Chelsey ♥ Parker
Chelsey ♥ Parker
Photography: Ravenberg Photography
Sealed: Salt Lake City Temple
Reception: La Caille
Flowers: Skyline Flower Gardens
Seamstress: Anita Dowden
Candy Table: Designed by the bride, Chelsey (with help from mom)
Cake: Dorcas Woodward
For more info on this DIY wedding: read below!
Thoughts From The Bride: Chelsey!
Anyway, I guess I’ll just jump right in.
I fell in love with Maggie Sottero’s gowns at 16. I found my way to her website in the midst of my searching for the perfect prom dress and somehow became absolutely sidetracked admiring her wedding line. Her eye for elegance and attention to detail just captivated me and I knew, when my big day came, that I’d be a Maggie bride too.
I’m happy to say I stuck to my guns with this one. But the truth is, cutting the cost of a designer dress came at a cost. Because I wanted EVERYTHING on my big day, I knew I had to be a bit thrifty if I wanted to keep from breaking the bank.
So I went with an unconventional approach to snag my Maggie. I bought my $2500 gown on eBay for a quarter of the price. The seller said it was in mint condition…that it was a steal of a deal! And I absolutely believed it…’til I saw it for the first time.
My diamond white dress showed up on my porch a few days later crammed in a thrashed produce box, its skirt the color of a storm cloud and hem a dust-bunny black. While it was, indeed, and authentic Maggie, I didn’t see any way it could ever find its way back to wedding white. I was, in every sense of the word, devastated.
We took the dress to a dry cleaner (or 10) for a second opinion on the dress’s chance for a future and finally found someone willing to take on the task. A quick $125 later I had diamond white dress. I still consider that a mini-miracle. I really, REALLY lucked out.
The next step to keeping my dress-spending in check involved my finding a top-fill pro to get this strapless SaBelle temple-ready. After about a million-and-one phone calls and quite a few outrageous bids, I felt ready to give up. I couldn’t justify paying more than half of what I’d paid for my dress for someone to slap on a pair of sleeves (especially if it looked like just that…like someone had slapped a pair of sleeves onto a once strapless dress). I wanted the transition to be seamless…wanted it to look as if this designer dress had been temple-ready from the start.
I expressed these sentiments to my soon-to-be sister-in-law one Sunday. She sympathized then simply said…”I know exactly who you need to talk to.” At first I thought she meant a therapist…and I didn’t blame her for thinking I was crazy. This top-fill nonsense had me at my wit’s end. But as she skimmed through her ward directory, I soon learned her answer to my question was, in fact, a seamstress.
Her name–Anita Dowden. Her work–seamless, flawless, timeless! She made my dress the picture of perfection for far less than a pretty penny. By the time we’d finished, it fit like a glove and looked as if Miss Maggie had sketched this sleeved-SaBelle herself. You never would have guessed it’d started off any other way. I think that’s the beauty of having an Anita Dowden original. If you need a top-fill, you need to look her up!
Because temple weddings afford you the luxury of being married in some of the most exquisite locales for absolutely free, I thought investing in a reception venue would be easy-as-pie. I soon learned, however, that regardless of what money you save, Salt Lake reception venues still cost an arm and a leg…and maybe even your first child.
I wanted a venue that could come as close to paralleling the beauty of the temple as any one place can. We started our big day in a beautiful place…why not end it in one too? Apparently the original owners of La Caille had this same idea. I learned, in the midst of my maniacal venue-searching, that they created their fairy-tale French château with the hopes that it might rival the Salt Lake Temple in terms of beauty. As my fiancé and I made our way through the grandiose front gates and up a winding driveway brimming with cherry-blossoms, I knew they’d come as close as you can get. This was the place!
I soon learned, however, that La Caille caters to a very elite, very affluent clientele. And with my family already inheriting the cost of accommodations for the many guests making their way to my out-of-state wedding, I knew a weekend wedding at La Caille was out of the question.
But I had my heart set on it. And, in my opinion, if you really want something, there is always a compromise you can make or creative route you can take to make it happen. So that’s exactly what I did.
Welcome to the reason for our Wednesday wedding. While the high volume of spring weddings here in Utah made it so most venues could still charge a pretty penny for weekend events (think supply-and-demand), the economy made for a slow midweek…which gave us bargaining power. Because of our flexibility, we scored our venue for the cost of catering. No rental fees. No service charges. No nickel-and-diming for linens, place settings, or event planning. Flexibility & willingness to compromise = a budget-friendly dream venue worth every penny. 🙂
Flowers are one of the trickiest parts of wedding planning. They’re essential…a must-have if you want a big day that’s aesthetically perfect. But they’re also the investment with the shortest life span. For me, it was difficult to justify allocating the bulk of my wedding budget to bouquets and arrangements that would end up wilting and dying before we’d even touched ground for our Hawaiian honeymoon.
When I expressed this sentiment to my soon-to-be family-in-law, they recommended Skyline Flower Gardens. “The shop isn’t much to look at. It’s been around for years. And they still manage their business the way they did decades ago. BUT, but, if you can handle all of that, their prices haven’t changed in years either which means they can’t be beat.”
I decided to try it out and what do you know…every bit of that was absolutely true. I skipped out of there with every flower arrangement I could ask for next to nothing. And that was wonderful. But it still was a bit of a trade-off.
Old-fashioned prices…great! Old fashioned business model…not so great. The shop owners have a very specific way of doing business which makes for little-to-no flexibility. They have their way of doing things and that’s simply how it’s done. i.e. Bride’s bouquets are always wrapped in white ribbon. When I requested that mine be wrapped in purple to match my bridesmaids, the wedding specialist about had a heart attack. “That can’t be! That’s not how it’s done!” Much to her dismay, I wouldn’t budge on the purple ribbon. So that’s what we got. I suppose I just feel like you shouldn’t have to convince your vendors to help you match your vision of your big day.
Anyway, great deal…great turn-out…not-so-great solution for curbing wedding planning stress. But that’s just my experience.
I think I went into wedding planning with unrealistic expectations of what the cake might cost. I was absolutely FLOORED when I realized that most all vendors wanted 500+ to make my cake. Not to mention the fact that that base price climbed higher and higher as soon as they disclosed the fact that delivery, cake stands, cake-cutting knives, fondant, flavors, stencils, and the like would be an additional charge. Really???
Because of this, I put off making my decision on a cake-vendor ’til close to the end. I couldn’t seem to find anyone who could create the cake I wanted at a reasonable price. But, as luck would have it, a recommendation from a friend put me touch with another non-traditional, ultra-talented, steal-of-a-deal wedding vendor I’d never been able to find on my own.
Dorcas Woodward makes a-MAZ-ing wedding cakes out of her home in Pleasant Grove. I fell speechless during our initial consultation at least five times…”You have access to the stencils we’ll need to recreate this cake; you’ll make it in my colors, with fondant and buttercream frosting, with four tiers, different flavors of cake and filling on each tier, and a bottom tier with a styrofoam center; then you’ll deliver it to our venue on our wedding day, with a cake stand and cutting knife; and you’ll do all this for no additional cost? This can’t be real!”
No joke. She is one of the sweetest, most accommodating people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. And you know what I think? The reason she turns out such an incredible cake at an unbeatable price is this…she loves doing it. It’s her hobby! And working with someone’s whose work is more like plays totally pays. Check her out!
Photography, of course, is another big part of the big day’s budget and another area where I, again, had to reconcile my expectations with reality.
Trying to find an established photographer for a reasonable price seemed nearly impossible. I can’t tell you how many blogs we stalked and follow-up emails we sent trying to find someone, anyone, who could shoot our engagements, bridals, wedding, and reception for less than a down payment on a house.
Now, if you haven’t caught on already, the biggest secret to our success in budget-friendly wedding planning is asking for and following up on the recommendations of co-workers, classmates, friends & family. Ravenberg Photography came highly recommended by a co-worker. She and her husband had done a bit of modeling for Becky when they were in a married student ward together. Her advice, “If I could go back and change one thing about my day, it would be having Becky Ravenberg Reed for my photographer. She’s an absolute pro.”
I checked out her website that day and just fell in love. Because I wanted to remember my day exactly as it happened, I loved that her pictures were so vivid and bright. She seemed able to capture moments and memories with an artist’s touch. And, after meeting her, I learned that she was an absolute sweetheart too. She made us feel at ease during our shoots and was extremely generous with her time and talent. I know she invested far more hours into shooting our wedding than what we’d contracted with her to do too. And what we paid for her level of professionalism, savvy, and skill was an absolute steal.
I think she’s raised her prices just a bit in the last year or so due to her rising popularity, but I still think she’s one of the best photographers you can get for a very, very reasonable price. Especially if you’re looking for a package that includes engagements and bridals too. RavenbergPhotography.com…that’s where I fell in love with her; bet you will too!
Bridesmaid Dresses & Groomsmen Wear
I’ll just briefly touch on this. Because I had such a unique purple in mind, finding a cute, modest bridesmaid dress in that hue seemed nearly impossible. I finally decided that the only way I’d be able to have it all (the perfect color, cut, and style) was if we started from scratch. So…we sewed. We bought fabric, thread, zippers, and pieced together a few patterns before handing it off to another ultra-talented seamstress–my husband’s cousin Brittney Rowe. She was yet another steal-of-a-deal, word-of-mouth find and did a SPECTACULAR job. I know she’s sewn for quite a few weddings so…if anyone’s in need of a super-seamstress who can whip out six perfectly-fit dresses in just one fitting…she’s your girl!
We lucked out when we found a well-matched vest-tie combo at D.C. Tuxedos. We let the guys know to sport their own pair of grey-slacks and then rented the vests/ties for them for the day for a great price. We didn’t really love the look of tuxedos but we still wanted a somewhat uniform look…I think the vests/ties did the trick! Definitely would recommend it.
We bought ties for the dads & brothers and had the moms & sisters choose whatever they wanted to wear within our purple-charcoal-grey-silver color scheme. This seemed to work well and I liked how everyone matched well in the pictures without looking too uniform.
My mother-in-law & sister-in-law made the adorable purple dresses for my husband’s little nieces. I’m so lucky our family includes so many talented seamstresses. They’re the only reason I was able to have my perfect-purple that day. I never could have made it happen otherwise.
I’m not sure if you’re looking to include this in the blog since you more-so asked for vendors, and I’m sure you’ve covered this do-it-yourself wedding favor idea about a million-and-one times, but I just thought I’d share a few insights on the candy table.
It seems to me to be one of the most aesthetically appealing and memorable wedding favor options. Because I knew it’s what I wanted to do very early on, my mom was able to start collecting glassware & candy here-and-there months before my big day. Because she had the flexibility of finding items on the fly, she scored some sweet deals! From Tuesday Morning, to Ross, to Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx, and Michael’s…she found all our glassware at HUGE discounts. We had a very eclectic and fun collection by the end of it.
The candy worked the same way. Because it’s so hard to find such a wide array of candy in the same color scheme without dropping a chunk of change at a specialty candy shoppe, she just picked up our purple sweets as she saw them (i.e. the purple & white salt-water taffy she picked up on her trip to San Francisco) . She ended up finding some sweet sales throughout the year and scored on the post-Valentine’s and Easter candy sales too.
I think she ended up ordering the little favor bags through Oriental Trading Co. at a great discount as well.
Anyway, because she collected all this through the year, it saved us a huge headache at the end. We ended up having far more than we ever could have hoped to find as far as candy & glassware go and only paid bookoo bucks for the purple lollipops and silver-coated Jordan Almonds (who knew those would be so hard to find!). When the big day came, all we had to do was match our table arrangement as closely as we could to the one in the picture I’d found to inspire the idea in the first place. Easy-as-pie and a HUGE hit! I highly recommend the idea.
Okay…I think it’s time to wrap it up (now that I’ve given you a full novel to read).
Editor’s Note: WOW! Thanks for all the great info, Chelsey! Have a beautiful married life!