Real Weddings

shannon & bradley’s DIY new year’s eve wedding

by lizzie & isaiah on February 2, 2011 · 34 comments

Did you ever meet a person and drop the ball on being friends right away? Well, Shannon and I were stuck together in the prison of the super-conservative university we started at in Illinois and circumstance prevented us from getting to know one another very well, though we hung in the same circles sometimes. Shannon hit me up on Facebook recently and we instantly hit it off. I never “disliked” Shannon, but I do have this theory that people who wind up being good friends don’t like each other in the beginning. At least, that’s how most of my close friendships have started out to date.

Shh…No more talking, sit back and listen to the story of Bradley James & Shannon Elizabeth.

tattoed bride

Brad and I met the first day of our senior year of high school. He turned around and said to me “If this pencil was a magic wand, what would you do with it?” We were instant friends, not to mention: I had a huge crush on him. We went to homecoming together (insert adorable picture here) and in the middle of a slow song he leaned down and kissed me! He pretty much immediately said, “I don’t know what came over me. Must’ve been the music.” As you can tell, he has quite a way with words.

Anyway, we stayed friends, through our first college years, both of us transferring schools, Brad joining the navy, me studying in Romania, a few serious relationships, and lots of personal growth. Senior year of college, Brad invited me down to Myrtle Beach (where he went to school) for spring break. I flew down on March 23, and the same night, he told me that his feelings had changed and knew that if I felt the same way, it would be forever. Apparently I did, and apparently it is. We spent the summer road tripping and moved in together in August. A little less then a week later, he proposed on the beach with a handmade, recycled gold and conflict free diamond engagement band.

indie diy vintage wedding

diy wedding details

orange wedding diy decor

Originally, we talked about getting married at an antique amusement park where we grew up in the summer of 2012 (if anyone wants me to plan their wedding at this location, I would in a heartbeat). Brad was deployed on January 6 and will be active duty until this December, and we knew the rational thing to do would be to wait. But who said anything about being rational? We set the date for New Year’s Eve because we thought it would be a wonderful way to get married, amidst family and friends united to bring in a new year and our new life.

When I looked online for ideas, it was so hard to find New Year’s Eve weddings that weren’t completely typical or holiday-themed. There were some traditional things we wanted (noisemakers, party hats, and champagne) but mostly we rocked our own thing. And we did it in 4 and a half months, 3 of those in South Carolina.

january wedding

black and white wedding

We asked Brad’s godfather, Phil Simms, to officiate the wedding. We were married by the court beforehand so he didn’t have to get a license. This freed us to write the entire ceremony and our own vows, which was especially great because we aren’t religious. We also had my former professor (hippie adopted grandfather) open up the ceremony with a poem and have everyone greet each other.

We picked an old, gutted out church in Norwood, Ohio for our wedding and reception. We knew we could do so much with the space, and I used to attend a community church there a few years ago. We didn’t want people to have to drive from the wedding, especially if it snowed. But we didn’t have to worry about that – it was 60 degrees!

diy wedding venue

indie wedding style

We asked everyone to bring a unique plate and a cup to eat from. We kept about 20 of each for our future home and donated the rest to the local refugee resettlement program that I interned with in college. We could tell people really thought about interesting dinnerware that we would cherish, and we absolutely love what came out of it.

Our dads constructed the photo wall, and Brad and I wallpapered and decorated it with antique frames and old family photos. We also threw a lace ‘door’ on it so guests felt like they were entering a real photo booth.

bird themed wedding

diy wedding photobooth

A friend of ours drew a little cartoon of us for the programs, and I designed, printed, and cut them myself. This saved so much money. We later attached babies breath with tape to the back of all the programs.

We set up the entire church ourselves – every table and chair – and covered them all too. For the tables, we used wrapping paper to make table runners in our wedding colors. I decorated and wrote New Year’s messages on all the party hats, and my aunt sewed ruffles on the 14 bridal party hats, made from construction paper.  I also made 150 hot chocolate cones as favors for everyone to take home.

unique reception venue

bird wedding details

birdcage illustrated wedding invitations

new years wedding details

brooch wedding bouquet

Instead of a DJ, we made four playlists – Seating, Ceremony, Dinner, and Dancing. We carefully selected all the songs and the order they would go in. Music is a big thing for us, so while I would’ve loved to have live music, creating our own soundtrack was the next best thing.

indie diy wedding style

rock'n roll wedding

I really loved dropping the disco ball and balloons at midnight and seeing everyone blow their horns and give out hugs and kisses. It was probably my second-favorite moment of the night – apart from hearing Brad’s vows.

new years wedding

We aren’t doing a honeymoon yet since Brad had to rush off to the navy. Instead, we are saving our money and using this time to plan a European Adventure for summer 2012. We plan on buying one-way tickets and backpacking to our hearts content.

diy wedding

groomsmen shots

I would definitely change how much I delegated on the day of the wedding. Make sure you tell your in-laws, family members, and bridal party exactly what is going down on wedding day, even if that means printing out sheets for everyone. Our rehearsal was really rushed – we had bachelor and bachelorette parties to get to since a lot of our party members were from out of town – and I feel like it caused confusion the next day. Also, make sure they know the seating plan for the reception. You’ve been over it a million times in your head, but they haven’t.  If you can, delegate someone simply for finding people and making announcements – aka the food is ready, it’s time for the first dance, the floor is open for toasts, the photo booth is now open, please leave a note on this side of the church – etc.

blue bridesmaid dresses

black and white photography

Also, don’t get so caught up in planning that you forget about yourself. I didn’t have time to do my nails the day of the wedding, and I had never tried on my slip with my dress (bad move). And if you are going to get pretty shoes for the photos but they don’t fit exactly right (cough cough) make sure you get some that fit to walk down the aisle and dance in.  The only other thing I would change would be to hire someone to stand by the buffet so that my mom and my aunt could have relaxed and enjoyed the reception more.

black and white wedding photography

Vendor Breakdown

Number of Guests: Our guest list was about 150 and we had around 125-130 show up.

Venue: St. Elizabeth’s in Norwood, Ohio

Photography: Free Love Photography (St. Louis, MO) – friends from college

Food: – Acapulco Mexican Restaurant

Cheesecake and Groom’s Cake: J Annette’s Cheesecake

DIY Cake Toppers: Goosegrease on Etsy (bride painted)

Total Wedding Budget: $7,918

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Did the Darn Thing: Krissy & Danny

by lizzie & isaiah on October 26, 2010 · 14 comments

This is our first real wedding on the blog, and I’m pumped to introduce my cousin Danny and his wife Krissy. A little, tiny intro because I know both of them – Danny and Krissy met in college when we all attended school together in Illinois. Although Isaiah and I couldn’t make the wedding, we’re so excited to share the ins and outs of the big day with you…Krissy definitely kept her head on straight during the planning process and there’s a lot to learn from their beautiful wedding! Their wedding had about 180-190 guests, all of whom reported having an excellent time!

Without further ado…The lovely Krissy.

I always wanted a more simple wedding.  I really just wanted a place that would let us have dancing because my church doesn’t allow that.  So when I started looking for reception halls I quickly realized the cheaper route was if they did not have their own caterer and I could find someone I liked.

Since Danny’s family was coming from so far I did want to make sure we had a dinner and cake.  I ended up going to the same place my older sister had her wedding reception.  It was at a beautiful park that had one building for rent. (Sidenote – They didn’t allow alcohol because it was a park…so if alcohol is a must at your party a park would not be a place for you.)

Change in Vision

The biggest thing that I changed from my vision was having silk flowers from (a friend of our family’s) Judy.  It turned out to be the most amazing thing ever.  I had a meeting with a florist and for the basics (bouquets, boutonnières, communion flowers, cake topper, and flower girl petals) I was quoted around $1100.  That was insane to me for something that was going to last a week!

I started looking online for a place to order silk flowers.  I actually made an order for some from Budget Bride and then Danny told me about Judy. Yeah, he didn’t think to tell me earlier! Judy offered to make what I wanted to go along with what I ordered.  After many emails, the flowers from Budget Bride never came and they gave me my money back.  (I definitely wouldn’t recommend them!)

I sent Judy some pictures of what I liked and talked with her.  Then she bought some stuff and sat down with me and I got to help her decide what I liked in the arrangements. It was amazing! I got to see it come together. About a month before the wedding, Judy showed me some of the things she had put together and I loved it all because I got to help her decide what I wanted.

The day of the wedding was the first time I saw my flowers though and I was blown away! She did an amazing job.  I actually have them still on my table! I ended up spending $500 for the flowers.


I  made all the invitations myself.  I also made thank you cards for each table and we ordered really cheap puzzles (the metal ones you have to get apart) for our favors. With the puzzle theme, Danny and I decided to paint puzzle pieces orange and silver and those were our confetti for the tables at the reception.  It was time consuming, but it was a great way for Danny and I just to spend more time together and talk or I got my bridesmaids to help and I just spent time with them.

The meal was catered but I did have a candy table that my mom gifted to us and we put together. My grandma offered to make her famous cheese-ball for the reception and we bought crackers! It was perfect to give the guests something to munch on while everyone was arriving and Danny and I snuck out to the park to take some pictures.  Also all the drinks were bottled water or two liters that we bought on sale.

Our guest book was a photobook we made on Snapfish and it was pictures from when we met to when we got engaged and everyone signed around that.  I would rather keep that, with our pictures in it, than just a book with signatures.

I also surprised Danny with a groom’s cake that was all Chicago sports and then I got a small Colts cake for my family. That actually helped because our wedding cake wasn’t as extravagant.  We also got different kinds of cake that way.


I had orange shoes that I bought from Payless and then had dyed for me.  It was a little more expensive then I would have liked –  I think maybe $50 – but I loved them and I knew I wanted them from day one, so it was well worth it.  Danny decided if I had orange shoes he was going to have orange socks.  During communion he lifted up his pants and showed off his socks.

We did pictures before the wedding and that showed who are too. I wanted it to be a fun day, and I knew if I didn’t see him until the wedding I would have been more nervous and overwhelmed.  We had a private moment (first-look) before the wedding with the photographer in the balcony of the church taking pictures.  Then we did the pictures before the wedding.  That helped me not stressed about people waiting on us at the reception hall.

Staying on Budget/Friendors

I would say, to stay on budget and keep your head straight, decide what is important to you and try to fix that into the budget and then go small on everything else.  I knew I wanted food and my church so that took some of the budget off the top.  I also knew about the shoes and a honeymoon.  From there everything else was how to save money and not go overboard.  My mom bought my dress so I didn’t have to worry about it being in my budget but I used my sisters bra from her wedding and that saved $60.

Oh, the suits! Danny and I went to Men’s Wearhouse and looked at suits.  I wanted charcoal grey suits but they didn’t have any to rent. I couldn’t find any that I liked around, until I went to Target!  The guys all went to Target to get some super cheap suits that looked good.

The thing I was most worried about was a photographer.  I wanted the pictures to be amazing because those were going to last forever.  We looked around and then Brittany (Danny’s sister-in-law) offered and said she would give us the rights to the pictures and we could print them as we like.  That saved so much money! Being able to print our own was a huge money saver.  If you look for a photographer, look for one that will give the CD of photos and the copyright to them.


I was always told the honeymoon was very important so we did and all-inclusive and paid the money upfront, which helped. After the wedding, you just want to get away.  I don’t recommend doing a next day brunch that just impedes on your time and adds more cost to feed people.

Danny and Krissy saved a lot of money by realizing what was most important to them and going the cheap-route on everything else. Krissy definitely kept her head on straight while she was planning and the wedding turned out lovely! They also used an impressive list of friendors and showed off who they were throughout the wedding and reception. So glad to have a new member of our family and such a smart, creative, budget-savvy one at that!

Wedding Location – Indiana

Ceremony – Bride’s church

Photography – Brittney (Groom’s sister-in-law)

DJ – Groom’s cousin

Pianist – Mutual friend from college

Flowers – Friend of the family