Photos: Chris Wesselman
ICYMI, I'm sharing bits and pieces about my wedding, as our third anniversary was yesterday.I'm still recovering from the food adventure we took in the City. Last week I spilled 7 tips, sharing how we were able to get the wedding of our dreams on a budget.
Today is all about the execution of those plans and how to bring to life all your planning and plotting. You'll notice a theme today: cut things that generally have a large price tag but are things you/friends/family members can tackle. These things include flowers, decor, stationery (design+printing), favors, etc. Things that you simply can't do yourselves will take up a significant portion of the budget- for us these included lighting, attire, and the three course meal served for dinner.
Envision the perfect party. What aspects and details make or break a great celebration? Think about how you want your guests to feel when they enter the room- is it dark, candlelit, sexy, or romantic? Do you want a cohesive theme? Coordinated food with the season? Do you LOVE flowers and need them everywhere or can live with less? What about your dress? Does it need to be designer or not? Ask yourself these types of questions. Talk about things with your partner.
Takeaway: Choose the most important aspects of your special day. I'd say pick 3 things. For us, food, attire, and ambiance were the most important. Our food was outstanding and was provided by our venue. Flowers were part of ambiance so we had tons of them (we got them online at wholesale prices.) I knew I wanted a Monique Luhillier dress, end of story. These were more important to us than things like stationery and fancy favors, which could be creatively taken care of (aka doing it myself) I couldn't sew a dress, but I could make our favors and design all our stationery and print it myself. Priorities and balance are key.
2. BE SELECTIVE ABOUT YOUR VENUE
This tip should also read: be realistic about your venue. How much can you afford? Ultimately, we got married at our local country club 10 minutes from our house. But I toured places near and far throughout our engagement- from Upstate New York to the City. I even took two trips to South Carolina before realizing that planning a wedding from afar (when trying to save money) would be an uphill battle.
The country club also ended up being our number one pick because they provided everything for us: linens, tables, chairs, silverware, dishes, bowls, cups... the list goes on. They also had a bathroom, an indoor ceremony space if it rained, and an on-site coordinator and staff to help. The chef at the country club was another reason we chose it as our venue- it's some of the best food we've ever had.
Takeaway: If you have a limited budget, a destination wedding can cause major headaches. You have to consider lodging, travel, and so much more on unfamiliar ground. Look for all-inclusive venues that provide you with anything and everything you will need. While the country club wasn't the most obvious choice, it ended up being the best choice we made, hands down.
3. ASK YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR HELP
When you are DIYing your own wedding, especially the florals and decor, there are so many logistical details involved. No one is going to magically decorate your space when you haven't hired a florist! Who will help set up the tables, the centerpieces? Who will transport them? How will you transport them safely (boxes and lots of newspaper, btw!) Who will help break down all of those things? We couldn't have pulled this stuff off without the amazing, helping hands of my parents, brother, Uncle, Aunt, cousins and the team at the country club. They helped pack, transport, then set up each and every candle, vase, prop and they helped pack them all up and take them back to our house the next day.
Takeaway: Ask or hire (for a small fee) family, friends, or friends of family to help out. If you don't have a florist, you need a transport crew, a set up crew, and a breakdown crew. Remember that planning every little detail is important. What would we have done with 50 flower arrangements and no boxes to transport them from my house to the venue? Was I going to bring them all from the car and set them all up? Surely not on my own. Our wedding wouldn't have been possible without my family and our venue's staff.
4. ASK YOUR TALENTED FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR THEIR HELP, TOO
These people are like hidden treasures you must utilize. I am the last person who likes to ask for favors; however, your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, so, don't feel bad asking. I found that people actually wanted to be involved. We wanted live music (ambiance was a priority) for our ceremony and cocktail hour, so I asked a friend who knew a violinist if she would be interested in playing at our wedding. It was so affordable (research is key!) and I got to walk down the aisle with my parents to my favorite song from Willy Wonka. We exited the aisle to Coldplay. On strings. So beautiful and magical.
I am also forever grateful to all my family and friends who helped me with: flowers, handwritten envelopes, stamping/printing/hand lettering of our stationery, our DJ, our photographer, and my hair and makeup artist. Basically, all of these things were free or steeply discounted. I'd do the same for them in a heartbeat.
Takeaway: If ever there was a time to ask for a favor, this is that time! Ask your friends and family if they know of anyone who would be willing to help you out with anything wedding related. Chances are, your network will probably include some freelance photographers, people who are really great at hair and makeup, creative types who would be great with DIY projects, and maybe even a DJ (my husband's cousin was ours!)
5. IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO IT, LEARN IT!
For our flowers, we were quoted more than $7,000 by one of New York's hottest floral designers. And I didn't even have a bridal party. I knew I wanted a similar look and that I could do just as good a job. My husband and I looked into the cost of a floral design class that we could take before the wedding. Turns out, the price tag of the class was what we would've paid for one centerpiece by a professional florist. I grew up in a family of gardeners and consider myself creative, so doing our own florals was a no-brainer. It also kept me zen leading up to the day. I had a task and was focused on getting it done.
We also purchased all our florals online from wholeblossoms.com and fiftyflowers.com. There are so many more companies out there today, you just need to search for them. Remember that white flowers are a great choice when saving money!
For the stationery, I designed everything myself (on Microsoft Word- I didn't even know how to use Photoshop back then!) We wanted some sort of crest/seal so we ordered a custom set of stamps that we could use throughout the wedding (and we still use them today) and my super crafty sisters in law, stamped everything for us perfectly. We couldn't have been happier.
Takeaway: As long as you have the time, try and learn a new technique. Teach yourself, look for a class, watch YouTube videos, peruse Pinterest, or ask for help. By not paying people that we otherwise would have, we freed up money in the budget for the things we our 'network' couldn't do. Remember, you can probably learn how to arrange flowers but chances are, you can't learn to sew a wedding gown. If you can, then by golly, you've hit the jackpot!
Ah, so- a mouthful. If you've made it down here to the end of this post, thank you so much for reading! I tried my best to condense my thoughts while still sharing the most important lessons I learned planning and executing this wedding on a budget. If you're in the same boat, I will be honest- it's not easy. But it is possible. And so so gratifying.