Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wedding Planning Tips

Happy Thursday! Today I'm back with some wedding planning and savings tips. First, the most important step in planning a wedding is deciding on your priorities. That will help guide all of the other decisions. Our number one priority is the marriage itself, so we made sure to put an emphasis on the marriage prep (definitely recommend the Engaged Encounter retreat!) and ceremony. After that, we wanted to have a great time at the reception, surrounded by our family and friends. So we made sure to pick a unique location with fantastic food and fun entertainment.

Keep in mind that planning a wedding is a big emotional event. But it's only one day! The wedding industry may try to convince you that you "need" something because it's your wedding and special day. Yes, we wanted a rockin' reception, but I didn't need shoes that cost hundreds of dollars that I might never wear again.

After determining your priorities, work on the guest list. This will help you figure out how much space you need at your reception site. Plus, knowing the number of guests will also directly impact the number of invitations, meals, favors (if doing), centerpieces you will need. Since John and I had a "destination" wedding of sorts, our guest list was slightly smaller than if we had the wedding in Cleveland or Chicago.

The dress, accessories, and such

I ended up finding my dress at David's Bridal. Yes, a big surprise to me too! I wasn't sure what I wanted, so my Mom, sister, and I went there first. The only other time I went dress shopping was when I tried on a few dresses by myself at a place in St. Louis while out Christmas shopping. I figured David's had a large selection and then we could try on other dresses at other stores. I'll admit that my expectations were somewhat low, but loved my dress! I think it was the first one I tried on at David's. Their stores can be hit or miss with service. I had great service in Ohio, but the store at Sunset Hills, MO was less than spectacular. So schedule a time window and maybe even go in the morning during the week.

Today, all sorts of retailers have wedding dresses (J. Crew, BHLDN, The Limited, etc.) at reasonable prices. You might also find your dream dress new or used at sites such as Savvy Cinderella or Once Wed.

Accessories can cost an arm and a leg, so my Mom made my veil. I wanted a simple veil and bought the tulle and comb for less than $10 at Joann Fabrics (with a coupon). There’s are all sorts of tutorials online. Here are some from Weddingbee to get you started.

Want to know another secret? The flower in my hair was simply a silk stem from Joann's cut to size. We stuck it in my updo like a hair chopstick. No clips or barrettes needed!

My friend did my hair. She's not a professional, but is really good at hair and crafty things. If you have friends or family members that can (and want to) help in other areas, let them get involved! It will give your wedding a personal touch.

Flowers were something I didn't know much about before doing a little research. I looked a pictures and knew what was pretty to me. Of course the wedding magazines didn't show prices. So I was shocked at my first estimate from a florist. Little did I know that orchids would cost an arm and a leg! So back to the drawing board to find flowers that were local and would be in season in September.

The venue and reception

Be creative with venues and timing. It’s usually cheaper on a Friday night (and may have more availability) or Saturday during the day than a Saturday night. There may also be a discount if you have your wedding during the "off season" (like the steamy summers in St. Louis). This was a bit of a non-negotiable for us since our Church booked up fast, so we cut corners elsewhere.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but buffets can be more expensive than plated dinners. With a buffet, the caterer has to make more food since there are no set portion sizes. Plus, there may be wasted food at the end of the night. Although, you don’t have to pay for as many servers

If possible, try to get kids prices for meals and reduced drink prices for the under 21 crowd.

For the cake, get a smaller, fully decorated one to display and cut and then have sheet cakes in the back for the rest of the guests. Some couples will order a cake with one tier to cut and the rest made of Styrofoam.

Other tips

Please, please, please get recommendations before hiring vendors! We found our venue after talking with friends in the restaurant industry. They knew the owner of the catering company and raved about the reception space and food.

That being said, I wish we did a little more research with photographers. We listened to the recommendation on spending the money on a professional photographer. The pictures are what you have for the rest of your life so make sure to get a good one. However, we were dazzled by the pictures and were less than thrilled with their customer service at times.

If possible, negotiate with vendors. Or let them know about your budget. If they can't work within your budget, they may be able to recommend someone who can.

DIY is key, and always use a coupon! Though make sure you have enough time to tackle projects. Etsy is a fun website to find all sorts of handmade goodness. John's Mom made our programs and I made our table numbers.

Phew! Did I miss any tips? Any brides with anything else to share?

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  1. Wedding invites can be expensive and since most people just toss them after your big day, why spend an arm and a leg on them??? I used Budget Wedding Invitations ( that I found online. Some of them are cheesy and look cheap, so be sure to order a sample or two if you're uncertain. I went with the "Traditional Love Wedding" invite (no embossing or any special designs, just the raised wording in my specified color) and loved them!! Simple and the quality was great! I think we spent $250 on invites, including response cards, information cards, reply envelopes with pre-printed addresses, and our address printed on the outer envelope.

    Ooooh - I miss wedding planning.

    To elaborate on the flower arrangement discussion: Another idea is to only put flower arrangements on some tables and decorate with other things such as candles or fruit. For example, you could put an IKEA lantern with a candle in the middle with scattered flower petals around it. ( Or a candle arrangement on a mirror plate with "diamond" confetti sprinkled around. ( As for the vase with fruit - raid your local Goodwill or your family/friend's cupboards. They're bound to have a few large vases you can fill with lemons, limes, oranges, apples, pine cones and cinnamon sticks with LED lights, etc. You can use the fruit the next day at the breakfast if you choose to have one, or you can always do a lot of baking or healthy eating!

    Obviously - some of my ideas depend on the vibe you're trying to set, so take the ideas with a grain of salt! :)

  2. Your flowers were gorgeous! These are really helpful tips for brides-to-be. I also did a post on planning tips awhile back (less $ related, more organizational):

    Other great places to find vases, jars, picture frames, etc: Home Goods/TJ Maxx/Marshall's, Kohl's, and Michael's.

  3. A great place to start when it comes to planning a wedding on a *real* budget. So many magazines have the "low-cost wedding" sections, but they are still out-of-range for most of us middle-class. Thanks for the ideas!

  4. love the pop of blue on the cake!

  5. Wow was your gown gorgeous! And the bouquet...Swoon!

  6. Great tips, thank you for sharing them. I'll be sure to keep them in mind when my time comes.


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