As we wind down with the wedding planning, there are a lot of things to fit in. Some of these things have taken me by surprise, and I get to figure out how to work them into the budget. Luckily, in many areas of our wedding, I've managed to save from the original budget through either cutting things out or being a good shopper. I'm not usually a bargain hunter or coupon clipper, but I admit I've been surprised by what a little value shopping can save.
Although there are a huge number of budget wedding blogs out there, I'm going to talk about how I've trimmed our budget. Many of the blogs I've found, though helpful, focus on a lot of DIY (do it yourself). Some of the blogs I've read are even anti-wedding industry. I'm neither a DIY fanatic (though thank you, Salt for calling me the queen) nor anti-industry, so I thought I'd share my ideas on how to plan a wedding that a) doesn't leave me creating every last detail by hand and b) doesn't leave me wanting to fire bomb every wedding vendor for jacking up prices by 600% when they hear the W word.
Date and Time: You can save a lot of money on any wedding by being savvy about the time of the year, day of the week, and time of the day you choose to get married. For instance, the traditional spring/summer wedding season is going to see higher rates than January, when people are winding down from holidays. Fall is also a less popular (though it's gaining popularity) time to get married. Choosing the "off season" can save a ton because venues just want to make some money. The day of the week can also result in huge savings. Saturdays are most popular, follwed by Friday and Sunday. If you're flexible, you can get a steal for getting married during the week. One venue here in Phoenix charges $28K for its all inclusive Saturday package. The exact same package on a Thursday? $4,500. Shocking. We also saved by choosing to go with a morning wedding with a lunch reception. It saved us about $18 a head in food costs. We didn't intentionally go into our planning with a lunch reception in mind, it just worked out that way. But in the end, it was a blessing and we were able to apply our budget in other areas. We also saved on linens because we got chair covers thrown in for free as a perk, saving us roughly $300.
Bridal shows: They're annoying and crowded and somewhat obnoxious if you're not into the whole big pretty princess day, but there are a lot of deals to be had. You can win honeymoons, limo services, even wedding gowns. I received a gift card off the price of my dress. If every little bit helps, bridal shows are a great place to collect bargains. I also was told about my linens vendor at the bridal show. She wasn't exhibiting, but she was recommended in a conversation with another vendor. She's been in the industry for a while but just starting out and drumming up new business. Her prices are pretty standard, but she was much more friendly and easy to work with than the 6 other vendors I called and I feel that adds a lot to the value I'm getting from her.
Craigslist is your friend: By searching for DJ's on craiglist, I saved us about $1,200 on DJ services. Our DJ is just a regular guy - I think he works in accounting - with a family and a love for music. A few years ago he figured he might as well make some money with his hobby and invested in equipment. We liked him immediately when we met because he was down to earth and got what we were going for. One thing we did not want for our wedding was some wild emcee who would make our wedding obnoxious and steal the show for the ridiculous price of $1,500 (the average cost of a wedding DJ in Phoenix for 5 hours). We got Chris for $400 for 6 hours. I've also heard of brides finding budding photographers on craigslist. All it takes is a couple great reviews and raving fans, and some of them are now booked solid for the rest of the year. They just needed to be discovered. Craigslist is your friend.
Flowers: I'm not a super flowery girl, so this option may not be for every bride: I cut out flowers EVERYWHERE. Pretty much anyway. We have bouquets for me and my girls, corsages for our moms and grandmas, of course. But no boutonnieres for the guys. As we don't have a flower girl, we don't have to buy petals. At our reception, we have flowers only in the centerpieces and on the cake. No large arrangements anywhere. This cut the floral budget way back. The nature of our florist's business also helped. Amanda at Butterfly Petals works out of her home, meaning there's no overhead. She was recommended by coworkers, and is one of the most raved about florists on the Knot Phoenix board. She's a great example of local word-of-mouth business.
Something Old: Using what the vendor has for centerpieces, linens, etc. can save a ton. Our venue included all of our linens, including chair covers. All we had to order was table runners and chair ties. We wouldn't have even had to do that if we'd chosen a color they had on hand (mustard yellow, maroon, forest green or navy). We are using the mirrors the venue supplies in the centerpieces, and then bottles from our wine bottle collection. Again, essentially cost-free. Though they weren't what we wanted to use, the venue would have also given us the option to use large hurricane vases, which many brides fill with apples, lemons or limes, ornaments, pine cones, etc. to create a low cost centerpiece, depending on the season or theme.
Visaprint: This is one of my favorite wedding finds. If you go to their site and register your email address, you'll get a coupon in about 2 days. I used mine for my save-the-dates. My FREE save-the-dates. That's right. I got them for free (can you tell I'm proud?), I just had to pay for shipping. Then they send you more coupons, which I used for my map/directions inserts, favor tags, wedding website insert, and accomodation info. All of it was free.
DIY and Etsy: Of course, most everything you make yourself is going to cost less. There are a lot of DIY blogs and instructions out there if you know where to look. But sometimes you just don't know how to make it or the cost of materials would make it more than you want to spend. That's where Etsy comes in. I love Etsy. It's a homemade crafts site. You can browse sellers to find what you want pre-made, work to build a custom order with a seller whose designs you love, or you can try their alchemy option which lets you describe what you want and then sellers bid on your job. Etsy is where I found my candy scoops and my garters. They were both custom orders and many sellers don't charge extra for custom work. It's a great option if you want something homemade but don't have the know-how.
Friends in low places: Low in terms of budget that is. Many of us, if we thought about it, know someone who is good at something. Whether it be baking, photography, or music, those close to us and who are willing to help can offer savings. We're using a friend who is a photographer to shoot our wedding. My college friend is marrying us, saving us officiant fees (though of course we'll give him something for his service). Many brides know someone willing to bake their cake or make their reception food, often as a gift or at a discounted rate.
So there they are, my biggest budget savers. They're what have helped us and our generous parents keep our wedding cost well below half the cost of the average wedding.