Friday, October 26, 2012

Wedding Advice from a Newlywed

Images by Sweet Light Studio

Congratulations, you're engaged (or simply just love weddings)! You're in the whirlwind of fluffy dresses, outrageous price tags and bridal shows galore, things can be quite overwhelming. As a newlywed, as of almost 2 months, I wanted to offer a little insight as to what I think are the most important things to remember during the engagement process. Especially, from my personal experience, where I think it's important to spend and where I think it's worth saving. While we may all have different insight on this, we cannot deny the fact that either way weddings are outrageously expensive! The current national average, according to the Huffington Post, is $27,021.

Can you really afford a $27,021 wedding that is supposedly the national average? Do you even want to spend that much on a wedding? If your family is paying for it - woohoo! More power to ya, but the reality is, most aren't that fortunate. We chose to work hard, accept a little help from parents, find deals (blog coming soon on this) and do it exactly the way we wanted to do it - but we did it within our meansAs a newly engaged woman (or man), I highly advise that you set a wedding budget and a monthly budget (save on regular expenses, more money towards wedding costs). The #1 piece of (financial) advice I would give, is to not borrow any money and to not take out any loans - pay for it with cash, as soon as you can. We did it and so can you - and no we are not rich. Seriously it is realistic, you just need to set a budget and stop blowing money! Nothing is more relaxing than being on your (paid for) honeymoon with no wedding bills to come back to. 

Riu Santa Fe, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 2012

Onto what I think is worth splurging on! 


Generations of wedding pictures!
Personally, I think that the #1 big ticket item that we paid for, that was worth the money, was photography. This is something that is not just one day and it's over – this is something that you will have forever. One day you'll show your grandkids these pictures! - kinda a big deal right? 

Ceremony Location

St. Paul Cathedral, MN

Second, your ceremony location. This is where it all goes down. This is where you will say "I Do", this is where you leave your parents and join your husband, this is where all of your ceremonial pictures are taken and so much more! This is a huge deal! And better yet, most of the time, this doesn't even have to be a splurge (unless you like to GO BIG, like me haha). Do you and your fiancé have a favorite park? Do you attend church together somewhere? Where did you meet? You really can think outside the box on this one, but you don't want money to hold you back on ceremony location. Therefore, I rated this high on my list.


Third, I think it's important to have good food. If you cannot afford a sit down dinner or a buffet, have you thought about having an evening wedding (after normal dinner time) and just doing tasty appetizers? What about mid-day wedding and doing a brunch? Just make sure you provide something filling for your guests, chances are a lot of them have traveled far to celebrate with you.  


Fourth, entertainment or DJ'ing is also important. You don't want a cheap DJ that has 40,000 songs on his playlist, but with no new music or a genre that you enjoy. Meet with your DJ before you book them, by doing so you'll find out how organized they are, what kind of equipment they have, etc. A DJ is not just about keeping the mood upbeat, they also help everything transition smoothly. As far as entertainment, this is really all you need unless you plan on having a bunch of kids attending. 

Open Bar

Profile Event Center, MN
Open bar gets a bad rap - and for good reasons too. Open bars can sometimes rack up huge outrageous bills, but you have to be smart about it. Did you know that some reception sites allow you to bring in your own liquor and your own certified bartenders? Yea..mind blown. Did you know that it can save you thousands of dollars just by picking the right reception facility? And if you know people, who know people, you can also get it at cost. Open bar is starting to look like an option now isn't it? Now, I am not promoting an open bar so people can drink beyond their limit. Open bars are great because A. your guests don't have to pay for a single thing (they're already paying for transportation to wedding, hotel, gift, etc) B. it's nice to have a variety of beverages to choose from C. everyone enjoys an open bar, whether it's grandma sipping Bailey's with her coffee or your college friends who like a good party. Oh and the dancing gets more entertaining too...

Where should you save? 

There are a lot of things that are thrown out to you by friends, family, bridal shows and advertising that are completely unnecessary and where you can save a buck or two on! Most of which you can get free by using various means as well. First off, my husband and I did not send out save the dates. "But people need to know so they can put it on their calendars!" many people do you know, that have things scheduled on their calendars a year in advance? Think about it, if people want to be at your wedding - they will make it happen, whether you send out an invite a year ahead or a month ahead. Here's the save the date that I designed and loved, but decided to save $200+ on. 

Ceremony Programs

While pretty programs are nice to save and look at once every decade after the wedding, they're not worth spending much money on - if anything. With the chunk that we paid towards our ceremony location, the programs were included. They were nothing special, but do you really even remember what the program looks like at someone else's wedding? Exactly. Cha-ching, more money towards bridal accessories. 


Now flowers are pretty much a basic must-have at any wedding, but they do not have to break the bank. This may require extensive searching, but the best way to save money on a florist (unless you have a green thumb) is to find a florist that only charges an hourly fee on wholesale flower prices. Do some asking around and you may find a similar situation. Just make sure you have a contract (even if a friend who's a florist is doing this, you must have a contract) and you really trust who you are employing with this task. I had a lukewarm experience. We chose to have our reception mostly decorated with candles, but we did order a huge hydrangea centerpiece for the cards table, a small arrangement for the main bar, bouquets, boutonnieres, etc. The main disappointment was the fact that our big centerpiece, really wasn't that all big! (We paid the "big" price for it too!) I'm like hello lady, did you not see the example picture I sent? But sometimes, you just have to let things slide. 

Wedding Website

There are tons of fabulous companies that host free wedding websites. We decided to use because it seemed to offer the bells and whistles that I liked. Considering that I am a web designer, I originally wanted to design and develop my own site, but with that comes extra time and web hosting fees - so why bother? This is the one I ended up picking because it had a sweet flash intro page (not shown). I also uploaded all of our engagement pictures onto this site, so everyone who checked it out could see them.

Wedding Planner

Wanna know why there's a picture of me under "Wedding Planner?" Yup, I took on the practically part-time job of wedding planning for myself. Now this one is a majorly disputed "spend or save" topic. Personally, I feel that it was in my best interest to not hire a wedding planner, for 4 reasons. 1. I am a total freak about organization (I made to-do lists up to ying yang, I kept track of our budget, created timelines, etc). 2. With the locations we chose for our wedding and reception, a wedding planner (for that facility alone) was provided. 3. To be honest, I didn't want anymore input than I already had in wedding planning. 4. Not having a wedding planner is a great way to involve the future hubby. Most guys seem to naturally like to bargain and get good deals - let them work the magic with vendors. Let your man consult with his groomsmen, figure out when he needs to get fitted, etc. After all, this wedding is for you both to plan and we all know guys don't care about what flowers to pick. 

Rehearsal Dinner

Originally, I had grand plans to have a rehearsal dinner in the Twin Cities at a beautiful restaurant. You know, just throw one grand down just for the rehearsal dinner like it's nothing...allllll because it's for the perfect wedding weekend. And ooh boy, I am so glad that I didn't! Not even for the fact that it saved money, but that just formalizes things so much more and after getting 2 hours of sleep the night before and practically walking around like a zombie the day before my wedding, the last thing I would have wanted to do was have a formal rehearsal dinner. Thanks to the persistance of my mother-in-law, we had the rehearsal dinner in their backyard. It was actually the most perfect setting and day I could have imagined. In order to keep a rehearsal dinner inexpensive, you just have to use your resources (family/friends who cater/band, borrow decor/tables/chairs/tents, etc) to your advantage (article to come on this!)


There are a few other small things, in my opinion, that aren't worth spending that much money on. The one thing I really regret doing is getting acrylic nails! They were pretty in about 2 pictures, but other than that I wish I would have saved the $40 bucks plus the time it took to take those things off - and they totally ruin your natural nail! 

A ring bearer's pillow, which is a necessity for a ring bearer, but it doesn't mean it has to be fancy or expensive. There are a ton online that are expensive, but you can save money on them by getting one from an unconventional place such as Hobby Lobby or having a skilled family member sew one. 

Day-of food for the wedding party getting ready. Originally I planned on having Jimmy Johns deliver sandwiches for everyone in the bridal party (est. cost= $160 for 18 people) and bringing a box of individually wrapped chips, but guess what? Because we had our rehearsal dinner at my mother and father-in-law's house, we had delicious leftover food to eat for brunch - for free!

One of the biggest ways to save money is to purchase bridal things from non-bridal sources, whether you're shopping online or in person. Literally if anything has the word "bride" attached to it - it's 10x's more. Need a bridesmaid dress? Guess what, Target has those (I discovered this too late). Do lots of digging and you will find exactly what you want, for the fraction of the cost.

Be on the lookout for my soon-to-come article on Rehearsal Dinner Planning, How to Bargain for Your Wedding, How to Make Your Wedding a Knockout, Must-Have Wedding Pictures - only on Scantilly Cllad!

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