Here are five approaches that helped --but you need to keep them in mind from the start, for most effective results. Weddings are very easy to overspend on. (Trust me, I know -- the temptation is always there.)
*Decide on what's important to you. How much will that cost, compared to your budget? (Yes, you need a budget, even if you go over it.) Lots of guests...or not many? A public venue...or your folks' backyard? These decisions have a direct impact on the money you'll need to spend.
In Daughter #2's case, she didn't mind having fewer guests...but did want their wedding up in Colorado's mountains. We live several states over from most of our family members; most chose not to come. (Which I had figured would happen, quite frankly. They rarely visit us, either.)
Thanks to a blog, Daughter and Son discovered the Sunshine Mountain Lodge in Allenspark, not far from Estes Park. Not only did it have a great patio (reception! dancing!), but a parklike area under the trees was perfect for chairs and a wedding ceremony. And 6 cabins, plus a bunkroom, were thrown in for the price. (It had a large room indoors, used for the reception, that we could have used for the ceremony, in a pinch. We could also cater our own food -- a BIG advantage.)
Not only could most of the guests stay overnight...they did. Daughter/Son charged them a nominal price for cabin rent -- far less than what they would have had to pay elsewhere. (That extra $$ helped cut down the cost of the venue, as well.) Many of our company played after the wedding, visiting Estes and its most famous feature: Rocky Mountain Park.
*Mix expensive with frugal -- but make it useful. Daughter's $500 wedding gown was worn with a $20 veil. (Could she have taken a cheaper approach? Sure...but she loved this gown.)
The bridesmaids' gowns, Son's suit and groomsmen outfits -- all were chosen, with an eye to being worn more in the future. The bridesmaids all wore the same color, but their dresses (and shoes) ranged from long and fluffy (that one was worn with sparkly combat boots) to lean and elegant. (That version went with high, high heels.) The girls all chose patterns suited to their favorite look -- and they'll be able to wear them for years to come.
Instead of 'canned' music, we asked a friend, Sal Mancini, who plays guitar professionally. His music made the ceremony -- and the reception special. He also took requests, and played until late. (After he finished, Daughter/Son played a setlist from their favorite songs.) Was it cheap? No. But it was very, very memorable. (And Sal gave us a good deal.)
This resolve applied in some unusual ways. The wedding flowers (see below) were mostly cut from garden plants...which are currently growing more leaves and flowers in Daughter/Son's garden! The rock decorations went back on our shelves...and in Daughter/Son's business. Daughter has plans to market the decorations on Craigslist. And if they don't sell, the log slices (see below) will keep us warm this winter in the woodstove.
*Make your own. That included everything from the wedding cake to the food served during the rehearsal dinner and reception. (Look for a separate post on food in the near-future. There are ways to do this, even if you can't cook.) Son drilled out holes from log slices to hold plants for the ceremony area and reception. Daughter ordered lights and tulle from Amazon. (The venue had folding chairs available, which kept that cost down.)
|Like this. Very trendy right now. (Pinterest)|
The wedding ceremony featured chairs, plants in logs...and a pathway, plus 'archway' made from rolls of tulle, wrapped around tree trunks and anchored down with the chairs. The cost of the tulle? Less than $20. The succulents were $1 each (yes, they were used after the wedding was over), and the logs were free. Total cost: about $30.
And for the reception, the featured spirits were beer and mead that Daughter/Son had brewed themselves.
*Use what you love - make it personal. Wedding flowers are normally a hefty percentage of costs. Instead, we bought plants, carefully chosen for color and texture, at the local garden center and a Home Depot, including petunias and the surprising star of the group: coleus! Son/Daughter also stopped by an iris farm in Boulder, and bought several plants. A few blue silk roses were added for the bride's bouquet. (We could not find real flowers in the right shade of blue, look as we might this time of year.)
These were all stripped and made up into bouquets for the wedding party, bouquets for the tables at the reception (each with a different-colored iris), and unusual boutonnieres. The latter featured a small succulent surrounded by small blossoms, wrapped in coleus leaves -- then wrapped at the base with black duct tape. Similar to this version from Style Me Pretty, via Pinterest:
The succulents not only don't wilt -- they help keep the other greenery and flowers moist.
Coleus leaves are large enough to enclose smaller flowers, yet they provide a vibrant pop of color. They don't wilt easily, either.
Daughter's wedding bouquet featured petunias -- after all, that is one of her nicknames. (This poignant secret was only known to a few people there.) They were bunched with other flowers and greens, including mint from our garden, held in place with white ribbon.
|See the petunias... held by our darling Petunia?|
I added a dozen white roses ($15, from Sam's Club) to the head table. Amethyst and other rock specimens were used on the tables, along with the floral bouquets. Even the wedding cake had a 'geode' slice to it... the 'amethyst' looked amazingly real. Each table featured a different gem, with hand-lettered placecards.
Why rocks? Because Daughter and Son are both avid rockhounders. Daughter manages a rock/souvenir store on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall, but also has a thriving Etsy business on the side that deals in minerals and fossils, something Son contributes to, as well.
*Have everyone come early...and don't hesitate to ask them for help. Because the wedding party was staying overnight, we had built-in volunteers for setting up chairs and tables, setting out food and cleaning up. (We made it as easy as possible for them, by using biodegradeable bamboo plates -- a fancier 'wooden' look -- as well as pinked fabric cloth napkins (cut by The Mama) and 'metallic' silverware. Large garbage cans made it easy to sweep tables clean, then the tables could be folded up and stored, for more space.)
So many people helped. Caitlin's fiance (a former chef) flipped pancakes while Cait made wedding boutonnieres...with niece Brianna, whose husband Kevin set up chairs, along with Brother. Daughter #1 styled Daughter #2's hair and helped her get dressed...while Dre, D#1's boyfriend, got the pig roast going. (Meanwhile, I hand-stitched a loose strap on Daughter #1's dress, worked some on flowers...and tried not to cry.) Friend Kitty was everywhere, practically, making sure that things ran smoothly.
Son #1's mom Christine oversaw the rehearsal dinner food -- and I took care of the reception. (Except for Dre's roast pigs, which he supervised.) But we had a lot of help doing it.
And everyone pitched in to clean up. Wow.
You can find weddings mentioned for under $1000 on the Internet. (Although this couple's experience seemed a bit wacky. I wonder if they're even still married.) This site has lots of budget tips, too.
And you can go the opposite end of the spectrum, with the bride and groom ending up bankrupt.
Daughter and Son's wedding was just right. It cost more than $1000...but not much. It never felt cheap. (Even though it was.) It was just a group of friends and family, celebrating the union of two people they love.
It was wonderful.