Wednesday, June 27, 2012

10 tips for an affordable wedding

A little backstory: We got engaged on March 6, 2011. 

We got married on July 2, 2011. That means we spent less than 4 months to plan the wedding of our dreams! And not only did we have our dream wedding but we did it on a budget, something that might be unheard of in America where the average wedding costs more than $20,000. Here are some tips we gathered along the way that I thought I would share in hopes they might help other affordable wedding planners!

Tip #1 : Friends and family want to help!

The first tip to having an affordable, yet elegant wedding is to use your resources. If you have friends and family offering to help, take them up on it! I cannot stress this enough: You two can't do this whole wedding on your own and, trust me, people want to help!

For instance, Christopher's aunt knows a restaurant owner who generously lent us all the linens for the wedding at an incredible price. Also, the day before the wedding we spent hours in the hot sun setting everything up with our family and friends. This was a priceless gift to us as we simply couldn't have done it all without their help!

Another example is a friend had a connection at a local brewery and was able to get a great deal on beer. So he bought all the beer for our wedding as a wedding gift to us.

Tip #2 : Compromise


The second tip is to compromise. Maybe you do want a really expense dress - great, get an expensive dress! But if you're on a tight budget remember that the money for that dress will be coming out of something else. Therefore you might have to compromise in order to be able to afford all the other things you want. But don't fret, this usually turns out for the better.

For example, we wanted to have this well-known rock cover band play at our wedding. Turns out they cost a lot of money. And require a dressing room. Umm...yeah, not happening. So we compromised, found a lesser known band, and, in the end, the party was amazing. Sure it may have been nice to have the big name band but the guilt I would have been feeling for spending an excessive amount of money on that wouldn't have been worth it. Instead, we got to have the music we wanted at the price we wanted. Win-win.


 Tip #3 : Use your imagination

There were tons of amazing ideas I saw online for wedding favors. All of them would end up taking up a chunk of our budget. As much as I wanted people to have something to take away from the wedding, it just didn't seem worth it to pull money away from something like food and spend it on favors instead. In the end we came up with a great idea to scour thrift stores for tea cups. After collecting well over 100, we had a gardening party and filled them all up with lovely little plants and ground covering. I was so much happier with these than spending tons of money ordering something off the internet. They seemed so much more like us and our guest LOVED them and still raved about them months later.

Tip #4 : Don't splurge on the details


All the little details don't have to cost a lot of money. Put a budget aside on how much you want to spend on just the little decorations (table elements, etc.) and then stick to it. Vintage chic is in right now so head over to the thrift store or the antique store. Wash off a few things, paint a few things, cut a few things up. I promise it will look 10 times better and you will enjoy it 10 times more than if you overspend on these details. Another option is to only buy things that you know you will use in the end. We did this by using things we already had or by purchasing things we knew we would reuse like glass containers, old books, and fabric.

Tip #5 : Think outside the box when it comes to bridal party clothing


The average cost for a wedding dress is around $1,000. And while many can justify this, I just couldn't make sense of spending that much money on a dress I will wear for only a few hours. After going to several shops to try on dresses, I never really found "the dress". Finally, I decide to just call myself crazy and peruse Craigslist for a dress. Lo and behold, I found a dress! It was brand new too! (The woman had bought three and decided to use a different one but couldn't return the others). So after a few alterations, it fit like a glove.

Also, I didn't want my bridesmaids to have to spend tons of money on an outfit they may never wear again either (we all know how unpredictable bridesmaid dresses can be!). So after looking online for various types, I went to JCPenney to look and see what they had. Turns out there was an awesome sale the day I was there and I had a coupon so when I found a dress I liked I kind of went a little crazy and bought every size of that dress since my girls weren't there to try them on! They loved the dresses and they are all totally wearable again.

As for the shoes, all the girls got Toms shoes. I got gray ones and they all got white ones. I really appreciated the one-for-one thing that Toms does and figured this was better than going out and buying heels that we would all break our ankles in standing in the grass.

Tip #5 : Use your resources! 

Christopher and I are both vegetarian so we worried that it might be an issue to find something veggie-friendly but that would also appeal to the carnivores out there. One of Christopher's coworkers happened to also work at Souplantation and she was able to give us all the hook ups. We had a custom menu with an amazing salad spread, veggie sandwiches and wraps, fruit platters, and tons of other specialty items.

Our cake was designed and baked my Christopher's talented Aunt Danalyn. Basically we told her what we wanted it to look like and then she went wild and made this amazing cake with four different flavors. Each layer represented a city we have lived together: San Diego, San Francisco, Humboldt, and then Edinburgh. The best part was that our wedding day was so hot that we had to rush over and cut the cake before dinner! Who doesn't love cake before dinner!

Tip #6: Priorities 

The top two priorities on our wedding must-have list was great photography and music. We didn't want to splurge a ton of our budget on these things but we also didn't want to scrimp in these areas because they were super important to us both. 

In the end we found the most amazing photographer at a wedding vendor mixer we went to downtown.  Bryan N. Miller of Bryan N. Miller Photography  is incredible! He was affordable, willing to work around our budget, and put up with my flip flopping on whether or not to do a First Look until literally the day before the wedding (we decided to do it and I'm so glad we did)! He even put together this incredibly beautiful slideshow for us just days after the wedding!  

I previously mentioned in Tip #2 about the band we had wanted but realized they were way out of our price range. My grandpa (who is also in a band) suggested we do a search on Gigmasters. We found Sea Cure, a kick-ass classic rock/modern rock cover band. They learned two or three new songs for our wedding and played the entire 5 hours without a break. Seriously, they kicked butt! 

Our ceremony music was provided by our amazing friends Jeremy, David, and Michael. They played When U Love Somebody - Fruit Bats for the bridal party processional, and Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch for when I walked down the aisle. They did such a great job and made the entire day unforgettable. Music is a really big deal to both Christoper and I, so it really meant a lot to us that they got this spot on. Also, our friend Steven, who was one of the groomsmen, played First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes during the ceremony. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Tip #7: DIY DIY DIY!

This is the best tip I can give you! Do-it-yourself! Seriously, it's so much more rewarding and affordable to just do it yourself.
Need flowers for the table? Go find them at the wholesale florist shop!
See something neat and natural that you liked online? Go ask your dad to chop a piece of wood off the tree in the backyard!

Want fancy invitations that look like wood? Find wood veneer and run them through your printer!

Want Sangria but don't want to hire someone for it? Buy big jugs of wine, fruit juice, and cut up a bunch of fruit the night before. The day of, mix it all together!

Want cute mustaches and a little photobooth set up last minute? Ask your bridesmaids for help!

With technology, the internet, and friends, nearly everything can now be done by yourself. And if you ever feel like a project is out of your league, enlist the help of experts (i.e. go down to home depot and ask them how to cut off the piece of wood). Hiring people can be a last resort if you're trying to save money. 

Tip #8 : Know when to hire someone


So we just talked about you being superwoman/man and being able to DIY everything. But I also want to talk about knowing when to hire someone. It's important to know your breaking point. This is your big day and you want it to be perfect, but you also don't want to be sleeping through it because you were up half the night putting together wedding programs.

For me, my breaking point was the bridal party bouquets and boutonnieres. I knew I could make these but the more I thought about it the crazier it seemed since we had some much other prep work to do at the venue the day before and day of and I had no idea when I would find fresh flowers to create the simple bouquets I wanted. It was around the time I suggested to Christopher that we just stop on the side of the rural highway on the way to the wedding to snag some free wildflowers when he said that we should definitely look into hiring someone!

Ultimately, it was a great choice! We hired Kim of Floralicious and she created the exact bouquets and boutonnieres that I wanted. And not only did she drop them off at the venue, but she even drove 30 minutes to the wholesale floral shop to pick up more flowers for my grandma and aunt who were putting together the table flowers and found themselves in a floral emergency. Seriously, people are so helpful and amazing!

Tip #9 : Get a Day-of Wedding Coordinator


A what? Did you just say to spend money on something that I don't think I need?!
Yes, yes I did.
Seriously, when I first went into planning this wedding I thought I had it all figured out. We could do it all by ourselves without needing to hire outside help. While I was mostly correct in this thinking, I came to find out that my day would go waaayyy smoother if I hired a day-of coordinator.  Once I booked our  day of coordinator, I never looked back. Seriously people, a day-of-coordinator is an absolute must! When you are running around freaking out trying to find your wedding shoes, your coordinator is out there directing vendors where to put chairs, set up tables, and so forth. They are truly a lifesaver and I would not recommended skimping on this unless you have someone else to play the part. And no, your mom cannot play this part, she is busy too and would probably like to watch her daughter's own wedding!

Also, in the long run, hiring a day-of coordinator will save you money because they are the ones who make sure your vendors get their checks on time!

Tip #10: Say Thank you 

Remember all those people in Tip #1 that helped you out so much? Don't forget to tell them all thank you! As much as they love you, their fingers probably hurt still from sealing a million invitation envelopes. These people put their time and effort into making sure this wedding goes off without a hitch so you should make sure to thank them in any way you know how!

Christopher made these glass beer bottle cups for his groomsmen and our ushers.

 Bonus Tip #11 : Find a quiet moment away

Don't forget during all the hustle and bustle to find a moment away. At weddings you usually go to a different location (even if it's just around the corner) to take your wedding photos. This is a great time to snag a minute with your new spouse! Just sneak around the corner and enjoy their presence. Try to take all of it in (and, believe me, it's a lot to take in!). Either way, try to remember this special day and what you felt like and what you said. Ultimately that's all that will matter in the end. No one will know that you picked up flowers off the side of the road or that you couldn't get the band you wanted, because all that matters is two people, madly in love, are getting married!

Come back to tomorrow to get some fun DIY projects that we did for our wedding and find out other great ways to save money while still making your day beautiful and perfect!

Here is a rundown from where most things came from: 
Venue: Skyline Ranch in Jamul, CA
Photography: Bryan N. Miller Photography  
Flowers: Bouquets + Boutonnieres by Kim Vinyard of Floralicious. Table settings by my Grandma and Aunt.
Food: Souplantation + Danalyn Barber
Music: Sea Cure + Jeremy, David, Michael, & Steven
Bridesmaid clothing: Dresses: major discount at JCPenney. Shoes: white matching Toms shoes.
Bridal dress:  Craigslist
Groomsmen ties: JCPenney
Grooms suit: Billy London
Day-of-Coordinator: Nicole Macintosh

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  1. Soooo good! Your wedding was so beautiful and so successful! I love that you're reminiscing now! It's helpful to me! :) :) :)

  2. What an amazing and awesome experience it was for all of us to have together. I echo all of your tips and suggestions! Magical weddings, or events of any kind, really, can be done tastefully without busting just about any budget. A little imagination and a lot of enthusiasm and love go a long way!

    1. You're so right mama. We were so blessed with such a loving and helpful family who could help us create such a beautiful day! THANK YOU for all the help you were in prepping for the wedding - we couldn't have done it without you!

  3. I can't express what a joy it was seeing you two engage so many, so gracefully. You gave the people attending your wedding the gift of your love and passion for life. All of your preparation provided It was a fun, relaxing and joyful day.

    1. Aww thank you mom! So sweet of you to say. And THANK YOU for all the help you were in prepping for the wedding - we couldn't have done it without you!