So when my friend Margaret got married in September, we had to have a night on the strip before her big day!

Ready to hit the town!

All the out-of-towners showing off VEGAS visitors guides.

We drove down to the strip with a scavenger list of things to accomplish:

First, Marge found a guy whose name started with an ‘N’ (she married a Nathan).

She also had to find bridal gown or tuxedo – yay for Build-a-Bear!

Next came a coffee cup autographed by the barista!

Picture with a group of guys holding a sign with her wedding date.

Not on the list, but we found another bachelorette party!

Also not on the list, but it’s always fun to pose with street performers ūüôā

Another to-do: a picture with a couple who has been on the marriage road for quite awhile. This couple had so much wonderful wisdom to share.

Since “Tony & Tina’s Wedding” was playing in Vegas, it was easy to take a picture of Margaret with the word “wedding”.

She was supposed to find a woman with a first name starting with “M” (like Margaret!), but the woman with an “M” middle name was the closest we got.

After a quick obligatory stop by the Bellagio, we continued on our way…

Being serenaded by random men. I can’t remember what they sang, but they were pretty good!

After searching high and low for months, I found a flower to wear in my hair for the wedding – Margaret’s sister Krystle got one too.

At the end of the night we found a guy to hold a sign saying “Margaret & Nathan”

These ladies really wanted to help us out, but we had already completed our scavenger hunt!

It was a successful scavenger hunt – the only thing we spent money on was the ice cream from Serendipity (as a New Yorker, I was impressed!). We had so much fun along the way:

Playing favorite childhood games before heading home.

Posing for one last picture…

And at the last moment we found amazing sunglasses! I love the Elvis one’s I’m wearing – they had awesome sideburns ūüôā


I’ve realized recently I haven’t shared much about my own experience as a bride. Here’s the details:

Background: My husband Keith and I met at a mutual friend’s production of “Grease”. We only barely knew each other, but ended up sitting next to one another (after a little encouragement from my mom and his sister). After dating for a few years and being separated for all of them {I was in New York and London and he was in Maine}, we decided it was time¬†to get married!

One evening in July 2007, Keith took me out to a lovely seafood dinner in Mystic, CT {which turned out to be the restaurant where my parents had dinner the night they got engaged!}. He had wanted to propose while climbing a mountain or on a hike with spectacular views, but he was waiting for a diagnosis on a swollen, painful knee and I had just sprained my ankle. Instead, we hobbled out to Ender’s Island and watched the sunset. He pulled out a pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Everything But The…” and we ate it with great views of the Long Island Sound. He explained there was duct tape along the bottom of the pint because it had been leaking, so he encouraged me to take it off. Not wanting to get my clothes dirty, I politely refused. After much coaxing, I finally took the tape off and an engagement ring came with it! He told me the ice cream was “Everything But The…RING!”

engagement sunset

The Wedding: Since we were getting married just after I had graduated college and while Keith was still recovering from chemotherapy and radiation, our budget was tight. To make things more challenging, we both come from huge families and wanted the day to be shared with them. We ended up having a simple English Tea reception after the ceremony and made sure everything was personal and intimate.

Research: Anything and everything I could get my hands on! I mostly spent time on and other similar sights. Google Images was a huge help. Also, all the Davids Bridal catalogues helped me to decide what styles, colors, and aesthetics I liked the most.

Website/Blog: Our wedding website was through Bed Bath & Beyond. Free and customizable.

Photosharing: Snapfish and Facebook.

Gift Registry: Bed Bath & Beyond and Macys

Rehearsal Dinner: Held in a friend’s backyard¬†with catering by friends of the family and an altogether laid back and relaxing atmosphere. Keith re-wrote the words to “When You Say Nothing At All” and sang it to me. So special!


Ceremony Location & Officiant: Groton Bible Chapel, Groton, CT. Officiant Bob McCoy {my Father In Law}

Reception Location: The Wauregan Ballroom, Norwich, CT

Bridal Party Members:



  • Todd McCoy {Best Man, Keith’s brother}
  • Jonathan Bayreuther {Keith’s best friend}
  • Dan Widlicka {Keith’s brother-in-law}
  • Nick Reed {Keith’s cousin}
  • Josh McCoy {Keith’s nephew}
  • Molly Giannattasio {Maid of Honor, my sister}
  • Margaret Nitzel {my college roommate}
  • Gwynne Widlicka {Keith’s sister}
  • Jen McCoy {Keith’s sister-in-law}
  • Maggie McCoy {Keith’s niece}
  • Avery Widlicka {Keith’s niece}

Flowers: Fresh flowers done by a local gardner. My bridesmaids and I carried hydrangeas and roses. Since pink hydrangeas weren’t in season, the woman who did the flowers sprayed them pink with floral spray. The guys wore hydrangea and rose boutonnieres with gorgeous leaves to contrast the flowers. The two flower girls carried baskets of sweet william potted plants. The reception flowers were mostly wildflowers in vases that we bought on sale at A.C.Moore, Michaels, and Joann Fabric. The ceremony had silk flowers donated by the woman who does the arrangements for the church. The total came just under $200 for all of the flowers. See more pictures of our flowers in these two posts: Silk Flowers and Fresh Flowers.

Music: For the ceremony, we had Keith’s aunt play a selection of hymns arranged by Chris Rice. I walked down the aisle to “For The Beauty of The Earth”. During our lighting of the unity candle and time for prayer, my friend joined her on violin to play “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. It was really lovely. We exited the ceremony to Henry Purcell’s “Trumpet Voluntary” for piano and trumpet. The reception music was simply a playlist on an iPod.

First Dance: “1000 Miles” by Mark Schultz

Caterer: Jen Sanford with Bonne Bouche Catering out of Wenham, MA. Friends of ours work for her and she is an incredible person to work with! Her menu consisted of tea sandwiches of several varieties as well as lots of other yummy finger foods appropriate for our English Tea.

Cake: A gift from a family friend. White cake with a raspberry filling. Decorated with dark brown ribbon, roses, and hydrangea. In the July heat it started to melt a little bit, but it still tasted good!

Bridal Party Gifts: We gave each of our bridal party members a framed picture of us as well as individual gifts such as gift certificates, trinkets, books, coffee, and soaps/lotions. We gave the flower girls lockets and the ring bearer his own personal ice cream bowl and spoons.

Guest Favors: Since not everyone at the ceremony was able to attend the reception, we handed out favors along with the ceremony programs. Each guest got a small heart-shaped cookie cutter {eBay for $0.50 per piece} with our theme verse: “The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3


Pictures: By Sheila Emsheimer of¬†Ian Puwluk Photography, assisted by my aunt. Portraits were taken at the¬†Connecticut College Arboretum in New London, CT. Engagement photos by Keith’s sister Gwynne at Bluff Point in Groton, CT.


Rings: All three of our rings were bought from a local jeweler who works out of his home. My engagement ring is a solitaire and our wedding bands are simple white gold {mine has small diamonds on the top}.

Invitations: From Wilton, Simple Yet Elegant in Ivory. We used thin brown ribbon instead of the white provided and since we printed them at home, it cost just over $1 per invitation {including stamps and ink}.

Wedding Dress: From Davids Bridal. I did not like the picture in the catalogue, but once I saw this dress in person, I knew it was the one!

Bridal Party Outfits: The bridesmaids and flower girl dresses were from Davids Bridal. The guys wore basic tuxedos from Mens Wearhouse.

Bridal Shoes and Accessories: My shoes were simple heeled sandals on sale at JCPenny. The bridesmaids wore Payless sandals died off white. All jewelry was found at Kohls.

Honeymoon: A weekend at The Norwich Inn & Spa and then a week at a family member’s lake house in Ashford, CT.

Thank You Cards: Within a few weeks of the wedding, I sent out the thank you cards since we were about to move and start graduate school. We picked our favorite portrait from the wedding and secured it to the front of an ivory colored blank card {found at Michaels}. This way, our guests got a picture of us from the wedding as well as our gratitude.

Wedding Book: I used to create our own wedding book as well as smaller ones for our parents and grandparents. They pricing was very reasonable!

Blog: Soon after we got married, all of our other friends did too. As an effort to catalogue all my ideas and methods for planning a wedding, I started this blog. I hope it will help other brides gather ideas and encouragement for elegant weddings under a tight budget!

Funny Moments: We forgot to give the bridal party directions to the photography location, so some of them took quite a bit of time getting from the ceremony to pictures. Before the ceremony, I locked my keys in my car – everything was in there except for my dress! Keith’s brother found out the week before that we were calling our wedding day “Happy Naked Day” and honored it by making us t-shirts which he presented during his toast. There were many other crazy and unpredictable moments, but they made the day that much more memorable.


Over a year later, we look fondly on our wedding day and are so thankful to have shared our marriage with so many people! We look forward to the adventures ahead.


If I’ve forgotten to mention anything, feel free to ask:

I always love when Nancy Liuchin posts something new on Brown Bag.

Recently, she wrote an extensive post on cost saving tips for flowers. Topics include: Modest Flowers In Abundance, Let Vendors Help You, Be Within Reason, Downsize and Value Size, and Avoid Pricey Shipping.

As always, Nancy is helpful, thorough, and creative!

Last month I wrote this post highlighting fabulous invitations I’ve received and weddings I’ve been looking forward to. My friend Emily’s wedding was the perfect example of a gorgeous and elegant wedding on a tight budget. Almost everything was done by hand.Emily & Riley Ceremony 1

Emily’s mom (escorted by her brother). She wore a beautiful flowing navy blue skirt with a simple cotton periwinkle colored top. All the men wore khaki pants, blue shirts, and navy blazers with a sharp blue plaid tie. The boutonnieres were all wildflowers grown locally.

Emily & Riley Ceremony 2

The bridesmaids all wore simple green dresses with brightly colored flowers. They all looked beautiful and were comfortable in the July heat!

Emily & Riley Tables 4

Since Emily & Riley both graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy, the ceremony was held there. The reception, however, was laid back and casual and took place along an inlet in Emily’s parents’ neighbor’s yard. The location was completely serene and gave its natural beauty to the day. A few simple white tents added to the elegance and we completely forgot we were in a back yard!

Emily & Riley Tables 2

The tents were festively adorned with ivy and provided shade over the beautifully decorated tables.

Emily & Riley Tables 3

Each table had a basket of homemade biscuits along with floral arrangements in mason jars. While a local flower expert created the ceremony flowers, Emily’s sister used her artistic talents to add elegance to the day.

Emily & Riley Tables 1

The drinks were served from large mason jars into simple cups. Friends of the family helped the caterer (another family friend) by serving drinks and hors d’oeuvres to guests.

Emily & Riley Boathouse 1

The most ingenuity¬†and creativity was put to work on the boathouse. I spoke with the owner and she said before Emily’s family got to it, this old shed was the grimiest of any boat shed. The Holts cleaned it from top to bottom and repainted to provide a quaint, shaded area to serve food.

Emily & Riley Boathouse

One long table adorned with greens and flowers was the perfect spot for the food!

Emily & Riley Boathouse 3

Outside the boathouse, a chalkboard listed the menu for the day.

Emily & Riley Boathouse 2

Emily’s family even found this old sideboard and refinished it to house another drink station.

Emily & Riley Ceremony

Riley & Emily had a gorgeous afternoon and did a wonderful job planning a lovely wedding on a budget!

Emily & Riley

Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Matsco!!

Here’s a list of things to do in the weeks heading up to the wedding. Most of them should be delegated to people outside the wedding party and immediate family and some you’ll have to do yourself. For my wedding we delegated as much as possible and it made the day itself so much less stressful because I knew I didn’t have to think about any of it!

To Be Delegated:

  • Go-to person for the Ceremony – this person should help participants with the timing of the ceremony. Sometimes ceremony/reception facilities provide this person for you.
  • Ceremony Participants – make sure you have people to usher, monitor sound equipment, and clean up after the ceremony.
  • Bridal Party Nourishment – everyone (especially the bride and groom) needs to stay hydrated and should have plenty of snacks available throughout the day. This is especially important during the photo session! I got married at 1pm and my mom had the forethought of making sure we all had lunch to eat – I’m certain I wouldn’t have made it through the day without that since my husband and I didn’t get anything to eat at the ceremony! Along these lines, make sure there’s someone who will take all the left overs or goodie bags from the caterer so that you’ve got dinner for later.
  • Drivers – as the bride/groom, you will probably have the responsibility of organizing carpools and drivers, but ultimately, you shouldn’t be doing any of the driving!
  • Gift Supervisor – unless the reception facility provides someone, you should make sure there’s a person who keeps an eye on all the gifts. I was recently at a wedding where the bride & groom were told they had to hold on to all the cards themselves! This person should also be responsible for getting all the gifts to the correct location at the end of the day.
  • Guest Attendants – sometimes there’s a friend or family member who needs a companion for the day.
  • Bride/Groom Attendant – find someone to make sure you stay hydrated and get something to eat during the reception…no need to get sick when you’ve spent so much time planning the event.
  • Clothing Emergency Person – usually a bridesmaid, someone who’s got enough bobby pins, needle and thread, and Tide-To-Go for everyone!
  • Guestbooks/Driving Directions/Programs – find someone not in the wedding party to make sure guests have what they need and know where they’re going.
  • Vendor Contact – while you’ll need to confirm with all the vendors, select someone you can trust to be their contact person on the day of, just in case. That way you don’t need to worry if the florist is stuck in traffic or the caterer forgot something!
  • Wedding Party Scheduler – if you don’t have a wedding planner, you might want to appoint someone to keep track of the time, make sure the wedding party has directions and a schedule, and deal with anything else. On this note, make sure you type up a schedule and directions for your wedding party – we forgot to do this and waited for 30 minutes for some of the bridal party to show up at the picture location!
  • Baggage Handler – you’ll have your wedding night and honeymoon luggage packed, but you certainly don’t want to be responsible for it. Give them to one of your attendants and rest assured that it won’t get left somewhere.
  • Post-wedding Bridal Person – make sure someone knows they’re responsible for taking your gown/shoes/jewelry/etc. home.
  • If you’re planning on keeping the top layer of your cake, make sure someone freezes it in an air-tight container.

And if you’re really bored, get a head start on all those Thank You cards! You’ll be so glad that’s one less thing to do once you get home from your honeymoon. However, etiquette dictates that you have one year to complete them, so there is no rush.

The best thing you can do to enjoy your wedding day is to decide not to let things bother you. As stated above, we sat around waiting for some of our bridal party to get “un-lost”, I locked all of my bridal accessories and car keys in the car, and a few other things went sour, but we decided to just relax and had a wonderful and unforgettable day!

Gorgeous and simple ideas that will keep the cost down and create an elegant atmosphere:

I’ve been wanting to write a post on this topic for awhile, but haven’t quite been able to get my thoughts together. Then I came upon this post in the Real Groom series of Nancy Liu Chin on her blog Brown Bag.

In the post Real Groom: Prioritizing The Budget Part 1, groom Danny describes all the ways to cut the budget: guest count and food, to begin with.

Check out Nancy’s blog – every one of her posts is worth reading, like this one on making ¬†your own Heavenly Place Cards!

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