Wedding planning can be fun for bride, mom, and maid-of-honor, but the hard part is keeping the costs under control. You have to be serious about what you can actually afford. We just got our daughter Agnes and Pippin married and I want to share some tips with you on ways to keep wedding planning on a budget. Be sure to download this budget planning spreadsheet to help you in your wedding planning. Make changes as needed for your families’ cultural practices and customs.
- Flowers for a wedding can be crazy expensive. I looked on Yelp for florists with good reviews and one stood out with comments saying how well she worked within a budget. When I called, I asked what she could do with X dollars. She didn’t flinch! It was definitely worth starting the conversation that way.
- I took pictures of flowers at the grocery store that were the right colors (alstroemerias are pretty cheap and come in many colors!). We got a bouquet for the bride and posies for the bridesmaids. And Agnes told the florist that the posies did not need to match, as long as the flowers fit the color scheme. We were happy with how it turned out.
- Beware asparagus fern! It can shed like crazy and possibly stick to the gowns.
- We got inexpensive vases for the reception tables and the bouquet and posies went into the vases for decoration.
- Traditionally, men can wear a pocket square OR a boutonniere. Agnes and Pippin decided to go with pocket squares for the men.
- We ordered boutonnieres for all the people who needed to wear flowers, male or female. Two orchids and a little greenery were more affordable than corsages.
You may need a place for the wedding ceremony and one for the reception. You might be able to find a place that can hold both. Churches, hotel ballrooms, and country clubs are traditional choices. One thing that makes a venue expensive is if they require their own caterer or have a very strict caterers list. You may need to think of more options. Try checking out local museums and parks. Many outdoor venues these days have a covered area in case of weather. Sometimes a wedding venue a little farther out of town can be less expensive than in town.
Do you need to rent tables and chairs?
We booked a venue that was an empty space. At first we were going to buy tablecloths from a dollar or party store and set up and break down all the tables and chairs ourselves. We soon realized that it would save money, but at a different kind of cost. I knew The Gardener and I would not be able to handle it while all dressed up for the wedding. So we paid the extra money for delivery, set up, and pick up. I really think that was a good expense. We used the least expensive white folding chairs and plywood tables. With white tablecloths, the flowers, and everyone’s good mood, it was just fine.
Part of the fun of wedding planning is the cake tastings! You can spend tons of money on the cake depending on what you choose and how elaborate the decorations. Remember that the top layer of the cake is normally made to keep in your freezer to eat on your anniversary. If that’s not something you want to do, you may be able to save a little by asking for that top layer to be part of the serving count.
The cost of the photographer will probably be one of the biggest expenses for the wedding. If you want photos and video they may want to send 3 people or more to do the work, raising the price. We saved a little money by getting photos only and booking 5 hours of time.
We chose 2 pm for the wedding time so that we were not serving lunch or dinner to the guests, just refreshments. Hot food is more expensive than cold and will probably require a kitchen and a chef on site. The price for some caterers includes servers. For convenience, we wanted a caterer that would deliver food ready to put out on a buffet table. We found one by going through local restaurants that we liked until we found one that would deliver. Think about if you want to order drinks and all the paper goods from the caterer.
A band or DJ are good choices for a wedding. Agnes and Pippin saved by spending time on making three playlists on a digital device: Wedding Before, Processional, and Wedding Reception. This was about 4 hours of music. It was hooked up to a PA system and a designated friend was in charge of playing it at the appropriate times.
My happy couple said, “What is it with all the alcohol and knife gifts for guys? Those just don’t fit our groomsmen.” Traditionally, you would choose a gift as an heirloom keepsake, such as a silver bourbon flask or pewter Jefferson cup. You can choose something more fun and less expensive. Matching bowties or socks would work, or silly individualized socks that match each personality (Star Wars, dinosaurs, surfboards…). How about a Keffiyeh-type scarf from an import store? Think about stores or vendors you like, beyond the typical engrave-able remembrance shop.
Online wedding planning and wedding websites
Using a wedding planning website can be helpful and convenient. The website can seem like a one-stop shop to find all your wedding vendors. Budget-minded brides need to watch out! The vendors on the website may only include high end ones that can afford the advertising fees. Using Yelp or other review websites for your area may be more helpful in finding vendors that fit your budget. Making a wedding website can help with announcing all the events during the wedding weekend and keeping track of RSVPs. If you go this route, be sure the Web address of the site is on the Save-the-date and the Invitation. We thought that invited guests could RSVP online and save the expense of response cards. Be aware that older folks are not used to that idea at all! At the end, we had to contact about a third of our guest list to find out if they were attending or not.
Registry and gifts
- No matter how hard you try, people will bring presents to the wedding. So make sure that someone is in charge of packing them up after the wedding and there is a place to take them. If you are a guest and are doing this (unavoidably, I hope), wrap your card on the inside of the present and don’t bring a gift bag! The gifts will very likely get thrown into someone’s pickup truck!
- Agnes registered online with Target and Amazon. She found that Amazon was a better option. She could easily see what had been purchased and who the gifter was. Also, close to the wedding date, she received 20% for anything left on the list she purchased herself through Prime. With Target, if the gifter wrote a note, it was printed on the invoice. Several gifts they received did not have the invoice packed in the shipping box! This makes it difficult to write thank you notes! Agnes contacted Target and found out they could send her a list of the gifts with the senders.
- Be sure to include a special box for the gift table for cards. You want to make sure the cards people bring (often with checks, cash, or gift cards) make it into the post-wedding pickup!
I do not recommend using postcards for any of your wedding mailings. Many young people live in apartments and we found out that those tended to not get delivered! Also, the US Postal Service has very strict rules about how to write addresses. Be sure to follow these if you want to make sure your mailings have a high hit rate! https://pe.usps.com/text/pub28/28c2_003.htm
Download this task planning checklist to help everyone keep track of what needs to be done heading towards the wedding day and the big day itself!
Our highest costs
Here’s our highest costs in order: tables and chairs; photographer; venue; flowers; caterer; wedding dress and alteration. After weddings for three daughters, my biggest wedding planning tip is to hire a wedding planner if you can find the money. It really can lower the stress level if someone who is not a family member is the one who is bossing everyone around. How nice if the folks in the immediate families are not trying to organize or coordinate anything and just enjoy the party!
Resource links for wedding planning
- Handmade and made to order wedding accessories from Katherine’s Corner.
- Ideas for wedding toast speeches. Don’t forget to add the maid of honor!
- Traditional division of wedding expenses from Emily Post
- 7 smart ways to save money on wedding reception from Sarah Fuller
- Wedding reception timeline from Personal Creations blog
- Bridal shower tips from ProFlowers
- Overrated wedding trends from Fashion Beans
- 10 commandments for wedding guests from Sew Travel Inspired
- Wedding Thank Yous from The Daily South
- Our Wedding The Details from Two Twenty One
- Top Five Wedding Website Builders has a comprehensive list. From Wedding Lovely.
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