Sunday, January 18, 2015

Splurge vs. Save - Spending On The Big Day

When planning my wedding I thought I could easily spend under $10,000 with my "connections and DIY capabilities". Oh man was I wrong. Things just kept adding up and adding up. The venue and the caterer alone were my $10,000 budget, and we were only planning for 100 guests! During this journey I found a few tricks that helped us keep our budget at a minimum. I definitely spent over my $10,000 budget, but I stayed well under the national average so that made me feel like I didn't do too bad.  These are the tips I used to help save money on all of the details of our wedding...

Wedding Planner:
Because of Pinterest, it's becoming easier and easier to opt out of a wedding planner.  Personally, we decided to go without. There are so many resources you can use to help you plan your wedding.  I started with idea boards on Pinterest and then used to help me manage my guestlist. If you are a person that can keep a budget and keep your ideas in order - you will be fine without a wedding planner HOWEVER, one suggestion is to get a day-of coordinator. Someone who can be there on the day to make sure that decor is set up properly and guests know what's going on.  Things turned out alright for us without one, but it was extremely chaotic.  That's definitely something we wish we would have had. 

Bride: You need to find the dress you love, but within reason.  An easy way to save on the wedding dress is to borrow a dress from a relative and have it re-made. I ended up with the dress of my dreams, something that no one else will ever have, because I was willing to keep my mind open and borrow my future grandmother in-law's dress.  If that isn't your thing, check out some used dresses on tradesy or

Groom: Even if you're fiance is picky (like mine) it can still be easy to save on the grooms outfit.  My fiance and I knew that he wanted something tweed. He made this decision really early which was great because I could watch the end-of-season sales. I ended up getting his jacket, vest and tie 50% at JCrew and his shirt 50% off at  He borrowed his kilt and the only thing we splurged on were the shoes because we knew they would last a long time and my fiance never get's nice why not ;) 

Bridesmaids/Groomsmen: I tried to be especially sensitive to this because I know that most bridesmaids either don't like or just never re-wear their dress. I asked for lots of input in hopes that they would like it enough to re-wear it.  I hope I succeeded (they said they liked it anyway). We went for dresses at, again, looking for things in the post-season sales. They purchased their dresses and I let them wear whatever shoes as long as they weren't stilettos (outside wedding) or black.  I worked with a fair-trade jewelry shop to custom design jewelry for them as a gift.  The groomsmen were super simple.  We purchased the same vest and tie for them as my husbands as a gift.  We also sent them links to pants and a shirt that were about $40 total.  Not bad ;)

Ceremony Decor: I really wanted an arbor for my wedding so after searching and searching for solutions, we finally said screw it and made it. This was my husbands big project and he took it on like a champ. We enlisted his dad and a family friend to help put it all together. They assembled most of it at home, drove it over to the venue in a truck, and assembled the rest of it.  To dress it up they hung fluttery curtains and my mom made a really cute birds nest type thing filled with flowers to hang from the middle. For the aisle, we originally wanted to do different leveled stumps with vases of flowers on them. That way we could re-use the vases for the reception space...however we ran out of time and some how they ended up just lining it with stumps. Wasn't the original vision but the altar was so pretty that I doubt anyone even noticed anyway. It worked haha. 

Reception Decor: Best advice - don't rent. I know, it sounds crazy, but we actually were able to find all of the linens for our wedding online for basically the same price as renting. I also found votives for cheaper then renting, and they were WAY cuter than normal votives.  You can also check on or even craigslist. Brides are always trying to get rid of their gently used decorations :) We also saved money by thrift shopping and scavenging friends and families homes for most of our decor.  If you're going for an eclectic vibe, that works really well. Also - don't spend more on the unimportant things. No one is going to remember what your napkins looked like (I cant even remember what mine were) so don't bother paying extra for the pretty ones. Cocktail table linens? Who cares? Think big picture. Think about where photos will be taken and then spend more on those areas.


Boutineers: We made these ourselves using dried flowers and twine. They were really simple, so simple my two male cousins did it. We just made sure we found really interesting colors and odd shaped flowers to use so that it stayed fun. I loved the end result!

Bouquets: We went the traditional route on this one and hired a florist. Bouquets are BEYOND expensive...but I couldn't find a way around it. I didn't want to stress my mom out by having her do these too so we just went with a professional. They turned out gorgeous though! I would say that you should shop around to save money. Try finding a florist in a small town rather than a larger city. The price differences can be quite drastic. 

Centerpieces: This was definitely audacious but we decided to pick and arrange our own flowers. I really wanted the wildflower feel though so this might not be for everyone. We picked the flowers on a flower farm the day before the wedding and used them for both our rehearsal dinner and wedding. It worked out really well but unfortunately, we didn't have enough time on the day of to finish all of the arrangements. Now this isn't because it's was because I forced my mom to come get her hair done with me so she wasn't able to be at the venue getting people movin' and shaking doing all the decorating haha. 

If you aren't totally stuck on having a specific band, or you just can't possibly afford your favorite (like myself with Nickel Creek), then I suggest an Ipod wedding.  A few months before the wedding we started saving music to Spotify. We built playlists for "cocktail hour", "dinner", and "dancing".  I even had some family members help us pick the music by making them collaborators on the playlist.  It was 100% free in comparison to a band being $3,000+ or a DJ being $1,000+ on average. My only advice with this is that you make sure you put the music in order of what you want to hear. I made the mistake of hitting shuffle rather than playing through it, so we never got to hear some of our favorite songs. 

Catering: Originally we thought my dad would cater the wedding. This sounded like a great idea until I realized how stressed out he would be if he did cater it.  So we opted for an actual caterer.  Food is very important to my family so for this aspect of the wedding, we splurged. We hired a local caterer called Saffron Fine Foods that did fresh farm-to-table food. It was absolutely awesome!  And for our rehearsal dinner, we actually hired a food truck! It was pretty cheap (at like $10 a head) and it was SO much fun for our guests. The food was fantastic too! So if you're a quirky bride and groom - do a food truck. It was the best idea ever!
Booze: When you can - purchase your own wine and beer. And do not skimp on this...especially if you're expecting people to dance. I don't care what kind of crowd you think you have coming to your wedding...if you don't have alcohol, they will not dance (unless they snuck in a flask). We purchased our own for the rehearsal dinner.  For the reception, we ended up weighing the cost of purchasing our own vs. just going with our caterer and after corkage fees, the caterer was just as cheap. So we ended up getting 2 kegs of our favorite local beers and then a few cases of some New Zealand wine.  It was a fun way to draw the connection between my NC pride in beer and his NZ pride in wine ;) 

Cake: The best way to save on a cake? Make it yourself. You can practice a few times before the wedding and get your recipe down to a tee. Just make sure what you make is freezable. That's the real key. My mom and best friend made my cake and cupcakes about 3 weeks before the wedding. They froze it, brought it out to ice the cupcakes 3 days before the wedding, then put them back in the freezer.  Everything was ready to go, even the icing, so all they had to do was ice the cake and stack it on the big day. 

This might have been a faux pas but we actually opted out of favors.  I've never really understood the idea of wedding favors - yes, it's a gift to say thank you for coming...but why would I ever need anything with your monogram on it? Something you can do to keep costs down on these is make them yourself. We thought about doing candy apples but that took too much time...we also thought about making individually wrapped smores but then we figured, they're just going to open it and use it so we might as well just leave it all un-packaged to start. 

Photographer & Videographer:
Photographer: Originally I was very skeptical about hiring wedding photographers.  First I thought we could just hire a friend for photos, but as it turned out, all of our photographer friends were IN the wedding so we felt like it would be wrong to ask them to do both. I wanted to spend under $1000 but after searching around I realized that if we want cheap, we'll have to compromise on quality of photos. So we decided to take the plunge and hire photographers that we loved. We definitely made the right decision because after all is said and done, all you have left are the memories and the photos. And without the photos, you're going to loose some of those memories. So splurge on the photographer. 

Videographer: One thing we didn't do that I wish we would have done was hire a videographer...or at least try to get someone to tape the big moments...A few of our guests captured some of the major things for us but not all of them. I would say that if you cannot afford a videographer, at least have a family member record the important parts. 

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