My husband and I got married June 23, 2013, in Charleston. What that means is that we got married in the middle of prime wedding season (“Oh they say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life…”) in one of the top wedding destinations in the country. Charleston is a beautiful city, and it is chocked full of amazing wedding venues! Plantations, churches, parks, beaches, you name it, we’ve got it. And we’ve got the price tags to go with it.
It’s not technically wedding season anymore, but that’s okay. People get married all year round. Today, I want to offer a few tips for saving money on the wedding of your dreams.
- Create a budget.
You should have a budget set up for your everyday life, so why not one for one of the biggest events of your life? This sounds obvious, but not everyone thinks of it. Some people don’t even start with a base amount they can spend, then they add up all their receipts and the number is much bigger than they expected. So, first off, decide how much you’re willing to spend total, then divide it up. Any good wedding planner (human, book, or electronic) will have a budget. Just Google “wedding budget” and you’ll find countless articles that offer advice on how to break it down and help you figure which parts of your wedding will cost more (hint: it’s not the dress). Stationery, flowers, the photographer, the food, and the venue tend to be your biggest expenses. Plan for them. You spend so much time planning out the look of your wedding, it only makes sense to plan out how much you’ll spend on it.
- Do not go into debt over this one day.
As important as your wedding day is, it is, ultimately, just one day of your life. Andrew and I spent a grand total of about $15,000 from my engagement ring to walking in the front door of our new home after our Tennessee honeymoon. But we did it without using a single credit card. That’s one of the biggest things I have to stress. PAY CASH!!! Save up and pay cash, because you do not want to start your new life together having to worry about paying off credit card debt. When you have the ease of swiping a credit card, it gives you that false sense of security that says, “Oh I’ll just worry about it later.” Then later comes and you’re wondering what were you thinking when you dropped thousands of dollars on those cute centerpieces you just had to have on every table at your reception.
- Do your research.
I so wanted a Southern plantation wedding. The beautiful house, the rolling fields, the classic Southern feel. It was an obvious choice for this Southern girl who grew up in Charleston, but I didn’t care. I started looking online at some of the big plantations here in town. Most of them had wedding packages that included chairs, caterers, and even cake makers! But none of them were within our budget. So I kept digging, and I stumbled upon this little park that was a little bit more out in the country than the other bigger parks, Old Santee Canal Park. It had a smaller house, but it had indeed been a plantation. They didn’t have the package deals like the bigger parks, but they did have some recommended vendors. This actually ended up being a good thing, as I had learned through my research that many venues that have wedding day packages only allow you to use their caterer and other vendors. Because this park was smaller, it was well within our budget, we were pretty much guaranteed to get our preferred wedding date, and we were able to use the vendors we had chosen.
- Decide which things you have to have and be willing to compromise on other things.
I accidentally picked out my dress a few years before I had even gotten back together with Andrew. I was actually still living down in Florida, and a friend had just gotten engaged. Out of boredom, I had doodled out what I wanted in my dream dress one day, and, as I scrolled through David’s Bridal’s website helping her look for her dress, mine appeared. I swear to you, it was like someone had stolen my doodle and created this dress just for me!!! I knew this had to my dress. I would even go back to the site every few months to make sure it was still there. (I almost had a heart attack the one time I apparently scrolled too fast through the page of dresses and didn’t see it!) Obviously, when the time came for me to actually choose my gown, that was the one. I would have been heartbroken if I’d tried it on and it hadn’t worked out because that particular dress was something I was not going to budge on. That and having a good photographer. We decided those were the two things that we were willing to spend as much as necessary on. Thankfully, the price of the dress was actually not that bad ($599, plus alterations), but photographers can get pricey. We thought that was worth the price though because, 10 years from now, all we’d have to look back on were those pictures. So choose just one or two things that are a MUST for you, but realize that you might have to give in on some of the others. That could mean finding a cheaper alternative or even going without altogether.
- Accept help from friends and family.
I don’t know about you, but as soon as we announced our engagement, people came out of the woodwork offering to help. There is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting this help, within reason. If great uncle Fred offers to be your photographer because he got one of those new fangled digital cameras, it’s probably not the best idea to take him up on the offer; but, if your future in-laws offer to help stuff invitations, by all means, take them up on it! It’s a great way to spend time with your new family and a great help to you. If you have a friend whose handwriting is better than yours, ask her if she can help with the addressing. We have a friend who’s a wiz with graphics, so she actually designed all of our paper products: Save the Dates, invitations, RSVPs, and programs. Another friend of mine is an amazing photographer, so I asked her to shoot our wedding. She even gave us the friends and family discount! One of the guys at our church used to do catering on the side, so he was more than happy to let us hire him for our backyard BBQ style reception. My mom’s best friend was the unofficial coordinator the day of; she kept everyone in line and on time. Even my brother’s girlfriend got in on it by making an amazing cheese ball for the cocktail hour! Your friends and family are so happy for you; they want to show their support in any way they can. Whether that’s by lending a chocolate fountain for the reception, DJing all the music, or doing your hair and makeup, let them help you save some money.
- Do as much DIY as you can, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.
In this day of Pinterest, pretty much every girl has at least one wedding-related board on their Pinterest. I have two, don’t judge me! As you wade through all the crazy centerpieces and dramatic dresses and fantastic flower arrangements, you can actually find some doable things. I wanted my wedding outside, but I also wanted to have doors open to reveal me before I walked down the aisle. According to Pinterest, this is actually a fairly common desire of brides. And, according to my then-fiancé, it was easy enough to build. He and our best man took a weekend and built my dream doors, cornhole boards, sandwich sign, and the tiny chalkboards for our centerpieces. We stained and painted them all ourselves, and we painted the chalkboard labels on each of our mason jar glasses as well. I will tell you this though: don’t spread yourself too thin. We had originally planned to make our own cornhole bags for the cornhole boards, but, the last week before the wedding rolled around, and we hadn’t even bought the fabric. At that point, it was cheaper for us to spend the money to buy a set from the sporting good store than it was to take the time and effort to make our own regulation set. That goes back to the budgeting. Make sure you budget your time too, especially if you plan on doing/building anything for yourself.
While I was planning my wedding, a regular customer of mine would ask me each week how the planning was going. I’d tell him the latest, and he’d smile and nod. His daughter had recently gotten married, so he remembered the frenzy that is wedding planning. But he gave me some of the best advice that I’ve passed on to all of my friends who have gotten married since I did. He said, “No matter what goes wrong or not according to plan, because things will, as long as you’re married by the end of the day, it was a good day.” And that’s so true. Something will not go exactly how you wanted it to. The caterer might be late, someone might rip something, the lights might not hang the way you pictured. And that’s okay; that’s what makes some of the best stories down the road. But as long as you end up asleep in the arms of your new husband at the end of the night, you had a perfect wedding.