Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Phone a Friend

Brant and I are blessed with a ton of talented, generous friends. Talented, generous friends can sometimes equal cost savings.

One such friend is Chad Glenn. Chad and I have been friends for many years and Brant easily became his friend, as well. We three hang out often, we have a lot in common, we're in similar places in life. We even asked him to be an usher in our wedding. (He was honored to accept.)

Chad is an architect by day, but is a very accomplished photographer on the side. Traditionally he's taken a lot of pictures of buildings and things, but we knew he'd do an amazing job with our engagement photos. And we were correct!

Now for the record, we tried to pay Chad. We tried to pay him in cash. But for six hours of snapping photos and untold hours of culling through and editing those photos, he did not let us pay him. WHAT A GIFT!! I'd be posting about this even if he hadn't given us this incredible gift because we would have paid a lot less using a friend for this project than if we'd used a professional, and we would have wanted to share this idea with others. But Chad -- in every way -- went above and beyond and made it even more affordable! :)

Moral of the cost savings story: In every bride or groom's life, there is probably a friend who is either a professional willing to give a "friends and family discount" or an amateur interested in building his/her experience base and portfolio. DO IT!

Here are some favorites from our photo shoot:

Enjoy! And thank you, Chad!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Say Yes to the [Inexpensive] Dress!

My Top Five Suggestions for Saving Money on a Dress:

#5: Borrow one. Seriously. None of us are wealthy enough to afford some crazy one-of-a-kind gown, which means you're inevitably going to be wearing one that lots of other women have worn this year anyway. Why not pay anything more than the dry cleaning costs??

#4: Craig's List and eBay. I actually located some really lovely dresses on eBay and would have considered ordering one if they weren't so far from my own dress size that I would have spent as much on alterations (plus shipping and the cost of the dress) as I would have on a new dress. That said, if it had come down to it, I would have continued looking if I hadn't found something by this spring.

#3: David's Bridal clearance and outlet. I'm not going to lie: I'm not brave enough to order a new dress off the internet. My tech savvy friends give me well-deserved crap for my elderly-woman-in-fear-of-a-scam-esque ways, but it is what it is. However, I spent a LOT of time browsing those dresses (thanks to Vanessa) and would have gladly gotten over my fear if I hadn't found the right dress in a store.

#2: Hit the department stores and their websites. Macy's, White House Black Market, and Nordstrum's were all places where I found really great dresses. However, most if not all were only available online. See point #3.

And my #1 favorite bargain dress shopping discovery: Find a bridesmaid dress you like and order it in WHITE! (Or ivory, or champagne, or whatever you're looking for.) Some stores don't carry bridesmaids dresses that can be ordered in white because they've wisely caught onto this loop hole. The fact is, there are a crap ton of awesome floor-, tea- and knee-length bridesmaids dresses that would make perfect bridal dresses, but because they're not called "bridal" dresses, they're rarely more than $200. Word.

A runner up would be "Do not try on a dress unless it's in your price range." Really, why torture/tempt yourself like that? My mom offered to buy my dress and I gave her a much lower budget than she would have given me, but we compromised and my dress cost $250. And we're both very happy.

And speaking of my dress...

All told, I went to "I Do" in Old Town, "Dress Gallery" in Delano, "David's Bridal" (as if it needs quotes), and "Parrot-Fa-Nalia" in south Wichita. We hit those last two stores this last Saturday in hopes of finding THE dress. And we did!! It was really fun and I loved having many of the the amazing women God's put in my life around me to shoot me straight. My mom, my step mom, my future mother-in-law, and three of my bridesmaids were there for some or all of the day, and for the record, all those who were present when I came out in THE dress got all misty eyed and verclempt. Always a good sign. :)

Of course, I'm not going to show you THE dress. But I will show you some of the rejects. Now PLEASE FOR THE LOVE, these dresses are only "rejects" because they weren't right for me, for me and Brant, for this wedding. Not because they're not beautiful.

That said, feel free to vote on whichever one of the following three you think looks least flattering on me...or you can vote for whichever facial expression is most telling...

This is me and my mom carrying my dress out of David's. (Quick David's plug: Our experience was awesome. If you go, ask for Tiffanie. Best. Retail. Salesperson. Ever.) Since I'm not much of a foofy dress girl, my mom wanted a picture of the equivalent of her getting to carry my train...since this is the closest she'll ever get. It's immortalized forever now, Mom! Thanks for the kick ass wedding dress! I love you and appreciate you!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

As Vanessa Would Say: You're Welcome


This is my new favorite blog.

Check out the color palettes. It's a very long scroll, but very worth it. Lots of doable DIY ideas. There's a Memphis wedding near the bottom that's very similar in look and feel to what Brant and I will be going for. FUN!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Important Stuff (Part 1)

Now, no one needs to tell me that "the most important stuff to happen on my wedding day are God shows up and two people get married." I've been singing that song all my life. So let's go ahead and agree that those two things will happen on July 3, 2010. No need to rank the importance of those two elements; they're the hub of the wheel. Everything else? Spokes.

Well, there are a couple of spokes in particular that are of utmost importance to me, and fortunately my beloved agrees. One of them is food.

That's right folks. My dress could be from a thrift store rack. Our flowers could be from Mr. Crawford's floor. But the food better be freakin' awesome, because we love to eat, and we love to break bread with others!

Thanks to the aforementioned, long-standing relationship with Bella Luna Cafe in Wichita, there was really no other place to bother going. Our menu of heavy hors d'oeuvres will include hummus (yeah, baby!), chicken kabobs, stuff mushrooms, chicken salad in filo dough "bird's nests," and some other fun goodies. Seriously, I couldn't be more excited.
I'm not putting the price per person BLC is charging us because I don't want to put them in a bad place with ever having to match it, but you'll just have to believe me when I tell you we're getting a pretty serious friends-and-family discount for the incredible variety and quality of food we'll be enjoying at the reception. We love you, Bella Luna!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Heart Dave Ramsey

Money is a very emotional subject. It's impolite to talk about it. Heck, did you notice I started off this blog by revealing what we paid for our wedding stuff and then stopped? Why did I do that? Because money and spending is deeply personal. We're more likely to talk about our sex lives than our financial lives. (For the record, we're paying $1,300 for the photographer -- which, sadly, is very reasonable considering what we're getting. And I paid $22.95+tax for the Mennonite in a Little Black Dress book.)

But I am going to go ahead and be uber-transparent on this blog moving forward. It was the transparency and humility demonstrated by others, which the Lord used to change my heart about money. And I hope to pay it forward.

So this is kind of a "Pause for the Cause" post. After college, I spent more than I made. This made me exactly like the vast majority of middle class Americans. I need only look to the current amount of consumer debt spread across America to know we've got a problem: $2.5 trillion. I contributed significantly to that figure by single-handedly racking up $24,000 in credit card debt.

Twenty. Four. Thousand. Dollars.

Like so many Americans, I got it in my head and my heart that I needed to live a life that looked like that of my friends...friends with spouses (read: two incomes)...friends with whom I interacted professionally (read: older, way higher salaries and two incomes). So I bought stuff and gave extravagant gifts and went on trips and ate out like it was my second job. And racked up all that debt. I lived a life where I had to serve the masters of Citi and Visa, which kept me from being able to serve the Sovereign Master of Creation. (Matthew 6:24)

There were several steps along the way that brought me financial sanity. There was the Crown Financial Ministries class I took with my BFF's Chris & Amanda. There was also the day when my BFF's Josh & Jessica broke free from their own debt, and I got to see how God used that freedom to allow them to adopt Jadon and lots of other blessings.

But it was Dave Ramsey who made it simple for someone like me to understand that I could and should get out of debt and live at or below my means. His "Steps to Financial Freedom" and his podcasts led me to make some drastic decisions: Namely, moving back from Boston to live with my parents for 18 months so I could pay off ALL my debt. To date, I am down to about $7,500 in debt and it will be paid off completely by the time I become Mrs. Brant Benninga. Praise God!! (And THANK YOU, Mom & Richard!!!)

You can watch a five minute video on Dave Ramsey's philosophy here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b--HwXE3064

To bring it back to the wedding planning...

One thing I learned from Dave is that when expenses get higher than income (and my "income" is altered by the equation: Gross Income - Debt Snowball Payments = Net Income) then it's time to MAKE MORE MONEY! For many years I've enjoyed a nice relationship with Bella Luna Cafe such that I can come in and wait tables whenever I needed to. However, at this time, it would be super-stressful in an already-stressful season to work on the weekends, so I'm trying to pull in as many house- and dog-sitting gigs as I can.

But Brant takes the prize. He's overload teaching again this semester, which means for the second semester in a row, he's teaching more than the full load of classes with no break and no planning period during the day. This results in some stress for him, but also some SERIOUS extra cash (way more than my housesitting!) and it means we will definitely be able to pay for some wedding stuff we'd been stressing about. YAY Brant and YAY God! We will also be having a spring garage sale and selling some stuff on eBay.

The moral of the story for anyone wanting to pay cash for a wedding: If you don't have the cash for something you really want, don't put it on a credit card, MAKE MORE CASH! (Thank you, Dave Ramsey.)

I hope writing about something so personal isn't making anyone uncomfortable. However, if my story of how God changed my heart about money inspires anyone else to think differently about how they live and work and spend and save, then it's worth it.