Our Budget Invitations - 46 Days

About 6 weeks, you guys! Can you believe it?! :)

Invitations: a necessary evil
I know, I know. I have many graphic designer friends and lovers of all things paper, which is totally cool! I can fall in love with beautiful letterpress invitations at a stationary shop or on Etsy as fast as the next girl, but here is my hang-up: snail mail is SO 2001.

Some people say “… but there’s something so pure and special about mailing a letter these days. It’s so exciting to get a piece of mail that isn’t bills or junk!” I say it’s just a pain in my rear. I get all these extra pieces of paper cluttering my house and it costs MONEY to mail things. Emails are free! And then when you get the paper invitation in the mail, you usually have a paper RSVP along with it that will just sit and sit and sit in your house until you finally stop being lazy the day before the due date and take it to the mailbox. At least in the city, it’s not always the most convenient task to mail a letter. I’m lucky because I have an outgoing mailbox in my condo building AND my work building – a rarity.

The 2011 Invitation
So now that I’m done going off on how I think letters should be phased out, I’d like to introduce a new trend. (Maybe it’s not new, but I don’t hear about it very much on the grapevine.) Electronic invitations!!!!! And no, not E-vite. Bleck! I think the times need to change to make sending electronic invitations the norm. Etiquette people, can we talk about this, please? It just makes more sense. People are on their computers and/or smart phones every day! This is part of their daily routine at this point. Get an email that isn’t spam? Respond! It’s so easy. You click “reply” and write back. And then you’re done! It’s magic!

I must say, I’m being a tad hypocritical. We sent paper save-the-dates, on my request. My fiancé insisted on doing it online and I said “absolutely not!” Some part of me just REALLY wanted to mail the save-the-dates so our friends and family could get one, put it on the fridge, be happy for us… I think I had a “put my 'A' paper on the fridge” moment. They turned out just how I wanted them to, but they may have been a little too good. Many people that got them in the mail overlooked them (at least at first) as junk mail since it was printed professionally postcard-style. It looked like a marketing piece to them. Meh, oh well. Lesson learned.

Electronic Save-the-Dates
The person who really changed my mind about the whole thing is my (fairly) newly engaged friend Michelle (from this post). It went like this:
About 1 month after she said “yes,” I got this email in my inbox with the subject “Tyler and Michelle’s Save the Date.” First of all, I was impressed that she was able to nail down a date so quickly. Secondly, that took NO TIME at all. She didn’t have to choose the stationary vendor, choose the colors, go back and forth on designs, wait while they printed, and wait for the shipment. Michelle has some graphic design skillz (the z is necessary) that she put to work to design a JPG that she simply attached to the email.
 (The attached save-the-date edited by me for privacy, of course. How perfect?!)

There was a nice message to the recipients in the body of the email letting us know that the save-the-date was attached and she took the opportunity to let everybody know that it was ok not to come. Most of their invited guests are from out-of-town. She worded it in the best way ever (I’m not going copy and paste here simply for privacy’s sake but if you want to do the same and need help, just email me!) to let out-of-town friends and family know that they shouldn’t feel pressure to make the trek to Chicago and that they will still love them no matter what. Also attached to the email were 2 lovely engagement photos of the couple, which gave it a nice personal feel. For the older folks and select others on their guest list, they took the design to a local printer and got some to snail mail. Everybody wins!

Our Invitations
I immediately regretted not going this route. My fiancé was right for a change. (Kidding, dear!) This was the best idea ever! Since Rafael wanted to do electronic everything from the start, I gave in and we met in the middle for our invitations. Since our budget is quickly depleting with various other wedding needs, I decided that print-at-home DIY invitations would be the best for our budget and time restraints. We headed off to Michael’s and picked up 2 boxes of 40 of the easiest-to-assemble invitations. I didn’t want to bother with ribbon and glue and all that mess. I also didn’t want the recipients to open like 50 envelopes and ribbon ties just to get to the message. We picked out some from the Brides Magazine line that they have out now. It only ran us about $80 = $1/invitation.
(Our Brides Magazine invitations. Not too shabby.)

I know, I just said that online is the way to go. Before the invitations went out, we made a Facebook event with one of our engagement photos and the exact wording from our paper invitations. The people that responded on Facebook before we went to address the envelopes did not get a paper invite (so as to not bother them a million times and waste postage). Also, on the paper invitation, we asked that responses be given at our wedding website. On our *free* website, it allows you to import your guest list from an Excel document and it will organize this lovely RSVP feature for you (projectwedding.com). We didn’t have to pay for all of the stamps on the return envelopes and we don’t have to rely on the USPS to get our responses. Chicago’s postal system is inadequate, at best.

Since the invitations came with response cards, I decided to use those as rehearsal dinner invitations. All labels (and rehearsal dinner wording) were printed on Avery shipping labels and printed at FedEx/Kinkos for a total of about $21.
 (Our rehearsal dinner invitations - shipping labels on response cards.)

The responses are rolling in on both Facebook and our wedding website and we’re so excited that it worked! I have so much more to share now that I'm getting things in order! I'm off to the wedding of my fiance's best friend in Florida this weekend and I'm so excited to see what they did! And to visit with my future in-laws and fiance's friends! Many pictures, coming soon.

Wedding Season

It’s that time, ladies and gents! My fellow bridal bloggers are getting MARRIED! Congratulations to my beautiful friend, fellow blogger, and former college roommate, Mallory from 11eleven11 and Moxie Missives and her new husband, James. She’s not just a bridal blogger but a truly captivating writer. I know she has been working her little tush off to move a wedding up 8 MONTHS and to begin working for herself in the direction of her dreams and ambitions, and I am so proud of her. Even though we haven’t seen each other in person in years (to change next month, yay!), I feel like we’re closer than ever because of this shared time in our lives. It’s been so helpful to have a group of people who know exactly what you’re going through in life and to share your triumphs and disasters and to feel their excitement with them and their worry with them and to have helpful and encouraging words at just the right times… It’s like reality TV circa “Real World: Seattle” - when it was actually real! (Anybody else have a crush on Nathan?)

CONGRATULATIONS, MALLORY & JAMES! May you have many many fabulous years together!


The People Must Eat – 64 Days

I want to start by wishing all the best to my friend and fellow blogger, Jennifer of City Girl Bride, at her wedding this Saturday. She’s been through a lot in her planning process and I’m so glad she’ll finally tie the knot and go on a fabulous honeymoon. Congratulations, Jen! You did it!

On to my wedding craziness… One of our biggest problems we've run into (one-off crises aside) is food. Food is expensive. At first I was all about being the offbeat bride and starving everyone to save us some money. Ok - not STARVING, but just not providing more than what I would at a normal house party. A dinner isn't necessary and many couples are cutting big ticket traditions like sit-down dinners from their weddings in favor of more non-traditional receptions. Non-traditional is my favorite! However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt terrible for having all of our guests (the vast majority from out of town) come to our wedding and stay for hours with only some cheese and crackers and cupcakes to munch on. "But beer is filling!" said the momentarily college-aged Crystal. While true, beer IS filling, something tells me this will not be sufficient to hold a group of possibly 150 people over for 5 hours.

Jordan’s Food of Distinction
On the suggestion of my newly engaged friend Michelle (see my last post), I called up a company called Jordan’s Food of Distinction. From the name of it, I thought “I can’t even afford normal food, let alone food of distinction.” However, I followed the advice and gave them a call. On the call, I learned that they are also an all-inclusive caterer which means that they will not only provide the food, but also the rental furniture (chairs, tables, etc), the servers, and will even act as a sort of “coordinator” for the event and everything! Fancy!

The woman I spoke with was named Pam and she was FABULOUS – very easy going, professional, and friendly. She made me feel comfortable telling her my budget (which can sometimes be difficult if you are dealing with a high-end company and you have a very modest budget). She asked me a few questions like what I was willing to do without to stay in budget. (i.e. Could I do disposable plates, cutlery, etc? Can we cut out high-priced meats like beef and seafood?)  My answer, of course, was “whatever can keep me in my budget.” In a couple of days, I had a sample menu and an itemized invoice in my inbox to review. I was floored with how delicious everything sounded on the menu and that it was in (or right around) our budget! I asked for Latin-themed food that didn’t require our guests to sit-down to enjoy, and I got a lovely menu with a delicious-sounding “taco bar” as the main event. It was perfect.

Long story short, we didn’t end up booking with them. After re-evaluating our budget post house-buying, we really didn’t want to push it and this option, while definitely an affordable option for most, was pushing what we felt comfortable paying. But please check them out and speak with Pam if you are looking for a nice custom menu and somebody to handle your rentals for you! You’ll be surprised what you can get for your money.

Our Food
So, here is what we ended up deciding on: family-cooked appetizers (in the industrial kitchen at Kitchen Chicago – perfect!) supplemented with chicken, steak, and pork tortas from the Costa Rican BYOB restaurant on Milwaukee in Wicker Park called Irazu.
Potluck style 

Appetizers: My fiance’s family was so kind to offer to cook for our reception. Luckily, his family is very easy to please in that they are all happy as long as they are together. They love spending time with one another and they love to cook for people. And boy, are they good cooks! My future mother-in-law helped me pick out some appetizers that would be fairly simple for them to make on a large-scale and to keep well on the table without a ton of rental chafing dishes and whatnot. (I’m so lucky to have awesome future in-laws – the entire extended family is just a treat to be around.) Here is what we came up with:  mini chicken & cheese quesadillas, tostones (Dominican fried plantains), tortilla chips & guacamole, veggies with ranch dip, and assorted fruits with this delicious fruit dip my future M-I-L makes. Nothing requires a fork! I am budgeting about $200-$250 for ingredients from Costco for all of this.

Tortas: Irazu is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Not only is it BYOB, but the prices are unbeatable for the amount and quality of food. (Go visit them right now if you haven’t. It’s so worth it. Oh! And try an oatmeal shake. I mean it. Fair warning: cash only.) Now, Irazu’s tortas are HUGE. I mean, half of one leaves me so full I want to sleep. So, we are having them all cut into quarters in order to be more finger-food friendly and to make sure a ton of food won’t go to waste. It will fit in perfectly with the rest of the food and will be a very filling (and delicious) option for all of our hungry guests. Can I also brag that this will only run us about $300 including delivery?

Dessert: Have I mentioned lately that my future in-laws are great? ;) My future mother-in-law makes this secret-recipe carrot cake that is out of this world. I didn’t even know I liked carrot cake until I had hers. When my fiancé and I started talking about our wedding cake, this carrot cake popped into my head and I couldn’t let it go. No other cake is going to be as good; this I know. So I asked her if she would be willing to make carrot cake cupcakes to serve as our “wedding cake” for the big day. She agreed and I couldn’t be more excited to see everybody’s reactions when they take a bite. Yum! Also, my future sister-in-law is taking a cake-decorating class to learn how to make the icing pretty to display on a cupcake stand (or two). Love her! Take THAT expensive wedding cakes!


So, the moral of the story here is that there ARE affordable options in the way of caterers, albeit few and far between. And don’t be afraid to contact your favorite local restaurant, no matter how small, to see what they can do for you. Even (and especially) if they don’t normally cater weddings or events, they could have some really budget-friendly options for you that you may not have even thought of. Call them and start the conversation. Food is what they do, so they should be able to give advice and steer you in the right direction at the very least. Chafing dishes and catering equipment are available for rent if you need them at most rental companies. Think outside the box, and don’t let yourself get played by the over-priced caterers in this city!

Bon appetite!
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