When Andrew proposed, I was the happiest girl in the world. We were fortunate enough to get financial assistance for our wedding. This did not mean we could go spending crazy. Living in California can make the cost of living seem twice as expensive. So, our decent budget seemed small when compared to the average cost of a wedding in our area. (According to http://www.costofwedding.com, most couples spent over twice what we did!)
The first thing Andrew and I did was prioritize. We sat down and discussed what kind of wedding we envisioned. What was important to us? What could we do without? We knew that we wanted only family members and good friends we could tell at least 3 funny stories about. No acquaintances, no friends of our parents that we didn't know. 100% of our family doesn't live in the area, so I wanted a venue that showed off where we lived. We knew that despite the cost, we wanted a Saturday wedding to maximize guest attendance. We wanted a venue where we could have the ceremony and reception along with hotel rooms, but was also close enough to other hotels for those with different budgets. We also wanted a place that had great food. Looking around for such a venue that met all of our needs and provided the most bang for our buck was a lot of work and by far what we spent the most money on. To help accommodate the cost of the venue, we found other ways to save money.
1. Look for other options. AKA: Shop Around - The first wedding dress I fell in love with was a sweet little number that was perfectly my style for only... $3,000?!?! After recovering from my first case of wedding sticker shock, I began to search out other options. That's where I found Brides Against Breast Cancer. They sell new and used dresses at a fraction of the cost, and all the money goes towards a great cause. Considering my step-mother had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, this seemed like a great choice. My dress was only $350! Along with the beautiful dress, they also had crinoline slips available for $25 and the volunteer threw in some cups to sew into my dress so I wouldn't have to worry about a bra. I had such a great experience with them, I re-donated my dress after the wedding.
Department stores are another great place to look for dresses. You don't have to go to a bridal shop. My bridesmaids got their dresses from JC Penny on sale for $54, and they looked fabulous! Not only that, but they were dresses that they all agreed they would wear again.
2. Recycling is not just for hippies! AKA: Using things you already own - While in the throws of spending money for THE BIG EVENT, one can forget that they (or their friends or relatives) may potentially have a treasure trove of things that are perfect that can be used for free. A prime example of this was a pair of gold strappy heels that I already had from my previous ventures as a bridesmaid.
Other free 'around the house' things included: the main diamond on my engagement ring used to be part of a necklace belonging to my FHs grandmother. His mother gave him the necklace to use at will, and he had the diamond set into a ring setting of his choice for me.
The vintage watch I wore was a gift from my FMIL which she inherited from her grandmother. Kind of a "Welcome to the family" gift.
The bracelet was loaned to me from one of my sister in laws who had worn it for her wedding.
3. The Internet Is Your Friend - I was surprised at how many times I would see the exact same object for sale on different websites at such a drastically different price! Look around, compare your prices. I bought tons of things online, including my jewelry, veil, flower girl baskets, gift bags, ring bearer pillow etc. Ebay was where I found my best buy... these great flower girl dresses for only $10 each. Hubby's wedding band was only $55 on sale at http://www.titaniumera.com
4. DIY Baby! - Oh my gosh, did we do a lot of stuff ourselves. I never knew I was so crafty until my wedding came up. Invitations were a huge project for us. My husband is a graphic designer and I like playing with paper. Making some great invitations were a point of pride for us and we made a great team. We still have people who find our invitations on flickr and contact us asking how to make them or if we will make some for them. The things we did ourselves:
- Write the Ceremony & Vows
- Table Numbers
- Escort Cards
- Thank You Cards
- Aisle Runner
- Card Cage
- Hotel Welcome Bags
- Slideshow set to music
- I also saved a TON of money doing my own flowers. These included: My bouquet, toss bouquet, 3 Bridesmaid bouquets, 1 Jr. Bridesmaid Pomander, 3 Wrist Corsages, 17 Bouts, 6 Aisle bouquets, 12 Centerpieces.
5. You find wedding things in the strangest places - Be creative in your hunt for "The perfect wedding item!" Use your imagination. You can buy a pretty signature mat for guests to sign at the inflated wedding price, or you can go get the same mat custom cut for half the price. The center of our asile runner? Oh yeah, those are IKEA curtains. The flower petals for the flower girl are also from IKEA. Our unity candles we got on sale while wandering around Urban Home. I loved how thick they were and their coloring. However, I was worried about them blowing out since the ceremony was outsie. So, I burned some of the candle down and hollowed out the center wax to keep the flame protected.
6. Vendors and Negotiations - Your vendors will negotiate, don't be afraid to try! Perhaps the best example of this is our photographer. When we told him we were only interested in the raw files and didn't want a huge book made afterwards, the price dropped and we saved $800. We also got a great discounted rate from our local tux shop because we chose to rent all our tuxes from the same store. Our venue threw in a free hotel room also because we were having our ceremony and reception with them. Again, the worst thing that can happen is your vendor says "no".
7. Your Friends & Co-Workers Have Skills - I was so fortunate to have some very talented people within my radius. My dress was altered for free courtesy of my costume department. My DJ was a dance buddy of mine. He gave us the friend discount and put a TON of work into our wedding, including custom editing the songs for our ceremony, providing the lighting package, and showing up for rehearsal as a tech run for himself. My dear friend is a band leader. As a wedding gift, his swing quartet played during cocktail hour.
8. Pick Your Battles - Of course there were things I splurged on! If you think about it, a wedding IS a splurge. Our cake was a big splurge. It was the perfect combination of my husband's graphic design work on the invitations, and my floral design work on the centerpieces. The cake was moist, light, an array of interesting flavors and the best thing I've ever tasted. There was a bigger splurge though. We ended up flying my childhood minister and his wife out of retirement from Michigan to California. We paid for their tickets and hotel room. Even though I hadn't seen him for 15 years, I couldn't imagine anyone else marrying us. It was so wonderful to have him there.
9. A Honeymoon Registry, How Novel! - Ever since I was 11 years old, I have wanted to go to Japan. Fortunately for me, this was a place to visit at the top of my husband's list. However, with the price of tickets and the poor exchange rate, this is a trip we never would have been able to afford on our own. So, instead of registering for things for the house, we registered for a trip of a lifetime. We created a website with an itinerary and list of things we wanted to do. Guests got excited about the trip and were able to contribute by buying us these activities. The first thing purchased off the honeymoon registry was Sumo Wrestling Tickets. We were so thrilled! Thanks to our honeymoon registry, we were able to go on the amazing trip and have it 100% paid for.
10. Don't Let the Wedding Magazines Rope You In - Really, all you need is you, your partner, an officiant, the marriage certificate, and maybe a witness or two. The rest is just gravy. There were a bunch of things that we COULD have had, but chose not to because they just weren't a priority for us. This includes:
- Limo or fancy car
- Toasting flutes
- Cake knife set
- Bathroom baskets
Guess what? No one noticed! Or if they did, they didn't say anything. Don't let the wedding mags or forums convince you that you absolutely MUST have anything. Do what is right for you as a couple and what makes you happy.
Remember, overall, it's about the love and joy of the day. The location, the food, the awesome cake... none of that mattered. It could have been held in a shack! What mattered to us was having our friends and family together in the same room giving their support and love... the feeling in the room was electric. We were both so overcome with gratitude. THAT is what made our wedding so magical.