Men’s Modern/Vintage Wedding Style

As long as 6 months after our wedding, we are still receiving compliments on the attire of our groomsmen during the wedding. A friend of ours even modeled their family Christmas card from inspiration from the men’s style at our wedding. It is my wonderful, handsome husband’s sense of style, and with the help of the wife, they wore it for about $65 each (most of which was the cost of TOMS shoes)!

So here is what the men wore at our wedding:

©Chelle Photography

©Chelle Photography

©Chelle Photography

©Chelle Photography

I chose to keep the sunglasses in there to protect the anonymity of the youngest brother groomsmen a little bit. Although not all the pictures have those in there, I loved that I got them for the photo opportunity (I just ordered them $10/1 dozen from

The burlap TOMS shoes matched our burlap/twine/lace all around vintage style.

We went for slim ties and suspenders ordered from for less than $5 per guy. They had great color selection and the orange color matched our girls perfectly. The groom got his pants from for about $10.

I hope you can find a little inspiration from our men’s wedding style!


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.


Who knew one day could make you so busy!?

Upon logging onto my blog tonight, I realized I have neglected most of my internet usage apart from email for nearly 2 weeks! For anyone whom that seems normal to, I have usually logged on to my many sites of usage daily.

So, I am planning my wedding. And the scariest part is, I am hardly ready for the wedding day, and it is only a month a half away!

At the beginning of our engagement, I was so ready to take on our wedding with a hands-on, DIY, budget-friendly approach. I am crafty and the best thrift shopper I have ever met. No big deal, right? Apparently I was wrong. My pile of  “Done” projects has not grown in far too long.

Doing DIY invitations was fun! I found a complete, unused stationary set just the size we needed at the thrift store for a couple bucks. But designing a full invitation suite on word and including just what each guest needed in each invitation (for the lack of extra paper) was way more  time-consuming than thought. At least I made all 50 invitations on 5 dollars!

Sending them out though? Still hasn’t happened. Panic mode is setting in with less than 50 days to go until the big day. And the culprit? I have worked every day I’ve been able to drive to town for the post office’s full hours, and then the tie-rods on my car went out, and the couple of days I was able to get there, I just didn’t have the money for stamps! (By the way, it is ridiculous that the USPS charges nearly 80 cents now for sending each wedding invitations. $40+ just to send my invitations is ridiculous!! All of my saved money before is out of the window!) At least I sent out save-the-dates!

I still do not have a dress ready to wear either! I have a super inexpensive one purchased, but I have still not finished all of my necessary alterations to make it presentable. This one is a much more difficult feat than expected; bringing my white, all-lace wedding gown downstairs to my sewing surface in our messy farmhouse with a smelly dog and 4 climb-happy kittens is plan-ahead, set-aside-6-hours kind of project… yeah… don’t know where that is going to come from.

My fiancé and I are doing our first premarital counselling session tomorrow with one of the best Christian men I know, and I am very excited for that. He is a younger youth pastor that lives 5 hours away and has 6 kids under the age of 10. We are so blessed to have him as our officiant, marrying us on our special day!

On top of all the things I have not done so far in preparing for the wedding because of work, I got the strangest note from my boss on the subject yesterday. So, I am a newer employee at the store I am working at, and have only this week had a chance to request the days off that I need off this June for our wedding; the bridal shower, two days leading up to the wedding (for preparing, my Bachelorette party and the groom’s dinner), the wedding day (duh), and two days after (I think that is a give-in, we aren’t even leaving on a honeymoon). Somehow, with the only 6 employees that work with me, ALL of  these days had been requested off by my coworkers. Since there is no budging on these days that I need off, I simply added my name to the dates, having previously talked to our manager about them. Anyway, yesterday, I get a note from said manager stating, “Only one person may request off on any given day.” So… I don’t get my wedding day off of work. I guess I should have seen her attitude about this coming, since she described my wedding day as a “hurdle” and a “bump in the road of life” during my interview for employment. That is okay that she sees it that way as a manager wanting to hire a new employee, but it was interesting hearing it as a super-excited bride. Needless to say, I don’t believe I will be staying with this place of employment past about halfway through the month of June…

Anyway, the business continues. I was wondering a while back about why I had such a lack of inspiration to blog. I have finally come to the realization that it is just because I have been so busy! So, a blog on my busy schedule and the things I have failed myself on doing.

Budget Wedding: Our Top 10 Ways We Are NOT Spending

According to this article by USA Today, the average cost of a wedding is $26,989 (Sadly, that number is lower than previous averages!). I have learned that anything with the term “wedding” or “marriage” in the title is suddenly five times the price, even if it similar to an object one would be using outside of a wedding. I was recently looking at cake stands. A local craft store was selling a “wedding” cake stand for $45! That just sounds outrageous to me!! (We are choosing to make our cake stand from a dollar store candle stick ($2) and an old vintage plate I found at a thrift store ($1)) That is a $43 savings right off the bat. This will hardly dent the $26,989 price tag the average couple is spending on their wedding, though.

We really needed to cut our spending down. Mitchell and I are 19 and 20, broke kids about to start college together. I have worked for non-profits the last year and racking up the medical bills like a professional money-spender. We have been trusting all of our needs to the Lord, and trying not to waste our resources he gives us. We are therefore setting our wedding budget at $2,000. Not impossible. Actually, it hasn’t been as hard as it has seemed. Many have gotten married on much less. Everyone’s story is different, but I wish budget weddings were a bigger thing.

Here are the Top 10 Ways Mitchell and I are not blowing our money on the day we start our life together:

1)  Skipping the Venue.

Have an outdoor wedding, instead. There, you’ve cut the second largest cost of the average wedding right there. We are getting married in his parents’ beautiful backyard. It will   be a little cramped, but we will feel at home. What my mother did reserved a spot in a local state park for her wedding. It was free for them, and the guests just had to pay for parking. We were also thinking of using the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden as our venue. The one downfall with that one is that it is very public, and we would have a large audience of people we didn’t know. Doesn’t really bother me too much, but we had the backyard as a choice, so we went with that. Many churches will offer the church free of charge to members or regular attenders, also. We chose not to do that, but it was also a free choice many will have available, so ask your church’s elders if you are a regular attendee.

2) NOT Catering In.

This was one of the harder choices in my family, but our largest money saver. Our local catered (our cheapest choice where we live) charges $16 a plate for off-site parties. With our estimated head count of 127, we would be busting our $2,000 on just food alone (not including the cake). Instead of the catering route, I, the bride, am going to make several pans of lasagna and freeze them to bake on the day. We are also serving a lettuce and spinach salad and fruit salad on the side. Our estimated food cost is $150-$300, but that is MUCH smaller than our original choice. There are a lot of foods that are generally easy to serve to large groups of people. Italian is almost always a great choice. My cousin had a taco bar at her wedding, and that turned out really well and was very easy and inexpensive. (The tacos are inexpensive to cater in, anyway, if you like that).

3) Skipping the Booze.

This was an easy choice for us, since neither the bride nor the groom are 21 at the time of our wedding. I have no clue how much we are saving skipping serving alcohol to our guests, but I am guessing it is a good amount. Since I have grown up on a dairy farm and have forever been an endorser of dairy, I am very excited to have milk and cookie toasts as an alternative.

4) DIY Save-the-Date and Invitations.

I can not believe how much companies try to charge for save-the-date cards and wedding invitations. It would be fun to afford an upper-end luxury invitation such as those at this site, where prices range from $14-$90 per invitation. Those are easily out of the question on our  budget. I have searched for what feels like forever for inexpensive invitations. I have fallen in love with many less expensive but still spendy ones, like this one, for more than $3.00 per invitation for our number of invites (adding up to $130, even on the cheaper end of what I have found). I ended up finding many great free printables, though. My favorite collection of that is here, on I am probably one of their biggest fans. As for stationary, I have been extremely lucky to find a $2 set of save-the-date stationary at goodwill, and a $7 set of invitation suite stationary at another thrift store. That I am sure was a blessing directly from God. Very inexpensive compared to the alternative there. Micheals and other craft stores have inexpensive invitation suite stationary for around $20 a box, like here and here.

5) Not Hiring a Planner.

How I have handled this mostly, (sounds really weird) ignoring a large piece of the advice around me. A lot of people throw in their opinion about what they thing you should do, and if you try to listen to all of them, before you know it, your big day is their ideas and you are overwhelmed.  I have used a lot of great online resources to help plan our big day. has a lot of wonderful resources, such as their wedding checklist here and their wedding budget helper here. I have deleted many things from both of their lists (as they get somewhat frivolous for what we want) but they have helped me keep things straight really well. If you need inspiration or ideas for your big day, sign up for pinterest. It is really one of the largest helps out there. Just don’t get lost in the grand ideas.

Somewhat different but also related; Ignore outside opinions.

I touched on this briefly, but really, so many people feel they have great ideas for what to do. Where to buy the right this or that, what to serve your guests, where to hold it, what flowers to have, and it can all get so overwhelming so fast! As some advice really helps in wedding planning, so many of the tips people throw out there for weddings can just be so over-the-top or more expensive, mmaybe just not for you. Only we know how we want to spend our big day. Ignoring other people’s opinions can really allow you to simplify to what you and your soon-to-be-spouse want. Don’t be afraid to leave out items that “normally” are in a wedding day. If you don’t want to serve food, DON’T! If you don’t want rows of seats for the ceremony, don’t do it! (Haha we aren’t having rows of seats for our ceremony, and a lot of people are upset, for whatever reason.) Anyway…

6) Not Hiring a Florist.

It is really crazy to me how much a florist can charge for flowers. Mitchell and I are really at an advantage with decorating, since we will be outdoors and the family has a good amount of wild flowers and gardens already in the backyard (another perk of the outdoor wedding). We will be doing fake flowers (made of paper and such) for a lot of our centerpieces and boutonnieres. Here is a tutorial on how to make paper roses (I have saved tons of sheet music for this). Here are more paper flowers. Here is a tutorial on how to make a boutonniere. If we choose to use a touch of real flowers, and we will just be getting those at the super market (nobody will know the difference, honestly). I will be making all the bouquets, and we are using just Baby’s Breath. Since most people will not do that, but it is still a great idea to make your own bouquet, this is a great resource for how to make different bouquets.

7) Ditching the DJ.

In this wonderful age of technology, why not use what we have? Someone you know has to have a nice set of speakers. Create your own, customized playlist for the big day. Use an iPod, CDs, your laptop… I love Spotify. You can choose any songs you want, and your guests can make some requests.

8) Using Ebay and Thrift Stores.

I have felt questionable toward purchasing my wedding dress from Ebay and table linens and stem ware at thrift stores. The results so far though have been wonderful! My dresses (I could afford 2 since we were saving so much) came to $200, and you could never tell they weren’t designer. I have found old, beautiful faux pearl jewelery at antique shops for $1. I have found a great collection of lace and linens for a tenth of the cost it would have been to buy new. We are doing something creative and different with our tableware and buying all old (but nice), mismatched plates and stem ware for our dinner. So far, we have spent $18 on 50 stem ware glasses and 3 large boxes of mismatched antique plates. We will be picking the best of them for our guests after we finish collecting about 150 of each.  So far we have spent far less than any rental or new purchase would cost. I have found great old picture frames for painting with chalkboard paint, beautiful vases for centerpieces, the list goes on and on. I am very excited for our thrift store finds to be put to use. We have even found modern and conservative bridesmaid’s dresses that match for under $30 each (on Ebay). Definitely beats buying designer or from any bridal shop in my book!

9) Making Our Own.

Decorations. Food. Alterations. Cake. Well, we aren’t doing all of these things ourselves, but there are so many family member and wonderful close friends that are really happy to help us where we are having trouble. We were lucky to have both a friend and a family member jump on the question of if they could gift us a cake within the first week of our engagement. Although that might not be the case most of the time, maybe it would be a good idea to humble yourselves and ask if someone close that you know loves baking cakes if they would make one for you guys on the cheap (I think it would be fair to offer compensation). It would save a lot from the bakery price of a cake. And what about cupcakes? And who would ever know if it was from a box (I find them better most of the time). As for centerpieces, there are so many ideas out there. Be different. Maybe have something other than a large bouquet of your favorite flower. This can really save you money in every area of your wedding. It depends on your skills and what skills are around you.  A cousin of mine made her dress while her mom made all the bridesmaid’s dresses. It is still the most beautiful dress I have ever seen. Before I fell in love with the dress I got for $100, I was about to offer her $300 to make me a dress! Why not? It would still be saving money, and you could get anything you want! We were offered free pictures by a family member. Really, it depends on the gifts of those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask.

10) Don’t Invite Everyone You Know.

Maybe we are just a more popular couple than I thought, but our original guest list before we thought about how much the extra people would cost was about 250 people. We took that down to 127 (begrudgingly), but simply could not afford or fit that many people into our big day. We would have had to change to a larger venue, made twice the amount of food, had to offer a shuttle service, the list goes on. Many people advice cutting kids, but we love kids, and many of our little siblings, little cousins, and little nephews and nieces are our favorite people. We cut the lines at step aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, friends outside of those on our wedding party or those we were raised by (as in, the woman making our cake nearly adopted me legally as a child), and anything beyond first cousins in that area. This was our number one struggle, and has caused a lot of tears and frustrations in our families. I wanted a small wedding, but my dad wanted the whole church to be invited. Mitchell’s grandfather had been married several times and now has caused there to be 30-ish aunts and uncles (including past and present steps).  Just know that, if you are having troubles in this area, you are not alone. This was a necessary step in our money-saving, and definitely the hardest.

All in all, make it YOUR day. Throw any of my advice out the window if you don’t like it. Share with me what you think or what you have done to keep costs down for your big day!

Inexpensive “Will you be my Bridesmaid?” Gifts

Inexpensive “Will you be my Bridesmaid?” Gifts

I just loved the free printables I found on! Here it is. Their printables are just great; you can cutomize them with your own colors and such. And they have everything from free invitations to save-the-dates to these! I … Continue reading