Real Wedding in MN

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 8 comments

 What a pleasant surprise it was to see Kayla's photos of her lovely MN wedding waiting for me in my inbox after returning from the Thanksgiving weekend. The lovely ceremony, the adorable details (those cookies with the couples' names are steal-worthy), the bright purple color scheme -- and  everything was $11K! But the best thing about these photos? The look of pure joy on Kayla's lovely face! So how did Kayla pull off such a gorgeous wedding on a modest budget? Take it away, Kayla!

My husband Elliott and I were engaged December 21st, 2009 (more on that at my blog - with a video that will make you cry!) and one of the first things we did was sit down and make a VERY comprehensive and detailed budget, and then we STUCK TO IT!  Our budget included wedding bands, thank-you notes, all postage, deposit on our new apartment together, and our honeymoon - some things that other couples budget for separately. 

BIGGEST MONEY SAVER: involve friends and family every step of the way. Our pastor was also one of our closest friends, and his wife is a phenomenal wedding photographer (  Elliott's dad made our cake stand, my hairstylist was a good friend (and professional!) Elliott's sister made the flower girl dress, family and friends rallied together to decorate the reception hall (with many homemade decorations), we borrowed, borrowed, and borrowed some more.

The Dress - we started shopping for the dress early, because if we couldn't find something wonderful (and I was limiting myself to only $600 - INCLUDING alterations!!!) my mother and I wanted lots of time to start creating one ourselves.  Mom did make my veil, but at the very last bridal store we went to (which also carried stylish consignment dresses) we found THE ONE!!!  Our best decision: be very upfront with the salespeople and tell them your absolute budget.  Our saleswoman (HIGHLY recommend treated us with the utmost respect and was able to give us extra discounts, bringing the total to $400!  A friend altered the dress as a wedding gift to us - we were thrilled!  Elliott bought his suit for $100 and his vintage tie for $3!  Our bridesmaids dresses were on sale for less than $50 at Ann Taylor Loft, shoes were $20 from Rocketdog.
Flowers - our photographer recommended a fresh, innovative young florist. Met with her and FELL IN LOVE!  Gave her pictures, we talked colors, and then gave her our very small budget $300 - she said yes!!!  The boutonniere were made out of quirky, cute supplies that were on clearance at JoAnns.  Our centerpieces were also clearance flowers, pieces we borrowed, and wine glasses/mason jars we had been saving all year.

Stationery - my sister, a scrapbooking-fiend, helped us create invitations and programs that we created from supplies we only bought with coupons from Archivers.

Food - we wanted a "down-home" feel, so decided on fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Called around for prices and the local grocery store's deli quoted us a price that was less than $4.00 a person!  We had tons of food left over, and it was absolutely delicious.  My sisters and I spent a lot of time over the summer baking food for the dessert table.  We included lots of family recipes, and asked grandmas to bring something to share. 

Cake - a friend's mother makes wedding cakes as a side business.  For $100, we had a beautiful chocolate with peanut butter filling cake that we COULD NOT stop eating!

DJ - We created the playlist ourselves on iTunes and asked a friend to DJ for us - he also brought lights and a sound system that he was able to borrow for free!

Honeymoon - we drove to Door County (drove because we wanted to take our bikes with us) and stayed in an absolutely adorable and SUPER afordable suite (complete with kitchen, so we saved money by making some of our own meals) Total cost: about $1100 (including spending money!).

Our Purple Table Linens -  I spent time all summer buying purple fabric when I saw it on clearance - we turned these in to table runners, over "linenlike" tablecloths, which were great because they looked MUCH better than plastic AND kids could color on them (we put crayons on every table!).

It was such a fabulous day, and we're so excited to share it with others! 

Sponsored Post: CSN Stores

Saturday, November 20, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , | 0 comments

I think I must have done most of my wedding shopping online. With so many venues and vendors to visit, the Web really helped cut down on travel time. Everything is at your fingertips. One online store was a great go-to site for wedding party gifts: CSN Stores. And now, I'm checking out their stuff to fill the nest!

When an opportunity to review one of their products came several months ago, I jumped at the chance. We were looking for a cool gift for one of our ceremony readers...let's call him Jake. Jake has expensive taste, and well, we didn't have the budget for expensive.

But looking over the products at CSN Stores, many of them were surprisingly affordable. Products range from furniture, home decor, to fun stuff, like games and poker sets...almost anything you can think of that would make a great gift for you or someone you know. The gift we picked out for our traveling, high-end ceremony reader? Knowing that Jake is also a practical kind of guy, we went with leather toiletry traveling case. The selling price was $25, but we were very pleased with the quality (the fiance was tempted to keep it for himself!)

Let's just have the photos speak for themselves, shall we?

Yup, it had the genuine leather smell.

Thank you CSN Stores! Now what do we decorate our bedroom with?

Keeping up a wedding

Thursday, November 18, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 3 comments's been very obvious that it's been very quiet here lately...well, obviously my wedding came and went and what I have are very special memories from that day.
But now that I'm not planning a wedding anymore, I'm wondering where that leaves my wedding blog. Planning my own wedding and gazing at tons of wedding porn was really fun, but most of all, reading about other brides' personal journeys is what kept me sane and grounded during that year of planning. I was happy to be part of the wedding blogosphere, coming from the lower end of the wedding budgets and being mighty proud of it!
So where does that leave this blog? Many blogger brides have bid adieu once the their wedding is over, and I thought about going that route as well. But I was surprised to still see mail from new readers, even after my wedding. The truth is that there will always brides out there planning weddings. And there will always be budget-savvy brides looking to stretch their dollar and make their day amazing.
So, no, this won't be completely goodbye. This site is going to get a fresh makeover. There are more giveaways, inspiration, Real Weddings and DIY tutorials on the horizon, so stay tuned!

BTW, you are a newlywed? Was your wedding a budget-savvy affair? Wanna show off your amazing wedding pics? I'm looking for Real Budget Weddings from all parts of the country (a budget wedding in New York or Los Angeles will probably be quite different in terms of actual budget than say a budget wedding in small town Tennessee). Send your photos to
 and tell me all about your wedding!

Wedding Recap: Our Kauai Honeymoon

Monday, November 1, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: | 3 comments

So, how do we recap nearly a week in heaven? In short, our honeymoon to Kauai was everything we could ask for -- romantic, beautiful, relaxing, adventurous and truly memorable. Hawaii was the perfect place to cap off our wedding. Our wedding was a celebration of our Asian/Polynesian backgrounds and Hawaii's eclectic cultural vibe surely encompasses that. My hubby's parents met and got married in Hawaii. So we set our sights on Garden Isle of Kauai, an island we both had not been to before and, from we were told, is considered the most beautiful of the islands.

But, if you have been reading my blog for awhile, we weren't initially headed to Hawaii for our honeymoon. Actually, we thought we were headed to the Caribbean when I won a complimentary lodging package to a resort in St. Thomas at a bridal expo. Sadly, the package expired a week before our wedding and the company that awarded me the package could not extend the deadline for us. Great...what was unbelievable good luck had become stinky luck!

But no worries. Not long after that fiasco, we found a great deal for a week stay in Kauai. Even better! ('s not free, but it's Hawaii!)

So here it is, our faves of our honeymoon in Kauai
1.The Island Life:
We arrived in Kauai the Monday after our wedding, giving us a little time to pack and recoup after Saturday's festivities. We both had been to other Hawaiian islands before (I had been to Oahu and my hubby had also been to the Big Island), but Kauai struck us as the most laid back and rural of them all. If you thought Hawaii was slow-paced, then go to Kauai and you'll feel like everything is at a crawl!

And we liked it that way! We weren't interested in late-night clubhopping or raging night scenes. All we needed was romantic scenery (check), the sound of crashing waves (check) and a comfortable bed (er..more on that later). We wanted peace and quiet, not crowded beaches you would probably find in Oahu. Sure, there might be some downsides to this, which to us were slight inconveniences, but the slow, quiet island life was what we craved.

2. Our View
We checked into our condominium resort, the Outrigger at Lae Nani in Kapaa. The room? It was comfy, but kinda generic. The bed? A little too firm and flat for me. Oh, and there wasn't any AC. Apparently, there aren't too many resorts in Kauai with AC and it does get pretty warm and humid (hey, it's a tropical island!). But the suite came equipped with plenty of fans that went on full blast nearly the entire week.

But what the room lacked, it made up for it with it's breathtaking view. Seriously, who wouldn't want to wake up to this each morning?

We decided that candlelit dinners on our balcony patio listening to the waves and feeling the island breeze were so much more priceless than going to a posh, pricey restaurant.

3. The Beaches
You can spend an entire week in Kauai just scoping out the island's beaches. The beaches on the northern side of the island were our favorite, less crowded and touristy as you would see in the southern side. But head out toward the north shore and there are dozens of secluded beaches just waiting to be explored. Most beaches aren't even marked -- no signs alerting passerbys on the road--just trust your adventurous side, park your car and explore.

4. The Adventure
If there was anything we splurged on, it was excursions. Most guided tours come with a pricey tag, so we limited our adventures to the ones that came most recommended. First was the kayak excursion on the Wailua River and jungle hike to Secret Falls. I have to admit, the view of the Wailua as you kayak right along it is amazing -- picture a winding river headed deep into a lush tropical forest below a large green mountain jutting through a blanket of low white clouds. All the while you listen to the foreign sounds of island birds and animals emanating from the trees and bush as you float by... truly a life experience! But we're pretty uncoordinated when it comes to kayaking. And just getting to our destination was a challenge! The hike in the muddy terrain was even more difficult as we didn't have the right hiking shoes (uh, I know it should be a no brainer, but make sure to pack real hiking shoes if you plan on going for a a tropical jungle!)
But the views were gorgeous!

 But none more thrilling than coming to our final destination: Secret Falls.

OK, so it's not exactly a secret (there are dozens of group tours to the falls each day), but a chance to swim and bathe at the base of a Hawaiian waterfall...check!

Another excursion that most people take when visiting Kauai is an island helicopter tour. Most parts of the island is not accessible by land, so the only other way to see the rest of the island is by air. Sure, it wasn't cheap, but we decided, why not? Despite coming down with motion sickness, the views helped me fight off the urge to use that barf bag.

But one fun adventure that didn't cost us a thing (well, maybe a tank of gas)? A drive to Waimea Canyon!

Think of it as Hawaii's Grand Canyon.

5. Food
The best thing about having a room with a kitchen was that we could cook our own meals. We made the best of the island's fresh produce (the fruits are amazingly juicy and sweet). But when we did eat out, we stuck to the local fare. Our favorite local Hawaiian food is always the plate lunch. Simply put, it's just rice, a main entree (usually some kind of grilled or BBQ meat) and a side dish (mac salad is quite popular). Simple, but oh so delicious...and cheap! A few dollars and you have yourself a hearty meal.
Word from a Hawaiian friend was that Pono Market in Kapaa served the best plate lunch, and the tip did not disappoint!
The hubby tried fried chicken and mac salad, a combo that's always good!

I went a little more authentic...pork laulau (pork baked in luau leaves) and lomi lomi salmon. The laulau was juicy and tender with a smoky flavor. Quite delicious!
We trusted another local tip for breakfast. Word was Ono Family Restaurant had some of the best macadamia nut pancakes.

Drizzle some warm coconut syrup...(this is where my mouth starts watering!)

After our tiring hike and river kayak on the Wailua, our tour guide told us where to get the best smoothies on the island. The place had no name, and the person responsible for the best smoothies on the island was known simply as "the smoothie lady." We were told to just look for the purple shack next to the furniture store at the end of town. Sure enough, we found the purple shack and the smoothie lady!

And, yes, the best smoothies on the island!
6. Sharing it all with Each Other
But the best part of our honeymoon?

Each other.

After the craziness of wedding planning, and the whirlwind of the wedding day, spending some time to unwind and enjoy each other is truly priceless.

That is what it was all about, really. From beginning to end and ever after.
 Each other.  

Not so favorites:
Thankfully, there isn't too much to bitch about our trip. Just remember, Hawaii is expensive. No, really expensive! We saved a ton of money shopping at the local supermarket and making most of our dinners and meals.
For excursions, we called around and price compared.
We talked to the locals and asked about the best deals, like where is the cheapest place to get gas. Overall, we pretty much stayed within our budget of $3,000 (including airfare and lodging for two, rental car, gas, food, excursions and souveniers).
Oh, and these cute little chickens...

...are Everywhere! Not cool if you nearly crash trying to avoid these suckers on the road!

Attitude of Gratitude

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: , | 3 comments

Our thank you greeting cards from

Whenever I think of our wedding day, I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Truly, it would not have been possible without the help of our dear family and friends. So I was very excited to send out our thank you cards...but geez, who knew how time consuming they are!

Thanks to winning a blog giveaway, I won free greeting cards from I made a simple Thank You card design on Photoshop, and there you go, our Thank You cards were finished! We needed a few more thank you cards for our vendors, so I ordered several more postcards from I think Snapfish has the better deal  if you just want a few (like less than 25). I paid a $1 for each and a minimal shipping fee.

Our postcards from When you send out postcards, postage is just 28 cents!

We knew we wanted to hand write out each card with a personal message for our guests, but times that by about 60 cards...that's a long time at the desk...and potential carpal tunnel! So, we didn't get them out as soon as we wanted (yeah, nearly two months later is a wee bit late), but we got them out.

As an added bonus from our photographer at Bliss Imagery, we received little business card-sized photos from the wedding day. We put the photos in each of our cards to our guests as an another momento from the day.

We headed to the post office and sent out our thank you cards and, in a way, I was a little sad.

The last item on our seemingly never-ending wedding list was checked off. Well, there are still wedding photos to get printed, and other random items, but really...that's about it.

While we're happy the planning part is done and we're finally MARIEEED, the whole process was a fun, exciting, sometimes stressful and emotional ride, but truly memorable time for the both us. It was a project we both successfully completed together and it was a true partnership and team effort. We will always be grateful for the memories and every time I think of our special day, I'll always be reminded of how truly blessed we are.

Now it's time for an even greater team project...and this one lasts for a lifetime!

Real Wedding Budget: Under $12K in Vancouver

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , , | 1 comments

Some of you may have already seen this on Wedding Bee, but I just had to share: a $12K wedding, all inclusive (including honeymoon!) in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver isn't a cheap town and to score this gorgeous wedding for under $12K is amazing!

What seemed to really work in our bride's favor was finding true gems on Craigslist -- vendors who are just starting out and are willing work for pennies (or in her videographer's case-- FREE!) just to build their portfolio. She certainly struck gold because her vendors all did an amazing job!

Now. finding the same kind of deals on Craigslist is very possible. It's not guaranteed, but they are out there. But remember, trusting a novice at their craft is extrememely risky. I, sadly, had bad luck in that department. So, yes, definitely check out deals on Craigslist--you might score big like our Vancouver bride did, but definitely have some caution when dealing with newbies. If your gut says no, it's not worth it!

But on the upside, our Vancouver bride also scored huge on giveaways and contests (a free wedding band and a honeymoon!). As a winner of several giveaways, I say yes, enter those contests! The more you enter, the more chances to win...just use a separate email account for those potential spam messages!

Wedding Recap: Cranes end their journey north

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , , , , | 0 comments

Our cranes head  more than 2000 miles north to Toronto, CA
Don't use masking tape if you're going to ship through the post office...we found out the hard way. (personal photo)

After nearly three months of folding and watching our flock of little white paper cranes grow to 1000 birdies strong, and another several months figuring out what to do with them, we packed them on their way for their final flight north to their new home in Toronto, Canada.

For awhile before our wedding, I had this crazy vision of folding 1,000 paper cranes. Cranes are symbols of great fortune across Asia and according to Japanese tradition, the couple who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a long and happy life together. Since my husband is half Chinese, and cranes are auspicious birds in Chinese folklore as well, I thought this would be a great project for our wedding. But with neither one of us knowing how to fold a crane, the thought of folding 1,000 of them was daunting. For a few weeks, I kept talking myself out of the idea, thinking folding 1,000 paper cranes on top of everything else we had to do was just crazy talk!

Then I heard about the Crane Chandelier Project by the Wedding Co. in Toronto, Canada. In celebration of turning 10 years old, the wedding planning support organization is collecting paper cranes from newlyweds around the world, which they plan to display in a massive chandelier at their 10-year bash in 2011. For each crane they receive, the Wedding Co. is committed to donating 50 cents to cancer research. Since we decided to make a donation in lieu of traditional wedding favors, we thought this would be a great cause to donate our efforts to.
Personal Photo

So we started with our first paper crane. With my laptop propped on the coffee table, we followed a youtube clip on how to make a paper crane. Slowly but surely, we began our huge task. As we began to get the hang of it, we made it a goal to fold 100 cranes a week. Each week, we put 100 cranes in plastic bags to keep track of our numbers.  It took many movie nights on the couch/crane folding to get to that goal. Finally, more than two months later and watching our upteenth rented movie, we folded our 1,000th paper crane! We almost couldn't believe that we had finished 1,000 little birds that we recounted our bags to make sure that we really did have 10 bags, each containing 100 paper cranes. Sure enough, they were all there!

Ironically, folding 1,000 paper cranes wasn't the hardest part. It was figuring out what we were going to do with them that really stumped us. We knew we wanted to display them at our wedding, to show our guests the fruits of our labor. But with limited set-up time at our reception venue, we had to think of a quick and easy way of hanging 1,000 paper cranes. After scouring the Web for ideas, I decided that we would make 10 chandeliers, each containing 100 cranes.

Making our DIY Paper Crane Chandeliers
Using jewelry beads, a needle, and some sturdy, translucent jewelry string (all purchased at Michaels), I followed this DIY crane-hanging tutorial to help me make my first chandelier. I started out by stringing 25 paper cranes on one strand, taking my needle (with string attached) through the top of each crane to the bottom until there were 25 cranes strung up on one strand. I made sure that I left a little slack on top, and attached a bead to the very top of the crane so they don't slide off. I attached another bead to the bottom crane as well so all 25 cranes stayed in one place. I made four strands each containing 25 cranes and tied them all together about five inches from the very top crane. Voila! I made my first chandelier!

Photo by the Wedding Co.

What I didn't account for was how time-consuming making one chandelier would be! We unwisely put off making our chandeliers until the week before the wedding (yikes!) With a bunch of other wedding-related stuff demanding our attention, there was no way we could add making 10 chandeliers to our list. So I enlisted the help of my MOH who thankfully helped us make half of the chandeliers. Seriously, give yourself at least a couple weeks if you want to  make chandeliers out of 1000 paper cranes!

When we finished, we handed our birds to our reception venue staff. All they needed to do by set up time was hang each chandelier to the overhead beams in the dining hall.

Photo by Don Le of  Bliss Imagery
Photo by Don Le of Bliss Imagery

 Photo by Regina Bunye

When I saw them all hanging at the reception for the first time, I was amazed at how gorgeous they all turned out! The cranes became the focal point of the room, adding something truly unique to the look and ambiance of our wedding. Each of our guests received a card at their table telling them about the cultural meaning of the cranes and our donation to the Wedding Co. We constantly heard compliments about the cranes from our guests -- how much they adored them and how many of them appreciated the donation we made for them. Even weeks after our wedding, we still hear the compliments!

Photo by Don Le of Bliss Imagery
Cards explaining the cultural significance of cranes and the donation to the Wedding Co. were placed at each seat. (Photo by Regina Bunye)

But alas, we had to say goodbye to our little friends. We packed them up in boxes and shipped them to Toronto. As a side note, if you plan to ship the cranes, you'll have to find a box large enough to hold them...and the bigger the box, the bigger the shipping cost is. Add in international and postage fees, shipping 1000 cranes can be pretty expensive (it cost us more than $100 to ship from LA). Also, make sure you know about packaging protocol...don't use masking tape (like in the above photo). You need clear packaging tape...yup, that was us pulling off the our original masking tape and repackaging five huge boxes at the post office!
Our boxes arrived beat up and weathered, but our cranes made it just fine to Canada!
Photo by the Wedding Co.

But really, it was all worth it in the end. One thousand paper cranes will bring in a nice donation going toward cancer research! Luckily, the cranes all arrived safely in their new home in Toronto. Catherine from the Wedding Co. blogged about our donation! They're moving closer to their goal of 10,000 cranes by January 2011 and need just over 1300  more to reach their goal!

A huge thanks goes to the Wedding Co. for putting on this awesome, worldwide effort! Over the months of planning we've come to see our cranes as symbolic of the time, effort, energy and patience we put into planning our wedding. It was a long, sometimes tedious, a little stressful, but overall fulfilling and fun journey. I'm happy to see our cranes' journey end someplace where they'll continue to hold a special meaning and purpose long after our wedding!