I was going to just reply in the comments section to everyone's stuff but you guys have sooo many ideas I think it deserves a whole new post.
First: OH MAI GAWSH SARAH I LOVE YOU. that is an amazing idea. GO. :) (for those who haven't read all the comments, she has offered to make my cake AND include little edible candy buttons!!!)
Thanks everyone for your ideas and feedback I love you too!!
I'm definitely already perusing the used wedding dress options, there are actually several websites devoted to this, and craigslist has a few listings too. Sofiabridal.com looks like a cheapish option too - but I'm wondering if there's a catch because their custom made dresses are only $300 - $500 and that seems like an amazing deal... I would in theory prefer a used dress but since they're so specifically tailored to the previous owner it might be tough finding one that works for me. I'm keeping my eyes open though! Still need to start that dress ideas post, I want to share some pictures of dresses I like so far. Haven't tried any on though so I don't Actually know what style would look best on me.
Amber tried posting comments but blogger Denied her so I will share some of her ideas. She says I should call my wedding party "bridal attendants." That's a very easy fix, and a good idea. I will probably go with something like that or just stick with the traditional "bridesmaids" and not use the matron title even for the matrons. Unless said matrons really object, they are/will be pretty new brides and may want people to know they are happily unavailable non-maids - in that case I don't mind using the matron thang.
Another amazing idea Amber had was to do pinatas at the end instead of the bouquet/garter toss!! At first it sounds like a joke but ummm I'm kind of liking the idea. I will have to see what Zach thinks. She also suggested just doing hors d'oeuvres and things instead of a plated meal and yeah that's definitely under consideration. I really only posted that thing about the plated meal as an example of something rill expensive I probably can't do. I'm open to any kind of food options - buffet, plated dinner, heavy appetizer spread, etc. Just not something like hot dogs on paper plates. As much as I lurve hot dogs...
My ideal reception would be at a place where we can bring in our own booze (keg maybe, or cases of beer, a few bottles of vodka/gin/tequila and lots of champagne, etc etc) and then people just drink until it's gone. Going with a traditional "open bar" is basically out of my price range, it's usually at least $25/person..
Oh and to explain the budget thing a little - yes, we are working with the amount we think we can save over the next year, not just with what we have already. LOL that would be an Incredibly small party involving fruit snacks and maybe string cheese for dinner and it would be BYOB and only the number of people who could fit in Andy Hanson's back yard. Anyway we are very lucky because Zach has a small inheritance coming to him this year, which we will Not be using for the wedding, but we will be adding it into our ING wedding savings account so it will boost our earned interest. It will also provide a little money in advance if we need to put down a deposit somewhere - but we plan to fully pay back any money from the inheritance we spend on the wedding because that money is for buying a HOUSE at some point hopefully in the not-terribly-distant future. :)
Also I'm not sure if I mentioned here yet but Zach's parents have offered to pay for our honeymoon! woop woop! Also they said they could just put in the same amount they paid for Zach's brother's honeymoon and we could use the whole thing on ours or we could put part of it towards the wedding fund.. I would prefer not to cut down our honeymoon funds toooo much, when else could we splurge and have a really amazing vacation?? But it's good to know the funds are there as a back-up.
I'm glad people like the brunch idea, I think it's definitely a strong back-up plan. There are a number of bars/clubs with private party rooms that don't charge any rental fee, they just want a certain amount of money generated from alcohol/food consumption so we might be able to work out some kind of thing where we reserve some room (say, Eleventh Street Lounge's basement) for like an hour, have a little appetizer buffet, open bar and then after an hour they open it up to the public, we stay and keep drinking but guests would pay for their own at that point, or we move on and take our party wherever we like. I'm hoping most people coming from out of town would want to stay Friday and Saturday anyway? So it might not be tough to keep them in town all day to wait for the evening afterparty?
har har har to the ham cake!! Zach would definitely approve.