Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cheap Chic: Being Beautiful on a Budget

This entry will begin my series of entries in a topic of adulthood that we all know too well: BUDGETING.

In the midst of the shiny covers of bridal store magazines, with beautiful air-brushed brides in $8,000 Vera Wang wedding dresses, we must strive to find something real. For most of us, spending lavishly on a wedding isn't an option, and thus, we must make due to make our day beautiful and special on a budget.

Granted, I am not married, so I haven't had to tackle these kinds of issues yet. But certainly, as an adult, budgeting becomes really important. I budget carefully every month, so that my bills can get paid, my rent can get paid, my lights can stay on, my school can get paid, and maybe I might have a little money left over for a date with my boyfriend, or a trip once in a while to visit my one of my friends who live far away.

I understand the constraints of having to make hard decisions on what to spend money on, but I can't imagine what it must be like after paying your bills (the bills that make it possible to continue to live) to have to then make decisions on planning a thrify wedding. You want it beautiful like the magazines, but you don't have funds, is there any way to still get what you want?

I think the way it would go for me would be: eat or buy a few extra flowers for the wedding? I would be tempted to pick the latter because I love flowers. (I could live on Raman Noodles, if need be...)

Well, I now know it is possible to eat AND have pretty flowers. My friends Adam and Kim recently got married. They had a small wedding in La Jolla, California, at a park overlooking the Pacific. And guess what? They had tons of flowers. And guess what else? The flowers cost less than $200! And guess what else? They got most of them at Costco!

You don't believe me? Check it out!

Kim and her two friends (one of which was yours truly) and her mom put these flower arrangements together the night before the wedding. They were easy and fun! Let me show you how the process went.

Kim and I ventured to the wholesale flower shop in San Diego. They have buckets and buckets of flowers! We picked some that we liked, and got some tools: styrophome green blocks that absorb water, some wire, and some green tape to wrap the stems. That's it! The rest of the flowers she got from four spring bouquets at Costco.

So, this is all to say that budgeting can fuel creativity, and can actually be pretty bonding! We had a lot of fun putting those bouquets and arrangements together. Sometimes it can be a challenge in deciding whether to buy something we want or to buy something we need. And sometimes, we settle for buying something we need, and find out that we actually got more out of it than we expected.

Because, as I see it, that is what a wedding is all about anyway, whether you spend $500 for your wedding or $5 million dollars: it is about two people sharing their love with the friends and family and community who have loved and supported them along the way. It's not the amount you spend, but the amount of love that you give and receive to your partner, your friends, and family.

Paying a professional florist to do your wedding flowers, $972. Buying your own flowers wholesale and at Costco, $200. Having wine and spaghetti and good music and friends together while arranging said wholesale and Costco flowers, PRICELESS.

More to come on our budgeting series. I will point you to some of the best blogs out there for spotting deals(@SuperSavingSara, that is you!) that WILL save you money at your favorite store. AND we will also tackle some tougher issues like what do when your friends expect you to spend money you don't have, difficult decisions to make when unemployed, and more! Stay tuned...


  1. I have had a fantasy of being a florist for quite some time now and this is inspiring. I feel calm when I arrange flowers, it makes me very happy.


  2. Those flowers are BEAUTIFUL!! I also love that you posted those pics to show us the process:) xo LOVE IT.

  3. Gorgeous! I am usually not very successful at being crafty. However, I made my own bouquets and table centerpieces for my wedding and they turned out amazing. Flowers aren't as hard to work with as people think they are!

  4. WOW thanks so much Mara for posting this, it means more to me than you know! Brian and I are getting married in Laguna CA and wedding are freakin expensive!! I love everything you said and you are so right, eating or flowers because of the price! It's insane how much weddings cost.

    I look forward to your budgeting series! Thanks for mentioning me too, do you have interest in being a guest blogger over at my site?

  5. In the vein of wedding frugality, I have a little wisdom to impart. My wedding was strictly budgeted because, well, we didn't have any money. And what helped me the most was a little book called "Bridal Bargains". It goes into great detail on how to save on everything from venues to dresses to food to flowers. It was a great book and I would highly recommend it for anyone getting married on a budget.
    My other smidgeon of advice: do as much as possible on your own. It makes the wedding much more personal and the making of flower arrangements can be bonding time (as Mara experienced).
    Aww . . .This makes me want to get maried again. In Vegas. By Elvis. Great job, Mara.

  6. Las Vegas and Elvis would definitely be cheaper... until the after party, anyway. Maybe your bills along with whatever else happens in Vegas can stay there?

  7. *And I totally could find that patch of La Jolla cove grass in my sleep. That's totally within the "take girl for a 'romantic' walk" zone, not to mention my roommate's mom, once.. Anyhow. Look forward to more money saving tips - someday (hopefully soon) I'll be able to use them.. maybe not ones having to do with flowers though.