Ten tips for planning a simple wedding

My husband and I tied the knot in Washington, D.C., just weeks after the 2001 attacks. Many of our guests canceled because they were afraid to travel, and a few of our vendors even lowered their rates because we didn’t back out of our reservations. As a result, we were able to throw a much more extravagant celebration than what we had initially planned. And, honestly, we needed a big party. There were tanks on the streets, people rarely went outside, and everyone was afraid. We were all longing for a celebration focused on life, love, family, and friendship.

I mention this back story because I felt it would be hypocritical not to. I’m about to dispense advice for how to plan a simple wedding when ours wasn’t. Most of the advice listed below we followed (1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 10), but not all of it. I loved our wedding day and don’t regret the choices we made at that time, but if we were getting married now, we would certainly do some things differently. For starters, I would ditch my 12′ veil and the heavy, wet, velvet rose, flower-ball bouquet nightmare our flower girl carried.

Ten tips for planning a simple wedding:

  1. Set your budget with money that you already have in a bank account. No one, under any circumstance, should go into debt for a wedding. If you only have $500 to spend on a wedding, then plan a $500 wedding. If your parents are paying for the wedding and say that they have $5,000 for your wedding, then plan a $5,000 wedding. Best case scenario, spend less than you have budgeted.
  2. When choosing bridesmaids dresses, remember that the dresses will only be worn the day of the wedding. (No matter how many times a bride tries to convince her bridesmaids otherwise.) Asking your bridesmaids to spend hundreds of dollars on a dress and matching shoes might not be the best way to treat your friends. Consider letting them choose their own dresses, or buy them matching floor length skirts and ask them to buy coordinating tops in any style they want.
  3. When hiring a photographer, work with someone who will shoot your wedding digitally. You won’t have to pay for printing proofs.
  4. When choosing groomsmen tuxedos, consider letting them wear their own if they have them instead of forcing them to rent.
  5. Be sure to ask your wedding venue their policy on flowers and musicians. Many churches require that you leave altar flowers after your ceremony and pay for their staff musicians even if you don’t use them. We coordinated with the other couples who were getting married on the same day at our venue and the three of us split the costs of two large arrangements that worked with all of our flowers.
  6. Be willing to think outside the box. You and your future spouse are unique individuals and your wedding should reflect that. Just because everyone else has their wedding a certain way, doesn’t mean that you have to. Be sure to manage guest expectations, however. If you’re getting married on the side of a mountain in ski gear, your guests won’t appreciate it if you forget to provide this information. No one likes to ride a ski lift in a dress.
  7. Consider having flowers that are locally grown and in season — you’ll save a lot of money if they don’t have to be flown in from the tropics.
  8. Remember that your marriage is what is most important, not your wedding day. Keeping this in perspective will save you time and stress when it comes to making decisions about minute details.
  9. If you choose to have party favors, consider something edible or consumable. (We made chocolate lollipops in the shape of maple leaves for our fall wedding for our guests.)
  10. Keep in mind that even if your cake is destroyed or your friends start a fight or your organist doesn’t show up and everyone has to sing a cappella that at the end of the day, you’re still married.

The points I’ve made barely cover the tip of the iceberg on the topic of planning a simple wedding. I’d like to open up the comments to everyone to share your tips on how to plan a simple celebration!

77 Comments for “Ten tips for planning a simple wedding”

  1. posted by Anastasia on

    When my husband and I got married, I insisted that we pay cash for everything and that we do it as cheaply as possible. We only invited 40 people, we had the reception at someone’s house, we had a friend do the photography digitally, and we tried to get everything on sale or at a discount. Where we ran into trouble is that our church wanted to charge us a fortune for everything. $600 for use of the chapel (thank goodness it was Easter season and we did not have to get flowers for the altar), $100 for church staff, $200 for the Priest, then they wanted another $550 for the music. I balked at the music. I was willing to have a silent wedding to not pay that much for the music and it would have totally broken the budget. We eventually got the music for half the price but I was edgy for a week.

    In the end, it was the perfect day. We had the best time as did our guests and I think we spent $5000 total.

  2. posted by Zach on

    Print your own invitations. We picked up a few invitation kits from a local store and printed them on our inkjet printer…they look totally professional, and we only spent on the order of $2 each (including the 90+ cents in stamps for each for the RSVP and invite).

    To make them look even better, we used (I think) Faux Wax + a wax stamp (available from art supply places / the internet) to put “wax” seals on them that wouldn’t be damaged in the mail. We then used the same seals on our programs (which we also printed ourselves on nice paper).

    We used my Mac + iTunes with pre-designed playlists to handle all the reception music.

    Oh…and we had our friends in the ceremony…our musicians and officiant were all close, although we did compensate them for their really wonderful help!

    We still get a lot of complements on our big day…


  3. posted by Zach on

    Oh…digital photos! It took us awhile, but we also carefully compared photo book places… The original digital images were released to us on a DVD, so we used them to build our own wedding album online. The results are incredible! We ordered several (family members wanted them) along with some discounts…I think we spent $30 per book. And these are hardbound, full color, high resolution, high-quality glossy paper books which I personally laid out. We even included our vows and scans of notes our guests left us…

  4. posted by Gayle on



  5. posted by Tammany on

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been lurking for a while and I really enjoy your insights.
    My fiance and I are planning an out of state wedding for September. We both agreed that we want our wedding to be as free of waste as possible. Some things we are doing:
    1. Letting the venue speak for itself. We are getting married outdoors near a pond in Massachusetts, right in the mountains. We don’t feel we need an arbor or additional flowers.
    2. Using an ipod instead of hiring a DJ or band that would be too loud of our small wedding anyway.
    3. Making a charitable donation in the names of our guests in lieu of favors. This will also be a way to honor the memory of my father.
    4. Doing away with any traditions that aren’t meaningful to us. For example, most of the guests are older and already married. We see no need to toss a bouquet or garter.
    5. Using candles for centerpieces instead of flowers. While it may create slightly more clutter for the guest that brings it home, at least it is useful. Flowers would just wilt and be thrown out.

    And just a quick comment regarding music. A lot of people balk at paying musicians. I know. I am a musician. Please keep in mind that playing music is our job. Yes, we are a group of incredibly lucky people who get to do what we love for a living, but it’s not an easy living to make. We train, practice, and rehearse for countless hours. Our instruments are expensive. For singers, our accompanists are expensive. While I agree that $550 seems steep for a church organist for one service, half of that amount does not, considering the time and expense that goes in to preparing for a service. And church organists are generally paid by the church anyway, I believe it’s usually per service, so any weddings they play are above and beyond their usual paycheck. And a church musician may also be giving up another gig to play a wedding as well. I’m not looking to start an argument here. It’s just food for thought.

  6. posted by Anthony on

    My fiancee and I were both divorced and wanted a more intimate wedding, less formal. We had the wedding and the reception in the ballroom of a hotel. Out of town guests rec’d a discount on rooms when using a code. Our caterer also acted as a wedding director, so he took care of the details. We hired a classical musicians through CL and had them send us demos of their work before-hand. To save money on the printing, and me being a graphic designer, I designed all of the save-the-date cards and used jewelboxing (http://www.jewelboxing.com/) containers for very stylized invitations. The CD in the invitation was a “mix CD” of both of our favorite songs. Everything came out beautifully.

  7. posted by missdona on

    Go to Vegas and have them do everything for you.

    I had a 50 person Vegas wedding. We had open bar, full sit-down dinner, cake, flowers, dj w/3 hour reception, videography and the ceremony all for $6000. I hired an outside photographer (who shot digital, we have the DVD) for another $900.

    We had Godiva coffee and Stash tea for favors. No one needs another candle holder.

    I got the invitations on Ebay. Professionally printed and cheap.

    Keep your attendants minimal. I had a maid of honor and a flower girl and that’s it. I picked the color and let the maid pick her dress.

  8. posted by Beth on

    We paid cash for our very small wedding (21 people, total, held at in my parents’ living room), and our parents paid for reception food. Our biggest extravagance was the photographer ($900 including album and prints), because I wanted a pro for those important pictures. I think we spent around $3000 total.

    The biggest piece of advice I will offer is that lots of people will tell you that you “have to” do or have or wear certain things, like attendants or centerpieces or a “first dance” or a bouquet toss … the list is very long. The point is, if you don’t want to spend your money on a monogrammed cake cutter/server, then don’t. There’s no law that says you have to. Although my mother did tried to convince me that there was a state law that required a Maid of Honor and Best Man. It took a five-minute internet search to show her that two witnesses are all that’s needed, and they can be seated with the rest of the crowd.

    Just take everyone’s advice with a smile and then do exactly what you want to make the day special for you.

  9. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Tammany — When I mentioned the musicians, I was thinking more along the lines of “Don’t ask your aunt Martha to play organ and your cousin Sally to sing because you may already be paying a professional to do it.”

    @Gayle — The cake was made by Fancy Cakes by Leslie in the DC area. I really liked her, and the cake was fantastic tasting … so I feel that I should at least give her kudos. However, I think the cake qualifies as not simple πŸ™‚

  10. posted by make art every day on

    be ruthless with the guest list. my husband and i have big families, but we we did not cave to the parents who wanted to invite all their friends (since we were paying for it anyway). and it was wonderful to get married in a room full of people who really love you, not just a bunch of third cousins who don’t give a crap. when you keep the guest list small, you keep other costs down automatically.

  11. posted by Kersti on

    There are so very many pressures on you on your wedding day and despite the best of intentions, it’s far too easy to get caught up on things that at the end of the day matter little. My husband and I sat down very early on after our engagement and we each wrote a list – *MY* wedding *must* have:

    The point was to list all of the things that were absolute non-negotiable for each of us. We each focused on our dream wedding, not what we thought the other would like. For example, my list included Bespoke dress, his included Classy cars. We then shared the list, the majority of it was the same (fabulous photography) or not-related (such as the dress/cars)

    Next step was to discuss the things that clashed, and try to get an understanding of what it was that was so important – things like “chapel” vs “outdoors”. We discussed until we wither found a compromise or one person wholely volunteered to remove that requirement. (Important that there is no pressure, in fact once he decided to remove outdoors he had to convince me that he wanted an indoor wedding!)

    So, eventually we have a list of what, as a couple, is the important things to us. What this means is that when we’re faced with more options and ideas and costs, we refered to the list – if the item in question was on that list then we got the best that we could, if it wasn’t then we didn’t fuss about it.

    So, we both got the things that mattered to us and saved money on things that neither of us really wanted (like video)

  12. posted by Jodie on

    That cake is SO beautiful!

    As for musicians, even if you are paying the professionals from the church already, many churches are fine with allowing a family member or friend join them for a portion- like singing a song that’s meaningful to the couple during one of the traditional music portions of the ceremony. So if you really want cousin Sally to sing a special song (or play one on her flute), she probably can. Wouldn’t really work for saving money or including Aunt Martha on the organ, though. Actually doing it that way probably makes the whole process a lot simpler, since you won’t have to worry about cousin Sally, who usually only sings for fun, having to come up with all the music needed, but that you still get to include her, too.

  13. posted by Wanita on

    I love your advice for a simple wedding. It’s been ten years since my daughter was married, but I think these tips are still good.

    1. Consider renting a wedding gown and veil. Our daughter rented a beautiful dress and veil for a fraction of the cost of buying one.

    2. Bridesmaid dresses can be purchased at a store (like J. Jill), and then they can be worn after the wedding.

    3. If you live near a farmer’s market, purchase flowers there. Make two large arrangements for the church and use smaller budvases of flowers on the tables at the reception. Hint: A few weeks before the wedding, put together a “sample” arrangement of flowers for the large arrangements. We worked with the flower vendor at the farmer’s market, and she was wonderful. We did the arrangement, I got my daughter’s approval, then we told the vendor two weeks before the wedding what flowers we wanted; she had them ready for us to pick up the day before the wedding.

    4. Regarding the flowers, I should tell you that we did not make the bride’s bouquet. One of my daughter’s friends is an expert flower gardener, and she made the most beautiful bouquet as a gift for my daughter. I made the boutonnieres and corsages for mothers and grandmothers out of silk flowers.

    5. A friend designed the front of the wedding invitations, paper was purchased at Papyrus, and a commercial printer printed the invitations. I know that today with the printers that are available, printing your own is the most cost effective. However, ten years ago, this was an economical way to do the invitations.

    6. We lived in a small town at the time, so we rented the community center for the reception. We also had the caterer in town do a buffet meal.

    7. My daughter opted not to have a traditional wedding cake, but instead had decorated sheet cakes.

    8. A friend who was an amateur photographer took photos (digitial was not being used ten years ago). While this worked out OK, in hindsight, I think it would have been better to use a professional photographer.

    9. The groom and groomsmen work dark suits rather than tuxedos, and they looked great.

    10. Not everyone knows someone who is a musician who can sing or play at their wedding. However, my daughter’s roommate was an accomplished pianist. She not only played for the wedding, but she composed a song for the processional. My younger daughter took voice lessons for many years, and she sang a duet with a friend of our son-in-law. We were blessed to have such accomplished musicians who gave their talents as a gift to the bride and groom.

    We gave our daughter $2,000 for the wedding, and they kept within that amount. Both our daughter and son-in-law decided they would rather use the money to pay off school loans, rather than go into more debt for a wedding. I’m very proud of them for making that decision.

    Now if you want a VERY economical wedding, you could do what my husband and I did 39 years ago. My sister made the bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses. The men wore suits. The reception was held in the church basement, and we served cake, ice cream, nuts, and mints. The biggest expenses were the photographer and the flowers.

  14. posted by Kayla on

    My husband and I got married 9 months ago, and we both agreed that our wedding day was the best day of our lives. We had so much fun, enjoyed being in the moment, and were not stressed or worried. Here are my tips:
    1. Hire a wedding coordinator, even if it’s just for the day of. This is something my mom insisted on, even though I thought it was unnecessary. Fortunately, we had a friend from church who does this for lots of weddings. You will be so glad to have someone the day of worrying about getting everyone’s flowers to them, making sure everyone’s in place, opening and closing the church doors, etc. Then, all you have to do is walk down the aisle.
    2. Take all of your photos beforehand. My husband and I both think that the tradition of not seeing each other before the wedding is superstitious. By taking all of our photos before the ceremony, we were able to spend more time with our guests at the reception and were not rushed. And it didn’t make the moment he saw me coming down the aisle any less special.
    3. Use the bride and bridesmaids’ bouquets as table decorations at the reception. Our florist recommended this to us. She left some empty vases on the cake tables, and when the bridesmaids came in to the reception, they placed their flowers in them. It saved us money on flowers, and the bridesmaids didn’t have to worry about carrying their flowers around the whole time.

  15. posted by Suzyn on

    We got married right around the same time, 3 weeks after 9/11, in Central Park in NYC. Lots, LOTS of strangers hooted and hollered and cheered when they saw us – everyone in New York really needed something to be happy about. (We, too, splurged on a cake – Cupcake Factory. To die for.)
    I think the most important thing to remember is that the trickster god loves weddings!! Something is bound to go wrong. If, at the end of the day, you’re married, then the wedding was a success. All the rest is, quite literally, frosting!
    Also, if you’re having a great time, your guests will probably have a great time, too. I’ve been to weddings where you could have replaced the groom with a cardboard cutout – and it was hard to really feel thrilled for them!

  16. posted by Catherine on

    Bridesmaid’s dresses? Groomsmen tuxes? Hee! We got married in our favorite Italian restaurant. People wore what they wanted. We stood up, our friend (who had gotten ordained online for us) married us, we sat down, we ate a fantastic meal, then everyone came back to the house to hang out afterward. It was awesome.

    We used evite for the invitations, and the only flowers were my bouquet (gerbera daisies) and single gerberas for our mothers. I got my dress (turquoise, brown, and coral silk) at some mall store, can’t even remember which one, and I think it was $30.

    We only had 31 people there. Truthfully, we refused to have anyone there who wasn’t family or a VERY close friend. It was a big deal, and we didn’t want to share it with just anyone.

    My husband and I danced on our deck to my iPod hooked up to the stereo. “A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway. It was actually the happiest day of my life, and I don’t think everyone can say that. There was no stress.

  17. posted by Matt on

    Thanks for the tips! We’re getting married in the DC area next year, just starting to plan and this comes in handy in determining what we can do with our budget.

  18. posted by Celeste on

    I sold my dress afterwards to a place that rents them, so I second the advice to look into dress rental. If I’d known ahead of thime this was an option, I would have looked into it. I’m glad I sold the dress because the odds of it being reused in the family were nil, and it was clutter prevention. ;o))) I think it would have cost as much to “preserve” it as I received from selling it. No offense to the people who want to keep their dress for whatever sentimental reason, this was just the right decision for me.

  19. posted by Dani on

    My brother was married this past September and he found a huge money saving idea for the cake….

    During the cake cutting, the most beautiful little two-tiered wedding cake was brought out but it made me do a double take. That cake was SO small there was no way it would be enough for each of the 60 or so people to have a piece. Well, when the feed-each-other-cake part was over and I turned back to my table I realized the servers had put a round two-layered cake on every table along with an inexpensive, yet classic looking, silver plated cake server with a ribbon attached printed with bride and groom’s names and the date. The cake was yummy beyond words… whipped cream frosting with shaved chocolate on top, chocolate cake with fresh strawberry filling. The cake server went home with whoever grabbed it first. πŸ™‚

    In the end, the two tiered traditional wedding cake and the cake for each of the eight tables only cost a little over $200. The idea was unique and it was the best tasting wedding cake I’ve ever had. An added bonus was that you got to take whatever size piece you wanted and you could go back for more (which we all did)! People are still talking about the cakes 7 months later.

  20. posted by Rebecca on

    When my husband and I planned our wedding we chose to go small (only 16 people, including us) and on a budget.

    I bought my dress off the rack at a department store and he wore dress slacks and a nice shirt. We didn’t have attendants, no DJ, no church, no hall to rent. We had our ceremony and reception at a local restaurant. We made the invites ourselves and wrapped brownies for favors. We did splurge on a pro photographer, but opted only for digital prints.

    We tired to keep it as simple as possible, which I think made it even more special!

    It was awesome. We had the wedding of our dreams and didn’t go into debt for it! And all the money we saved doing a small wedding got saved and then spent on our honeymoon in New Zealand!

  21. posted by Lori on

    I got married 10 months ago tomorrow, and I’ll second what Kersti said above. Set your budget, decide was is important to you about the celebration (aside from the getting married itself), focus on that stuff, and forget the rest.

    It was important to us to be married in a cool venue and to have great food, so that’s where most of the money went. We got a great photographer but skipped the formal albums. I bought an ivory dress off the rack at Dillard’s. My sister and my cousin stood up with us, and they each had a new off-the-rack outfit rather than traditional matchy-matchy bridesmaid dresses. My husband bought a new suit. His good friend got ordained online and married us.

    I was super-pleased with both the flowers and the cake. We wanted both to be nice, but I didn’t really care about the details, so I simply found good vendors, gave them each a budget and some guidelines, and let them go nuts within that range. We used planters my mom & I put together for centerpieces, rather than cut flowers.

    We had a string duo for the ceremony, and classic jazz CDs for the brunch reception. No dancing, no bouquet toss, no nothing we didn’t consciously choose to be part of our celebration. People still tell me how great it was.

    A fantastic source for people planning a nontraditional wedding is IndieBride:
    especially the Kvetch boards.

  22. posted by Tracee F on

    We had a simple wedding and mostly paid cash.

    My bridesmaids wear their dresses quite a lot, actually… I kept in mind my best friends and our interests. Though my wedding was not a Renaissance theme, we all go to renaissance faires and my dress had a medieval look to it, so all of my attendants bought leather bodices from the same vendor (I purchased my step daughter’s and one for my matron of honor because of her financial situation) in their choice of color, and then we all got together and made the skirts to match. My youngest daughter is still growing, so we made her a tapestry bodice, but she still looked like she fit in. So it’s possible to have bridesmaid dresses that they’ll still wear… πŸ™‚

    We did everything… printed our own invitations and thankyou cards, even cooked the buffet food and our friends served (though in retrospect I should have hired some teens from our church or something for servers and freed up our attendants from that, it wasn’t intended for them to get stuck with that). We created CD’s with music for dancing, and rented a karaoke machine for the afterparty. My husband brews, and had put down mead (a honey wine) when we got engaged so we provided our own liquor. (Not something everyone can do, but ask around you may know someone who makes excellent wines, but do it early, mead has to age for a year.) Or at least find a local vineyard and try their stock.

    The only regret I have is that I used a friend who was a photographer for the photos, and had him give us the negatives so we could have our own prints made. We saved money, sure… but the results were awful. He had been a professional photographer but had changed careers and though his previous work was nice, most of his equipment was gone or broken, and he was out of practice. I’m now spending as much to have the pictures photoshopped as I would have spent to have a professional come in, and I don’t have all the shots I’d have liked. However, I did encourage friends to take pics, and they all sent in CD’s and uploaded photos to my online gallery, so I do have lots of good shots from them. If there’s one place to put the money, it’s with the photographer.

    Oh, one other thing… we went completely out of the box with the cake. We have a local cheesecake maker who does incredible work, and had 5 different flavors of cheesecakes on different levels of pedastals (bought at the local craft store) and it was fabulous and a fraction of what we’d have paid for a fancy wedding cake. Everyone loved it.

  23. posted by SaveChange on

    I love it. I just love it.

    We had a cash wedding and honeymoon and we had a great day. If I had it to do over again, I would’ve had it outdoors, but on a very rainy, cold October 22nd, I was glad it was indoors. The chapel was beautiful and the reception hall was professional and the food was delicious, but I would’ve done something much more simple. All of these suggestions are excellent and kudos! I used to be a “The Knot” addict and many of their wedding ideas were NOT clutter-free. Doing eco-conscious, budget-friendly, clutter-free weddings should be a site all to itself.

  24. posted by Re on

    This is such a timely topic as yesterday was our wedding anniversary. We had a large wedding and do not regret anything. It was one of the best days of my life.

    I wanted to speak up about my big wedding pet peeve – lack of directions. Over the last few years I have gone to many out-of-town weddings and ended up lost along the way. PLEASE provide your out-of-town guests with good directions between the hotel and church and then between the church and reception. Mapquest is inaccurate more often then I like and those direction cards the reception hall provides are difficult for non-locals because we have no concept of where the church is in relation to the reception hall. North, south, east or west of the reception hall? I never know.

    My Dad and I went out with a tape recorder and pen and paper and drove the routes our out-of-town guests would travel to come up with very detailed directions. A surprising number of people actually told us how much they appreciated the good directions.

  25. posted by StephA on

    Thanks for this!

    I recommend Offbeat Bride: http://www.offbeatbride.com
    as well as IndieBrides.com.

  26. posted by Clara on

    My husband and I got married about 8 months ago. It was truly an amazing day. I wouldn’t say our wedding was simple but for what we did we made the most out of our budget. We had a beach wedding with about 100 guests.
    1. We got married on a Friday to cut costs.
    2. We didn’t have floral centerpieces opting for a wishbowl centerpiece and I cherish all the wishes that my guests wrote for me to this day whereas the flowers would have long since died.
    3. Not every bridesmaid has the same body type so all my bridesmaids chose their own dress (I just stipulated the color) and they looked so happy and comfortable. I think the pictures reflect that.
    4. We found our photographer through friends but since she and her husband were just starting out we got an amazing deal! I know thats scary to hire someone inexperienced but I had to go with my gut. It paid off in the end since her prices have gone up 4x since then!
    5. Instead of hiring a harpist or another musician, one our guests offered as his wedding gift to play his guitar for the ceremony and our first dance. I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t think about friends or family to perform at your wedding but understand their skill and professional level. Thankfully our friend did a fabulous job and it remains a beautiful memory.
    6. We used my bouquet and bridesmaid’s bouquets as decor for the head table.
    7. We saw each other before the wedding. We both wanted a private alone moment before the whole wedding began and I think thats my favorite picture. It didn’t make seeing him at the end of the aisle any less special IMO.
    8. We hired a wedding coordinator. It sounds like it might be extravagant but I really didn’t want to burden my friends and family with wedding details. I just wanted everyone to enjoy their day and it worked out just wonderful. It was definitely worth the money.
    9. I found my wedding dress through Craig’s List. It was barely 1 year old, practically new and since I saved so much money on the dress I was able to pay for alterations that really made it my own (added a corset, changed the bustle etc) so it fit me perfectly!
    10. Make your wedding your own. There were so many little touches that all my guests knew it was about me and my husband – from the wedding cupcakes, the monochromatic candy buffet, the music, my vietnamese reception dress, signature cocktails… It didn’t really cost more money, it just takes some time to plan and I don’t regret it!

    * Just because the wedding day’s over doesn’t mean it has to end. Two days after the wedding, me and my husband did a Trash the Dress session and I absolutely adore those pictures. The wedding stress is over, its just me and him together and we look so happy.

    Congratulations to everyone who’s getting married. Enjoy this time. It goes so fast…

  27. posted by amy on

    Good ideas… I hope to need them one day soon….

    Remember, it’s your day, do what you want πŸ™‚

    Last time I was a bridesmaid I had a little handbag rather than flowers, very useful πŸ™‚ A girl needs her lipstick, hair pins and penknife (no, really, I did)

  28. posted by Annie on

    Biggest cost saver we had? My dress. I had just broken my ankle when my husband proposed – I was *terrified* of tripping! I knew I wanted a fairly simple dress, and I wanted tea length (NO TRAIN). Instead of paying for yards and yards of train and then paying to have it lopped off, I found a lovely, yet simple *bridesmaid* dress, ordered it in cream, and had it hemmed to tea length.

    Even with the cost of alterations – hemming it, taking it in, bedecking the neckline with a bit of sparkly trim that I searched out from a fabric store – I paid less than $500!

    If you want save even more – the dress was $200. Add an heirloom brooch for detail. I honestly would like to wear my dress again for a fancy cocktail party!

  29. posted by Maggie on

    We went to an evening wedding once that did not serve a full buffet. They had the wedding cake and I think a couple other desserts to choose from. When we got married we kept the guest list at 50 or less. We were married in an outside courtyard, the venue had white Christmas lights in the trees. We did not have to buy flowers or anything to decorate the outside. Also, I’ve seen that instead of wedding cakes a new trend of cupcake trees has started which, if you bought a tree (or devised one even) and made the cupcakes yourself (or had friends help with that) it would save a ton on the cake. I made my own garters and veil to save money and they were custom and more personal. Even little details like the cake topper. We didn’t buy a topper, our first date was a game of chess, so we put the king and queen of a chess set on our cake. Thinking outside the box definitely helps when saving money and makes for great memories too.

  30. posted by Rebekah at Elizabeth Anne on

    I would at RESEARCH EVERYTHING to that list. Read blogs, find people who have planned before you to see what they had problems with or loved, read everything you can. Not bridal magazines, but anything craft or design related. Your wedding can be $5000 and still be sweet, creative and simple. Visit http://www.diybride.com for great tips and projects.

  31. posted by Liss on

    Another tip: most photographers that I know of will sell you a CD of all the photos and release copyright for a rather reasonable fee. Then you can get however many photos of whatever size printed for cheaper. I’ve always heard that if photos and mementos are what are important to you from your wedding or special occasion, splurge on the photographer.
    We got married in December and I had royal blue and butter yellow as my colors (with daffodils on the tables and Battenberg lace centerpieces). My mom told me I couldn’t do that, but I said that I was only getting married once and that was what I wanted. We only had our parents stand in the line, my husband had a tux, the dads were encouraged to wear their best Sunday suit or buy a new one. All the rest of the family wore flowers and I encouraged them to wear whatever they thought they looked good in. That didn’t stop my in-laws from trying to all wear royal blue though….I knew my colors weren’t in season, I wasn’t picking them for people to wear.
    The biggest thing is that it _is_ about being married, not getting married. If you can keep that in mind (especially when picking a spouse!) that makes the day wonderful. We had a few mix ups on our wedding day and at our reception, 1 1/2 weeks later, but they didn’t bother us in the least.
    I’ve heard another cake idea (if you’re not serving it to everyone): have the bottom layers of foam, with fondant (all the craze lately, it seems) decorating all layers. The top layer is for cutting into, if that’s what you’re going to do. If you aren’t into cake cutting, skip the cake altogether!
    We were given a wedding video of ourselves as a gift, since we were married a week and a half before the reception, we were able to show the video at the reception which was an added bonus.
    Also, check with your church–in our church it costs nothing to be married or have a reception there, so you save with that. Most people I know don’t do music, there’s enough “music” with all the guests chatting with each other. Depending on if it is stressful to you or not, you can decorate yourself and do refreshments/food yourself, just line up people to help serve it.

  32. posted by Tiara on

    I just had to share on this topic. My husband and I, too were married shortly after 9/11/01. We had 40% of our guests not come due to airlines being shut down. But, as with your wedding, we felt we needed it and quickly recovered.

    A couple of long stories short: our best man was in a plane on the tarmac at Boston Logan at 9am. He had to take a train and get on one of the last remaining flights out the SF. Also, my husband’s sister took a 47 hour bus ride from Chicago to get here.

    Anyway, for some budget saving tips, here are some things I did:
    – I borrowed my veil. Nothing seemed perfect to me, except my friend’s veil so it was my something borrowed.
    – The neice I chose for my flower girl was one of the people who was stuck without a flight out, so my other neice, who just happened to wear the same color as my bridesmaids, stepped in.
    – It cost more to get my dress altered than the price of the dress! I bought it off the rack at a discount bridal shop for under $200 (my budget was $2k for my dress, so that really helped)!
    – Because of 9/11, our caterers were very understanding, reduced the amount of food last minute, as well as reduced the price. (Not really a tip, but it helped)
    – My bridesmaids did buy their own dresses and shoes, but the dresses I picked out were a top and full-length skirt, so they could swap them out with other pieces to make their own outfits for future use.

    Oh, and by the way, we had that cake at our wedding. Everyone commented on our “Alice in Wonderland” cake. Besides the honeymoon, it might have been the most expensive piece to our wedding.

  33. posted by nicole on

    every website and book tells you to cut the guest list to save money. problem is, we have big families and we love them! we’re not talking random 3rd cousins, but lots of 1st cousins, lots of aunts and uncles, etc. we didn’t want to cut people so that we could book the most amazing venue ever.

    instead, we are keeping our guestlist large (200, and that included a fair number of cuts and a b-list) but we booked a reasonably-priced country club rather than the historic lake-side dinner club i originally wanted. our photographer is good but not one of the most amazing/popular/artsy in the area. we’re having a polaroid photobooth instead of the rented photobooth we had on our original list of ‘wants’. but all of these compromises have been made so that we can have our loved ones there. i would rather do that than have to exclude people so that we could spend more money elsewhere.

    i just wanted to put in those two-cents and the flipside to the ‘cut the guest list’ rule.

  34. posted by Shannon on

    These are such great tips, all of them! I am probably going to be getting engaged this year (so excited!), and bf and I are both students (no money). My parents will probably contribute, but they’re not the type of people to okay a huge, fancy wedding. I’m bookmarking this for sure!

  35. posted by Emily on

    I read a book from the library that has motivated me. Most of the cost savings books say to settle for a cheaper version of what you want. This book said to negotiate for what you want. And that’s what I’ve done. Dress was half price from eBay. Centerpieces are candleholders that we’ll sell later. Having our wedding on a Sunday instead of a Saturday. I’m really excited for what I have been able to do with a change of mindset.

  36. posted by Ilona on

    I was married last spring, a second wedding for both of us. Total cost for the wedding, about $1500

    We saved by…
    1. The dress. After several futile shopping trips, I was beginning to get very anxious. Suddenly it dawned on me that I owned a very nice gown, and that I didn’t like any of the dresses I’d tried nearly as well. So I wore that dress.

    2. We had wedding and reception in the same venue.

    3. The venue was our neighbourhood pub, a warm, friendly, wood-floored family-friendly place.

    4. The musicians were friends. They said they wouldn’t dream of taking money. Of course we ignored that — but what we gave them (over their protests) was almost certainly markedly less than what they would have charged strangers.

    5. A graphic artist friend made the invitations for us as her wedding present.

    6. We had no wedding party. My eldest daughter and his eldest son were our witnesses, and we let them wear whatever they wanted. We found out their choices on the day!

    7. We didn’t have a cake. (GASP! Yeah, but I don’t like cake, and my husband has to watch his blood sugar.)

    8. We had it mid-afternoon, so the reception (at 3:30ish) was finger food. We provided wine for toasting. Any other alcohol consumed was ordered from the servers by the guests. So, given that it was an Irish pub, not a few of them toasted us with a pint o’ Guinness.

  37. posted by Jay on

    Remember, it’s just a party. Here are some ways to save some money:

    (1) Prioritize; figure out what is most important to you, and spend money on those things. Cut the fluff.

    (2) Omit things you don’t want. The wedding is your chance to host a party. If you do not want or need alcohol, a band, or a DJ, omit them.

    (3) Instead of a large wedding cake, have lots of little cakes. I like chocolate cake; my wife prefers spice cake. We had both. We also had numerous other cakes, including carrot cake, cheesecakes, etc. All were high quality, but none were “wedding” cakes.

    (4) Have a buffet instead of a sit-down meal. Guests have more choice, and it is much cheaper.

    (5) Have an outdoor wedding. If none of your friends and family have a big enough spread, rent a site. Lots of city and county park districts rent sites out for very little money. If an outdoor wedding is not for you, some of these park district sites are large mansions and the like.

    (6) Add a special touch, if possible, to make up for things you’ve cut out. My father-in-law hired a driver to bring my bride to the ceremony site on a horse and buggy. The horse and buggy were surprisingly inexpensive.

  38. posted by Raisin on

    Disclaimer: I am a professional photographer, so I may have a slightly skewed point of view.

    I think that tip number 3 is terrible. If you want to ‘think’ that you are saving money, but want to end up paying more, this is good advice.

    Lots of photographers have taken to telling people that they don’t have ‘to pay’ for proofs because they are shooting digital. The catch is that you then have one of two situations.

    Situation 1: You meet with the photographer at and they show you a slideshow of the images, and you only pick the ones that you want. The problem is that the slideshow is most often designed to push you into a hard sell while you are emotionally vulnerable. Some photographers have even taken to showing the slideshow at the reception as a ‘bonus.’ The pitch goes, “We will show the slideshow during the reception, your guests get to see everything, and you can select the ones you want in your final album at that time.” Lower overhead for the photographer, and it turns out that people are more likely to buy more if you get your own private sales pitch time with them (the slideshow) rather than letting them take home a proof book and deciding when they aren’t emotional.

    Situation 2: All the images are uploaded to a website, and you can order what you want online. This may be cheaper, but it ends up spreading the cost across everyone in the wedding by ‘allowing’ anyone to order prints. Of course, this is more like a slideshow sales pitch that the photographer doesn’t have to attend, and they are using you to get other people to buy as well.

    Again, those are general ways that it happens, but for the most part, when you don’t get proofs, you are decreasing overhead and increasing revenue for the photographer.

    If you are looking to save money on wedding photos, then you need three things:
    1. The photographer releases all rights to the images, and provides all the images on DVD without watermarks. (So that you can make prints and share them with friends as you see fit.)
    2. Pay for an album of photos ahead of time. Get a package of photos that meets your needs. Then, after the wedding is over, choose images from the DVD to fill out the order that you made before the wedding. For most people, this would be a hardbound ‘coffee table style’ album of 12-24 ‘key’ shots, one small (4×6) album with most of the images from the DVD (50-80 shots).
    3. A referral. Networking will get you quality and a good price.

    Most photographers worth the money will happily meet all three of these requirements regardless of how they are capturing the images. In today’s day and age, professional labs process film and return DVDs to the photographer.

    Making assumptions about the money that you can save based on the process that a professional uses is silly.

  39. posted by Christine on

    These aren’t cost saving tips, but I do think they helped us simplify our wedding.

    1. Our only goals for our wedding day were 1) to be married at the end of it and 2) to have a fun party after the ceremony, both of which we achieved.

    2. The best single piece of advice I got, which others have already mentioned, was to put someone in charge on the day of the wedding, whether it’s an actual wedding coordinator or the friend of a friend. I would actually extend that to say delegate as much of the planning as you are comfortable with – my mom volunteered to deal with the invitations, and I said “go ahead.” We each had one attendant, and told them they could wear whatever they wanted.

    3. Most of my research was getting referrals from recently married friends and co-workers, whether or not I went to their weddings. I know some people relish looking through tons of magazines, wedding websites, etc., but I am not one of those people, and I was happy to benefit from other people’s research and experience. Once we had lined everything up for our wedding, my attitude was “these people are professionals, they have collectively pulled off a lot of weddings, so I’m going to stay out of their way and let them do their jobs.”

  40. posted by Louisa on

    I am a greeting card and invitation designer and totally agree with one of the comments here – brides and grooms get very hung up on what they “should” do rather than what THEY WANT to do. And yes, doing invitations on your own (or at least through a local artist or designer) can often be much less pricey than going through a stationery house or shop.

  41. posted by Ann on

    Wow ! Weddings sure have changed! We got married 23 years ago in the South. Nobody served meals– cake and punch in the church hall. Videotape was just coming out, so no wedding videos. Hubby was a music major so he called in his friends to be a brass choir. That was fabulous! Our rehearsal dinner was a BBQ at my inlaws house. Everyone wore jeans. Since it was casual and inexpensive, we were able to invite a lot of our out of town guests. Way more fun than a fancy sit down dinner at a restaurant.

    A few tips for “these days” :
    As others have said, its one day. Spend more energy on preparing for your marriage than your wedding. If you are going to ask a friend/relative to do your music, photos, cake, etc be sure they are good. Some things are worth splurging on. Some things are not. You decide.

  42. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Raisin — I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. I could have been more specific in my original post. What I meant was that at the end of the wedding, you walk away with all of your photos on a DVD and you own them.

  43. posted by Alexandra on

    I have been to a number of weddings and refuse to buy wedding favors…if they really wanted to do me a favor, they wouldn’t give me one more thing to dust. Enough with the Jordan almonds, rose petal soap thingies and other assorted crap that I will not use – EVER.

    I am a model and an actress, and an avid photography fan. When I get married, I am going to hire two photographers, one in a photojournalistic style for the wedding and one to set up in the lobby outside the reception hall to do portraits of family and friends.

    My family rarely gets together and my intended’s family is spread out around the country, so I think the two photographers idea cuts down on the amount of useless stuff taking up space in loved one’s lives and increases the possibility for guests being able to appreciate and use the wedding favors.

  44. posted by Anne on

    just a quick add with photos! I so love the idea of disposable cameras at the tables or give to some friends you know will get different shots. I do this for big events in our lives, and getting a different view on the party is a great idea! You can get them put on a CD at the drugstore/walmart. We gave a few to teens, and it was hilarious the shots they got! Brave teens!
    I too like the thought, the wedding is a big party, treat it as such and it will be waaay more fun! I think it should be fun and not “I have to do this…because of tradition”

  45. posted by Michele on

    I got married four years ago, and DH and I were absolutely committed to a small wedding. I found however, that keeping the guest list small only goes so far with reducing costs. The per head charge goes down of course, but many charges are fixed or don’t decline proportionately with the guest count. Some examples include: ceremony music, DJ, photographer, invitations which had to be ordered in increments of 50.

  46. posted by Lorena on

    My husband and I got married last September in a beautiful beachside ceremony and Hawaiian luau reception in Southern California. A good friend of ours was our officiant, we used an iPod for ceremony and reception music, another old friend was our photographer, and my co-worker and his family served as entertainment (they’re competitive hula dancers). Favors were seashell leis that I’d bought online and helped the caterers ID our guests. My wedding dress was a white-on-white Hawaiian print dress that I can wear again and again (my husband wore a matching Hawaiian shirt and white slacks). Our maid of honor and best man wore similarly colored Hawaiian print outfits, too.

    While we had a huge guest list (we’re both from big families) with 160 people, we didn’t break the bank for our wedding because we held it at a public park, researched our catering and rental options, and had friends who were willing to charge us half, or nothing at all, for their services.

    At the end of the day, lots of folks said it was beautiful and was one of the most fun weddings they’d ever been to. While it wasn’t traditional, it was what we had envisioned for our “big day.” And, trust me, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters!

  47. posted by angorian on

    Invite fewer people. This will not only save you money, but you’ll actually get to talk to each of your guests. My wedding was 48 people, which was a perfect size to include family and friends, and yet actually get to spend time with everyone.

    Get friends/family to help out with things like invitations, music and photography, which could otherwise cost a huge amount of money.

    The food will probably be the most expensive part, no matter what. But you don’t have to do a full sit down meal. Consider having a cocktail with hors d’oeuvres, or a picnic, or something other than the traditional tabled supper. You’ll save money and people will get to interact more than if they’re spending most of the evening at a table of just 8 people.

  48. posted by Chris on

    Hi everyone again I really am loving this blog. Anyways the best thing I am planning for our wedding in June is the photographer. You can spend a lot of money on a photographer. I just picked the right person in my family and gave them the task of taking my pictures. Now that is better said than done. I will need to teach them a little about the camera as she is ok with her old camera. Instead of renting the use of the photographer’s camera I went and paid a lot of money for my own. The body, the lenses, the filters, the tripod, the programs like CS3, and photmatix (for those great HDR photos). I am a student and trust me that helps on the CS3. Now I have everything I need and will ever need to do wonderful pictures for the many years to come in our marriage. So not only did I get to keep the pictures but the camera as well. If you want to know I spent about 1400 dollars on everything and will be shooting in raw format so if my family member who takes the photos overexposes of underexposes a photo, I will be able to fix it. Just a little unitasking for the things I buy. I hope this helps out a little bit and maybe you can get the photo bug. If you want good photo info see twipphoto.com.

  49. posted by Rae on

    How about eloping?

  50. posted by MikeT on

    Things we did to save money:

    1. Food – enough finger food to make a meal of, but no table service, and no big meal. And the cake was from the same place, so there was only one person from the bakery/restaurant to deliver, set up, and cut the cake.

    2. Pictures – No photographer. My wife and I had both been married before and for both of us the wedding album was just another piece of clutter on a shelf we never looked at. We let friends and family know we weren’t getting a photographer, and everybody gave us a CD within a few weeks that had all their pics on it. Result? I have more and better pics from my second wedding than my first.

    3. Location – We rented all the rooms at a local bed and breakfast. We took the biggest room for ourselves, put friends and family in the other five, prepped the food in the kitchen, had the reception in the dining room, and the wedding in the front hall. $600, and we didn’t have to be out until the next morning.

    4. Clothes – I wore a suit, and my bride wore a borrowed dress that had been a bridesmaid’s dress. It was burgundy. So what?

    This was a second wedding for both of us, and we still joke, “The first wedding is really for the parents.” Both of us wish we’d done it the simple way the first time around, too.

  51. posted by Raisin on

    @Anne – Yes, disposables are a great idea. In fact, one of the limitations of any photographer is that they can’t be in all places at once.

    Two things that I have seen that are also great ideas are a polaroid camera along with the pen for signing in on the guest book. So, instead of the guest book becoming yet another unitasker, it becomes a self-portrait album of all the people that attended your wedding.

    The other is a photobooth. There are photographers that add a photo booth for weddings. There are also companies that rent out photobooths for events. In most cases, all the guests get instant photobooth prints, and the bride and groom get copies of all the photos on DVD.

    @Chris – Make sure that the family member that you pick doesn’t need to be IN the photos.

  52. posted by Red on

    Things we did to keep it simple for our May 2006 wedding:

    1. Rented a pavilion in a local park and used leftover prom supplies from the local high school to decorate it very simply (a few strips of gauze and twinkle lights). Cost $25 for our location and it allowed us to have over 100 guests comfortably.

    2. Had my best friend marry us under a tree in the woods.

    3. Encouraged people to be comfortable to the point where shoes were optional.

    4. All invitations/save the date/etc were done at home using recycled papers from local stationers. Our invitation & RSVP was actually just one piece of paper where the bottom tore off into a postcard to mail back. Maps, etc were all done via our website and phone calls to the relatives who are less tech-savvy.

    5. As for photography, we did hire a local photographer for the formal shots though there were four others around taking photos. Between the five of them we have the perfect digital photographs of our weekend (it was a three day event).

    I wanted nothing more than a simple party to celebrate the joining of our families. I think we succeeded merging the formal and informal on a fairly tight, simple budget.

  53. posted by Alex Fayle on

    As a gay man from Canada living in Spain (two countries where I can get married), when I think of my wedding (whenever it happens) I feel hugely grateful that I’m not tied to a gazillion traditions that “everyone simply must do.”

    I agree that it’s a very important day, but City Hall and a big party with friends and family sounds about right to me.


  54. posted by ChristineB on

    Some friends of ours had their wedding at the local farmer’s market. It is a covered structure and right on the water. Just about everything was done by friends-the DJ, flowers, cake, photos, lights, bar tending, and my husband did the invitations. I think they catered the food. It was wonderful! It was like a giant collective party. One of the best times I’ve ever had at a wedding.

  55. posted by Sasha on

    Don’t invite people from far away. I found that contributed a lot to making our wedding more complex… although of course, it was worth it for us.

    We had the reception on a nice-ish boat, so that was fancy-ish and complex, but the ceremony was in a beautiful park. It cost me about $30 to reserve the “picnic” space in the park, and we set everything up in a clearing nearby. A bonus is that now, every time we go to the park, my husband and I get a little excited and say “We got married here!” and laugh.

    I had all the bridesmaids and so on pick their own clothes, after being told what I’d be wearing and the color theme. It worked perfectly.

    Don’t buy wedding favors unless you have a special idea for them. Nobody really cares, usually, and people don’t like useless stuff unless it’s got some redeeming feature. In fact, most people don’t care about most finicky traditions and details about weddings. Just do whatever appeals to you.

    Sometimes, to be honest, the expensive choice is the simpler one. I hired a wedding planner (a great one). I was in an new city, with lots of faraway guests coming, and a mostly unhelpful spouse-to-be, mostly nobody else to help out. Not only was it worth it, she probably paid for herself (or at least close) with the money she saved me in different ways. And some of the other expenses were damn fun.

  56. posted by Sue on

    I am sure some of my ideas are duplicates but here goes:

    1. I ordered my dress from JC Pennys and added a few lace and beaded embellishments. Cost: $150.

    2. Sister made our cake–it was her gift to us.

    3. Bridesmaids were given a color sample and found dresses that coordinated with that.

    4. When sister’s 4 daughters each were planning THEIR weddings, sis and her DH stated a $$ amount; anything over that–the couple had to pay, anything under that–sis would write a check to them for a house down payment. Worked really well!

    5. Basically, if the groom, the bride, the officiant and the license are there, you are set; anything else that happens becomes part of your wedding “legend”, and you are still married.

  57. posted by Kristin on

    $492.50 total in jUne of 2000.

    Married on the mall in DC (the old marble gazebo off the reflecting pool), cake was a gift from my mom, champagne flutes (I refused to use plastic) were $1 each on sale at Crate&Barrell, my dress was originally $225 off the rack (second marriage… I wore periwinkle) but it had as snag so I got it for NINETY PERCENT OFF. Yes, you read that correctly. I fixed the snag. My flowers were from the grocery store and wrapped with florist tape. My husband wore his ‘interview’ suit (black) …. and that was it. Our cost was primarily the JP. Met at our house in Alexandria, VA; carpooled to the location, said the vows, kissed, pictures, bubbles for the kids and then back to our house for champagne (another gift), cake and then off to the local club to hear a live band.

    And people, to this day, tell us it was the best wedding they’ve ever attended.

  58. posted by MB on

    One more photography idea…

    We were married in a college town so we looked up a recent art major that worked mostly with photography. We paid an hourly rate and at the end of the day he turned over the film…pre-digital. Along with the hourly rate we gave him a certain number of prints.. his choice as to which ones, to use in his portfolio.

    In general we too went small and inexpensive and still say it was the best wedding ever!

  59. posted by lexie on

    I’m a florist, and do a lot of weddings where I live. One good option for alter arrangements is to buy some really wonderful looking potted plants, then put them in the urn or other nice container. Its less money than buying a floral arrangement ( usually the altar arrangements take a good chunk of money since their so big) and if you get a plant that can easily grow in your climate, you can have it to remind you of the big day. You may also want to look into buying them from a good local nursery instead of a chain store, they cost a bit more but their taken care of better and everyone will be staring at them while you take your vows.
    Another tip would be if you wanted flowers in your centerpiece but not a whole arrangement, try floating large flower heads like gerbera daises, sunflowers, or lilies in clear vases. It’s less costly but still has a nice touch.
    An interesting idea I’ve always liked, though not really something that saves money, is finding different ways to wear flowers. Their a great things to do like flower pins in your hair, garlands, arm wraps, even attatching them to a plain pair of shoes! It adds a great personal touch.

  60. posted by Kat on

    For our give-aways, we had potted seedlings, and even now we get comments from guests on how tall their plants have grown. Another friend had seeds. Bear in mind that if you have overseas/interstate guests, they might not be able to take plant material home.

  61. posted by Dana on

    We’re eloping to Vermont, where a very nice B&B has a whole package including 2 nights stay, the JofP, a small cake, dinner, etc for $800. We’re taking the dog — she’s the only attendant and since this is my second marriage, I decided to forgo the traditional wedding dress and look at evening dresses. To my surprise, of all the things I tried on, a scarlet ankle length gown with one seed pearl flower on the shoulder picked me!

    My fiance is wearing a dark suit, we’re putting a red ribbon on the dog (she’s a black Lab mix) and only getting a bouquet and boutonniere. The photos will be digital and up online within a matter of days, and when we come back, we’re having a very small lunch with our parents and siblings. No invitations, bridesmaids gowns, centerpieces, etc to mess with, and my hair will be the same as it is on most days (it’s short in a bob, so there’s not much to do to it anyhow).

    I feel so good knowing most of the planning is done (we’re going in September — I always wanted a fall wedding) and we’re doing exactly what we want.

  62. posted by M on

    We had a very small celebration with about 25 of our closest family and friends. The dinner at our favorite (inexpensive) restaurant cost about $300. Since we didn’t hire a photographer, buy flowers, party favors, etc., the dinner was the main cost. I bought an ivory-colored cocktail dress for $40 at the department store which worked perfectly for this occasion. An acquaintance who is in the bakery business provided the cake, which was an unconventional and delicious one. I’m sure this is not everyone’s style, but we’re low-key people, and couldn’t imagine a better way to get married.

  63. posted by steph on

    I am the most offbeat of my large Southern family and my husband WAS an older confirmed bachelor. Clad in “Bride” and “Groom” caps, we were married at the courthouse witnessed by a few friends. Lunch followed at a favorite BBQ restaurant, which was offering free red velvet cake for their anniversary. The owner picked up our tab and later catered a casual reception at the museum where my husband worked (free). We used evites, I wore a $5 vintage dress from a yard sale and friends chipped in for most of the rest. Favors were MoonPies for Midsummer Night.

    The best parts — winning the office pool on our wedding night more than paid for the wedding AND returning to eat cake last night on our anniversary!

  64. posted by Susan on

    Pick a wide assortment of acceptable “little black dresses” and let the bridesmaids pick from that spectrum a dress that they’ll wear again. (Don’t just send them out to pick their own unless you REALLY trust their taste and have low sib-rivalry levels. I started out with “pick your own” and learned my lesson when I found that my drama-queen sister was planning to up stage everyone (me included) with a cashmere sweater over an extravagant ball gown skirt–when all the other bridesmaids were wearing narrow-skirted little black dresses.)

    Calculate EXACTLY what you can afford to spend per guest, and post it on the front of your planning notebook. That way, if you/fiance/parents get tempted to invite “just one more” person, look at the cost. I found that politely telling my “more the merrier” mom that if she wanted to add more guests to her 20-person quota would cost $65 per person up-front to even send the invitation was the most efficient way to stop the head count from climbing beyond limits.

    An elegant midnight wedding with champagne and little nibbles is the most elegant and inexpensive way to go. AND you don’t have much trouble with people showing up with uninvited munchkins.

  65. posted by [email protected] on

    I totally agree with nixing the traditional bridesmaids dresses. I hate wearing them and am so frustrated with how expensive they are. I found dresses for my bridesmaids that were $36.

    I also didn’t have centerpieces or favors. To me, it’s fluff and then you have useless stuff sitting around your house. I really doubt anyone even noticed πŸ™‚

    Lastly, I did splurge on the photographer since my hubby is known for not being very photogenic. The photos are awesome! (married 9 months ago) I opted for film since it’s better quality. The photographer gave me all of the prints and rights. She also agreed to have the developer make cd’s of the prints when they were developed. I got the best of both worlds – the quality of film and the convenience of digital – for $1300.

  66. posted by Laura on

    One option for wedding and bridesmaid dresses is Ebay! I was in a wedding last winter and found the exact dresses the bride wanted (David’s bridal, apple red, strapless, a-line, full length) for $40 or less. There are literally hundreds of worn-once or never-worn wedding gowns and bridesmaid’s dresses.

    When I get married, I want to have the wedding in my parents’ backyard, which is both beautiful and free! No tuxes, no fussy dresses, no bloated guest list, no honorary this or that, no $200 calla lily bouquets, just a simple ceremony with friends and family and then a big party.

    But I would agree about spending money on a photographer. The pictures are all you have besides memories! Art students are a great idea — just take a close look at their existing portfolio. And in any case, sit down and talk with the photographer about your vision for the photos. Do you want mostly posed, formal pictures, or do you want to capture the more spontaneous moments of your big day? Do you mind if they hunch down in front of the first pew or would you rather they take more inconspicuous shots? If you’re going to do the photos after the ceremony but before the reception, does he have a plan for getting through the necessary shots in a timely, efficient way?

  67. posted by amy on

    He proposed yesterday!!! How did you know I needed this article Unclutter?

    /me saves this url to send to mother when she starts getting over-wedding-y πŸ˜‰

  68. posted by Tiffany on

    We had a reception of 50 people at our favorite restaurant that we’ve been going to for years. All the staff knows us, the managing partner is a family friend. Including the open bar with our brunch reception and tip, we paid about $2500. We bought 5 dozen cupcakes from Cakelove on U St. for $120 instead of a wedding cake. I bought invitation paper at Target and printed it on our workhorse, inherited HP laser printer- they looked fabulous and I spent $50. We had people RSVP by email (no extra postage cost). We got married DURING Sunday morning church services (this will only work if you’re part of the church community normally) on Church Music Sunday- use of the facility was free, the choir had already paid for some additional musicians, and we paid for a couple more since my husband is a musician himself and it was important to us ($600 well spent). We had one attendant each, my brother and my husband’s best friend, who wore suits they already owned with no ties. I paid $100 for white bridesmaid separates instead of a wedding dress. I wish we had been able to hire a photographer, but since we had to change our wedding date 7 weeks beforehand due to a string of venues falling through, there was nothing I could do. We got the digital photos our friends and family took and turned them into a wedding album through iPhoto.

    No one cared at all that we didn’t do favors, or a bouquet toss, or any of that unnecessary crap. We had good ceremony music, good food at the reception, and our friends are all interesting people who entertained each other at the reception. It was awesome, and we had everything that was important to us. πŸ™‚

  69. posted by Rachel on

    This is a great post. We got married in October 2006, in a combination Day of the Dead/Halloween wedding. Some ideas that simplified our day:
    1. We rented a building that now houses a local non-profit but was a private residence (mansion) when it was built in the 1800s. We had both wedding and reception there. It cost $300 to rent for the whole day, and I spent another $200 on wedding insurance (a good idea if you’re worried about Uncle Dave getting sauced and breaking something). Since this wasn’t a licensed venue, I also had to get a liquor license to serve beer and wine, which only cost $50 but was a paperwork hassle. Still, the venue was absolutely perfect, and they let us bring in whatever caterer we wanted. That was key, because what we wanted was a kickin’ chicken BBQ. Total cost for 1/2 chicken per guest, roll/butter, potato salad, roasted veggies, corn and a couple of other sides,and drinks (including service, on-site BBQ, all plates, utensils, napkins, etc.) was $8 per guest. We had about 125 people, so we spent another $1000 on food.

    2. Got my dad- a former actor- certified online to perform the ceremony ($25).

    3. Bought my dress on eBay for $125. It had never been worn before and- amazingly- needed no alterations.

    4. Rather than flower centerpieces, we did bowls of candy in the middle of each table, and one guest at every table won the centerpiece at the end of the night. Each one was different- I just bought glass bowls at thrift stores and garage sales and hot-glued fringe around them.

    5. No seating charts- people sorted themselves out quite well and wound up sitting where they wanted.

    6. Rather than asking people to be bridesmaids and groomsmen, we asked people to contribute in ways that showcased their talents. For example, one friend designed the image on our (self-printed) invites. Another sang a song as we entered the ceremony. Another played violin during the ceremony. Another organized a quilt-making (guests were asked to contribute squares before the wedding and the finished product was displayed on the day). Another did a slide show of me and my partner. Some family members helped make decorations (sugar skulls and an altar).

  70. posted by Deja on

    My husband and I eloped in our kayaks on an overnight river trip. It was surprise to me (but we had been dating for 7 years). So, I already knew he was the one for me. It was very sweet. He leaned over and asked me if I was enjoying the river. Then, he said, “What is that floating on the water?” I picked up this beautiful basket that contained a ring! He proposed to me right there on the water. So, the next day, our best friend married us on the side of the river. Then, we flew out of the canyon in a very small bush plane (kayaks and all). We called our family and friends and told them the next morning (which was a delightful surprise to all of them). A week later, we had a big BBQ and all came to celebrate in the park with us. Very low key and it cost us less than $300. No wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses…or family disputes over how they expected the wedding to be! It was just perfect for us considering that we met on the river. Sort of like the “confluence” or place where two rivers join!

  71. posted by Linda on

    Another alternative is the Registry Office/ Justice of the Peace/ Civil ceremony. If you are ultra trifty it can be done locally or it can be a great & romantic getaway.

    My husband & I combined a trip to the UK with our wedding and we were married in the Registry Office in Glasgow this past July (2008). There was a bunch of paperwork to submit and we needed to give 6 weeks prior notice, but the internet and a fax machine makes the process very simple (about $20 in overseas phone calls and faxes). Marriage license & related fees $200, marriage visa was $ 150 per person. (Only my husband needed a visa since I am still a UK citizen).

    My dress was simple & bought off the rack with a silk scarf to fancy it up ($70). Hired a local photographer via the internet for $600 total (including a book of 5X7 prints and a larger portrait for the wall) and a small bouquet of flowers locally for $30. Afterwards we had a small reception at a local tearoom for ourselves and my UK relatives (ten people $150 total).

    I imagine there is a similar process to be married in other countries. The trip itself was our honeymoon and the most major expense (Our flights were $2000, hotels were $1000 and meals/incidentals another $1000 for a ten day trip). Our finances are intact and our minds filled with happy memories.

  72. posted by Wedding planning in the news | Wedding Decorator Blog on

    […] have to take it just from me! I stumbled across this great post from Unclutterer — Ten tips for planning a simple wedding. Hey, you brides could use all the help you can get in this day and […]

  73. posted by bonnie jean on

    My fiance and I are both in our 40’s and have been married before. BUT, we have waited a very long time to be together, so, while we both want something simple, we want it to be very special, too.

    We are planning for this July. Here is what we have come up with thus far:

    1) Wedding will probably be at his sister’s farm. She is one of my best friends, and has lots of space…so depending on weather, we can be outside (what I have always wanted) or inside.

    2) I bought my dress years ago at a flea market. It’s vintage ivory lace, that needed some TLC. I have repaired it, and have a beautiful classic dress for a whopping $10!!

    3) My daughters (22 and 18 at the time of the wedding) are going to be my bridesmaids, and they are planning on just getting some nice sundresses that they can wear at other times.

    4) I do not give a rodent’s heiney what my fiance and his son’s wear. Why be uncomfortable? Wear jeans, I don’t care!! I’m debating whether or not I will even wear shoes, if we are outside!!!

    5) I have already asked 2 friends to sing a duet…that is their gift to us.

    6) My fiance is in a band, along with his entire family. He said “music won’t be a problem.”

    7) My best friend is a photographer who is just building her portfolio, and is happy to do our pictures.

    I love the wishbowl idea…gonna steal that one!! I also want VERY simple flowers…after all, my faves are violets!!

    Any other suggestions on keeping the cost down are GREATLY appreciated!

  74. posted by Jennifer on

    When looking at venues for your wedding ask to see their banquet packages — don’t mention that it is a wedding! We didn’t have the longer table cloths, ice sculpture, etc that came with the wedding packages but no one noticed or cared and we saved thousands. Instead of one big cake we had a cake on each table as the center piece. Beautiful and cheaper than one big cake. Also, we didn’t do flowers as we had the cakes which was another huge savings.

  75. posted by Lisa on

    We managed to do our wedding with 165 guests (very large, close families) for under $5000, including the honeymoon. The service and reception were in our church, which is walking distance from my parents’ house. A buffet lunch with salads and a variety of breads and toppings, with punch and pop, was perfect for the hot, humid day (yes, the church was air conditioned!). We asked musician friends to do the music (yes, we paid them, but it was reasonable), a reader’s theatre of the scripture reading, and we commissioned an artist friend to hand wood-stamp our invitations. We still have one framed and hanging on the wall. Our flowers were local, in-season and multi-coloured, put together by an aunt. Mine were in a basket which was easy to put down when I needed both hands. My dress was an ivory cotton brocade, which I have shortened and worn again. I worse a hat, and have used that again as well. My husband borrowed a suit, and the other guys could borrow, wear what they had, or rent: their choice. Our families were our “attendants”, with close friends as witnesses. My sisters and best friend did want to have matching dresses. I picked a few patterns out, and several cotton fabrics that I liked. They all, individually, picked the same pattern and fabric!! And wore those dresses again and again and again.
    We splurged on excellent, although not traditional,cake, which was served for dessert. We also hired a well-recommended photographer, who also did both my sisters’ weddings, and has done some family portraits since then. He has been able to see our famlies grow.
    Our table decorations/favours were little violets in a wicker basket. There are still aunts who point out the “wedding violet”, and offspring plants.
    Our focus was much more on our marriage. We spent weeks writing our vows and ceremony, and had the pastor review it to be sure it wasn’t too … anything… which personally written vows tend to be.
    We love remembering that amazing day. Not much that I would change, and there was so little stress, and no arguing or disagreements with our families. I think advanced planning, good communication with family members, especially parents, contributed to the smooth day. I guess people can’t control who their families are, but the whole process made me realize how blessed I am.

  76. posted by The Elegant Budget Bride - LuxeBudgetBride.com on

    […] General Tips Budget Bride Tips from Bravo Bride General Tips on How to Plan a Wedding, but Not Go Broke from FrugalBride.com Fabulous $5,000 Weddings from Bridal Guide.com Tie the Knot without Busting your Budget from MSN Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding from About.com Wedding Budget Articles ♥ Wedding Budgets from Squidoo 25 Ways to Save Money from Real Simple 75 Ways to Create a Luxury Wedding on a Budget ♥ 13 Ways to Keep your Wedding as Simple as Possible from zenhabits.net Ten Tips for Planning a Simple Wedding […]

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