Economical Military Base LocaleThe Couple: Oliver and Natelie Schiess
The Location: Camp Pendleton Military Base: Del Mar Beach, Calif.
Natelie's Story: "Keep your dreams big and work from there. We planned our wedding over the space of a year and found a way to have everything we wanted and keep it within our budget. We had our wedding ceremony and reception on Del Mar Beach in Camp Pendleton, which is a military base. My husband Oliver is a Marine. This was a wonderful breathtaking location and we were able to use it at no cost. Any military couple can organize their wedding on a base. Many bases have wonderful beaches and beautiful gardens and the best part is that you can use them totally without charge."
Involve friends and family in planning and set-up: "We absolutely were able to have the wedding of our dreams on a budget of less than $10,000. We did this by shopping around for supplies and getting friends and family to help. My family helped by making fruit platters and snacks for cocktail hour. Instead of hiring a professional bartender, our family helped us fill buckets on every table with wine and champagne and set up a self-service keg and pina colada and mai tai machine. Our groomsmen and bridesmaids helped to set up the large rented tent and tables and chairs the day before the wedding. Overall, we were able to pull our wedding off because we had a lot of help. The main thing was to give each person something small to take care of and before we knew it, everything was done. If you have wonderful support like we did then you will certainly be able to have a dream wedding without breaking your budget."
Shop at small local establishments for the best prices: "Check into smaller, local stores for things like flowers and food. The hard-working 'mom and pop' places are generally cheaper than the large chain stores and because they are happy to have the business, they will do a really good job. I also applied this to my photographer. I found a young aspiring photographer whose portfolio looked good and most importantly he was really eager to do a good job. So for a small fee he shot my wedding and the photos turned out great."
When you are your own event planner, the craft store is your friend: "I bought most of the materials for my wedding decorations from local craft stores at bargain prices. I worked on the decorations in my spare time over a 6-10 month period so that by the time the wedding day arrived, I had most everything ready. For example, I bought my own plain white candles, ribbon and shells from a craft store. Just one night in front of the TV with a hot glue gun and I had made my unity candle and 2 other decorative candles. To hold the petals for my flower girl, I bought a little basket and decorated it with ribbon and more shells. I also bought nice paper and printed my own table menus; They were simple to make and added a stylish touch. A decent home color printer and a little creativity will work wonders."
Why rent when you can buy?: "I was surprised to find that by shopping carefully, you can often buy items cheaper than you can rent them for the day. For instance, I spent half the price of renting an outdoor wedding arch by buying a simple arch at a home store and decorating it with flowers ourselves the day of the ceremony. It was also cheaper to buy tiki torches than rent them. After the reception, we gave them away to any of our guests who wanted them for their gardens."
Environmentally-Friendly, Budget-FriendlyThe Couple: Lauren and Mark Lazzari
The Location: Johnstown, Pa.
Lauren's Story: "Mark and I wanted a wedding that was low-impact on the planet very natural yet beautiful. To accomplish this, we shopped locally and re-used what we could. I bought my dress at a local bridal store, about two blocks from where we live, from the discount rack for $200. Luckily it fit perfectly and was just what I had in mind. The nice part about being environmentally friendly is that it's generally budget friendly as well. By keeping our wedding low-impact, we were able to pull off a wedding that was more beautiful that I could have ever imagined and we ended up saving a lot of money as well."
Re-use family heirlooms: "For our rings we went to a local jeweler and had some rings that were in my family put together to make my ring set. Not only is my wedding ring very special because of the family history, we saved a bundle by not buying a new set. Re-using existing items like this is also environmentally friendly."
Pick your own bouquet: "Instead of ordering our wedding flowers from a florist, we went to a local farm that also runs a cut-flower business and picked our own. We gathered enough to make all of the bouquets, boutonnieres and floral arrangements and, of course, it cost much less than purchasing the flowers from a florist."
Save money and the environment go vegetarian: "We had the reception at a local hall which had walls of windows on three sides, so we had the comforts of being inside, especially in case of inclimate weather, while being able to enjoy the beauty of outside. No need to worry about expensive meat courses, the food was all vegetarian and very delicious. Instead of one big expensive cake, we had delicious individual chocolate ganache cakes made for each guest by the reception hall's in-house bakery."
Beautiful on a $3,000 BudgetThe Couple: Kara and Stephen Butcher
The Location: Siesta Key, Fla.
Kara's Story: "You don't have to spend a fortune to have a nice wedding. I was able to save my parents' money and myself from many headaches by planning the ceremony on a budget of $3,000. I managed to have the wedding and reception exactly how I envisioned and still come in right under budget."
Shop around: "I shopped bridal consignment shops locally for my dress. I bought my dress for $300 and spent $75 on alterations. I searched online for a photographer and found an awesome one who did great work and most importantly did not charge a fortune. I found a professional service to set-up all of my chairs on the beach and provide simple decorations for the small cost of just $275, this included the aisle runner, sound system and basic decorations."
Keep it simple by choosing a theme: "My bouquet was a stem of blue hydrangea bought for $7 at a flower shop and accented with a simple white ribbon. The bouquet also served double-duty as my 'something blue.' Our ceremony was ocean-front, so I chose a beach theme for decorating my indoor reception. I used sky blue and peach as the colors to mimic sand and water. Seashells were scattered over all the tables and two palm trees were brought in to stand on each side of the wedding party table. The wedding cake was decorated with tropical colors and accented with edible chocolate palm trees and seashells. Each centerpiece was a simple hurricane with a lit white candle surrounded by peach and sky blue glass beads and assorted seashells. Simple can be elegant."
Cost-Conscious $5,000 CeremonyThe Couple: Kerstin Turcotte and Jerrod VanZanten
The Location: Temecula Creek Inn, Calif.
Kerstin's Story: "I was able to plan my wedding on a budget of about $5,000, which doesn't sound like much, but if you do your research you'll be amazed how much bang you can get for your buck! In my quest for the perfect wedding location, two things mattered most: how it looked and, of course, the price! I knew that I would spend less on decorating the site if I could find a really beautiful location. I chose the Temecula Creek Inn because it was one of least expensive places that I could find and also one of the most beautiful locations in the area."
Always negotiate: "The entire wedding industry is overpriced and all the vendors know it; which is why I was able to negotiate the price of everything! I didn?t try to low-ball but I did ask for a price break from each of my vendors. For instance, instead of paying $375 for my dress I negotiated the seller down to $350; alterations were supposed to be $120 and I negotiated them down to $100. Saving $20 here and there may not seem like much, but the savings really added up."
Sunday ceremonies cost less than Saturday ceremonies: "The original cost of using the site was $2500, but because we changed the day from Saturday to Sunday we were able to get it for $2000. We were able to save even more money because our location provided complimentary champagne. We decided not to serve a full meal (too pricy), to accompany the champagne; we also offered our guests iced tea and lemonade. The cake was allowed to be brought in, so we ordered a delicious cake from our local grocery store. It was beautiful and cost only $275 to feed 200 people. So free champagne, tea and lemonade and a delicious but inexpensive cake food and beverages were done!"
Eliminate the unnecessary details: "As much as we all love ribbons, candles and flowers everywhere, when it comes to keeping within a budget, all those little extras can really break the bank! If you have the extra cash go for it, but if you are cutting out something important (like your honeymoon) for all the unnecessary little embellishments, then it's time to take a step back and reconsider what's really important. Realize that although you may think that your guests will expect it, they won?t! Honestly, they won't even remember all of those expensive little details once the wedding is over. Stick to the basics, a guest book for them to sign and no favors, who really needs tiny jars of bubbles, bells or little baskets. Just keep it simple and elegant and within your budget."
Creative Budget-Friendly TipsThe Couple: Olga Lee and John Lah
The Location: Ceremony and Reception at the Los Coyotes Country Club, Buena Park, Calif.
Get creative when looking for entertainment: "To save money, consider hiring students to play music during your ceremony. I found a music school where I hired a string quartet for considerably less than what a professional group would have charged."
Why buy what you can rent?: "If you want to wear a fabulous designer wedding gown without paying the big price, consider renting your dress. Rental prices are usually much lower than retail. When I rented my gown, the price also included alterations, the veil, and borrowing any jewelry they had in-store. The rental gown is steamed and pressed before you wear it on your wedding day, so it's fresh and beautiful for your big day."
Soak in the day: "Often couples don't get to enjoy the ceremony as it's happening. Once you're at the altar, you're facing forward most of the time. You might want to take a moment to turn around and face the guests, soaking in everything that you see. While my cousin sang a song of dedication, my husband and I turned to face our guests and take in the setting. It was beautiful! Also, don't rush off right after the ceremony to take photos, instead take a moment for yourselves. Go to a private room, sip some champagne, and enjoy the first few minutes as a married couple with only each other."
Frugal and Fabulous WeddingThe Couple: Linsie Burris and Jonathan Jonas
The Location: King's Gap State Park, Carlisle, Pa.
Mom's Story: "My name is Lori Burris and I helped my daughter, Linsie, plan her beautiful wedding on a budget of $3,500. My daughter and her fiancee were stationed in Germany and serving in the Air Force when they became engaged, which meant that I, Mom, was left to do the wedding planning back home in Pennsylvania. To say that my daughter and I are frugal is an understatement! Linsie asked me what I had spent on my wedding 10 years earlier and I told her $3,500 for the entire wedding: dress, dinner, flowers and honeymoon. She then set that as her budget and with careful planning, we were able to pull it off."
For a beautiful location at very little cost, check out your state parks: "Linsie wanted an outdoor ceremony, after much searching, I found King's Gap, a beautiful state park on the top of a mountain with breathtaking panoramic views of the entire valley below. But this posed a problem with finding a location for a great but affordable location for the reception. King's Gap does offer reception facilities, but they're a little pricey, luckily I found a hall at the base of the mountain which offered home-cooked Pennsylvania-style food and at just $9 a plate, the price couldn't be beat."
Instead of buying a new dress, consider altering Mom's wedding dress: "Linsie originally wanted to wear my wedding dress, but we thought that it might be too out of style. After much searching and finally finding one that she liked, I realized that with just a few alterations my wedding dress would actually work just as well. So, that's what we did huge savings and incredibly sentimental."
For your flowers, go with what's in bloom: "I was a florist for 20 years, so creating the arrangements was easy. I knew that peonies would be in full bloom around her wedding day, so we decided to use them as the main flower. We hoped to be able to gather them from all of the family members' gardens, unfortunately, we had a hot spring and most of the peonies were bloomed out. In a panic, I drove north to my sister's house in search of still-fresh peonies. Luckily, her neighbor was willing to relinquish all of her beautiful white peonies for such a good cause and my sister had lots of hot pink ones, together they made the bouquets absolutely beautiful. We just added a few other flowers and tied the bouquets together with ribbons."
More advice from Mom: "Setting a strict budget isn't impossible if you're willing to do some of the work yourself and really do your research. Honestly girls, $75 per plate for a chicken dinner is absurd! When Linsie and I found out that most girls are spending $20,000 and up on their weddings when they could be putting that down on a home, we just shook our heads."