Pretty Maids All in a Row


I was SUPER lucky with my bridesmaids.  We only had to shop one evening and found the perfect dresses at the last store we stopped at.  It was fate!  The dresses were everything that they wanted and they met my one requirement (it had to be chocolate brown).  There were only 2 left on the clearance rack and in they were in their sizes!  They ended up spending less than $30.

For those of us who have been bridesmaids (some more than others) you know it’s not usually this easy.  My good friend got married 6 weeks before myself.  Looking for the bridesmaid dress for her wedding was an adventure to say the least.  Several hours over several days where spent scouring the stores and the internet.

Many of you may be embarking on this dreaded task.  Most modern brides have shed the idea that everyone has to wear the same (horrible) dress.  They want something that is flattering for the girl herself, something that she may actually wear again.  If you fall into this category you should still give your girls some direction.  Tell them exactly what colors you’re looking for.  Are there things you definitely want them to stay away from (i.e. patterns, lengths, fabric).  Are you going to be sharing in the cost or is it up to them?

In my case I told the girls I wanted them to wear chocolate brown and that I preferred a cocktail length (since it was a more casual wedding).  That was it.  They tried on several that day, but there was nothing that THEY felt comfortable in (which was my biggest concern) until the last dress.  They paid for their dresses that day (again less than $30!) I paid for the pashminas and necklaces (again different ones to reflect their tastes).  And they looked LOVELY!  





If you’re looking for some inspiration check out some of these great deals (all under $130):







My Next Project….

Working on a book based on mine and other FBF weddings!  Tips, DIY projects, professional services, ect.  Officially started yesterday.  It’s a bit daunting, but I’m excited as well!  Here’s the intro I wrote.  What do you guys think?

“One very cold December day in New York City a couple walked the streets enjoying the sites.  They had both been there many times before, but this day was special.  It was special because after 5 and half years in front of Rockefeller Center, he got down on one knee and held out a beautiful ring!  This is the part where you say “awwwww”.  Yes, this was a perfect moment that I will cherish forever.  I was marrying my best friend!  Of course, for years I knew that I would one day, but it was finally here and real. 

We all know that most women have been planning their weddings in their heads since about the age of 10.  I definitely fit that stereotype.  Even though I’d only had the ring on my finger for about 24 hours, I couldn’t help it! Cue the immediate planning!  I didn’t go crazy, just started planning the date.  I knew it had to be a fall wedding.  To me though, 10 months just couldn’t work.  So, I gave myself a year and 10 months.  October 22 would be the day. 

Having been a wedding photographer for years (plus watching every wedding planning show available) I was pretty pre-paired.  I knew the venues I liked, the dress designers I loved, the photographer who’s work I adored.  Then I got a slap of reality.  We just didn’t have that much money.  We both had a small mountain of debt.  We made enough to live on comfortably, but where would the extra thousands come from for a wedding?! 

After discussing it with his parents we knew they would not be able to contribute much.  My father could, but he was paying for my education and I didn’t want to ask for more.  Thankfully he went ahead and sent me money anyway, but we’ll get to that later.  So, we knew most of the finances would be on us.  This changed a lot of our planning! 

He comes from a large Italian family, and of course we wanted everyone there.  We were looking at about 80 people in just family members.  Then you add in our friends, 100 people easy.  This all sounds very typical for a wedding.  But, when looking at our tiny budget we could just tell it wasn’t going to work.  This was the hardest decision to make, but we had to majorly cut the guest list.  We went down to immediate family and close friends, about 30 people.  We looked at many venues, and fell in love with one in particular.  But, even with shaving every corner I couldn’t get the total budget below $5,000.  Even $5,000 was a big chunk for us.  It would mean slacking on our debt and even putting off a house.  This just seemed insane to us.  Finally we sat down and discussed it.  We decided that we would rather invest in our future rather than one day.

It was settled. We were maxing our budget at $3,500.  With a little help from family this was doable and would still give us a special day to remember!  I remembered a wedding I shot the previous fall for a friend.  It was her second marriage and they decided to go very small (about 20 people).  They rented a cabin in the mountains and had the ceremony outside.  Followed by a luncheon at a local restaurant.  I suggested this to my fiancée.  When we couldn’t find a venue that fit our budget, we decided to go this route as well.  Once we finally decided on a course of action everything started to fall into place. 

We had a beautiful wedding for $3,300 (under budget!).  Along the way we also have had other friends planning small budget or DIY weddings that we’ve gotten to help with.  Armed with all my wedding and general frugal knowledge I have been helping others along the way to a frugal but fabulous wedding!  I would love to help you on your journey as well. 

This book contains DIY projects, saving tips, menu samples, trusted companies, and much more!  You will see real photos from real weddings to draw your inspiration from.  I’m so excited to be helping you along the way on this amazing journey!  Now, lets get to planning!”

Looking Back, What I Should Have Done Differently

I have told you many great things about my wedding so far.  We stayed in our small budget, everything was beautiful, ect.  However, no FBF wedding goes off without a hitch (nor do many of the $20,000+ for that fact!).  And now for a few not so glamorous details.  Looking back, there would be a few things I would have done differently.  But, really only one thing I absolutely would have done different.  And sadly it was a BIG thing….my photographer.

Here’s the sad tale. I’m a photographer, shot I can’t tell you how many weddings. While trying to stay in our small budget, I broke my cardinal rule and decided to go with a friend to do the photos……She lives in Wyoming (I live in GA). I sent her money in July to purchase a plane ticket. 3 days before my wedding she calls to say she never bought the ticket and was flying stand-by, but 99% sure she wouldn’t make it! Unfortunately, she did make it.

She put us 3 hours behind the day before the wedding, which means I was also WAY behind the day of.  If this was a wedding where I had a planner and a crew this may not have been such a big deal.  But, everything (the food and the decorating) was all supposed to be done the day before by myself, my fiancé and my Mom.  Plus, we had never even been to this cabin.  I had no idea where everything was even going to go!

She was rude to everyone, a few colorful words were used by many guests to describe her. BUT, after all the grief and stress she put on me that day, I thought I could deal with it as long as the pictures turn out great! To my coplete horror she FINALLY sent me a flash drive 2 months later. Over half are out of focus, overexposed, underexposed. And the other half she has lost! I am in complete dispair! I have no bridals, we have maybe 3-5 good shots of the two of us as a couple. We have none of the dances, or with our bridal party and are missing family photos. In total we have about 92 images from her that were usable.  It just breaks my heart!

I share this with you to hopefully help you from the same mistake I made.  I had a feeling that maybe I shouldn’t mix friendship with business.  I rarely shoot weddings for friends myself.  But, I quieted my fears.  I thought to myself, she will do a good job and it’s only costing about $700-$750.  You can’t beat that…..Yes, yes you can!  I should have stuck with my gut instincts and hired a strictly professional person.  All the while this woman was driving me absolutely crazy, but I felt I couldn’t really lose my temper because she wasn’t just an employee, she was a friend (a distant friend, but still).

There are two saving graces to this sad tale!  One, I had many guests who took some great shots! I am able to pad her shoddy work with some of their images.  And two, the important things still happened that day.  I still go to have a wonderful moment with Craig before the ceremony.  The ceremony was beautiful and we got married.

We’ll be doing some new photos on our anniversary.  But, I got the most important memories in my mind anyways!

I’ve already posted many of the ones I was able to use in posts and on the Facebook page. Here is a sample of why I’m heartbroken.

I wanted a “sneak peek” so bad.  Just a moment for the two of us before the ceremony.  They were all out of focus or overexposed like this one.  My Mom made this bolero for me.  She and I both wanted some photos.  The photographer took about 10….all out of focus.

 Sadly this is the best shot of us with our bridal party.

 This is the one bridal shot I have.  It was close to being good.  If she had just exposed it a little more.

 me and my girls.  Kept telling her the lighting was bad.  I was in the shade and they had the sun shining right in their faces.

because she put us so far behind, the ceremony started an hour late.  Which meant the sun was not where it supposed to be during the ceremony.  I picked that spot because of how the sun would shine at 3:00, not 4:00.  So, the whole ceremony has the sun shining right in our friend’s face and on me (and not in a good way as you see).

I don’t want to overload you on bad photos.  I’m sure you get the gist by now.  This is a visual presentation of what to avoid.  This along with the fact that she lost the card of some family shots, the dancing, the bride and groom shots, the shots we took with our Best Man and Maid of Honor, my bridals, and many others….. To which, she just shrugged off.

Make sure you intrust your precious memories to someone who will treat them that way.   Do you have friends that recently got married?  Ask them for referrals.  Check local business sites, the BBB, and blogs.  I’m someone who knows better, and I should have trusted my gut.  I hope that this helps you to do the same!