Friday, January 20, 2017

How to: Wedding on a Budget


(We loved this room in the venue...it kind of fits the 1920's theme). Bridesmaids and flower girl dresses from Etsy Shops

On December 17, 2015, our oldest daughter got married. I still don't feel old enough to have a daughter who is married (she was 20) and it still seems weird saying "my son-in-law" (he's a great guy). It was a beautiful wedding (I know, all mothers probably feel that away about their kid's weddings). I was chatting with a friend on FB messenger recently and realized I had never done a wedding post. I did this post in February 2015 about the venue and dress, and then this post in January 2016 about the broach bouquet I had made for her. In my head, I always intended to do a post about the wedding, but it just must have slipped my mind. So, here it is, A year and a month (give or take a few days) later.

One thing that was very important to us as a family was not carrying a lot of debt from the wedding. They were helping pay for it, and the last thing either of them wanted was to start their marriage in debt. We sat down and decided how much they were going to pay, what we were going to pay, who was going to purchase what, and so on. Once we had that nailed down, we started hunting for deals.

The venue had lights and the fabric over pillars but we had to put them up and attach it. Not all the lights worked so we bought our own....which when the wedding was over, the manager purchased them from us! Which put $300 back in our pockets. 
Let me preface by saying; what is a tight budget to one person is like being given a million dollars to another. I admit, people have talked about their tight budgets and I've thought "you don't know what a "tight" budget is" or, "well, I'd like to have your "tight" budget, let's trade"..lol. So maybe our tight budget doesn't seem tight to you, but when the average wedding cost is around $26,000 our budget was "EXTREMELY" tight. In the end, we spent a total of $8,000 (that is for everything). I realize some people have an even tighter budget. BUT, whatever your budget is, I hope that this post will give you ideas of how to make your it work and allow you to have the wedding you truly want. 

Now what bride to be doesn't have extravegant dreams? That's okay, but it's also important to keep things realistic so you don't find yourself with the woulda, shoulda, coulda blues. We had a year to save (and had already started saving when we knew that was the direction the relationship was heading). We spent what we spent, but it was all paid for when the wedding was over. There were times of discouragement because of costs, but we got through them.

We stuck with simple flowers for the girls. 
Questions to ask:

1) Who is going to pay for what? (many parents will foot the whole bill, but some can't, so how will you split it)

2) What do you want to spend more money on? Is it an expensive dress, or is it quality pictures and video? Or a full out catered reception with alcohol?

3) What time of year? That can make a huge difference in cost (indoor vs. outdoor).  

4) How big of a reception? What will you serve? Food is not cheap, this will take a large chunk of cash depending on the route you go.

5) Venue? Inside, outside, how much seating? Separate ceremony and reception locations or all in the same place? Venues tend to be more than churches.

6) Bridesmaids and groomsmen? They are also on budgets so how can you cut their costs.

7) Will you have a DJ? 

8) Decorations? Flowers? How much do you want? What can you do on your own or ask friends to help with? Maybe if summer, do fresh cut flower bouquets from friends gardens. etc..

9) How long til the wedding? The longer you have, the more you can save, the more you can potentially spend. 

Reception Dress and headpiece also purchased online. 

Here are some of bullet point thoughts....


* I encourage you to buy or make a planner. We made our own by printing off sheets we found online and putting them in a binder. Often times the store bought ones have a lot of "fluff" and aren't geared towards those on tight budgets. Thank the Lord for Pinterest and internet...lol. 

* Join wedding FB pages. Yep, they're out there and lots of people are selling stuff after they've gotten married. We scored several items for the wedding via these groups, for a fraction of the cost. We also sold some items after the wedding to recoup some of our costs. Win-win!

* Think outside the box when it comes to dresses. Do you really need that brand new, current trend dress (that probably 3/4 of the people don't even know is the current trend)? There are several non-profit bridal shops that take donated dresses whether from brides or bridal shops who are making room for new dresses. You can purchase these for a fraction of the cost, AND the proceeds go to a great cause. My daughter purchased hers from a store called Brides for a Cause. Part of the proceeds go towards various causes. This store also puts on yearly events to clear their own stock and all dresses are $150. Hello! Yep, we were there, and found a dress. It needed some alterations, but at $150, alterations were just fine. My daughter had the seamstress add a top portion to the dress because she loved the look of a keyhole back. The seamstress also informed us that brand new, this dress was $1200. Ahem. Don't be afraid of used or last years styles. It's worth it. There are also consignment bridal shops with some gorgeous dresses. We did get the dress dry cleaned after purchasing it because it had been in their store for a bit and they recommend dry cleaning. Think. Outside. The. Box.

*  Did you know that getting married during the week can save quite a few hundred dollars? Especially if you are looking at a venue wedding. While not always conventional, it's not a bad option, and it's what we did. I'm sure it impacted some people who could come, but we had to be smart with our money and that was a great option for the venue our daughter chose. 

* We checked out many venues and while maybe the cost was in our range, by the time we had to use their caterers, rent table linens, etc...it was out of our budget. The place we found included the price of linens in their fee (and they had several color options) not to mention candle centerpieces we could use (we just had to provide candles). The chapel was so ornate it didn't need decorating. 

*  We made our own invitations, which I believe saved us money, and I enjoy doing those things so while it took time, I didn't mind. 

*  She wanted a broach bouquet. To buy one or have it specially made was outrageous..over $200. I thought "I could make this". So, I did. I hunted thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, asked friends to look, for a variety of broaches. I refused to spend over $3 per broach (because that adds up fast). We found the flowers on clearance at Michaels and also used coupons to save even more. I purchased a few things at Walmart and had ribbon at home to wrap it in. I'm not sure what our total cost ended up being, but it wasn't much. See the link at the top of the post for how I made it.

* For the reception, since we were having the wedding at 7:00, we decided to do a pie and ice cream bar (no cake, since neither bride nor groom were cake eaters), and then we had carrots and peanuts on the tables, plus cheese, crackers and smoked salmon (my dad smoked some salmon he had caught). We asked friends to make pies and purchased ice cream from Schwans and a few extra pies from Costco. Other items were purchased at Costco or Cash and Carry. We also did individual bottles of water on the tables (we removed labels) and also made a simple punch. 

* We did not do party favors. It's kind of funny how in the US especially, WE are the ones getting married, and yet WE spend thousands and thousands of dollars for people to come be a part of OUR special day. Don't feel certain obligations because of tradition. Make your own traditions. 

*During the reception we had a photo booth. Instead of paying a few hundred extra for the photographer to set this up, we purchased some items, set up a backdrop, had selfie sticks on the table and let people have fun, then upload their pics to Instagram with a hashtag that my daughter and her hubby came up with. What a fun idea and it worked out pretty good. 

* Because of the size of the venue we had to limit the number of people we could invite. It was a hard decision, but we had to request that children under a certain age not attend (unless they were immediate family), and couldn't just invite everyone and their uncle. It's your day, do what you need to do.

* We also purchased items to serve with at Dollar Tree...yep, Dollar Tree. The bowls that held the carrots and nuts, serving tongs, a few other bowls and platters. Other items like the platters for the pies we purchased on one of the FB wedding sites.

I am sure there are many more tips, BUT I don't want to write a book and these were the top ones that we felt saved us the most money. The top two being the dress, food choices and having a weekday wedding. 

As I look back through pictures, it was such a fun night. They love the 1920's so that was the "theme" of their wedding. My daughters reception dress (that she found online) and headband were 1920's looking, the venue fit perfectly and many guests dressed up according to the theme which was fun. 

My biggest takeaways......Feel free to comment if you have any other questions.

#1 THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

#2 Don't be afraid of doing something different! It's okay to break tradition.

  
With Joy Unquenchable,

Friday, January 13, 2017

A New Year, A New Word: Breathe

When you hit the new year and look back at the previous year, what goes through your mind? Did you set resolutions only to look back and realize you didn't accomplish them? Or maybe you're disciplined and totally rocked them....way to go! I decided years ago to not make resolutions...I'm not that great at keeping them. Last year I decided to start choosing a word for the year. Usually chosen in December, it is a word that maybe was being impressed upon my heart, or a word that I was hearing a lot of. Last year, my word was "intentional". You can find that post here, or if you just do a search for the word "intentional" you'll find several posts and my 2016 31 Days of Living Intentionally. Now, while within that word, I set some goals, and don't really feel as though I was 100% successful, I would say I was 95% aware and that was a huge step in the right direction. I'll carry that word into this year as well, because we can always work on being more intentional. 

In December I went to a Christmas Tea with my mother in law and my husband's cousin. Towards the end of the skit they did, they played this song which immediately resonated with my spirit and I knew I had found my word!



I so often let life consume me, and before I know it I'm going from one day to the next just doing what I always do, often on auto-pilot. It's not that days are bad, usually they're pretty good days, but I just find myself going from one thing to the next without slowing down to take in all that's around me. I know I'm not the only one. I think part of the reason I didn't feel like I succeeded in being intentional in the areas I wanted to was that I really didn't take time to slow down and focus on anything.

Which brings me to my word for this year: 


Breathe: A) Take air into the lungs and then expel it; B) To be alive; C) To pause to rest or regain breath; D) To move or blow gently; E) To take in or exchange; F) To impart or instill. (From The Free Dictionary; online)


Those words spoke to me! Do they speak to you? Can you think outside your normal "breath" you breathe to go a little deeper? To realize that so often we forget to "breathe". It's like we're just holding our breath, or perhaps not realizing all the stuff we breathe in but don't exhale. The words to the song above caused me to pause and think of all the times I just rush through the days and life and never stop to breathe....and subsequently, to exhale. I thought of things that we should be breathing in and exhaling. I'm sure it barely touches the surface of what could be listed.

Breathe in:

Life
Rest
Peace
Beauty
Joy
Confidence
All good things
Hope
Family
Community
Fun
Nature
Wisdom
Truth
Laughter

Exhale:

Negativity

Self Doubt
Negative Self Talk
Things that aren't Life Giving
Lies that have been spoken and believed
Insecurity
Complaining
Toxic thoughts
Anger
Bitterness
Hurt
Loneliness

This lists could go on...I'd love you to add yours. So, this is my word for the year. I want a constant awareness to breathe. I want a mindfulness to be willing to slow down at any moment and take in what's around me. To drop what I'm doing and breathe in time with my family or a friend. I don't know what else it will look like, but we'll find out!

So here's to a wonderful new year! Let's fill our lungs and life with the breath of life that God breathed into us! Remind yourself that His breath runs in you and through you! Wow!


With Joy Unquenchable,

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Whipped Peppermint Shortbread #FantasticalFoodFight

I am excited to be taking part in a new group called Fantastical Food Fight. The beauty of this group is if I don't want to participate one month, I don't have to. Cool. This month the theme was Shortbread Cookies. YUM! I had just found a new recipe I wanted to try so it was a perfect opportunity. The idea is Food Fight is to take each months theme, find or create an original recipe and make a variation of it. It can be anything...though not something the blogger has already made and posted. I love this idea. 

There was a recipe going around for Whipped Shortbread. The words "melt in your mouth" was the winner for me. These cookies are small, cute and they do melt in your mouth. I added homemade mint extract to mine...yum! It could have used a little more, but I know for next time.

This recipe originated off the Taste of Home Site. Find it here. I've almost always been pleased with recipes from their site and cookbooks. Their magazine was one of the first I used as a married woman. 

NOTE: I halved the recipe as the original said it made 16-18 dozen...I didn't need that many..haha.


Whipped Shortbread

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. confectioners sugar, sifted
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. cornstarch
sprinkles

Instructions:

1. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

2. In a separate bowl combine flour and cornstarch. Gradually add into butter mixture. Mix until well blended.

3. Roll dough into 1" balls (dust hands with cornstarch if necessary..I didn't need to). Place on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the back of a fork dipped in powdered sugar.

4. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20-22 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack until cooled.

These would actually be great for a wedding reception or special party.




With Joy Unquenchable,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Recipe: Baba Ganoush

Several months ago we ate dinner at a great Mediterranean restaurant and tried their Baba Ganoush as an appetizer. I was hooked after the first bite. I really like Hummus, but this stole the show and I knew I needed to find a recipe and make it at home (whatever did we do before the internet..lol). The recipe is easy with very few ingredients needed. If  you don't have tahini and you don't want to spend the money at the store (it can be a little spendy), you can make your own. I chose to do this because a large jar was $10 at the store and I only needed a few Tablespoons and wasn't sure how soon I'd use it again. Plus I had the ingredients to make it homemade. 

I absolutely love being able to make copycat recipes for two reasons, #1 being that I can make them with better ingredients and know exactly what I'm putting in them and #2 I can enjoy them at a fraction of the cost, in the comfort of my own home. One of our other favorites is Buffalo Wild Wings wings sauces. YUM. 

But this is about eggplant, and flat bread, and all kinds of yummy goodness.
Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant
1 large clove garlic, finely minced or grated
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tbs. tahini (see this link to make your own, I didn't make the full recipe)
Olive Oil for roasting
Sea salt to taste
Optional: Fresh cilantro, parsley or basil

Instructions:

1. Preheat your oven to medium broil if you have it, if not, then high. 

2. Slice eggplant about 1/4 inch thick and place in a colander, sprinkling with sea salt and letting sit of 10 minutes to draw out extra moisture. Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.

3. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Broil for about 5-10 minutes, turning a few times until eggplant is soft and and lightly browned. 

4. Remove from pan and stack on a large piece of foil. Wrapping up to seal in moisture for about 5 minutes.

5. Peel away as much skin as you can and place eggplant in food processor.

6. Add lemon juice, tahini, garlic and sea salt. Process until creamy. Add herbs towards the end and process just to incorporate. Season further according to your tastes. 

We served this with flat bread and it was a huge hit. 



With Joy Unquenchable,

Monday, November 21, 2016

SRC Reveal: Gluten Free Donuts




I have loved being  a part of the Secret Recipe Club. I've been a part of this club since 2011. My first recipe was an asparagus quiche. It was so good, I've made it several times since. That's one thing I've loved about the blogs I've been a part of...I make some of the recipes over and over again. Sadly, the group is coming to an end. It was just time, as sometimes that happens and you always want to end on a high note. It's been a fun run. Sometimes I chose recipes that were familiar and easy, and sometimes I tried to challenge myself, like when I made macarons. I was just going through some of the recipes and oh boy, I'm getting an itch to make some of them again, like the Rustic Tomato Tart and Garlicky Grilled BLT.

This month I was assigned to The Heritage Cook. Jane has been a great asset to the Secret Recipe Club, and I'm honored to be cooking with her blog this month. She's a cookbook author, recipe developer, food and travel writer (that sounds fun). Check out her About Me page

I loved that she had such a large variety of dishes to choose from and a lot of Gluten Free ones. While we are not GF, I do try and make some recipes that are so I have an arsenal for when others come over or just to give us a break from wheat products.

I chose to make her Gluten Free Donuts because who doesn't love donuts, and being gluten free I wanted to give a couple to my daughter who mostly tries to avoid gluten, AND I always like options and newer, healthier ways of making things. I didn't have a donut pan, but borrowed one from a friend. I now need to go buy a donut pan. I also had to cut the recipe in half because I didn't have as much GF flour mix as I thought. I made a GF mix from my America's Test Kitchen Cookbook "How can it be Gluten Free". I love this mix. It doesn't have xanthum gum, and the recipe said to add 1/4 tsp. if your mix doesn't have it. I knew I had some but the little bag I thought was it didn't have anything to confirm it so I crossed my fingers and hoped it was...then added 1/8 tsp. since I halved the recipe and again, hoped it worked. My donut pan was also full size and not mini so I only got 6 full size donuts, but really that was all we needed. 

They turned out really good. They weren't as puffed up as I would have liked and I'm not sure if I needed to add more of something or just fill the pans a bit more. The flavor was great. The longer they sit, the drier they are so they'd probably be great with coffee, or maybe slightly warmed in the microwave. I ate a part of each kind within an hour of them coming out of the oven and they were perfect. My favorite was the cinnamon sugar. Next time I'll try a chocolate glaze as well and a powdered sugar, oh, and a maple glaze would be good too.
On to the recipe. It's lengthy so bear with me, but these are totally worth making! Oh, and I just found her recipe for a chocolate version...oh my, oh my..might need to make both next time. Also, go to her blog to read her tips and tricks. They were helpful.
Ingredients:

Donuts

1/2 c. milk
2 Tbs. butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 c. gluten free flour blend (or you could use all purpose flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. water
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 to 2 Tbs. vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

White Chocolate Glaze

2 Tbs. White Chocolate Chips
1 Tbs. vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbs. milk as needed
1 to 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

1/2 c. sugar
1 to 2 tsp. ground cinnamon to taste
melted butter for dipping

Instructions:

Donuts:

1. Preheat oven to 325. Spray donut pan lightly with cooking spray. Place a wire cooling rack over a piece of parchment paper, silpat, or waxed paper.

2. In a small bowl stir together the milk and melted butter. Reheat as needed to keep the butter melted. (I combined these two at the last minute, I think you could warm the milk up slightly to help).

3. In a large bowl combine the flour baking powder, salt and xanthum gum if needed. Whisk to combine well.

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs, water, sugar and vanilla until thick and creamy. Add the dry ingredients and the milk/butter mixture to the egg mixture. Beat until smooth.

5. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium tip, or fill a plastic bag with mixture and cut one corner off. Pipe into prepared pans, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for about 9 to 11 minutes or until puffed, the tops spring back when lightly touched and they are beginning to lightly brown.

6. Let them cool slightly and then remove carefully from pan onto a wire rack for cooling. Cool competely before glazing. Repeat with remaining batter. 

White Chocolate Glaze:

1. In a microwave safe bowl (or on stovetop), place the white chocolate chips, vanilla and milk. Heat in 10-15 second bursts until chocolate is mostly melted, stirring between each heating. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth and mostly melted. Whisk the powdered sugar into the melted chocolate until fully incorporated. Whisk in as much additional milk as needed to thin the glaze enough to make a good dipping consistency. I wanted mine thicker.

2. When donuts are cool enough, dip tops in glaze, allowing excess to drip off and then place on cooling rack that has been placed over parchment. If you want to add sprinkles, do this now before glaze sets up, either dipping donut in sprinkles or drizzling over top. I used shaved chocolate.

Cinnamon Sugar

1. In a bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Melt some butter in a saucepan and then place in a bowl.

2. Dip both sides of donuts briefly in butter and then toss in cinnamon sugar. Return to rack to dry.






With Joy Unquenchable,

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