Monday, May 25, 2015

Planning a Dream Wedding on a Normal Person's Budget

First came dizzying happiness. Then came frustration. Then, despair.

That’s when the joy of “being engaged” turned into the overwhelming task of “planning of wedding!”

At first, it seemed like we had two options:

-       Have a very, very small wedding or
-       Spend at least $30,000.

I felt like my vision for an affordable, fun, beautiful and unique party had to exist somehow, but I didn’t know where to start.

(Meanwhile, everyone I talked to was asking me, “Did you set a date yet!?” as though I didn’t deserve to call myself “engaged” until we did. Ugh!)

So I spent the next five months researching every hall, hotel, park, gallery, theater, and event space I could think of. And it finally came together. We found a place, set a date, and got to work pulling off our dream wedding – for about a third of the cost of your average wedding.

Here’s some of the ways we made it work. 

The Round Room at The Hyeholde

1. We held our wedding and reception at a restaurant.

My husband wanted to serve amazing food, and I didn’t want to deal with a million vendors. The Hyeholde in Pittsburgh, PA (Moon Township) was exactly what we both wanted.

Many of the venues I researched cost $1,000 - $8,000 (or even more!!) to rent, and then I still needed to rent or bring in chairs, tables, linens, lighting, silverware, serving trays, décor, outhouses (yuck), sound systems, and/or everything else. That sounded expensive and exhausting.

But The Hyeholde had an unbelievably affordable set-up fee and they provided absolutely everything for us. I didn’t feel like a frazzled bride on my wedding day; they made me feel like a princess showing up to her party.

Also, we served a buffet dinner instead of a plated one.

I wasn't sure about this at first, but we saved tons of money, and everyone got to eat as much of whatever they wanted, and it was piping hot and delicious. We heard no complaints. (Also, we had tons of leftovers to take home and freeze, which was awesome!)

And since we got married at the Hyeholde, their amazing and attentive staff still waited on our guests, and made sure no one had an empty glass, ever! They even delivered cocktails to the dance floor.

We got creative with the wording on our invitation.

2. Our invitations were modest but memorable.

I started Googling around, and the first invitation that I fell in love with was $1,200. What?! Seriously. Invitations just get thrown away. We decided to get creative with colors and wording instead.

We contacted a graphic designer on Etsy who designed our custom invitation for $33. We chose a post card RSVP so we could save money on postage and skip the return envelopes. We uploaded the design to Vistaprint. I splurged on beautiful glitter-lined envelopes at Envelope-liners, and I made stickers for the backs. Our total cost to invite 86 guests was just under $300.

Nichole, my friend since third grade, donated my makeover.

3. We included our friends.

We are so lucky to have talented friends who helped us save money. My husband knew our incredibly talented photographer and DJ, and they kindly worked with us on our prices. My parents knew our officiant, and my friend Nichole donated my makeover. She was the perfect artist because she made me feel pretty -- for free! -- and best of all, kept me laughing the whole time!

Looking back, we were really, really lucky to know these amazing people. But what I'm saying is, work your connections!

We collected glass vases for our centerpieces, then sprayed them with gold glitter and put candles inside.

4. We used coupons and recycled items from other people's weddings.

I joined a Facebook group where local brides sell their used wedding stuff, and bought almost everything we needed to make our centerpieces from them. I saved a lot of money, and it was fun meeting happy newlyweds this way. I liked knowing that my wedding decorations had attended another wedding and made another couple happy!

Then I signed up for Michael's daily emails. What I couldn't find used, I got there, one trip (and 40% off coupon) at a time.

5. We threw out everything that didn't matter to us. (We broke rules.)

We didn't hire a limo. We didn't put our rings on a little pillow. We didn't hang "Mr. and Mrs." signs on our chairs.

And you know that Facebook group where local brides try to sell their wedding stuff? I saw a lot of  brides trying to unload a lot of stuff. I realized that lots of traditional wedding accessories quickly turn into clutter. We thought about what details and traditions we really cared about, and opted out of the rest.

6. We took it easy on the flowers.

I love flowers as much as the next girl, but they are freaking expensive and then they die. Deciding not to decorate with flowers freed up tons of money in our budget.

I just held a simple bouquet of carnations, in memory of my grandmother, who loved them. They were a perfect pop of purple, our wedding color, in our photos, and they lasted for almost a month!

Best of all, my brilliant bridesmaid Jessica made alternative bouquets for the bridesmaids. We went shopping for pearls, ribbons, wire, and feathers, and she made these! They were perfect!

7. We made sure to include the things we really, really wanted.

We threw out everything we knew about weddings and made it our party.

We played rock music.

When the reception started, we handed out rings with flashing LED lights.

Everyone got a bag of delicious toasted chestnut creme coffee

The wedding favors were bags of coffee (from Margaret's Fine Imports), which we named "Rock n Roll Roast." 

Our sweetheart table had a purple sequin table cloth from Amazon.


Picking all these little things filled me with absolute joy, and I still love hearing that people enjoyed brewing our coffee.

And -- I desperately wanted a photo booth. So I hired Sweetpix, and they were wonderful. They also gave me a jump drive with all our guests' photos in them, which was better than a guest book (which I opted out of -- see #5, above!)

8. We just had fun.

I admit to my friends that I had my bridezilla meltdown in the beginning--when I wanted a wedding, but didn't know how to pull it off. Once it got rolling, everything went perfectly smoothly. It was the greatest day of my life.

I hope these links can help inspire another bride-to-be to make her wedding her own.

Good luck!

It's your day!