Let’s talk money…

We seem to have been talking a lot about weddings recently. Last month, while on a group holiday, my life-long best friend got engaged. She and her fiancé are incredibly excited and have started the fun, challenging and somewhat daunting task of planning their wedding. We also recently attended a beautiful wedding at The West Mill in Derby; where we saw Mike’s university friend and his beautiful new wife celebrate the start of their marriage with a day that perfectly represented the two of them as a couple.

When you start planning a wedding one of the first things you and your fiancé are going to discuss is, inevitably, the budget. How much does a wedding cost? What do we want to spend our money on? What are our priorities? How much money can you actually save having a DIY wedding? And where do you look when you have no idea where to start? The internet, of course!

I was hooked on wedding blogs when we were planning our wedding and trying to agree a budget. But, unfortunately, the internet lies and the budget blogs I read were utter nonsense. We constructed our initial budget on muddled information from the blogs that sounded fairly accurate. Luckily, my husband can work magic with a spreadsheet and throughout our wedding planning he was able to manage the budget perfectly. Also (fortunately for Mike, or else we would be bankrupt), I had no control whatsoever over budget; if he said no to something, it didn’t happen.

So this post is written with the intention of full disclosure; something we couldn’t find anywhere when we were trying to decide our budget. We know we could have done it cheaper and we know we could have paid more; this is just how we decided to do it. Before we get started, some caveats:

  1. Our budget is for 110 guests;
  2. We got married near the New Forest on the Hampshire/Dorset border, which is expensive;
  3. Yes, weddings are expensive – if you can get away with booking it as just a party, you’re bound to save a few 0’s;
  4. Yes, we could have saved money and done our wedding on a smaller budget;
  5. No, we have no regrets about how much we spent – we saved money on some elements and splashed the cash on others, our wedding was perfect in every way.
  6. This budget is from June 2016 and I’m sure it’ll go out of date quickly.

Money is always a tricky subject and saving enough money for a wedding is tough, we lived through wedding austerity in the 18 months leading up to the wedding, saving every penny we could. We were also fortunate to have wonderful family, who contributed to the wedding too. We knew our wedding day was likely to be the second most expense day of our lives (after buying a flat) and managing such a large amount of money is quite an intimidating task. There were a few things that we discussed that helped us agree our wedding aims:

  1. We decided what was important to us – photography (the record of the day for the rest of our lives), food (we both love food), drink (we also love drink) and wedding rings (we’ve got to wear these every day for ever).
  2. We agreed the wedding location– near my family home so I could get ready in my childhood bedroom.
  3. We established what type of wedding we wanted – modern elegance; something that would celebrate the continuation of our life together, recognising the love of those around us and creating a day that everyone would (hopefully) enjoy and remember with fondness.

These things helped us with our venue choice, guest list and focus for suppliers. We think we played around with our forecast during the planning, as we quickly realised our original budget wasn’t going to cut it (original budget was around £27k). Even if this is just a guide on a few elements of a wedding, I hope this is useful to those of you who are planning you special day.

budget

DIY Wedding Invitations

Happy New Year! After a fantastic 2016, Mike and I have high expectations for 2017 – things can only get better and better, yes?! I don’t really believe in New Year resolutions and the whole new year, new you concept; self-improvement is fluid and on-going, et cetera, et cetera. However, I am going to resolve to add more blog posts this year; our wedding is fast becoming ancient history and I need to get my thoughts down on paper, or whatever the internet is – metaphorical paper, I guess.

One of the main reasons we decided to have a DIY wedding was so that Mike and I could create our own bespoke wedding invitations and wedding stationary. Like everything wedding-related, wedding stationary is ridiculously expensive; suppliers seem to add a few extra zeros to the price tag and the wedding industry is an extremely lucrative business! Looking through the hundreds of online wedding stationary shops, most of our conversations ended with ‘I love it, but I could make that for half the price’. There was no way we were ever going to pay the extortionate prices quoted to us for wedding stationary so we decided to take on the challenge of making our own invitations. As with all our DIY projects, this took longer than expected, we spent every evening for a month or so cutting and sticking our invitations but I’m so proud to say that we designed and made them.

Before I go into the step-by-step instructions, I need to introduce my wedding-DIY buddy, Cricut Explore. Cricut is, essentially, a paper cutter, although its tricks are far greater than paper cutting alone and we used it to do the calligraphy for the insert of the invitations too. Due largely to lack of time, I didn’t do much research into paper cutters before buying Cricut as I had my heart set on Cricut from the moment I saw it. I was glued to Cricut DIY blogs, constantly in awe of the things it was able to create and the diverse range of materials it can cut (from card to vinyl to iron-on). It comes with some online software, which can be pretty difficult to use at times, and you can create more-or-less any DIY project from scratch. Once you get used to how it works, Cricut is fairly simple to use. Always test any project on cheap, scrap material before you get going with any design, to ensure the printing and cutting is correct and to keep your material cost low. 

Cricut was a substantial investment to make,  particularly at the early stage of our DIY journey, with the initial purchase cost of around £200 as well as additional materials along the way. We did the calculations both before and after the wedding and without a doubt, we have saved ourselves a significant amount of money on, otherwise hugely expensive, items for our wedding. We had little idea how much we would come to rely on Cricut for our DIY wedding projects. 

I am extremely excited to share my Cricut wedding invitation design and DIY steps. We played around a lot before settling on our final design and we ran a few prototype invitations past friends and family. Our final design received the best responses, by a long way. As our design was so intricate and each invitation used a whole A4 page of card, it did take a long time to do as Cricut can only cut one page at a time. The other significant problem we encountered was that Cricut didn’t always make a clean cut, we could never work out the reason for this and adjusted the settings ever so slightly each time. In the end we used a thicker material setting, supposed to be for fabric, which meant that the card was cut twice. We also invested in some essential re-sticking spray for the matts to ensure they remained ‘tacky’ and our card stuck to them during the cut stage. 

OK, so here we go. The steps to create my invitations:

Materials

A4 Coloured card for external design (we used green, as it’s my favourite colour).

A4 Pale card for internal slip – I’d recommend using a higher quality card, we used this, as this is the bit people are going to spend time looking at. 

Pen – Cricut tries to make you buy their branded pens to use but for half the cost you can use American Crafts Precision Pens with a fine tip, which work just as well – if the pen drags across the page then blunt the tip slightly with a nail file. We tried dozens of other pens but these seem to be the only ones that clip in to the Cricut pen attachment.

Spare matts – we had three so we could keep going with the next cut while we took our time to remove the cut card form the previous matt.  

Re-sticking spray for the matts – we used 3M ReMount Spray Adhesive.

Some form of poker to remove the fiddly bits from the cut – You will probably have something around the house you can use like a skewer, I used a cake tester.

Ruler

Scoring pen (comes with Cricut)

Envelopes (size 15.5 square envelopes, we used these)

Glue (any transparent glue, we started off with Pritt Stick and moved on to craft glue, which was better)

Ribbon (we used this) 

Steps

Main design 

  1. Log into the Cricut Design Space and design your invitation. If you want to use my design just click here and edit to your heart’s desire, in which case you can skip steps 2 to 6 below.
  2. Create your canvas and design. You can import various files if you want to use your own designs, as I did. You can also use the Cricut Image Library for your designs. Or, you can use a bit of both! This page gives the tutorials you’ll need to get started, or look at one of the many blogs/YouTube tutorials.
  3. My design is a cutout only but if you want to add text at this stage, use the ‘Add Text’ tool from the left hand menu. If you want Cricut to draw this, rather than print or cut, go to the right hand menu and ‘Edit’ in the box below where it says ‘All Fonts’ select ‘Has a Writing Style’ and then choose your font from the menu below that. You can import your own fonts from various online sites for free.
  4. Add score lines if you are folding your project.
  5. One of the tricks of Cricut that you need to master early on is how to attach and detach your layers. If you want to keep all the elements of your design in their current position and for Cricut to cut and write them in one go then you’ll need to attach the layers. Cricut will prompt you when you need to change the tools it is using when you are in the create stage.
  6. I used one whole A4 page per invitation but if you want to make a smaller project, select the attached item and adjust as necessary.
  7. Start cutting.

Insert

  1. If you want to create a separate insert for your invitation, create a new project on the Cricut Design Space and follow instructions 1 to 3 above.
  2. If you want to copy mine just click here, detach the grouped layers and edit your information.

Assemble

  1. Gently pull the main design away from the Cricut matt and use your poking tool to carefully free the invitation – be gentle as there may be bits that haven’t cut properly and you don’t want to tear the card. If you have a Stanley knife, or something similar, use it to cut off any excess card, if necessary. 
  2. Fold the invitation use the score marks. If you’re using my design then fold the score marks against a ruler as these are very delicate.
  3. Put a fine line of glue around the outside of the main design and attach the insert. Leave to dry overnight.
  4. When dry, tie the ribbon into a bow around the invitation. This sounds easy but it can be so difficult to tie a perfect bow over and over again, I’d encourage you to this with a glass of something bubbly in your hand. It also helps to have your other half hold their finger on the knot while you tie the bow.
  5. Write your envelope addresses, or if you don’t want to handwrite them then print address labels off,  pop your invitations inside, seal and post.
  6. Breathe a sigh of relief and hope you haven’t missed anyone too important off the invitation list.

 

Let’s start with something simple and incredibly tasty: homemade Limoncello.

When life gives you lemons… make limoncello!

I initially thought of limoncello as an idea for favours as it fitted in with our colour theme at the time: yellow and green. Although further into the wedding-planning the colour theme changed, we kept the idea of limoncello. Limoncello suited us as a couple quite well; we both appreciate a good drink and like its sharp, tangy taste plus it is aesthetically pleasing sitting on a table. One of the main charms of homemade limoncello is that it is so easy to make! A word of warning, before you start: if you want to make a high-quality drink (which, of course you do, it’s your wedding!) then you need to use high-quality vodka, which comes at a price. While we would have loved to make limoncello for all our guests, we only gave formal favours to our wedding party. This made the process slightly cheaper for us and meant we could give each recipient a decent sized bottle of limoncello. For our other guests, we made contributions to chosen charities, in lieu of wedding favours.

 A Google search for ‘limoncello recipe’ will give you 463,000 results, each with different tips and slightly different recipes, some claiming to be closely guarded secrets only recently shared by Italian Grandmothers on their deathbeds. I read hundreds of recipes but only needed to test-run one (which was recommended by a friend) with some minor amendments. I can’t say that this is the best but it produces a bloody good tasting limoncello. I’d say look no further, but the choice is yours.


Top Tips before you start

  • It is SO easy to make but to infuse the lemons and vodka takes time, be patient and know that you can’t make this and drink it on the same night, or even in the same week.
  • Limoncello is an intense flavour and smell – it unfortunately has a very similar smell to a lot of cleaning products. Don’t do what I did and clean just before you make limoncello, you’ll be very close to hating the smell of lemons before you even begin!
  • Your local hardware shop probably has all the items you need and for half the price of Amazon; stay local.
  • Limoncello is sticky; work surfaces and fingers beware!


Ingredients (makes approx. 1 litre limoncello, just scale it up if you need more!)

  • 10 unwaxed lemons, washed and dried (if you are unsure then go for organic lemons, which are almost always unwaxed. If you don’t want to fork out on organic lemons then just be aware that the alcohol will strip everything from the lemon peels, pesticides and all…)
  • 750ml bottle vodka (the higher the proof, the better the limoncello will taste: higher-proof grain alcohol extracts more lemon flavour from the infusing process and the result is a smooth, tasty, tangy limoncello). I made two batches of limoncello using Grey Goose and Ciroc (both 80% proof).
  • Fancy branching out? Lemons can be substituted for other citrus fruits (lime, grapefruit, orange…)
  • Caster sugar (to your taste)
  • Water


What you need

  • Vegetable Peeler or grater
  • Knife
  • Large mason-style container with lid
  • Some form of strainer – I used a sieve
  • Large bowl
  • Funnel (although not essential, it makes things easier and less sticky)
  • Bottles for storing the finished product (or jam jars, if you’re a classy lady, like me)

 

Method

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel your lemons, it is easier than a grater and your hand will thank you after the first 2 lemons. Try to only get the rind (the yellow stuff); the pith (white stuff) is sour and doesn’t add anything to the flavour. If your rind comes away with a layer of pith then scrape this off with a kitchen knife until you just have rind.
  2. Put the lemon peel in the bottom of your container and cover with vodka. Put the lid on and leave the vodka and lemons to infuse for one month. If you want a softer, less intense flavour then you can stop the infusing process earlier. I like big, bold flavours so I would recommend leaving for the full month.
  3. Leave the container in a cool, dark space and gently swirl the container once a week to ensure ultimate infusing.
  4. When you’re ready to finish the limoncello, make some sugar syrup. Bring the water to a simmer and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Allow this to cool. You can play with the sugar and water ratios to make a sugar syrup to your taste – the more water you use, the more you will dilute the alcohol base, making a less alcoholic, milder, and smoother-sipping liqueur. More sugar will make a sweeter limoncello. I used 240 ml water to 200g sugar for a tangier finish.
  5. Using the sieve or other strainer, strain the infused vodka to remove the lemon peel into a large bowl.
  6. Gradually add small amounts of the sugar syrup to the infused vodka, while stirring continuously. Taste as you go to get the flavour you like.
  7. Make sure your storage bottles are clean and bottle the limoncello using the funnel.
  8. Chill, drink and enjoy. Keep the limoncello in the fridge or freezer. I recommend serving limoncello straight from the freezer.
  9. Apparently this can be  stored for up to a month in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer. I’ve kept mine in the fridge and it has been four months now and it still tastes fine. The only side effects? …A pretty sore head the next morning!


Homemade Labels – instructions to follow

For me, presentation is everything so I decided to make homemade labels to stick on the bottles. I will write a future post on my wedding DIY sidekick (no, not my husband), Cricut, which I used to create the labels. Cricut is an incredible machine; it is essentially a paper cutter but with excellent technology and agility. It enabled me to create almost anything from a huge range of fabrics and materials. You will see in future posts how much I relied on Cricut during my wedding DIY days and how it helped me to create my DIY wedding. 

#Speirswoodemerger

I had been planning my wedding day (minus the groom) since I was about five years old so I was overjoyed to marry my incredible husband (it still sounds weird calling him that), Mike, on 25 June this year. We met at the University of Birmingham, where we were both students and we have been together for somewhere between seven and eight years.

Although Mike and I had been together for a while, getting married was important to us. So many of our friends and family have strong, successful marriages, and we tried to incorporate that into a general ‘love’ theme at our wedding. Rather than celebrating the start of our life together, we wanted to celebrate the journey we had already been on and how our friends and family had influenced that, as well as making the formal commitment to each other.  

Lots of brides that I know hated planning their weddings but I am a planner; I write our meal plans each week, book our holidays months in advance (and create detailed excel itineraries) and buy Christmas presents in February (the difficulty comes from hiding them for 10 months!). So it was no surprise to anyone that I loved every minute of wedding planning. I was involved in all the tiny details of the planning and Pinterest was my world for quite a while. In the end, Mike and I ended up doing as much as possible ourselves, including: making our wedding invitations and DIY blackboards (buying wood then cutting, sanding, painting and writing on them); learning to code so I could build our wedding website; roping Mike in on printing, cutting and sticking 108 ceremony fans (his favourite job!); and infusing homemade limoncello for our favours. There were times when we wondered what we had taken on; it was like working a second job. We were up well past midnight every night sticking, cutting and sorting all our bits and pieces and we would wake up early to start again and do as much as possible before going to work for a break!

From one brother playing the piano as I walked down the aisle to my other brother painting our cake toppers, we tried to make the wedding as personal as possible. All the detail had a meaning: my Grandfather had saved some fondant flowers that my Granny had made so we used those on our cake; Mike’s sister and my uncle did readings; and we had photos of all the family weddings on display to celebrate the wonderful couples who have influenced our relationship and helped us to get to where we are today. Our dog attended the wedding for some photos – Mike dissuaded me from allowing him to be ring bearer (wise decision). We wrote our own vows, and managed to make almost exactly the same promises to each other. The speeches were brilliant – a good mix of emotional, funny and personal – and the girls were well represented with two Maids of Honour, the Mother of the Bride, as well as my own impromptu speech (big up the girls!).

The day itself was perfect. I know everyone says that but it really is true; it was better than even I could have ever imagined. All my Pinterest boards came together and it was so good to see the ideas in my head becoming a beautiful reality. All our favourite people in the world were in one place for one day and everyone was so happy. The day was made even more special as several of our friends travelled from around the world to be in the same room as us, and we were touched by how many people made such an effort to be there. The day was filled with so much love and laughter and it is a day that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. 

The post-wedding blues have yet to hit us. We are still on a high, enjoying readjusting to married life, although in reality much is the same as it was before; Mike’s favourite phrase is ‘everything has changed, but nothing has changed’ and it’s so true!

I have started this blog to share my DIY attempts; my tips, my failures and to be brutally honest about wedding planning. I hope to help other DIY brides and save them time and (hopefully!) money – watch this space!