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Budget Savvy Bride: For Love and Art


My fiancée and I are both artists living in one bedroom apartment with our two cats right in the center of Hollywood. We knew our guest list would be made up mostly of fellow artists (friends and family alike), so cost was a major factor not only for us, but for our gusts as well.  A bit scary as Los Angeles is notorious for having expensive weddings. From day one, we were in for a challenge. We also knew that we wanted a non-traditional wedding that would fit us instead of a cookie cutter magazine cover wedding. One of our favorite films is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and we looked to Michel Gondry (director of Science of Sleep and ESSM) for inspiration.

Instead of spending money, we spent the next most valuable resource: time. All our efforts went into lengthy, budget savvy projects instead of our wallets. For starters, we are having a two year engagement (wedding is November 1, 2009) in order to handcraft everything ourselves.

    Being cash conscious has always been a way of life for us. Adam was adopted when he was a boy, and didn’t speak to his biological family for many years. Recently he’s been working to get to know them again. This past Thanksgiving we had dinner with his biological family who hadn’t been together for a very long time. What a reunion! Our big question was, which family do we invite to the wedding? Who walks my fiancée down the aisle? Due to given circumstances, both families could not be present in the same room together.

    Between having a small budget and guest list problems, we knew we had a lot of planning to do. Adam drew a monogram for us as a double A battery, to stand for the first letters of Adam and Ashley. Throughout the process, though, I’ve realized that that the double A battery also stands for our infinite amount of ongoing energy and love! (See aisle runner for our logo).

So from humble beginnings, to a life of Art, we knew our wedding would be uniquely ‘us’ in many different ways.

We found this venue after looking at six other, more expensive venues. They were funky, good looking, but all somehow ended up being across the street from a strip club, right next to train tracks, or having a strange, unpleasant odor. When you haven’t got much to spend, it can be tricky to find something that you’d want to bring your Grandma to.

Ceremony/Reception space $600
Upstairs (cocktail hour) $400
Total: $1,000 for Santa Monica (an expensive area in California)

On a side note, there is a parking lot right across the street that after 6pm is only $3.00 as oppose to before 6pm it is $7.00. We wanted our wedding to be budget friendly for our guests as well so we decided to have our wedding at 6:30pm so they could get parking for only $3.00


Even though we are having a tight budget wedding, I didn’t want to skimp out on décor. (Especially, since our venue needs it).

Since our wedding is in November, the colors are forest green, brick reds, burnt oranges with a few accent yellows to compliment autumn.

Here are some things we made by hand to give our wedding the beautiful, funky, budget savvy, handmade touch:


I learned how to make origami Kusudama flowers and glued them together in a ball shape. I have found that a lot of my inspiration is Asian inspired which fits seeing as how I am a sushi chef. The material for this project was double stick tape, paper and ribbon.

Total cost to make Pomanders: $35

1,001 Origami Cranes:

There is along tradition of having the bride fold 1,001 Cranes for her wedding. With much symbolism and tradition from different sources. The bride who folds 1,001 cranes shows determination and patience, everything you want in a marriage The crane also mates for life and is said to live for a thousand years. It is said that each crane grants you one wish (1,001 sure is a lot of wishes) With all that aside, I just love the image of hanging cranes. We’re hanging them above the dance floor.

To cut costs, instead of buying origami paper (it can be expensive) I took magazine paper and cut them into origami size and then folded 1,001 (actually I folded 1,041 in case there was some damage to a few…which there was) I spray painted each crane red so the magazine pages didn’t show. It took some extra steps, but it was well worth it as they turned out great and saved us money on pre folded cranes and origami paper.

Total cost to make 1,001 Origami Cranes: $50

Wall Sconces:
I found this project from The Big-Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano. It’s made from a frying basket and drinking straws. We plan on hanging these behind the bar (see our kick ass bartender below) to give the bar some ambience!

Total cost to make Wall Sconces: $50 (I had a gift card which I used to purchase all the light bulbs).


I bought the aisle runner on sale from Michael’s art and craft store. Thanks project wedding for letting me know the sale was going on, a fellow bride had posted a thread about the great deal. I already own paints so I just painted on our logo !
Total cost forAisle Runner: $18


This is probably our biggest money saver. No live flowers, no plastic flowers. I am hand making every bouquet and every vase arrangement from coffee filters! This was taken from but, as much as I tried make them from the directions and watching the instructional videos, I still didn’t understand how it was done!  So I’ve made my own version that works for me and looks just as good! Currently, they are all white, but I’ve started using watercolors to paint them in our autumn colored theme.

Total cost for Flowers: $40 (this is for all the coffee filters from smart and final. About $5 a pack)

One of Adam’s favorite albums is The Pros and Cons of Hitchiking by Roger Waters. We listened to it on our first date. I bought the record used for $7.00 at Amoeba (a store in Los Angeles) We are having everyone sign the cover along with the vinyl record as our guestbook. Then we will frame it and hang it in our bedroom (since our engagement is 2 years and we have so many projects, we’ve already framed it and hung it because we have no more storage room!) We can’t wait till it has our friends autographs on it.

Total cost for Guestbook:
Vinyl Record Album: &7
Paint Pen: $2
Frame: $15

Total: $24


Phew…the dress was a major struggle. I finally found this dress online from My parents just moved out of state and when it came in the mail, I tried it on alone in my apartment and don’t even own a full-length mirror. It was a very uneventful moment but after some online video chat showing my mom and friend, I decided to cut the tags and keep it!

Dress: $160!!!!!!!!
Best news: It fits amazingly!  I don’t need any alterations done. Thanks!

Note: The next few bits are our friends who are helping us create our wedding. Just a tip to fellow brides, you may think you don’t have friends who specialize in things pertaining to the wedding, but use them anyway! It will be less expensive, more personal, and will give them the opportunity to shine!


A dear friend, Sierra, is doing make-up for my Mother and me. She’s not a make-up artist but she’s pretty damn good at it. I know she’ll do a fabulous job! The only cost is my own make-up that she’ll be using.

Our wedding is the most personal day and we wanted someone who knows us best to marry us. Adam’s adopted mom’s best friend (we just call her Auntie) is the perfect match. She cried when we asked her and although she’s extremely nervous, she’s got nothing to worry about. She’s brave and hilarious…we love her!

Jonathan has been Adam’s friend since high school and he’s one of the funniest, smartest people we know. All we hope for is that his sometimes “inappropriate” humor goes well with our older guests.


Shameless plug:!
He just started doing photography this year! He’s done mostly headshots for our friends in Los Angeles. He is part of the reason Adam and I started dating and it’s absolutely perfect fate that he started doing photography this year.

Total cost for photos: $500 (Engagement session is included)

Our theme is breakfast food. Who doesn’t like to eat breakfast for dinner? Plus, a lot of breakfast items are much cheaper than dinner food. My family is Jewish, so no bacon or sausages will help keep costs low. Our friend will be preparing the breakfast items and displaying it as a buffet.

Total cost estimate for food: $15 a person


At first, I was thinking of doing a cupcake tree with mini-cupcakes for everyone. However, one day I thought of how much I love ‘dippin’dots’ ice cream and decided to serve individual packs of dippin dots instead. You can buy the dippin dots with different flavors at and it comes with a reusable foam cooler, plastic spoons, cups and a variety of flavors. We will be making our own cake tiers and putting the individual cups on it.

Total cost for dessert: 10 per person.


Charlie is the bar tender at our local watering hole.  We have drinks every Sunday night with him after a long week of work. Charlie has become our friend, so who better to ask to bartend our wedding but the person who serves us drinks weekly. (It actually took us much longer to put the two and two together to ask Charlie, we couldn’t think of a person for the longest time and sometimes they are right in front of your nose) Sorry Charlie, that you are working at our wedding instead of a guest. But we love you for it!!!
No rental linens for us, we’ll take paper! A jazzed up version! Charlie at the bar will be giving out these cocktail napkins with every drink. There are four different versions and have trivia about Adam and me. I did this with my gocco machine that Adam bought me for last Christmas.


I made these dinner napkins with the gocco as well. If you are using napkins there is no reason why you can’t spice it up with some details to make it more personalized. It’s cheaper and a lot more interesting than rental linen napkins.

I bought white paper placemats from a bulk online store. I created a crossword puzzle using a free download from the Internet and photocopied my way into making placemats for each guest. Pretty simple, except I had to photocopy each placemat by hand or else the machine would get stuck. Then I just took a sharpie pen and made a border around the edges to give it some autumn color. Adam and I just love games and it’s a great conversation starter around each table. I found the mini golf pencils at Smart and Final for super cheap!

We created a ‘mad libs’ RSVP for our guests and printed it out using our printer. We picked out fonts from for FREE to give it a unique look. Then I just took an orange stamp and bordered the orange to add some detail to the stationary

Save the Date/Engagement Party invitation:
This January, we had our engagement party! A big money saver was we sent out these postcards from and also used them as our save the dates! We told guests on the back the details and information for out engagement party and also to Save the date! This cuts down on paper waste as well as money waste. Also, in case you are wondering the image on the front of the postcard we did in Photoshop for free ourselves.

Const: $.69 cents each postcard!!!

For our table numbers (see below) this craft was the easiest and most inexpensive to do! Take any tealight (we got our orange colored ones on clearance after Haloween at Michaels) Then use sharpie to color around the edges, cut the wax (don’t forget to take out the wick) to create a divet in it.

Table number holder cost: $4.00 (for a pack of 20) DONE!


Here are just a few photos we are using as our table numbers. We are just going to print out these photos at Kinko’s and stick them in the table number holders and we are done!
#1 Christmas 2008
#5 Six Flags Magic Mountain
#6 Archery at a park
#7 The zoo

Guest name and table number arrangement:
We asked a local wine bar in Culver City to save their champagne cages for us. They did…for FREE! We would come each week and pick up a bag full of them.  We cut and arranged them into a mini-chair. Voila! All we have left to do is write their name and table seat number on a paper and set in on!

Cost: FREE!

We will be having lotto tickets at each seat for our guests. We figure it is our lucky day, so who knows, out of 150 guests, it could be their lucky day as well. Can’t wait to find out!

Overall, Adam and I decided to invite his adopted family to the wedding. We are having his biological mom and step-dad sign as witnesses on our marriage license though. Our wedding will truly be a blending of different families and joining our lives together. While our wedding is the most important day in our lives, we will continue to put the emphasis on creating everything ourselves. We’re putting 100% of our time into our wedding instead of our wallets. I can’t wait to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary together. It’s easy to make promises, but the true accomplishment will be living our vows for the next fifty and more years to come. Who knows, for that occasion we might break out the checkbook!

Breakdown so far:
Venue: $1,000 plus a few misc. fees
Photography: $500
Dress: $160
Flowers; $40   
Aisle Runner: $18
Favors: $150
Food: 150 guest estimate at $15/person 2,250
Dessert: $357 for 150 guest estimate
Guestbook: $24
Decor: $135

Budget Estimate: $7,000 for 150 guests in Los Angeles

Note: The crafts on this page are not my original ideas. I have taken them from various wedding websites and ‘borrowed’ their ideas. My apologies for not citing where they have all come from.

I have received permission from all friends listed on this page to have their name and photograph on this site.

Last Updated: August 3, 2013 at 10:34 pm
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Other ideas in My Project Wedding Board by AshleyP
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