Find meaningful ways to add to a wedding and still cut costs. Learn these money-saving tips from a DIY Bride.
By Stephanie Welch AlexanderMore in Decorating
How do you get as much wedding as possible for your money - and, without blowing your budget?
Know what you want.
Communication between you and your fiancé is essential. I wanted a smaller wedding for 80-100 guests; my fiance wanted everyone in his large family included -- and that resulted in a much longer guest list. Once we determined the number of guests, we moved on to our respective visions of the perfect day. Immediately, we agreed on a number of things: the season (autumn), the location (outdoor), and the colors we wanted to use (burgundy, green and ivory). This gave us a starting point that would allow us to plan and stick to our vision as we did our initial research and later met with vendors.
Research, research, research.
A well-researched couple is one that can more easily stick to their original vision and budget and, in the end, gets the most for their money. The Internet can be an invaluable tool for getting an idea of what things cost and you can also e-mail many companies to get estimates -- without phone calls or time-consuming legwork.
Create your budget.
Then, comparison shop. Some of the research you've already done will help you make some decisions. Once you know what kind of budget you're working with, you can use some of that information to eliminate vendors that might be inflexible or out of your range. Now you can get serious about choosing whom you want to work with.
Don’t make final decisions about vendors until you've selected a date and a venue. Word of warning: venues can often book a year in advance, but don't let a feeling of desperation result in additional fees or paying more than you budgeted. For us, the perfect venue -- after we'd researched many outdoor sites -- turned out to be three acres of lakefront property with mountain views, owned by my fiancé's parents. Not only did we end up with our picturesque outdoor setting, his parents were so honored that we asked -- and we saved money. Look for a venue that fits your budget and is meaningful -- and widen your idea of what the perfect venue might be. It doesn't have to be a church and an expensive reception hall, a meaningful ceremony and memorable celebration can just as easily take place at a historic site, a museum -- even a friend's backyard!
Meaningful ways to add to the celebration, and still cut costs:
Have a clear idea of what you want to help you say no to the upsell of items that would put you over budget.
Enlist help or use your own DIY talents. My fiancé, a graphic designer, used his talents and printing connections to design invitations that otherwise would have blown our invitation budget. While he was busy designing invitations, I looked for things I could make myself. I designed and created my bridal attendant jewelry; enlisted my mother to help sew my two-layer veil. One co-worker made my purse, while another addressed our envelopes. Finally, my fiancé and I recycled the five dozen roses he sent to me the day of our engagement as "toss petals". Not only will you save money by doing many tasks yourself, you might also honor friends and family by including those who want to help. Nothing brings forth people's generosity with time and energy like an impending wedding!
Learn to say no Learning to be polite but firm is one of the greatest cost-cutters and stress-relievers. Bridal salespeople will try to "steer" you in certain directions -- after all, their job is to upsell. Having a firm, clear vision of what you want will keep you on track. By the same token, a reputable professional will look for ways to help you achieve your vision without breaking a bank.
Talk about your wedding. By sharing some of your ideas with friends, family, co-workers -- even those who work in the wedding business -- you might discover a great money-saving tip or the name of a wedding vendor who might do incredible work at a discount.
Avoid the overhead. Look for wedding vendors who run a "side" business or work from home. I used a photojournalist who also shot weddings (after all, why pay for a wedding photographer who shoots "photojournalist style" when you can have the real thing?). My caterer had been an event planner and catering manager for a very large, historic hotel and was European-trained. Because she was starting her own company, we were able to secure her services and enjoy her talent for much less than anyone else was offering. Her menu was also a little more creative, because she wasn't trying to streamline the process and offer set menus for all weddings. My florist, whom I affectionately tagged "mini Martha", was creative and young and just seemed to "get" our vision -- for much less than the other seven florists I interviewed. Because she works from home, we didn't have to pay her overhead, and we invested more in the actual flowers and her design talent.
Avoid stores with "bridal" in the name whenever possible. This was a very valuable lesson I learned. Although I purchased my gown from a salon, by the time the wedding arrived, I had learned to shop elsewhere. I purchased my tiara from a vendor on Ebay and my shoes and accessories from a discount department store (and found exactly what I wanted); I had my mother's pearls restrung into a choker; and I purchased my bridesmaids' gowns on their behalf from Discount Bridal Service (although it has "bridal" in the name, it offers salon-quality gowns as a significant discount). To me, the word "bridal" became synonymous with "markup".
Be original. Sometimes saving money can be as simple as celebrating your individuality or taking into account unique attributes of your venue. Instead of a guestbook full of names that might be meaningless in 50 years, we decided to take a group shot of our entire wedding party and guests. Seeing how everyone looked on that wonderful day is so meaningful to us -- and we saved on the cost of a guestbook, pen and other accoutrements that add to the bottom line.
A word about the honeymoon. Avoid booking the honeymoon package at major resorts. You'll often save hundreds -- even thousands -- of dollars. While many couples opt for "all-inclusive" deals, take a look at what you're really getting. Will you really drink and eat enough to make it worth it? What if you want to travel off the resort? You'll only be adding costs. Is that bottle of champagne on the sunset cruise really worth the extra $150 you might spend? Compare costs and see whether being in the "honeymoon" class will really save you money -- or cost more. For us, being "honeymooners" would mean spending an extra $1,000, so we decided we'd go as regular vacationers and purchase the cushy add-ons as we wanted them. We still had a romantic honeymoon -- and we didn't spend one minute worrying about money. And what's better than choosing what's right for the two of you -- and starting your married life without worry?