So about 12 months ago, I was using Mailchimp and there was suddenly a huge drama because they changed their fee structure and got a LOT more expensive. Customers started leaving them in droves. I didn’t understand the issue until I got my new bill and it was suddenly insanely high compared to how much money I was making.
I asked around and everyone told me it was so easy to switch to Mailerlite, and that they were better in a number of ways that no one could explain. I was pregnant and knew I needed to reduce my overheads.
So I exported my contacts and imported them into Mailerlite, where I grew my list to over 15,000 subscribers.
With Mailchimp, the only issue was the cost. Everything else about it worked perfectly, I never had a failed send or anything. They always just sorted out payment and everything was smooth. I don’t know what their customer service was like because I don’t remember ever having to contact them after the day I first signed up.
Also, Mailchimp works in China, and Mailerlite does not. I was living in China when I started emailing my list through Mailchimp instead of using batches via Google mail.
With Mailerlite, it seemed like every time my mailing list grew, they wanted me to re-verify myself, to fill out a tedious questionnaire (for the fifth time) about what I was using their services for, and they threw in some mandatory market research questions as well, which honestly is offensive but you do what you gotta do to get a half-price mailing service to email your newsletter for you.
The best part? They do this when you want to send an email, instead of when you hit the new subscriber threshold. This means, if you’re sending about something time-sensitive, like a flash sale or 24-hour deal, you will not get to send your email in time especially if you want to send according to timezone.
I didn’t like the fact that a lot more of my emails seemed to go to the spam folder when I used Mailerlite, either.
I sucked it up.
Then I had a baby, so I deleted my contacts because no-one wants to pay $150 a month for a mailing list they’re not actually sending any emails to for a year. I downloaded and carefully saved my 15000 contacts in a CSV file that I never actually looked at because I had more important things to do like keep a small baby alive.
Ready to get back to work, I uploaded my email list to Mailerlite and guess what? They wouldn’t let me re-verify because I’d already uploaded this list and deleted it.
So in desperation I went back to Mailchimp, thinking that paying $200 monthly is worth it if you actually get the service you’re paying for. I uploaded my mailing list.
Then I found out why you should never, EVER move your list to Mailerlite.
We’re always told that our mailing list is the most important marketing asset for our business because it is ours and we get to keep that no matter what happens to service providers, right?
Mailerlite has deleted so much information from the downloaded copy of my mailing list that Mailchimp actually doesn’t have the data it needs to let me upload to them.
So I opened the file to look through it. There’s email addresses, but then all the other columns are empty. No first names. No last names. No opt-in timestamps or IP addresses and no confirmation timestamps or IP addresses (all of which you need to be compliant with data handling, CAN-SPAM, and GDPR rules). It’s a mangled, useless CSV file that is as useless as a phone book comprising of phone numbers but no names.
I am effectively stuck with Mailerlite who seemed able to re-connect all the data when I uploaded the email addresses (presumably they’ve stored the rest of the data on their server and can access it by using the email addresses as a “primary key”, but I obviously have a right to have all that data, it’s not theirs, it’s mine, so they shouldn’t keep it like this). Who won’t let me go through their stupid validation and approval process. And anyway, I resent all the bullshit they’ve put me through so I’m not going back to them.
This means I have no mailing list. Mailerlite has destroyed it by deleting key data. Five years of hard work down the drain. Fifteen thousand fans of my business, who I cannot contact because Mailerlite have ensured I can’t go to another service provider.
God I wish someone had written about this before I switched to Mailerlite.
Please, please, PLEASE be careful. If you want to switch to Mailerlite, be sure you’re going to stay with them forever. Because they will not let you take your mailing list when you leave.
I guess that’s what you get when you go with a cut-price mailing list provider. I have learned my lesson the painfully, devastatingly hard way. I have no business to come back to after maternity leave. I built my business to give my baby a future, and now our situation is more precarious than ever.
If I am very, very lucky, I might still have an old version of my mailing list from when I switched from Mailchimp to Mailerlite in the first place. But obviously, that could have people on it who have since unsubscribed, so I have to weigh up whether I can use that old version or not.
This is my honest review of two companies I’ve spent thousands of dollars with, over the past half-decade. Verdict? I’d rather spend more money on a service that actually does what it says it’s going to. Your mileage may vary. If you have a different perspective, or a solution for this issue, please let me know in the comments.
Dear Police Department,
I am writing to let you know that I strongly support the use of bodycam and dashcam footage for all law enforcement officers. This is for your benefit and the benefit of the community. Impartial bodycam footage can indemnify you and protect you as much as it can prove allegations against racist cops.
Please let your officers know they should be using bodycams at all times, and ensure they are provided with the resources, training, and workplace policies/culture to be able to do this.
I am also concerned about police violence and I would like it to be known that I do not support or endorse the use of unnecessary force against protesters. Violence does not de-escalate violent situations. It is being disproportionately used against persons of color and this is not acceptable. The police should be protecting people and keeping the peace, not attacking peaceful demonstrators.
Police officers should be using “sideways management” within the force to stop their colleagues from being racist, to challenge racist assumptions, and to report upward through the chain of command any incidents of racism either perpetrated against police officers of color or against the wider black/minority community.
I struggled to write an introductory paragraph for this post on choosing wedding rings, buying them, etc, but I hope this post is helpful for anyone struggling with decisions such as: “Is it okay to buy a second hand vintage wedding ring?” Or: “Is tungsten carbide a good material for a wedding ring?” The answer is yes to both, by the way.
My ring was £249.99 from a Vintage/2nd hand shop in Bradford. It is platinum and 1/2 carat diamond (round cut) solitaire in size J, because I have tiny fingers. It took ages to find because a) A lot of jewellers don’t stock my size b) I was very indecisive.
I looked at a lot of things and I fell in love with an antique 1920s ruby ring that was sadly sold before we could afford to buy it (I’m glad, though, now) and later, I nearly bought an opal and 9 carat yellow gold dress ring (5 opals in a row). The reason I didn’t (I was literally on the payment screen) was because I realized I have to wear this ring every day. Every single day. So I needed it to be fit for purpose. Opals have a big drawback – their beautiful colours are caused by water trapped under the surface of the stone. If you get them wet over a period of time, that water comes out and you are left with something that looks like a white plastic bead (I should know, I have a lot of opals in my crystal and mineral collection). This means I would need to take my ring off like, all the time (I wash my hands a LOT and I do all the cleaning in my house). That wasn’t what I wanted to have to do with my wedding ring. Additionally, I wanted something that looked equally at home if I was wearing my ripped denim jacket or my beautiful wedding dress. I needed something neutral, that looked good all the time. So I chose a diamond, and I chose a silver metal for travel reasons – if I’m travelling, chances are, people will disregard it as a silver/cubic zirconia ring and not worth stealing. An advantage of it being second hand is that its recommended retail price is £1700, so someone else absorbed that depreciation, and another advantage is that there’s less pressure on me, as it’s not perfect or pristine, just like me (not that you can tell from glancing at it). Taking the pressure off the bride was the only way I was going to walk down that aisle, so YAY. Before this, I had an engagement ring made of white gold, diamond and tanzanite, I got it for about £39.99 from Argos on offer, it went up to over £79.99 and stayed there for years, and I don’t know if they’re still selling it. We got engaged in 2011.
My future husband chose a tungsten carbide alloy ring with the “One Ring” inscription from Lord Of The Rings. It’s durable, it was cheap (like, under £10), and he assures me that it is comfortable to wear. He doesn’t generally wear it; he seems to struggle with rings, and I think a lighter ring would have been easier for him to keep on his finger, but he wanted this one, so most of the time it lives on the mantelpiece in our living room. His engagement ring was £19.99 from Argos; it was stainless steel with a Greek key pattern on it.
Would you buy a second hand or vintage wedding ring? Let me know in the comments.
Have you ever dreamed about getting married in a fantasy armor that you could wear again and again to LARP or comicon for many years to come? Ever wanted to make your own leather (or faux leather) dragon scale mail to really stand out in your wedding photos? Bored of suits and ties, cravats and cummerbunds? Looking for inspiration in a world where women are vibrant peacocks and men’s attire is designed to be as prominent as the tableware?
My future husband decided to design and make a leather suit of armor to wear to our wedding. Photos are at the bottom of this article.
He was still making it on the day of the wedding.
One word of advice to any brides whose intended decides to make his own wedding outfit: Shut him in a room with his project about two months before the big day and don’t let him out till he finishes it. Nobody needs the kind of stress on the morning of their wedding that comes from hearing the words “I just need to finish the shoes.”
He made his outfit out of fake recycled leather pieces** that had a backing which looked a bit like cardboard. He cut out every single scale separately in oval shapes that were all the same size, that he cut out with a craft knife and sponged very lightly with silver acrylic paint to give them a dragon scale glow. He then riveted them together onto a cotton shirt for an anti-chafe backing, using metal rivets, and set it all off with a belt with a dragon design on it, and he made a pair of boots made from the same material, using a pair of flip flops for insulating the soles. Underneath, he wore one of his pairs of suit trousers.
**I was adamant that no cows or other animals be harmed for our wedding but when this recycled leather arrived, I decided to compromise on it, because it had already been someone’s sofa or coat, or something else, and was reformed and reconstituted and held together with a polyvinyl derived glue which all meant that nothing died for this to happen. Even though it wasn’t to the letter what I had expected when he told me his plans, it was at least in the same ballpark, and my husband eats meat so I decided he had really thought this through. He had looked extensively at PVC, and realised it wouldn’t give the same rigidity and would make the whole garment a waste of effort since he would not be able to wear it regularly to go to LARP where it would get subjected to all sorts of things that I don’t know about because I don’t LARP. Throwing a useless worn-once PVC wedding outfit on a landfill would probably harm more animals than using recycled leather that would be kept until it fell to pieces, so I reluctantly agreed this was ok.
Click on any of the pictures to enlarge to their original size.
This post contains affiliate links. This does not affect your browsing experience, cost, etc of things at the other end of said links in any way. I’ve been getting really annoyed lately at the amount of people who don’t disclose this, so now if I see a link in someone’s blog to a shopping site, I have to assume it’s an affiliate link unless they’re upfront about it in their linked posts and about page.
The dress was one of the first and last things I found. It was the first, I bought it for £12.99 and it arrived 18 months before our wedding – before we even had a date. It was beautiful, and everything about it seemed perfect except… it was too short in the body. It was a jumpsuit comprising of 2 parts, an opaque figure hugging inside in white sequin and a see-through outer part in floaty white. It was beautiful. But the opaque inner was too short on the body meaning either my booty could fit in or my boobs could, but not both at the same time. This was super unfortunate and I thought I could fix it with some straps and some extra trim around the bottom but I made about 10 modifications to it and it still didn’t fit my height, so I gave up with three months to go before the wedding. I will do something with it at some point I’m just still deciding.
I then had a series of dresses that didn’t turn up, didn’t look remotely like the picture, weren’t designed to fit actual people; one even got cancelled on Ebay after bidding had ended because it hadn’t sold for enough (they hadn’t put a reserve on, they just cancelled the bid and refunded my payment that I sent straight after the listing ended. They even emailed and told me they’d sold it elsewhere. Disgraceful)… In the end, the dress was the last thing I bought; with two weeks to go, I bought a £10 white satin dress on Ebay that was completely perfect, and it arrived a week before the big day. It was an ex-Debenhams either overstock or factory second, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and it fitted perfectly. It was satiny fabric but it was actually 100% polyester, and the satiny layer was overlaid with that fine meshed plain lace that the veil is also made of, all made of polyester which is made from three chemicals which are petroleum byproducts (as is plastic, because as I’ve discussed somewhere before, chemicals aren’t made from nothing they’re all made from the natural resources on our planet):
My veil cost £2.50 and came from China. I advise you to read listings carefully to check exactly what you’re getting – some veils don’t come with a comb, for example, so are just a big square of filmy fabric. Mine came with a comb and it said freshwater pearls but I knew they would be at the very best made of glass, and were actually made of plastic, which was perfect because pearls are an animal slaughter byproduct.
My shoes were a story in and of themselves that I’ll come to on the actual day. These were the ones I bought for the wedding:
I made my own jewellery using crackle Glass Beads and plastic glow in the darkpony beads and semi-precious beads and elastic and nylon wire from Amazon. I started making the jewellery about 4 months before the wedding and found that it was a good de-stress project during the planning stages.
I accessorized with a unicorn bag that I’ve had for ever and a broccoli bouquet because I don’t like the idea of wasteful flower bouquets and broccoli could be eaten by the rabbits later in the day. Broccoli was 49p at Morrissons, we took our time to choose a really nice symmetrical one the day before the wedding. It made for some damn good photos, and we spent absolutely nothing on flowers which was amazeballs because I felt like the cost of floristry was going to be mandatory wedding robbery when I don’t like large quantities of flowers that aren’t growing somewhere.
One thing I hated about dress shopping was that there’s this expectation that you are an inadequate human being if you don’t spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on a dress. In all the wedding planning sites I looked at, I was shocked that there was an assumption that the dress would be up to 1/3 of the budget (excluding honeymoon). Unless your wedding only contains three items – your dress, his suit and a priest (no rings, no indoor space to get married in, no food, no invites etc) – it’s a little disproportionate.
You don’t even need to spend £50 to get a decent dress that will look really nice on the day and in the pictures afterwards. It doesn’t need special stitching or whatever because probably you won’t wear it again (even if you think you will), it doesn’t need preserving because it’s only special to you, and it doesn’t need saving for children because they want to choose their own dress. Just like you did. Think about those articles that say things like “you can use your mother’s wedding dress by cutting it into pieces and wrapping the bouquet with it” then think whether that’s worth £250 or £2500 to you, for your child to take a pair of scissors to it at some point in the future and use it as a tablecloth or bouquet wrap for their own wedding. Bear in mind they’re probably only doing it so you don’t feel bad that they don’t want to wear your dress. Was that worth the effort? I decided in my case that it was all insane levels of excessive money and object gluttony, and I wanted to start the marriage as I meant to go on.
In the words of Francine Smith’s Chinese Parents: Wastefulllll.
As I kept reading this crap I felt myself straining against it as it tried to suck me in.
Keep yourself safe from being brainwashed by the Wedding Industry, friends. A minimalist wedding is possible and the bride’s (or brides’ – YAY GAY MARRIAGE) outfit is one of the hardest stages to keep your resolve, particularly if you get hypomanic spending like I do.
Total cost of bride’s outfit including “bouquet”: About £30. £43 if we’re counting the first one.
This week I thought I’d talk about how we made it legal.
We were originally going to have the legal bit during the week so we could focus entirely on the part that was important to us. We didn’t find the legal bit particularly enthralling to think about because we had both wanted to get married outdoors, and in the UK you can’t get a legally recognised outdoor wedding without a licensed officiant, and they can only perform on-location weddings at licensed venues that have a wedding license. That means there’s very few outdoor locations, and they’re all “licensed venues,” so you can’t do it on the beach or in the woods wherever else you feel like it. We looked into this, and found there was only one place in York licensed for outdoor weddings, and the cost was exorbitant, certainly far greater than our £500 total wedding budget, so we decided it would be easier to have the bog standard cheapest wedding ceremony and make it personal later.
Since we were both teachers when we were planning it, and there wasn’t a holiday any time near our chosen celebration date (21st June), we had to have it on a weekend. Since we were doing that (you have to pay registry offices more to get married at the weekend, presumably to make up for the fact that you’re not losing a day’s pay like you would on a weekday, assuming you work Monday to Friday), we decided we might as well just have the whole damn thing on the same day.
We originally booked an appointment to look around our local Register Office and decided that we felt it was a bit expensive and lacking in the wow factor. The leaking ceiling and water damage didn’t help their case. Since we were free to use any Register Office in the UK, we decided to look elsewhere in Yorkshire, and viewed Harrogate Register Office. We thought it was a more beautiful building, it could hold more people, and the grounds and interior were elegant and Georgian. Additionally, it had on-street parking as well as a car park. For £200 less than our local office. So we were sold. We paid our £180 and made a date.
Before we were able to get married, we both had to attend an interview at our local register office. They weren’t particularly generous to us, presumably because we weren’t using their facilities (the Harrogate date was booked at this point), and we were both interviewed separately and asked the full set of “is this a sham marriage for immigration purposes” questions. Despite the fact that all of our parents were born in the UK, and we are both British Citizens. Other people who DID use the local office to get married in the same year as us did not have to go through this to the same degree.
We managed to get through mostly unscathed, although they get REALLY annoyed if you don’t know each other’s parents’ dates of birth or whether the other person has ever been known by any other names (because that comes up so many times during the dating process). Since my future husband had never met my mother, there was no way he was going to know what her date of birth was. The woman conducting the interview got very caught up on this and even spent half an hour phoning Harrogate register office and redialing and redialing (they must have been busy) to check whether they would accept our wedding if my future husband didn’t know my mother’s date of birth.
Eventually she decided there was nothing she could stop us marrying over, and we were allowed to have our wedding. It did seem very silly to ask the person you’re marrying about all this stuff, and I think they could improve it by asking me about me and him about him, THEN quizzing us about each other. That would have made a lot more sense. But that wasn’t how they did it. Logic tells me this stuff is all things they should be able to ask if they suspect something is wrong with your proposed wedding, but that it got taken too far on this occasion.
I would say this is the opposite of a deterrent to sham weddings, because they’re more likely to learn all this stuff about each other to get through the interview. If you’re getting a registrar to do your marriage, learn all the details about each other first.
After this, we got a big booklet through the post which looked like an exam paper. It had loads of questions and dotted lines and delete as applicables. Most of the wording was optional and it was supposed to be “personalised” so for example you could choose four different Hallmark declarations to state when giving the rings. We hated all of it it was far too saccharine and Eastenders for our tastes, so we crossed out everything that was optional and pared it down to the simplest way of saying “you two are getting married. Do you want to get married? M’kay you’re married now. Swap some rings and kiss.”
With our wedding coming AFTER the legalisation of gay marriage, but the brochures being obviously out of date, I also took the liberty of changing the legal and non-optional preamble that said “marriage is between one man and one woman” to “marriage is between two people of any gender” Now the regsitrar didn’t read the “of any gender” bit, but she was happy to say “marriage is between two people” instead of one man and one woman, and that was enough of a result for me.
We also had to choose some music for the ceremony. We chose “Science Fiction Double Feature” (from Rocky Horror) for walking down the aisle, “Bat Out of Hell” (by Meatloaf) for leaving, “Poison” (by Alice Cooper) for signing the register and I’m sure I got them to play “Bohemian Rhapshody” (by Queen) as well but I can’t remember what aspect of the ceremony that was for, and we didn’t get to keep our exam booklet so I don’t have the list. Then we burned them all onto one CD in the correct order to send back with our booklet so that it was foolproof, but we didn’t need to worry, the Harrogate Register Office team were INCREDIBLY competent and helpful individuals. In this booklet, we also needed to state the names of the two witnesses who would counter sign the register.
This week I want to tell you about the entertainment. This post contains affiliate links for those people who don’t know about certain games I’m referring to.
Minimalists are often portrayed as serious, quiet, dull (dare I say brooding), innovative if a little bland, so it’s no wonder that keeping guests entertained is often cited as the biggest worry for brides who want a minimalist wedding. The Swedish Design Collective Sven from How I Met Your Mother are minimalists. If you don’t know who they are, here’s a clip (sorry it’s the only one I could find on YouTube): Sven.
Of course, anyone who really understands what minimalism is all about would laugh at the idea that a minimalist wedding has to be boring. Our wedding was a far cry from the dull, short, grown-up affair that everyone was expecting when they heard our budget was £500. Here’s what we did:
1. We had bubbles for people to blow instead of confetti. A multipack of small tubs of bubbles costs surprisingly little, and keeps adults entertained through all those boring photo times after the actual legal bit. Anyone who’s ever got married in the UK in a registry office (I guess US courthouse weddings are the same), you know what I’m talking about. I was unbelievably bored with all the photography and it was my wedding!
2. We had our picnic at a public park. While we weren’t near the apparatus, it was only a short walk away should anyone have wished to play on the swings. Nobody did, which was a little disappointing but hey, apparently grown ups can be entertained without impersonating a pendulum.
3. We had an outdoor game called Kubb, which is a Viking game where you throw bits of wood at other bits of wood (as far as I could make out). This kept guests entertained. In addition, there was a re-enactment of the wedding ceremony for those people who could not come to our actual legal bit due to distance. This was originally going to be for us to get all slushy and say our real vows etc but when we tried to write some we ended up with something resembling the wedding at the end of Spaceballs. So we did that instead.
4. After the outdoor bit was done, we invited everyone back to our house, and loaded up Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. After a couple of hours of this, after my husband’s family had left, we moved onto Wii Spin The Bottle (ambiguously titled “Bumpy’s Party” for some reason, and doesn’t resemble the teenage house party game and no kissing or other ickyness is involved; I don’t know if this is available in the US), which is also highly entertaining for participants and observers.
And that is how we sorted out entertainment using things that we already had. Total expenditure: £0.00.
You obviously won’t have the same games and console as us, but if you’re looking for ideas, here’s some other games and things that could provide entertainment, you may even have these already:
Twister Who doesn’t love Twister? This game is fun for children and adults, your gran might just amaze you (she also might refuse to participate, I don’t know, I’ve never met her).
Ticket To Ride Okay, so Ticket To Ride is a board game, but it’s really easy to understand.
Playing cards There are loads of possibilities with playing cards. There are loads of card games you can play with guests, the best idea is to get a few packs of cards because one pack won’t go very far even with the smallest wedding (unless it’s just you two and the witnesses). Games you can play include any that you know the rules for, or are able to explain to someone else. Beware: Don’t try to play a game that needs more explaining than it takes to play, because as soon as someone is bored of hearing the rules, they’re going to tune out and be bored of the actual game.
Lawn bowls, Aka Bocce in the US. An outdoor game that you can often find at a reduced price at Aldi or Lidl type supermarkets, you roll a ball at some other balls a bit like a giant sized game of marbles.
Volleyball, all you really need for this is a big Inflatable Beach Ball (or an actual volleyball) and possibly a net such as a volleyball net or a badminton net, if you have one, but plenty of people play without a net if you’re not playing super-competitively.
Hide and seek (especially if you’ve got a big outdoor space to play with),
Sardines (variation on hide and seek – where the seeker who finds the one person who hides shares their hiding place),
Guitar/musical singing times (we considered an open mic but decided against it as we couldn’t find a park with a pavilion).
Treasure hunt (if you have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could hide some items around the grounds, give people a list of them and even a map of the area, and get them to find the items. A prize for the winner??)
Scavenger hunt (if you don’t have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could make a random list of things for people to find, then they need to go around the area and find items to satisfy the list, a list for this would include things such as “a leaf” “an empty coke can” “take a photo of a person with blue hair” and if everyone gets the items, you could give out points based on how closely the items resemble the things on the list, so for example, for the empty coke can, if someone got a red and white empty Coca Cola can, they would get more points than someone who got a Diet Coke can, and the person with the Diet Coke can would get more points than someone who brought a Fanta can.
One thing worth remembering is that your guests don’t need to be entertained at all times. They’re not at a holiday camp, they’re (for the most part) independent adults who like to have time to talk and wander off and check their phones. There is a danger in over-entertaining your wedding guests because entertainment can get in the way of social interaction. That said, nobody likes to be bored. And there is often a limit on the number of players of indoor games, meaning people could feel left out or people could take the opportunity to talk to each other. It’s entirely up to you where you strike the balance between the two, as you know your guests better than someone who has never met them, who writes wedding articles (I hope). You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on entertainment or hire an expensive local band or get someone to release 1000 doves to have a great time on your wedding day.
All the recipes I did for my wedding are below. We got Lebanese, Caribbean and some store bought cakes.
As I said in my previous Wedding Wednesday post, we really struggled to find any single caterer in York who would cater to a vegan wedding. I phoned some places, and I didn’t even get quotes because they just didn’t do vegan food. I was suggested the supermarket sandwich platters, but not one single vegan option, let alone a whole platter. They all did “the vegetarian option” which meant cheese sandwiches with that miserable commercial grated flavourless cheese. Obviously this service cost close to £100. I was convinced that I could find tastier, more nutritional and more satisfying food for less money.
I wasn’t really sure what to go with for food – as long as it was vegan and tasty – but as the day drew closer I decided I was definitely going to do everything myself. I’d seen lots of doom and gloom posts warning about the potential for disaster here, especially because people labour under this bizarre idea that you either can cook or can’t cook, and that “being able to cook” is do do with being able to make very specific, Western-Centric dishes that are generally nutritionally void and full of dead animal, and if you’re putting people in those camps, then no, I can’t cook, but if you try to remember that the basic purpose of cooking is supposed to be to get nutrients, and then give me an Indian, Asian, Caribbean, South American or African recipe (you know, two thirds of the world) and I am in my element. I was so confident that I could do better cheaper food than the sandwich platters, that I set myself a challenge: to cater my own wedding for under £50. Then I started looking at what to feed people.
I chose a few Lebanese dishes and some Caribbean. I spent a whole day in the kitchen cooking, the day before the wedding, and refridgerated everything. For drinks, and a nice visible centrepiece, we did up a cheap big rocking horse (that we found on Ebay for £5) to make him look like Vash the Stampede (links to Youtube) and we added two bags for life to make saddlebags, which we filled with drinks. There was bottled water, and cans of lemonade, cream soda and mini juice boxes of fresh orange juice. We were a little worried about how an alcohol free and animal free banquet would go down, but in the end we decided we wouldn’t do it any other way.
Here is the full list of food I whipped up or bought for the wedding, including the details for all the recipes I made, grouping foods by location:
Plantain Chips GF
Cassava Chips GF
Fruit Ginger Cake (store bought, not GF)
Cucumber Chow (Trinidad and Tobago): 2 peeled diced cucumbers; 3 cloves of chopped garlic; 6 coriander leaves (finely chopped); pinch salt. Put in bowl and mix. RAW VEGAN FRIENDLY, GF Add hot sauce for more authentic Caribbean taste – I chose not to as the day was already forecast to be roasting.
Lebanese: Batata Kizbra: 4 lg potatoes (cubed); 1 bunch coriander (chopped finely); 5-8 crushed garlic cloves; 1 juiced lemon; 3 tbsps olive oil. Cook potatoes then fry the lot. GF Malfouf: (cabbage rolls): 1 whole cabbage; 3/4 cup vegimince; 1 cup raw rice; 4 squeezed lemons; 1-2 tsp of Lebanese 7 spice; 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook the rice, prepare the mince, mix the two. Boil the cabbage leaves until they are supple and rolly. Roll the rice mix in the cabbage leaves. Put in pan. Pour lemon, spice, oil and garlic mix over. Simmer/marinade until tasty (or 40 mins if you’re unsure). Check your vegimince, the rest is GF.
Mujardara (rice lentils): 2 tins of green lentils, 1.25 cups of uncooked rice; 4 medium onions; olive oil. Cook rice and lentils together until the rice is done. Chop and fry onions in the oil, mix about half of the onions in with the rice and lentils and garnish top with rest. Serve with plain yoghurt as a side dish (I served with Alpro plain soya yoghurt). GF
Loubieh bi Zait (beans in olive oil): 3lbs green beans; 3 medium onions; 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2 tsp of Lebanese 7 Spice; 1/2 tsp salt. Chop the beans and onions, saute onions until they start going pinkish. Add the beans, salt and 1/2 the spices. Mix well to ensure the beans are covered in stuff. Cover and simmer for 45-55 mins. Stir every 5 mins. Once beans have turned a dark olive colour, add rest of spice, mix well and serve. We served cold with pita, julienned bell peppers, and spring onions, but can also be served hot if you’re not feeding 75 in a public park miles from home. GF
I bought some tiffin (dairy free vegan), in chocolate and chocolate orange flavours, available from the Free From section of Sainsbury’s or many other supermarkets. I went for 4 packets as there was a 4 for the price of 3 offer on at the time, and I cut each slice into 4 little slices (so we got 80 little slices from 4 packs of tiffin), and we had about half of the tiffin left over after the wedding).
There were also store bought apple and strawberry pastries (£2 for 18-20 from Brompton House bakery brand who make cheap pastries for ASDA and Home Bargains), a few packets of cassava chips (crisps made from Cassava, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), a few packets of plantain chips (crisps made from plantain, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), and a lot of packs of pitta bread to eat the Loubieh bi Zait.
We got these cute bowls for 10p for a pack of 10 from ASDA and okay, they say Happy Easter on them, but they are bowls, you put food in them, and they have bunnies on them. If the words were in Chinese, nobody would even know what they said so I figured, meh, letters, people can get over it. Anyway, it’s never too late to wish people a Happy Easter. When I’m faced with a choice between something expensive with no bunnies on it, and something cheap which has bunnies on it, I am always going to choose the bunnies, it’s a complete no brainer. Since the wedding was filled with little touches of randomness, everyone thought we were being ironic and found it funny.
My main worry was whether this would feed enough people, since we had about 75 guests who actually turned up from 100 invited, but I needn’t have worried. The actual problem was that there weren’t enough drinks for everyone. On one of the hottest days of the year, we ran out of drinks which was very stressful. I could’ve done without that. It was fine though, because we moved the cake-cutting forward (apparently there’s a social cue that cutting the cake means the wedding party is over. I accidentally cut the cake too soon, wanting to share it with my friends, and didn’t know why everyone left so suddenly) and we went home to where we had a stockpile of more drinks and a cupboard full of cups, and sat around with the last 20 guests playing video games. The 3lbs of beans and the extensive amount of cucumber chow (I doubled the recipe) meant that everyone who wanted to eat something had something to eat.
I will do a separate post for my wedding cake, which was made inside the £50 wedding food budget. Spoiler alert: It was made of cornflakes.
The venue (aka: WHAT IF IT RAINS?????? WRING YOUR HANDS AND GRAB A SAUSAGE!!!)
Note: I am going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert this evening and have a trial shift at a new job tomorrow all day, so I have pre-scheduled this post and tomorrow’s. Comments might take a while to get an approval/reply.
I looked at a lot of venues. One thing no-one mentioned about planning a wedding is the sheer amount of time you’ll spend looking at crap you’ll never have. I felt like I’d had several weddings by the time mine rolled around. Reading other people’s weddings, particularly on Offbeat Bride, was a big thing I spent my time on. They have some of the most beautiful and unique weddings on there, and I don’t regret the time I spent looking; it didn’t mean I was going to change my plan, but I felt it was definitely important to look into alternatives and second guess myself just to be sure that I was getting the wedding I wanted rather than the wedding that was easy, cheap, least stressful, or any other independent factors.
The nicest venues I looked at were Gray’s Court Hotel and The Hospitium, in St Mary’s Abbey. We actually wanted to hire the gardens, but you can’t do that, apparently, and because the whole place is classed as a public park, the gates would get locked at 5pm which would have been a serious party killer.
I didn’t want the package on offer, however, because I didn’t really want a “bespoke wedding service” where someone else selected caterers, entertainment, etc and let me choose who sat where. There were no vegan friendly caterers in my city, and my future-husband-to-be had vetoed El Piano because he hates their food. A package wedding wasn’t remotely appealing, so the need to have control of my own wedding (and to not feel pressured into expensive extras) took me elsewhere, although the pictures of the inside were beautiful. Also I wanted it to all happen outdoors, and I got the feeling they were geared more towards indoor weddings.
The stress on finding a venue was compounded by a LOT of relatives at Christmas (like, two weeks after we set a date, six months before the wedding) who kept asking question after question after question. We ended up divulging the vaguely held plans we didn’t really want to discuss and the structure of the conversation went something like this:
“Laura’s wedding was in a really nice place. Where are you having yours?”
“Well, we’re going to have the legal bit in a registry office because we’ve already booked it. Then we’re having a big party somewhere, but we haven’t quite decided yet.”
“What about hiring a hotel? There’s some really nice ones in your area!”
“We didn’t really want a hotel, they’re so corporate and impersonal.”
“They’re not all expensive! You can get packages starting from £3000.”
“Our budget is £500. But that’s not the point…”
“We always said we would help pay for your wedding. We have £3000 saved for your wedding so you don’t have to settle for something you might regret.”
“Thanks, but we want to do it ourselves. But that’s not the point, we really don’t want a hotel.”
“But you won’t be able to have a wedding for that amount. Sometimes it looks like things are cheap but in reality when you add the costs up it’s quite expensive.”
“We were thinking of taking a LOT of the cost out of it by having it outside.”
More crickets chirping.
“But… but what if it rains?”
“Um… We haven’t really looked into it yet.”
These conversations went on and on, round and round in circles. I will dish about how I dealt with this constant erosion of my confidence in my vision of our wedding day in a later article, because it deserves an article of its own.
Anyway, I really didn’t care if it rained. But I recognised that some guests might care. Namely the ones raising the most objections during the planning phase. So I started to research solutions.
First was the suggestion by a well meaning relative to hire a bus and have the party on the bus. I was so desperate to stop the constant questioning on and on and on with the underlying implied judgement, that I ignored the fact that I get profoundly bus sick on the best of days and emailed two bus companies for quotes. I’m really glad that one was trippin’ on their pricing structure (who in their right mind pays £5,000 for a day’s bus hire???? Oh that’s right, I mentioned the word wedding) and the other never got back to me. I didn’t follow it up. Instead I stopped answering my phone and I moved on with my research.
I saw a lot of suggestions online for gazebos, so I looked into them. The ones you buy from places all cost over £100 and it’s not like we would ever use a gazebo again. We’re not really gazebo people. So I looked into hiring one. They also cost over £100 to hire. And during the research, I realised that if we’re not gazebo people in our everyday life, then why would we want to change to being pro-gazebo for our wedding?? This might sound trivial, but when you’re spending one fifth of your budget on something, it’s got to be right.
So I was back to “what if it rains?” It echoed round and round in my head and haunted me for weeks. I’d been thinking a beach wedding but the rain conundrum really threw me.
My next thought was that we could maybe get a tent of some description. We might not be gazebo people, but we have occasionally been known to stay in a tent. Since we’d dismissed the beach as being too far away at this point, we settled on Rowntree Park as it had good opening hours and was near a lot of non-park public open space, so even if it closed there was a plan B.
We went to Go Outdoors and looked for tents. There were some nice ones that were a good size, and we nearly spent a couple of hundred on a big party sized tent that we could do some serious camping in at a later date. The problems were that you’re not allowed to pitch tents in public parks, and the tents were ridiculously heavy (like, 40lb). In the end, we changed our mind and didn’t bother.
I have to say a big thank you to Vince and Ali for sharing their amazing story on the internet, about how they got married in the rain and had an awesome time, which gave me the confidence to go ahead with our wedding outdoors regardless of whether it rained or shone. I wish I’d found this amazing article before all the months of drama (although there’s a bit of the “it’s in the last place you look” going on here), because once I’d found it, I knew exactly what to do if it rained – and it was what had been in my heart all along and had the confidence to press on.
So I went to the Pound Shop and bought all their zebra print umbrellas. They only had seven, I figured the people who gave a damn could share or bring their own. Total cost: £7. I also added a note on the wedding invites telling people this was an outdoor wedding, and that if they were the type of people to get upset by rain, to bring a coat or something just in case.
And THAT’s what to do if it rains on your outdoor wedding.
I think the real problem here was that people were throwing their selfish problems at me and I was taking them on board and trying to ensure everybody was looked after and catered for and not feeling left out, because I knew that, even though my wedding was going to be under £500 and minimalist and vegan, it was also going to be well-mannered and polite. That would have been fine except the same people then found something else and something else and something else to criticize. When I realised this was MY wedding day not theirs, it took a lot of the stress out of wedding planning and I started to find my own opinions and listen to them regardless of what other people were saying.
Also: It didn’t rain. I was slightly disappointed after I got totally psyched about rain wedding pics.
This is my 100th post, and I just want to say how amazed I am that you guys read stuff wot I write.
This is another of my wedding articles, today we talk budgets; this is probably the most serious, judgemental and opinionated post I will ever write. Remember folks, this is my opinion, if you don’t like it, there are trillions of mainstream wedding websites filled with articles that can suck you back into the safety of the lunatic idea that £5000 to £10,000 ($10,000 to $20,000) is a budget wedding. It’s an idea that many of my friends’ weddings subscribed to. This article will be unashamedly one sided in favour of not wasting money, because I pride myself in trying to show brides-to-be that there is another way, that you don’t need to buy into the stuff you were culturally conditioned to accept, that one bride – this bride – had a modern wedding for vastly under £1000. Yup. I’ll write that in words in case you’re lost. My wedding didn’t come near costing a thousand pounds. Yours doesn’t have to either.
As a child, I think I only ever drew a wedding picture once. I didn’t like them because the dresses had to be white which meant you couldn’t colour them in. That was super-boring. I preferred drawing princesses in huge flowing dresses of yellow, green, blue, purple and orange. Never pink. I think my mum threw out all the pink crayons before they ever got to me. I might have been four. You know what else I wanted to do when I was four? Be an astronaut and eat chocolate and live in a castle and have hair that was blonde and longer than my feet. In Hawaii. I also wanted to be the greatest composer who ever lived, learn how to sing like Pavarotti and for it to snow every day. I also wanted to go to Argos more often, because it meant we sneaked chips from the chip shop when my dad-who’s-not-my-dad was at home growing peas in the garden. I also wanted to be a mouse and drive a tank and hang out with Berk from TrapDoor, Snuffy and Big Bird from Sesame Street, and Thomas the Tank Engine, and play Lego with them.
My point is, four year old me had no freaking clue what was reasonable or practical. Being an adult is about having major fun and happiness but in ways that are possible, do-able, and ensure you get to have future fun and happiness. That’s why they let us cross the street on our own. Basing your financial decisions on something a four year old came up with results in such disasters as The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl In 3D. It’s worse if you were the four year old, because one day you will wake up and be unable to believe that a responsible adult (future you, in fact) actually threw inconceivable amounts of money at turning one adult day into something better suited to a little girl’s birthday party. And forced a boy to go along with it.
While researching things for my wedding I came across loads of “budget bride” articles and websites and every single one of them had a “budget” in mind that was a) many times what I was willing to spend and b) treated it like it was the booby prize. Oh, you’re poor, but you can still fritter the money you don’t have on a wedding, said the subtext. A dress for £500. A starter ring for £600. A cheap theme.
We knew from the outset that we absolutely did not want a super-expensive wedding. Our relatives assumed that we wanted a low cost wedding because we didn’t have much money. We were both bringing in a comfortable amount of money at the time, and I didn’t really know the word “minimalist” so couldn’t articulate why I/we felt so strongly that we didn’t want to waste £5,000 or more on a one-day event.
I had a lot of conversations that ended with me being steamrollered into tears by relatives trying to throw money at me and suggesting more and more ridiculous and extravagant ideas. One example was when a relative asked to take me dress shopping, after I’d bought my dress, and when I politely declined (she knew I had a dress already), she said “but that’s not your real dress, is it? Five hundred pounds is a good price for a wedding dress.” I pointed out that it was my real dress, and that it had cost ten pounds. She then asked if my £10 wedding dress needed any alterations, because she would like to pay for that. I have never needed a single clothing alteration in my life that I couldn’t do by myself with my sewing machine or my bare hands. I politely tried to explain that we were happy paying for our own wedding, that we were very flattered that (assorted relatives) wanted to take an interest in the wedding, and that we were fine for money. I will discuss how we survived the relatives a lot more in a separate article, later.
Additionally we had just bought a house (the sale completed in mid-September) when we started making these big wedding decisions, and we’d just ploughed all of our life savings into our deposit, so we could take out the smallest possible mortgage, which meant we weren’t very keen to make another large-scale expenditure any time soon.
I looked around at wedding ideas and made some pricing enquiries before finally settling on a complete budget of £500 (with a £200 tolerance, because weddings always go “over budget”). We felt that this would enable us to have the wedding we wanted, on our own terms, without having to pay for it in ten years’ time. My biggest way of saving money on the wedding? Buy most of your stuff from China. I didn’t buy my dress from here because Chinese sellers seemed singularly incapable of producing a dress that was anything like the pictures, but my veil and shoes came from China. I wrote an article about this for Offbeat Bride, which details what you need to know about buying from China. You can find it here. Naming specific sellers to recommend is pointless because they often have multiple selling IDs and the one who was good at one point isn’t necessarily going to have what you want to buy in the future.
As a side note, Offbeat Bride is an excellent resource if you’re looking for inspiration and encouragement for your non-standard wedding. They aren’t geared up towards the sort of budget that I had, I’d say they’re representative of all budgets, but they do have a wide range of different ideas and whatnot. I will refer to them more in future articles because they really helped me keep my sanity and if you’re doing a non-standard wedding I highly recommend you sign up to their forum because the Offbeat Bride Tribe is the most supportive wedding community you can find; my favourite part is that there is a total embargo on talking about weight loss. No-one’s asked me to say that, they don’t even know I’m writing articles on weddings, but they are amazing so go check them out.
There’s a lot of scaremongering about how you can end up with a disaster if you spend less money on a wedding, but I am here to tell you that, while that’s possible, it’s also possible to have an awesome wedding. It comes down to how much work you, as an individual, are prepared to do and how flexible you are about the whole thing when it comes to specific wedding ideas, and at the same time how rigid you can be in the face of mainstream criticism. This is where Offbeat Bride really came into its own for me – there are loads of examples of weddings that attracted a lot of mainstream criticism, but the brides went, “this is how I’m doing it.” You also need to be a bit cynical about anything you buy from overseas (see my article on buying from China). My £10 dress was anything but a disaster:
Other ways I saved money included driving myself and my future husband to our wedding in my own car, cooking all the food myself (because there were no vegan caterers that remotely covered my area), buying a pre-loved ring (my ring would have cost about £1700 brand new), and using a public park as the celebration venue.
What I found really hilarious during the budgeting phase was the amount of articles saying “20 ways to spend £500 on your wedding” which always began, “got an extra £500 to spend?” and always featured 20 items which were always *just over* £500. Because they haven’t squeezed enough money out of a bride until she’s actually had a heart attack from the pressure of all that money.
That was another big reason I didn’t want to spend on the wedding – with a huge expenditure, non-refundable deposits and items that are out of their refund period, comes the weight of having to live up to that expectation. To perform, to be perfect, and most of all… to not back out of it at the last minute. These were stresses that I didn’t need, especially since I quit teaching in February 2014 due to a newly-formed anxiety disorder that was directly caused by my previous teaching job.
Seriously though, who even thinks to themselves, “well I spent £15,000 on the wedding, it is a little over-budget, but y’know what? Sod it, I’m gonna buy me a £589 glass bowl to put fruit in. … and some fruit to put in it. Because it’s my wedding.”
I felt a bit sick when I saw what some people had spent money on for their wedding. I felt even sicker when I saw the amount of ebay listings for the shoes I was after, which had the line “bought new for my wedding but I ended up buying another pair so they are unworn.” These shoes retailed at over £100 brand new. I couldn’t buy them in the end, the consumerism was just too tragic. I felt the sickest when I saw the wedding drama that some people had created for themselves by demanding tens of thousands of pounds from their poor parents then getting all bitchy that mom or dad wanted some kind of say in what that money got spent on. If I gave someone that kind of money, I’d want it invested. This was the stirrings of the start of my journey into minimalism.
The thing that really gets me is that people don’t actually notice all that crap that clutters up the modern wedding. Ask your average wedding guest what they thought of the seat covers, the tablecloths, the *insert superfluous accessory or item of decor here* and they’ll maybe notice one or two if they were unique or interesting. Mostly they won’t care. People who you should care about go to weddings to see other people get married (and party together afterwards). The rest of them don’t matter.
We didn’t really save up or put money in a separate account or anything, we just used money as we got it to buy things as we found them, and kept track of it in a spreadsheet that looked like this:
At the end of the day, no matter what all the mainstream wedding media tells you, you can have a beautiful, moving, happy and, especially, memorable wedding without gorging yourself by frittering money away.
This was for about 80 guests, by the way.
Is there anyone else out there who is totally unwilling to waste gajillions of pounds on something that was generated in four-year-old crayon pictures; drawings that should stay where they belong – on your parents’ fridge?