As a professional Buyer by trade, I am constantly looking for deals. I get paid to negotiate pricing for a living and live by the phrase "don't ask, don't get". These skills paid off big-time when planning my upcoming wedding.
My parents set a budget of $10,000 for both my sister and my wedding. Whether we use it or not, it's ours. Any remaining money is ours. Anything over budget is our responsiblity. Against today's standards, this is not very much money to plan a wedding but after throughly doing my research, i'm stretching the budget for our 165 guest wedding absolutely as far as I can.
Let me start with my engagement ring. When our thoughts turned to getting engaged, I dropped the hint to both my boyfriend and my mom that I really wanted my grandmother's diamond in my ring. She was a special person in my life and knowing a piece of her would always be with me was really what I wanted. My mom and boyfriend made that happen - so rather than spending a fortune on my ring, the family diamond was placed in a $300 setting...and is more beautiful than any ring in any store because I know where it came from.
Next, the venue. Since we hadn't set a date we were open to whenever the venue was available. We started VERY locally and checked with our local park district...finding out that a local FARM was available for rental - Gale Woods Farm thru the Three Rivers Park District of Hennepin County. A cancellation in September set our date. The entire venue for the ceremony and reception including the tables and chairs was under $2400 and we use one of their suggested caterers - of which we chose a Pig Roast caterer called "The Divine Swine" since we are getting married on a farm, it seemed too approprite to pass us...and then we went to the tasting and that sealed the deal. Their food is AMAZING. We had the choice of hiring a beverage service for hard alcohol to be served but Gale Woods allows us to bring in our own beer and wine (which we are doing for under $1000). The farm has no regulations on cakes - which I was thrilled to hear. Since wedding cakes are so incredibly expensive, I decided I didn't want to even look at them - we will be serving sheet cakes from Costco - which feed 48 people per cake and cost a whopping $16.99 each. They're delish and the price cannot be beat!!! A cancellation in September set our date.
My gown. I looked thru bridal magazines, bridal websites, dress shops and fell in love with a gown that was by a well-known designer and was almost $3000. On a whim, I used 'Google' and searched for 'Discount Wedding Gowns'. I found Milanoo.com - a dress factory in China that could make a replica of my gown for less than - get this - $150.00 including shipping and it was made to my exact measurements, meaning I also saved on alterations!!! Double bonus!!! It arrived in 4 weeks and fits like a glove...and is so high quality, I'd put it against any dress in any store. I then went on to find my veil on Etsy.com for $8 and my jewelry on Ebay for $15 for both earrings and necklace and $12 for a beautiful rhienstone tiara. I even found some adorable wedding shoes on Zappos.com for $38.00. My entire attire cost less than $200.
For my bridesmaids, I searched on Amazon.com for 'Red Cocktail Dress' and found an adorable dress that my girls loved for the price of $59.00 each. No big investment there. They love them and I'm happy they're happy!!
Craigslist.org led me to many local event services including a harpist for our ceremony, a florist who does only weddings our of her house and our photographer. Etsy.com came to the rescue again providing someone who would print and assemble our programs for $1 each - I was planning on doing this myself but found I couldn't print them myself for that price, let alone assemble them and add the touches this person is adding.
We are also using friends in their respected industries to help make our day more personal and special. A pastor friend is preforming our ceremony. A family friend is a DJ in his retirement and will be doing our dance.
I'm a bargain hunter. I love a good deal. I also have come to realize that the phrase "it takes a village" applies not only to raising a child but also for putting on a wedding. If someone offers to help, it means that they really WANT to help. Also, the worst someone can say is 'no'...so if you want the moon and stars, you're never going to get them if you don't ASK.
I do have Champagne Dreams for my wedding...and the beer in my basement for my wedding. I'm OK with that. At least I'll know when the wedding is over that I didn't over-pay for one detail.