Or perhaps we could call it “Real Bride Diary: What I Want Versus What I Need”.

I’ve been accused of being a bit beyond “resourceful” – obsessively searching for the best value in every arena of life. While some might call this cheap, my major bargains have allowed me to indulge quite luxuriously when the opportunity deems appropriate – like lengthy vacations at private, cliffside villas somewhere. You know, spending my money where it counts.

I generally live by a “do I want this, or do I need this” mantra when it comes to spending, and unless its travel or provisions (and horrendous NYC rent) I don’t spend much at all in my daily life. So you can imagine how my bargain-hunting mind jolted when seeing wedding pricetags.

In the last six months of planning, I’ve certainly found ways to splurge, but most of my shopping and vendor hiring has included a little “how can I save on this?” research. So today, I share with you my notable budget finds and wedding splurges thus far.

Budget Finds – Bridal Shoes

A month ago I was walking my dog through the neighborhood and stopped dead in my tracks upon sight of these lime yellow LOQ sandals. Teddy and I bounded into the store to gaze upon my new found love. The perfect sandals: a short chunky heel for the beach in a funky color for Mexico and totally my LA cool-girl bride style.

The catch? They’re $310 dollars.

While I’ve contemplated just exercising the “you only get married once” argument or the “you’ll get plenty of use out of them” point, how many fancy, everyday shoes does a girl really need? New York City destroys shoes, rendering any pair I buy – luxe or bargain – a short lifespan.

I’ve been searching across ASOS, Zara, and other low-cost, trendy outlets for similar styles and I’m quite taken by these chunky heeled sandals. While they’re not a bright funky color, I appreciate the simple, hip style that definitely won’t clash with silk – oh, and the $30 price tag.

Wedding Bands

Rings top to bottom: Anna Sheffield, Sofia Zakia via Catbird, Sofia Zakia via Catbird, Satomi Kawakita via Catbird.

As far as wedding bands go, I’m a little less particular. I could go with a variety of styles given that they’re made ethically and have some sort of personality.

If I wear my rings together, I love the top Anna Sheffield ring, and could absolutely vie for saving a few hundred smackers for the similar Sofia Zakia ring. I may even wear my solitaire engagement ring alone, and wear a Morocco-inspired band on another finger (You guys know I’m Morocco obsessed, right?)

Party Photos

It may be perplexing to hear a wedding photographer suggest she’s opting out of wedding dance party photos, but hear me out.

We searched far and wide and found the perfect photographer, thankfully she fit right in our budget – that is with the smaller five-hour package. We’ve already splurged by adding photos of our Welcome Party, which means if we’d like photos 9 pm at our wedding, we’re going to be well over budget in the photo department.

Lucky for us, I have a stockpile of instant, disposable, point and shoot cameras and film. Every camera has it’s own personality, fun flashes, and are easy to use. I think we may save the extra $500 and let our friends and family capture the late-night fiesta and enjoy the wild outcome – after all, there will be plenty of photos of the day.

Bridal Robe

Jack & Claire in the Dominican Republic by Claire Eliza

Working from home, and thus rarely wearing real clothes, I’m quite obsessed with loungewear. It doesn’t take an impending wedding to make me fill my virtual shopping carts with luxe, silk robes.

But, this is a serious case of want versus need. The fact is, I have a silk robe I bought in Vietnam years ago with Jack that has traveled with me everywhere. It’s colorful, meaningful, and only cost me $15.

So while I’d love to lounge in a luxurious new Loulette Lingerie Dallas Robe, I think I’ll stick to what I already have.

Wedding Flowers

Have I told you our plans to be floral bandits?

Todos Santos is covered in bougainvillea, and it’s one of the things that entranced me so much about our sweet little beach town. While I love flowers, I just can’t stomach the thousands of dollars florals usually cost when what we want grows wild locally.

My best friend and I are actually quite thrilled to run around town collecting branches. I figure we’ll drape piles wildly across tables, bundle oversized bouquets, and make use of whatever other dried, fallen palms and foliage we find.

Bridal Makeup

I’m having a great philosophical debate about bridal make up right now – point being, I don’t wear any.

We’ll cover this controversial topic at a later date but in the world of cutting cost, I could really be okay with forgoing the professional makeup artist, buying my own new products, taking some tips at the counter and DIYing it myself.

Plates & Flatware

Photo via Wedding Chicks

Biodegradable disposable dishes everybody! Not only is this option cheaper and safe for the environment, but it stops anyone from having to do dishes at the end of the night and they’re actually pretty cute! We’ll probably spend about $40 total and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

Wedding Splurges – Venue & Stay

Accommodations are an area I’m an expert at splurging in. Our venue was well below the cost of comparable venues in the USA but still above what I expected to spend in Mexico. Not only that, my parents were generous enough to book the entire villa to stay longer than the minimum nights.

After our stay at Villa Santa Cruz, Jack and I will be spending more time entertaining our guests in Todos Santos (eating tacos, swimming with whale sharks, beachcombing) while staying privately at our own beachside pool villa – as newlyweds deserve something special.

Welcome Party Dress

Danra Dress by Leanne Marshall

Sample sale dress shopping is the best! While I’d like to point out that my Leanne Marshall welcome party dress is truly a bargain (purchased at over 90% off!) $300 might be more than any dress I’ve ever purchased aside from my own wedding dress.

With alterations to come, this gown is a bit pricey, but as a wedding photographer and bridal editor, this girl deserves more than one fancy dress to wear on our wedding week!

The Catering

When I pitched Todos Santos to Jack for our wedding destination it went as such, “And just think, we could hire our favorite taqueria to cater made-to-order tacos all night for practically nothing!” It’s true, for our 50 person guest list hiring a local taco spot would cost us about $700, and truly was our dream wedding dinner.

Unfortunately, you can’t always get what you want. Finding a way to contact our favorite taco joint from NYC has proven difficult, and others have put doubts in my ears about whether the whole street taco set-up would be executed properly without expert wedding catering experience.

I want to ignore the naysayers, but we’ve found a proper caterer who’s willing to set up a taco station, make fresh tortillas, and include a whole menu of appetizers, salsas, desserts and more. Plus, a best friend of mine is severely allergic to nuts, so a proper caterer feels like the safer choice, albeit the far more expensive one.

We’ve got plenty more budgeting decisions to make, and purchasing to do, but I feel pretty good about our budget, splurging balance. By using the same financial philosophy Jack and I exercise in our daily life, we’ve managed to keep a good “Is this a high priority?” and “Would we be upset if we didn’t splurge on this?” mentality.

For more about our Mexico wedding planning, visit my Real Bride Diary. Find more helpful budgeting tips in our planning section.

Feature Image: Airbnb