Sunday, February 3, 2013

PaC Man & Wife: Budget & Vendor Reviews

This is the post where things get real. Where you get to see how much we spent, where, and why. No doubt it's a tough thing to write about... money, and it's here for everyone to see, but I feel it's an important and instructive tool for planning brides.

Thanks to our 19-month engagement, we had more time than the average couple to sock away money. I took full advantage and saved 20% minimum of my take-home pay each month. The trick is to start early to beef up your savings - it's like retirement! The best part? Those funds were hardly missed.

We intentionally did not set a budget until we had real numbers to base it on. I mean, we could have easily set an arbitrary number and worked backwards, but you can imagine all the lovely conversations resulting from that idea. (You've probably had some of those yourself.) What we had were priorities. If it was important to us and cost a little more to get exactly what we wanted, we were fine with that.

Budget: loosely defined as $25,0000-30,000. We realistically expected to spend more than $25,000 given our desire for certain splurges, but hoped not to exceed $30,000. Thirty grand seemed to be our magic threshold. My parents were extremely generous and gifted us money equal to almost a third of our total expenses. Totally unexpected and unnecessary, but wholeheartedly appreciated!

Guests: 85

Venue: $2,165
Greenville Country Club - Greenville, DE

Greenville Country Club had every single thing on our want list and then some. All at an insanely awesome price for the total package. Considering that it is common practice among other venues to charge a (high) fee for the honor of setting foot on the grounds, this was a steal. From the beauty of the venue to the incredible service, you'd think they forgot to add a zero.

Included in the fee were the gardens, reception spaces (sunporch, terrace, and living room), use of two dressing rooms and private baths, and access to the venue the day before for rehearsal and set-up. And pretty much free reign of the mansion and grounds. Little things that add up like linens, tables, votives, and valet parking? All included. (The only extra expense was the fee for setting up the ceremony site - $465.)

Catering: $12,898.80

Greenville Country Club - Greenville, DE

Before committing to Greenville Country Club, we had reviewed enough quotes from area vendors to recognize a deal when we saw it. The average price per guest in Wilmington, Delaware starts around $85 and climbs to $200+. Our price per guest was $116 (or $121 if you add in the $5 split entree up-charge due to the three meal choices). With alcohol and all the extras, we came in at $151/person. Not bad considering it included a seated three-course dinner, a cocktail hour with stationary and butlered hors d'oeuvres, a Hotel Dupont cake of our choosing (and no cake-cutting fee), premium liquor, brunch for the wedding party, a four-person tasting, three vendor meals, and the 20% service charge. Due to some last minute guest cancellations, we were shy of the $12k catering minimum so we threw in more bottles of premium white wine and sparkling wine. Here's how the catering budget was split: $9,066 for food and $3,832.8 for beverages.

Photography: $4,800
Heather Fowler Photography

Hands down our biggest splurge. Hiring a great photographer was priority #1. It was the first thing I researched and I was at my most opinionated when discussing prospective photographers and packages. Mr. PaC wanted to keep it around $3,000, but appreciated the difference between photographers we didn't choose and Heather. She was flexible and straight-forward from the first meeting. Case in point: we didn't need albums so she allocated the money elsewhere.

Our package included eight hours of coverage, a second shooter, digital rights after 6 months, photo website, $300 credit for prints, proofs in either a hard-bound magazine or 4x6 loose prints, an engagement shoot, and unlimited amount of images. We added an extra hour at $300 so she could capture our last dance and sparkler exit.

If you are a Philadelphia-area bride with a similar budget and happen to be just as selective, you owe it to yourself to at least meet Heather. She is the sweetest and so easy to feel comfortable around. I knew we'd love her images, but she and second-shooter Sarah (who shot Heather's own wedding) captured some amazing moments. Better than the next best thing, which would have been me photographing everything. Sometimes you're the bride and have to put the camera down!

Flowers: $1,645.00 
Belak Flowers

This cost came in much lower than I anticipated after reading other local weddings' floral budgets. It helped that we had a small bridal party and guest list and that we DIYed the vases. Here's the breakdown: $160 for bride's bouquet, $140 for the girls' bouquets, $75 for corsages for the moms and my grandmother, seven boutonnieres for $70, and the 12 centerpieces came in at $1,200. The best part? Mr. PaC's mom picked up the tab for all of our flowers. (Maybe I shouldn't have been so frugal??!)

Belak Flowers exceeded every expectation. Barb, the owner, is a seasoned pro and delightful to work with. The two of us were so sympatico that I began to suspect she was a mind-reader. I cannot recommend her and the rest of the Belak crew highly enough. I trusted her enough to give her free reign after the initial meeting and she knocked it out of the park. Great quality of work, super responsive, insanely awesome price, and she surprised us with extra arrangements at no extra cost. (They are now our go-to florist!)

Music: $1,075
DJ Z Music

Our needs were simple (no gobo, exterior uplighting, etc) and that kept costs low, but DJ Z still provided excellent, attentive service. We didn't have to worry about music once! Everything worked as planned and we had a packed dance floor, thanks to Joe and his other DJ's ability to read the crowd and play what works.

Attire total: $4,984.45
Encompasses the my gown, his suit, our accessories, and other miscellany.

Bridal Gown: $3,913
Priscilla of Boston - Ardmore, PA (closed)

I adore my gown - "Wallis" from the Melissa Sweet collection. The dress retailed for $4,500 but I waited until a sale, received an additional discount for opening a store credit card, and had it shipped to Delaware (no sales tax - a $66 savings after shipping costs). After photography, this was the biggest single expense. No regrets.

Groom's Suit and Accessories: $420.99
Joseph A. Bank - Greenville, DE

His blue Joseph A. Bank suit was a good investment at $300. It's his best tailored suit and he's worn it to at least two weddings/events since. Other expenses were a crisp white shirt ($70), Macy's tie ($27.99), and alterations ($23). He wore his own shoes, belt, and cuff links.

Other expenses: $650.46
- $20 for alterations. So cheap that I doubled her fee as the tip! The bustle was so strong and well placed that it is still holding the train... almost 2 years after the wedding.
- $70 for the bustier for my bridal gown. Bonus that I have worn it since the wedding!
- $40 for my Seychelles sandals. So comfy and another item that gets a lot of wear.
- $20 for my blush and pink wedding earrings.
- $5.48 for my DIY hair flower.
- $99 for my white rehearsal dress.
- $340 for two bridesmaid dresses. Part of my gift to the ladies.
- $55.98 for two ties for the groomsmen. Part of Mr. PaC's gift to the guys.

Make-up: $210

This included both the make-up trial and the wedding day. Emily is a magician and transformed my pasty skin and freckles into loveliness and glamour. My make-up was beautiful and natural and gave me absolute confidence the whole day. For that, I am forever grateful.

Hair: $120
Hair by Natalie

My hair trial was a separate fee of $85 for two styles and travel. My mom insisted on covering this expense for me. (Natalie is retired now.)

Rings: $1,525
Benari Jewelers - Exton, PA

Mr. PaC chose a simple gold band and I went the custom route, but our costs stayed reasonable thanks to a $475 trade-in (on ex-boyfriend jewelry) and a $116 credit for buying both my engagement ring and our bands there.

(personal photo)

Rehearsal Dinner: ???
Iron Hill Brewery - Wilmington, DE

Our rehearsal dinner was at Iron Hill Brewery on Wilmington's riverfront. We had a private room with buffet service and open bar for about three hours. The rehearsal dinner was Mr. PaC's dad and step-mom's generous contribution to the wedding. Our involvement was limited to choosing entrees so we don't have a sense of the true cost. If I had to guess, I'd ballpark around $3,000 for our 45 guests, which included some serious alcohol consumption.

... And everything else: $3,173.82
All the little things below add up to a lot!

Gifts and Welcome Bags: $444.20
Includes shipping! (No massaging the numbers here.) This covers gifts to our three groups of parents, two groomsmen, two bridesmaids, cards, plus paper bags and goodies for our hotel guests.

Hotel: $238 - two nights at the Doubletree Hotel in North Wilmington
Transportation: $300 - rehearsal dinner (free) and wedding shuttles, includes $100 up-charge for extra mileage. Arranged through the hotel.

Ceremony: $579.04

- $485 for our officiant, David Braneky, from Journeys of the Heart. This included a one-hour phone consultation and emails to finalize the ceremony.
- $50 to make it legal (marriage license).
- $20.04 for a length of nautical line for the hand-fastening ceremony
- $24 for 15 white paddle fans.

Reception: $724.43
- $265 for 100 favors of Neuchatel truffles.
- $375 for five dance lessons with Bill Godsell. (The most fun Mr. PaC's ever had dancing with another man.)
- $52.95 for 60 sparklers
- $31.48 for glow necklaces

DIY: $888.15
- $338.09 for invitations and thank you notes. Includes ink, stamps, and postage. Self-designed and printed by a local printer.
- $142.86 for 50 paper lanterns and coin cell LED lights
- $78.78 for the photobooth rig, backdrop, and camera accessories.
- $10.50 for my Pain au Chocolat charm from etsy.
- $39 for our return address stamp that we continue to use.
- $37 for washi tape. It deserves its own line item.
- $89 for our Adorama guestbook with extra pages.
- $71.87 for the picture frames on the welcome table.
- $22.60 for the giant "X" and "O" balloons. Free helium from the venue.
- $58.45 misc supplies (apothecary jars, silk flowers, tea lights, white plastic frames and more)

... bringing us to a grand total of...

Ouch! Where did we go over? And more importantly, what can you learn from our wedding budget?

- The white elephant in the room is wearing my Priscilla of Boston dress. Like I said, no regrets.
- The $300 bump for an extra hour of photography. So worth it.
- DIY saves money, but is not free. Maybe this area could have been trimmed, but not by much.
- Deciding to take dance lessons. Definitely a last minute expense that was well worth it.
- Transportation and hotel. The extra $100 shuttle bus fee didn't help, but the expense that still irritates me is the discounted room credit we never received.

1. Buy the dress you love.
2. Spend money on things that matter and last.
3. DIY to save money but restrain yourself at the craft store/etsy.
4. Watch for sneaky add-ons and budget for overages.

Our budget did not include the honeymoon. We viewed that as a distinctly different expense to be funded from whatever we had left over. Because I know you'd be curious, here's a little treat! We spent $5,674 on our honeymoon. That covers everything, even our $800/person plane tickets that we should have booked when they were $600/person. 

(all photos by Heather Fowler Photography, unless otherwise noted)

Catch up on our PaC recaps!

Days Before
Wedding Morning

Monday, November 26, 2012

PaC Man & Wife: Ring of Fire

Whose idea was it to give inebriated guests giant sparklers? And encourage them to wave the lit wands enthusiastically at the bride and groom at an uncomfortably close distance?

Our sparkler display.

Oh. That would have been us.

We should have known better. Earlier in the night, a guest (who still remains anonymous) decided to test out the flammability of the sparklers and the lobby's interior by lighting a sparkler. WTH. Linda, our venue coordinator, has eyes in the back of her head because she was on it in moments. The bucket of sparklers and conveniently placed lighter (my bright idea) were hidden away until the grand sparkler exit. Not in the lobby. Outside.

(guest photo)

Mr. PaC and I realized we never gather the whole sparkler exit much logistical thought until we were standing in the foyer peering out at the guests... gleefully waving their unlit sparklers, one in each hand, with such zest that I began to question our sanity. A kitchen torch was produced and a succession of sparks zipped up the parallel ranks of the guests. This was it.


 (above two images: guest photos)

We stood at the beginning of the gauntlet and listened to the sparklers crackle and fizz. I was going to go up like a dried Christmas tree in February with all this hairspray. I emphatically motioned for everyone to step the hell back. Mr. PaC grabbed my hand tightly... and ran!

Woah, wait! We're running this thing?

We hurtled toward end of the line, slowing to a trot as we approached our getaway vehicle - one very fast convertible, idling in wait. I handed off my bouquet to my new husband, scooped up my voluminous gown, and hopped into the car. We glanced over our shoulders to our cheering friends and family still vigorously waving those sparklers. In this fleeting moment, all was perfect. 

The engine revved. Mr. PaC threw it into gear and I threw my hand triumphantly into the air, just as I did at the end of our ceremony, as we disappeared into the darkness. 

The warm summer night swirled all around us as we zoomed through chateau country past stone walls and old estates and chased us down into the valley over hills and summer fields. Intoxicating smells of sweet grass, the meandering Brandywine River, and finally the cool, green canopy of the park marked our ascent back into reality.

The night, and our adventure, was far from over, but this convertible ride concludes the Pain au Chocolat wedding recaps. Many times during that night, Mr. PaC and I remarked how much fun we were having, the speed at which the night was passing, and how we'd do it again next year... and the year after that! My one wish for every bride is to feel this way. To have so thoroughly enjoyed her wedding that she would do it again in a heartbeat. To feel the support of family, friends, and fellow bees. And, most importantly, love - the really good kind... heart-swelling, swoon-worthy, conquer anything kind of love - for her beloved.

(all photos by Heather Fowler Photography, unless otherwise noted)

Catch up on our PaC recaps!

Days Before
Wedding Morning

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PaC Man & Wife: Dance Me to the End of Love

Hi! Welcome to the insanity known as our second dance set! Good thing I embraced the dancing because the crazy was about to kick up a notch.

The glow sticks were a BIG hit. Planning brides take note: guests will want to wear more than one; double the amount you think you'll need. Our guests found inventive ways to wear them...

Necklaces, headbands, armbands, and even drink wraps.
(lower right: guest photo)

There were rumors of a strange tradition on Mr. PaC's mom's side of the family. I had yet to see it in person and wasn't entirely sure what it entailed, but some level of embarrassment was inevitable. What is this tradition I speak of?


Instigators or very enthusiastic participants?

Yes, I know. I was speechless too. Yes, those are dinner napkins. On their heads.

I have no idea where it came from but they've been doing it forever. And since the wedding was my official joining into their family, I had to participate. Thankfully, I had an "out" for wearing it since I was the bride... but I did have to wave it around until the ladies were satisfied.

(guest photo)

I retreated to my husband, tempted to hide behind him until the napkin craziness went away. But it wasn't going anywhere. I was the bride. There was no escaping it.

I shouldn't have been surprised when Mr. PaC joined the dancing. The lights and glow sticks were irresistible.

Or when the ladies encircled him. The napkin dance set off a wave of revelry that spread from person to person until the dance floor was packed. My grandmother? Kicking up her heels with the grandkids. My grandfather had to sit down because his pacemaker kicked in! Mr. PaC's uncle who'd just had knee replacement surgery? Oh, he was pain-free that night! Best of all, we were enjoying ourselves.


DJ Z ended the dance party with Donna Summer's disco anthem "Last Dance." I am not a fan of disco and would have wished to end our wedding night to a song that had meaning to us. I pushed hard for Madeleine Peyroux's version of "Dance Me to the End of Love" - a slow song and decidedly anti-climatic; Mr. PaC said no. But we never specified a last dance song and left it to chance... and I think the literal message of last dance worked well for our guests.

We would not have these great pictures had it been a slow, couples-only song.

When the last dance started, I was caught in the photo booth and squirmed away because, like it or not, this was our last dance song and I'll be damned if I was missing it! I found Mr. PaC, but he was already dancing with someone else. What the hell?!

What the hell, indeed!

A family friend and Mr. PaC were waltzing around the dance floor. They had gotten into a conversation and realized a minute later that they were still dancing. It was one of the more amusing unscripted moments of the wedding. Still, I had to cut in on their tender moment and finish the dance with my new husband.

Spinning in circles.

 One last hurrah!

Singing along... "Come on baby, let's dance toooooonight!"

Ending it with a kiss and double high-five! 

Things really heat up in the next recap! You won't want to miss it, promise.

(all photos by Heather Fowler Photography, unless otherwise noted)

Catch up on our PaC recaps!

Days Before
Wedding Morning

Monday, November 19, 2012

PaC Man & Wife: I Turn My Camera On

Gather your friends, grab your props! It's time for the photo booth images!

After the speeches and dinner, our guests stormed the photo booth. There was a wait most of the night. Imagine my surprise when my grandfather was the first to hop into the photo booth AND rock the bee hat. I think my fun-loving sister and cousins had something to do with it. I always knew I had cool grandparents, but this just confirms it.

My grandfather: eighty-eight years old and cool as hell.

Setting the tone for the rest of the guests!

Mr. PaC's Jersey family in the house! 

Feeling the love.

Even the parents got in on the action!
(upper left image: Heather Fowler Photography)

Our X and O balloons were one of those details made me very happy. The venue offered to let us fill them onsite so Mr. PaC and Linda hunted through the catacombs of the old mansion looking for a helium tank that she knew was there, somewhere. She let Mr. PaC fill up the first one, but the X still had a few wrinkles so he added a little more air. BOOM! It exploded right in their faces. He smartly decided it was best to leave a little wrinkle in the next one. He trudged back upstairs with the pieces and recounted the story to his mom and brother, who knew how sad the bride would be to miss the X to her O, and one of them called in a favor. En route from New Jersey were his two aunts who tracked down a new X balloon. The switch was so seamless had Mr. PaC never told me, I would have never known.

One of my favorite pictures! I loved my X and O balloons!

Me and my momma.

The photo booth pictures were the best sort of delayed gratification. We didn't see them until the next day when we were in recovery mode. Mr. PaC and I howled with laughter as we flipped through the hundreds of images. Each one a mini-present from dear friends and family.

Look who popped back into the photo booth: goofballs, hams and cut-ups.

My sister really enjoyed the photo booth!

If you've been with me throughout my Weddingbee journey, you know I have an aversion to veils... which should make the following photos of me in a dress-up veil even funnier!

(above three images: Heather Fowler Photography)

Here I am showing my love for my bees and representing the hive. You were with me all day between the bee charms, bee hat, or inspiration from your weddings adapted to oursOur bee hat was quite popular. How many times did you spot it?

Had we done a bouquet toss, this friend would have been a fierce competitor!

Choosing to feature a handful of images from the 250+ originals was tough. Who wants to see a million photos of strangers? To you, these folks are familiar faces at best. But we love every photo! The plan is to create a massive photo collage to hang next to our wedding photos. What will you do with your photobooth images?
(all personal photos unless otherwise noted)

Catch up on our PaC recaps!

Days Before
Wedding Morning