How They Saved
“I’d discussed with my mom that I wanted a vintage country theme for the wedding months in advance, so we had already begun scouring yard sales and thrift stores for old glass vases in green and brown (our wedding colors),” says Jane. “We found them everywhere, ranging from 25 cents to a dollar. We bought flowers for the tables
from a wholesale supplier and made our own table settings, which included burlap
table squares that added to the relaxed country vibe we were going for. By ordering wholesale (from flower wholesale.com) I was able to get the flowers I wanted—roses, gerbera daisies, spider mums, baby’s breath and other filler—at a fraction of the cost my florist quoted me.”
“Instead of buying a big cake, I asked my grandmother, Charlotte, and Patrick’s grandmother, Lois, to make a few pies that we could serve at the wedding. I also made a few pies to add to our buffet, which included barbecued chicken, pulled pork, baked potatoes, and green beans. In the end, there were so many wonderful homemade pies—from pumpkin and chocolate cream to family favorites like chocolate pecan, cherry cheesecake, and chess pie—that our guests could choose from.”
“Our favors had a similar homey feel. We bought different herbs from a local nursery and attached tags with our wedding date on them that said thank-you. Other big money savers included my dress, which was a wedding present from my sister, and having my makeup and hair done by my cousin, a trained cosmetologist.” These elements not only helped the couple stay on budget, they also helped evoke the cozy feel they were aiming for.
The couple’s largest expense was the reception rental fee and catering package. “We chose Hutcheson Plantation because of its vintage country vibe,” says Jane. “The owners have accumulated so many antiques from the twenties until now (even he fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom were antique). Walking into the venue was like stepping back in time.”
As for splurges, the couple opted to make room in their budget for a DJ. “Music was the last thing I wanted to worry about during the wedding,” says Jane. “We asked our DJ to play songs from artists like Etta James, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. He did a wonderful job and it was certainly a great relief to not have to rely on my family’s own collection of CDs!”
Jane’s Words of Advice
• Figure out what you want and then see if you can do it yourself. My mom
and aunt are great at home design so they signed up for decoration duty—
and the results were amazing, such as the mason-jar candle holders they hung from the roof of the barn.
• Shop local. You can usually get great deals from nearby vendors and even better deals if you know the owners personally.
• Bookmark Etsy.com, the online source for handcrafted and vintage goods. That’s where I found my wedding accessories and guestbook. I got everything I needed at great prices,
items I will forever treasure.
• Stationery: $286
• Bridal accessories: $50
• Photography: $150
• Flowers: $450
• Decor: $275
• Reception package (including food and drink): $3,100
• Alcohol: $150
• DJ: $500
• Guestbook: $95
• Favors: $100
Photo Credit: Rebecca Rafolski
The Couple: Brooke and Adam Carsner
Wedding Date: April 28, 2011
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Wedding Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Number of Guests: 40
For Brooke Billings, 31, a management consultant, and restaurant district manager Adam Carsner, 28, having a destination wedding meant going to Vegas. But they didn't want to elope nor did they want anything too glitzy. “We wanted our day to reflect who we are,” says Brooke. The couple held their ceremony at Caesars Palace and rented an estate to host an intimate reception.
How They Saved
“We didn’t have the budget to throw money at every great idea we had,” says Brooke.” So we decided to spend only on the few elements that were really important.” The most critical one was the location.” The venue we found was perfect and we weren’t budging on that,” says Brooke. The ceremony package at Caesars Palace included the officiant, a wedding coordinator, a photographer, a videographer, a musician, the bride’s rose bouquet, and a room at the resort for the couple’s wedding night.
As for the reception, “We didn’t care so much about decor and that was one of the reasons we rented the estate. It didn’t require much; it was gorgeous as is.” The site was dressed with white LED lanterns and floating LED candles on the surface of the estate’s pool. Tables were
topped with ocean-blue linens and small votive candles from Ikea. Blue glasses were
repurposed as vases, and the bridesmaids’ whimsical peacock-feather bouquets did double duty as centerpieces. “Early on I decided that I did not want to spend a thousand dollars on flowers,” says Brooke. “Feathers, however, I loved! Plus, we could make them in advance of the wedding, and bring them home after.”
For other elements of the wedding, the couple didn’t have to look much further than their own bridal party. “Adam and I are fortunate to have incredibly talented, generous friends,” says Brooke. “My bridesmaid Liz, an amazing baker, volunteered to make our cake. Another 'maid, Leann, is a great photographer; she gifted us with her craft. Caesars Palace provided the photographer at the ceremony so Leann was able to be in the wedding and then shoot the rest of the day.” One gamble: hiring a DJ the couple found on Craigslist. “We decided to just go for it, and the risk paid off! He was incredibly professional and really got the party going at the reception!”
The biggest expense for Brooke and Adam was renting the estate for four days. “This was important to us because it not only served as our reception site, it also allowed us to provide lodging for our wedding party,” says Brooke. “Since it was a destination wedding, we wanted to help offset some of their costs. The estate was also a much better option for us than staying on the Strip with my 10-year-old son, and it gave us all a chance to spend time with one another.” Brooke also splurged on her wedding dress. “It cost more than what I had originally budgeted for," Brooke says. "But it was the dress."
Brooke’s Words of Advice
• When your friends and family offer to help—let them! People like to feel involved.
• Read online reviews. Since we had a destination wedding, checking out websites with feedback on vendors was essential.
• Comparison-shop online. Once I found something I liked. I scoured the internet to see where I could get it at the best price. I got an amazing deal on the LED candles we used to light up the reception after searching on eBay. It’s easy to be impulsive when it comes to your wedding, but taking your time and being thorough really do pay off!
• Stationery: $80
• Bridal gown/accessories: $1,245
• Tuxedo rental: $170
• Hair/makeup: $65
• Ceremony package: $1,450
• Rentals (including tables and linens): $230
• Shuttle for guests: $200
• Reception (including food,drink, and estate rental): $3,000
• Decor: $166
• Cake topper: $15
• DJ: $225
• Airfare (for the couple and Brooke’s son): $700
Photo Credit: Leann Martin/Starry Eyed Photography
A Retro Party (Total Cost: $9,215)
The Couple: Faye and Morgan Hurley
Wedding Date: September 10, 2010
Location: Uxbridge, Massachusetts
Number of Guests: 200
When Faye Guanipa, 23, and Morgan Hurley, 25, an insurance claims adjuster, got engaged, “I was just out of college," says Faye. “The reality was that we couldn’t afford an extravagant wedding, but as the planning began to unfold, I saw what an opportunity we had to make this wedding really special.” The celebration took on a playful, artsy style that was influenced by the bride’s love of ‘50s retro art and fashion.
How They Saved
“The first thing we tackled was the venue. I knew that I did not want a traditional venue, so we found a local Christmas tree farm, Arrowhead Acres, that had an outdoor chapel among the pines as well as a large building where we could hold the reception. The place was like a blank canvas—exactly what we were hoping for—and the price was right."
“The fee for wedding photography was a bit daunting, until a friend suggested I contact local photography colleges and submit a request for alumni or student photographers to shoot our wedding. This way, I was able to find a fabulous photography team that had a wonderful sense of style and a passion for their craft. They were generous enough to offer us a huge discount, and the results were more than we could have hoped for.”
Catering presented another challenge. On a whim, Morgan’s mother suggested a local Italian eatery as an option. “One of the caterers came to our home and blew us away with their presentation. But when we learned the cost, we were disappointed. My parents wrote to the caterers, thanking them for the proposal and offering some alternatives. For example, we found that we could source out the rentals (linens, cocktail tables, silverware) ourselves for a lower price. We also offered a large cash down payment. Happily, the caterer agreed to work with us, and we ended up with a fantastic menu with items like gourmet sliders, root-beer-fl oat shots, and matchstick fries to go along with the fi fties theme.”
The family’s artistic flair shone when it came to the decor: They found vintage glass flower vases and spray-painted them yellow to match the color scheme. They also bought table mats from Paper Source that featured beautifully illustrated table settings. One of their favorite finds: a retro yellow bar they salvaged from the side of the road and restored; it was used to showcase their menu items. The dessert table featured cupcakes and a coordinating wedding cake, all displayed on mismatched vintage glass cake platters.
On the wall behind the table were large letters from Michaels, which had been spray painted red and spelled out L-O-V-E. The guestbook table showcased an old typewriter and scrabble letters that read “Write to us.” Instead of signing a book, guests wrote loving notes on cards that were each stamped with a red heart. The entertainment was provided by the couple’s musician friends. “The variety in talent was so diverse and amazing."
“We were also inspired to have a photo booth, stocked with props like mustaches, hats and wigs." Faye says. As for her dress, Faye bought the floor sample at a discounted price. “My shoes were by Paris Hilton from Marshalls—and I’m not ashamed to say it!” she says. “They cost me $50 and everyone kept asking if they were Louboutins because they mistook the hot pink on the sole as red!”
One of the things the couple had to splurge on was the bartender. “Our vendor's licensing policy dictated that we had to use their bartender," Faye says. “It was pricey but the service was great.” An even greater expense was Morgan’s suit. “But it was a good investment because he will get a lot of future wear out of it."
Faye's Words of Advice
• Re-evaluate your priorities as you plan. Your guests will probably never notice some of the details you take great pains to carry out. Instead, focus on the big picture.
• Be creative! If that’s tough, get inspired by what other people have done. I was constantly on Ruffledblog.com, a site that’s dedicated to vintage-style brides.
• Scour through DIY books for inspiration, but don’t get bogged down trying to
make everything, either. Sometimes it’s just better to pay someone if you can
get it done at the right price.
• Say no to yourself sometimes. You can’t do it all—or have it all!
• Stationery: $100
• Bridal gown/accessories: $230
• Groom’s suit: $300
• Hair/makeup: $150
• Officiant: $200
• Reception venue: $1,900
• Catering: $3,500
• Rentals (tables and linens): $600
• Room decor: $200
• Flowers: $200
• Photography (a discounted cost): $500
• Cake and cupcakes: $250
• Bartender: $475
• DJ: $400
• Favors (personalized CDs and CD covers): $100
• Gifts for bridesmaids (clutches Faye’s mom made, filled with beauty essentials): $40
• Gifts for groomsmen (unique items from Etsy.com): $70
Photo Credit: LMStudios/LaurenMPhotography.com