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THE 150K wedding BUDGET Quiapo, of that famed church and plaza.

Quiapo, Mecca of mass-goers, merchants, and mendicants. Quiapo, where every street and alley teems with stalls and hawkers and jeepneys and pedicabs. Quiapo, where one can source bakery items (ingredients and various apparatus), craft supplies, baskets, handicrafts, and those infamous herbal remedies. Quiapo, where one can, with a bit of effort, find a myriad of wedding items for even the most discerning of tastes. It is often said that all jeepney routes lead to Quiapo. And since it is such a hassle to find parking in the area, it really is wiser to take public transport. The most convenient way to get there is via the LRT I or III. For our investigative journey through Quiapo and its environs, our own starting point was the Carriedo Station of the LRT I (which thankfully now has a separate compartment for female passengers). This is where I meet up with my companions for the trip: photographer Tonnette Jacinto, who would document our "finds," and florist Rose Cuizon, our very game guide. Though Plaza Miranda is just around the corner, we hoof it to the Sta. Cruz district via the newly pedestrianized Rizal Avenue, to the area just across the street from Isetann Recto (be specific when asking directions -- there's an Isetann branch in Carriedo, too). There we find a row of dim, dusty shops that produce nearly all forms of printed matter. As we proceed down the row and introduce ourselves, we are surprised when, instead of welcoming the publicity, employees of the tinier stalls shunt us aside, reluctant to be interviewed or photographed. Perhaps because, while their displays feature wedding invitations, calling cards, books, T-shirts, trophies, medals, streamers, ID cards and souvenirs, the area is most known for printing the odd fake diploma or two. Still, we find interesting, quirky and yes, tastefully designed wedding items. And the prices are hard to beat. Linen paper wedding invitations with embossed motifs start at P15 a set; P30 can buy you a bundled invite, with three pages of stacked translucent vellum or card paper, printed in your choice of ink color, and then wrapped in more decorated vellum. The usual minimum is 50 pieces; you can haggle further if you order 100+ pieces. Most printers will be able to copy samples or photos, and need only one week's notice. At Jane's Printing Services inside stall 1733 (tel. no. 736-0663), we find one copied from a US magazine -- larger than usual at 6" x 8 1/2"; it's gilt-edged (rounded corners), printed in embossed navy blue ink and features a bordered monogram. A set of two cards and an RSVP insert, wrapped in a navy blue hard card and tied with blue satin ribbon, cost a mere P60 each. There are 5" x 6" invitations with floral motifs in green, plum, magenta or amber priced at P40/set with a hard envelope, P45/set with a printed parchment envelope. At JR Bookstore & General Merchandise (stall 1747 and 1755, tel. no. 734-9807), we find invites printed with roses the color of granny smith apples, tied with chiffon ribbons in a darker shade of green -chic and cheap, at P35 each for a set of two cards plus a hard envelope. At Jojo's Bookshop & General Merchandise (stall 1743, tel. no. 736-4217), we come upon a trove of wedding supplies. Inside this one stall, Catalina "Baby" Bulanadi of Lucky Twin Printing offers leatherbound wedding albums for P15 per picture (minimum of 100), and Rosy Ann framing sells personalized signature boards; a standard one sized 16" x 20" with a plain frame costs P350, add P100 if you want a more elaborate frame. Stall owner Jojo Balgan also proves to be an accommodating host, directing us to other sources of weddings items. We cross under the LRT III and walk towards Quiapo Church via Evangelista St. There, amid shops

selling diesel engine parts, we come upon the airconditioned premises of Quiapo Printing. QP Designs (tel. nos. 733-2339, 733-2230), as it is now popularly known, traces its roots here, and while the bulk of business may have shifted to its branches in Makati and Shoemart, this remains their "main" store. QP Designs imports and supplies blank invitation cards; thus it is no surprise that their designs seem to have come straight out of US catalogues, from the classic 6" square cards with pressed silk borders, to more contemporary designs printed with ribbons or posies. Print quality is superior -- their embossed lettering is finely printed, clean and sharply defined. Prices start at P40 per set to upwards of P200. Continuing down the street, we keep an eye out for Maning's Lace Corp., known in the area since the 1950s as a leading purveyor of beads, ribbons, lace, and wedding fabric. Though the frontage is partly obscured by stalls selling fruits and Sto. Nio images, it is easy to spot their store at 433-435 Evangelista St. (tel. nos. 488-2688, 488-3163), just meters from the arc to Plaza Miranda. We enter and find ourselves momentarily speechless -- Maning's Lace has now, in fact, become a one-stop shop for weddings! The space houses the design atelier of Willie So, son of the store's original namesake. There, one can buy his well-crafted, reasonably priced gowns and barongs right off the rack; or have them made-to-order. You can also find just about everything else you need -- and didn't even know you needed -- for a stylish wedding. Glass cases display not only laces, buttons, beads, ribbons, tassels, fringes, silk, satin fabric and thread, but also arrhae, ribbon bouquets, fashion jewelry, hair pieces, tiaras and scepters, souvenir items and even shoes. It's a diverse but surprisingly tasteful selection; one that's been edited with So's own aesthetic sense. Nowadays, customers seem to come mainly for So's design services; rows of pretty gowns are hung all around the store. Wedding packages start at P20,000, very inexpensive when you consider what it includes: a complete ensemble for the bride (meaning the gown, veil, garter, and shoes), gowns for the maid of honor, two bridesmaids, three secondary sponsors, and two flower girls; outfits for two ring/coin bearers; and a barong for the groom. Often, So will throw in the veil and cord used by the secondary sponsors, plus the cushions for the bearers. He can even design and supply floral arrangements for as low as P10,000. Whew! We emerge two hours later, into the afternoon sunshine. Despite our grumbling stomachs, we are compelled to check out El Mart Fashion Center next door (431 Evangelista St., tel. no. 733-4995), which also offers ready-made and made-to-measure gowns. While lacking the finish and pizzazz of Willie's gowns, one can't really complain with prices starting at P1,500 for a bridal gown, P600 for a bridesmaid's gown and P350 for a flower girl's dress. After a late lunch at a fastfood joint fronting Quiapo Church, we spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the shops along Villalobos St. At JDS Novelties, amid kitschy Chinese jars, we stumble upon fist-sized, Murano-esque glass paperweights at reduced prices -- a mere P39 each. Just across the street, one can sift through the items at Mandarin Gifts & Dcor for even more souvenir gift ideas. We find porcelain pillboxes for P22 each, frames for P15 each, and delicate red rosebud candles for P18 each. There are even old-fashioned, Lladro-like cake toppers in resin for P350. Villalobos St. is host to many shops selling lace and other craft items. At Silver Queen Textile Emporium (253 Villalobos St., tel. no. 733-6288), one can buy assorted Swarovski beads and crystal, scalloped and tulle lace, braided cord and fine mesh ribbons (P25/yard), and sheets of colored sinamay (P15 each). The staff also makes those large, sturdy boxes for storing bridal gowns and other wedding paraphernalia for P25 each. There are more lace shops along C. Palanca St. (previously known as Echague): Quiapo Lace and

Joe's Lace Store, among others. C. Palanca St. is also the address of another Quiapo institution, Vienna Bakeshop. Once owned by a Spanish family, the brand ventured into wedding and all-occasion cakes in 1995, after being bought by Wilson and Josephine Ang. It also has showrooms in Makati and a few SM branches. The Spartan interiors of Vienna Cakes' main commissary seem worlds away from Makati's swanky hotels; yet during our visit, we find the staff busy at work on a wedding cake that will take center stage at The Peninsula Manila's Rigodon ballroom. This monster of a cake, made up of 82 beautifully decorated cupcakes, sealed within their own individual plastic domes then stacked onto a tiered cake base, costs roughly P55,000. However, manager Cecile Gabay tells us that they can work within any budget. A two-layer design with a 12" round cake base and a styrofoam top layer, covered with fondant icing, goes for roughly P5,500. By now it is nearly 5 pm. Such is the wealth of experiences in Quiapo that we had spent eight hours exploring the areas within a mere 500-meter radius from Plaza Miranda. And we aren't even halfway done! But for this trip, it would have to be enough.

A beautiful wedding, complete with great food, a romantic venue and all the trimmings, for P150,000? Ready To Wed shows that it can be done A would-be bride and her groom, flush with love and visions of a dream wedding, often find that navigating the minute preparations for their altar date can be a stressful, even hellish experience? especially when working within a very tight budget. This reality prompted designer Lya Armovit and sister-in-law Lucille Torres of Ready To Wed, a wedding atelier catering to the budget-conscious set in Market, Market, to see if they could deliver an entire wedding?with a guest list of 100, and all the pomp and elegance it deserves?for a P150,000 price tag. For this effort, which we will tag The 150K Project, Armovit and Torres called on some of their favorite suppliers, who in turn came up with pared-down packages while maintaining the standard of the service or product they had come to be known for. THE DRESSES The gowns, the starting point for many a bride's checklist, came from Ready To Wed's line. A couple can save a lot by taking advantage of the atelier's wedding packages, wherein the bride and entourage can be suited up for prices starting at P20,000. For The 150K Project, Torres presented a package which includes a bride's ensemble of hand-beaded satin and organza, the groom's embroidered pi"a jusi barong, two bridesmaids? dresses, two flower girls? dresses, one ring bearer's outfit including the satin pillow, and even the secondary sponsors? kit (veil, cord, matches and pins). The science behind Ready To Wed's affordability is a ready stable of patterns and templates for bridal and entourage gowns, which allow them to lower the cost of producing each outfit. Dresses are individualized by changing details or adding touches as flowers and appliqus.

Total cost: P22,570 THE FOOD If feeding 100 people is no joke, feeding them well amid a stylish setting can be the stuff of a longrunning TV drama. As food is often the biggest wedding expense, the success of The 150K Project meant finding a caterer who can: 1) impress the guests with the quality of their food, 2) impress the guests with the beauty of their table settings, and 3) impress the couple by delivering 1 and 2 for a reasonable amount of money. In a nutshell: chic, good, and cheap. This called for some creative, out-of-the-box thinking. The caterer of choice became Pinoydon, a fusion of Japanese-Filipino restaurant at The Podium more known for catering birthdays and small corporate gatherings rather than large weddings. Yet they fit the bill exactly. Their Filipinized Japanese dishes of mixed tempura (cooked on the spot), sukiyaki salpicao, teppanyaki skewers, assorted Pinoy sushi and a dessert of green tea cooler, all look and taste good. Their minimalist Zen-like settings are stylish, but require simple table and floral arrangements. And, most important, their charge of P495 per head (add 10% service charge) won't sink our budget. Pinoydon partners Jane Walker and Alain Panlilio note that the best way for couples to get more value for their money is to go for a buffet set-up instead of a sit-down dinner. That way, fewer waiters are required and paid for. And how's this for value for money:CATERING: PINOYDON PODIUM For affairs costing P50,000 and above, Pinoydon's price is inclusive of tables, chairs, floral centerpieces, waiters and chefs, and even a wedding cake! That last detail is already a major item off one's mind and budget. Total cost: P54,450 THE PHOTOS Lee Llamas has been in the industry for the better part of a decade, but since the start of this year, he has put up Fenestra Photography for couples looking for a lower-priced alternative to Lee Llamas Photography's existing packages, which start at P80,000. At Fenestra, their base package of P25,000 would pay for the services of two staff photographers to cover the events of the wedding day. The couple receives a CD of all the photos taken afterwards. The difference with the traditional packages (aside from the absence of a 'name? photographer) is that the service stops there. Fenestra's base package means not having any actual printed photos, or a fancy album to commemorate the event. However, Llamas can refer couples to their suppliers if they so wish. Total cost: P25,000 THE (FINE) DETAILS (invitations, giveaways, and butterfly release) The invites are by no means a minor detail, as it affords guests their first glimpse of the event, and thus sets the stage for its look and feel. For this reason, Ready to Wed came through with their own simple, classy and pretty invites. They incorporate the couple's color motif, and at only P6,000 for 100 pieces, it is a worthy member of The 150K Project. The giveaways, meanwhile, are meant to be mementoes ideally echoing the personality of the couple or the theme of the event. Pedazos menu of gift items starts at P25 for a bayong magnet, already inclusive of packaging and gift tag. How can you beat that? Adding a memorable touch to this outdoor wedding, Acclaim Butterfly came on board with a budget friendly price of P1,500 for a release of about four dozen butterflies. The winged creatures can come in

pretty, mesh cages of native design, or in individual envelopes to be given out to guests who wish to participate in the release. Their party packages start at a mere P800 for two dozen butterflies. Total cost: P10,000 THE VENUES With three big-ticket items taking two-thirds of the budget, The 150K Project is looking a bit iffy. But Armovit and Torres show their mettle by scoring venues and other touches that do justice to the vision of cheap, good, and chic. There is a church inside Valle Verde 5, Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Its size is just right for intimate nuptials?not so cavernous as to make the place seem empty with just 100 guests, not too small as to deny the bride an aisle of enough length for a proper wedding march. It is clean and well-kept, with good architectural lines that need minimal embellishment. The fact that the church is inside a gated community helps keep things quiet and exclusive; no random vendor will find their way into the photo montage. At P8,000, this venue is not exactly a steal. However, it is just the right distance away from the chosen reception venue, which is, for the princely sum of P900, the open-air plaza next to the Greenmeadows clubhouse. It's a surprisingly photogenic venue, with its little gazebos and views of the tree-filled park nearby. Total cost: P8,900 THE RINGS Last but certainly not least in The 150K Project's checklist: wedding bands. More than a mere wedding detail, these are the embodiment of the couple's commitment to love and cherish for the rest of their life. They could cost the earth, but for The 150K Project, Armovit and Torres tapped Marie Yuson of Shimmer and Stone, who came up with a pair of 14K white gold bands for a more 'earthly? price. Total cost: P15,000 THE LOOK (flowers and makeup) To finish the look of the entourage, Nikki of Visage Salon at Libis prettied up the bride, bridesmaids, and flower girls for P7,000. Flower Stories also proved to be a most flexible partner in The 150K Project, acceding to requests (or pleas) for 'the most luxurious bouquets you can produce for P7,000.? They delivered?and how. The bridal bouquet had white Casablanca lilies, tulips, snapdragons and million star fillers and foliage, tied with white satin ribbons. The bridesmaids and flower girls, meanwhile, were given floral balls and wands of green carnations, and imported yellow and pink roses. Their florists can alter their packages to suit most budgets. Total cost: P14,000

THE VERDICT In the end, Armovit and Torres pulled off the near-impossible. As these pages testify, an engaged couple CAN go through the process of planning their dream wedding and emerge from it with both their finances and their sanity intact. And most important of all, they can be assured that the product of all their planning will be a wedding day that is tasteful and stylish, even lavish. And as if to show us just how low one can go, the final tally of this entire exercise is only P149,920.

Which technically renders the title of The 150K Project invalid?in a good way! CONTACTS: 1) Acclaim Butterfly - Ms. May Solomon, 645D Tomas Mapua St. (near Ongpin), Sta Cruz, Manila, tel. nos. 733-4313/704-1708 2) Fenestra Photography - Mr. Deno Llamas, Unit 223 Valle Verde Terrraces, Meralco Ave, Pasig, tel. nos. 687-0791/620-6152 3) Flower Stories - Ms. Rose Cuizon, JS Contractor Bldg., 423 Magallanes St., Intramuros, Manila, tel. no. 522-3047/338-7326 4) Greenmeadows Clubhouse - Mr. Benjamin Concepcion, 24 Warbler St., Greenmeadows Park, QC, tel. nos. 637-3399/637-3311 5) Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament - Ms. Cristina del Rosario, 22 Cauliflower St. cor Mustard St., Valle Verde 5, QC, tel. no. 0927-5857975 6) Pedazos - Ms. Babes Crespo, Parc Plaza, 183 E. Rodriguez, Libis, tel. no. 635-0016 7) Pinoydon - Ms. Deane Deane Panlilio, 5F Podium Mall, Ortigas Center, Pasig, tel. no. 631-1198 8) Ready to Wed - Ms. Lucille Torres, 3F Market! Market!, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 9) Shimmer and Stone - Ms. Marie Yuson, 2F Parc Plaza, 183 E Rodriguez Jr. Ave, Libis, QC, tel. no. 635-0016 10) Invites by Ready To Wed 11) Visage Salone - Ms Nikki, Unit D Magnitude Building, 186 E Rodriguez Jr. Ave, QC, tel. no. 635-0355

433-435 Evangelista St. (tel. nos. 488-2688, 488-3163), Maning's Lace has now, in fact, become a onestop shop for weddings! The space houses the design atelier of Willie So