NeonBride 101: A Neon Wedding on a Beige Budget

Alright, STOP. Collaborate and listen. We're back with a brand new invention (sorry, couldn't help it!) ... but seriously... per our last blog post, you now know that Sugi and I are planning our weddings a tad bit differently than societal norms. We wanted to emphasize what exactly we mean by the "unconventional bride", or in our speak, the "NeonBride". You see, being a NeonBride is three-fold. This post is all about element 1, in the NeonBride definition. Let us explain...

The Basic Elements of a NeonBride:

1. Saving Money

WE'RE PLANNING A NEON WEDDING ON A BEIGE BUDGET.  If you've spent some time exploring our blog, you understand what NeonBeige is all about. You get that it's about finding your NEON in a BEIGE world, and living NEON on a BEIGE budget. Everything we do on here is based around this simple mindset.  Honestly, we acknowledge that most of us can't actually afford any of this wedding stuff unless you can actually, legitimately afford it. That being said, it is one of the most important components of being a NeonBride. We're not discrediting ladies who do have the money, but you're technically only considered a NeonBride if you choose to spend that money wisely - like on your future. We also acknowledge that if you're going to have a nice wedding celebration, the reality is you will have to spend money in some areas, but it's picking and choosing where and when to save. We're speaking to all those ladies who are conscious about reality and want to be reasonable... not the gals who think it's ok to splurge and use all the money they've saved up, or their parents provided them, because "it's their special day". Allow us to provide examples:

Exhibit A: The Wedding Dress  

Both, Sugi and I, chose a dress that most consider to be on the "affordable side" - as far as wedding dress standards go in America. According to a new survey from e-commerce site Lyst, the average bride is only looking to spend around $998 on her dress. While that is still a lot of money, it's significantly less than last year's mean of $1,334 (thanks Cosmopolitan for the stats). 

Nicole's Dress Experience: I had my eye set on this gorgeous number by Ana Campbell. I did not know how much it cost, and at first, I didn't care. I saw it. I wanted it. So I went to her trade show at a little bridal boutique in San Diego, The Dress Theory, to try it on.  You guys, I fell in love with this dress. I cried, I laughed, I got that stupid giddy feeling everyone sees on "Say Yes To The Dress". Two of my best friends were there to tell me how pretty I looked, my future-mother-in-law was beaming, my parents were on FaceTime saying "let's get it, you obviously love it". Then reality struck hard when the nice lady told me the price. $3,400... and that was with the trunk show discount!!! WHAT?! I started crying again, but this time sad tears. My dream dress was at a nightmare price. My parents were so sweet and said, "it's your wedding day, we'll figure it out. If you want it, get it". My friends were backing my parents up saying "It's worth it! You'll save in other areas!" But, I knew I could not live with myself spending that much on a damn dress I was only going to wear for 1 day. I kindly told the lady I needed to transfer the funds over to my bank account, and that I'd be back... but I never went back. 

When I was up in Santa Rosa for Christmas, my mom and sister-in-law asked me to go try on dresses with them. I went, thinking that I'd just go to gather more ideas and see what other styles are out there. Welp, I ended up trying a dress on - and loved it, and I also loved the price. So I got it! And it was less than half of my original "dream dress". This time around it was more calm, and matter-of-fact. I knew I loved it. I felt good about the price... and I didn't want to keep looking. The search was over, and I didn't break the bank! 

Sugi's Dress Experience: My experience was quite different. My ideal budget for a wedding dress was under $500. Ambitious, I know :) I did the whole Pinterest thing and searched for dress styles that I absolutely loved, but most of the prospects I found were completely unreasonably priced. My Pinterest board is even titled "Fantasyland" if that gives you any indication of my feelings behind it all.. Mind you, I searched for a long while until I actually went and started trying on dresses. Apparently that's something that you have to do WAY far in advance?? But after so many failed attempts searching for "cheap" wedding dresses that I actually liked, I was so over it. I just started searching "white dress" and actually found some decent prospects at places like + Still, it's hard to find a dress when you sort of have a specific vision in your head or when you're having to be flexible. BTW - WHO says you have to have a white dress anyway? That's definitely something to take into consideration!

Anyhoo...The search continued, and I found myself back on Pinterest where I seriously had to DIG until I finally found links to Style Caster + Racked: Two sites that provide multiple resources for more affordable wedding dress options. This extensive journey (which I will not dive fully into) ultimately led me to BHLDN. About 6 months before my wedding, a couple of my maidens set up an appointment for me to try on a few dresses there, and I found it. However, I didn't buy it. I didn't know it was actually the one because I had had a "moment" with another dress that was more or less a cumulation of all of my Pinterest pin fantasies coming to life. Wake up, Sugi! This threw me for a serious loop and forced me to think logically and practically about what I actually wanted... I left the dresses that were on my mind (super confused), and went shopping with my mom the next day. 

We indulged in the process and I tried on a few $3,000 dresses for perspective and comparison, but we knew that shit was way too expensive to legitimately buy. After trying on COUNTLESS dresses at multiple stores ALL DAY, my mom and I were delirious and stumped. The day had turned into a comical yet informative event. We even started talking about her dress and what we could do to tailor it. But alas, I found myself fantasizing about the other dresses I had tried on the day before. I made an appointment again and this time went with my mom and other MOH. When I tried on the dress again, same reaction. Love, but very practical. I really had to think... Weigh out the pros and cons. It was refreshing having my mom there, because clearly we aren't the type to cry over moments like these. In the end, I picked the dress that was NOT what I had pictured, but the most perfect dress for me. (I cannot wait until I get to show you guys!) It was a little over my budget, but that was a cost I was willing to compromise, because of the thought and practicality that went into the decision. P.S. Since I'm not getting this dress, THIS is one of the dresses that through me for a loop... The price is PRIME.

Exhibit B: The Venue

Both of us looked at venues, and despite how badly Sugi wanted a venue called Mountain House, and despite how badly I wanted the whole kit-n-caboodle to be at a dynamite venue that provided it all... we settled for a backyard and a warehouse. And they're both absolutely perfect.

Nicole's Venue Experience: Ever since Dustin proposed to me, I envisioned us getting married in the trees; under towering redwoods or gigantic oaks. Nature is our happy place. We both love hikes and adventures, and so trees were the one thing I did not want to compromise. So, we set forth with trees in mind. Since I live in San Diego, and we decided on getting married in Santa Rosa, my home town, my parents were happy to help look at venues and report back. They had to have looked at 10+ venues that were in the trees - and all were either too expensive, or didn't allow any more than 150 guests... and since our guest list was at 250, things weren't looking too bright. So, we had to start looking at other options, and I started asking around.  

My sister-in-law, Jessy, told me that her parents would love to host our reception in their backyard. Of course my reaction was - "NO WAY! SERIOUSLY!". My brother and her got married there 8 years ago, and it was gorgeous! I'm talking big backyard with a giant pond and redwoods, a beautiful barn, and rolling, golden hills as the backdrop! It was perfect... and FREE (thanks Mr. and Mrs. Wolfe!). But, I didn't want to have the ceremony itself back there - I still wanted our trees! That's when Jessy told me about The Grove. Her and her family have been going to this restaurant in Occidental, CA for years - The Union Hotel. And the owner of this restaurant also owned a little wedding venue on her estate ... and guess what? It was in a redwood grove! Jessy told me she'd talk to the owner and see what kind of deal she could swing. She got back to me and said we'd get it at a super great price if we held it on a Friday and hosted our rehearsal dinner at the Union Hotel the night before. Done and done! We were totally fine hosting our wedding on a Friday - and we're finding out that caterers and DJ's actually give discounts if you have it on a Friday! Everyone always says it's all about who you know... and it's so true! Tap your resources people, you never know what you may find.

Sugi's Venue Experience: I originally had this idea to do more of a backyard BBQ vibe kind of wedding. I wanted to keep it low cost from the get go, so ignorantly, I thought I could just rent an AirBnB and throw a big party. The problem is, once you say the word "wedding", there is so much more liability and the price tag jumps up 3 fold. We decided to just search all viable options both "within our budget" (whatever that meant to us at the time) and not within our budget. After looking at about 4 venues, Derek and I fell in love with one called Mountain House Estate. We had low expectations going in but left incredibly ecstatic. This was THE ONE. Though upon receiving the official proposal and despite the instant connection we had with the owners of the property (even the owners acknowledged how expensive it was) we could neither fathom nor justify spending $10k on literally just a place to get married. It was like a knife to the gut. From the facade Pinterest created to the glamour and frivolous amenities that sucked us in, we had to face reality - it wasn't even remotely within a budget that either of us felt comfortable spending. It was back to the drawing board and on to see about 6 more fucking venues... We found absolutely NOTHING that spoke to us the way Mountain House did (which we knew we had to let go of). We found NOTHING that was within the perimeters of our non negotiable wish list. I mean, come on, I'm not about to pay an arm and a leg for a wedding and shut the party down at 9:30... Give me a fucking break. 

I was so frustrated, you don't even know. This was probably the one thing that caused me incredible stress throughout the process. This was the moment that I started really hating the industry. I seriously, seriously wanted to give up. Derek and I started brainstorming every other considerable option. So after taking a breather and going back to the drawing board, I was forced to get really creative. I started searching "warehouse event rental" and "event space rental". Sure enough, a plethora of options appeared:, Eventually, I stumbled upon Mac House, a production studio coincidentally owned by a fellow entrepreneur and old friend from high school. I reached out, and he was totally open to us having our reception at his space. We looked up local parks nearby and found one 10 minutes from his place, checked it all out to make sure we could visualize our day there and BOOM. We locked that shit down. We compromised a lot of our initial wish list, but the most important pieces were there. And to be honest, once we let go of some of those things, we were truly able to open our minds to think outside of the box.

Exhibit C: The Caterer

We both were looking at all kinds of options - mainly BBQ style buffets or taco bars. I looked into food trucks, Sugi looked into pizza. No matter what cuisine we looked at, prices were still ridiculous. I remember looking up pizza and it still costed around $7,500! So, again - we went back to square one.

Nicole's Caterer Experience: After searching caterers and getting back quotes for $7,000+ we had to explore other routes. We thought about my mom's Filipino friends making the food, or even buying 100 large pizzas and just having a pizza party. But then, in the midst of these ideas and research, we stumbled upon a very helpful website called Thumbtack. "From house painting to personal training, they bring you the right pros for every project on your list" - this includes everything wedding related! So we input in a project for "caterer", and got a quote from Nitro BBQ, that was unbeatable! We just had the tasting over the weekend, and he seems pretty legit. Chicken, tri-tip, mac and cheese, veggies, salad and bread rolls... it's simple, cost effective, and everyone's belly's will definitely be full!

Sugi's Caterer Experience: Derek and I narrowed it down to tacos or BBQ.. Main reason - price. We knew that we could keep cost per person low and still have amazing food (that totally represented their vibe). Oddly enough, our favorite local BBQ spot was WAY more expensive than we anticipated. We decided to go with our second choice... emailed them, called them, emailed them, called and NEVER heard anything.. Okay..... Sooooo... What should we do? We decided to tap into Nicole's new go to resource - Thumbtack. And despite the convenience, it put work back into an arena of the planning process that we legitimately thought we had covered. 

The exact day I started calling caterers is the same day I got a proposition from my dear friends and second family at The Pastaria & Market. I worked at The Pastaria & Market from high school to college, all the way through my mid twenties (11 years.. As long as I've been dating Derek. I'm a very loyal bird). We honestly would have hired them in the first place, but we really wanted them to enjoy our wedding without having to worry about anything. The owners at Pastaria realized that in order to fully enjoy our wedding, they kind of had to shut the restaurant down. So, we struck up a deal, sticking to our original budget and we could not be happier. We are so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so much love - especially in the form of food :) 


We realize that everyone saves money in their own ways, and these three areas might not resonate with everyone. We'd love to hear the areas in which you saved for your big day! Please inform us in the comments below - for as you know, we are not experts. We're just going through this like everyone else - just sharing it with the world! 

Stay tuned for Element #2 of the NeonBride definition: Staying True. Despite societal norms and family/friends expectations, being a NeonBride means sticking to you guns and doing what you guys, as a couple, want to do.