Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The budget-conscious bride

Photo via Black Bridal Bliss.
I think one of the most daunting tasks in planning a wedding is coming up with (and staying within) a  certain budget. Not every bride has the luxury of having her parents or family help pay for the affair. I will say that I was very blessed that my parents were able to help me with paying for the wedding, and I am both thankful and grateful for their generosity in doing so. However, I come from an average-income, middle-class home, and due to a number of factors, still wanted to keep the budget of the wedding at a very reasonable (and somewhat frugal) level. 

We did have the wedding and reception of my dreams though, and though it may have seemed like a pricey affair, it was actually done at (and within) a very reasonable and thoughtful budget. It just didn't look like it. :)

So basically I'm saying here that it can be done! You can have a classy and elegant wedding and reception without breaking the bank. You just need some savings savvy, smart shopping, a little bit of help, and a lot of DIY.

I have come up with a list of 10 ways I was able to save money in the planning process:

  1. Save and splurge. I decided early on that I was going to save on some things and splurge on others. I decided to save on the décor (flowers, lighting, etc.) and food, and splurge on the photographer. My reasoning was that as someone who appreciates the art of photography, it is important to invest in quality work that will capture the moment and last a lifetime. To save on catering, we found a reasonably-priced caterer who was willing to serve wine that we purchased from an affordable retailer.
  2. Take advantage of sales and coupons. Everything that we bought was either on sale, with a coupon, or both. For example, when it came time to finding the guys' attire, we priced out both renting tuxes and buying a suit. Since the price was basically the same, we opted for purchasing a suit that could be kept instead of renting a tux that would be worn once and then returned. We took advantage of a BOGO offer at the Men's Wearehouse and now the groom and groomsmen all have a nice suit they can wear again after the event. As for the bridesmaids, I wanted a "muted palette" and was able to achieve this by allowing the them to pick out their own dresses within a similar color palette. Some of the bridesmaids got their dresses from Nordstrom, and were able to take advantage of price adjustments when their dresses later went on sale, while others were able to pick out their dresses from Target, and spend around $35 on a dress that could be worn again! Another way I was able to save was to use coupons when purchasing décor. I make it a habit to ALWAYS check for coupons whether making a purchase online or brick and mortar. Some of my favorite coupon/promo sites are RetailMeNot and CouponCabin. Also, most craft stores like JoAnn's, Michael's, and A.C. Moore will have weekly promotions or coupons that can be used. Get out that smartphone and save some money!
  3. Forget flowers. I never went to a florist. I decided I wanted to do all the flowers myself. Instead of spending hundreds on centerpieces and bouquets, I made everything with preserved or artificial (silk) flowers. For the boutonnieres, bridesmaids' bouquets, and centerpieces, I used preserved wheat and lavender. For my bouquet and the corsages, I used "real-touch" silk gardenias. Some of my favorite places to shop for flowers are Afloral and Save On Crafts. An added bonus: they last forever!
  4. Price match. Many stores will price match. I saved $100 on my wedding gown by price matching it with multiple stores. The original store I went to was willing to sell it to me at the matched price that other stores were offering. 
  5. Pick a public venue. I saved a lot of money by picking a venue that was owned by a town. It was priced very reasonably, allowed me to use my own vendors, and even gave me the ceremony site for free. I couldn't be happier with my choice! There were no stipulations or minimums I needed to follow. It was fantastic. And the cost-savings allowed me to hire a wonderful wedding planner.
  6. DIY. I can't tell you the number of things I did on my own. Flowers, décor, invitations, favors, etc. Whatever you can do on your own, do it! You will save a lot of money in the end. Instead of purchasing our invitations and programs through a stationer or an online company such as Wedding Paper Divas or Minted, I had my father-in-law, who is an artist, design our invitation and programs, and then had it printed locally at a reasonably-priced printer. I purchased reasonably-priced envelopes, and then stuffed and mailed everything on my own. 
  7. Buy instead of rent. After speaking with a number of rental companies, I found it was much more economical to purchase table cloths, table runners, and chair sashes, than it was to rent them. Most companies were charging $18 per table cloth. I found them online with a sales promotion for $9.98 a piece. Best of all, I was able to sell them afterward to make all that money back. Instead of renting table runners and chair sashes, I realized it was much cheaper to purchase rolls of burlap (used as tree wraps) and cut them myself than it was to spend $7.00/each on runners and $3.99/each on sashes. Again, I was also able to sell them afterward and recuperate most (if not all) of that money.
  8. Find your friends. David and I were very blessed in having wonderful family, friends, and acquaintances that were willing to go out of their way to bless us in helping with the wedding. For our reception, a family friend lent us 120 mismatched china plates to use. (The neat thing about this was that she had purchased them originally for David's sister's rehearsal it was fun to have that little bit of history.) We had friends that were professional DJs, videographers, and bakers, who were willing to give us "friends and family" pricing on their services. For our ceremony, we asked our friends who owned a tree-cutting service, to help us make some hand-crafted rustic-style benches. We helped make the benches, got to use them for the ceremony, and then they were able to sell them afterward. A win-win situation for all of us.
  9. Do your research. When I found out the average cost per head for catering in 2011 was $61.00, I about had a heart attack. Can you believe that I found a caterer who priced what I wanted at $9.50 per head? I did have to pay for travel, set-up, delivery, and waitstaff, but it was worth it since we had hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer, and a carving station. We saved money by limiting the number of hours the waiters served, and by having our guests pre-choose their entrees. Price out everything, and then (obviously) go with the most reasonably priced option.
  10. Sell. When that big day has come and gone, it's time to take charge and sell! Sell all the things you no longer need, and make back some of the money you spent. Return things that were unused (or that a store is willing to take back), and sell anything else that you no longer need. There are so many brides and event planners out there that will want to purchase your gently used items, so take advantage of eBay and Craigslist! To date, I have been able to return $120 of unused items, and sell $650 $1300 worth of décor. That's a total of almost $800 $1500 I was able to recuperate and give back to my parents!
It is completely possible to have an elegant, classy, beautiful, and expensive-looking wedding without breaking the bank. I am proud to say that I was able to have my dream wedding without spending a dream price. It does take a lot of planning, effort, running around, and DIY, but in the end, I think it's completely worth it! There's nothing about my big day that I would change.

the Bride


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