Plan Your Dream Wedding on a Budget

A style-savvy insider shares her best wedding-budget wisdom.

Work in almost every corner of the wedding space — high-end retail, bridal-gown couture, a luxury wedding magazine — has given Aimee Manis the ability to see this world through a variety of lenses. In Bargainista Bride, Manis puts the focus on what she calls the “new” wedding style: chic, meaningful, personal — not pricey. Here, she offers some brilliant planning pointers.

flower wheels

You’ve been to so many opulent weddings. Was there anything you saw that provided particular inspiration for your book?
When I saw really lavish weddings starting to feature food stations and buffets in a sophisticated way, they went from being seen as less than posh to being hip— and it changed the rules for everyone. It’s a great example of a trend that’s both chic and typically budget-friendly.

What wedding theme or style is the most expensive to pull off?
Any style that requires a lot of detail and accessorizing to create is the most expensive. Whether it’s Autumn in Tuscany or Alice in Wonderland, a theme should  weave from the setting to the food to the decor and even the bride’s gown. If you don’t have the budget to make it all work, it’s time to rethink your idea.

Which theme is the most budget friendly?
A modern, minimalist wedding is hands-down the least expensive to create without looking cheap. Consider an all-white color story, or use crisp white with a single accent color like silver, espresso, grass green or coral. Florals can create drama in even a small quantity, such as creating simple centerpieces by floating a single orchid bloom in a clear glass bowl or placing a cluster of white or green hydrangea in a sleek, square vase.

Flowers and table decor can be pricey: any ideas?
The less your decor relies on flowers, the more affordable—and interesting—it can be. Incorporate non-floral elements into your bouquets and centerpieces, such as fruits, peacock and ostrich feathers, branches, even seashells—anything that can convey your theme in a creative and beautiful way. The biggest recession-friendly trend of all may be candles, which create instant ambience and an ethereal feel to any space. Try placing clusters of different sizes and heights of candles on tables, or using floating candles in clear, water-filled bowls for inexpensive drama.

Any tips on getting an amazing cake for less?
My favorite trend cuts the costs of both your cake and your flowers: The bride and groom have their own mini-wedding cake, while each reception table is appointed with its own cake that serves as an edible centerpiece. It’s an ingenious twist that makes the cake-cutting more fun and interactive for the guests.

Planner vs. no planner when you’re on a tight budget: thoughts?
If you have a demanding job or other commitments that limit your time, then hiring a planner is a wise investment. That being said, if your budget is really tight, it probably makes sense to cut out the planner’s fees and put that money into the wedding itself. Keep in mind that couples of all budgets can consider hiring a planner just for the day of the wedding for a much more reasonable fee. Doing so allows the bride and groom the freedom to actually enjoy their wedding rather than being distracted by the schedules, vendors and other logistics.

OK, where should you never cut corners?
Without question, your wedding photography. I believe hiring the very best photographer you can afford is so important that you should allot as much money as you can to it, even when it means major cuts in other areas of your budget. You only get one shot at capturing those priceless wedding moments, so don’t take the chance on them being over-lit or out of focus.

Photo Credit: Michelle Vantine Photography

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Bargainista Bride—Your Dream Wedding for Less, Aimee Manis (Turner Publishing).