Classy Weddings on the Cheap
Closing in on the big day and concerned the budget is spiraling out of control? Believe it or not, you can have a classy event without going permanently in debt. Here’s a peek at various categories to consider, and suggestions for each.
All in one facility.
Out of our three wedding ceremonies, the one where we were inviting all the family was held at one of those antique historical mansions that was already furnished with antiques, Persian carpets, table linens, tables, serving dishes, etc. There was loads of parking, a raised landing halfway up the stairs with a two story stained glass window for the ceremony, and place for people to start relaxing with champagne immediately after they walked back down stairs to greet us. Everything flowed, people only had to park once, and there was no annoying wait time for people to wait for us to arrive. They’d already been through the receiving line and could already start munching, as we went with high end cocktail foods. In fact, there were a few items selected ahead for the caterers to be handed out as soon as people arrived prior to the ceremony and signed the guest book. I’ve also seen weddings done at romantically located hotels such as this one in central Maine. The couple had their reception right by the pool under the canopy and the guests as well as the couple were already at the hotel when they got done partying down. So everyone could participate to their own energy level, including people who arrived with several individuals per car. Bonus? Breakfast was included the next morning, so everyone got to see each other and really enjoy one of those few and far between family get-togethers. Way less gas spent, and if the facilty is already a decorative one to boot, you’ll be spending way less money on decorations.
Any park, really. But some of the national ones such as Acadia have some seriously dramatic scenery, making for unique and extra memorable wedding photographs. When the background is that striking, some neatly placed rows of white chairs and the wedding party are nearly all you need for decorative accents. OK, maybe a pew bow or two. Bonus? You often only need to book a particular site for a nominal fee. If you are comfortable with a ceremony outside your regular place of worship, this could save you major bucks.
Beach side hotel balcony.
A former coworker of mine did this when we were on Guam. The hotel was on the beach with fabulously decorated pools and gardens. This of course made for some gorgeous pre-ceremony photos of the bride and groom. They invited all of us to attend, but didn’t really do the bridal party thing. This made for less stress with fittings, extra gown selections, etc. Instead of reserving an entire ball room or one of the swimming pools, she got the large balcony for a song, and it overlooked everything anyway. The hotel coordinated putting out several tables with linens and candles, as well as a covered table for the guest book and the table with the giant three tiered appetizer tray, cocktail bar and punch bowl. We all hung out and got in the wedding mood while they took their time with photos. Then, they entered along with the person performing the ceremony and we gathered around for their vows and ceremony. Afterwards, we enjoyed champagne and cake and gave our good wishes. It was simple, classy, and absolutely beautiful. She also came out at well under two thousand dollars for the entire bill.
The beach itself.
There’s a reason people pick this one. It’s super dramatic, and basically any fabulous dress and groom’s outfit will fit in. You can also skip the expensive wear-them-one-time shoes for a fabulous couple’s pedicure. Follow the whole event with an island style barbecue. Or, if you are going for a morning sunrise service, do the toast with some affordable mimosas and follow up with the cake and some morning brunch foods. Bonus? Brunches and afternoon tea receptions are some of the most affordable ones to pull off.
If you live next to a great botanical garden, or have a friend who’s really into the gardening thing as a hobby, consider this as an all in one option. With publicly accessible gardens, the bathrooms are usually already available, along with one or two of those oh-so-romantic gazebos for the ceremony and musicians. And again, a few ribbon bows and the flowers for the cake table and bridal party are really all you’ll need. As with some of the other suggestions, parking likely won’t be an issue.
DÉCOR AND INFRASTRUCTURE
All in one facilities. Again.
It bears repeating. Many of these places have everything you need. The mansion we used sure did. Right down to table linens, serving dishes and even the coffee urn. They set the whole thing up and cleaned afterward for around seven hundred bucks. I don’t know about you, but I have friends who spent way more than that on an empty hall with absolutely no infrastructure.
Register for certain infrastructure items as shower gifts.
The trick? Pick things without a wedding motif so you can enjoy them throughout your marriage. Some examples? A pillar candle holder with coordinating taper pieces. It will look great on your mantle for years to come and you’ll already have what you need for your unity candle if you desire that as part of your ceremony. Another set you’ll be glad you requested, especially if you like to entertain, is a cake knife and server. These will be used for nearly every holiday event, family christening, anniversary and more. Plus, you never know when a friend will ask to borrow your living room, back porch and landscaped grounds for their wedding.
Hit the after Christmas sales.
I covered this in a fair amount of depth in one of my post holiday sale articles. I repeat the suggestion here, because there really are loads of things you can pick up then at a huge discount. Table linens, coffee urns, buffet servers, punch bowls, you name it.
Let nature be your backdrop.
This seriously cuts down on unnecessary decorations. Crashing surf, dramatic snow capped mountains, a foliage rimmed lake, ancient castle surrounded by green fields, you get the idea. A few of those hand tied ribbon bows I mentioned above around the gazebo and up the aisles of chairs . . . you’ll just need to show up with your partner looking fabulous.
Keep it simple.
By this I’m suggesting to cut back on all the unnecessary frippery and yes, even the guest list. In fact, if you think guests will just stress you out and you want to spend more money on a honeymoon anyway, consider eloping for a combination wedding trip – ceremony destination type of thing. Hammock in Paradise blogger Lisa Overman recently wrote a piece with some information on how to organize a wedding in Hawaii, if that floats your boat. Or, maybe Scotland is speaking to your soul. Your call really. But paring things down to any degree will save you loads of stress and cash.
There are several ways to do this. Vintage or family dresses, a discount brand such as Bridal Originals, or even a dress or suit with a bridal feel picked up at a non traditional source. While I picked something more traditional for our family blow out back home, I snagged a great champagne colored shift with crystal beads and a satin-stitched scalloped ham for under sixty bucks at the mall in Kuwait. When we went to Denmark for the ceremony, I wore that (which has also served as a great New Years Eve dress since then) with some strappy sandals, and David wore his uniform. We were more than pleased with the snapshots. Another great idea is to get a fabulous white sarong with some floral accents and wrap in whatever creative style you want. Here’s a source for wedding sarongs, if you want a more formal approach to your wrap.
Guys, if you have a formal uniform that goes with your job, then you are already in business. Otherwise, tux rentals are super affordable, and to tell you the truth I think a nice suit is nothing to sneeze at. Of course, if you are going for the beach thing, some really great gauze pants and a Hawaiian style shirt will have you styling it on the cheap.
Cutting down on the size of it altogether is an excellent place to start. Some people eliminate it all together. If you want some sort of attendant count for support and logistics, consider just going with a maid of honor and best man only. That way, they guys only need to coordinate their outfits and the bride’s attendant can really pick any classy dress that fits in with the wedding. Problem solved. And again, the sarong idea above is super cheap.
Vintage & estate pieces.
These are auctioned off all the time, and if you like the historical feel, this could be the solution you are looking for.
OK, maybe not your first pick, and I know not everyone is comfortable with this. That being said, there is usually loads of room for bargaining at these places and if you can “get comfortable” with the idea, you stand the chance of getting way more bang for your buck.
If you happen to be lucky enough to have a set of heritage rings from parents or grandparents, lucky you. These are such a warm, tender and powerful way to establish a long term commitment.
Shop the sales.
Jewelers need to make a living too. Keep an eye out for super clearance sales in your local area.
Custom made rings by your favorite indie jewelry.
Know an artist with loads of jewelry design talent? Give ‘em a call. You’ll likely end up with some of the most unique rings you’ve ever seen, and for way less than the mall store will charge you.
FOOD & FAVORS
Time of day.
Morning and afternoon are times when folks really aren’t going to expect a sit down meal, and even if you go there, the food for afternoon tea receptions and morning brunches is way more affordable than prime rib any day of the week. Quiches, pastries, and even the mimosas themselves paired with coffee and tea are ways to seriously reduce the beverage and food bill.
Type of menu.
Sit down meal or cocktail nibbling? Full consumption of a slab of smoked salmon or putting a dab on a cream cheese topped melba round as a seafood accent? Shrimp cocktail or shrimp dip? You get the idea. There are many ways to have even the high end food items you want without breaking the bank. Think sliced steak salad and hot crab and artichoke dip.
Affordable favors that keep on giving.
We used perennial flower seeds in decorative packets. Other options are plant-able wedding programs that are made of biodegradable paper embedded with herb seeds, or matching individual ornaments at a Christmas themed wedding. Get creative. You really don’t need to go with the plastic swans here. Wouldn’t you rather give something people can enjoy rather than just toss after a day or two?
Is this the most comprehensive list of money saving wedding ideas out there? I dare say not. However, it is a list that I feel encompasses the various areas couples often overspend on. Any other folks out there with cash saving wedding strategies, I’d love to hear from you.