Monday, October 22, 2012

Pura Vida Weddings

I have to say, planning a wedding in Costa Rica does have it perks. First, the vendors here so much more relaxed.  They have your time, date and deposit.  They have the info so they don't harass you about final payments; most don't even want you to pay them anything until a week out and many don't require a final payment until the day of the actual event.  This gives me more time to save.

Second, Costa Rica is a naturally beautiful country.  And lucky for us, nature will be in her full glory in November with lush greenery and full grown trees that will offer a beautiful backdrop to our day.

Third, prices here are so much more accommodating   Speaking with other brides all over the world on the internet makes me so thankful that I'm having a Pura Vida wedding. I had sticker shock yes, but I cannot believe some of these prices other women are paying for their wedding day: $100 p/p for food and drinks, $2000 venue rental fees, $3000 for photography, $500 officiant fee for 30 minutes of service, $1000 church rental fee, $800 for car rental for a few hours and the list goes on and on.  Also, while there are true budget brides out there much like myself, it shocked me to see what other brides considered "low" budget: $15,000 is barely enough to get you what you want without sacrifices and many compromises.  I cannot imagine. Even ten grand would have given me the wedding of my dreams and then some.

I know there are brides here who can spend a pretty penny on their weddings just like those in the States; there are super pricey vendors here as well.  But the majority of women are like me, planning a wedding on a  tight budget and there are plenty of vendors that cater to our vision on a smaller price point.  All inclusive venues starting at just $14 p/p for everything, photographer packages from $400, and NO venue rental fees. My vendors are all budget friendly, a fact that I love.  Without them, my wedding would not be possible. I am sure I would have found budget friendly vendors in Boston as well, if I was faced with that dilemma, but I know for a fact, I would have had to compromise and sacrifice even more.  I would not be having the wedding I am having now, not without some kind of miracle.

The Magic "Wedding" Bus

When I was younger and dreaming of my wedding day, I always thought I would have a limo to transport me to the Church to get married.  Weddings and limos just seemed to go hand in hand to me.  I lusted after the Hummer limos, grand mansions on wheels, and envisioned myself riding in one someday.  Fast forward to my actual wedding day in a little less than a month and I will not be having a limo at all.  Am I disappointed?  No, and here's why: I decided early on in the planning process that I did not need a limo, could not afford the limo of my dreams and really, aren't limos like, so last decade?

I still wanted something though, after all, how would I get to the ceremony (not at a church by the way).  Hubby and I will not be seeing each other until I walk down the aisle to say our vows, so traveling with him was out of the question.  Plus, I wanted to be able to travel to the ceremony venue together with my girls; a nice pre-wedding bonding moment on the road to the alter. I saw so many other brides fore-going the limo as well in preference for either their own vehicles or "party buses and trolleys".  Neat idea, I thought.  With a micro bus, I could also transport my guests who are in need of a ride to the ceremony and reception.  This way, I get more use out of the rental transportation, which means more bang for my buck.

I went about doing what I do best and started researching all the options available out there for micro-buses (basically those mini buses that transport school kids and tourists in Costa Rica).  They are spacious and will do the job. The first company I spoke with was charging c15.000 colones for pick up and drop off only for 15 people.  At first I thought this would work as I would only need transportation to the ceremony.  But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that was too much for too little a time, plus I decided I wanted to transport guests as well.

By chance while on the highway, I saw a micro-bus and jotted the number down to call.  Speaking with the owner put all my worries to rest.  He told me they charged c50.000 colones for their 15 passenger bus for all day, no matter how many trips; c60.000 gets you a 30 passenger bus.  I made an appointment and went with hubby to check out the buses and we were really impressed.  They were spacious, clean and just what we were looking for.  We decided to book the 30 passenger bus for just c10.000 colones more and paid our deposit on the spot.  Cannot wait to ride in style on my wedding day...and our guests will be really impressed as well as appreciative.

We forgot to take a picture of the actual bus we're renting but this is a similar version, a very close look-alike just to give you an idea.

Guest List Nightmare

I talked about wedding worries in a recent post but I think I missed one big worry that keeps me second guessing my decision on a daily basis.  Yes, we all have things we worry about, especially when it comes to planning big events, like a wedding.  I do worry about money.  We don't have very much of it and so we have to pinch every penny to make it work.  Having a budget has been like a joke since I've pretty much blown past it.  I never thought I would be THAT girl, the one who sets a strict budget (because I had to) and then go over it.  I always wondered how people went over budget on weddings.  It should be simple: get what you can afford to get and forgo the little extras. Well, I was on target for the wedding until I got ambitious with the honeymoon.

Let me back up by explaining what "on target" meant.  I set an initial budget when I started planning and was fine with all the sacrifices I was making as long as I had a wedding day: no DJ, no transportation, wedding in the backyard to save on costs, etc.  Well, I just couldn't come to terms with some of the things I was giving up and decided that I would add to the budget to include the extras I wanted to have.  Increasing the budget was easier said than done; it meant more work to try and see where I could compromise and more money I had to save.  My new budget was more than what I wanted to spend but I was happy with.  But like I said, a really nice honeymoon is something I think we deserve, so I said, to heck with the budget.  Our honeymoon will be our one big splurge and it won't even happen until 2 weeks after the wedding.  Technically, we're still on budget, but in reality, we're not.  What to do now... hope it all works out.

Now even with that hanging over my head, it's not even my biggest worry.  My biggest worry that makes me second guess myself is the guest list.  I have heard horror stories from other brides about how stressful the guest list can be.  I thought it was a joke.  Now I see why.  The guest list is directly linked to the budget, i.e money. The more people you invite, the more $$$ you have to spend.

I budgeted for a 150 person guest list.  I know most people say that you should never invite more people than you can comfortably afford to host.  If 150 the number you can afford, then 150 should be your max.  But I know there is a chance that not everyone you invite to your wedding will be able to come.  People will decline and inevitably there might be a few no-shows.  I needed to make sure 150 was what I would end up with. I know for most couples, having declines to your wedding is a good thing; it means more money in your pocket, savings that could go to other things.  For me, less than 150 people would be a loss.  I have already paid for 150 plates of food, contracted enough seats and tables for said amount and table arrangements to go on said tables for said amount of guests.  It would mean I would LOSE money if only, say 130 people showed up to our wedding.  So with that in mind, I decided to pad the guest list in the hopes that if I invite more people, even with declines, chances are I'll still end up with 150.

Here's the problem with that thought process.  What if all the 190+ people I invited decided to attend?  What then.  I cannot afford to feed them.  I cannot afford more centerpieces, tables and chairs. I can only comfortably and realistically host 150 (155 max).  Yes, I put myself into some deep water and I hope I can swim out.  I pray I get the decline rate I need.   I pray it all works out in the end and I will be relentless with the RSVP's.  I know I'll have to track a few people down. For those who I can't get a hold of, well, that's just on them.  No RSVP's means no reserved seating in their honor.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Birthday

As I turned 32 years old this year, I let the day pass me by with very little fan far. I was just too busy planning the biggest party of my life; my wedding.  I was in no mood to plan a birthday party as well. While I love birthdays, I decided to just celebrate mine this year with a cake.  I was lucky enough to get a few little gifts as well, which touched and surprised me.  My friend (and future bridesmaid) D dropped by my house to give me my gift.  It was very nice of her and I loved it loads.

Hubby brought me home cake, but not just any cake.  He brought me lemon pie cake...yes lemon pie.  I absolutely LOVE this dessert and had no idea they made it cake form.  It was delish. He also surprised me in the most romantic of ways with my gifts.  He left my phone in our bedroom on the bed and laid 2 gorgeous jewelry boxes next to it.  He then called my phone so I would run to the bedroom to get it, only to find my gifts laid out in perfection. They were a gorgeous necklace in a gold box and necklace and earring set in a blue one.  With all the pre-wedding parties I have coming up they are just perfect.

Gorgeous jewelry

Lemon Pie CAKE!

Overnight Get-away

Recently, we decided to do a mini vacay-an overnight getaway to the mountains of Heredia. It was just after my Princess left for her big vacation to the United States with my mother in law.  So while Princess was off traveling, we took a short trip to Hotel Monte Campana in Santa Barbara de Heredia. It was last minute and impromptu-but sometimes you just need to get away, and we did.

On The Wedding Path

Things are progressing nicely (I should hope) and my road to the alter is almost complete; it seems so real now.  I constantly think and daydream (and night-dream) about my wedding day and am so anxious for it be here. The path I took to get to this point seems like such a long and arduous one. Finally got the invitations checked off my list and only need to deliver a few more.  My current guest list is a lot bigger than I initially planned but hoping that as the RSVP's come in, I can get a handle on that. Also finished up a few small details as well: bought our toasting flutes (champagne glasses), glammed up our cake serving set, and added the final touches to the program and petals baskets. Also started getting the items for the candy bar (jars and candy) and made a set menu for the cocktail hour.  I even managed to get the ceremony decorations squared away (decided to make tissue paper pom poms...simple, cute and cheap).

Assembling the invitations (Spanish version)

Assembled and ready to be enveloped

Name tags on the envelopes

Assembled English invitations

All packaged, bagged and ready for delivery

Cake serving set with personalized ribbon

Blue ribbon bows for baskets

And just to show you a glimpse at how I've been staying organized with all this wedding stuff, here's a look at my wedding binder and wedding planning notebook...2 of my favorite wedding items.
This binder is all DIY.  I got the the binder from one of Hubby's leftover office supplies he had lying around and the pages I printed off the internet from a wedding planning site. Total cost, around $10 (for the printing).

I should jazz it up a bit on the outside...we'll see.

And my planning notebook...the very first wedding item I bought right after we officially became engaged and I started planning. It's a regular notebook that I wrapped in pretty paper. Cost less than $2.

Wedding Worries And Calm Nerves

It's now mid-October and my wedding is literally right around the corner.  However, with my fast approaching up-coming nuptials, I am as cool and calm as a cucumber.  Why?  Well, lets see: all of my major vendors have already been booked and the majority of them have been paid a nice deposit to guarantee my date and their services. I am 95% done with all my DIY items.  Most of what I have left on my to-do list are minor little detail items I can't do until a few weeks before the big day. However, I do hope that as the wedding day draws even closer, the list of things I have to do gets visibly smaller. I don't want to be up past 12 am the night before my wedding doing any last minute projects. As for now though, I am just taking it easy and waiting for my wedding day to come.

Not to say I don't have any worries.  I know who I am and I know that I will inevitably stress out (hoping not too much).  One major worry is the wedding finances. The budget makes me very nervous. I started out a very  small budget bride.  And I was happy with that.  But than, I kept increasing the amount I wanted to spend by adding in things I felt I just had to have (after initially eliminating them from the budget). I don't regret the decisions I made that pushed my budget higher as I know those items will make my wedding the wedding of my dreams, but I still wonder if its too much money to spend on just a one day party.  I hope when all is said and done, it will all be worth it.  And I am still penny pinching and watching the budget, just to make sure I don't go over board (as it can be so easy to do so when planning a wedding).

The one thing I feel we're really splurging on (and didn't get much of a deal on) is the honeymoon. With last minute bookings and then adding on additional days, the honeymoon budget has tripled.  I feel we deserve a nice honeymoon though, so I am reasoning with myself so I don't feel too guilty about all the money being spent on our vacation.