Plan Your Wedding on a Budget

Get creative tips from real-life brides on how to plan an unforgettable wedding while still saving money.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionOliver and Natelie Schiess had their wedding ceremony and reception on Del Mar Beach in Camp Pendleton.

All About

The 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."

Her Tips:

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."