Great Tips for Planning a Wedding on a Budget

How many of you brides have found yourselves compulsively sucked into shows like “Say Yes To The Dress” or “Platinum Weddings” that are so prevalent on television these days? As a recent bride myself, I was more than guilty of falling victim to the “wedding porn” addiction. I found myself lusting over elaborate flower centerpieces with genuine Swarovski crystals, sculpted fondant cakes at $7.95 a slice, and dresses with higher price tags than my last new vehicle purchase. For a brief window of time, I wondered if my own wedding could ever measure up with my modest budget.

I’m here to tell you that you can have just as fun and fabulous a wedding and reception without the ridiculous sticker shock of these over-the-top extravaganzas we see (and secretly drool over) on reality TV. All it takes is a little work, creativity and a few tips!

Where To Cut Costs
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty; where can you slice the most expense out of your big day? It’s not easy to hear, but the easiest and most effective way is to cut your guest list. I know, I know, but what about great aunt Mildred twice removed?!? Or my college roommate that I haven’t seen in 10 years but he’ll defriend me on Facebook if he’s not invited?!? We all want to include as many loved ones as possible, but you will get a much bigger bang for your buck by trimming those non-essential invites.

Another place to cut costs is with your décor, particularly with flowers. If you have a certain color palette in mind, consider the time of year that your venues (ceremony and/or reception) might already be decorated to match. I saved TONS of money by getting married when my church and reception hall were decorated for Christmas. The only decorations I purchased were some silk flowers for the bridal table, and I got those the year before at 75% after-Christmas sales!

A third way to save major bucks is to consider a smaller version of the traditional tiered wedding cake, then supplementing with sheet cakes in the same flavors. This can save 50% or more per serving on the portion covered by sheet cake. As long as it all tastes delicious, your guests won’t care! And if you’re truly concerned about keeping up appearances, keep your sheet cakes in the kitchen and have them sliced up out of sight – your spending savvy will be your little secret.

Tools to Use
Don’t worry, keeping things under budget doesn’t require fancy spreadsheets and accounting software (though occasionally handy!). I personally ran the gamut with my organizational tools, starting with a small basic notebook kept in my purse. Whenever I ran across something I thought would be great for the wedding but wasn’t ready to purchase, I jotted down a quick note about item, location and price. I also kept a running list of things I needed to buy and would cross them off as I purchased to prevent from buying duplicates.

That being said, I am a total FIEND for spreadsheets. Excel can be a wonderful friend when creating a simple budget, and pulled me back on track more than once. I would recommend creating different sections (Attire, Decorations, Accessories, Paper Goods, etc) with individual totals for each section. At the bottom of your master list, create a grand total and note your actual budget underneath. This way, you can easily compare at a glance how much wiggle room you have left in your budget.

But what about the huge section of wedding planning books in Borders?! Happy you asked. In my opinion, they’re 99% useless, repetitive and a waste of money. You can find most of those tips on the internet (like totally awesome blogs such as this!) or through any bride who has been there in any way, shape or form. That being said, I recommend ONE book to each and every one of my brides: “The Wedding Book” by Mindy Weiss. It’s less than twenty bucks, easy-to-read, and has lots of real-life practical tips and guidelines for virtually any aspect of anyone’s big day. This book saved me bacon a few times for my own wedding, and is well worth the money.

What You DON’T Need
Engraved cocktail napkins: Think about it; spending money to have your names/date imprinted on little scraps of paper that will just be tossed once the cake and/or drink is finished? Your guests already know who you are and what your event is (and if not, please see section about cutting the guest list down), so this is just extra money that could go farther elsewhere.

Insanely elaborate invitations: I am by no means knocking the products themselves, and have received some very beautiful ones that inspired a touch of invitation envy on my part. That being said, each and every one of those lovely notes ended up in the same place eventually: my trash. You, your parents and perhaps a very few, select friends/family are the ONLY people who will preserve your invitation as a keepsake. You can save a fortune by foregoing all the fancy inserts and add-ons, getting fun photo postcards printed, or even using a DIY kit from companies like Wilson. However, do NOT skimp on postage for the RSVP cards; pre-stamped response cards are always a must and greatly help your return rate.

Overpriced “Wedding” Accessories: Ring bearer and flower girl baskets for a cool $40 each or more? If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would’ve never believed it myself. Think outside of those expensive bridal store displays for these and other items. Check out home décor stores for funky or elegant pillows that can be used for another purpose later. Pick up a cute little basket from Wal-Mart or Target and accessorize with your own ribbons, flowers, feathers, etc. Also, consider buying secondhand items to save a boatload. Wedding items are often only used/worn for a few minutes to a couple of hours, so they are usually still in great shape and are a fraction of what they cost brand new.

Natalie Jennings is a wedding coordinator at La Vida Dulce and Chihuahua enthusiast from the southside of Indianapolis, IN

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