Practical (wedding) magic.

After finishing my last post on the realities of wedding costs and expectations, I realized that it was a little depressing to spend so much time lamenting the state of today's wedding industry, without at least providing a little proof that there is hope for the budget-minded or alternatively-thinking couple. So, I thought that I would take the time to share some of my favorite (realistic) online wedding resources.

There are a LOT of amazing wedding blogs and websites out there. Although I was never one to look at them before getting engaged, after a year's worth of research I can definitely see the appeal and I must admit that a few of them have made it onto my list of weekly reads. [Okay, fine, daily, for some of them. What? I'm planning a wedding here!] It's so easy to get reeled in by the emotion and the creativity and the beautifully staged photos. Each new entry feels romantic and fresh, like a newly scribed fairytale that I just have to read! And, my god, those first look photos!!! I can't get enough.

But, when I make it to the bottom it never fails. It's sticker shock over and over again, as I read about the $4,000 local band who were "worth every penny," and how much did they pay for that floral arch??!! Then there are the weddings that appear to have fantastically low budgets, until you find out that the bride owns a catering company, the groom's sister is a professional wedding planner, and the cake was gifted by an uncle who also happens to be a professional baker and cake decorator, which means that the couple was free to spend the remaining "low" budget completely on photography (which was totally WORTH. EVERY. PENNY).....wah wah.

Sounds depressing still, I know, but fear not! There is some great inspiration out there for people who are, realistically, going to have to do or pay for everything themselves. And I am more than happy to share the wealth!

1) A Practical Wedding

Also a book by Meg Keene - the website's author and editor.

I'm just gonna go big here and dive right in with my absolute FAVORITE wedding website. A Practical Wedding is way more than just a wedding blog. It is an all-encompassing guide to weddings and marriage. The writers (they are not just bloggers) at APW know that getting married is about so much more than a big party. They understand that every couple is different and will have a union that is uniquely shaped by the various people and circumstances in their lives. APW touches on everything from feminism and marriage, to complicating familial factors and, yes, even to divorce! They also have easy to follow instructions and practical DIY advice for music, food, flowers, decorations, and photography. Sounds intimidating, I know, but it's really not. Seriously. They've got me re-considering doing my own flowers - something that I initially swore I would leave to the professionals. And then, of course, there are the real weddings, with posted budgets as low as $1,500 - which are sorted by identity, location, outfits, size, venue, and a few other miscellaneous categories. APW has the widest array of chronicled weddings that I have ever seen, representing a huge variety of cultures, identities, priorities, and interests - and each one touched upon with sensitivity, respect, and all the practicality of real people living real lives. To top it off, all of this information is neatly organized in easy-to-access sections that make finding what you were actually looking for a breeze. [You can see why this appeals to me.]

Honestly. I really can't say enough about this website. Just trust me. Do yourself a favor, no matter what your budget size, and take a look. It will change the way you view your wedding. It will change the way you view your union. It will help you re-orient your priorities and make smart and personalized decisions that you can feel confident about :)

2) The Budget Savvy Bride

A website with money-saving advice, real-time wedding deals, DIY project suggestions, and free printable stationary. The real weddings on The Budget Savvy Bride are organized exclusively by budget - the highest being $20,000 and the lowest being $1,000! What are you waiting for??? Get your butts over there!!!

3) Big Wedding Tiny Budget

Another issue that has come up for me during my wedding planning has to do with the size of my wedding. What I have noticed with a lot of the beautiful and budget-friendly weddings found on the most popular blogs is that what kept the cost low was the seriously intimate size - we're talking one long table of guests for some of these weddings! Now, my day-to-day style is simple, but with three sides (mom, dad, step-mom) and over a hundred people that are important to me on my side of the family alone, there is no way around it, I am having a large wedding. Side note: some people (my sister) don't think that my wedding is that big. In many cultures, weddings with two to four hundred people are typical, but when you are trying to keep the cost low, anything above fifty guests becomes terribly daunting. This wedding website offers large party tips for the budget-minded couple, and, of course, plenty of real weddings for ideas and inspiration.

4) How I Did It: Held a 100-Person Wedding For Under $4,000

Photography by Lauren D. Rogers Photography - It was featured on The Knot!

This is not a website, but just one example of a REAL, practical, non-fancy wedding that prioritized the wishes of the family, while still keeping to the style of the couple. This is a true example of practicality, as opposed to 'my cousin just happens to be a designer florist' money saving. It is OK to be this couple. It is OK to keep it simple. Oh, and the photos are stunning.

More Links - Keep 'Em Coming!

I can only have so many "favorites", but the truth is that there are a lot of resources out there, although they may not be as highly publicized as websites like The Knot, WeddingWire or Style Me Pretty ( I read all of those, by the way). You just have to do a little research to find them. But in case you are feeling lazy, here are a few more links that I am loving - half of which I swear I found while I was doing research for this blog post. I keep finding new ones every day!

2000 Dollar Wedding - A real couple (Sarah and Matt) started this blog to chronicle their adventure in planning a super budget-friendly wedding and just kept it going when other people started reading it. I actually don't think that the blog is active anymore, but it is still a fascinating look at a journey from start to finish. Plus they've included a total budget break-down (they came in under budget) and the posts are tagged for easy information access. I also just love that Sarah has written an entry entitled, "Wedding Porn Addictions." I feel you girl.

The Offbeat Bride - A full-on planning site and blog for the alternative wedding. Not necessarily budget friendly, just, different. Think WeddingWire with a ComiCon twist. Not gonna lie, Heather & Bobby's Lord of the Rings Meets Game of Thrones Fantasy Wedding is giving me some crazy ideas...

Keeping it small? Check out Intimate Weddings.

Rock'N'Roll Bride - If you're gonna spend, you might as well make it your own. Pinterest is not the be all, end all.

The Perfect Palette - Best color resource, hands down. I should know, it took me forever to nail down my "colors." Actually, I'm still not even sure I know what they are. I just have this sort-of tentative vision in my head....that fluctuates daily... Good luck to the poor florist that agrees to work with that!

Down With The Overly-Styled, Cookie-Cutter....Wedding...Man....?

Finally, there is no need to completely avoid all of the most popular wedding resources. Just be sure to explore them responsibly. Pinterest is fantastic when you are looking for something specific because it's like a massive search engine that links to all of the major wedding sites. I also find that a lot of the photos that I enjoy come from the Wedding Chicks blog (not to mention their FAB free printables section), although I don't usually explore whole entries unless they are pulled up as part of a search for a very specific aspect of my wedding planning (e.g. a color palette that looks remotely like something I'd choose or the wedding cake I am considering). Even when I do find something that I love, I don't usually look into the vendor/source unless it is specifically labelled as 'low-cost' or 'budget-friendly' and even if it is I tend to do a completely separate search for sourcing or DIY tutorials.

Why? Basically, for the sake of keeping my wedding unique and personal. Yes, you could potentially find all of your wedding ideas via Pinterest searches and then copy-and-paste to make the perfect wedding, but whose wedding would it really be then? In my mind, it is much better to take what you see, think on it, and then mold it to fit your own budget, personality, and style. Keep the flowers, change the colors. Keep the structure, switch up the material. Mix-and-match and then throw in something unexpected (and if you love it don't fold when someone tells you it won't look right). Either you can do that yourself (you really can, I promise, it just takes some practice) or if you don't feel confident, you can ask a professional or a friend for some help. That is how you make your wedding your own and memorable, no matter what the cost.



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