How to invite in the digital age…

It is very tempting to dump a bunch of money into beautiful, super intricate, wedding invitations. You imagine this will be one of the first impressions people will get about your wedding and you want to make sure you really wow them, but when you start adding up the cost of creating and sending out multiple mailings of heavy stationary it begins to get very expensive.

We decided to skip printed invitations and send out only Save the Dates. We are printing them on 2 sided postcards and sending them out in envelopes so they will be in good shape when they arrive. I know most people don’t hold on to invitations or save the dates but I figured if people wanted to put them on the fridge or somewhere they would be seen for a few months I wanted them to arrive in good shape. Plus I don’t really feel comfortable sending our personal information out on a postcard.

I designed the save the dates myself so that was free. The total cost with envelopes and stamps will be less than a dollar per piece. We should spend less than $40 total to mail them out!

We are requesting early RSVP’s from our guests so that we are able to gather a first impression of how many guests will be able to attend and collect digital contact information. From that point on all details will be sent out via email or available on the website. Hopefully this will all work out well for us and all of our guests. It definitely saves us a little money that we can put into something else for our wedding.

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Can we really afford this?

Today was a breakthrough day for us in wedding planning. We made two big decisions today that made me feel instant relief in the HUGE amount of anxiety I have had about our wedding for the last 2 months.

When we called our wedding sales consultant to chose our date she asked us if we would be open to applying to be cast on the upcoming season of the DFTW TV show. It would require us to move up our date (to accommodate their filming schedule) and reduce the size of our guest count (because of our budget) so we were a little reluctant to do it, but Sue has a winning way and she convinced us to give it a shot. She sent me a link to apply and said that 2 of the 3 casting people had met us at the showcase and really liked us so she really wanted us to give it a go and just see if they want to work with us and what they could do to help us plan a dream wedding.

I sent in the application that night and heard back the following morning. We scheduled a video interview with the third casting agent for the next day to have a relaxed chat about us and our wedding plans.

We were told to look presentable because they would be using the video to present us to the producers if they liked us. We talked to the CA and she asked us about how we met, the proposal, any wedding preparations we had already made, and what we would want for our dream wedding.

Our main hesitation was that since we are paying for our wedding on our own we needed the 18 months of preparation to come up with the money to fund our 50-60 person wedding. We told them that in 5 months there was no way we could have the money to pay for the wedding we are currently planning… we would have to do Disney’s smaller wedding package that allows only 18 guests. The casting agent told us to just be very transparent in our video about our budget and the fact that we would only change our plans if they could help us create something truly magical for our guests with the money we have.

She said all of the casting people loved us so she would be preparing our video for the producers… but here’s the stressful part: IF the producers liked us they would get back to us to do a background check but she had no idea when that would be. IF they didn’t like us we wouldn’t hear from them again… So we basically had to go on as though none of that happened and just wait to see if they would call, if not at least it was a kinda fun experience and an honor to be considered.

Waiting on this has caused me a ridiculous amount of anxiety- can’t really explain it because I know it sounds unreasonable. I basically felt like I couldn’t move forward with anything because there was too much up in the air. We made the decision today that even if they called us we will say no. For several reasons we felt like it was time to make our own decision on that and mentally shut the door so we could move forward. So we did! I instantly felt better…

The other thing we did was decide to take all the money we have saved for the wedding and dump it into my credit card debt. I should have all my non store debt (besides my car) paid off by January. When I was working my last job my income was super unreliable and I got into more debt than I care to admit just paying bills on lean months… plus a big trip expense that wouldn’t have been an issue except that I spent about a year making less a month than I needed to live… Paying off three cards today alone feels amazing! It was hard to take the money we saved and use it, but we are saving what could amount to over a thousand dollars on interest. Plus with no credit card payments I will be able to recover that money in a short period of time. We want to have all of our wedding paid for in cash, but one of my major worries is that something catastrophic could come up and we wouldn’t be able to make our goal. Now I know that if the worst does happen we have a bigger safety net and that feels really good. I made several mock budgets with a range of guest totals and other possible expenditures. We spent about an hour going over them and I think we are getting closer to figuring out where we will be able to trim the fat and where we feel like we have to splurge. It now feels like it won’t be impossible to have this wedding, yay for spreadsheets!

Feeling really thankful this weekend for Amanda being an amazing partner and caring so much about me.

 

We got our contract!

It’s a super exciting and monumental week in wedding planning! We got our contract from Disney this Monday which means we get to submit our deposit, start working directly with our planner, and lock in our pricing. I don’t know what I am more excited for- getting to start planning, or getting to stop worrying that the pricing will increase!

Once we are under contract we will get some documents from Disney called “planning pages”. I don’t know exactly what they are, lol, but planning is in the title so I am sure I will love them. I am guessing it is a catalog of options available to us and pricing.

I wasn’t sure exactly what we would get in our contract but it states the minimum cost of our wedding, the pricing for our catering per head, and the pricing for our venue. It also gives us the reduced rate for our guests staying at a Disneyland resort hotel, which is awesome because it will make us better able to prepare our guests for budgeting.

So great to be finally able to take some official steps forward!

Setting our date!

We FINALLY got to make the big call to Disney to set our wedding date. We are now officially within the 18 month window where we can begin the contracting process with DFTW at Disneyland and select our date and venue!
We spoke to Sue at DFTW and went over a lot of stuff but nailed down a tentative date and location for our wedding. Sue is really great and it is easy to see why she has been a cast member for over 15 years and is the Sales Manager for DFTW in Disneyland. You can tell the entire team is very enthusiastic about all of the couples they work with and really make you feel that it is their honor to help plan your wedding.
We are waiting on approval for our chosen locations and date and if given Sue will draw up our contract. We requested to work with Michiel, a wedding planner we met at the DFTW showcase and really liked. If you don’t request a specific planner (which I think most people don’t) I think they assign you one once your contract is completed.
We decided on a late afternoon/evening ceremony in the Brisa Courtyard with our reception to follow in the Wisteria room. Some of the largest factors in determining our selection were: available ceremony start times and minimum guest count for reception venues.
We wanted our reception to end at a specific time which meant we needed a flexible ceremony start time. The Rose Court Garden had specific times ceremonies could be preformed and they didn’t work with our timeline so that helped us to determine our ceremony location… I would have been happy with either but I really do love the monorail going overhead!
Our reception choice was based more on guest count. Sleeping Beauty Pavilion requires an 80 person minimum and it was high on our list but we were not willing to increase our budget to accommodate the minimum expenditure for that space. The Trillium room which was the second pick has a 60 person minimum and that is more inline with our guest count but we really prefer the look of the Wisteria room. It limits us to 48 guests but the architecture of the room and the size make it easy to decorate in a way that will look awesome and be more affordable.
Now we just need to wait to see if we are approved!

 

Venue viewing- our latest greatest dilemma

When one decides on a Disney wedding one of the first things they look at are ceremony and reception locations. I think a lot of people decide to get married at Disneyland BECAUSE of a specific location…

When I convinced miss Amanda that there was no other place for us to get married I showed her a bunch of venue locations on the Disney Fairy Tale Weddings website. Of course the ones we really loved the most were far out of our budget… like the Animation Building, Stage 17, or the Castle forecourt…

Animation BuildingStage17SleepingBeautyCastle

Really if you have enough money they will let you get married anywhere… so if anyone has an extra 100-200k they want to toss towards our wedding- let me know! I have seen photos of a beautiful ceremony at Aladdin’s Oasis and they recently opened up the Train Station on Main Street for in park weddings. Unfortunately our budget puts us in a hotel, not in the park… but we still have some great options that come along with the magic and exceptional customer service of Disney.

When we looked at photos together we immediately gravitated to images from the Grand Californian Hotel. Not only do I love the vintage california woodsy feel of that hotel but it’s also a place Amanda and I have always wanted to stay someday on a splurge. I loved the option of the Brisa Courtyard, a red brick recessed circular courtyard surrounded by the hotel and woodsy foliage; where the monorail passes overhead every 18 minutes and can bring some disney magic to your ceremony. Some of the other sites looked really nice as well but that is the one I fell in love with. The indoor reception locations are not my favorite at either hotel as I don’t love the look of a conference room, but as you will see below a lot can be done to dress up a boring room.

You can have an outdoor reception but it does limit your ability to bring in DIY decor and you also can’t have characters outdoors because it causes uninvited guests at your wedding. Mickey and Minnie won’t turn away random hotel guests that want to get in line to take photos, even if you didn’t let them into your party. So I am pretty much forced to do an indoor reception… although an outdoor cocktail hour may be an option!

We didn’t even really look at the Disneyland Hotel venues as serious options because in the photos we weren’t wowed… but when we took our trip to the park for the wedding showcase a few weeks ago I told Amanda I wanted to walk over to the DLH to look at their options in person. When we saw the wedding garden we were stunned. In person it is so beautiful and romantic. The photos do not do it justice! The space is secluded and tucked away in the grounds of the Disneyland Hotel, random passersby would have to really look in to see your event- vs the brisa courtyard where everyone could look out their window or walk by on the way into Downtown Disney. That experience really put a wrench in the works… now we are very uncertain about where we should hold our ceremony. To add to the confusion we spent some time walking around the Disneyland Hotel grounds and it is truly an embodiment of Disney. I hadn’t been there since I was very young and it feels like it’s own separate land within the park- hotel land. The park has elements of vintage disney with the old disneyland sign in the pool area and a tiki bar in the central courtyard. You feel like you are wrapped in Disney magic! We wanted to try to get up to the reception venue- the Sleeping Beauty Pavilion but it took us another day to find a time when it was unoccupied. When we got in there it was hard to envision it in wedding regalia but I described to amanda how people set it up and showed her some photos. We both loved how it was circular with full windows looking out into the pool area. We thought it would not be ideal if we did a daytime wedding because too much light comes in and it would look just like a hotel ballroom.

The last (but key) consideration is the catering. We have been told that currently the banquet staff at the Grand Californian is better at tackling special dietary needs- but that could possibly change over the next few years as they do sometimes move their chefs around between the hotels. We met the Head Banquet Chef for the Grand at the Wedding Showcase and he made me feel mostly okay about what they could do for us in terms of vegan catering… I would feel uneasy if we didn’t end up working with him.

Here are some photos of locations at both hotels along with an example or two of what they look like decorated for weddings.

GRAND CALIFORNIAN HOTEL

 

DISNEYLAND HOTEL

What do you think? It is a really hard and important decision… I should add that if we choose to do our ceremony in one location we can still have our reception at a different hotel… it’s just a bit of a walk for our guests.

*I stole my wedding examples from White Rabbit Photo Boutique and DPark Photography

Disney Fairytale Weddings Showcase

This Monday we were lucky enough to attend the Disneyland Wedding Showcase at the Grand Californian Hotel. When I found out this event was coming up I asked my contact with the Disneyland wedding team if we would be able to come and she was very happy to provide us with an invitation. We planned the trip frugally, meaning I was able to trade a client for frequent flyer miles, and get one free park ticket from another friend. We stayed two nights at a good neighbor hotel and rented a car to get around… All in all I think we spent about $500 for the trip not including a moderately priced meal in downtown disney and a few small souvenirs. Not inexpensive but I think we had an amazing, but short trip. We gained a lot of insight into venues and we enjoyed meeting vendors and planners.

While we were in Disneyland we had a magic moment with a photo pass photographer who noticed our “I’m celebrating – We’re Engaged!” buttons and offered to take some photos for us. He did 2 different photo sets and we got a few really cute pictures.

We spent the day very efficiently traveling between the two parks utilizing the max pass and waiting no more than 30 minutes in line. We got to go on the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout and also another new one for both of us Grizzly River Run- which I have never done because I generally never go to the park during the summer. We didn’t get to do everything, but we got to do enough on our list that we were happy. One day is not nearly enough at Disneyland Resort.

We spent a little time on sunday visiting our venue options at both Disneyland Hotel and at the Grand Californian. Prior to this trip we had been pretty decided on our ceremony venue… now not as sure. More on that in a future post!

So Monday evening we arrived at the Grand Californian and found our way to the Sequoia Room which is the largest convention/ball room in the GCH. We checked in and got cute name tags color coded for which planner we were associated with. Currently we are just working with the sales coordinator so we had pink for the lovely Sue R. They also gave us a nice tote embroidered with the Disney Fairytale Honeymoons logo which contained info on dj’s and some new venue choices including the train station in Disneyland Park! Unfortunately an in-park wedding is not really in the budget for us but it was still cool to see. We were welcomed into the venue and several vendors had tables set up so we could see what services they provided and get to know them. There were a few photographers I had already been checking out online there and it was really nice to get to meet them in person. We also spoke with some dj’s and officiants. It was a great opportunity to see who we would click with and get contact info.

They had some lovely floral and table displays set up and it seemed like the theme of the event was Tangled. Lots of pink, purple, lanterns, and sunbursts. It was very pretty. They had four custom cakes on display and some adorable mickey mouse macaroons available at the cake table – not vegan of course… Amanda had to take one for the team and sample all the food and cake offerings. She loved the Churo cake but was less excited about the dole whip cake (which I would have loved) since she isn’t a huge pineapple person. They had some food action stations set up and were passing appetizers. One happened to be vegan, a cucumber strip rolled up with hummus, sprouts and carrots in it… Since I don’t like hummus it was kinda bland and not that great, but at least I got to try something!!

We were able to meet Sue in person and a few really nice guys who work with Disney Events but not specifically in Weddings. We also met some of the planners and really loved Michiel who came right up to us to say hi and helped us find our way to Sue. We really hope that when we are assigned a planner we get her!

Here are some of the photos from the planning session

Overall we had a great trip and I am really glad we spent the time and money to attend the planning session. Viewing the venue options in person was really the most helpful part but I think face time with the planners and vendors was also very valuable!

The wait is on…

What do you do when you are over a year and a half out from your wedding and you are just so excited to be doing something but there isn’t a lot you can do??

Spend hours a day on the internet learning everything you can about wedding planning, I guess. So this week not a lot has happened.

We have gone to 3 different Ben Bridge locations, a Tiffany’s retailer, Kay Jewelers, and Zales. I really never thought I would want to have a big central stone or a set. I was thinking a medium width white gold band with some inset diamonds. After a few trips to the jeweler I have surprised myself by falling in love with giant rings and rose gold. I may need to get a second job with a jeweler to pay for this new love for sparkly rings. The first time we went Amanda found a ring she liked right away, and she has been looking at the same ring every time we go to a different Ben Bridge. I found a rose gold band with morganite stones halo’d in diamonds that I really liked but the width of the stones is a little too wide for me and it rubs against the inside of my fingers… not the end of the world but maybe not the ring even though I thought it was really pretty. I tried on several bands while we were there and of course LOVED the $5000 radiant cut diamond 5 stone platinum band, but it is way out of our first ring budget. So I tried some other styles as well and learned that I do actually love all the sparkly big rings. Here are a few I have tried on so far…

And here are some Amanda has tried… This first is the one she likes very best!

We did go try on some more rings last week and I found one I really love. The jeweler was kinda putting some pressure on us- which is the first time this has happened… just warning that this ring might not be around if we try to wait until closer to the wedding to buy it and that rose gold and morganite is not a super common combination for wedding sets so we might not be able to find something I like as much if it sells out. One of the previous Ben Bridge jewelers we tried on rings with had told us that if we saw anything online that we liked we could let her know and she would get it in to the store for us to try on. We both really liked her so I emailed her and asked if she would be able to get that ring and one other for me to try. I feel like she would be more honest with me about the likelihood of this ring disappearing and I know if she is holding it in a store for me to try on it buys me a little more time at least.

I felt like with my dress I had to make a snap decision. I don’t regret buying it but it felt like a now or never kind of situation and I don’t want our rings to feel that way. I want to feel like we have time to really think about what we want and try on a lot of rings and styles. Amanda is still pretty sold on her ring right now but I think she still wants to browse a bit and I don’t think her ring is at risk of being discontinued. Hopefully we get a chance to go to a few more jewelers and try on more styles before I need to make a decision. One major plus is that if I get a set like this I can start wearing the engagement ring part as soon as we get it, instead of having to wait until after we get married like I would if I just get a band. I can’t wait to wear that pretty pink ring!

So that is ring shopping so far… Even if you are not engaged or in the market for a ring I would recommend going and trying on some rings for fun! You never know, you may realize that you love sparkly things too.

Also a final note on this- we have really liked the staff and experience with Ben Bridge so far- minus the one pushy sales person who may very well have been looking out for me… They haven’t turned up their noses at our smallish budget, instead they have been finding rings that work in our price range and offering options like lay-away and financing. They have a great upgrade program for diamond rings where you can bring your ring (you purchased from them) in and get the value you paid for it towards a ring of 2x the value or more when you are ready to upgrade. I don’t think I would part with my ring I was married with but it is a nice option for someone who isn’t as sentimental. They have also been very friendly and welcoming to two brides ❤

Update: I got the ring!! I decided on the rose gold with the pink morganite tear shaped stone. Best part is that I get to wear the engagement ring portion immediately. I am very pink and sparkly.