Wednesday, January 6, 2010

All About Weddings

Some friends of mine recently got engaged and even more recently started planning their wedding. This got me thinking about weddings and how overdone and expensive I believe they have become. Although I enjoyed my own wedding and kept the costs to a minimum, mainly because we kept it very small, most of friends cannot say the same. I decided I would come up with a list of things that are necessary for a wedding, but include the best ways to not only save money on your wedding but organize it so that you can actually enjoy your day.

1. The Venue.
This is a very individual choice and my only advice is that you choose a location that actually reflects your personality. As most people realize this can make or break your budget. I chose to get married at a vineyard which could have been extremely expensive but we decided to limit the guest list to 40. Not everyone is comfortable doing this, so if you want to have a bigger wedding that doesn't cost you a fortune, you will need to be more creative. The following are ideas for weddings I consider "outside the box" with some pictures to show how charming the end result can be if you embrace your venue choice.

The Backyard Wedding

The Picnic Wedding

The Local Beach Wedding

The Family Cottage Wedding

The Camp Wedding

2. The Dress
Regardless of the venue, the brides wedding dress should always look like a wedding dress, in other words, she should always stand out from her guests and be clearly identified as "the bride". When it comes to the dress your options are with the style of the dress (i.e. how formal or not), the colour and the accessories. Dresses can range in price quite a bit so to save money try to find a dress you love that is either on sale (which they routinely are) or used. Keep in mind that the less beading and detail on the dress the lower the initial price, as well as, the lower the cost of the alterations.

3. The Invitations
Invitations are obviously a necessary part of the wedding process but do not have to be expensive even if you are having a larger wedding. Invitations on a budget means one of two things; either you are making them from scratch yourself or buying a kit containing everything you need and simply printing your information onto each piece. It doesn't seem likely but the more cost effective option is actually buying the kits. Most kits range around $30-$50 for 30-50 printable invites, response cards, ribbon, jackets, address labels and seals if you buy them at a large department store. If you want to save even more, I suggest buying the invitation kit at a Michaels craft store and using their 40-50% off coupon which appears in their flyer each week and can also be accessed through This way if you are having a wedding with 120 guests you could spend less than $100 on everything necessary for your invitation plus the cost of printer ink and stamps. For example, the following are ideas for invitations both DIY and kit.

4. The Flowers
Flowers for a wedding can also vary significantly in price depending on where you buy them and whether or not your flowers of choice are in season. Obviously if the budget is an issue you can simply have someone, for example a family member, grow them for you and your flowers will consist of whatever they were able to successfully grow. This is the most cost effective but labour intensive option both during the growing season as well as on the wedding day. The next least costly option is to forego a traditional florist for your local supermarket florist. Again, you would choose flowers that are readily available at that time of the year. This is a much less labour intensive but still cost effective option.

5. The Ceremony
In terms of where your ceremony is held you have two major options; either indoors or outdoors. Although outdoor ceremonies can be beautiful I believe that their are just too many factors working against them, for example rain, heat, bugs, etc. Plan for an indoor ceremony and save yourself the headache. Choose an indoor space at your venue that has a bit of personality on its own, for example large windows or architectural detail, and dress it up with flowers to make it look wedding ceremony worthy. If possible, choose a space that is not going to be used for the reception to avoid the headache of having to setup the chairs for the ceremony and then reorganize to setup for dinner.

6. The Reception

The reception decorations can be quite simple and inexpensive. All that is necessary for each table is some type of white table linen, a vessel with ribbon wrapped around it to hold some flowers, and a few (3-4) small glass candle holders. Depending on the venue itself some extra decorations may help to dress it up.

Here are some ideas for dressing a table for less than $5.
First, collect all your family and friends white tablecloths to avoid renting table linens. By selecting a single solid colour the tables will look cohesive despite varying fabrics and textures.
Second, purchase inexpensive vases to hold the flowers, for example, the following is available at the Dollar Giant for $1.25 and is a size adequate for a 6-8 person table.

The vases can be dressed up by simply wrapping a few bands of ribbon (also available at the dollar store) around each. Third, purchase small glass candle holders like the set of a dozen glass candle holders with unscented white candles currently on sale for $7.99 at Michaels. Also purchase an extra bag of 100 tea lights for $5.00 to replace the candles when they burn out (also available at Michaels). Total cost per table $4.00.

Here are some alternative ideas for your centerpieces.

Food and Alcohol
This is, by far, where most of your wedding cost accumulates. Again, the reception is a great place to think "outside the box" in order to keep your costs down. For example, the following are ideas for receptions I consider a little unconventional but still work.

The H'dourves Buffet
Instead of having a specific chicken and potato meal, guests are provided a wide
assortment of food options and enough food is provided to equal that of a meal. The cost saver here is that if your family and friends are willing you can do it more potluck style and each person can bring something to contribute. I would make a list of the foods and instruct people specifically on what and how much to bring keeping in mind that you should only include foods that still taste good even after being reheated, for example, egg rolls, spring rolls, stuffed mushrooms, teriyaki chicken on a stick, beef kabobs and stuffed cucumbers, or that don't require heating at all, for example, salads, cheeses and breads.

The Meat Buffet
Here you have a specific beef tenderloin and potatoes meal and guests are provided the salad,
potatoes and vegetables in large bowls at the tables but the meat is provided at a meat buffet where someone is available to cut each guest a piece of the meat.

In terms of alcohol I would suggest keeping the bar closed until following the dinner and providing water and wine on the tables during the meal. Once the meal has completed then the bar can open simply providing water, pop, beer and wine. Unfortunately, some people attending weddings tend to completely overdue it on the alcohol. To keep costs down, if an open bar is your preference, you should make it a limited open bar. In other words, people are given a certain amount of drink tickets following the dinner and once they have used up their tickets then they start paying for their drinks.

Festivities following Dinner
Most couples opt for the traditional band or dj and provide and dance floor that remains empty for most of the night. I suggest forgoing the traditional and allowing the reception to be more conversational and social while at the same time cost effective. Provide music playing in the background (not too loud that you can't still hold a conversation) and if people still feel the need to dance they have that option. Make several mixed CDs of your favorite music and allow them to play during the reception. It may even be wise to have separate CDs for music to be played during dinner and music to be played following dinner.

When it comes to weddings everyone has an opinion and a vision of what they would like to see as the end result. Again, I think the most important thing is for you to enjoy your day, so do whatever is necessary to make that happen. If you plan to do everything on your own then make sure you are organized, in other words, that everyone involved in the wedding, including the guests, know exactly what they are doing and when. Lastly, keep in mind that just because something has become traditional it does not mean it's necessary.