Like most newly engaged couples we wanted to make our special day picture perfect but with the economic downturn looming we also knew it could be hard to make our spending match our budget... so we got creative. Looking back on the weekend the areas we "cut costs" in ended up being the most personal and special aspects of our wedding; turning them into the parts of our wedding we are most proud of.
While it was not always easy, in the end it was a lot of fun to sit down together and brainstorm ways to make our wedding cost effective, environmentally friendly, and unique instead of doing everything by the book. In fact, my husband surprised me many times with his ideas and gave me a whole new appreciation for his thriftiness and eco-savvy sense.
Pretty much everything we incorporated into our wedding has a story to it so I will go through several of our favorite cost cutting techniques; telling the story, sharing the cost, and then displaying some pictures.
Gown and Veil: My dress ended up being $475 which is fairly reasonable and I decided to wear my mom's veil. To add a bit of playfulness to my dress I wore a brown cardigan; which was a cost effective way to make the dress more "me" and to make the simple design more interesting. The golden rule of working with a budget is looking for the sale... my shoes were $25 at Macy's during a big sale.
Cost: $475 (dress) + $0 (veil) + $43 (cardigan)+ $25 (shoes)
Jewelery: I found a necklace I really liked at http://www.megumijewelry.com/pr/BridesMayJune2008.pdf but for $130 I thought I could do better. Instead we bought a simple pearl necklace from Walmart and then my mom cut it apart and reassembled it to match the necklace I found.
Rings: When Jason proposed we were at the ancient city of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was the end of a year of travels throughout Asia where we never left each others side so I was not surprised when Jason presented me with paper rings he had cut out instead of a store bought one. That evening we went to the market in town and bought a $3 stand-in fake Sapphire band. When we returned to the States we started shopping around for bargain rings. I wanted one that was a unique and had an antique feel. I found the perfect ring on overstock.com. It doesn't come with a warranty but for $450 it was worth the risk. I decided to use the band from Cambodia as my wedding band until our first anniversary when we have a little more cash on hand to replace it.
Jason's ring was bought from a local store. He didn't care about the type of metal and there are a lot of low cost alternative metals for guys rings so he ended up with a stainless steel ring for $22.
Cost: $3 + $450 + $22
Bouquet: We bought a bunch of flowers from our local florist and farmer's market in shades of green and ivory. During the procession each of our attendants and everyone in our family carried a single stemmed flower down the isle instead of a full bouquet. Then during the ceremony Jason and I collected the flowers from each of them while "In My Life" by the Beatles played in the background. Each flower symbolized the role our family and friends have played in shaping the individuals we have become. Once all the flowers had been collected we bound them together symbolizing our commitment to each other and the joining of our pasts and families (incorporating the "tying the knot" tradition).
Ring Pillows: My mom made our ring pillows out of my Great Grandma's doilies who passed away only a year prior. It was a great way to feel her presence!
Guest Book: I hand made a quilt (my first one!) just before the wedding and we decided to use it as our guest book. Jason and I traveled Asia the year prior to our wedding and in one of the regions we traveled it was custom for wedding guests to put their hand prints on a table cloth as best wishes for the bride and groom. We wanted to incorporate this tradition so we had our immediate family and attendants but their hand prints and wishes on the boarder of the quilt and everyone else signed the white back.
Cost: $130 to make the quilt... Okay so not that cheap but it will be a keepsake!
Dessert: We asked our mom's and Grandma's to make a large batch of our favorite desserts that were displayed along with cup cakes made by a friend on a dessert buffet table. It was fun because everyone got together on Friday and baked together and the variety of desserts were perfect because they catered to everyone's tastes. We placed signs around the table so everyone knew what they were eating which were made out of left over green wallpaper samples my cousin saved for us and twigs from the farm we got married on. Unfortunately there was hardly any left for us to take with us on our honeymoon!
Beer Cups: Our goal was to have as little waste as possible and to recycle or compost the waste that we did have. Beer cups were a challenge to this effort because plastic cups are so wasteful yet glasses really added a lot to our budget. One night when we were discussing our options Jason came up with an idea he never thought I would go for... picking up plastic souvenir cups that were discarded after a Broncos game we were about to attend. I loved it... the idea of my family, devoted Packers fans, drinking from Broncos cups was enough to get my vote. At the game we got help from a couple of our attendants and collected 150 cups! On the way out a Broncos fan asked what we were going to do with "all those cups" Jason proudly responded, "They are for my wedding." He really liked that!
Cost: a night cleaning dirty beer cups
Table Decorations: Our table decorations was an eclectic mix of green vases we picked up from second hand stores filled with dried grasses and textured "weeds" collected from fields in area. I had wanted colored tablecloths to add color and depth to the white tent but the white ones were significantly cheaper. Instead I decided on balloons which was a relatively inexpensive way to accomplish the same results.
Cost: $89 (second hand vases) + $39 (balloons)
Favors: My mom threw my bridal shower in WI with all my aunts and cousins in July... perfect timing for berry season in WI. My mom and I hand picked local raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. Then at the shower we took advantage of years of canning experience to can small jars of tasty jam. We used cute fabric, taffeta, and tags to dress the jars up and placed them at the entrance to the reception to be used as seating cards/favors.
Photographer: We found a new photographer who wanted to build her portfolio and was willing to give us a deep discount to give her a shot. For the price I would have been happy if she took clear photographs with good color and she more than surpassed my expectations. If you are willing to take the risk you can save a lot of money going this route. We asked a few of our friends who are handy with cameras to take backup pictures just in case and we ended up with a TON of fantastic pictures!
Cost: $450, including a CD with high quality images for us to print as we choose
Other ways we saved:
Jason and I were our own DJ's. It took a fair amount of time to compile songs we liked but in the end it was well worth it... our guests stayed and danced until 3:00am. We downloaded the program iVolume to eliminate volume discrepancies.
Cost: $60 for downloading music and program + $100 for speakers (they are not as intimidating to set-up as you may imagine).
We also searched long and hard for a venue that would allow us to bring in our own food and liquor and fell in love with Justin Trails. The food ended up running us a few dollars per person less than what it would have and we hired a bar tender at $15 an hour to serve wine and beer all night. Having the ceremony and reception in one spot also saved us money on transportation.
Cost: $500 (liquor) + $129 (bartender) - $3/person (food savings) - cost for a limo
Weddings can cost A LOT of money - my suggestion - save where you can to spend where it is most important to you. We really wanted to spend a lot of time with our guests so it was important to us to cut costs to be able to serve brunch the next morning to those who were able to join us. Even on a tight budget, in the end, we don't felt like we compromised at all...