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July 02, 2009

The Penny Pinchers' Club

The Penny Pincher's Club

by Nancy

Okay, so you pay off all your credit cards and save up a small fortune to go to Hawaii for The Vacation of  Lifetime with your beloved spouse (and two other couples who are delightful, but further along in the We-have-already-saved-for-our-retirement Challenge and therefore more likely to splurge on the fancy restaurant every evening instead of picking up a pizza, if you know what I mean.)

You get to Hawaii and it's truly Paradise--amazing weather, astounding scenery (we're near the place where they filmed Jurassic Park!) and a gorgeous resort with attentive, smiling employees like Leilanni who gives a massage that leaves you as limp as--well, nevermind, but it was fabulous.

Then the worst economic catastrophe hits-------your daughter calls (on a cell phone! What are the roaming charges in Hawaii??) with the news that she's engaged to be married!  She's wearing the ring and everything!  It's beautiful!  So sparkly!  She's delirious! Madly in love! Ready for...

Oh, God, you think-----we have to pay for a WEDDING???  Now???

Which brings me to the topic of today's blog from Hawaii---the fact that Sarah Strohmeyer's new book The Penny Pinchers Club--the heartwarmingly witty story of women who discover the important things that money can't buy--is due in your local bookstore TODAY.  And just in time, too. 

Because I need all the penny pinching ideas I can get, folks. How are we going to throw a wedding and still be able to afford to retire in ten--okay, maybe fifteen---oh, hell, why not twenty??--years?

I'm starting to think a theme wedding might be the way to go.  A beach, right? With a picnic after? Or what about a tent set up on the family lawn? (Scratch that.  Our family lawn couldn't hold the couple and the judge, let alone a few guests.)  Maybe a wedding on a river boat?  I need ideas, TLC regulars!  What's a clever, lovely but CHEAP way to throw a wedding these days?

Meanwhile, I'm going to borrow the rental car ($49 a day sounded so cheap last week!) and go to the nearest bookstore to find Sarah's new--and undoubtedly wonderful book. I definitely need an escape read today! I hope you'll all buy your copy this week, too (those early sales are so important!) and pick up an extra copy for a friend and your local library, too.

Egad, I'm the Mother of the Bride--again!  Where can I get a beige dress at discount?


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Two words for you, Nancy:

"Elope." "Vegas."

'Nuff said...:)


I had a friend who had a very fun & different wedding, and it probably saved them a bundle. Early morning ceremony (like, 8 a.m.), then a champagne brunch, then everyone went back to the family's lakeside cottage for a day of swimming, volleyball, etc. No band, no massive liquor bills (who's gonna get plastered at 10 in the morning?), brunch food is usually cheaper than the rest of the day - lots of ways to make that one affordable.

I've been thinking about this since I first read your post at 4 am. My first reaction was the same as William's - Elopement.

What kills me is the cost of the cake. I'm sure most of you are familiar with Cake Wrecks (if not, I am so sorry because once you arrive at this site, you will lose the next 2 hours laughing your ass off!) But here is a post to the best wedding cake EVER...or maybe the WORST wedding cake ever http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/2008/07/inspiration-vs-perspiration.html

The ONLY way I can think of to save money is to do some of the work yourself or get friends to do work. The flowers, food, etc are all expensive.

What is she wanting? Big wedding? Small wedding with party reception?

Holy shit - I mean - congratulations!

An engagement does NOT mean a wedding is next week. I'm thinking a date sometime in 2012 might be good.

We have a big yard.

P.S. Sarah's New Book - free shipping and you'll support my favorite independent book store, especially if you don't have your own. So please buy it here:


We rented a building at my college (luckily we lived nearby) and held everything there--the ceremony and the reception, with catered food. And the size of the building put a limit on the number of guests we could invite (which does help save money). The building had a lovely view of the lake, and its own charm.

Of course, if your daughter is planning on inviting a few hundred people, you may have problems.

Why a beige dress?

Okay--let me suggest a radical idea--well not that radical, my parents did this for me. Give the bride and groom some amount of money you can reasonably afford and won't miss that much. Tell them that's your contribution to the wedding. Whatever else they want to spend is on them. Let the love birds plan, organize and PAY FOR their party. My parents did this for all five of us, and we are still married to our first spouses (four of us for 20+ years and one for 12 years). There's few things that promotes future marital communications and busts myths they might have about each other than planning a wedding together and living with the choices and tradeoffs they made. Of course to do this, the parents have to "let go" and go along for the most part. Although it is okay to attach a few strings to the financial contribution, after all, this is the real world teaching experience. So, you could say, "Here's $X for your wedding, but if you accept this, you MUST invite great Aunt Sally and her son who only leaves his basement apartment to attend weddings and may forget to bathe."

I sold wedding cakes for awhile and learned a lot about the wedding biz.

Skip the wedding planner/coordinator. She is 10% of the TOTAL cost and she will suggest services that give her a kickback.

Decide what is important and concentrate the money there.

Dresses can be found cheap and even second hand. Don't laugh they are beautiful for the day.

Location: Your church may be the cheapest. Also check out city parks. If you are in St. Louis, take a drive by the bottom of Art Hill, Thursday through Saturday afternoons. City parks do charge, but can be beautiful.

Shop around for cakes. There can be several hundred dollars difference.

The biggest single savings is the guest list. How many people do you want at the wedding. One thing is to have a fancy religious ceremony for a few people and then have a beer bash later. The beer bash can be more picnic-ish. No china, appetizers and prime rib. Go with casual food and drinks.

There is always writting a book a week as plan B (that's a joke)


Wow - congratulations!

My mother offered me money to elope - wish I'd taken her up on it.

I'm probably the worst person to ask, because I believe that huge, ostentatious weddings are the biggest waste of money ever. My 2nd marriage was in my sister's living room by a judge, with just family and pot luck food afterward. Of course, my mother made sure the statue of the Blessed Mother was on top of the hutch, overseeing things.

Hope you find a solution - I think it's possible to have a lovely, inexpensive wedding.

Oh, and Cyndi, Cake Wrecks is one of my favorite sites. I laugh until I cry.

We paid for our own wedding (because we were old and felt that we should). We had it under a tent in a friend's yard overlooking the Connecticut River. We did rent a porto potty. But the food, oh, the food! Fabulous and it only cost us $10 a head. There are caterers who can do this. All told, the wedding cost us $3,000. Not too shabby. (although someone here mentioned the cake...easily one of the most expensive things. How about cupcakes?)

Congratulations to your daughter, MOB.
My father offered Don and I $3000 if we'd eloped in 1971. We foolishly turned it down, and that was a fortune in pre-Carter dollars. But, hey, I wouldn't have missed those fights with my mother over the church music.
For a pretty,inexpensive wedding -- my friends were married in a gazebo at Tower Grove Park in St. Louis and had a covered dish reception. Tower Grove is a gorgeous Victorian walking park and the wedding was lovely.
Elaine Viets

After my stepsister's wedding, my mom begged me to 'keep it simple', as I was engaged at the time (briefly).

After my brother's, she suggested that she would pay for my elopement.

After David died, she said I could have whatever, wherever I wanted. I am still waiting for the right guy. :)

I do know of a very reasonable singer? ;) Who likes to bake, although not wedding cakes so much (although that would be an option should my job disappear into the ether).

Cogratulations!!!! Relax and breathe. Don't worry about it until you talk more with your daughter...you never know...things may be easier than expected.

As for me, I spent $112 at B&N last night. A few more books for the raffle baskets (I needed Sweet Love for two), and of course.. I needed my copy of Penny Pinchers. Which they had on display in the New Fiction shelf, as opposed to stuffed with the rest of her books.

Okay, so I bought other books as well! I gotta support the economy one way or another!!! :)

My daughter has decided that when (probably within the next couple of years) she gets married, they will have the ceremony in the Redwood Forest and come home for a blowout big party. She wants my brother to do the BBQ (he does a killer pork tenderloin) and just regular food.

Now of course, this is as of today. In two years she may changer her mind, lol.

Oh, I can't believe I forgot to suggest this. Music: if you want a string quartet, and the the local high schools have a decent string program, check there first. My son's quartet has been playing weddings for quite some time. Great money for them, and they charge a fraction of what their teacher's quartet asks.

My cousin's two boys got married within the last two years. They both had big fancy weddings, but it was interesting how they allocated the money. The first went with the fancy embossed invites, ice sculpture at the reception, fancy food. The second spent all of their money on the place (Windows on Washington for all of the StL people). The food was fabulous; they invited less people so they could have it there. She went to Michael's and bought the pre-designed invitations and ran them through the computer. Got matching thank you cards, place setting cards, all of it. I know she used many, many Michael's 40% off coupons to get all she needed, but hey, that is what she wanted. I say more power to her.

There are so many ways to 'to it yourself' and many books that can tell you how, lol.

I have a friend who decided to forgo cake for chocolate truffles displayed on tiered serving dish.
The cupcake idea is good. Cupcakes Take The Cake for a wealth of examples: http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com/

I don't know if this will work:
A DIY wedding we attended last August.

Congratulations, Nancy! That's wonderful news.

I agree with the suggestion that you cap your contribution at what you can afford, if that's possible. Weddings don't need to be expensive to be beautiful and memorable. My parents couldn't afford to pay anything for my wedding, so we did it ourselves for around $5000. We had it in the late morning in the gorgeous backyard of my husband's grandmother's house. We did a buffet luncheon and had a string trio from a local music school. Pretty flowers, a beautiful cake, a tent. Only 50 guests. The one place we didn't economize -- my dress and shoes, which were fabulous!

The only issue is if you did it up big for one daughter, you might come in for some accusations of favoritism if you don't match that for the other.

I was thinking that exact same thing, Michele.

Its better to have boys.

We dressed our wedding with (as I recall) about $100 worth of stuff from a carnival supply store (Giuliani's, for the STL contingent).

We held it in the ornate large lobby of the apartment building where ML had lived for several years. The building manager was a marvelous co-conspirator.

ML can tell you more about it.

My parents gave me $2000 in 1992 as their contribution. That was how much they gave my sister in 1981, so my mom thought it was fair to give me the same amount. Never mind inflation.

As someone mentioned earlier, shop around. We got a huge deal from an awesome local hippie restaurant by having them do the cake, which was perfection, and the food, which included no soggy buns nor corn starch gravy. (My parents catered my sister's wedding. Cheap, but too insane. Who wants to be slicing cheese the night before a wedding?)

How traditional is your daughter? Would it be fun and funky to have a different flower vase at every table? Hello, Good Will! Or will she insist that everything match?

Will she need all 12 of her bestest friends and her closest 10 cousins to stand up for her? How about choosing two good friends/close relatives and leave it at that? Simple=elegant, no? (And cheap.)

Get married in a church early in the day and have the reception there. Way, way cheap. It will likely eliminate the booze factor, too, which is pricey. People shouldn't require inebriation to make it through a wedding.

And if they have some old-lady club that gets together to do the setting up, serving and clearing, even better. No need to pay the caterers to stick around.

Mostly, have fun and don't stress. People get so worked up over every last thing the guests aren't even going to remember. And neither will the wedding party. The bride and groom just float through the day, and then it's done, whether the tablecloths perfectly matched the cummerbunds or not.

I still think of how I would design my own wedding (so far Steve hasn't come up to scratch on that -- something about twice burned and what's the matter with what we've got? I grudgingly concur). I thought it would be nice to have my two or three attendants each pick out their own Little Black Dress. Wouldn't work well for a morning wedding, but for a late day or evening wedding…

A friend of mine was forced to have a big wedding for her second go around. Her husband wanted a big splashy wedding and said he would pay for it. So she went nuts (within reason). Her 6 bridesmaids were told that it didn't matter what dress they got, it just had to be black. It was an amazingly beautiful wedding.

Nancy, I'm no help at all. The groom and I paid for my (last) wedding, as we were grownups and had more income than our parents anyway. We didn't go nuts, but it wasn't cheap. It was, however, extraordinary, romantic, and magical. They even put a photo of it in MODERN BRIDE (misspelling my name).

The marriage didn't last, but oh, that beautiful wedding . . .

Congrats to you and the happy couple! And I have very little to add to the great ideas here. When I got married (for the second, and last, time) 4 years ago, my husband and I obviously paid for it ourselves. We knew we wanted it to be a celebration,but since we had 5 kids between us (all college age or nearly so) we also couldn't go nuts with it. An early evening church wedding. An outdoor reception nearby (Mudd's Grove in Kirkwood for the STL folks). Since food matters to us, we wanted great food, but went with heavy appetizers rather than a full meal. I'd say forgo the cake (we never even saw ours) and go with mini-cupcakes or truffles. Wine and beer. I got a great dress at an outlet store. I think the trick is to figure out where you want to spend your money and find ways to cut back elsewhere. We went with borrowed bud vases on each table that my sister and friends put together that morning (the florist provided an assortment of cut flowers).

Okay, I'm starting to ramble . . . have fun with it. That's the most important thing.

Off the wedding topic, I went out at lunchtime and got my copy of The Pennypincher's Club. Nice long weekend to savor it. :)

You guys are great---as usual. But Michele hit it on the nose. We gave Daughter #1 a big blowout wedding. So to prevent DAughter #2 from thinkings she's really #2.....our credit cards are doomed!

Still in Hawaii----and it's hard not to enjoy every minute! So wedding woes are the last thing on our minds today. Snorkeling in a fabulous bay!

Nancy, I have a hard time believing any daughter of yours will equate dollars spent with the size of your love for her.

A friend had a lovely cake and punch reception in the church after her wedding, no catering, no hall rental. Her multi-talented friends provided a full evening of entertainment, music, dancing, (ahem) storytelling! It was beautiful and fun, and didn't break any budgets.

BTW, DAughter #2 has probably read the new and knows that times have been a'changin' through no fault of yours or hers . . .
(but would I love to get my hands on some of those who are at fault).

From the Word-a-day newsletter today, and too good not to share:
Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It's one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period. -Nicholas Sparks, author (b. 1965)

Vegas baby!!!

Well, let’s see…Tom left out the string trio, the lute player, the caterer (Riddle’s Penultimate Café for those in St. Louis), and the photographer, the flowers, the rented tables, chairs and linens…

We bought vases and candle holders at the carnival supply store and did our own flower arranging/bouquets after buying the flowers in the wholesale district. We printed our own invitations, too. I raided my fabric stash and made runners for all the tables and we only served hors d’ouvres, wine and beer. My Maid of Honor made the cake as our present—chocolate cake and icing with strawberry filling.

We did get married on a week-day thinking that would limit attendance, but we were wrong. And I’m talking a Monday night in February in St. Louis. You just never know who will show up for free food and booze.

Tom may have been thinking about the opera I costumed for a hundred bucks from the party store.

Oh, Nancy, you and I are in the same boat! My daughter called from Chicago (she doesn't live there) back at the end of March sobbing into the phone. I thought there'd been a murder. When she finally made herself understandable, then I was crying...for different reasons.

Do you think it was just a coincidence that these two girls waited until there was a vast amount of real estate between us to break the news? Diabolical, you ask me.

I told my daughter I'd pay what I could since her father passed away last year and left her his estate. I figured if he was still living, he'd pay half and I'd pay half. Even Steven.

All I know about what a wedding planner does is make my daughter cry (the woman bailed yesterday). But I figure since the wedding's next summer, we're good to go. Alan had a bunch of great ideas though.

And I'll bet beautiful Nancy plans to wear beige so she won't outshine the beautiful bride.

Just FYI, I loved my wedding planner. Had to be talked into having one, as it seemed absurd. But since I lived a thousand miles from the wedding venue, she was a godsend. She was also a great person. The 2 other wedding planners we met in that town were frightening.

Some sweet, and confident, friends who married a couple of years ago simply said they didn't like wedding cake and didn't drink, so why serve booze . . . and had a very beautiful and memorable ceremony in the simply-decorated back yard of a mutual friend; then followed a lovely sort of late-afternoon tea with generous trays of appetiser-type food and simple beverages like lemonade. Everyone remembers their wedding fondly and well, at least in part 'cause we were all perfectly sober (not somber) from beginning to end. I think the rental of folding chairs may have been the largest expense . . . .

Just remembered -- two fellow teachers combined our end-of-year party with a luau-theme outdoor wedding. It was a second wedding for both, so they didn't feel the need to be formal. Hawiian shirts, tiki torches. Her son carried the rings on a pineapple (pineapple rings ;-) It was great fun!

The most beautiful wedding I ever attended was this, seven years ago: my friend and her fiance drove out to a favorite park with towering pines. A few friends were invited only; I took the pictures. We all got out of our cars, & the bride swooped past the hikers and whatnot in a gorgeous but simple white gown. The officiant and couple stood in a circle of the trees, and they got married. We met at a small banquet room later and had cake and other light refreshments.
With the money they saved, they put a down payment on a house instead.
Who the HELL needs crass commercialism these days? Don't even get me started on the awesome "hippie" wedding I went to in Washington state a few years ago...Probably cost the same as a BBQ party, but still it was absolutely amazing. A neighbor GAVE them all the flowers from her yard, all the friends made the food, they strung lights and tie-dyed sheets around a hilltop and got married at sunset. Barefooted, natch.
Both couples are still together, BTW. Just saying...

Mazel Tov!

One word.....Halloween......takes care of the clothing, food and setting with creativity not bucks!


Do you or does the happy couple have a friend with a lovely house? That's one thing several friends of mine have done - the friends give hte use of hte house as their gift. And the wedding party saves a HEFTY fee in site rental!

Each set of our parents gave us a certain amount of money, which came to about $8500. We did everything, from rehearsal dinner to dress to catering to hall to open bar for slightly less than that. This required us to DIY it for a lot of things. I printed and hand stamped all of our stationery (save the dates, invitations, and thank you notes). Instead of a traditional wedding cake, we bought a small cake for each table, which also served as the centerpiece. We were able to get cake for 125 people at a cost of about $180 by doing this, and the cakes were amazing. Basically, we had to do a lot of extra legwork up front to find a cheaper way to get the result we wanted. I may be flattering myself, but I believe we had a beautiful wedding that our family and friends enjoyed a great deal, and we didn't bankrupt our family or ourselves doing it. Oh, and the book "Bridal Bargains" was an enormous help to us in the process-- helped me avoid some pitfalls and understand what I was looking for and which things I could live without.

As a waitress I came to hate weddings, stressed out brides, mothers of the brides, families of the brides ad nauseum! I say do it as cheaply and tastefully as you can and then give daughter #2 the difference to even things up from daughter #1's wedding.If money is really tight you can always will daughter # 2 the remaining amount. Sorry if that sounds gruesome but it would work!!

I did my wedding for less than 5k. I recommend finding a used wedding gown. I've had several friends buy their's on craig's list and all was ok. If she doesn't want used..don't be afraid to deal with the wedding gown store - I got mine for about $100 less than the asking price. I also got married at a local state park. The rental fee was only $15 - for the entire time. Can't beat that! I also found a photographer that would allow me to not buy the album from them, just pictures. That saved a lot of money. They also gave me rights to all the pictures and a copy of all pictures - so the package I bought did include several pictures..but then I didn't have to purchase any others because I had a copy of all of them and could print them as needed. This photographer also wasn't listed specifically as a wedding photographer, he was a general photographer who did weddings for extra money - so that's why costs were less..and he was wonderful and had more artist type pictures than normal wedding photographers.

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