The Hermit’s Guide to Budget Wedding Planning
There were two things that made this choice important. One: fast and detailed response OVER EMAIL. Remember, we were doing this the hermit’s way. Most of the hotels and restaurants we emailed snubbed us (Café 1771 in El Pueblo, Azumi Boutique Hotel, Acacia, Kristina’s Garden). They were responsive at first but when they found out we were only going to have 10-15 guests at most, we were getting seenzoned. Definitely not recommended for people who prefer online transactions. But there were those who were really responsive (Manila Peninsula, White Knight Hotel, Casa Domingo, Neil’s Kitchen). Thing is, we had problem number two: three kittens. We did not want to leave our kittens unattended for so long. The Legend Villas was only a stone’s throw away from both our condos, so hubby was able to go back and forth just to see how the kittens were doing.
Ceremony Venue (Datu Function Hall): ₱5,700 (includes basic setup)
Ceremony Upgrade: ₱6,000 (includes 4 topiaries, candle holders & candle, drapes, organza, kneeler, couples chair & carpet)
Dinner Venue (Patio Function Hall): ₱5,000 consumable (venue is good for 20 guests max)
Cake: ₱3,000 (vanilla buttercream, all of it is cake)
Go lower? Datu Hall already had that cozy, rustic vibe even without the upgrade. It doesn’t need the drapes, but the flower arrangement (this was Kathrina’s doing) gave it quite a lovely touch. Another thing I only thought of after we had already paid in full: have the ceremony and dinner in the same room/hall. I was surprised to note that the Lola Maria Patio function hall is actually cheaper than Max’s function hall rate by a thousand pesos, unless you have a minimum of 30 guests, then Max’s will be cheaper. Shakey’s will probably be cheaper if you have more guests, too, and I am tickled by the idea of a pizza party for a wedding. A nice restaurant with a function room that has consumable rates will do. I checked MilkyWay Café’s website and they seem to have reasonably priced function rooms (starting at ₱5,000 consumable) in there as well. I just haven’t contacted them.
We found D’Cup Coffee Republic at the Pioneer Street Market a couple of weeks after our wedding, and found out that they are renting out their function room for as low as ₱500/hour + ₱2,500 consumable. They have three options for the function room, and they can even help you out with catering if you need a more elaborate setup.
Preparations: The Legend Villas
I actually got a discount from Agoda.com, and I must say it’s really convenient to hold the preparations, ceremony, and reception in the same place. Basic amenities are complete: toiletries, slippers, water heater for coffee, and complimentary beverages. The staff are accommodating, too. And man, I must have enjoyed my stay on the first night because I overslept on the eve of our wedding. I had planned to use their gym at 6AM but ended up waking up at almost 7AM. I did use the gym…for about 4 minutes. Turns out, their treadmill was manual (I was singing Batibot’s “Bakang Maputi” in my head while attempting to operate the machine) and my pride eventually gave out. Longest 4 minutes of my life. Haha!
Peso Power: ₱6,393 (3D2N stay)
Go lower? Do your preps at home. It just so happens that my condo unit is not exactly a great place for preps, especially since it’s always a mess with three rowdy male kittens. You can also probably book an overnight stay instead of two nights and just check out before you head off to the ceremony. If you do a lunch buffet at the Patio Function Room, you’ll probably be done checking out at 10-11AM, right before the ceremony.
Legal Coordinator: Twinkle Roxas
Solemnizing Officer: Rev. Rudrich Viloria
Ms. Twinkle was referred to me by my friend Gwen, and I contacted her via email. Basically, Ms. Twinkle was the one who secured all of the documents (the CENOMAR, marriage license, etc.) and the officiator for the event. She also was responsible for securing and filing the marriage certificate. She sent us a copy 17 days later. (Processing had to pass through Holy Week, then LBC lost the first copy, so she had to send another copy to my husband via GrabLite. Yay for GrabLite!) This was probably the highest expense we paid for, but consider that we did not have to deal with the hassle of going back and forth city hall. We practically paid for both time and convenience. By the way, time is actually one of the things hubby and I value most because it is a non-renewable resource. We don’t want to waste it falling in line when we have lots of work to do. I teach in two colleges and also run a game development studio, so I already had a lot on my plate. We also did not want to waste our leaves because we wanted enough time to go on a mini-moon. Time was something Ms. Twinkle gave us. She had been easy to talk to, and she was efficient. She constantly sent me updates, would call about important matters. Ms. Twinkle is a perfect 10 in my book.
Now here’s the thing. I’m not sure if the officiator is the same for all weddings Ms. Twinkle coordinates. If you are getting a similar service, whether it’s from her or another legal coordinator (you can actually find them in OLX and Facebook), make sure to talk to the solemnizing officer about what topics are appropriate for weddings. Ours talked about divorce and womanizing the entire time. Even after the vows. My husband is the kind of person whose routine was: work, girlfriend, cats — rinse and repeat. I cannot imagine him womanizing because he is always excited to come and see me and the cats after work. He, in fact, have asked me, when we were still dating, not to work on Saturdays because weekends are the only times he gets to spend whole days with me. For five years, he had been this consistent. Knowing this, hearing a lecture about womanizing was kinda off. Hubby and I are actually amused. Not at first (I held onto his hand for patience), but now we can’t stop laughing about it, half thinking that the officiator was probably drunk. My dad snickered during the ceremony, which annoyed my mom. And my brother actually stepped out of the hall so that he could laugh his guts out. My mom and sister were practically fuming the entire night until the next day. I’m pretty sure my sister seriously wanted to tackle the irreverent reverend. There was only one photo of her smiling.
Peso Power: ₱10,000 (includes all legal services + officiator)
Go lower? You can actually order your CENOMAR and birth certificates online for around ₱400+ and they deliver fast. I’m also pretty sure you won’t spend more than a thousand pesos to have all the required paperwork done, if time and number of leaves are not issues for you. We could have had a courthouse wedding, which was completely okay with me but my husband did not approve. Technically, ours wasn’t a civil wedding, but a civil wedding would have been waaaay more practical.
Personally, I think Supreme Court Manila looks really pretty! You might even spare yourselves the hassle of dressing up a function room because its interiors are already classy to begin with.
This is where it gets amazing for me. We ordered all of our materials online, and most of the ordering were done during Black Friday sale in the US. It’s that time of the month where nearly everything goes on sale for up to 70% off. We did our shopping right before the peso started fluctuating like crazy. Additional notes: the best thing about buying stuff online is when you see photos of regular buyers (not just models) wearing the items. These would give you an idea of whether the advertised products are as realistic as the sellers make them out to be.
Groom’s Engagement Ring: Amazon.com (Gabriella Gold)
Bride’s Engagement Ring: Etsy.com (AerLuna)
Wedding Rings: Amazon.com (Sabrina Silver)
My custom engagement ring has aquamarine (my birthstone) in the middle, flanked by two lab emeralds (his birthstone). His engagement ring has three teeny-tiny diamonds to signify our wedding month. For the wedding rings, we couldn’t find plain silver bands in any of the jewelry catalogs here in Metro Manila, so that was how we decided to look at Amazon and Etsy. Not to mention, the cheapest quote we got from local jewelers cost about 3.25x as much as the rings that went on sale in Amazon and Etsy. I just wanted a simple yet dainty 2mm comfort fit band (his is slightly thicker) and Amazon had it. All four rings are silver. We’ll probably upgrade the wedding rings to gold when we reach our 7th year anniversary as a couple. Oh yeah, if you’re going to buy gold rings online, make sure that the sellers provide a certificate of authenticity.
Groom’s Engagement Ring: ₱1,550.36 ($31.64 x P49 exchange rate)
Bride’s Engagement Ring: ₱2,592 ($54 x P48 exchange rate)
Wedding Rings: ₱894.25 ($18.25 x P49 exchange rate)
Shipping: ₱696.76 (via Shippingcart.ph)
Go lower? Lazada sells beautiful titanium rings for less than four hundred pesos each. We actually bought a pair ourselves. The problem was that our fingers have weird sizes. His is 6.5 and mine is 4.5. Most titanium rings do not have half sizes. Even lower? You can find beautiful stainless steel rings for less than three hundred a pair. Some of them have adjustable sizes, and even come with a pretty heart-shaped box. Like so…
Bride’s Outfit: Lazada
Back in my 20s (probably a decade and a half ago), I told people that my future wedding gown will cost only 2.5K and my upper limit is 5K. Last decade’s brides told me I was cray.
Fast forward to 2017. I actually had two dresses: one from Lazada (at ₱2,550 in this decade HAH!) and another one from Dress.ph (at ₱968). I was at 107lbs when I ordered both dresses, but I was already 111lbs when the wedding date rolled by. The one from Dress.ph, which arrived within 3 days, fit me just right. The one from Lazada, which arrived within a week and a half, was a little bit too big for me. But because The Legend Villas room came with free breakfast buffet…well, I really made sure I got my money’s worth. (#priorities) I was still feeling pretty full when it was time to put on the dress so I picked the bigger one.
Here’s the issue about ordering a dress online: it’s risky. You don’t know if it will fit or if it would look the way you wanted it to look. Dress.ph delivered a dress that almost resembled the picture. Lazada did not. It was waaaay off. But between the two dresses, it had better fabric. I actually wanted to cut off my sleeves, but my cousin Rae (the make-up artist) wouldn’t hear of it. I did eventually cut off the sleeves, with the help of my groom, when she fell asleep. She woke up right after the ceremony, too late to stop me, hehe.
By the way, I plan to dye my dresses for other events. I am never paying for a dress I can only wear once.
Dress: ₱2,550 (as of this writing, price went down to ₱2,150)
Bridal Rhinestone Belt: ₱577.83
Bridal Veil: ₱425
Shoes: Meh. I didn’t buy new ones. I owned a pair of kitten heels that I also bought on sale last year for around ₱200-300.
Groom’s Outfit: Lazada
I kinda wanted my groom to look like Shaider’ alter ego (Alexis). Yes, yes. Tandercats reference. Good thing I was able to find a shirt and a pair of chinos to match.
Groom’s Shirt: ₱826
Groom’s Chinos: ₱399
Shoes: He just wore his regular pair of leather shoes.
Go lower? I am actually not sure you can go lower than Lazada or Dress.ph without running into disastrous results. To be safe, you can go to Divisoria or The Landmark so that you’ll know if your clothes will really fit. They have pretty good choices in there, especially whenever The Landmark goes on sale. I think the reason why online sellers are much cheaper is that they don’t have to pay for shelf space.
Bouquet: HAHAHA, WHAT BOUQUET?
I was not willing to spend ₱600 for three roses. But my Dress.ph gown had a wrist band that was made out of fabric rose. I used that to cover my Fitbit. I thought I could get away with not having to carry a bouquet, but my mom was having none of it. I think she was aghast that the ceremony aisle had flowers and I did not. So she did what any cute mom would do: pluck some of the flowers from the topiaries and handed them to me. I entered that hall without a bouquet, but I came out of the hall carrying one.
Peso Power: 0
UPDATE (Jan 9, 2019): I’m a little annoyed that I only realized recently that you can buy a decent bridal bouquet at Lazada for as low as ₱300+. Check out these screenshots of two well-reviewed bouquets: ₱325 and ₱1,510.
HMUA: REAL Make Up Artistry Studio
The owner is my cousin, Rae Venturanza-Salazar. I do not trust anyone else with my face. I usually look like a kid that people do not take seriously, even though I just turned 40 last March. Rae made me feel like I was finally a lady. Nag-dalaga, so to speak. She brought along her hairstylist, Nhot, and I really love the classic bridal look they gave me. It didn’t feel like I was having a tiny wedding.
Peso power: We’re cousins, so I can’t really say. If you’re interested, you might want to inquire with her directly. For me, it’s Rae or nothing. If Rae is not doing my make-up, I’d rather do it myself with the help of YouTube tutorials. I don’t trust anyone else with my face.
Photography: Quirky Creatives
The owner is my cousin’s husband, Noel Salazar. We only wanted super basic stuff: labor. Noel brought an apprentice along, so he could teach while we’re at it. And suddenly, we had two photographers taking different perspectives. Can I just say…WOW? We were on a super tight budget (in fact, we were already over budget with my two dresses, legal coordinator, and videographer) BUT they made the affair look like we spent months worth of salary on it.
Bonus: We did not know that witnesses should not be related by blood or share last names with either the bride or groom. So yeah, both photographers present signed as witnesses.
Peso power: You might want to inquire with them directly. Same as what I said about Rae. It’s Quirky or nothing. If there’s one thing I cannot recommend you scrimp on, it’s the photography. If you really want to save up on this, might as well get a wedding app for phones and ask your relatives to take photos of the event for free. Try wedpics.com, which also offers various filters, if you want to go this route.
Wedding Album: Photobook
Facebook really went all out with advertising wedding things ever since we got officially engaged, but this is one of those I was so curious about that I had to know if I could use it someday. We planned to not order a wedding album immediately but we were so happy with the photos, we wanted to show them to our parents ASAP. Photobook has an online app that allows you to design your own wedding album. They also have pre-made templates. I ordered a softcover 8×6 album, with additional ₱75 for a paper upgrade + shipping fee of ₱200, on April 11 and it reached the Philippines by April 13. Except it was Holy Week, so I received it on April 17. Wow, I thought it would take them at least 7 days to deliver. I believe I would have gotten it by April 13 or 14 had it not been Holy Week because I ordered a photobook from them on April 6 and that one arrived on April 10.
Bonus: They gave me a sign-up gift. It was a 6×6 softcover photobook, which I used to update my portfolio for free. I only had to pay for paper upgrade and shipping, which amounted to ₱280. Not bad. I also got another 50% off bonus for answering their survey, and I’ll probably use this to print a hardbound version of our wedding album that hubby really wants. Or an album of our cats.
Peso Power: ₱1,085 (includes paper upgrade + shipping fee)
This was at a discounted rate from their promo. It would have cost ₱1,675 without the voucher code.
Videography: Gawin.ph (Main Sequence)
I actually found Main Sequence because Facebook keeps running Gawin.ph ads. The original quote given to me by Kuya Homer was 5k, but it went up to 7.5k during the dinner. (We had the same confusion when he first sent out a quotation with a 5k title but a 7.5k computation at the bottom.) I actually did not mind the price increase. We only wanted documentation because we wrote vows, but he went all out with filming. He went above and beyond my specifications. The only thing he wasn’t able to capture was my bridal entrance. I don’t mind because it wasn’t really a surprise. People already saw me before they went into the ceremony hall (with my brother-in-law and his wife complaining that the groom was not supposed to see me). This was only for labor. Video editing was done by hubby.
Peso power: 7,500
Go lower? Ask your relatives to take videos for you, especially if you’re only after the vows. These things can be posted on Instagram, complete with filters and all. Getting a videographer was a shaky decision for us and I’m still partially regretting it, mostly because of the cost, not because of them. It’s more of an “it’s not you, it’s me” thing. They were pretty cool to work with. I’m not really sure I want to ask for lower prices from professionals, even from low to mid-ranged ones, because I saw how backbreaking the work load is.
We initially ordered one of those fancy, laser-cut invitation sets from Lazada for around ₱600+. The seller had to cancel because they were suddenly out of stock, but they refunded so fast that it didn’t immediately occur to me why. I later realized I had some leftover fancy paper, and then I found ₱20 envelopes from The Landmark’s stationery sections. I swear, you can really find some exotic looking items there that you won’t find in National Bookstore. Finding envelopes was sorta hard because neither National nor Papemelroti had the size I wanted. Good thing I dropped by The Landmark. I only needed a couple of invites, with maps, for the elders to use, so that they won’t have problems finding the venue.
Peso power: ₱20 for the envelopes (set of 10) + leftover fancy paper
Go lower? Use Facebook events for free. This was mostly how we did our communication, but we still needed to print maps and formal invites for the elders and people who are not familiar with road-navigating apps.
Our payments, especially for the materials, were staggered across October 2016 to April 2017 so it didn’t hurt the pockets as much as a big wedding would. We just shaved a portion of our monthly savings for all of it. To be honest, the time I should have spent planning this wedding actually went to helping friends budget their own weddings. I was enjoying every bit of that activity that I nearly lost track of time. Thank goodness for the people who remembered for me. (“Ate, yung FB event wag mo kalimutan i-set up!”) On the bright side, we were pretty chill throughout the process that I never felt jitters or nervousness.
If you wanna see more of the wedding details, you can check out the FB wedding album.
This should be useful for couples who want a slightly bigger wedding of 70pax and above (or those who find it hard to win an argument against their parents, haha). Do take note that these tips would only work if you are not obsessive about details but still want something beautiful.
- Get married during off-peak season, where all prices are low. Basically, summer as long as it’s not June.
- Get married in the middle of the week. The discounts are dramatic.
- Book your venues one year in advance, BUT start planning late (like 4-6 months before the date). If you don’t really have that much time to spare, you are forced to avoid adding more things that can inflate your budget.
- These days, you can find affordable all-inclusive coordinators on Facebook, and most of them have review sections you can check out. These coordinators offer packages that include everything from catering to floral arrangements to make-up to photo/video services, sometimes with venues, wedding rings, and outfits. Here are a few with pretty decent portfolios that we’re considering for the Catholic ceremony that my in-laws want. These rates are for 2017:
- Pink Genius – starts at ₱70K for 100pax, Metro Manila weddings only. I find myself constantly following their FB page, and I already have favorite same-day-edit (SDE) videos in their list.
- Bright Events – starts at ₱100K for 100pax, covers Bulacan to Tagaytay events. A student of mine booked them for his wedding and his testimony is positive.
- First & Last Event Resources – starts at ₱80K for 70pax, Laguna. Because they are based in a place where mountains and trees rule, their aerial footages stand out.
- Awesome Events by Mark – starts at ₱95K for 70pax. Best video portfolio in this particular list. They didn’t reply to me, though, when I asked if they’d support LGBT weddings for a couple of my friends. If it’s against their belief, it’s fine with me, I just really would appreciate a response even if it’s negative.
- Bella Creative Events – starts at ₱70K for 100pax. The only thing I am iffy about is their logo and the watermark, both of which need an aesthetic update (these two things are a constant presence in their videos), but their recent SDEs are lovely.
- Avoid bridal fairs. Yes, you get a lot of discounts from them, but you also end up exposing yourself to all sorts of additional wedding gimmicks that would actually make your budget skyrocket. (My jaw dropped when my husband said he wanted invitations similar to that rich debutante’s LED invites. Erm. No, please.)