Planning an event especially a wedding on a budget is no easy task! I've been doing it for 6 years for both private and corporate events. Read on for my top tips.
- Atmosphere. The venue you pick will set the vibe for your wedding and all the expenses that follow. If you pick a rustic venue you can go with a boho dress and wildflowers all significantly less expensive than a ballroom and beaded gown. On the flip side, a venue that's a blank slate may lead you to spend thousands of dollars in lighting + decor.
- Find out what's included. Make sure you know what your venue is handling. Many venues have tables, table linens, and basic centerpieces (e.g. mirrors and candles) included in the rental price.
- DIY with wholesale flowers. With the exception of my own wedding, I use Fifty Flowers or Blooms by the Box for floral. Both of these companies are reliable, responsive, and easy to use. They have packages like "Vintage Garden" with pre-selected combos.
- Substitute. Garden roses are a stellar substitute for peonies. The underrated carnation is a great "filler". Hydrangeas and large mums are large + inexpensive. These lavender mums are my favorite!
- Borrow vases. Who doesn't have extra vases? Collect as many as you can from friends and family. The mix will be a quirky touch + even if you don't DIY - most florists will give you a discount if you supply your own vases.
|Garden roses + Ikea vases|
Photo by Braden Harris Photography
- Try, but don't buy. A wedding dress is a big expense and it's not one you necessarily want to skimp on, but going to a traditional wedding boutique is a bit overwhelming. Your consultant likely works on commission and likely has other appointments after you. Make an appointment to try different styles, but set your mind to the fact that it's only a research mission.
- Order online. BHLDN, Modcloth, and Asos have unique wedding dress designs + return policies. If you can, order a few in the style you liked from your in-store visit and invite some gals over for champagne + modeling!
- Buy used. If you know the dress of your dreams + your size - keep an eye on Recycle Your Wedding for matching listings.
- Read the contract. Make sure you understand what you're paying for. Will you have the rights to all the photos or only a select number? How will they be given to you (e.g. download or cd)? Will they be retouched? Will they be in color + black & white? Are any additional sessions like bridals or engagement photos included? Will they use your photographs for their website or contests? Once you understand your contract then you can negotiate. Maybe you don't need your photos retouched or perhaps you can sneak your bridals into your wedding day. Can you bundle engagement photos, bridals, and wedding day to get a lower price?
- Do not DIY. Do not hire a friend. This will be one of the big expenses of your wedding.
- Plan. To make sure you get the most from your investment create a shot list and share with anyone involved. Your grandmother should know she needs to stay after the ceremony to get a photo with you. Use Pinterest to create a visual board of what you want.
- Rent! For lighting, I've used both Rock N Roll Rentals and Rent My Wedding. The latter also has a selection of backdrops + linens.
- Reuse. Each piece of decor I have has been used for a previous event, borrowed, or was purchased from an antique store (Austin Antique Mall is my fave!). I also salvage from my own home. My latest event, a 70's prom, was decorated with crystals and hobnail glasses from my own home decor.
|A steampunk party featuring antiques, random home decor, and a hydrangea|
- Preferred vendors. This is the time a venue's preferred vendor list will come in handy. A preferred vendor will already know the ins and outs of a venue's kitchen + catering setup. Most importantly there's usually no catering fee to use a preferred vendor.
- Get lots of quotes. Request quotes from food trucks, caterers, restaurants. Ask for a variety of set-ups: buffet, stations, plated meals. You may be surprised with what ends up being the cheapest option for your group. Having quotes also gives you more info about what catering should cost. Being informed will help you negotiate better rates.
- The best food isn't always the fanciest. People just want good food at weddings. We used Rudy's BBQ and it was $10 a person for a serviced buffet, water + tea, and late-night breakfast tacos. We spent less than $1,000 on food when it was all said and done.
- Never give your budget first. Request a quote and then provide your budget during negotiations.
- Tastings. Do a tasting either before you sign a contract or make sure there's an easy out in your contract if the tasting goes bad. For example, most caterers will let you do a tasting for free, but if you decide not to book you have to pay a tasting fee.
- Sweets. There are so many amazing options for cheap sweets at a wedding. Some of my favorites: Tiny Pies, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Homemade Baked Goods. If you're trying to save money HEB will make any cake you want if you bring a photo. Read my DIY here!
|My HEB + DIY smash cake|
Photo by Lauren Maria Photography
- BYOB. There are so many venues that let you bring in your own alcohol. This gives you control over how much you spend (hello bulk wine!) + whatever you don't drink you keep. Just make sure to have someone on point for bringing and taking away the drinks. I recommend hiring 1-2 bartenders, but depending on the venue it may not be necessary.
- Etsy is your friend. There are some amazing vendors on Etsy that will create a digital download for you for less than $50 (The Brumby Nest, Lucky Plum Studio, Printable Wisdom). From there you can decide if you want to print or email. I recommend printing at least one for you - an invite is a keepsake + a nice touch in wedding day video and photo.
- Shutterfly. Sign up for an account so that you can receive coupons. You can pick from hundreds of templates and even use an engagement photo for the invite.
- Calligraphy. First of all, no one worth knowing truly cares what your handwriting on an invite looks like. If you care, take a calligraphy class (or Pinterest tutorial) with your bridesmaids and then have a handwriting party. If you have a friend with amazing handwriting - ask nicely if they'll do it for you and then insist on no wedding gift.
- DIY. You can go to Sephora for a free makeup consultation if you buy a $50 gift card to learn tips and tricks. Pinterest is, of course, a good place as well.
- Partial Services. My challenge is the eyes. If you're like me you can book a partial service with a makeup artist or spa for a smoky eye + false eyelashes. Your bachelorette party is a good time for a trial run. For your hair, you can try a blow dry bar or ask your regular stylist if she can do your hair.
Gifts + Favors
- Not necessary. Gifts for the guests aren't necessary. For the bridal party - a handwritten note goes a long way!
- Koozies. If you must do a favor, I recommend a koozie. These are the only favors I've ever kept. They are cheap + will be great with your canned beer bar. We also fed our guests breakfast tacos on the way out and called it a favor.
- Your Registry. Don't treat your wedding like a trade. If you plan a $25,000 wedding and expect the same in gifts - good luck. Now that you've moved gifts off the table as a reason for the wedding - consider a no gift or donation wedding. If folks want to give a gift they will or they may ask to help! For the folks that want to help: ask them to set up tables, make floral arrangements, or officiate.
Photo by Ryan Howard
- Do it. If you have more than one vendor to manage on the day of your wedding you'll want a day of coordinator. Stay organized (e.g. vendor list, timeline, etc.) so that you can easily hand off the details the week of the wedding. I hired a long-time acquaintance that had a side business as a wedding planner. She was inexpensive and wonderful. You may even be able to find a student/intern to handle for even less.
- Decide what you need. If you want a master of ceremonies and/or band you'll want to budget some top $. If you just want music - you can rent a speaker set-up for around $25 + a get a Spotify subscription ($10/month). I use Rock N Roll Rentals in Austin. If you want full control over the music - do the latter and assign someone to be in charge.
- Bundle. Many DJs can provide uplighting, dance floor lighting, and some even provide other services like bartending.
- Use Gig Salad. Services like this allow you to post what you're looking for and request proposals in your budget. It saves you time, by having folks come to you versus you looking for them + the investment is provided upfront.
- Read your contract. Redline anything you don't need and ask for a lower rate.
- Be honest about your budget. Be honest with yourself and your vendors. If a vendor's quote is out of reach, it's okay to say so. Most vendors are willing to get creative. My florist, for example, had me + another budget bride in the same month. The other bride helped with set-up for my wedding in return I loaned her all my vases for her wedding. We both saved money!
- Check references. Like pick up the phone and talk to someone to check references. This is one of the most important things you can do. Not only do you want to ensure that you're going to be happy, but you can price check as well.