I was not the bride who had been dreaming of her wedding all her life. In fact, we almost ended up eloping because I didn't care about wedding details. And then I found Project Wedding and everything changed. Here's my advice:
1. Know what is important to you and what isn't. I wanted everything to be as relaxed as possible, food that tasted good without being fussy, and great pictures to always be able to look back on and remember the big day. All those details that weren't important to us? We either skipped them altogether (like Save-the-Dates) or went with inexpensive options.
2. Think outside the box. Churches and beaches are not the only beautiful locations for weddings! We found a local church camp that provided breathtaking scenery. We got an outdoor ceremony location, an indoor backup location in case of rain, and an indoor reception location for a really low price (under $500). Traditional wedding food just wasn't "us", so we got carryout catering from a BBQ restaurant for under $8 per person!
(Our ceremony location)
3. Buy things from other brides! You can get some GREAT bargains from other brides. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world when I found a bride on PW with her dress for sale (a dress I had already been thinking about buying brand new), and she sold it to me for $30 (plus $14 shipping)! And after a local lady shortened it for me about an inch (for $13...another bargain!), it fit me PERFECTLY!
(The previous bride's picture of the dress)
(Me, wearing the dress on the big day)
4. Borrow, borrow, borrow. We all know people who have things we can use for our weddings! I borrowed my sister's veil...sweet, sentimental, and absolutely FREE! My aunt has lots of tablecloths and decor items that she let me use absolutely FREE! Rack your brain to figure out who you know that will let you borrow items for your wedding for FREE!
(My sister pinning her veil into my hair)
5. Barter. Cash is not the only way to pay for things. Trade, trade, trade. What skills or items do you have that you can trade for things for your wedding? I make cakes. I have a friend who is getting married soon and needs a wedding cake. I needed help with the food for my reception. Voila...a deal was made!
6. Utilize your friends' and families' talents. People will offer to help you with things for your wedding. Take them up on it! One of my aunts grew up working in a florist shop. She arranged the flowers for my reception for me. Another aunt is great at making bows. She made all the bows I needed. Think about those people around you and what they're good at...and let them use those talents to help you!
(My aunt arranging our reception flowers)
7. DIY as much as possible. So many wedding items can be DIY'd! Pick the projects you want the most and DIY them. Invitations, program fans, personalized water bottles, cake topper, even the wedding cake...I DIY'd. Don't overextend yourself, but if you can work it in, DO it!
(My DIY invitations)
(My DIY program fans)
(DIY aisle runner)
(DIY cake and DIY cake topper)
8. Focus on the details that pack the most punch. Money isn't what makes a wedding memorable....personal details are. Don't pour money into things that nobody's going to remember anyway. My groom is right at home in his jeans and everybody knows it. So when he suggested wearing jeans at our wedding, (after a little convincing from my PW girls) I agreed. And that's one of the details that everybody loved! We didn't want to spend money on favors that nobody would remember, so we skipped them and had a S'mores station instead....and everybody loved it!
(The guys in their jeans)
(Our S'mores station)
9. Do your research and don't be afraid to ask for a bargain. We had won a bridal basket with a gift certificate from my favorite florist in my son's school fundraiser auction, so I knew I would be going to her for our bouquets. But I had planned to order my DIY flowers from Sams Club because they had the best prices I had found. When I mentioned this to the florist, she actually showed me the price list she orders from and offered to order my flowers for me at invoice cost. I was floored. But she said she was already booked for the day of my wedding, so she wouldn't have been able to do it anyway, so she didn't mind to order my flowers at no profit! I would never have known this if I didn't ask! (And she was able to get twice as many flowers for me and they were so beautiful and fresh!)
10. If anyone offers something for your wedding as a wedding gift, accept! My aunts and cousins offered to rent a horse-drawn carriage as our wedding gift. It's something I never would've spent the money on, but it was a perfect touch! My mom offered to pay for our reception food and my reception dress, and we accepted. I would never feel comfortable soliciting money to pay for my wedding, but I see no problem whatsoever with accepting when people offer.
(Our horse-drawn carriage)
11. Don't be afraid to use an unknown vendor who shows great potential. The first photographer we signed a contract with backed out and left us in a bind a couple of months before the wedding. I looked high and low for a photographer that did great work within our minimal budget. I actually found our photographer (MaryBeth Clouser) on Craigslist. She was just opening her photography business, and she didn't have a lot of pictures on her website, but the ones she did have were fantastic...and her prices were such a bargain for her talent level because she was building her portfolio! We got to have a professional quality photographer for $580! Every vendor has to start somewhere, so don't be afraid to give someone a shot if the price is right and the talent is there!
12. And last, but certainly not least: Have the wedding you can afford (a.k.a. Don't go into debt for one day of your life!). We all want our wedding to be a great party, but it's not worth starting off your marriage in debt for that party. Do everything you can within your budget, but don't spend more than you have!