It seems like everywhere you turn there’s another article about how to have a wedding on a tight budget. My problem with these articles is that they either tell me things I already know (ice sculptures are an unnecessary expense, a big guest list will be more expensive than a small one, who knew?) or they make suggestions that unless you quit your job and take classes in baking, calligraphy, and flower arranging just aren’t realistic.
The truth is, if you want a wedding that looks like everyone else’s wedding, you’re probably going to pay what everyone else does. Unless you or your friends are very talented, it doesn’t make sense to focus on unrealistic DIY plans to recreate the images you see in wedding magazines. You’ll wind up spending a lot of time, and in the end you’ll probably create things that look like DIY versions of what you see in the magazines.
That’s why I was so thrilled about my conversation with Stephanie Berenbaum , co-founder of Fabulous and Frugal. Stephanie and I talked about her own wedding, and instead of focusing on what everyone already knows, or unrealistic projects, Stephanie talked about four areas where she brought in personal touches, that also saved her money.
At the risk of repeating one of those tips you already know, the first thing to realize is that Stephanie did not have a formal wedding. Simply put, a formal wedding has a formal price tag for both you and your guests. Stephanie is lucky enough to live in Southern California, and she had an outdoor wedding in Malibu.
1. Save the Date cards
Rather than spend money on magnets, formal save the date cards, or other cutesy touches, Stephanie headed to the beach and picked up a bunch of postcards. She wrote a note on each one with the date. Personally, I would have printed the information on a sticker and attached that to the postcard, but my handwriting isn’t as nice as Stephanie’s!
Even if you aren’t getting married in a picturesque location like Malibu, you can still take advantage of this idea. Printer-compatible postcards from your local office supply store can cost as little as $17 for a box of 200. Print a picture of you and your honey on one side, and the information on the other and voila Save the Date cards for eight cents each.
For me, centerpieces are the epicenter of unrealistic DIY plans. Yes, you could probably buy flowers wholesale and spend the morning of your wedding arranging the flowers into perfect replicas of designer flower arrangements for a fraction of the cost. But, did you notice the part that involved spending the morning of your wedding doing this? Stephanie had a different idea. She didn’t use flowers. She went to the grocery store and bought grapes, pears, and artichokes. She arranged them in wicker baskets (using the torn up paper bags they came in as a way to plump up the bottom of the basket), and after the wedding all the centerpieces were donated to a local food pantry. She also included a note on the table letting people know that’s what she was up to.
If you’re having a summer wedding you could easily (and quickly) recreate this idea with lemons and limes in glass bowls. For a winter wedding, consider oranges and nuts in baskets or bowls. For a fall wedding, two or three colors of apples, and for spring, just about anything will work.
3. The cake
The wedding cake is another place where it may seem like your choice is hundreds of dollars or hundreds of hours worth of work. Stephanie went a totally different direction. Stephanie had been looking for a way to include her dogs in her ceremony, which she was thankfully talked out of doing. So, instead of having them included in the ceremony, she put them on the cake! She had two photo cake toppers made, each with a picture of one of her dogs, and then she used those as the tops for basic grocery store sheet cakes. The key here is that she wasn’t trying to recreate an expensive wedding cake for less, she was serving a less expensive cake that was still delicious, and had some personality.
If you want to be a little more traditional, you can still use a basic grocery store cake. As someone who spends a lot of time at kids’ birthday parties I can vouch for the fact that they’re really good! The professional bakers that work at these stores can easily decorate a sheet cake in a wedding appropriate manner at a fraction of the cost.
The truth is that even the best caterers have a hard time making fancy food for a large crowd. That’s why at so many weddings you wind up with an expensive, and rubbery, chicken breast. Naturally, Stephanie went a different direction. Her wedding reception featured a buffet of the couple’s favorite foods: barbeque chicken, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw, all easy to make well on a tight budget, and all delicious.
If barbeque isn’t your style, you can still take advantage of this idea by serving up a nontraditional menu. Are you big sports’ fans? What about a buffet of “stadium food”? Are you a teacher? How about a “school lunch” theme with gourmet sandwiches and soups. Or, consider Indian or Mexican food, both are great for accommodating a variety of dietary needs, and typically cost less than a traditional menu. The key is to come up with a theme or idea that’s personal to you.
Thanks again to Stephanie for sharing her experiences, and if you’re looking for more ideas on how to live life wonderfully, and still have a little money left over, check out Fabulous and Frugal.