How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

It doesn’t matter if you’re just a recent college graduate, or a seasoned pro with a highly paid accounting job in the Big Apple, there’s two truisms when it comes to weddings:

  • You’re in love with your perfect match.
  • You don’t want to break the bank when it comes to your wedding.

Here are some tips to help you save on the big day:

Location

Location, location, location. This is one of the most crucial, and hopefully earliest, decisions you will make about your wedding. It will determine your color scheme, (ex. reds and pinks won’t look good in an orange tinted lit church), decorations, size of guest list, you get the idea. Try to find a location that incorporates your tastes and has a bit of uniqueness before any decorations are planned.

Look for wedding locations that come equipped with extra space for holding the reception (most churches now a days have gyms attached to their sanctuaries which are perfect places for playing a little music and letting loose). Booking wedding halls and reception rooms separately can really take a bite at your budget. Most places will cut down the price if you book the entire to-do there, like this excellent wedding venue for Bar Mitzvahs.

Outdoor weddings: if you are trying for the Garden of Eden effect and hold your big day outside, look for a place that has permanent awnings, pavilions, gazebos, etc. surprisingly, renting tents and covers is way expensive and no matter how hard you plan, the weather never seems to pay attention.

Indoor weddings: opting for an indoor wedding, find a place that’s beautiful without any help. Incorporate the room’s uniqueness into your style and let it do the decorating for you.

Flowers

Believe it or not, flowers are not a must have at all weddings. However, they do tend to look nice but can cost a fortune. An important thing to remember when picking out flowers is simplicity is often the key. You don’t want your wedding looking like a funeral viewing or smell like a perfume shop. Utilize your surroundings. If you’re outside, use the landscaping of the area. Inside, try for one centralized flower focal point. Try this one out – it’s been very popular with my clients.

Pick one type of flower and move from there. Try to avoid the whole “every color/species of the rainbow” flower arrangements. Having your bridesmaids carry one to three simple flowers with ribbon tied around the stems can look very classy.

If you are a bride-zilla and insist on your theme resembling the gardens of Babylon, try mixing real flowers with silk (yes, fake flowers. no one is looking at them anyway. all eyes are on you). The key to silk flowers, buy them early, a little at a time. Don’t expect to save money if you make one trip to hobby lobby and load up on enough silk flowers to power the rose parade. Also, use greenery. Ferns and ivy cost less than flowers and make great filler for those places that seem bare.

Photographer

It’s your big day and nothing is more important than having your memories captured for you to treasure. Unfortunately, it seems like those memories are going to cost you an arm and a leg. Believe it or not, there’s a cheaper way to handle it and it looks just as professional as long as you keep the secret to yourself. Note: before hiring any photographer, be sure to insist upon viewing his/her portfolio.

Take out an ad in the paper or talk to professors at a nearby college. You can usually find upperclassmen, photographer majors with just as much talent at a third of the price. If this makes you uneasy, with all the money you’ll save, hire two. That way, you are assured of excellent pictures. Extra note: usually photographer majors have some wedding experience.

Also, splurge on a few disposable cameras to lay around the tables at your reception. Encourage your guests to be their own photographers (hey, they’re free and you get the most memorable pictures this way).

Reception

Go big party, low decorations. Don’t worry about making your reception a winter/springtime/whatever time wonderland; just let your guests have fun! Try putting a planned-by-you play list on several cds and talk a friend into playing them for you (make sure this friend can run a sound system/cd player). Or, have a few tables with table clothes set out. Once again, simplicity never goes out of style.

Food/refreshments: number one reception money saving tip: stay away from alcohol and soft drinks! Stick to punch or have a bowl with ice water and lemons. Heck, have both. Try and avoid sit down meals (finger food and weddings just go together). As for caterers, nix that idea and look for ladies who love to cook. Grew up in the church, mother or grandmother have a bridge club, these little ladies will jump at the chance to make bite size shrimp or spinach dip. Can’t find any Betty Crockers? Be a rebel. Throw out traditional food and opt for a candy buffet (i.e. m m;’s, twizzlers, etc,) in bowls with scoops and little doggie bags. Or, an ice cream sundae line with all the trimmings.

Cake

This is a tough one. Unless you just have someone in your family that is skilled in the art of 6 tiered, sugar-flower covered goodness, you’ve got to spring for the cake. Because so many people are getting into the art of pastry making, with extensive research, you can find reasonably priced and delicious cake. One small tip for shaving off a little extra dough, however, is: if your cake is more that two tiers tall, have only the bottom, for you and your hubby to cut, and the top layer real cake. (If you’re extra rebellious and feel like throwing tradition out the window, you can make the top layer fake too. who really wants to keep that thing in their freezer for a year?)

Bakers are now making Styrofoam layers covered in icing to cut down on cake prices. It looks real so your guests will never know. Put on your apron, get your girls in the kitchen, and make a few sheet cakes. Once they’re cut and put out on plates, your guests won’t realize they didn’t even eat your cake. Just make sure not to serve the Styrofoam!

Dress

This is all you girl. Here’s where you spend the money you have been pinching since the beginning. The most important thing to remember is, make sure you love your dress. Next, try and find a dress (you love of course) that fits you because alterations can be pricey. Who needs fancy jewelry when you have your perfect dress (have a mentioned simplicity?). Lastly, wear the fire out of that dress. It’s a one time deal, the big day.

Why spring for another outfit to wear at the reception when you already have a perfectly gorgeous dress. If you feel this might make you uncomfortable, loose the shoes. It’s time for the party!