We went with the date first also. I only had 1 small window to get married before my Bar exam and if we waited until after my exam, I would have had to plan a wedding in the midst of starting a new job. I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for time off for a wedding soon after starting a job, so it was either get married in 6 months or wait another 18 months. It was crazy planning a wedding in 6 months while going to law school full time, but I am SO GLAD we ended up having a short engagement. It really made us focus, pick vendors, and stick to our plan.
Then we picked the kind of wedding we wanted. We were getting married while I was still in school and it had to be manageable enough where it wouldn’t affect my studies, so we went with a small, morning wedding and a lunch reception. I was working on a budget and decided I’d rather able to spend more per person and really treat our guests, rather than have something bigger.
As for priorities, I wanted a small, cute church so that I wouldn’t have 60 people in a huge cold sanctuary. So we looked for small historic churches and found one that had sweeping views and would require minimal decorations. I also wanted good photography, good food, to provide transportation for our guests, Out of Town bags, and to have very specific flowers in my arrangements.
Obviously all of those things were going to require money, so we went for a high-low method of budgeting. For every expensive thing we got, we had to go DIY or super cheap for something else in order to bring the cost of the big ticket item down. So because I had my favorite florist make our bouquets, I DIYed my centerpieces, church flowers, and boutonnieres. I wanted to book our amazing photographer so I did not buy a photobook through her (although I may in the future), DIYed my Save-The-Date Cards on VistaPrint and designed my own invitations with the help of BIL’s Girlfriend who is a graphic artist. I had 2 fonts (1 free, 1 gifted) and 1 rubberstamp as a logo, so I used those on EVERYTHING to make it look coordinated – our invites, programs, favors, menus, etc. I wanted to offer wine, beer and champagne at our wedding, so we brought in our own wines for cheap, offered sparkling apple cider and mimosas (i.e. OJ) to cut down costs, and paid corkage instead of using the restaurant’s choices. We wanted to offer really good food and passed appetizers, so we opted for a buffet package rather than plated meals. We also opted for lunch over dinner, and had our reception in the private room of a restaurant in lieu of an actual venue or hotel ballroom. (MASSIVE savings there!) I wanted to provide transportation for our guests so they wouldn’t have to drive after drinking or get lost, so I DIYed our favors (burned CDs), made my own programs, had my BFF DJ the wedding off his laptop, bought a $10 card box from Walmart, bought cheap wedding shoes, and had Darling Husband rent a tux (got his free from Men’s Wearhouse) instead of buying a suit. We needed a videographer for our grandparents who couldn’t make the wedding, so we hired someone to just give us 3 hours of raw footage and front-ended our reception schedule so that it would fit into the 3 hours (who needs video of dancing?) The church was definitely a splurge for us, so I also made my own reception decorations (signs, family photo tables, bar menu, engagement photobook, table numbers, centerpieces, cake toppers), reused the church altar flowers to decorate the reception venue (bar and sign-in table), and got a very cheap, plain cake decorated with fresh flowers and DIY cake topper. We also went low-budget DIY for our rehearsal dinner (just some takeout set up in the bridal suite with tables and chairs) and drove ourselves to the church.
But it also worked the other way around. My dress ended up being much less than what Darling Husband thought I’d spend, so I was able to get a nicer wedding band. We saved on his wedding band, so we splurged on Out of Town bags for our guests (which they loved). I had to pay $100 for my makeup trial, so we coordinated it with our engagement photos. I wore my reception dress (which I got on sale) in my engagement photos, so that was a 2-for-1. I wore my mom’s jewelry on my wedding day, so I didn’t need to pay extra for accessories.
One thing we were also adamant about was the comfort of our guests. So we picked a nice, moderate hotel where everyone stayed for under $100 per night, we offered breakfast the morning of the wedding (i.e. coffee and pastries from Costco), held both my bridal shower and rehearsal dinner the day before the wedding in my bridal suite, provided detailed information and tons of snacks in their Out of Town bags. We also bought TONS of umbrellas in our wedding colors to keep our guests dry in case it rained (which it did!)
I can’t stress this enough, but plan ahead so that you can keep your family, wedding party and helper friends happy during the wedding weekend. Most of this means being INCREDIBLY anal about what is expected of them, where they need to be, and to provide detailed maps, instructions and times. I wrote everything out in a detailed to-do list and schedule for the weekend, with everyone’s phone numbers, and made sure they received this information as soon as they checked into the hotel. This may sound Bridezilla, but it actually decreased all the stress because everyone knew what they needed to do. I also picked very inexpensive Bridesmaid or Best Man dresses ($60 each), gave them each a piece of jewelry to wear, and gifted them with shawls and flip flops to keep them warm on the wedding day. I wrote letters to our friends and bridal party BEFORE the wedding so that I could get all my feelings and gratitude out before things got crazy. I provided a hotel room for friends I knew were struggling financially, and made sure to send gifts and thank you notes after the wedding. I truly could NOT have had a wedding without these people helping me.