It’s wedding season! People are sending invitations, making travel plans, buying dresses, and trying on shoes to see if they’re comfy while dancing. I’ll preface this post by saying this: if your dream in life is to have an elaborate, ornate wedding chock full of incredible sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and details, follow your dream. If that’s what you want, you have every right to go for it.
For me, I didn’t grow up planning my dream wedding, and when my husband and I made plans to marry, we both wanted a small, uncomplicated affair. Our wedding and mini-moon (more on that later) cost us less than $7,000 (it could have been less than $6,000…I just can’t remember at this point) and we had a positive experience from start to finish. Ours was a simple Southern wedding, an intimate affair, and while I realize this isn’t for everyone, I’m just making a case to all you brides to be: it’s worth considering. Not only does a simple wedding rock in terms of a budgetary standpoint, it also makes planning a breeze.
We used a local restaurant and catering company for our rehearsal dinner and reception. The food was set out buffet-style in the home of a friend who so graciously hosted our reception. There were no servers or bartenders; people helped themselves and went back for seconds, and we all threw our trash away ourselves. The food was incredible, and no one cared about our low-key set-up. We even were sending friends and family home with leftovers (including cakes!). Cakes, you ask? Yes: we ended up getting six different cakes from a local health foods store because (a) we thought their cake tasted just as good as any wedding cake we’d ever had and (b) we wanted our guests to be able to sample different flavors and find a flavor they actually liked (and two of the cakes were vegan–and delicious–for our vegan friends). The amount we saved by purchasing our own alcohol and not having a bartender or any waitstaff was significant. We also were sure to have non-alcoholic beverage options (lavender lemonade was one of my favorites).
My sister M used to work at a florist in high school, and she arranged my flowers and bouquets. Talk about saving money! For my bouquets, I ordered flowers in bulk and had them delivered, and she put them together. For our reception, she and I went to a local store together a day or two before the wedding day and purchased beautiful autumn-inspired bouquets. Then, at my friend’s home, M rearranged the bouquets in gorgeous green Italian glass vases that my uncle lent me. Everything was so personal and done with love, and I wasn’t spending a fortune on flowers that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t last long at all.
My mother-in-law used to print professionally before retirement, so she printed my invitations and wedding programs on beautiful card stock we bought together from Paper Source. I used a mix of custom-made stamps and stamps I found at local craft stores along with embossing powder to add my own personal touches. Also, I don’t care if people think it’s tacky: I’m a huge fan of electronic invitations. Times are changing and we all are trying to find ways to be environmentally responsible, and I think this is a wonderful thing for people to consider.
I’m a fan of taking wedding photos before the ceremony. We still did “first look” photos, and it was wonderful to get our our posed shots out of the way so that after the ceremony we all could head straight to the reception for celebrating! Nobody had to wait around hungry, and the rest of the evening was captured in fun candids (that, quite frankly, I enjoy more than most of our posed shots).
Think Outside the Box
I bought my dress from a local boutique.Though it was a designer dress, it was from a past “season,” so it was hugely discounted ($300). My sister, best friend, hair dresser, and many others bought their dresses there as well. Find out from others where they got theirs. Word of mouth can really help you figure out where to go for certain things so you don’t have to spend too much time doing research. Instead of a dress that looks good on runway models but doesn’t allow you much room to breathe, consider a flattering but comfortable one that feels good sitting, standing, and dancing, and gives you room to eat your heart out (make sure you do! I hear so often about brides who don’t eat at their wedding; believe me, I made time for that).
When it comes to your ceremony and reception, don’t be afraid to customize to fit your needs. We talked to the pastor who married us about taking out language we thought was outdated or didn’t fit our relationship. We didn’t do a lot of the “traditional” wedding activities (garter toss, bouquet toss, first dance, etc.) because we didn’t want to. You should do what you like and not what people say you’re “supposed” to do; you’ll end up with better memories and you won’t waste time on your special day with things that aren’t meaningful.
Talk to your partner…it’s his/her wedding, too! I personally didn’t need an engagement ring (for multiple reasons that I won’t list here), but my fiance wouldn’t dream of not giving me one. I wanted asparagus, but it wasn’t in season in November, so we went with garlic grilled green beans instead. I picked our hymns and he decided that we wouldn’t have communion at the ceremony. He didn’t want a flower girl or ring-bearer. I was the one who picked our church and reception location. We talked about everything first and came to consensus before making these decisions.
Your Personal Touch
Instead of expensive decor to match a theme for the day, we decided to focus on other themes that were important to us and simplified planning. One of our themes was environmental stewardship. Our caterer had an environmentally conscious focus, and their menu included local and organic food and several vegan and vegetarian options. Our invitations and RSVP cards were all on card stock that was 100% recycled and made from at least 30% post consumer waste. Our programs and the cards that were used in favors were chlorine-free. Wedding favors were in recyclable bags that had been stamped with embossing powder and contained organic mulling spices (we were married in November and also had an autumnal theme).
Instead of doing a honeymoon right away (we were married the week before Thanksgiving and we wanted to spend that holiday with our family), we did a mini-moon and took a longer beach trip a couple years later when it worked with our schedules. For our mini-moon, we spent a couple nights at the Proximity Hotel, the first LEED Platinum hotel in the USA and named the highest rated “Green” hotel and restaurant in America, and then a couple of nights in a wonderful bed and breakfast in Charlottesville, Virginia.
I’m a fan of simplicity and positivity, and I really tried to emulate those during planning and on the actual wedding day. I think we succeeded! I asked my husband if he would change anything, and (thankfully) his answer was no. Wedding traditions can be fun, and I think it’s always more fun when the couple create their own. AZAZIE is a wedding blog and has their own take on wedding traditions if you want to find out more, including some of the interesting history behind some of them.
And perhaps some of you don’t intend to get married. As long as love is in the mix, that’s all that matters. Cheers to your happiness!