Money, Money, Money

First off, hugs and high-gives to all you for the kind words and comments I’ve received over the past week regarding my proposal — I definitely should have said something in yesterday’s post but I got too excited to show you my new hair and start talking about wedding stuff so I forgot… and then I got even MORE nice comments on that post so, I definitely had to say something now! Seriously, you guys are the best.

Secondly, I got some super interesting (and helpful!) comments in yesterday’s post about money, finances, and wedding budgets, so I thought that I’d devote a little bit of time dissecting my thoughts on the matter. After all, if nothing else, this blog has always served as an amazing way for me to gain clarity on pretty much any situation, so I figure it should be no different when it comes to organizing my thoughts on all things wedding-related!

Now, this is what we know to be true: traditional weddings are really effing expensive.

This is what we also know: I do want a “wedding” in the traditional sense of the word. I want the whole shebang — a ceremony and portraits and cocktail hour and sit-down dinner and dancing and cake cutting and all of it with a whole crapton (that’s the technical term, right?) of our family and friends there.

I mean, I absolutely want it to be unique and personal, and I want to infuse both the ceremony and reception with both Sean’s and my personality, and of course I want there to be little touches and special significance to, well, um, everything. But I’m not (totally) delusional. When you take a step back and look at it from afar, it’ll probably still look like, y’know, a wedding.

And weddings, well, I hear they take money.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have very generous parents who have given me a much bigger budget to work with than Sean and I could ever afford on our own, but even (especially!) knowing that, it’s not like I’m working with unlimited funds by any means. I want to be respectful of my parents’ hard-earned money, of my own money (I also work hard for that ish!), and find creative ways to cut costs without cutting corners.

I most definitely do not plan on going into any kind of debt for what essentially boils down to one baller party (much though it hurts me to call it that), so if costs end up above the budget my parents have set, I’m prepared to pay the difference as long as I can afford it, but would obviously still like to save money where I can.

The most common wedding budgeting advice I seem to see is to pick a few things that are REALLY important to you, and make those your priority. So if, say, having your dream photographer and decorating with gorgeous flowers everywhere matter, make those your big budget items and you can scrimp a little in other areas.

But my dilemma is… what if everything feels important right now? What if I want my dream photographer AND my dream dress AND five-star food AND an epic band AND a dessert table?

How do you pick and choose and prioritize when it’s all part of your vision? Is it the kind of thing that just makes itself more clear as time goes on and the wedding takes more shape? Or is it something you definitely need to establish from the get-go so you have a course-of-action going into the planning process?

Sidebar: I know that I’m diving headfirst into what is basically the ultimate level of  being #basic and having #firstworldproblems, buttttt… I’m newly engaged, surely I get a few weeks of slack to indulge my ridiculous fantasies, right? 😉

I know that there will be things that I have to compromise on, and I absolutely accept that, but when it comes to really getting into the nitty gritty of budgeting and figuring out where to spend the $$$$ versus the $$$, I guess I’m just having a little trouble breaking it all down. Apologies in advance if the following ends up being a whole lot of words without a lot of sense, but I really think just talking (writing) about it will help me straighten things out.

Photography is probably one of my top priorities, given that photos are the one thing that will last loooong after the memories of the big day start to fade. Videography is also something that I want to be able to remember our wedding by, and captures the day in a way that sometimes not even photos can.

Unfortunately, my role as the sister of a wedding photographer is actually not as beneficial as one would think, since I want Taylor and Ben to be present and have active roles in my wedding, not forced to see it from behind a lens. And ALSO, due to me living and working in such close proximity to them, I have pretty high standards for photography since they’re so good!

Food is, obviously, also really important to me, as I am a lover of food, a supporter of local restaurants and local farming, and I know that food makes people really happy! However, my sister continues to remind me that in a few years, nobody is going to remember the food at my wedding unless it was either A) jaw-droppingly incredible or B) food-poisoning inducing. So, if I fall anywhere in between on the spectrum, nobody will probably even notice.

I also really want a special and unique wedding venue, and venues in the DC Metro area are NOT cheap. Hopefully this is one area that we’ll be able to save a little on because I’m pretty sure we’ll be getting married during off-peak season (I’ll go into my reasons for that in a later post), but that still doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be cheap.

In a perfect world, I would also be able to afford a live band, because that kind of energy and crowd-pleasingness is hard to replicate elsewhere! This is, however, something that I’ve conceded will probably not happen, as DJ pricing is infinitely more in line with my budget.

As for the dress, all I have to say is DAMN YOU, Say Yes to the Dress! You have totally RUINED me. I’m pretty sure before this show existed, it would never even occur to me to look at three- or four-thousand dollar wedding dresses. I mean, that’s a used car! A semester of college tuition! But, that damn show and those damn beautiful designer gowns… I want it. I want the dream gown with the designer name and I hate myself just a little bit for it.

To make myself feel better, I keep telling myself that I’m barely skimming the surface of the kinds of dresses I see people buy on that show. I mean, I’ve seen $8,000, $10,000, even a $34,000 dress be snatched up by brides, leaving me staring at the TV with my mouth agape, eyes agog, and probably just a liiiiiiittle bit of drool in the corner of my mouth.

The one thing I am finding pretty easy to push down on the list is flowers. I find wedding flower prices to be absolutely outrageous, and while I recognize how stunning a great floral centerpiece or beautiful bouquet can be, I think that fantastic aesthetics can be attained without a ton of expensive blooms. I do plan on DIY-ing a lot of centerpiece stuff (if I have the wherewithal to complete it), and it’s been my dream for a long time to carry a brooch bouquet instead of a traditional floral one.

But these are just some of the considerations that go into a wedding. It doesn’t even take into consideration things like renting a car or limo, event production (uplighting, draping, additional decor), a dessert table, or even pre-wedding stuff like invitations and… oh lorrrrrdy.

ANYWAY. The TL;DR version of all that word vomit (which hopefully none of you actually read through in its entirety) is that there are a lot of things that I consider to be important parts of our overall wedding, and thus worthy of large parts of our budget… but obviously I can’t devote tons of money to them all.

So I guess my question is a pretty simple one, really: What were the most important things for you to budget for when it came to your wedding? And how did you decide where to cut costs?

I know I may very well be overthinking and overanalyzing and over-whatevering at this early point, but I really don’t want to end up in a position where I don’t understand how much specific things are going to, and get overwhelmed with the finance portion later. Anyway, if you made it through the entirety of this post, you will receive a sticker in the mail for your fortitude, and I’ll see you guys on the flip. 😉

35 Comments

  1. Found you through Anne’s blog today! Love your style 🙂 I’m not engaged, but my boyfriend and I have been together for 5 years and have started to look at rings. We’re also looking at tanzanite, sapphire, or morganite for the stone instead of diamond. Yours is so beautiful!

    When it comes to our wedding someday– I am totally that wedding girl too. Pinterest, blogs, TLC, the works. I pretty much have my entire DIY wedding planned on Pinterest. I’ll probably splurge on the photographer, because good photos are essential in my mind. I’ll probably end up making all the table center pieces, bouquets (including mine), and most of the decorations myself. Tip– if you have any photoshop or even picmonkey skills, design the invites yourself and get them printed from vistaprint. I recently did this for a friend’s bridal shower and I got 20 invites for $1 a piece. Awesome deal!

  2. Laurensays:

    Photography was most important to me and we went with a documentary-type photographer instead of also having a videographer. The pictures are the one thing I have never ever regretted spending lots of money on, not even for one second! We got married at a local art museum, so the venue cost was cheap and all of the decorating was covered except for centerpieces and I searched on Etsy for other small touches. We also went with a small local baker to do cupcakes instead of a cake, which saved a ton of money as well ($3 a person instead of $9 plus if you included the cake cutting fees). Our friend made jam for our favors and gave those to us as a wedding gift, which added a really sweet personal touch. For food, we brought in a caterer rather than going with a venue that provided food and that alone saved us thousands. My favorite source was the book and blog “A Practical Wedding”. It saved me from going crazy and helped me narrow down what was most important to us.

  3. Grace @ Grace Dishessays:

    Good luck with wedding planning. The easiest way to cut budget is to cut the guest list (less food, less stationary, less postage, less rentals….etc).

    I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be beautiful.

    Congratulations!

  4. My younger brother just got married (after a 6-week engagement), and my parents said it was like hemorraging money (and they didn’t even pay for the reception!), but you can be smart about it. One of the ways wesaved money was by putting flowers together themselves, and then they did all of the printing online (beautiful letterpress invitations from etsy!). Additionally, all of the dishware used was bought by us. Mom did the math, and it was actually cheaper to buy fun napkins from Pier1 (they were wedding colors) than it was to rent them from a rental spot; same with cocktail plates and silverware. If you do that, you’re pretty much set on party goods for a while.

    I do want to make one fun suggestion that I had never heard of — it’s a free app called Wedpics. It basically lets you create a private Instagram for all the wedding guests, and it was so fun to look at pictures that wouldn’t normally make it to social media. People are still posting on it, and it has been a few weeks, so I think people enjoyed it. You can also make different albums from events, and then save/print directly from the app. We did that and a hashtag, obviously.

  5. Angelasays:

    I got engaged last summer and am getting married in October. So I get what you are going through. I was all kinds of all over the place in the beginning. Then the reality of a DC wedding hit me in the face. I mean, wait till you find out what people are going to try to charge you for wedding cake! Its insane!

    What I did for priority when it came to budget was I sat down and thought about what things I never give a crap about at other peoples weddings and decided to put those lower down the priority list. I mean if I didn’t care about it at my bff’s wedding, why would I think my average friend is gonna care? So invitations got bumped way down because I’m that jerk who throws them away. Flowers? Don’t care, I hate how they always make the place smell up. Welcome bags – meh, never anything useful in them anyway…etc, etc.

    What do I care about other peoples weddings? The photos and how long the ceremony is. My fiance only cares about the music. So we went BIG on the photographer and the DJ, and then decided everything else afterwards. With the budget in mind.

    Good luck, living in this area does not make it easy but its totally doable.

  6. Nancy Huangsays:

    My important must-have at any expense items:
    -Good Venue
    -Good Food

    My low priority items:
    -Expensive dress (note: many companies like bcbg/jcrew have wedding dresses that are beautiful)
    -Flowers
    -Real Wedding Cake

    My surprise splurge:
    -Transportation to and from venue from room block hotel

    Tips that Saved my Budget:
    -Alcohol and flowers from Costco
    -Cupcake tower instead of wedding cake tower
    -Shop early, book early, book not on a saturday
    -DIY via http://www.aliexpress.com

    Tips that would have saved my budget that I did not take:
    -Elope and then have a party that is not called a wedding (significantly cheaper)
    -Go to a resort that has a wedding package, where you can choose from 3 choices for each aspect of wedding (Wintergreen was originally considered by me)
    -second-hand dress (count the hours you will actually be in the dress)

    PROTIP: Seriously consider a day-of planner. Mine was worth every penny and is saving me a ton of last-minute headaches.

    • Katiesays:

      I second the JCrew dress comment. Also, depending on what you’re looking for, there are some bridesmaids dresses that could work great for the bridal gown.

      Also, if you’re not married (heh) to the idea of owning your dress, Rent the Runway has some dresses.

  7. Oh man, I’m going to live vicariously through you!

    We did a fast and furious wedding because my husband got orders to Texas. Engaged in June, planning for an Oct wedding of the next year…then he reenlisted in the Marine Corps in August and had to report to Texas in December! So we got married two weeks before we moved half way across the country. 🙂 This was a long time before Pinterest and Etsy saved brides-to-be from weddings like mine. LOL

    A family friend’s daughter said she could do the photography and that was probably the single biggest mistake we made. I think we have maybe three good photos of our entire wedding day. 🙁 We also just did a dinner at a local restaurant because I didn’t know WTF to do and we had the smallest budget known to man. So we basically had a ceremony (my favorite part) and dinner.

    In hindsight, we should have used that small budget to buy plane tickets for our immediate family and just gotten married on the beach in Costa Rica! 🙂

    LIVE YOUR FANTASY. Do it! You have a great head on your shoulders and are smart about all of this so GO FOR IT!!! 🙂

  8. Anniesays:

    Important to me was my cake (made by my aunt) and my dress. I tried on tons of dresses and never had that perfect crying moment. Say Yes to the Dress made me feel like I had to have. I loved my dress anyways. We just used an iPod with every song hand chosen by us instead of a DJ or band. We ordered roses from Costco and put together the bouquets ourselves. Luckily I have some crafty family members. I did not care about the flowers. When one aunt really really wanted me to have a certain flower in my bouquet because of its meaning, I said sure. We ordered invites off of etsy for cheap. I did not care about formal invites with lots of layers. Try finding someplace where the ceremony and reception can both take place to cut down on transport costs. Bonus if you can bring your own booze. Congrats!!!!

  9. Jesssays:

    A Practical Wedding is the best wedding website/blog around and was an awesome sounding board for me during my wedding planning. They cover so many topics and are a phenomenal resource!

  10. Katiesays:

    First: congratulations on your engagement!!! What an exciting and special time. I’m not engaged, but I expect to be soonish, and I have thought a LOT about my future wedding. Here are my thoughts on budget stuff:

    -I want my wedding to be SUPER fun. That means spending money on fun things (everyone loves a photo booth) and alcohol. Your sister’s comment on the food is spot on. I just went to a wedding where there food was not very good, but I just had a couple bites anyway and then went to dance. I honestly don’t even remember what I ate.
    -In terms of music, I love a band because it makes the whole wedding feel more… authentic? I don’t know. But an advantage of a DJ is that people can do all the fun line dances that you only get to do at a wedding. When else do I get to see all the old people I love doing the Wobble?
    -I try really hard to avoid “wedding industrial complex” stuff. A big part of that means I could never in a million years spend even close to $1000 on a dress. I would feel so taken advantage of if I spent that money on something I would wear once.
    -I used to think videographers were a waste of $$, but I’ve yet to see a wedding video that hasn’t made me cry. I think I need one.
    -With regards to decorations, I am firmly of the belief that a nice venue can be decor enough. Also, I like the idea of doing centerpieces that also double as favors. I can see using succulents since they’re not too pricey! I live in Fairfax right now (grad student at GMU) so I FEEL YA on the venue prices (and also the prices of everything else). I’m lucky to have a godmother who lives on a picturesque farm, so I think that’s where we’ll get married.
    -The one place where I feel like I’d drop the big bucks is the honeymoon. Screw cruises y’all; mama wants to go to the south of France.

    To me this is the most important thing: The wedding is a reflection of the couple, their love, and their values. I want my wedding to be moderately traditional (I love the idea of having elements that were also at my parents’ and grandparents’ weddings), but I can’t bring myself to spend money on certain things or include certain traditions that go against my values. For me, I recognize that the only reason I want certain things is because Pinterest and TLC tells me I need them. That doesn’t jive with me. Also, I don’t want to invite anyone to my wedding that doesn’t know me or my partner personally. That means that we’ll likely have a small guest list, which also saves on $$$.

    It sounds like you’re really trying to be true to yourself during this process, and honestly that’s the most important thing. I would just ask yourself along the whole process “Is this reflective of us as a couple?” You already did that with your stunning non-traditional ring (have I mentioned how incredible that ring is? JEEZE.)

    Have you read Off Beat Bride at all? They’ve got some awesome wedding ideas and lots of geeky themed weddings (I think even some HP ones!). Also, I love Budget Friendly Bride. They have a ton of weddings sorted out by budget so you can see what a $1,000 wedding looks like compared to a $10,000 wedding.

    I can’t wait to see how your wedding planning goes! Count me totally checked IN for the next 10-or-so months. 🙂

  11. It boggles my mind what people spend on dresses on that show. I’m actually a huge fan of Alfred Angelo’s Disney Wedding Gowns (disneybridal.com), and the prices are a LOT more of what I’m willing to pay than what you see on wedding shows (1-2 thousand).
    Maybe your Taylor and Ben have photographer friends they can recommend for a discounted price? I feel like when planning anything, who you know is really important in regards to getting discounts.

  12. Sarahsays:

    First of all, congrats!!!! I loved getting (and being!) engaged so much.

    So, I was 100% sure I was going to buy an expensive, designer dress for our wedding, because I thought that was one thing I really wanted to splurge on. That was, until I went to David’s bridal and found the most perfect dress ever for something like $600. I’d say don’t count out the more affordable places, because they also have some gorgeous dresses that are still excellent quality. My wedding shoes cost more than my dress…lol!

    Photography is definitely something I’m glad we (sort of) splurged on. The pictures are beautiful and I look at them so much! None of the rest of this really applies though, because our wedding was a destination wedding and everything was included! Best decision I’ve made.

  13. Juliesays:

    If possible, try to have a small bridal party. Bridal party gifts add up more than you think.
    Don’t DIY too much; this is a time to enjoy, not stress. Along those lines, think candles. Cheap, easy, beautiful.
    Negotiate with vendors. There is wiggle room in their price, especially if you plan to marry in the off season.
    If you do decide to DIY, do the invites. Order a basic, plain design and the customize it yourself. I stamped flowers on our invites (we got married in a garden).
    Ask for help! Most female family members and friends would love to help. Ask them to say put together 30 gift bag for overnight guests in leiu of a gift. That would not insult me; I’d love to give such a useful gift and get to be a little part of making your day shine.
    Do your best to avoid regrets. This is a once in a life time event!

  14. Kelsey Yokisays:

    Your brain = my brain, even though I’m not engaged (yet). This was uber comforting for me to read, since these thoughts tend to pop up in my head anyways. I definitely think it is good advice to figure out what is really important and put those at the top of the budget – for me, that will definitely be a photographer + videographer. Have the right person taking your photos, especially since they are my mentors, will mean the world, and also being able to “live” through a video long after. My wish for you is that everything will become more clear as time goes on and more part of the wedding get established (venue, date, etc.)!

  15. Kris Ksays:

    We decided to get married and were married 2 weeks later. To us the most important thing was having meaningful vows, iced coffee, lemonade, and a rice krispie cake (made by me). Also tradition (wore my Gma’s wedding dress). It was also important to have those we loved (even though it was a Monday with only dessert served and everyone was notified a week in advance everyone showed up, even flying in from Afghanistan and the east coast). We were married in a friends back yard, flowers taken from her yard, a friend did my hair, a friend (photographer) did our pictures. He found out he was deploying 2 weeks after our wedding and to be honest when I came down to it the most important part was marrying my husband (although I did eat a hell of a lot of rice krispies on the honeymoon). So do it your way, whatever that way is even if it is different from others 🙂

  16. Kristy B.says:

    We were lucky because my sister in law is a photographer and she was able to call in a favor to one of her photog friends so we got that for free but I really wish we had hired a videographer.

    Most important items for us were food, alcohol and music because we wanted our guests to really enjoy themselves. We were able to cut costs by doing the centerpieces ourselves (grocery store flowers in mason jars with lemon slices, handmade napkins and framed prints, each centerpiece ended up being less than $10), renting a venue that allowed us to get our own caterer and have a serve yourself bar, and having the ceremony and reception in the same place. You’re on the right track with prioritizing some things over others, but in the end everything IS important and I promise you can have your cake and eat it too. It’s just a matter of shopping around and really crunching the numbers the whole way. Start with a list of things and allocate your budget out for each item. As you get quotes, make a tab on your budget spreadsheet for each item and list them out. Stay organized!

  17. LindsayHsays:

    I had a “budget” wedding. We were young (I had just graduated from college) and we paid for most of it ourselves. Right away I picked three things that we felt were really important to us: food (incl cake), photography, and honeymoon. True, a lot of people might not remember the food a few years later but honestly, no one but you and your close friends and family are really going to remember or care that much about your wedding a few years later. I like food, love to cook and bake, etc, so it was an important part of the celebration to us. I still think about how good our cake was and this year is our 10th anniversary! Maybe I was kind of lucky because there were a lot of things that really didn’t matter that much to us – we had a DJ, borrowed a classic car (not a super nice one), had our ceremony and reception at the same place, we ordered fresh flowers wholesale and DIYed all the arrangements, etc. I also think I was kind of lucky because we got married in the Pre-Pinterest Era, so there was no competition and no huge expectations! The bottom line, I think, is of course do what is important to you. It’s a special day and a huge celebration, you should have FUN (!!!) and enjoy it with your guests and show them a good time. But at the end of the day, you’re just as married no matter what, and that is what’s really important!

  18. lisasays:

    I can’t really tell you what to prioritize. I will say, find some bridal shows and have someone go with you. David went with me and put our information into every giveaway that every vendor was having. Then he walked around the rest of the entire time checking to see if we had won anything from the vendors. They don’t announce who has won they just posted on the outside of their giveaway box or whatever so you have to actually go and look in order to know that you’ve won. We ended up winning 2 free engagement sessions with two different photographers and one of them included a free CD of all the images and then we also won a free bridal portrait session with a free 11 by 14 bridal portrait then we also won another photography session for our wedding that we ended up not even using.

  19. The way that I did it was to try and remember the things that I really loved or hated about other weddings. For example, I was freaking out about the invitations. The ones I wanted were expensive and, of course, everything had to be perfect! But no one is going to remember the invitations or the wedding programs. Unless they are god awful for some reason. You really want good food and a good photographer. And my favorite parts of my wedding? The small details. Our awesome customized cake topper. Splurging on a photo booth. Having glow sticks and necklaces. The other stuff that was oh so “important” didn’t matter. I even forgot my bouquet when walking down the aisle!

  20. Did you notice in the blog posts I shared with you that my wedding had NO real flowers? I don’t think anyone even noticed. It just wasn’t important to me or Corner. I also had dreams of a live band but ended up with a DJ because of financial constraints. Also, I purchased my dress in Michigan instead of NYC because ladies at the shops in NYC gaped at me when I told them I wanted to spend <$1000 on a dress.

    I highly recommend setting a budget and sticking to it. It was a great feeling on my wedding day to know that it was all paid for and that we weren't going to be starting our marriage with a big credit card bill.

    Also, I used this Google template for planning and budgeting and narrowing down vendors. It was a total lifesaver. I think that you might like it:

    https://drive.google.com/previewtemplate?id=0AhN0y99GtIFTdEc0ZzFkMU8tZmFTSVp3dmhhMlRycWc&&ddrp=1#

  21. Lisasays:

    Also, I did read every word and I’d like a sticker.

  22. I haven’t been married, but I will say….if you’re not obsessed with flowers you’ll probably be okay. I would suggest anything you find on amazon, buy one or two to get a sense of what you like before ordering 50. EX: paper laterns, puff crafts. some are best to buy slightly premade and you assemble them. some are better to just do yourself.

    Also: my friend had a videographer for her wedding. THAT SUCKED. They did it on the side, and day of they were fine, but took forever to get her the actual video, and it was awful. and she happens to work in video production, so she ended up forcing them to give her the raw footage and she’s in the process of editing it herself. Part of the problem was they stopped doing it as a side job so they didn’t care…but it was a bad experience. So if there’s something you really really want. make sure its a pro doing it.

  23. I want my sticker in the mail pleeeeease. Just kidding, I’m going through all the same stuff trying to plan my wedding now so I feel you on every part of this. Except I don’t care about the videographer (I feel SO awkward when I’m being filmed so I’m just hiring one of my cousins to get the essentials on tape lol). But i completely completely feel you on wanting the photography, food, venue and the dress (say yes to the dress has ruined me as well!).

    Totally do not give a crap about flowers so I know where my first budget cut will be haha. I wish I had more advice for you, but I’m really not much further ahead in the planning process.The only thing I can say is that so far I get overwhelmed until I’m actually making the final decision and then it seems to come to me what’s most important. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but trust your gut and try not to panic! (I’m telling myself this too haha).

    When are you getting married by the way? Hopefully you have plenty of time to plan 🙂

  24. amanda junesays:

    We had a really small wedding (long story as to why, but it worked for us) that was non-traditional in a lot of ways. So, lots of budget differences I’m sure! But priorities for us as we planned (or…me? haha…my fiancé was really chill): PHOTOGRAPHY, venue (not necessarily cost-wise, but we wanted an atmosphere for the ceremony and reception each that would be just right). We weren’t at all concerned about flowers (especially since we got married in a beautiful garden in a park!) and his suit, while it took some hunting to find, was not expensive either. I was not PLANNING on spending much on my dress but um…I fell in love (I’ll tell you right now, you can find an INCREDIBLE and breathtaking dress for $1200-1500! I think it’s all in where you shop! Of course, I was only planning on spending $500 or so, but when it happens it happens. No regrets). Our reception venue ended up being a great restaurant with a quirky atmosphere that was perfect for our small party — their food is fantastic and they customized a menu for us. We wanted a good meal for people especially with a small wedding and a lot of out-of-town guests who came in just for our shindig. It’s one of those meals like you talked about where people are still raving about it a couple years later. 🙂 Oh, another non-priority: cake! Our venue was a French cafe and creperie and they did a dessert crepe bar instead of a cake! (my mom just made us a miniature cake for my husband and I to cut!) It was unique and fun, and I don’t think anyone missed the wedding cake. Another way we cut costs was to get married on a Sunday evening — venues are much cheaper that way. And I think a commenter alluded to this above, but people are going to charge you out the nose when they know it’s for a wedding, just because they can. So in any situation where you can avoid trumped-up wedding charges, try to get creative and do that! “Package deals” might not often be such great deals. AND — definitely work your connections. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help out or to connect you to people who might be able to get you a good deal on things (you don’t want your family to do photography — TOTALLY understandable; do they have good friends in the industry who would cut you a deal?? Etc. It’s all about who you know!) And as far as DIY goes (we had lots of DIY details!), definitely personalize and make it ‘you’, but be very careful to be realistic about what you can get done. Maybe set the bar a little lower than you think you need to, just to guard against unneeded stress leading up to your wedding. Because it is a season you definitely want to savor! 🙂 Wow, definitely did not intend to write this much. Hope you get lots of helpful advice, and enjoy the process!

  25. If you have some time to plan (like, the rest of the year or more) I would check out bridal shows. This way, you can see a lot of options and prices, maybe score some deals and enter contests to win some discounts or freebies. My friend won her honeymoon at a show! Also check out dress events. Some places will have used (not sure how you feel about that) dresses that were donated to charity and then are resold. Another friend got an absolutely gorgeous beaded dress for only $200 at a Brides for the Cause event. Stunning dresses that were a fraction of the price and money went to a good cause.

    When people say to focus on just what is important, it is hard! I am not married but have organized several weddings for friends and think about it this way…..in 10 years, 20 years, what would you be really sad that you didn’t have at your wedding. Would it be certain people? Would it be not having a live band and huge dance floor? If you can picture what you and Sean want in the grand scheme of things, it might help you focus on what really needs to be there vs. what people/society/yourselves think you are suppose to have.

  26. I actually didn’t really care about my wedding AT ALL. We did engagement shots (in ONE outfit) by his sister and that was it. Our entire wedding, including rings, dress, and our 63 person wedding party, was around $8,000. My parents covered a rehearsal cookout at their house, which is where all the girls also put together the bouquets. We ordered our flowers from costco.com and they were only $125. They came in great shape and held up for a good week after the wedding! The girls made my bouquet. My dress was nothing crazy but still was about $1000 of our budget. Our venue was $1200 and we were fortunate to find one for so cheap that included chairs and tables! It wasn’t everything I ever dreamed of, but it actually ended up being perfect on the wedding day! I spent maybe $200 on decorations, but used mostly mason jars that I got for free and we used little chalkboards to write on. I also had one of my favorite bbq restaurants ever cater our food, for only $11/person! We bought sangria and beer from Costco and ended up with WAY TOO MUCH alcohol left over! We had to have a bartender (state law or something) so we paid some guy $150 to hand out drinks. Easy peasy. After it was over, I had multiple people tell me it was the best wedding that they had ever been to. I was thrilled! And we definitely didn’t go into debt for it!

  27. katiesays:

    I’ve been married five years and we did our wedding on a budget ($10k for EVERYTHING). And, I didn’t DIY a single thing 🙂 we prioritized the venue over everything else. We wanted to get married outside and have a reception on site that could be inside and out. We used pictures of ourselves and our families when we were younger as decor. Centerpieces were hydrangeas…My fave but also big blooms so you need less. To be honest, everyone had an absolute blast and we got to go on our dream honeymoon (2 weeks in Spain). YouR day will be perfect because of what the day means…don’t stress about having the best of pinterest!!

  28. Ashleysays:

    Congratulations! I’m getting married in July in Northern VA, so I TOTALLY feel your pain about the DC area… The two biggest money-saving lessons I learned were: 1) I had a lot of success booking vendors outside of the immediate DC area. We saved a lot by hiring a caterer from Baltimore and a photographer from Richmond. They’re charging us a travel fee of $50-100, but we’re saving thousands in comparison to DC vendors. 2) I had no idea how much money we could save just by asking if vendors they offered any additional discounts. We loved a DJ who was $500 more expensive than a cheaper option we found… so we asked him if he could work with us to honor the other price, and he immediately agreed in exchange for us paying by check in full. For my dress, I really wanted to shop in the nicer boutiques over David’s Bridal. I was upfront about my budget, but told them that I was willing to try on samples. I ended up getting a dress that wasn’t a sample, but every store I visited was willing to offer discounts in exchange for paying cash and/or paying in full instead of just a 50% deposit.

  29. Alissasays:

    The most important pieces for us to spend money on were the band, photographer, and venue. We were fortunate enough to find an incredible local photographer at a very reasonable price. I recommend her to anyone who will listen: Amanda Gilley Photography (http://www.akgfoto.com/). Definitely check her out!

  30. Allisonsays:

    Haha I will gladly take that sticker for reading through the whole post! I have a feeling I will be glued to all your wedding posts (and the helpful comments!) as I am planning a wedding for next June and it has been extremely overwhelming/confusing to say the least. I’m looking forward to reading about your DIY ideas since I am always eager to cut some costs where I can. Congratulations!

  31. Chantalsays:

    As a frequent wedding guest, the only things I remember down the road are a) how convenient/inconvenient it was to get to the venue (hooray for places on public transit! boo to the wedding in the woods with no cell reception so we couldn’t call a cab to get us back into the city) and b) how much fun the people getting married seemed to be having. That’s what’s important! So I’d personally say prioritize the things that will help it stick around for YOU, try not to make it awkward for your guests, and definitely don’t stress about things like gift bags, table centrepieces, and the “perfect” invitation.

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