Dana LaRue | HANDOUT PHOTO
Updated: April 14, 2014 4:42PM
When North Shore native Dana LaRue got engaged a few years back, she needed to have a wedding that didn’t break the bank.
The Deerfield High School and Barat College grad was 30 at the time, and trying to make it as an actor in Los Angeles. Naturally, LaRue took to the Web to research creative ways to save, yet “there wasn’t [a website] that spoke to my specific perspective or need,” she said.
She decided to chronicle her experience on a blog, and took on the moniker “The Broke-Ass Bride.”
“It was more for me to file away my ideas,” she said.
To LaRue’s surprise, other brides-to-be quickly sought after her sassy, budget-friendly advice.
“I was stunned that there was traffic and, all of a sudden, I had an audience I didn’t expect,” she said. “I just sort of wrote in a way that felt natural to me, and people appreciated it.”
Wedding fever spread across the Internet. Google recognized TheBrokeAssBride.com as one of its “Blogs of Note” in 2009. The Wedding Channel called it the “best budget wedding blog” of 2010. Today, the Broke-Ass Bride Twitter page has more than 29,000 followers.
LaRue’s sassy online musings eventually blossomed into a book deal with Random House, and “The Broke-Ass Bride’s Wedding Guide” hit bookstores in mid-December. Included in the 256-page paperback (also available on Kindle) are hundreds of budgeting tips and cost-saving ideas LaRue first explored on her blog. For instance, why she didn’t rely on online calculators or formulas to determine how much to allocate to each wedding expense.
She recommends couples write out their priorities separately, share their ideas, and then compromise about where to put most of their money. Whether it’s flowers, food or entertainment, “make the wedding represent what matters most to you,” she said.
The blog’s most popular posts discuss strategies for negotiating with vendors. “No one tells you how to do it,” LaRue said. “Women especially aren’t empowered to take the lead on that.” She landed her custom wedding dress for half-price in exchange for helping out in her designer’s shop.
Another strategy LaRue found useful was sharing decorations (and thus costs) with others who are getting hitched. The expense and waste automatically get halved.
Getting a newlywed’s used items, like dozens of glass votive holders, also helps keep a budget in check. “It’s a really effective and great way to save money and be eco-conscious, but also to make connections with other brides,” she said.
LaRue said her wedding in 2009 was not completely flawless, but it sure was fantastic. TheBrokeAssBride.com got an even bigger boost in readership after photos from the day were posted. It was with sadness, then, that she later announced to her readers that she and her husband — who also contributed regularly to the site — were separating after 3 ½ years of marriage. “We didn’t fail,” she wrote online. “It just didn’t work out.”
LaRue said, in retrospect, she was “ready to plan the perfect wedding but not the perfect marriage.” The divorce was amicable, she said, and she holds no regrets.
“It’s amazing the way that your journey takes shape,” she said. “You appreciate the elegance of hardships.”
With her first book out, LaRue, now 35, continues to grow the Broke-Ass Bride brand. She has two full-time staff members helping and is in the midst of launching a second lifestyle blog centered on her interests.
She also has fallen back in love, and is planning a fall wedding.
This time will be different, LaRue believes.
“I’ve grown up quite a bit,” she said. “It won’t be as ‘broke-ass’ an approach as much as financial-savvy so we don’t expend more than we need to.”