To me, a budget bride doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the amount you spend; it has to do with setting priorities, finding ways to cut costs and making smart purchases. Figuring out what is most important to you and spend your money on those parts, instead of the parts that the wedding industry makes you feel should be important.
Below are my 10 tips for saving on your wedding, without having to compromise, and how I used these 10 tips to keep our budget where we needed it to be.
Tip #1: Set your budget
I highly recommend setting your budget before you start looking at any venues or vendors. You want to know how much you can spend on different areas before you get your heart set on anything. Having a budget will help you to make decisions on what is most important to you.
Tip #2: Determine your guest list quickly
Keeping the guest list small is one of the biggest ways to save money. It cuts down on your catering costs and your beverage costs. One of the very first things we did when we got engaged is discussed who we wanted to invite. Our guest list is by no means small, but we were very careful to just invite family and our closest friends, the people we truly spend time with, not just acquaintances. Our rule was that if we both had to introduce ourselves to someone, they were not invited.
Tip #3: Consider a non-wedding venue
I knew I didn't want a typical wedding venue. I wasn't going for a romantic spot. I wanted something modern and chic. When I found the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) overlooking Lady Bird Lake and the Austin Skyline, I knew it was perfect. And when I got the pricing, it was even more perfect! The best part about it is my fiancé, Ryan, and I had looked at so many different options and were iffy on most of the venues we saw. When we went together to visit the MACC, we both fell in love with the space and knew it was perfect for our reception. It's not a typical wedding venue and it's owned by the City of Austin. Different spaces throughout the building rent out for different prices so we were able to pick and choose the spaces that worked for us and still stay in our budget.
Another huge plus, it comes with tables and chairs! Now, they aren't your beautiful chiavari chairs, they're just plain gray plastic ones. And rectangular tables (which is what I wanted). At first I was really concerned about the chairs. They aren't exactly attractive. But then I realized I can't remember any of the chairs I sat in at any wedding I've been to. Will my guests really care? I don't think so and I couldn't bring myself to spend several hundred dollars on chairs.
The ceremony was one of those things we decided to splurge on if you will. We could have held the ceremony at the MACC, but it was important to us to get married at the church Ryan grew up in and had been baptized at.
City spaces are typically very affordable and you’d be surprised at how many cities have them! Our space is very new, so it looks great, but a lot of the spaces can be a little older, but with a strong imagination and special touches, it can turn into a great space. Local parks and gardens are also great spots to check out for those looking for a more natural setting. Another great way to save money on a venue is choosing a Friday night or Sunday afternoon or getting married in an off season.
Tip #4: Keep your décor simple
It took us a long time to figure out the decor for the reception. For the ceremony, the church is so beautiful we've decided not to do anything except pay an extra $75 to have the candle sconces lit. I spend a lot of time visiting different wedding blogs to get ideas. I would print out images to show Ryan so we could talk about what we liked and didn't like. When I saw spray painted wine bottles used as vases on one blog, I knew that would be perfect and we both loved it. Here’s another hint…I commented on the blog post asking how they spray painted the bottles and got an answer! So never be afraid to ask for more information on something. You might not get an answer, but you probably will!
We decided to keep the look very simple. Our main colors are black and white, and we will have pops of orange and blue throughout. We have collected wine bottles, both ours and from our friends and slowly started spray painting them white. As a whiskey drinker, Ryan decided to try and spray some of his bottles and we loved them too. They will be used on the cocktail tables during cocktail hour with single orange flowers. If you want to try to make these vases, check out my DIY instructions here. I made the ones pictured in the DIY instructions for my sister’s backyard wedding in bold colors and they turned out great!
Photo courtesy of Style Me Pretty. The inspiration for our wine bottle vases.
In the reception area, we will be putting white flowers in the wine bottle vases mixed in with small tealight candles in mason jars. We decided to use mason jars because my mom already has a bunch and they are very cost effective.
Mason jars with candles. Bottles we have painted for our centerpieces.
[Left Photo by Amanda Nistor]
The other DIY project I will be working on in the upcoming months is making table runners out of white burlap. I saw the project on one of my wedding blogs and found I could buy the burlap for less than $100 total. My close friend has a sewing machine and will be helping me. This seemed to be a great way to add a little pizzazz to the tables without spending a lot.
Photo courtesy of Style Me Pretty
Check out second hand stores, Ebay, Ikea, Dollar Stores, Garden Ridge, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby and other budget stores for vases if you want to use flowers, candle holders if you want to do all candles (this is so romantic), pots if you want to do potted plants and for any other ideas. Keeping it simple is going to save you the most money. Also check for coupons! A lot of these stores do weekly coupons. Keeping the tables mis-matched is also a great way to save because you don’t need 100 of the same vases, you can collect different ones and look for the best bargain.
Tip #5: Be flexible
I knew I wanted fresh flowers, but that this can cost a lot. I had done the bouquets for my sister’s wedding, but knew that this was not something I wanted to do the day before or day of my wedding because it did take me a long time. I contacted a florist that was recommended to me and told her the color I wanted, that I wanted to keep prices low. I think when it comes to flowers, being open to different options and what is in season can save you a ton of money or find alternatives based on the look you are going for. I wanted peonies, but they were not in season and would be very expensive, but she suggested an alternative to peonies, garden roses, and will mix them with hydrangea, which are inexpensive because you don’t need very many stems to make a full bouquet and they thrive in cooler months. I was able to get bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids for a great price and am very happy I will not be creating them!
Hydrangea, which will be the main part of our bouquets due to its affordable price and beautiful, full blooms!
For the flowers for the centerpieces, I plan on doing those myself. There is a local flower store with extremely reasonable prices and my plan is to contact them about a month before the wedding and tell them the colors and look I am going for and figuring out what will be the most cost effective. I plan on putting the centerpieces together the afternoon before with some of my friends.
While being flexible can save money on flowers, it’s really going to save you money everywhere. Be open to trying alternatives to your favorite foods, alcohol, venues, dates, décor, colors…you might discover that the alternative beats what you originally wanted.
Tip #6: Etsy Alchemy
If you have not been to Etsy, visit it as soon as possible! Etsy is a site made up of stores where people sell their homemade items. There are so many great finds on there, but my favorite part about is their Alchemy page. On Etsy Alchemy, you can request any item your heart desires, list the ideal price you’d like to pay and voila! Etsy sellers will bid on your request.
I had planned on designing our save the dates using one of our fantastic engagement photos. I tried several different ideas, but just couldn’t get it to the design I wanted. I decided to post a request for a digital postcard design on Etsy Alchemy (so I could print them myself) and found an amazing designer who designed our save the dates for $12! Guess who will be doing our digital invitations for $20? Yep, the same designer. It was worth every penny.
Front of our Save the Dates
I also used Etsy Alchemy to request a replica of the gorgeous veil I fell in love with that was $200. The designer that will be making it for me had fantastic work and reviews and I will get what I wanted for $150 less.
And the good thing to know is that if you don’t like any of the bids you receive, you do not have to accept any of them, so there’s really no harm in trying it out.
Tip #7: Coupons, Contests and Sales
I typically do not sign up for store newsletters unless I LOVE the store and shop there all the time. I hate receiving all those emails about sales and promotions and usually just delete them unless it’s something that really catches my attention. If there is any point in life when you should sign up for as many promotional emails as you can, the time is now. You can get onto mailing lists for tons of stores such as Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, J.Crew, Target…they will mail you coupons and fill you in on sales right away so you can get stuff at a great deal.
I also signed up with Vistaprint and get sales information from them all the time. I was able to get 100 postcards for our save the dates for free! They also have great invitations at a reasonable price and send coupons all the time.
One of the things that seemed to be quite costly was linens for the tables. I looked at tons of different options. Linen like tablecloths, making my own, renting. I finally decided to buy from Linen Tablecloth. They seemed to have the best deals and then I could resell to another budget bride after the wedding. I also discovered that the site had a twitter account and had been running contests on twitter to win gift certificates. I started entering the contests and so far have won $175 and a 20% off coupon to use toward my tablecloths! I’m hoping by the time I purchase them, they’ll be practically free!
I visit a ton of wedding blogs as well and if you don’t, start doing it! Not only do they have great inspiration and ideas, they run tons of contests! I enter every single contest I can. I entered the vases I made into a DIY contest on one blog and encouraged all my friends to vote for me and won second place, receiving a $100 gift certificate to a jewelry store. A lot of contests just ask you to leave a comment, the odds of winning aren’t great, but what do you have to lose? I’ve done this probably 100 times and have won two great prizes already (one of them from the always fabulous Project Wedding blog!!)
Another great thing to try out is Groupon. They don’t have deals for every city, but they have them for most major cities. Basically, you get a daily deal emailed to you. My fiancé and I use this all the time to get deals on restaurants ($15 for $30 worth of food? You can’t beat that!) Not only does it help you save money on places you might already be planning on eating or going to (that you can then put into your wedding savings), there are often 50% off deals for places you might be looking into for your wedding…perhaps a spa day with your bridesmaids, limo ride for your wedding day or even a gym membership to get in shape before your big day.
Tip #8: If someone offers to help, accept it!
If you have a talented friend or family member that offers to do something for you as a gift, accept the help! One of my bridesmaids is amazing with hair and offered to do mine. It is saving me a ton of money and we have so much fun practicing different styles.
Another family friend used to be a baker and made the wedding cake for my sister’s wedding. Not only was it beautiful, it was delicious. She has offered to do ours as well and we gladly accepted and cannot wait to have her do ours. This too will be saving us so much.
The beautiful cake our friend made for my sister's wedding
Tip #9: Compare everything
It is very important to get price comparisons for vendors, venues, dresses, décor…basically everything you will purchasing or hiring for your wedding. I would highly suggest checking with at least three vendors for everything you need. If their price is way out of your budget, don’t even meet with them. Also, once you have booked a vendor or bought your dress stop looking! Don’t second guess your decisions because that is a surefire way to start adding cost.
Tip #10: Recoup some costs
With online communities that exist on most wedding blogs or boards, you can find great deals and when all is said and done, you can recoup some costs. Décor, dress, tablecloths and veil are just some of the items that appear online on places like Craigslist and The Knot. You won’t get all your money back of course, but you can put a little bit back in your pocket. We will be selling our tablecloths after the wedding and I will be selling my dress. I imagine we will get between $500 and $1000 back…great little amount to start our next round of savings...for a house!
All in all the most important thing to remember is that it is one day. One very important day, but just one day that you shouldn’t go into debt for. Following these tips will give you some great ways to save money and keep your cool during the whole planning process.