I just got married last fall and since I am pretty frugal and love to create, I decided to do most of my wedding preparation and decorations myself. I just thought I would put together a few tips in case I might help anyone out there who might be trying to do the same thing.
Hold the ceremony at home, or outdoors.
Renting a venue or a building for your ceremony and reception can be very expensive. Instead, consider using your own home (or the home of a parent, relative or friend) for your ceremony. Having it in your home or on your property makes it feel more personal and is much easier for decorating and clean up. You could also use a public park with a beautiful view but just check with the city to ensure no permits are required. We got married on our own property and wouldn’t have had it any other way.
If you go the outdoor route, it is best to have a back-up plan in case of bad weather. Make sure you rent some sturdy tents as you don’t want to get married in a downpour that leaves all your friends and family soaked (like we did). We had purchased some tents and set them up the night before but they weren’t sturdy enough to withstand the wind and rain storm we had overnight. Everyone was a good sport about having to stand around waiting for the rain to let up under umbrellas but I am sure they were cursing us under their breath, haha. If it is going to be a hot day it might be a good idea to rent a few industrial fans.
Make your own invitations.
With some time and a quality home printer, you can make great invitations on your own. You can find blank invitation kits at Micheals, Staples or most stationary stores. You can also go the route of sites like VistaPrint.com that offer cheap wedding invitations you can order from the comfort of your home which is what we did. Chris and I went through the different styles and chose one that was a compromise of what we both wanted. Their options aren’t too fancy, but they’ll certainly do the trick. You could even hire a freelance graphic designer to whip up a custom invitation for you and have them printed at a local print shop.
Involve your closest friends and family in the preparations.
As you’re brainstorming cheap wedding ideas, you should get your closest friends and family involved with the details. Quite often, they’ll have surprisingly good ideas that can save you money and effort. I was lucky enough to have friends and family helping with the set-up and decorations. My oldest daughter took the lead on setting up the decor while I was getting my hair and make-up done.
Friends might know a vendor that would offer you a deal, or have something you could borrow for your special day. I was lucky enough to get to wear one of my bridesmaid’s birdcage veil that had her grandmother’s brooch in it. Good friends and family are always there to help, and they’ll be especially happy to contribute to such a joyful occasion — so you might as well take advantage of their generosity.
Ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts.
We were quite fortunate that we were able to draw on our talented friends for many of the things we needed for our wedding. Some we paid for, but not nearly as much as we would have to a stranger. Our friend, Andrew, DJ’s for fun and handled all of our music for the evening and our ceremony. My old school friend Tara, made our gorgeous and delicious wedding cake (best carrot cake I have ever had).
Forgive me here as I shamelessly plug a few of my friend’s businesses. One of my bridesmaids, Kristen, owns Mint Hair Studio where we all got our hair done and my other friend Brittany of Leona Studios did all of our make-up. Our friend Marc of Eye Marc Photography did all of our photos (including all of the photos in this post). Our friend Angelo from Fabris Carpentry built us our arch and the doors at the beginning of our aisle as our gift and our friend Natalie is a wedding officiant with All Seasons Wedding Ceremonies.
Asking family and friends to offer help or services that align with their talents in lieu of a gift is a great way to keep your wedding on a budget.
Price shop for decorations, consider buying used or make them yourself.
Craft shops have sales throughout the year as well as coupons. If you know what you’re looking for ahead of time, you can simply wait until it goes on sale and “pounce” when the time is right.
Meanwhile, you can also consider buying used centerpieces and decorations. Brides now sell their decorations on sites like Craigslist, Kijiji and Facebook. Have a search for a local wedding Facebook page, which is where I found quite a few things from chair covers to the paper flowers pictured below. I just painted them to a bit to make sure they matched my colour scheme a little better.
Don’t be afraid to alter things if you find something that isn’t quite right. I added flowers to my wedding dress and ring pillow.
You can also make the things you can’t find. Pintrest is an amazing resource and Youtube has tons of tutorials on things you might be trying to make. We made signs out of old wood.
Go minimal with the flowers.
Instead of spending boatloads of money on flowers that will die shortly after the reception, keep it simple but elegant. If you have flowers in your garden or know someone who does, you can actually make your own bouquets the day before the ceremony by cutting the flowers yourself. You can also go with fake flowers instead. It’s likely that no one will even notice as they are looking much more realistic nowadays and you could save a bundle by making the arrangements yourself well ahead of time. I chose to use a combination of fake peonies (as they weren’t in season), real hydrangeas that I ordered in bulk from Costco, some dried red flowers from Micheals and some filler flowers from my garden. I then put them together myself the morning of the wedding. Although, I would recommend trying to get them done the day before.
I am lucky enough to have a mother in-law with a green thumb and a gorgeous garden so she grew the succulents I wanted for my centerpieces. I am also lucky enough to have a couple sisters in-law who like Booker’s Bourbon and collected their empty boxes for me to put the succulents in.
Stock the bar yourself.
Alcohol is a big expense when it comes to a lot of weddings, and it’s also a big variable you can play around with to cut costs. Instead of opting for a full open bar, for instance, you can save money offering just beer and wine, or a free cocktail hour followed by a cash bar.
We opted for an open bar and again family and friends stepped up as my father in-law made all of our red and white wine. We also had a few different kegs of beer, scotch (husband’s favourite), and port (my favourite). We are also huge fans of gin and tonic so instead of gifts at my bridal shower, I received a bunch of different types of gin for the wedding. We also added a vodka cranberry drink to the menu and had some fresh lemonade and soft drinks.
If you do rent a function hall, ask if they’ll let you supply your own alcohol instead of using the venue’s, which can be a big money-saver. Look for a discount liquor store in your area and stock up on the basics: red and white wine and a few types of beer at the very least. If you want to offer a full bar, pick up the standard liquors like vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey, plus a few mixers and soft drinks like sodas and juice.
Do the catering yourself, or hire a family-owned restaurant.
For our wedding, we handled our own food preparation with help from our wedding party. This drastically reduced the food costs for the ceremony but in hindsight I hadn’t scheduled in enough time to actual prepare all of the food. It certainly is not for the faint of heart and if I had to do over again, I would have enlisted more help ahead of time.
If this isn’t your forte, look around your community for a family-owned restaurant and ask the owners directly to cater your wedding. Family-owned restaurants are always the first place to check – they will almost always go the extra mile to make your wedding special and are generally more understanding of your particular budget needs.
Don’t go overboard with the groomsmen and bridesmaid gifts.
While it’s considered customary to give gifts to your groomsmen and bridesmaids in some circles, it isn’t always necessary. Instead of buying gifts they may not even want or enjoy, consider writing them a special note to say “thanks” instead. If your friends know that you’re trying to have a frugal wedding, they will understand. I ended up making personalized bracelets for my girls and we had personalized scotch glasses made for the groomsman that they could use at the wedding and got them cigars.
Skip the favours or make them yourself.
Lets be honest, how many of you have a bunch of wedding favours gathering dust in a drawer somewhere that you know you will never use? One idea is to make a donation in everyone’s name instead or hand out things your guests might use like flower seeds or a tree they can plant. You could also do your favourite treats, honey from a local beekeeper or preserves your guests can enjoy. We have a few apple trees on our little farm so we chose to make apple butter for our guests. Whatever you do, it doesn’t have to be expensive but it should be personal.
Plan, plan, plan.
When you’re trying to have a wedding on a budget, it’s important to plan ahead. List everything you can think of and walk through these items step by step.
The earlier you get started – and the more things you think about early on – the less “last-minute stress” you’ll have, and the more time you’ll have to find sales and discounts and research other good ideas. Don’t forget to enlist help from your bridal party!!
Do any of you have any tips that I have missed? If so, let me know in the comments. Also, if you are looking to have a small wedding, our property is available and can get in touch with us through our Mountain View Farm website.