Your wedding can be beautiful on a smaller budget

Planning a wedding can be equal parts maddening and intoxicating. The possibilities are endless – and gorgeous, when you start looking at décor and dresses and flowers …

It’s easy to see how things can get out of hand. But it’s just not a good idea to go deep into debt for one weekend’s worth of celebration. After those initial conversations about who’s going to pay and how much, you can set a budget and start figuring out what’s truly important to you and what your guests will really remember.

Just a few areas where you might encounter sticker shock (and how to prevent it):

The venue: Can you believe that some places charge up to $30,000 to get married there? That’s a down payment on a house. Or a car. Or two cars.eric-alves-145943.jpg

There’s no rule that says you have to get married in a church and have your reception in an event hall. Think outside the box a little. Make a list of places that have significance for you as a couple.

People get hitched on the porches of family homes, in parks and at lakes, in underground caves, at wildlife refuges and theme parks, in museum sculpture gardens, on covered bridges, at railway depots and botanical gardens. Just make sure you get a permit to keep your nontraditional venue legal.

The dress: There is no law stating that brides have to gather an entourage, try on white dresses and twirl around until their credit cards are maxed out.

You don’t even have to go to a bridal salon if you don’t want to. Stores like White House, Black Market carry lovely formal pieces. Look for white dresses during prom season at department stores. Online retailer BHLDN is disrupting the market by offering couture design for around a grand.

You can also stalk trunk shows and end-of-season sample sales, and comb through sites like OnceWed.com to take advantage of other brides’ rejected or lightly used dresses. If you fall in love with a dress that fits you well in a bridal salon, see if you can buy the sample.

If you do order a dress, keep alterations to a minimum by buying the right silhouette for your body type and ordering your real size. Corset-backed dresses are great for keeping alteration costs down.

The flowers: If you come up with something else to put in the middle of your tables, you could save yourself thousands. Spend your flower money on the bride bouquet, and think of something creative for the rest of the wedding party to carry, like feathered fans, beaded purses or a beautifully wrapped book that is meaningful to you.

The photography: Wedding photographers earn their money, but you have other options. Photojournalists frequently make extra money on the weekends shooting weddings, as do college students in art and photo programs. Some couples book ceremony-only packages and let their guests crowdsource the reception photography with disposable cameras.

Music: Unless you’re really committed to the chicken dance, you can save money by not hiring a DJ. A playlist of your favorite tunes and a friend with a laptop will do just as well, without entrusting the personality of your reception to a stranger.

Wedding planners who share wisdom online point to sit-down dinners, programs and favors as the most overlooked and unappreciated extras that couples waste money on. Your guests will remember your vows and remember the personal touches you bring to make your reception a great gathering, whether it’s a more toned-down family affair or a raucous party with an open bar.

Once you sit down and figure out your priorities, you’ll determine where to best spend your money – even if it’s on the honeymoon.

 

20 Valentine’s Day Gifts Under $20

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. The pressure-filled holiday of over-priced flowers and chocolates. Alas, never fear. We’ve scoured the internet to find 20 gifts under $20 for your honey.

Love Icon Gummy Candies – $9.

Kate Spade Thermos – $18

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Heart Shaped Twinkle Lights – $12

Men’s I heart you socks – $10

Keeper Trinket Tray – $6

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Snuggle is Real Shirt – $6

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What I Love About You Journal – $12

Heart Print Trunks – 8 fancy Euros

Tie pins – $13

Onward Vegan Key Ring – $18

ColourPop Lip Matte – $6

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Yoda One For Me Mug – $13

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Love You To the Moon Wood Décor – $16

I Pick You, Personalized Guitar Pick -$9

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Compliment Card Set – $13

Honest Love, Customizable V-Day Card – $0

Tub of Now & Laters – $14

Heart Throw Pillow – $15

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Love Struck Candle – $10

Trusty coupon book of favors – $0

Five summer vacation spots that won’t break the bank

IMG_3571.JPGSometimes, you just have to get away and take in some new scenery. Good thing America is full of destinations where you can choose how much you want to spend once you get there.

Yellowstone National Park

A road trip to one of America’s natural wonders will take you past enough landmarks to justify a vacation unto themselves: South Dakota’s Black Hills, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, the Grand Tetons and more. Take out an almanac and plot different courses there and back for variety.

Just be sure to leave enough time in Yellowstone itself, where you could spend weeks exploring geysers, waterfalls, jewel-toned hot springs, canyons and wildflowers. Bears, bison and elk provide even more photo opportunities in the park.

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Lodging in the nearby towns of Jackson Hole, Cody and West Yellowstone is available at varied pricing levels, so book as far in advance as you can. You can also take a tent and camp at one of the 2,000 sites within the park if you reserve it in time. Eating within Yellowstone can be pricey, so pack a cooler with food and drinks at a grocery store outside the park every day.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach is a popular tourist destination, with lots of flights going in and out every day on discount carriers. Look for sales on individual airlines’ sites as well as popular travel booking sites to get the best deal. There is no shortage of beachfront condo-style hotels competing to fill rooms, either.

Once you get there, Myrtle Beach has a lot to offer besides the beach. The world-class Ripley’s Aquarium is the city’s biggest draw, with the Family Kingdom Amusement Park & Water Park close behind. Companies offer ziplining, kayaking, boating and diving for the active vacationer – or you can just sit on the beach and relax.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston has more history per square mile than any other city in America. Once you get there, you can discover the city’s rich Revolutionary War heritage on foot on your own or with the help of a guided walking tour. Business travel makes downtown hotels close to attractions, like the waterfront and theater district, popular during the week, with better deals on weekend nights.

One money-saving deal to consider is the Go Boston Card, which lets you skip lines and gets you into a long list of destinations at a discounted price. You can choose which kind of card you want based on the number of places you want to visit, or just custom-load one according to your plans.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Once you’re out of spring break territory, this Florida beach city calms down into a destination for wide sandy coastlines, open-air dining and water sports like kayaking. The city’s arts district has grown up around Las Olas Boulevard, packed with galleries, boutiques and world-class dining. If you get tired of the city and beach, you can take a boat tour into the Everglades or tour a historic estate.

You can fly into Fort Lauderdale, but you can also check for cheaper flights into Miami and West Palm Beach. Once you’re there, you can take water taxis on the canals or use the city’s trolley service along the beach and downtown. Finding a beachfront hotel in your price range might not be as hard as you think, especially in summer, because of all the competition.

Austin, Texas

Austin has carved out a reputation that stands apart from the rest of Texas. The state capital is also the world’s live music capital, with a thriving cultural scene and welcoming attitude that keeps it hopping year round. Austin has a well-developed bus and light-rail system that connects downtown to the airport. You can also rent a bike and use the city’s system of lanes and trails.

Because Austin is such a popular destination – you’ll want to avoid the South by Southwest festival if you’re keeping costs down – it has a lot of available places to rent via services like Airbnb. There are also affordable rooms at hostels near 6th Street, ground zero for Austin’s late-night live music scene.

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Wherever you end up going this summer, a little research beforehand will save you money on hotels and transportation. But once you’re at your vacation spot, don’t be afraid to ask the locals their opinions on the best diners or dive bars. They’ll steer you to great, under-the-radar places you might not find in your guidebook.

Vacations are about making memories, so concentrate on finding the kind of unforgettable experiences that money just can’t buy.

Three Affordable Summer Vacations Here in Missouri

Go See the Show-Me State

With school out and vacation days accrued, the temptation of a quick, inexpensive weekend away is getting stronger. You don’t need to hop on an airplane to satisfy your wanderlust – check out these three awesome retreats and getaways all across the state.

Johnson’s Shut-in State Park

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With 8,647 acres and camping, hiking, swimming and rock climbing available, Johnson’s Shut-in State Park is a place unlike any other. The “shut-ins” (an Ozark term) are deep narrow channels of the river flowing over large, smooth rocks, perfectly forming a natural water park. Could there be a better way to spend a hot summer’s day?

There are cabins available to rent but the park is well-equipped for camping, so pack up the tents. You can try your luck fishing for dinner in the Black River but just in case, throw in a few different meals.

Weston, Missouri 

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After you shop on the Plaza and catch a Royals game in Kansas City, Missouri, head over to Weston, Missouri. Less than an hour from Kansas City, this small town is the definition of charming. There are several bed-and-breakfasts to choose from but sleep can wait – explore the many antique shops, restaurants and wineries the town offers.

For the foodies among us, plan ahead and reserve your spot for dinner at Green Dirt Farm. This sheep farm has earned national awards for its cheeses, and the farm-to-table dinners pair its fresh offerings with local chefs. This is a dining experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Hermann, Missouri

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Headed east instead of west? Stop by Hermann, Missouri, for some rest and relaxation. This historic community is especially eventful during the summer months, with festivals and celebrations held nearly every weekend. If you need a break from the area’s wineries, you can check out the museums, many of which honor Hermann’s strong German heritage. Or, bring your bike and hop on the famous Katy Trail for a few miles of true outdoor Missouri beauty.

Mapping out and budgeting for your trip before you hit the road will help ensure that you don’t overspend. You may even consider downloading an app like Gas Buddy to ensure you fill up cheaper.

Where is your favorite getaway in Missouri? Any hidden gems? Share your favorite Missouri vacation memory with us in the comments.