Carlson Wedding Day Part 1

I married my high school sweetheart this summer. As many of my past posts suggested, we had a budget wedding. We ended up spending less than $1000 on a beautiful wedding day. My hope in posting our story is to encourage other brides-to-be to not feel the pressure to spend huge money on one day (especially if it is just not in your budget). I absolutely feel that you should splurge where necessary in making your big-day a special one, but there are so many “traditions” that others feel the need to impose on people getting married. We had a beautiful day while throwing many traditions out of the window. Enjoy our story!


This was the dress’ original style. I ended up cutting off the sleeves and making it strapless, and altered it to stay up better that way.


My dress after alterations to better fit my body. I loved it way more, and the fixes were rather easy. Could not have been happier with my spend of $100.

I purchased this dress online (see my top cheap dresses blog), and ended up altering it myself because of fit difficulties from my pectus excavatum. I was very happy with the dress quality I purchased. It was made from my own measurements, which is not rare in online dress shopping. I would have had to also alter a dress I purchased in a store (I have a special medical issue with my body causing this) and I am happy I did not spend the $600 on dress and alterations through a company like David’s Bridal, like several of my budget bride friends. I had a better experience with my dress purchasing online than my reception dress I bought in a store. I saved a ton of money and got the widest selection. I would absolutely encourage a bride on a budget to shop online for her dress(es).

The outfit details turned out perfect for me. I picked rose buds right from my grandma’s 40 year old rose bush the morning of the wedding to add to my hair. I did my hair in an updo I practiced once before the wedding (I wear my hair up a lot, so I am good at that sort of thing). It is also practical to ask a sister, friend, or cousin who is good at hair to do yours for free. I gave those people that helped a simple thank you gift, but saved much more than hiring someone.


My wedding day “assistant”/honorary bridesmaid helping me put my grandma’s roses in my hair.


Something borrowed/blue/old- a brooch from WWII

I did my own makeup, also. I got together with my bridesmaids and a couple friends to do nails and pre-wedding pampering a couple days before the wedding for under $20 (this is where my inexpensive “will you be my bridesmaid?” gift came in handy).

My jewelry matched our wedding day style also, being only $10 from an antique shop. I especially love the brooch that I asked if I could borrow from my step mother (which was her grandmother’s in world war II) that matched my garter, which I added to the middle of my gown.


Getting ready for the wedding- beautiful faux pearls from antique shop. Easy to find, inexpensive, and beautiful.

Our bridesmaids dresses were also a fun and cheap detail we had at our wedding. Who says those need to be from a bridal shop, where they are usually upwards of $80 for an ugly dress? We got ours for $20 from AX Paris. Many stores have cute dresses that can be used for semi-formal bridesmaids looks; some suggestions I like are Forever21, Maurices, Macy’s, JCPenney, and Target. I would suggest to browse the website before heading to stores to save energy, since dress shopping can be exhausting.


My bridesmaids and I!
I found novelty sunglasses for photo-ops at for only $10 for a dozen; they were a hit! If it weren’t for the budget, I would have gotten more!

Our overall budget for clothing (between groom, bridesmaids, and myself) came to about $200.

Enough about looks…

We had a backyard wedding at my in-law’s house. For seating, we used chairs from back yards, we borrowed from the church, and used hay bales for overflow seating that my father had on the farm. Our overall budget for seating came to $0. To add to our laid back feel, we had random seating. We also used some of our chairs for dinner, which cut down the amount we needed.


Hay bales for seating covered in old blankets

For ceremony decorations, we used burlap strips (about $5 a roll at the craft store) to line the aisle and used rocks from the property to hold it down. We used white light, white stringed Christmas lights I collected from thrift stores all year as lighting. Price for this came to about $15.Image

Mason Jars for table decorations

Mason jars wrapped with twine as table decoration- we included our wedding favors in these after pictures (chocolate mustaches and lips)

©Chelle Photography

Antique style frames with song and lyrics to play dismissing table of guests for dinner

Our reception was the most expensive part of our big day. Our biggest money savers included not renting a venue (since we had a backyard wedding), catering from a local italian restaurant rather than a wedding caterer, and not serving alcohol. Decorations included mason jars with twine from my grandmother and dismissal-for-dinner picture frames that I purchased at a thrift store which my sister/bridesmaid printed lyrics of songs for.

©Chelle Photography

Helping the little ones with milk for toasts

One of my favorite parts of our wedding was our cookie and milk toasts that stood in for alcohol. Milk and cookies are cheaper than alcohol, and we used mismatched stemware I searched around at thrift stores for.

I loved our guestbook. We chose something that we already had that meant something to us  in order to both save money. We met during worship and music is still a big part of our lives, so we used one of our guitars, and grabbed some colorful sharpies for our guests to sign it with. I guarantee I like this idea more that a book that we most likely would not see for decades. We see it all the time and can even use it to play. ©Chelle Photography

This is not nearly everything from our wedding day, but these were a few ways we made the day our own while saving money. I hope to at least inspire a few budget brides out there to stick to what they want on their wedding day while saving money.



The Joy of Home grown, Free Range Food

I haven’t blogged for a while. Since my last blog entry nearly half a year ago, I have gotten married, moved to the big city in Minnesota, and started the end of my undergraduate career as a biochemistry student at the big university. It has seemed difficult to catch my breath with all of my new found responsibilities. I thought I would just catch my breath a little with a fast blog this evening.

I digress.

One of the worst parts of growing up, as it seemed at first, has been worrying about feeding myself. Now I have become a wife, and sharing the responsibility with a man that can cook well has been relieving. But I also feel the pressure; someone else has to like my cooking now!

Mastering the art of grocery shopping on a budget was the first challenge. I coupon; which helps some with the cost. Growing up on a farm, though, with fresh food, especially meats and vegetables, at my fingertips most of my childhood, has unfortunately left a sour taste in my mouth about a large part of purchasing groceries at the big store in the big city. Somewhere between the farm and the shelf, so much of the food out there changes a scary amount. A piece of the food improves through the processing that happens between farm to you (who could live without cheese, yogurt, butter, and of course the “staples”), but so much of it has to go through a lot in order to have a longer shelf life.

It feels difficult for me to enjoy so much of the food in the pretty packaging you find on your grocery store shelf (I know my husband disagrees, having always eaten food the way most Americans do).

But, this leads to the blessing in the story; my farming roots. Although I have left my family and moved out, it is always so incredible to get to visit the family farm in rural Minnesota; and I get to reap the benefits of my visit long afterward in the “grocery trip” I get to bring home. It is always such a blessing that my father still shares his farm labor with us. Although my father most likely will not read this, I would just like to say, “Thanks Dad!”

Just today, I got to enjoy free-range eggs for breakfast, free-range, organic chicken for dinner, with potatoes and veggies from the all-natural garden. Not only was this all delicious; it meant a lot that it all came from a farmer that put so much care into his work, that the chickens that give us fuel for the day were cared for properly by someone that loves to do what they do for the sake of the animals.

I know most people in this country do not come from farming backgrounds, and that is okay, but I would just like to encourage people out there to support a local farmer, and buy some of your groceries local. Visit your farmer’s market when that time of year rolls by again. Network with the hard-working people from your community that make your food. Tell them thanks for being dedicated to real food! Try gardening if you haven’t had the experience before (gardeners; shout out to those that have a bigger appreciation for the people that make real food 😉 ). And, thank a farmer.

And I would like to say thank you for all the farmers that stay in their occupation, working hard and providing food for the entire world. Thank you to the majority that respect the animals that feed us, and a special thank you to those that offer organic and free-range choices to eat.