Photos by: Bri Cibene Photography
Ahh…wedding planning. I remember it all too fondly. My first piece of advice I received after I got engaged was, “Delay wedding planning as long as possible. That’s when the stress begins.”
I think most of us (women) start planning our wedding before we’re even engaged, or dating! We think about what dress we’ll wear, what flowers we’ll carry, and what kind of cake we’ll serve. When you start planning, there’s a collision that happens…between what you’ve been dreaming of your whole life and what is now realistic. For example, growing up my family had a beach house on Long Beach Island, NJ. My grandfather built the house, and I have vivid memories of my summers spent there. The car rides would seem so long, but when we finally got to the bridge leading onto the Island, my heart would skip a beat.
As I got older, and started to dream of my wedding day, I would imagine it taking place at the Yacht Club located at the entrance of the bridge. I would gaze out at the grand estate, and think “there’s no where else I want to get married but here.”
Well, 15 some years later, my dreams were crushed. I had almost forgotten about this place, until the memory hit me one day as we were venue searching. I didn’t know the exact name of it, but I knew the location and so I did what all of us do…I consulted Google. I found out it was called the Mallard Island Yacht Club. It looked a lot more prestigious than what I had remembered. I clicked on the Weddings tab, and found out that the estate rental fee was almost $20,000! (that wasn’t including food or drink). Unfortunately, this was way out of our budget.
All our lives we dream of our wedding as a one day event. However, when we find our dream man (or woman), the ultimate prize is not the wedding day, but getting to spend every day for the rest of our lives together.
No matter what you do, or don’t do…the most important thing is who is waiting for you at the end of the aisle.
Here are 10 things that helped me save money when I was planning my wedding.
- Not Using A Florist
My mother-in-law had warned me about how expensive flowers would be…but I couldn’t bring myself to use fake flowers. After getting a few estimates from florists, I knew I would have to get creative. That’s when I turned to Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods has an amazing floral department and employees who specialize in floral arrangement. Because they’re a large retailer and they buy in bulk, they can get flowers from the wholesalers at a cheaper cost. I personally used the Whole Foods Market in Palo Alto and worked directly with a specialist who was able to give me an estimate that was less than 1/3 of what the florists told me. Since we got married in the Spring, I had a wide variety of flowers to choose from that were in-season. I got to have beautiful, fresh flowers at a fraction of the cost.
2. Using One Venue
What appealed to me about the venue we chose, was that they had the capabilities to do everything on-site. That meant we could have our ceremony and reception in one location and cut the costs needed to transport the bridal party and guests. That also meant less time wasted in the car, and more face-to-face time with my family, friends, and most importantly.. groom.
3. Not Using a (Traditional) Caterer
We got very lucky with our venue. At the time, they did not have a vendor list like many places do, that required we use one specific caterer or photographer. After securing Whole Foods as our florist, I thought…Why don’t they cater our wedding too?? I can’t claim I was the first person to think of this, but I did feel pretty savvy at the time 😉 One thing to keep in mind is that they do not serve the food. They will drop it off for you, but you have to have a venue that either provides wait staff, or you have to hire them on your own.
4. Not Buying an Expensive Dress (or shoes)
Every bride is different, but for me, I personally didn’t place too much emphasis on what I would be wearing…a shocker I know! I didn’t have the luxury to spend thousands on a wedding dress, nor did I want to! The most important thing to me was that I felt comfortable. It’s important to think about how and where you want to spend your money. To me, I wanted to put more money into our reception and entertaining my guests instead of wearing an expensive dress. When it comes to shoes…the reality is, no matter how “comfortable” you claim your heels are, you’re going to be kicking them off on the dance floor. (I ended up purchasing my heels from Nordstrom Rack for $50!)
5. Borrowing from fellow Brides
This is the best! If you have friends who have gotten married, it’s most likely that they have something you can borrow. I was extremely lucky to have some amazing friends who lent me decor, candles, and even a veil! Every little bit counts and most of the time people are eager to help and happy to see their things put to good use.
6. Skipping the RSVP cards
I didn’t see the point of printing extra paper for RSVP cards when people could just go online and do the same thing. Ultimately, when the wedding is over, think about what you’ll want to save; most likely it will be your wedding invitations or program…not your rsvp cards.
7. Making your own Decor
Yes, we’ve all gotten sucked into the DIY movement…but there is something really rewarding about doing this. For the things I couldn’t do, I enlisted the help of talented people on Etsy. The biggest thing I did (with the help of my friend Kelly) was make ALL the table runners for our guest tables. It definitely was a labor of love but so worth it in the end!
8. Not Having an Open Bar
We chose to serve beer and wine to eliminate high alcohol costs. We purchased all our alcohol from BevMo, and the best part was, whatever bottles we didn’t open (and weren’t chilled)- we got to return!! I ended up returning over $100 worth in alcohol; which was a welcome surprise after so much spending!
9. Hiring Your Friends
Most of us have at least one or two super artsy or crafty friends. My sister-in-law happens to be one of them! She handmade decor for her own wedding, so I asked her to make a banner and cake topper for us. She also did my make-up, which was a huge help (and cost saver)! I had a friend from high school, Bri Cibene, who started her own photography business, so when it came time to choose a photographer, I hired Bri because I completely trusted her and knew she would do an amazing job! Our videographer was also a personal friend, and I can’t tell you how comforting it felt to be surrounded by vendors that we knew and trusted.
10. Being your own Planner
The beauty of planning a wedding these days, is that we have Pinterest! My decision not to have a wedding planner was mostly due to finances, but if I had to do it over again…I wouldn’t change a thing! Planning a wedding is something you’ll do once (hopefully) so all the ups and downs are just part of the process. I felt more comfortable making decisions knowing that I wasn’t being influenced by someone who maybe had ulterior motives. I tried to incorporate our family and friends as much as possible, and when I look back at the photos, I see the love that surrounded us that day…and every day since then.
And that’s a story I can share with our kids and grand-kids for years to come.