I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing when it comes to planning this reception. My main MO is to make it as cheap as possible, as I’ve mentioned before, while not compromising the basic essentials of what I want this celebration to be.

That said, it’s coming together extremely well. It kind of feels like wandering into the forest for a routine camping trip, and then something happens and all of your important gear goes up in flames, and you have to figure out how to survive really quickly because it’s getting cold at night and there might be bears. At first, it really sucks to learn how to survive in the wild and forage for your berries and keep the fire going, but then you get the hang of it and by the time the rescue helicopter comes you leave the forest feeling like a legit survival expert.

That’s the only apt analogy I can come up with for how this reception planning process feels to me.  I’ve been doing things mostly my own way (which is also sort of just the way that my best friends suggest it to me). I don’t have a robust arsenal of survival skills–I mean, party planning skills–and sometimes I feel like the bears have sniffed out my location and will tear us to shreds. While this  means overseeing a lot of extra details (like, furnishing my own table covers, and making all my decorations from scratch, and figuring out real quick whether these leaves are poisonous), it also means that I am a little out of touch with what the rest of the world is doing when it comes to wedding/reception planning.

And after a visit to my local craft store the other day, I realized I’m actually way more out of touch than I realized.

After some very goal-oriented browsing at the store, I stumbled upon their bridal aisle. Ah yes, I thought. Most craft stores have these! I wonder what treasures they hold? I took a gander for posterity’s sake. And to see if there was anything I might “need” for my current mission.

To wit, there was not. But I did stumble upon this:

The $6.50 bouquet cover!

The $6.59 bouquet wrap!

Holy shit. Hang on. A bouquet wrap? I don’t know if my consternation upon viewing this has to do more with the wedding industry or just consumerism in general. A bouquet wrap is, to me, a useless product, as I’ll explain below. But at the same time, I can see lots of brides out there really getting into the details, all the way down to the color of the lace on the bouquet cover. So, hey. To each his or her own bouquet. 

On my wedding day, I used a bouquet of hand-picked flowers from my friend’s garden. I went to her house and we picked them out together. Then, I took the bunch of flowers to my house in a mason jar full of water. When the time came, I picked up the flowers, grabbed a rubber band, and tied that sucker around the stems.

Before we left for the courthouse, one of my friends said, “Do you have anything to wrap around the flowers? So it looks nicer.”

The question dumbfounded me. The flowers didn’t look nice enough already? I said, “Uh…no, actually.”

So someone in my intimate friend’s group looked around the house, and snagged a piece of ribbon attached to godknowswhat laying around.

There you have it. Bouquet wrap. On-the-go. Last-minute. Totally free.

did not know prior to that moment that bouquet covers were even a thing I’d have to think about when preparing for my “big day”. In fact, I still maintain that it is NOT a thing one should think about. Having a rubber band around some flower stems is totally fine. Because who actually cares?

I was grateful that my friend thought to snag the ribbon and tie up the flowers. It did look nicer. And I think that most people, if given the opportunity, could find some subtle, easy replacement for these “necessities” as posited by the wedding machine.

If I could save close to $7 on a bouquet cover that is, by all rights, unnecessary, what else could I save by looking around my house and using things more readily at my disposal? Instead of buying pre-packaged solutions that aren’t “solving” as much as creating a false problem?

The limits of this approach are totally self-defined, especially in an arena such as wedding and reception planning. How far can I take it? Well, I won’t be furnishing my own tablecloths by sewing together worn-out leggings, that’s for sure. Nor will I be only using recycled paper for my craft projects, or borrowed cutlery, etc. I’m buying lots of things new, and receiving lots of used things as well. Each bride/person is responsible for deciding what the important parts are, what deserves a higher percentage of the budget.

My centerpieces are a good example of this. I wanted 1.) attractive 2.) personal 3.) cheap, in that order. Being that our party centers around travel, I decided to make centerpieces that reflect places Jorge and I have traveled together–a way to showcase our travel photos, share information with guests, and create a unique table naming system.

Here’s the cost breakdown:

$1.87 per sheet of poster board needed to create the centerpieces. Each sheet makes 3 centerpieces, and we need a total of 16-17. So, we’ll get 6 sheets of this stuff. TOTAL: $11.22

$0.50 per print of 4×6 photos. I’ve printed about 40 photos for this centerpiece project. TOTAL: $20.00.

$0.10 per copy of black/white documents, printed at the library. I was doing this to print out the copy used for the centerpieces, but then switched to a printer I already owned but was at my father’s house. I made about 15 copies of various things. TOTAL: $1.50

$0.25 per copy of color documents at Staples. I printed a large variety of maps, which were used as part of the centerpiece design. TOTAL: $3.75

CENTERPIECE COST TOTAL: $36.47

Like I said, I’m pretty out of touch with what things cost and how other people are doing their parties. But this seems like a pretty good deal to me, especially since this accounts for 16-17 guest tables AND blends function with personal meaning. It doesn’t count for labor, but let’s just say it’s free, because I enjoy doing it, and I’ll only have to put in this time once in my life.

What do you guys think? Anybody know what regular centerpiece prices are? What do other people even use for centerpieces? Am I crazy, spot-on, or something else?