Do You Remember The 21st Night Of September…
Luckily for me, even without Earth, Wind, & Fire, I will always remember the 21st night of September 2018. It was the night of our wedding, the evening when I married my best friend, travel partner, and love of my life.
We will always remember the laughs, hugs, and tears we shared with each other, the loved ones we had supporting us, and the vows that we promised. However, we will also always remember the planning it took to pull off such a feat. I mean honestly, who gets married 5,000 miles away from where they live?
Who Needs A Wedding Planner…
We knew that our path to “Financial Independence” was not going to mesh well with a super fancy, “let the wedding planner do it all” type of wedding. Instead, we decided on a DIY wedding that had approximately 1,307 moving parts. Luckily, Kristen is immensely talented, I am super organized, my mom is amazingly helpful/productive, and my friends kick a@s!
After the first week or so of engagement bliss, we went straight to work. We reached out on FB, searched reviews online, and scoured The Knot for the perfect venue. Luckily, we were able to find a place that sounded pretty promising. Clover Forest Plantation checked pretty much all of our boxes– full of beautiful nature, away from the noise of the city, and reasonably priced.
How can you decide on your wedding venue without even seeing it??? Well, we went with our gut and the opinions of our family. The manager, Hope, was incredibly kind, helpful, and honest with us on the phone and Skype. We knew that with limited time “on the ground” in VA before the wedding, that her helpful nature would be worth its weight in gold. So after sending a recon mission (thanks Barretts!) we paid in full (after opening up a new Hilton Aspire card of course) because Hope informed us of a promotion that was just about to end (20% off…YES, please!).
Did I mention there were a few moving parts? Well, fortunately, and unfortunately Clover Forest did not have an onsight caterer. Kristen and I decided that we wanted to embrace the Southern cuisine, and have some good old-fashioned Barbecue for the reception. Luckily for us, a friend told us about Mission BBQ. Food was the only main detail that I was concerned about (and making sure there was enough booze, of course). So, we decided to take a quick trip to VA to do a tasting. Well, that’s not entirely true. We came home in June (on our way to Costa Rica) to see family and friends, but also knew it would be a great time to check out Clover Forest and try some food at Mission BBQ. The tasting was AMAZING, and the price was quite reasonable. Two big things checked off the list.
Save the Dates and Invitations
Me: “Whatcha doing?”
Kristen: “Making the save-the-dates.”
Me: “WOW!” (after seeing the final product)
Two months later…
Me: “Whatcha doing?”
Kristen: “Making the wedding invitations.”
Me: “WOOOOOOW” (after seeing the final product)
Sometimes you just realize how lucky you are. Not only is our friend Carmen our closest amiga in Chile, but she might just be the best baker in the entire country as well. When she offered to bake our wedding cake, we felt like we won the lottery. Two words– CARROT CAKE!!! I still am not sure if it was more beautiful than delicious, or more delicious than beautiful. Did I mention that this was her wedding gift to us?!? We are quite lucky to have such a kind/generous friend! Thanks, Carmencita!
Decorations and Centerpieces
This is where my mom, our friends, and a website called Amazon really saved us some benjamins. First of all, my mom is a rockstar! She was able to take Kristen’s vision and make it a reality. Beit the beautiful DIY centerpieces (white roses we bought from Sam’s Club, “map flowers” my friends made for us, mason jars, burlap, and some magic), the DIY luggage tag seat locators/ guest gifts, or the DIY bridesmaids’ bouquets.
Credit Cards And Travel Rewards
Weddings are expensive. Even “budget” weddings are expensive. However, we decided to use the power of Credit Card Travel Rewards to help subsidize much of the spending we knew we were going to make. For instance, I opened up an American Express Hilton Aspire Card the week before we paid for the venue. We were going to pay for the venue in some way, shape, or form, so why not leverage Travel Rewards to receive some benefits in return? With that one “purchase” we received over 100,000 Hilton Rewards points.
Not a big deal, you might say. BUT, we then were able to use those points (Kristen opened up one too when we had to pay for our amazing photographer and bartender) for our 3-night Honeymoon in Jamaica. We hit the minimum spends on these American Express cards without having to spend a penny more than we would have by using cash. As a result, we conservatively saved the $1,200 we would have spent if we went to the Jewel’s Dunn River and paid in cash.
A few weeks before the big day (and the big bills) we each opened up an Aer Lingus Chase Credit Card. We knew that the outstanding bills (caterer, DJ, bartender, etc.) would be close to the two $3,000 minimum spends we had to make on the CC before receiving our 50,000 Avios Points each. So, by making our payments via credit card, we were able to accumulate about 106,000 Avios points. Based on recent valuations, that could be upwards of $1,600 worth of future airfare. Last time I checked, not too many DJ’s, caterers, or bartenders offer up 25% off sales!!!
Yes, our wedding cost more than 4 minimum spends of $3,000 ($12,000 based on this math teacher’s expert analysis). But, we received (or will receive) roughly $3,000 worth of travel/ hotel stays. So, one could think of it as receiving about 25% off of everything we spent (since we were going to take all-inclusive honeymoon no matter what and we will DEFINITELY be booking flights with those Avios sooner, rather than later).