographers across the country and they'll pick the best photos to put on the wall. Well that doesn't tell you how good YOUR photographer will be or what his/her style is. Make sure it is in your contract who will be working on your wedding.

And make sure you get a contract, it protects you and the vendor!


Whew, I think that's my longest blog yet, but I hope it's helpful to someone!

Just so you know, I spent about $5,000 on my wedding. The majority of it going to the resort rental, which was the most important part to us. Andy's parents helped out with some of the cost as well (paying his cousin to cook and for the damages to the hotel's stove) which was nice of them. My mother didn't like the idea of his parents helping with wedding costs, but to me it is nice when the guy's parents help out as well.

I think the most important thing to remember is it's YOUR wedding, do it YOUR way. Don't stress over the small stuff and don't worry about if everyone will like it or approve. No matter what you do, there will always be someone who doesn't like it, etc. If you don't want a white dress or bridesmaids or whatever, don't do it. There are very few weddings nowadays that are doing what has been the "typical" wedding.


Andi Pandi said...

This is a great post, thanks for all the details! I really like the idea of the all-inclusive venue that you used to do everything. I'm going to browse on your links!

ticketmagnet said...

That Aerosmith song is Our Song Too!& SoulShine by Gov't Mule or Allman Bros.