Yesterday, our own Never teh Bride advised reader Gwen not to accept discounts from wedding vendors in exchange for putting out advertising for said vendors. I’m in absolute agreement with my collegue on that point.
That said, Gwen is still on a painfully tight budget and could probably use some help figuring out how to stretch it wisely. I thought it might be helpful if we all pitch in and offer up our best budget-stretching tips. Here are mine:
Just because it’s expected doesn’t make it necessary. Sure, everyone expects unity candles, bouquets, a decorated cake, and a formal white gown with a train. That doesn’t mean you have to have it. None of these things are required for legal or for spiritual reasons. In fact, more than 90% of wedding traditions are not legally or spiritually required. That means that if any of them fail to appeal to you or will break your budget, you’re perfectly free to simply ignore them or adapt them to something that fits better into your personal vision and budget.
Set your priorities, be ruthless with things you don’t care about. Most of us have a couple of things we care about deeply in planning our weddings. Perhaps it’s having a certain kind of flower, or live music, or the site where you want to hold it. Whatever your priority, it’s fine. Choose it, stand by it, and remember that if it’s something expensive, that means you’ll need to cut from other aspects. For instance, it was my priority to marry out of doors. Mr. Twistie was adamant that nobody was going home hungry (also a definite priority for me). We both wanted live music. We got all three on a half-shoestring budget. On the other hand, neither of us cares that much about flowers. I bought whatever was cheap, pretty, and long-stemmed at the open-to-the-public florist’s supply and itied my own bouquets and boutonnierres with the help of my bridesmaids. We spent a sum total of $35.00 on flowers and supplies related to flowers. If anyone thought we were low on florals, they didn’t mention it…and they probably appreciated the live music and the food more, anyway.
If you have to choose between priorities, choose the comfort of your guests. Deciding between a designer gown and a more expansive buffet? Trust me, guests will not be impressed with your gown if they go home hungry.
Just because it’s for your wedding doesn’t mean you have to get the thing labelled ‘bride.’ Toasting flutes, cake servers, unity candles, formalwear, guest books…if it says ‘bride’ or ‘wedding’ on it, chances are it costs a minimum of half again as much as something that doesn’t say anything about weddings on it. Use pretty glasses you already have, find a cake knife you’d like for the rest of your life, go to Macy’s for bridesmaid’s dresses, save some money.
Borrowed? Second hand? Garage sale find? Go for it! If you know someone who was married recently, don’t hesitate to ask if there’s something you can use left over from that wedding. If you find something perfect in a consignment or thrift store or in a garage sale, it’s fine to use it. Don’t dismiss the dollar store, either. Be thoughtful and choose carefully, but be open to the concept. It can save you a bundle.
Get in touch with your inner DIY diva. Okay, so I know not everyone is going to go to the extreme I did. I made my wedding lace, helped cook the food, tied the bouquets, wrote the ceremony…yeah, my fingerprints were all over that wedding. Chances are you aren’t quite as much of a DIYer as I am. Still, there are dozens of projects that can be done on a budget at home if you choose to. I’ve known couples who: grew their own flowers, designed and printed their own invitations, catered their own weddings from start to finish (cakes included), sewed their own clothes, made altar cloths and chuppot, created their own centerpieces, put together sound systems to play during the reception and recorded their own mixes of music…pretty much everything other than doing their own photography and performing the ceremony. If you’ve got an idea of something you’d like for your wedding, consider whether it’s something you can do yourself rather than hiring someone.
Not a DIY diva? Ask a crafty friend! Not everyone is able to do much DIY. There’s no shame in that. But chances are that even if you aren’t good at it, you know someone who is. Offer compensation of some sort, but if you know someone who’s really good with his/her hands, they may well offer their talents as a gift.
Remember that the most important things about a wedding don’t cost a cent. If the bride and groom smile a lot, make an effort to interact with their guests, and speak their vows from the heart, it’s usually a good wedding no matter whether it’s held in a magnificent cathedral or a VFW hall. All the designer clothes and caviar in the world can’t buy that joyful attitude and no lack of the same window dressing can dampen it. Long after your guests forget what food was served, what flowers were carried, or what music was played, they’ll remember whether you spoke graciously to them and if you smiled or not during the ceremony. Joy is infectious. Be a carrier.
So what about you, readers? What budget advice would you give Gwen, and all the other Gwens out there?