How to plan a wedding...budget style.

This is the time of year for wedding planning! Every week I get inquiries from brides who have recently gotten engaged and are starting the planning process. It's such an exciting season of life as a bride, but it can also become very stressful & expensive. According to The Knot, the average American wedding costs $30,000. That is just crazy to me! When I got engaged, there was no way my college student budget was going to allow me to have a $30,000 wedding. Plus, my sister had JUST gotten married 4 months before I got engaged, and my parents didn't have a lot of funds to dish out to me. So I had to make my wedding happen on a small budget. 

 I know, it might be weird to you that I'm posting a blog about how to save money on your wedding day when I am IN the wedding industry and make a living off people getting married. But I was also a bride just a few months ago, had a killer wedding, and pulled it off on a small budget. So, for all those brides getting married this year, I wanted to share a few tips on how I saved money and planned my wedding on a budget. 

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  • Splurge on what's important, save on what's not. Everyone has things they value and are willing to spend money on. For some, it might be that they have a LOVE for music & want a live band at their reception, and are willing to pay $3,000 to have one. Some might have a lot of friends and family that they want to attend their wedding, and are willing to pay $4,000 for a venue that will hold everyone. MY hope is that you value quality photos to remember your wedding day by, and splurge on a professional photographer ;) Whatever that may be for you, decide on what you value, splurge on that one thing, and then try to find more affordable alternatives for everything else. 
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  • Read your vendor's fine print. I got married at a beautiful venue that wasn't outrageously expensive. However, in their contract, booking them as my venue meant that I agreed to using their rental company for all my tables, chairs, and any additional needs. That rental company was not the most affordable option I could have used, but I agreed to the contract and had to use them. Make sure you are aware of all the fine print to keep you on budget & prevent any unexpected expenses. 
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  • Buy dried flowers & make bouquets yourself. As a photographer, I LOVE it when my brides use professional florists because large & creative bouquets add such a beautiful element to the photographs. I also have friends who are florists, and I am constantly advertising for them because they are true artists and I love photographing their work. However, using live flowers can get costly very quickly. So what I did on my wedding day was order a ton of dried flowers (from Curious Country Creations online), had a fun, bouquet building night with all my bridesmaids, but then had a professional florist make my bouquet with live flowers. This saved me some money, but then also provided the funds for me to splurge on my bouquet. I'd highly recommend this because professionally done bridal bouquets make for beautiful photos.  Another way to save money in this area would be to hire a professional to make all your bouquets, but then add a different element to the dinner tables, instead of large flower arrangements, which will save you a lot of money. (Bouquets below done by Lexi Woodward)
  • Do as MUCH DIY stuff as possible. For my wedding, anything I could do myself (or could bribe my family members or close friends to do), I did. My sister has beautiful handwriting and she did all the hand lettering for my invitation. My other sister & I actually designed my invitation. My sister made our wedding cake. My dad and I made flower & candle holders out of wood for the table center pieces. I made a wedding music playlist on Spotify and had my uncle (who has tons of sound equipment) DJ the reception. I had these huge, wire, plant holders that were on the main wall of the venue that my best friend & I made by hand. My sisters & best friend raided the woods near our house the day before my wedding to gather greenery & vines to use as decorations for the reception. There are TONS of things you can do yourself. Sure, it might take time & some extra thought, but it can cut costs tremendously! I had so much fun creating unique elements for my wedding and made lasting memories with my family & friends in the process. (Below are some images from my wedding of things we made ourselves. Photos by Julie Mixon) 
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  • Have a pot-luck reception. I know this sounds crazy and kinda impossible. Yet, this is probably where I saved the MOST money on my wedding day. On average, caterers charge about $20-$30 per head at a wedding, and if you invite 200 guests, that is somewhere between $4,000- $6,000 you will spend, just on FOOD alone! Unreal. At my wedding, my parents provided the meat for everyone, and the rest of the food was brought in by our guests. We had a food sign up sheet online that people filled out, so we were aware of how much food would be provided. It sounds pretty ghetto, but seriously, it was the greatest idea. There was SUCH a variety of mouth- watering, home cooked dishes, breads, and desserts and we had more than enough to feed everyone! It was such a blessing and I tell all my brides to consider this on their wedding day if possible! 
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There are so many things I'm glad I did on my wedding day, and other things I wished I would have done differently. I love any chance I get to help my brides (and brides in general), and I think one way is by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. It also saddens me to watch so many people go into debt because of their wedding, or spend so much time, energy and money on their wedding, and neglect their future marriage. My heart for my couples is that they have thriving marriages, not just a killer wedding. These tips might not work for everyone, and I'm sure there are better/more affordable alternatives than these, but I hope these will help you has you begin your wedding day planning, in order for you to have a killer, affordable wedding AND a thriving marriage. xoxo