Not long ago, I tied the knot - got hitched, married, joined in matrimony, etc. And I even did it cheaply - yet with style. I'm here to tell you that a nice, elegant wedding can be planned with a minimum of fuss and budget. Learn from my experience. :)
Start by envisioning what your wedding looks like, inside the corners of your mind. Are you thinking traditional - or modern? Swanky and cosmopolitan, or a classic country affair?
In spite of what the magazines say, you don't need a professional photographer, videographer, florist's know-how -or even a baker's hand to set up a classy event.
Things you can think about cutting or altering:
Flowers - this was a big expense that we simply did without. Instead, we spent around $300 at our local crafts store on white twinkle lights, silk flowers, 'candied' fruits, lovely baskets, candles and even silver and gold christmas balls. We made our altar piece, my bouquet (a few silk calla lilies, tied in a burgundy ribbon), and each reception centerpiece from our "finds". A plus - we got to keep all these lovely things we bought - to be re-used at Christmas!
Photographer - Invite your hobbyist friends to bring their cameras, tripods and whatnot - and let them have at it! Our pictures came out much more personable and lively than the way a stranger would have shot them. Even the "posed" shots, that my mother played "director" for!
We also placed a disposable camera on every table for guests to use and leave behind. I am excited to develop them and see what moments our guests have captured.
Videographer - Assign a friend to use his own camcorder. Your result - a great video that captures who you all REALLY are...what are you going to enjoy watching ten years later, anyway? My guess - something a little less than formal...
Music - instead of live musicians, or even a DJ, my sweetie and I burned a CD of our favorite music for the prelude, the wedding march, and recessional. A trusted friend attended the rehearsal with us, and practiced his muscial cues. Perfection - at a free price!
We also invited friends to bring their own CD's to play during the reception, with fantastic results. We boogied all night to music we KNEW we all liked.
Paper Necessities - For my wedding, I had a Lord of the Rings theme in mind. My invitations, place settings, the wedding program and even the menu reflected this theme. I recommend messing with fonts on your computer - or enlisting a computer-savvy friend to pitch in - to create easy paper documents that reflect your style. There are fonts for every need, right in the recesses of your own word processing program.
Cake - We made huge heart-shaped brownies, frosted them with cream-cheese frosting (it's in the Supermarket) and placed a huge bowl of fresh strawberries nearby. Everyone loved it. So don't think you have to pay hundreds of dollars for a professional baker to create a big fancy cake with all the fondant and candied flowers you can stomach.
Other options I've seen at weddings: pre-made cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate cake, ice cream cake, and even selections of bakery goodies arranged in tiers, ready for the taking. Dessert is just dessert; make it sweet and I promise no one will complain! Your friends and family will appreciate your spending the extra money on more beer and wine, in any case.
Bridemaids Dresses - these days, bridemaids can simply pick out their own basic black cocktail dress, of their own choosing, and call it done. They'll thank you for allowing them to buy something they actually love. With today's relaxed trends, the styles don't even have to match.
Location - there are a lot of outdoor locations you can use for the cost of a permit, or even for free, if you are creative in your thinking. Or maybe you have a friend or family member with a big house they wouldn't mind opening to your special event. We found a friend with a big porch, overlooking a lake and trees. Instant class.
Clergy - If you don't have a favorite preacher or rabbi, you can go the online reverend route. We honored a family member by asking her to perform the ceremony, wrote our own very meaningful vows, and pretty much all cried with happiness throughout the ceremony. If you know someone who won't mind being ordained online, ask them to go to and become a reverend. It's been upheld as legal in all 50 states of the USA.
Marriage License - this will be a set price in your state. Ours cost $50, cash only.
Rental for tables and chairs - our simple white tables and chairs didn't run us more than $250 for 60 people.
Caterer - you really don't want to cook a huge meal the day before your own wedding, but you don't need to provide steaks either...chicken BBQ with all the fixin's was our meal of choice...everyone ate well and heartily at around $15 a person. Italian or Mexican buffets are also widely enjoyable, budget-minded cuisines.
A Dress - My dress was gorgeous, really, but it didn't cost a mint. I recommend really looking around and trying on a LOT of gowns. Discounted racks these days offer dresses just as nice as you could want, whether you seek a simple sheath, or the princess bride look.
Tuxedos - Okay, here we didn't save money, since I wanted the groom to look fantastic. But, we could afford the rental, after all the other savings we made!