Monday, April 12, 2010

How To Plan a Platinum Wedding Reception On a Tin Foil Budget

When you first get engaged, it seems like the possibilities for your wedding are endless. You flip through bridal magazines for ideas, watch all the wedding shows on TV, peruse wedding-planning websites. From spectacular lighting, to breathtaking flowers, to cakes so big you could house a family inside them, over the top weddings are everywhere.

But when your budget is slightly less than a bazillion dollars, how can you achieve the same effect? These are some tips for creating the wedding you're dreaming of within your budget:

1. Dream Big, Scale Back. This is my motto. Imagine the event you'd plan if money were no object, then start paring down the things you can do without. Figure out which items are your "non-negotiables", the things you're not willing to compromise. Maybe it's the gown on that magazine cover, or the flowers that have to be flown in from halfway around the world. Pick one or 2 things from your "dream wedding" that are most important to you and, more importantly realistic for your situation.
A lot of people will tell you to try to keep it simple from the beginning. The problem with this is that it's too easy to say "What's another $500? I'm only going to get married once!" Do this a few times, and your budget is out the window. It's much easier to cut things out than it is to prevent yourself from sneaking them in.

2. Pick a Theme. I don't necessarily mean a cheesy storybook-taken-too-literally theme, just a loose outline to follow. If you love all things vintage, make your theme "vintage eclectic". This will help steer you away from all of those sleek, modern doodads and keep you from blowing your money on things that you'll end up not using. The key is to keep your theme broad (like "the seaside") instead of too specific (like "dolphins"). By doing this, you'll limit your options just enough to make good design choices, but not so much that you have a hard time finding things that are appropriate.
Also, it needs to be said that a color scheme is NOT a theme. You'll need a color scheme also. Matchy-matchy colors, where the bridesmaids dresses, table linens, and flowers, etc. all match exactly, don't give the visual interest that varied hues do, so your best bet for making your dollar stretch is to pick a few colors that you love. Then go to the paint department of your local home improvement store and find those colors in a paint sample strip (the ones that go from lightest to darkest in the same color). Use these as your guide. You can match your wedding decor choices to any of the colors on those paint samples and it will all coordinate beautifully, adding depth and impact to your overall look.

3. Get Creative! Okay, the gown you had your heart set on is twice your entire wedding budget. You can still get the look you want without having to sell a kidney. Scour eBay for the dress in a size close to yours, or take a picture of the dress to some bridal shops to see if there is a "copy". A lot of wedding gown manufacturers make styles similar (almost identical, actually) to those high-end designer gowns for a tiny fraction of the price tag. You may not get the hand-dyed raw silk roses or the exquisite Austrian crystal hand-beading, but the effect will be the same- and your bank account will be intact!
Here are some other sneaky-creative ways to save a buck while getting what you want:

Have a bouquet party. The day before your wedding get your bridesmaids together for snacks and cocktails, and have them make their own bouquets. You can buy fresh flowers in bulk from your local grocery store floral department or florist for next to nothing. To keep it from being too big of a job, pick 2 or 3 flower varieties (remember that larger blooms take up more space, meaning you won't need as many!) and some greenery. Divide the flowers and greenery among your maids and let them arrange them however they like. Wrap clear elastic hairbands around the stems and trim to an even length, then wrap the stems with ribbon and secure with a pearl-head pin (you can get these in the wedding section of any craft store- sometimes called corsage pins). Make sure to leave an inch or so of the bottom of the stems exposed so you can put them in water. Place them in the refrigerator overnight to keep them fresh. If you choose to go with silk flowers, you can buy them on sale and have your bouquet party months before your wedding.
Pull a Cake Switcheroo. This is a really popular idea that I've seen done at just about every wedding reception I've ever attended, including my own. Buy a small 2 or 3 tier cake to display and cut, and a few large sheet cakes which are hidden out of sight in the venue's kitchen. The sheet cakes are cut up and distributed to guests, who usually have no idea they aren't eating THE cake. To save even more money, buy (or make) 3 cake pedestals in graduated heights. Order 3 plain white or ivory (or whatever color you want!) frosted cakes from a grocery store bakery. Some even offer fruit or creme filling. Arrange the plain cakes on the cake pedestals and top with fresh or silk flowers (make sure fresh flowers are safe for contact with food; wash silk flowers a day or 2 beforehand and let dry thoroughly). You get the look of a fancy tiered cake for possibly hundreds less than a traditional wedding cake.
Pick An "Off" Time. Having a late-evening reception means guests don't expect a full meal. Think about having a sunset ceremony around 6:30PM and start the reception around 8. All you'll need are cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (how about fondue?) and a great DJ or band to make your reception tons of fun! Bonus: if you're thinking of cutting kids from the guest list to cut costs, having a late reception will help ensure the kiddies will be left at home with a sitter. If this is the case, consider organizing a "slumber party" at a relative's house with activities and food for the munchkins. The parents can relax knowing their kids are safe, supervised, and having a great time.

These are just a few examples of how to save money without making too many sacrifices. I'll be posting tons more in the future. I'd love to hear your ideas! Also if you need any clarification or ideas, let me know. I'm happy to help!