ten tips for the budget-weary bride

budgets.

every bride and groom has to work within a budget, no matter how big or how small. when brad pitt and jennifer aniston sat down to plan their perfect marriage wedding, i am sure they had the dreaded conversation that every couple faces. i could just imagine jennifer losing it “our budget is only two million?!?! well, maybe if you got off your butt and did another movie, we could afford to give yachts for our guest favor!!!”

whether or not it is 1.5 million dollars or 15,000 dollars, a budget is a budget. there is not one couple that i work with that has not mentioned that word in a conversation with me. tim and i also argued talked about our budget over and over during our nine-month engagement.

unfortunately, during this time a lot of brides + grooms spend money in areas that they could have saved money. after being in the wedding industry, and being a bride myself, i realize that there are the non-negotiables and the negotiables. now, whether or not your dj, caterer, photographer, fireworks show, etc. is a negotiable is up to the two of you. so, before you draft out your budget, cuddle up on the couch with a bottle of wine and chit-chat about what is the most and least important to you. tim and i did this and what we came up with was that our three-week honeymoon to israel, turkey + greece was our number one priority. so everything else was budgeted around our non-negotiable. [my specific examples listed below]

as it should, this is going to look different for you. perhaps you have dreamed of a lazaro gown your whole life and it was going to cost you six grand. and your fiance wants to invest in the coolest videographer ever. well, put those two at the top of the list and find awesome money-saving ways for the other stuff.

here are some ideas inspired by my past brides on how to save money for things that are negotiables in your wedding world. this doesn’t mean you have to become addicted to pinterest and have craft night everynight. perhaps you are going for elegant ball-room look vs a diy backyard. either way, there are tons of ways to save money for any type of wedding. brad and angelina, take note:

1) alcohol:
for the months leading up to my wedding, i drove to the local wineries and bought a case of their monthly special wine. on their special, most wines can be as low as $2.00/bottle. by the time it was my wedding reception, i had invested $72.00 for 36 bottles of red + white wine. for liquor, i went to costco to get bottles of whiskey for our whiskey bar. for mixers, i looked in the local grocery store ads for sodas that were on sale. i finally found an awesome deal for all types of sodas. overall, my wedding reception alcohol cost was less than $200 (with 150 guests).
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keith and justine had an even BETTER idea. keith’s mom went to a sale at the franzhi winery in northern california. the sale occurs four times a year and they can buy magnum wine bottles for $1.75/bottle and each bottle is approx ten glasses. they spent a total of $250 and saved an overall $950 in alcohol for a wedding approx. 175 guests. holy moly. that’s $950 that could go towards a lazaro gown or that honeymoon.
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2) dessert:
some of the best money saving ideas from dessert/cake is to buy/make a small cake for you to cut into. some brides have asked their up-and-coming bakery chef friends to make it for them. others, have had their mom do it. or of course it is not too expensive to buy a small cake. but what about your guests? what do they get to delight in? the candy bar and the dessert bar has been increasingly popular way of presenting your guests with a yummy mid-reception treat. a few of my brides took the dessert table route where they asked specific friends/family to bake cookies, brownies, cake-pops, etc. think of it as a “community bake sale” without the sale. such a fun way to get an eclectic variety of yummy homemade desserts. it is also a cost-effective way some friends + family [who can’t necessarily afford to buy a big gift] can give gifts through the art of baking.
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another crazy awesome idea came from my father-in-law. every month, my generous father-in-law gives blood to the local blood bank. okay, i know, i know. this may not be your thing. it definitely makes my toes curl. but everytime he donates blood, he gets a coupon for a free marie calendar pie. well, for my reception, we had over 30 free pies to chose from! so, maybe you grab your brave bridesmaids and groomsmen and hit the blood bank for ten minutes! i know that’s super icky, but it saves a TON of money….so imagine yourself on the beaches of the maldives with a pina collada and get through it!
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3) seating chart + menu:
what if you could cut back the cost it takes in printing out seating charts AND give back to the community? this is one of my favorite money-saving techniques.

one of my favorite places to go for props is to the habitat for humanity resell store. they always have an abundance of super inexpensive household pieces to work with. take this guest table windowsill that was used for an elegant ballroom-wedding. with the beautiful hand-writing from a friend or family member, you can create a beautiful guest table chart for pennies! and the best part is that other people in need will benefit from your purchase at habitat for humanity.

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the accumalation of paper + printing cost can surely add-up fast and there is no guarantee that your guests will even read what is printed front of them. sorry, just being honest. so save yourself the time, money and effort by investing in a frame or chalkboard to let your guests know what’s going on

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4) guest favors
this is one of the best guest favors i have ever seen. inspired by a bridesmaids mother who had passed away from cancer and the father-of-the-groom’s battle with parkinsons, the couple donated money on behalf of their guests to the breast cancer research foundation and the lewy body dementia association. such an incredible way of blessing loved ones and giving their guests the inspiration to give more on their own. no matter what your budget, any amount donated to the foundations and associations of your choice can go a long way and inspire others to do the same.

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5) bridal gown
if you haven’t had a lazaro gown steaming up in your head for years…and if you prefer to spend money on a honeymoon (like me!), then an amazing money-saving idea is to shop like a bridesmaid. just ask for your favorite bridesmaid dress in white or ivory and it is your wedding gown!
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don’t care about trying the dress on? me neither. i ordered my dress from a store in china. only a couple hundred dollars later, had the dress that i loved. there were a few fitting adjustments to be made since i didn’t try it on in the store, but my friend suggested a local seamstress that worked out of her home. she was amazing and the fittings costs me less than $20 total! aren’t we cute?

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6) groom’s suit:
groom’s suits and tuxes can be expensive! tim and i found a budget-friendly idea by shopping at the mall one day. h&m. its amazing for a slim fit suit. not only did tim get his suit there, but also his groomsmen. to this day, he has that $75 suit to wear and he looks dang good in it. we loved this idea so much, we shared it with one of our past grooms, casey, who rocked it on his wedding day.
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7) flowers:
one of the more expensive purchases on the wedding day are flowers. the best way to cut-back is to visit your farmer’s market or big city farmer’s market for wholesale flower costs. and if you aren’t wanting to be elbows deep in stems the week of your wedding day, then hire a creative friend or acquaintance you know who can put the flowers together the week of. just like make-up and hair, you can have a run-through with them before the wedding. and if you do have room in the budget to hire a florist, then hire Flowers By Us in manteca because they design the most amazing floral bouquets i have ever seen. they are affordable and your wedding vases will thank you. oh, and they travel too 😉

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8) something borrowed:
i have had a handful of conversations with my friends about how our office/closet/garage is full of wedding stuff. and we have been married for a couple years. this is one of the best ways to cut the “little” costs. ask your married friends if they have x, y, z. you may not know it but one of my brides loaned her veil to another one of my brides. HUGE. veils are so expensive and can be quite a kick-in-the-budgets-pants.
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so much reception decor is sitting in someone’s garage waiting to be borrowed!
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9) venues:
some of my most beautiful venues were private property of a friend’s friend, or a family member’s great aunt. although not everyone has connections to gorgeous properties, it is still a good idea of asking “hey, have you ever allowed weddings here?”
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10) the apprentice:
if your priorities are not photographer, caterer, wedding planner, make-up artists, hairdresser, etc. and if you are okay with not investing in these areas, then go for the intern, the apprentice, the second shooter, etc. there are TONS of vendors in the wedding industry trying to break-through and build a portfolio. from chefs-in-training to event coordinating students to a second shooter trying to find weddings of their own, there is someone out there that will be thrilled to have the experience and be paid less than the average professional. so if this is an area that is super negotiable and that you can look back on your wedding with no regret, then give someone else an opportunity. you never know, many times a lot of vendors looking for a breakthrough will work harder than some established vendors.

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[above: sidney choate…one of the hardest working beginner wedding coordinators i have worked with!]

hope this helps your budget-friendly wedding planning! if you would like more information on the above suggestions or would like other ideas regarding areas that i have not written about, then please contact me!