Reblog: Six Questions That Will Radically Change Your Marriage

There is no greater joy than those nights when I get off work, go home, and spend time with my husband. I am relishing being a homebody. I love having empty nights to relax and simply work on making our house a home. I am completely happy having no set schedule to my life. Saying those words out loud is odd. Given who I had been for so many years — that girl with every evening planned, every weekend booked, every second determined — I sometimes feel lost in the simplicity of my life these days. However, as I use some of my free time reading, I am more and more aware that this phase in my life, just as my phase before, will come and go sooner or later. Sometime in the future my schedule will begin to be flagged with children’s events, school outings, and motherly duties. I’m extremely excited for that future, but also very reluctant to let go of my current phase.

G and I have discussed this concept of changing phases a lot lately. Our schedules may not be packed with external events, but our “Home Projects” list grows daily. It seems that no matter the season of Life, we are always busy. Even if that means my busyness is confined to the walls of my house. As G and I continue to prepare our marriage to be the best and happiest possible, we want to intentionally connecting to one another as well as to our Lord. However, that goal is a very difficult thing to measure. Luckily, we ran across this amazing post by Justin Davis of RefineUs on how he and his wife intentionally connect in the chaos of Life, and I didn’t feel I could define “intentional connection” better. Please enjoy what Justin and his wife, Trish, do weekly to better their marriage…

Life is busy. Trish and I used to think that the “next” season of life would be less hectic, less stressful, less busy than our current season. Life doesn’t seem to get less busy with time; it only picks up steam. It is easy to go days, weeks and even months without intentionally connecting with your husband or wife. You live in the same house, but stop sharing life together. It’s gradual. It’s incremental. It happens to the best of marriages. What if you could help your marriage be more about relationship and less about business?  It’s easy to know our spouse’s schedule and forget about their  heart. These six questions will recalibrate your marriage.

1. How can I serve you this week?

You want to capture the heart of your spouse, ask this question on Sunday night. It’s easy to focus on our to-do list. We have plans; we have deadlines; we have obligations. But we open up a new level of intimacy in our marriage when we ask our spouse how we can place their needs ahead of our own.

2. What has you stressed or anxious?

Is there a question that communicates care and concern more than this question? When you ask this question, you are inviting your spouse to be vulnerable with you. You are also communicating to them, “You’re not alone. I’m in this with you.”

3. What is the most important thing you need to accomplish this week?

Unspoken expectations are always unmet expectations. Most of the conflict we experience in marriage derive from unmet expectations. If you know what your spouse needs to get done in a given week, you can be an ally for them in that process. I always appreciate when Trish asks me this question. It let’s me know that she is interested in the details of my week.

4. What can we do to grow closer to God this week?

Busyness is often the biggest obstacle to intimacy with God. When my life gets busy, the first thing I give up is time with God. It is sad, but true. As a husband and wife grow closer to God, they grow closer to one another. Maybe there are spiritual connections you’re not making with one another simply because you’re not asking this question.

5. What are we doing on our next date night?

If you don’t plan a date night then you probably won’t have a date night. For us, Fridays are days we have off and our kids are in school. On Thursday, one of us will ask, “What do you want to do tomorrow?” It helps us be intentional about making one another a priority.

6. How can I pray for you?

Our prayers are the most intimate conversations we have. We share parts of our heart with God that we don’t share with anyone else. When we invite our spouse into this part of our lives, we exponentially grow the intimacy level of our relationship. So often we think it’s something BIG that will give us a great marriage. The truth is, it is a few small things that will make a HUGE difference. Take 30 minutes, ask your spouse these questions and see if you don’t see a few changes in your marriage this week. What questions would you add to the list? 

Written by Justin Davis on September 9, 2018. Find the original post here.

For all my married couples out there, what have you learned throughout your days/months/years of marriage? My readers and I would love to hear your advice as well.

With you and for you,

And I Thought Life Would Slow Down…

Somehow I thought Life would slow down once the wedding was over. What a naive little bride-to-be I was!

Hello, friends, and let me apologize for my absence this month so far. I know, I know, I promised many upcoming posts on the adventures of being a newlywed and delicious recipes and fun DIY home decorating ideas and, and, and…

I’m sorry.

This is my first post in August. I’m sorry. Life has been so hectic for G and me over the past month, and I am finally catching a little bit of breath tonight to at least sit down and let you all know why I have been MIA.

First off, G and I are in the process of buying a house! YES! I realize my only post of House Hunting was in mid-July, but this process has been ridiculously fast-moving. I’ll be back-dating a post or two to talk about a few other houses we viewed, but I also plan to discuss the whole home-buying process and the do’s and don’t’s associated with becoming first time home buyers. Trust me, we are learning a lot as we go through this purchase!

We were supposed to close this Friday, but some things fell through on the seller’s end and now we are in limbo. Waiting for a closing date is a lot like waiting for a roller coaster to get over the first hill — we’ve been left suspended in mid-air, filled with excitement, but fearful of what may be waiting around the turn. Please keep us in your thoughts as we continue to wait for the next step in becoming home buyers.

To make home buying even more chaotic, G is beginning a new job next week. I could not be prouder of him, but WOW! Could this blessing not have waited at least one more month for closing to be over? Talk about stress! But seriously, my husband is one of the most hardworking people I know, and I am so impressed at his resolve to leave a job he loves to pursue something that will be better for our family in the long run. Not only is he receiving a pay increase, but his new job is sending him to school (beginning in September already!), offering him full benefits, and promises to train him into a managerial role within five years. Knowing the person he is, I wasn’t surprised he chose this option as he is always talking about creating the best foundation for our family. But, again, I could not be a prouder wife.

On top of buying a house and beginning a new job, G is also in the final legs to receive his license. This past Friday we went car shopping and found the perfect work truck for him to call his own. Our quaint home is now filled with a very proud wife and a very happy husband. Life is good.

I also took a more prominent role in the planning committee for Pink Tie Ball this year by being nominated and accepting the role of Secretary and Marketing Manager for the committee. This means a bit more responsibility on my plate during week nights, but since G will be working longer hours now, I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead of me. Planning has already begun for this February 2019 event, and my committee members and I are excitedly rushing to get all our ducks in a row for the best event yet. Stay tuned for more on this event as preparation takes place.

With the closing called off this Friday and all items set for G’s new job and license renewal, we would have loved to have a free weekend to simply lounge around. Timing is everything though, and this weekend is the wedding of one of my best friends. As a bridesmaid, that means G and I will be traveling a bit for the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception, but at least we’ll be having fun to help dissolve the stress of this past week!

Aside from the craziness of our own lives, our brother and sister-in-law welcomed the family’s first grandbaby into our lives on July 28th. Our beautiful nephew, Zion, is happy and healthy, and is giving G and I an excuse to leave town for a few days to visit come September. We could not be more thrilled (to both meet Zion and to have a mini vacation!)

All in all, August has been a ride of emotions. Thankfully though, once this weekend is over there are no imminent plans. I’ll have my evenings mostly free since all housing items are completed on our end, and I anticipate getting back to regularly blogging with you, friends, very soon.

Thank you for not abandoning me,

House Hunting Adventures v. 1

Lesson Learned v. 1: Look In The Basement First

I know I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but here it is officially: G and I are house hunting. Our current apartment lease is up in August, but we have the option to renew for another year if we would like. Though it looks like this is the most likely route we will take, we are casually working with a realtor and viewing potential houses. It has been a fun experience so far because we are able to see what we like and dislike, what we’re willing to compromise and not, and not feeling rushed as we look.

The Michigan housing market where we live is absolutely crazy. There are double the buyers than there are sellers, and that leads to many houses only being on the market for hours before they’re under contract. Though we do not feel rushed to purchase a home, if we ever do come across one we love and can picture as our own home, then we have to be prepared to JUMP. Luckily we haven’t felt that urge yet, but we sure have come across some very unique adventures in the houses we have viewed…

House #1 was a beautiful farm house built in 1900. I came across this house on Zillow and decided to drive by it one evening with G. We walked around the exterior and peeked in the windows after it became quite apparent the house was vacant. From the outside, we loved the look of this place. From looking in, though, we were a bit worried. It seemed as if the entire place had been gutted! The kitchen was bare save for a few hanging cabinets and the living room boasted a raw floor. Still, we were curious to see more as the price was ideal and the property fit our wants.

When we met with the owner and took a tour inside, our fears were confirmed. The house was completely gutted. The main floor bathroom had plumbing exposed and a wall missing. The upstairs bathroom was bare bones. Plus, the floors were uncovered, the stairs were shaky, and the windows on the South side of the house were missing.

Now, G and I are looking for a home in need of a remodel. We both are quite handy and love the idea of using our own elbow grease to make a house into our dream home. But House #1 would require way more manpower than feasible for first-time home buyers. We had no doubt we could make this place an amazing home, but it would take months to finish to even be livable. Deciding against the pains of attempting to receive home improvement loans or opting to live with either of our parents again as newlyweds, we said goodbye to House #1 and began looking through housing websites again.

House #2 was another farm house that looked great from the pictures online. (For anyone else house hunting, how many times have the pictures fooled you? We’ve gotten tricked a couple of times!) When we arrived, we took a quick walk around the property and I was really feeling it. Large backyard, out in the country, mature trees, pretty landscaping, and enough room to build G’s must-have pole barn someday. The house’s shingles would need to be covered as soon as possible, but changing the outside appearance didn’t seem too worrisome either. Overall, I was impressed.

Then we went inside. The interior wasn’t too bad either. The social gathering rooms were large and the kitchen had a lot of room for being very functional given a change here or there. The bedrooms were rather small but the house was built in 1900 and that comes with the territory.

Next came the basement, though, and that’s where things turned odd. For anyone who does not have the pleasure of knowing what a “Michigan basement” is, let me tell you: a Michigan basement is the term used throughout the state for a crawlspace that was later excavated to the depth of a basement. They are cold, dingy places that usually have dirt floors and cement walls. Basically they’re a space for storage and utilities, and nothing more.

Most farm houses in Michigan sport these kinds of basements if they are not crawlspaces. We were expecting this sort of space when we walked down the stairs. But what we found was so much more…

The basement in House #2 had a wall at the far end. Looking from the entrance, you could see rocks had fallen from the man-made hole used to install a new HVAC system. Next to these rocks was a door. Carefully we opened it to find a muddy room stacked with piles upon piles of dirt-filled bags. At least 200 filled bags lay against the foundation walls of this house, and we began to fear their necessity. Were the walls about to cave in? Was the basement flooding and this was the owner’s makeshift solution? We didn’t know, and we didn’t care to stay around to find out.

Leaving the crumbling house, we departed with our realtor to House #3. House #3 was a nice little ranch overlooking the local river. After severe flooding in our area a few months ago, we weren’t sure what “river front property” might mean with this house but decided to try our luck. In this case, the river lay 30 feet below the house’s rear and provided a beautiful overlook. The property had a lot of foliage, which G and I loved right from the start, and the house itself looked to be in good shape from the front. I remember pulling into the driveway and G saying, “Now this one. This one I like already.”

I definitely agreed by the time we took the tour of the main floor. The rooms would need updating but I could picture hosting family holidays in the living room and watching Disney movies with my future children in the family room. The master bedroom boasted an entire wall of windows which reminded me of our honeymoon cabin, and the kitchen was big enough to make me giddy. Plus the house had a three car garage attached that tickled both G’s and my fancies! For him, the garage meant space for his welding tools and future car projects. For me, it meant enough room for me to squeeze my car in during the winter months even with all his toys. It would be a win-win situation.

However, when we ventured into the basement for House #3, we began to feel a bit nervous. (There is something about basements; I think for the future I’ll just not go downstairs anymore.)

House #3’s basement was really nice. It had a finished section for entertaining complete with a word-burning stove and a door that exited the rear of the house to bring you within five feet of the descent to the river. The basement could be a beautiful space for game nights, and G and I envisioned building a deck out the backdoor looking over the river.

As I was perusing the space I found something incredibly troubling and all my future vision bubbles started to pop. The closest corner to the river’s embankment seemed to have been repaired. The entire corner was sunk nearly an inch lower than the rest of the flooring which made us worried about the foundation. Fearing the worst, we stepped out the basement door and took a look at the exterior of House #3.

And our fears were confirmed.

A half inch wide crack sprawled the house’s read wall. From the basement to the main floor, the crack traveled nearly ten feet and looking like one little push would make it web even further. For a house we were falling for, we were quickly realizing it was also falling… quite literally.

With an unhappy sigh and shrug of our shoulders, G and I decided to move forward with our house hunting and will be continuing to look with our agent for our first home.

We’re curious where our adventures will take us in the future…

Until next time, friends,


Maximizing Small Spaces: Coffee & Wine Bar

If you’re a newlywed or going to be a newlywed soon, chances are you’re weathering the challenges merging two lives brings to the table. This may include attempting to make room in the closet for a second person, trying to “de-feminize” every little accent in the living room, or clearing a few drawers in the bathroom. You are soon going to find that another person moving into your bachelorette pad means making a few sacrifices. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up style!

For G and I we are creating our first home in my current apartment, a cute little space in our sleepy downtown beach town. With a little less than 800 square feet, our home is tight as we begin moving G’s belongings into the space. That means the few rooms have multiple uses such as the second bedroom playing the roles of storage, office, and workout station, and the dining room also acting as craft room, library, and drink bar. So as we trek into “spring cleaning” and looking to donate any items throughout our two stocks of belongings, the question of essentials comes to mind. Today I wanted to touch on how you can keep style with your coffee and wine bar while utilizing the best spaces available.

As a wine connoisseur, having an area for my various wine items is something I consider an essential no matter where I live. My wine fridge has been to college and took residence in my dorm rooms right beside me. Coffee has also become a must-have throughout my workdays, so looking at how to incorporate both into a functional and stylish space in the apartment has been an exciting challenge.

With a counter-less kitchen (yes, it’s THAT tiny!), I had to make the choice of where to set up a coffee and wine bar somewhere between the dining and living rooms. I settled for a corner of the dining room and began designing our drink bar. We use this set-up on a daily basis and love that it is eye-pleasing for guests.

First up, let’s talk coffee.

1. Programmable coffee maker
Top priority, a way to make coffee. Depending on your preference, use a full pot drip maker or a single serve machine. Yes, there are fancier ways to brew coffee (i.e. a French press or a coffee grinder) but when you’ve spent too long in bed or are running late due to a superb morning workout, then go with the easy route! I highly recommend a programmable maker which allows you to set the time of brewing each morning. Since most of us do not have time to brew — and also can’t see straight in order to brew — a perfect coffee, the simple solution is to go with a “set it and forget it” capable machine.

2. Travel coffee tumbler
Talking about not enough time in the mornings, am I the only one who never has a chance to drink her whole cup of coffee before needing to leave for work? If you’re anything like me, then you need a travel mug which allows you to throw in that half-full mug as well as top off with the remaining brew in your pot.

The travel mug which I swear by is the Miller Tumbler by Starbucks. I have had numerous travel mugs for coffee over my college and career years and none hold a candle to the Miller. It offers both a silicon handle and band-wrap so your hands won’t be uncomfortable while holding it on your morning commute. The screw-top clicks shut meaning no drippings on your new white blouse. Plus I make it a sport to sit down at my desk, begin working, and forget my coffee every day. By the time I finally need that mid-morning caffeine kick, my coffee is still hot — sometimes even three or four hours later!

3. Coffee menu
Perhaps not an essential to all, but for this entertainer, I must have a coffee menu or brewing book somewhere close to my coffee bar in order to create new drinks for my guests. Pinterest always has some menu options, but I’ve now started seeing wall decals of the correct layering techniques and quantities of ingredients to make lattes, cappuccinos, and so much more! What better way to be a barista in your own home!

4. Creamers and other additives
I left coffee off this list as I figured that’s a given essential for any coffee bar — and there’s the fact I’m still on the hunt for the best coffee to keep my bar stocked. (Do you have any suggestions? I’d love to try something new!) I’m one of those people who loves adding flavors to her cup o’ Joe. If it’s not tan, then it’s not for me! Thus my coffee bar’s cabinet is full of flavored goodies: marshmallow syrup, cinnamon sticks, pure sugarcane cubes. Plus my personal favorite: CoffeeMate Butter Pecan creamer. Ohmigoodness, you guys… An old friend got me hooked on this stuff and it is my go-to on the daily.

5. Cute, expressive mugs
Is a coffee bar even complete without mugs? You have to have something to drink out of while you’re chilling on the porch or chowing down breakfast at the table. Travel mugs just don’t do the aesthetics justice either.

I tend to go through “mug phases.” I have so many and seem to gain new mugs every year. So, I trade them in and out. Currently my mugs seem to be pairs (for G and myself) and are your typical “engaged” mugs of puzzle piece His and Hers, but I also have an awesome Wonder Woman and Superman set from my mom. For those oh-so-glorious Instagram shots, I usually pull out the traditional white mug as well. Cute mugs that express your personality make the morning that much better with a tasty drink inside.

6. Coffee warmer
Hi, I’m ______ and I heat up the same cup of coffee at least six times every day. Did you add your name to the blank? Join the club, chica. I always seem to find myself busy with chores at home or busy with projects at work or just plain busy any time I have a cup of coffee in hand. And that usually means when I remember my drink, I’ll take a sip to find a cold, milky coffee in my cup. Yuck!

Thankfully, there are awesome gadgets like microwaves this coffee warmer that take up little space on my desk and keep my coffee happily warm. And in the afternoons when I finally am finished with my caffeine intake I can throw a little candle on this digit and have it melt into an inviting space for friends and family that evening. This is a win-win find!

7. Wall mug holder
If you’re trying to maximize space in your little home, then you need to consider working vertical. This means take to the wall for inspiration! One of the amazing gifts we received from our bridal showers was this hooked mug hanger:

Though I found an antique cabinet to incorporate in my coffee bar, my multitude of mugs, wine glasses, and other glassware was overbearing. Cue this extremely useful wall piece which allowed me to make room for the less pleasing eye candy of the coffee set-up (like coffee cans, filters, sugar bags, etc.) inside the cabinet.

G’s aunt found this decor at a local craft show. Craft shows are great places to look for cutesy accents to any coffee bar. Etsy is another perfect spot to look. Try finding something that fits your house decor theme and maybe has an important saying to you and your partner. For G and I, “My Cup Runneth Over” was the best saying we could add to our coffee bar as it incorporates scripture into our morning routine.

8. Milk frother
I mentioned that tan is the new black when it comes to my coffee. Well, nothing makes a creamier coffee than adding some frothed milk to the equation. Cue the wonderful discovery of ToBox USA and their extraordinary milk frother!

ToBox is an up-and-coming online company that allows its customers to buy kitchen gadgets directly from factories. This means you buy awesome and must-have products that can be up to 40% less than those from retail shops. As a woman on a budget, I find myself browsing the pages of ToBox regularly to see what sort of mischief I can add to my cooking lifestyle (and I know this is only going to get worse after the registry is closed following the wedding.)

This milk frother is a great addition to our coffee bar. I was tempted to go with a frothing wand, but loved the idea of simply adding milk to the canister and hitting a button as I get ready in the mornings. Not only does this heat milk to the perfect temperature, but creates the perfect amount of foam! *ToBox USA provided a sample for review of their product.

I sometimes even add a bit of my butter pecan creamer to the milk in order for a flavor punch. Just fill to the line, hit the frothing style of your choice (my go-to is latte), and let the magic happen. Once ready I use a spoon to block only the milk to pour into my coffee. Then I scoop the foam on top and wooh-la! Instant barista!

BUDGET SAVER: Interested in some kitchen appliances or other kitchenware at a (more) discounted price? Click here and use the code UNCORKINGPEONIES to save an additional 50% on your order!

9. Little splash of life
I am a firm believer no home is complete without some plant life inside it. Not only do flowers brighten up the dreariest of days, but plants filter the air and create a calming atmosphere. And what better place to set some greenery or fresh flowers than on your morning stop? Go small with a succulent or dream big with a beautiful bouquet.

Now that we’ve talked morning ritual essentials, it only makes sense to discuss the best way to wind down in the evenings: wine. Since good wine is my Number One wine bar essential, I didn’t feel the need to add specific wines to my list; we all have different palates and what I like might not be to your tastes. (But if you want to ever talk what my favorite wines are, please hit me up!)

1. Wine fridge
I’ve mentioned my wine fridge already, but it truly is one of the central piece to my wine bar. I love having the option of chilling my white and sweet bottles at the correct temps. It is a classier option than sticking a bottle in the refrigerator or throwing ice in a glass (though neither of those options are terrible because… wine!)

And there are so many options when it comes to fridge options. Mine was a silent auction purchase for $25 when I turned 21 years old and I knew very little about wine. With my knowledge now, I would be inclined to buy a dual fridge with two temperature controls. However, my wine fridge is large and I love the capability of housing craft beer and other drinks in it besides wine.

2. Wine key & other bar tools
Obviously you have to have a way to open your wine bottles. Personally, I’m a fan of wine keys simply because that’s what I used on a daily basis during my wine career. However, electric corkscrews are a great bar piece for any wine connoisseur.

Actually, ToBox has a great electric corkscrew in their Bar & Wine section. Use UNCORKINGPEONIES to get an additional 50% off the already awesome price of only $20!

Other essential bar tools include a foil cutter, aerator, wine saver, and wine stoppers.

3. Decanter
Aside from an aerator, a beautiful wine bar staple is a crystal decanter. Decanting wine from the bottle oxygenates it and releases its rich aroma and flavor. If you want to impress your guests, amplify the ambiance of a wine night, and enhance the purity of the wine you’re serving, then a decanter is the way to go.

Be sure to find a decanter engineered for a standard 750mL bottle as well. Many manufacturers will claim a volumetric capacity of 1700mL but volume is actually pointless. What really matters is how much breathable surface area the bottle of wine is exposed to in the carafe. I absolutely love the 100% hand-blown crystal Le Chateau Wine Decanter. This decanter has debuted at several dinner parties and was my first purchase when I acted as wine club manager at the Winery. It has a beautiful design, including a slanted top to avoid drips, and made a statement at all my events. For those looking for gift ideas for their wine-loving friends, this is a great idea!

4. Coasters
You may not consider coasters as an essential for a wine bar but I’m here to tell you that they are. Stemmed wine glasses can be slippery even before you’ve had a glass or two. Utilizing a cute coaster is the perfect solution. I received these silicon wine coasters at my bridal shower and I did not realize what I was missing! These wrap tight around the base of the glass and come in a variety of colors as a sort of glass charm — you’ll never mix up glasses with friends again.

5. Cheese board
Okay, okay, I could go on and on about my love of charcuterie when it comes to a wine gathering, but I’ll relay on my last post to do that job. There are plenty of cheese boards out there that are adorable (I’m a sucker for anything Michigan shaped), but I love to go with flexibility and functionality when it comes to my cheese board. That is why I love my Royal Craft Bamboo Board. The bamboo doesn’t absorb any smells and the unique design allows me to be creative in my displays.

I want to go on and on about why cheese boards are pertinent to a wine bar, but I’ll just direct you again to my charcuterie post and call it a day.

6. Wine glasses
Glasses are a given, right? Let me just put a little disclaimer here to say I am not picky on my wine-holding products (solo cups work just as well as Riedel, folks) but I will state I utilize a crystal glass on the regular with the phrase, “I Am Woman Hear Me Pour.” There is just something classy about swirling your wine in crystal, even if you’re wearing PJs and a messy bun.

7. Personalized accents
When it comes to wine accents, I am all over chalkboard signs and fun puns. Be sure to customize your wine bar to fit your personality. Yes, you’re going to have friends think you’re classy simply because you have a wine bar, but make the space yours also. Add a stylish wine rack, cork cages, barrels, or trinkets to show your character. Wine is meant to be enjoyed after all.

Ready to get started making your perfect coffee station and/or wine bar? Share your own essentials for either (or both!) here at Uncorking Peonies. I would love to see pictures or hear about your personal touches.

Happy drinking, friends, 

6 Steps To The Wedding (And Budget) Of Your Dreams

Figuring out your wedding budget is one of the worst parts of wedding planning. Finances are difficult alone, but now you’re taking the first steps into merging your lives together and things may get sticky. You might have lavish dreams, but are they realistic for both your and your future hubby? According to Brides American Wedding Study, the average wedding costs $26,522! If that doesn’t make you bat an eye, then hey, have at all those details you’ve always dreamed about. But if you’re like me and are wanting to cry into a bottle of wine while analyzing that down-payment on a house/one year’s worth of student debt/brand new car then I have some advice for you.

Like nearly half of the couples getting married this year, G and I are covering the majority of expenses for our wedding. However, did you know that one in three couples actually goes over their wedding budget? This was not an option for us so we opted for setting a solid budget before doing anything else in the planning process. We began by tallying up all assets, listing our must-haves for the day-of, creating and maintaining a detailed spreadsheet, and being realistic throughout our engagement when it came to costs. It was hard work, but was so worth the time and energy to be wedding-debt free come post-nuptials. Here is exactly what we did on setting up our wedding budget:

Step 1: Add up your cash

When you are considering how much you have to spend on your wedding, there are two big sources to consider: you and your fiance’s individual savings accounts and the amount you can set aside over your engagement from your current income. Communication is key to a happy marriage and that communicating should begin now. Discuss with one another monthly expenses, monthly allowances, and what each can realistically contribute to the “wedding fund.”

G and I opted to open a joint wedding account to begin pooling our funds into for our wedding. After necessary payments for rent, student loans, and groceries, we decided on a set amount we each would directly deposit into this account for wedding expenses. We could not rely on the fact of having our wedding fund be a “catch-all” for any leftover dollars each month; instead we made a pact to contribute every month and held one another accountable. Sometimes this meant being unable to partake in a specific event or not buy a certain item, but we have met our budgeting needs and will have that peace in mind come our wedding day.

Step 2: Any contributions from loved ones?

One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you is to never assume your parents (or any loved one) are able to help cover your wedding costs.  While some couples’ families may still pick up the entire tab, The Knot’s 2017 Real Wedding Study revealed this is not the case. On average, the bride and groom now contribute at least 41% of the wedding fee and 10% of all couples cover all the costs themselves.

So what does that mean for you and your fiance? You need to ask your families if they are willing to assist you in your budgeting. I know, I know, that is not a fun subject to cover with anyone, especially your parents. (Trust me, our pride was strong on this front too.) But knowing an exact dollar amount is crucial and will help you determine your total budget. Some parents may prefer to cover specific parts of the wedding (such as the food or photography fee), and other sets may give you a set amount of dollars as a gift. No matter what your loved ones can or cannot contribute, be grateful and courteous of their gestures.

Step 3: List your priorities

Before finalizing our final budget, G and I sat down and listed our top three aspects of the wedding we felt were make-or-breaks for our Big Day. For me, I wanted a good photographer, good food, and a fun reception. For G, a church ceremony, family-oriented theme, and “as cheap as possible” were his criteria. (Yes, we had to have a long conversation on why a $100 wedding was simply not feasible in matching our dreams.)

In the same respect, we also discussed things that weren’t so important to either us. Knowing what mattered most allowed us to set priorities when it came to researching vendors and customizing a budget to fit BOTH our needs.

Step 4: Create a budget spreadsheet

Next came the creation of our budget spreadsheet. I am an Excel-ohlic and honestly loved this part of the budgeting process. My own personal budget is a colorful, detailed masterpiece and I made sure to make our wedding budget similar. To keep it simple for those who not as enamored by spreadsheets, there is an easy rule-of-thumb you’ll find across most wedding budgeting templates:

  • Title three expense columns: Estimated Budget, Modified Budget, and Actual Costs
  • Amounts under Estimated Budget will be driven by researching the costs associated with your total budget — here is a little diagram of typical wedding averages I created off of the Bride’s 2016 report:
  • For Modified Budget amounts, the proposals you receive from vendors and/or estimated costs pertaining to costs in your area should be used. Be sure to include taxes as well!
  • Actual Costs are pretty self-explanatory

For those who prefer to skip the hassle of setting up their own spreadsheet, please feel free to use this one by Uncorking Peonies: Wedding Budget Template

I’ve included Payments Made and Gifted Amount columns as well. These both came in handy for my own budgeting needs. If a down payment had to be made, I could track that amount and still know how much was owed. (I always placed the final due date in the Notes column.) Tracking our monetary gifts from family was also useful when we had to narrow down exactly how much we still needed to contribute come crunch-time.

Step 5: Start tracking

With your total budget, research on local vendors, and priorities in hand, it is pretty easy to start putting everything together for your customized wedding budget. You’ll need to tweak the budget to fit your needs throughout planning, but overall you now have a goal to work with which fulfills your needs. Stick to your set budget and aim to set aside a little extra money for last-minute expenses.

Step 6: Be realistic

My last nugget of advice is to be realistic as you move through your budget. You may have always dreamed of having steaks served at your wedding, but can you realistically afford $40+ per plate with your 200 guest list and $10,000 budget? Probably not unless you have no other priorities. Some of your “dreams” may have to be eliminated to make way for some unexpected surprises that throw a little addition sign into your budget. Small expenses can add up quickly! So if the total of a line item isn’t in your overall budget, you need to either cut it or cut somewhere else.

All in all, I’ll resort to my usual saying: your wedding is only eight hours of your entire marriage. Don’t start your marriage on a rocky foundation with wedding debt. Instead, focus on saving during your engagement (like limiting your weekly spending to save more in the wedding fund) and begin putting aside as much of your income as possible. If you don’t use your entire wedding fund, then great! You have a nice little chunk of savings to move into married life with now.

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There are a lot of sources out there which can help with ideas on how to cut costs and stretch your wedding budget. USE THEM! G and I are huge proponents for these — we ended up dropping our $12,500 estimated budget to $10,000. And I am so proud of us for looking past the wedding and wanting to be best prepared for a happily ever after.

Do you have any savings tips or budget stretching advice for my readers? Please share them below in the comments area or DM me on Instagram. I would love to hear from you!

Until next time,