Shoestring wedding ties couple together
The wedding was like nothing the guests had ever seen or will likely ever see again.
The ceremony was a mix of Wiccan, Buddhist and Irish Catholic traditions; the groom donned a Harley Davidson jacket and the bride wore green in her hair. The couple and 142 guests entered from four corners — the directions on a compass — to the croon of indie artist Florence and the Machine’s Dog Days are Over. The entire event cost only $200. The experiment was a success.
Two years ago, Jordan Brian Kent-Baas began Project: Priceless. It started harmlessly enough: a young couple with student debts and meagre incomes looking for a creative way to drive the price tag on their wedding a little lower. (For perspective, it took the groom a year to save for the ring.)
“I always said that people would have to bring their own chair and food ’cause we’ve got nothing,” Jordan says. They enlisted her mother to make invitations, looked out for used items from other weddings, and asked for donations — tracking the journey online for friends and family.
Then, after a few media stories, the corporate offers started to pour in. CheeCha donated 200 bags of its addictive puffs snack, Vivien of Holloway in England sent an engagement dress, and New Jersey’s Pink Pug Ink donated wedding programs. The couple got the products and the companies got exposure. The planning of the big day had turned into a large-scale and very public project.
“We had to ask ourselves: Are we ready to welcome everyone in?” says Jordan from the sunlit living room of the couple’s Hintonburg apartment, where they moved two months ago. “Because suddenly there’s no privacy.”
It wasn’t just blogging about free swag and creative crafts that kept people clicking. The most popular posts were the everyday chronicles: Jordan accidentally stealing a shopping cart from a woman at the grocery store; Brian chasing their 11-year-old pug Mr. Darcy around the apartment; and venting when their 20-hours-per-week wedding planning became too much.
Part of the blog was also about deconstructing the modern wedding: why it’s so expensive, why the dress has to be white, and why escort cards are vital. (And divisive. Friends’ parents called in outrage when the couple decided against the cards.)
“The important part is you say a bunch of promises to a person you care about in front of people you care about,” says Jordan. “Nobody in the history of mankind, except for maybe in the past 200 years, thought you should spend half-a-house worth of money to have a wedding.”
The big day is now half a year behind them; the service was in August. But the couple’s life since then has been anything but expected. In the first few months, Brian, 24, was laid off from a management position at Davids Tea and he went back to college. Jordan, 29, picked up a second job in social media for a website, in addition to her social work job, just to keep the apartment.
What came next was a surprise. Hundreds of fans — many of them strangers — begged the couple to continue writing.
“The fan base was pushing for us so hard to not stop blogging,” Brian says.
“And we realized we enjoyed it so much,” Jordan continues. “We could spotlight and review these indie businesses. It was nice to have a voice and some clout.”
Their renewed blogging project became an adventure in the daily life of a modern marriage: Project Priceless, The Nest was born (www.projectpricelessnest.blogspot.com).
The new webpage is a reflection of the couple’s untraditional lifestyle. There are entries on the experience of cohabitating. There are also pages on DIY home accessories that followers can take away from the site.
“There’s almost no expense in here,” Brian says, his eyes roving around the living room. “This couch was $100 on UsedOttawa.com,” says Jordan. “The chairs are from an auction for $15 each.” The plush (and very comfortable) arm chairs look brand new. “The flower stand was free — we picked it up off the curb. And the lamp was $5.” “No. They were $2.50 each,” Brian corrects. “Five bucks for both.”
The frugal twosome’s finds, though, are just one part of their blog. What really keeps drawing readers to The Nest is its unflinching look into the modern marriage, with all its trials, flaws, and raw beauty.
“The question we get the most is: How’s married life?” says Jordan. “And I’m not sure what they’re expecting us to say. I think we all have this picture in our heads of this 1950s-style housewife making a roast and the husband comes home from work.”
The couple breaks that stereotype daily, with photos and entries on everything that comes hurtling toward them in their new roles as husband and wife: avoiding a monotonous routine; working together to support a shared future; and talking about babies.
The last issue is one that’s all too common for married couples. When do I get to see a grandkid? Is there a bun in the oven? So how many kids are you planning? These questions, and the stress that came with them, gave way to a blog post on why the couple has decided to (shock) not have children.
“It was really scary,” Jordan says. “We’re a baby-crazy society. That was one (post) we put out there and thought ‘what’s going to happen?’ You have to be ready to publicly stand behind that.”
But there was nothing to worry about. “The reaction was very positive,” Brian continues. “We even got connected with a lot of mommy bloggers.” A dozen women called Jordan to commend her for her bravery in posting the deeply personal reflection. Many of them shared their own experiences of feeling shame or guilt when they announced they didn’t want kids.
It was a relief because the wedding part of the project has seen some negative feedback on message boards and comment sections of media.
“It was hard,” Jordan recalls, “because I just wanted to say ‘This is our wedding, this is our life, we’re just normal people.’ ”
When the couple reminisces on their big day, though, the downsides of the project melt away into sweet memories.
“When I stood up to give my speech, I looked out over the sea of people. We had businesses and bloggers there along with our family and friends, all mixed together,” Jordan says. “These were all people who had helped us grow up, who had helped us become adults, who had helped us become a couple, who had been there since we started courting, and people who had helped make that special day. I wouldn’t give that up.”
That same sea of people — growing in waves every day — will continue along the couple’s journey of living and loving, one tweet and post at a time.
10 frugal tips for a stress-free wedding
1 Stay away from “bridal.” Wedding-specific items are usually pricier than their regular-store counterparts. “Once they put ‘wedding’ on something, it’s more expensive,” says Jordan Kent-Baas. She and groom Brian Kent-Baas received or found everything, from the bridesmaids’ dresses (donated reversible tube sundresses) to the jewelry (woven cloth necklaces made by a local artist), outside bridal stores.
2 Go for beginners. Choosing a photographer and videographer could be just as stressful as the wedding; who could possibly capture the day just right and for what price? the Kent-Baases were most concerned with the latter, and also with standing out. They chose new startups to record their special day. “They’re more adventurous and they’ll try new things,” says Jordan. Testimonials and a robust portfolio are just as important as money for newbie businesses, so they’ll be more open to working on your financial terms.
3 Be flexible. Expect events to change and be open to it. Brian is convinced this attitude is essential for what is hyped as the most important day of a person’s life. “You can’t want to have every single detail being matched exactly the same.”
4 Make five your golden number. Establish five “must haves,” or things you won’t compromise on. Outside that circle, things will likely change. The frugal couple had a slightly lower number. “We had three deal breakers,” says Jordan. “We needed a cool cake, an officiator, and a dress.” It’s a calming idea. “At times things went so badly, it was good we could chant that to ourselves.”
5 Have a seating plan. One of the couple’s friends didn’t have one for the service and wished they had. The key is to leave it flexible until two days before the wedding.
6 Make some “we” time. Plan time on the wedding day to be alone with your partner, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. It’s relaxing, romantic and rejuvenating. Jordan and Brian sneaked off for photos part way through the celebrations. “It was just the two of us and three photographers,” Brian says. “But you can do it minus the photographers,” adds Jordan.
7 Perspective is everything. “It’s just one day but you are with this person forever,” says Jordan. Nuff said.
8 Recruit the groom. Brian’s advice to grooms is to participate in wedding planning. It isn’t just a woman’s sport. It takes a lot of stress out of the equation when the soon-to-be-wife can share responsibilities. But there are also challenges with this route: “Maybe I’m not doing it the way it’s supposed to be done or there are differing opinions.” In the end, though, it was worth it. “And you can go cupcake-tasting together — that’s fun!” adds Jordan.
9 Pick the day wisely. If you want to thin the guest list and save money, book a venue on a Monday. Jordan and Brian were offered a weekday and chose the long-weekend Monday to host their big day, thinking more people would be free. But many guests couldn’t make it. The other great thing about Monday? It’s cheaper. DJs, photographers and venues are all available and low on bookings. “If you really want to have your wedding on a Saturday, go for it,” says Brian. “But just be ready to pay more.”
10 Be creative. Jordan and Brian had an in-kind table for all guests who couldn’t make it. It was laid out with photos, postcards, and rocks belonging to absent guests, including Brian’s late grandmother. Another nifty addition was a guest book made from the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. “Ask yourself why you’re supposed to do something, and then ask if you really want to do that,” says Jordan.