I... am... THE Budget Savvy Bride. I love the name of your contest, of course, so I had to enter seeing that being 'budget savvy' is the name of my game. :)
Where to begin? I spent a year planning our wedding that took place May 2, 2009. Let me tell you, I have ALOT of advice to share. :) We had 150 guests and we did it all for around $10,000.
Tip #1: Barter, trade, etc.
I basically worked off my photography bill (a $2,000 value) by doing graphic design services for my photographer. And, it's turned into a contract job for me now! Don't worry if you're not creative- I know photogs who have bartered photography services for carpentry work, home repairs, accounting help, etc. This could apply to other vendors as well. Never be scared to ask- you never know until you try!
Tip #2: Social networking.
Do you read local vendors blogs? If not, you should, because sometimes they will post discounts that you might not have heard about otherwise. Some vendors even tweet special discounts for Twitter followers only- so it pays to follow your favorite vendors. :) My blog garnered much attention over the last year and I put my blog-'celebrity' to use. In exchange for posts on my blog promoting certain products, I got lots of discounts and even some free stuff. I know not everyone has the savvy and know-how to pull this off, but it saved me alot in my planning. My day-of-coordinator gave me 50% off her normal fee! Some things I received for free- my veil, fascinator, garter, and my husband's wedding ring. For the record, I only agreed to do this when I actually liked the product and the company behind it. If you can offer something to the vendor in terms of advertising, it's more like a barter or trade instead of a 'free' gift.
Tip #3: On
line shopping, google, research
Don't just buy the first thing you find online. Search many sites for what youre looking for. Read Project Wedding and Weddingbee boards because lots of other readers will post discounts and special offers that they find and such. Also- I used retailmenot.com ALOT to find discounts for things I ordered online. I got some great deals by price comparing before a purchase. For instance, I found a 'buy one, get one FREE' deal on Amazon.com for some of the candy we purchased for our buffet. We ended up spending around $225 for everything for our candy buffet including the jars and we had 10 different types of candy!
Tip #4 Friend-ors
Don't be scared to ask family and friends for help if you need it. A neighbor made our cake for free as a gift- it was a 3 tiered amaretto and chocolate cake with the most delicious buttercream frosting. Many of our guests said it was one of the best they'd ever eaten! Also, a family friend shot video of the wedding to save on a videographer. My uncle played guitar during the ceremony and performed a few songs during our reception. We also used a PA system borrowed from a friend and hooked it up to my laptop and ran a playlist from iTunes.
My friend/DOC put my flowers together for cost which saved us alot of money.We spent $400 total on flowers- and that included all the flowers for the bridal party bouquets, boutenniers, etc, as well as the centerpieces, some at the altar during the ceremony, the ones on the cake and candy buffet table, the flower girls petals and everything. TOTAL steal on the flowers. Look at how gorgeous they were:
Tip #5: Try a restaurant instead of a 'caterer'
We used a local restaurant to cater our wedding. We fed 150 people a full meal for under $2700. That's $18 per person WITH service, tax AND gratuity. They delivered the food, set it up in nice chaffing dishes, served and refilled as necessary, cleaned it up and broke it down for that price. We had grilled chicken and pulled pork barbecue, macaroni and cheese, loaded mashed potatoes, green bean almandine and baked beans. It also included a garden salad and rolls for everyone, as well as sweet and unsweet teas, AND 3 different desserts which we used in lieu of a groom's cake. SERIOUSLY- we got a STEAL on the food. :)
Tip #6: Beer & Wine is FINE
We just had beer and wine at our reception (that's all we were allowed to have at our venue) but I wouldnt have had it any other way. We spent around $500 for all our alcohol AND the bartender. We bought 'Two Buck Chuck' from Trader Joe's and put our own labels on the bottles with our monogram on it. We also had a friend of ours buy canned beer from the Army PX- all their beer is discounted and has no tax on it- so we saved a bundle on alcohol. We had 3 different kinds of beer and 3 different kinds of wine, and had plenty of both left over, actually.
Tip #7: Thrift stores, eBay, & Craigslist are your new best friends
We got all of our jars, vases, and votives for our centerpieces from thrift stores or eBay. I paid 50 cents each for the 20 milk glass vases I bought from a thrift store, and around $2.50 each for the antique blue mason jars- a splurge I deemed necessary to achieve my 'look.' Instead of going to a fabric store to buy burlap, or renting burlap tablecloths for an outrageous fee, I bought 2 bolts of it at the farmer's Co-Op for about $40- the price I would have paid to rent ONE tablecloth from the rental company. We used the burlap to make the runners and we were oh-so-pleased with the results!
Tip #8: If you can Do-It-Yourself, DO IT!!!
I spent alot of time and energy doing DIY projects that ended up saving us a ton. We made these tissue-paper-pomanders that have just taken over the wedding-diy circuit. It cost us around $5 per pom, and their simple style really made a big impact! Some other things I DIYed: Our invites, all signage, save-the-dates, eco-friendly cutlery wraps, wine bottle labels, etc. We bought some paper and used every last bit of it- none of it went to waste- the same paper for our invites and response cards also served as candy bar lablels, programs, cutlery wraps, reserved signs, and more. I was proud of that accomplishment- I designed everything to maximize the usage of the paper- we did all that for paper we paid around $120 for.
After the wedding, discussing the details of our final totals with my DOC, she was shocked at how little we spent. Not that $10k is a small amount of money, but we truly feel that our wedding looked like we spent alot more than that. And that was the whole point- was to show that you don't have to spend so much to have a gorgeous wedding. We are so proud that we paid for it all ourselves! In the end, the day was so priceless to me- but for the sake of our future, I'm definitely glad that we pulled it off for less. :)