As many of you know, The Hubbs and I tied the knot this February. On the 27th to be exact. Lately, I have been reflecting on our nuptial celebration as I help a friend with the details of hers. It was perfect! We got everything we wanted, we didn't have to grapple with other couples for the good stuff and we had the benefit of a lot of custom touches that really put our stamp on the day. The best part was, we didn't break the bank doing it. But what if it hadn't been that way? Could we have done it for, say, $10,000 and been happy with it? The answer friends, is "Of course we could have!" And here's how......
How to Save: DIY is always the way to go for me when trying to save money. Handmade invites are a perfect way to introduce your wedding to your guests. I find that people really do appreciate the fine details and the time you put in. Also, DIY invites are the only way to ensure you get exactly want you want-without having to compromise on style. Another way to go is to do an online search for small stationery companies and designers. Most are very well designed and completely affordable. The time you'll save on assembly and printing will be immeasurable as you move forward.
Where to Go: I found a number of downloadable invite suites on the Paper Source website. I found an offset-print suite for $345 (for 75 sets that include invite, reply card, reception card and envelopes for both). With a clever little folded note (think thank you notes) the total comes to $453. Figure a bit more for shipping and postage and your still under $500.
How to Save: If you are a church-goer, you probably have this covered. My number one money saving ceremony tip is to plan a short, sweet ceremony at a local park. Let the natural surroundings be your decor. Invite your guests to stand around you in a semi-circle while you exchange vows. It should be a short ceremony mind you, only 15-20 minutes, but ask the guests to give a personal blessing to you and your SO for the start of your new life together. Beautiful! Just make sure you can use your reception space as a backup in case of inclement weather. Go to the County Clerk's office for your license and have a friend officiate.
Where to Go: Park Permits for a Milwaukee Municipal Park will be around $150 (for 100 people in a designated picnic area). Get your marriage license for $100 and have a friend ordained online at themonastery.org.
Ceremony Flowers: $250
How to Save: This is a bit more difficult, for sure, but it gives you and your SO the chance to really get creative! If you need flowers, stick with the most important aspects (perhaps, the bridal bouquet...). You may want to consider having the bridesmaids carry a single flower (think Lillies or the stately Bird of Paradise). Several florists are more than happy to design ala carte. You can go online and search for unique alternatives to flowers for the bridal party. I'm a fan of parasols or fans in lieu of traditional bouquets. For the boutonnieres, try something non-conventional, something that fits the theme of your wedding...
Where to Go: Search Esty for the boutonnieres and bridesmaids bouquets. The vendors there are wonderful and often willing to work within your budget and personal tastes. At Wholesale Flowers and supplies, I found a ten branch bunch of dendrobium orchids for $11.60 a bunch- perfect for the bridesmaids as they glide down the aisle. I found a peacock feather boutonniere on Etsy for $8.00 each. For 5 'maids with two stems each and five groomsmen we come to only $51.60. A florist here in Milwaukee can make a bridal bouquet for $75.00 to $100.00, figure in shipping and your right under the money!
How to Save: Okay, this is an important one. The easiest way is to find a photographer who will do some ala carte services. This usually means you won't pay for things like re-touching editing or photo albums. I really recommend this route though if you or someone you know is a photo editing whiz. Then, this works out really well. But I will caution you, this can really backfire if you aren't careful. Another idea is asking an especially talented friend to barter. For an alternative idea, try placing disposable cameras on all the tables at the reception and let them do the work for you!
Where to Go:
Several disposable cameras sell online for $1.75-2.50. Some disposable digital cameras sell for $9.99. With two cameras per table on 20 tables, the grand total is $399.60. Figure in tax, developing and printing and you'll still come in way under the mark!
How to Save: This is my favorite part! Ok, where to begin...try the bridal collections from places like Target, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor. White House Black Market is THE place to go for chic, white dresses. In addition to that, shop sample sales, browse off the rack and do my favorite thing-buy vintage!! Etsy is another brilliant option for the stylish bride. Just remember to allow enough time for things like shipping time and re-orders.
Where to Go: It's dreamy, playful and sexy. I love this dress from White House. The best part? For me, it's the $158 price tag. Not to be outdone, I found this little ditty on Etsy for $425.
Hair and Makeup: $200
How to Save: Shop around! This will save you A LOT of money! Instead of getting a complete style from the professionals, try a blow out or a fab down-do to for all the drama without the moolah. Then, get your makeup done professionally.
Where to Go: I got my hair done here in Milwaukee at Hairy's Hair Bar for around $75. My stylist was knowledgeable, friendly, and fun! I loved her! My makeup was done by Lindsay Williams. She's unbelievable! I established an instant rapport with her and I felt like she knew my face almost better than I do and she wasn't afraid to tell me when she thought my ideas were a little bit silly. She was gentle with me about my insecurities and I respond really well to that. I barely squeaked by under $200, but I made it...
How to Save: Although, I am not a big fan of wedding videography, I don't suggest giving it up entirely, if it's something you really want. That said, this might be difficult, but if you shop around I think you'll be able to do it. I suggest negotiating a daytime "ceremony only" package. You might also consider asking a friend to set up a camera for you.
Where to Go: I found a film student who would shoot the ceremony and part of the reception for around $300.
Are you ready for my best piece of advice? Forget convention! Please, consider dumping the tried and true Saturday night sit down, huh? Instead how about a chic party at a champagne bar? Or a Friday night soiree? Caterers and reception sites are usually wonderful at working with your budget and getting you what you want.
Where to Go: Milwaukee Champagne Bar Cuvee is the perfect place for a swanky fete at an absolutely mind blowing locale. When The Hubbs and I checked the place out, they offered it to us on a Friday night for just short of $2000. We considered doing heavy hors d oeuvres and we received a quote for $3000. The Astor Hotel gave us the Grand Ballroom on a Friday night for $3000 food and $750 bar. With gratuity and tax, we were right within $5000. A local Milwaukee restaurant on hip Jefferson Street would cater a three course meal with beer, wine and soda for about $60 a person.
Reception Decor: $325
How to Save: One of my favorite reception centerpieces is tea lights and candles on mirror tiles. Try using mis-matched candles of all sizes and heights and arrange them on your tables. Add lose petals at the base of the candles to punch up the romance. Not so much your thing? Try bulk flowers in mis-matched vases from your family and friends. Flowers that are naturally in season during the season of your wedding will be cheaper.
Where to Go: Using the flower website mentioned above, I was able to get bunches of flowers for between $3.95 and $11.60. The greenery bunches were all around $3.95. If you use containers you already have and borrow some from friends, coming in at $325 is a cinch. Candles are so affordable, it's amazing! At quickcandles.com, you can easily find a set of 144 votive candles for $79.99 A set of 72 candles is only $39.99. Bags of loose petals range between $5-10.
Reception Music: $300
How to Save: I really think that this one is hard to do for so little, but you can try. Try to find a DJ that will combine the ceremony and reception. For live music, consider hiring an ensemble from a local college for the ceremony and then hook up your ipod or itunes. Just be sure to have tons of great music and enough variety to get everyone dancing!
Where to Go: I found a string trio willing to play the ceremony for $300. When employing live music, always be certain to hear them live before signing or paying for anything.
Wedding Cake: $225
How to Save: First, scale down the size of your cake. You can order a custom sheet cake from upscale grocery stores or local bakeries for the cake cutting. But, the trends are changing...I love dessert bars! Try cupcakes, tarts, tortes, cookies or assorted candies. Serve the cookies and candies in assorted jars. Use cake stands of varying heights to add some levels.
Where to Go: A bakery here in Milwaukee will sell cupcakes for about $15-18 per dozen. Tarts and cookies will vary by bakery, but if you can, you may want to enlist the help of some of your more Creative friends. One of the more upscale grocery stores has double layer cakes available for $25-40 dollars. All very beautifully decorated to boot! With a cake at $40 and 10 dozen cupcakes at $15 per dozen we come to a grand total of $190. You'd still be able to add other sweets to round out your bar!
How to Save: I suggest the handmade route, here. The possibilities are endless! If a helpful friend has a killer recipe for your favorite snack, why not make some and bag it for your guests to enjoy? I think recipes are a great way to honor a friend or family member that cannot celebrate with you. My Grandma made these killer anise flavored cookies. I LOVED them all my life. I think I would have made some and then included her recipe. Not a foodie? CD's, saplings and flower seeds are some of my favorite things.
Where to Go: You can get 100 clear favor bags for $15. One hundred recipe cards are available at several kitchen supply stores for around $20. I suggest handwriting the recipe if you can. A handwritten touch is always personal and never goes out of style.
GRAND TOTAL: $8090!!
That leaves $1900 for extras. This will give you the ability to amp up the aspects that you really love! For me, I would add more to the reception music and the photography. But that's just me. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to put that $1900 back in your savings account...