Planning a wedding kind of sucks. There, I said it. But, it only really sucks in the beginning, when you’re completely overwhelmed with all of the decisions you need to make and you have absolutely no idea where to start. You can do anything you want to celebrate one of the biggest days in your life, and there are books and magazines that will tell you all about “etiquette” and “must-haves,” and they often encourage you to spend an exorbitant amount of money on details that your guests might not even notice.
Forget ‘em. This is YOUR day. And just because expensive suggestions are made doesn’t mean you have to take them. One of the most important lessons I learned when planning my wedding was to go with my gut. If it didn’t make sense for the theme I had chosen, or as a reflection of us as a couple, I wasn’t going to do it. If leaving out a typical wedding detail meant being seen as “unconventional,” that was fine with me. Let's look at some typical wedding rules and why my advice is to throw them out the window.
Six costly wedding rules brides should break:
1. Overspending On the Dress
I had no idea what I wanted my dress to look like. I wanted to minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed at the dress shop as much as possible, so I decided to browse online first to come up with an idea of the style of dress I’d like to try on. When I first started browsing online, I found that The Knot had a great way to filter their dress section so I could search for styles I liked. I chose extremely conservative styles with lace sleeves and vintage buttons because that’s what my everyday style is like. I wear lots of vintage dresses with cardigans, so I figured I’d be most comfortable in something similar.
But, once I went into the bridal shop and started trying them on, I realized that it wasn’t totally flattering for me to be all covered up. I went from choosing a full-sleeved gown with an empire waist to a sleeveless sweetheart top and mermaid-style bottom. From there, I kept my budget in mind and was always looking for deals and discounts for The Knot, as I found the prettiest version of that, for the price I was willing to spend.
It's all about priorities
I was willing to put a good chunk of our budget towards the dress, because that was one of the most important parts of the day – me feeling like a queen. But, I didn’t feel the need to go over that set amount to get a dress I loved. If I went to high-end boutiques with big name designers, I knew I’d find several dresses that I’d love to wear, but they would certainly be more than I was willing to spend. So, I stayed away and only tried on wedding dresses in my price range.
I think the important thing to remember is that finding a wedding dress is the same as finding a soulmate. I can’t say for sure if the dress I chose was “the one,” because I suppose there was a dress out there somewhere that could’ve been a better fit that I just didn’t try on. But, the dress I chose was as close to perfect as I thought I’d ever find. So, after I found it, I stopped looking.
2. Other Wardrobe “Musts”
“This style of dress looks best with this hairstyle.”
“This is the kind of veil you need to match your theme.”
“Here’s our selection of wedding shoes to choose from.”
These are three statements I heard constantly throughout the planning process. All of which I ignored, and it saved me from spending money I didn’t have on things that I didn’t want. I don’t need to do anything because of the way it was done previously.
My vision was an intricate hairstyle with a beautiful clip that I wanted to show off. I knew how I wanted my hair to look before I found my dress. Not everything happens in the order that you expect, so you just need to make those decisions and move onto the next thing.
I also had no interest in wearing a veil. You don’t need to wear a veil just because a lot of brides do.
And I didn’t want to wear typical bridal shoes. The ones I saw had tall heels and the last thing I wanted was to fall on my face while walking down the aisle. I chose vintage-style kitten heels that matched one of my wedding colors. They were bright cobalt blue and they were adorable – and easy to walk in! You will spend an entire day in whatever you choose to wear, so you need to make sure you’re comfortable and confident.
3. Vendors Galore
Get recommendations first, and then only meet with three for each category – cake, venue, flowers, DJ, etc. I looked through reviews and then once we met with each vendor, we were able to find one clear standout within the three options for each that matched our needs, vision, and budget. You could spend weeks, even months, meeting with other vendors that might save you a little bit more, or might offer a little bit more, but remember that your time is valuable, and options are endless. This will keep you sane and will help you make decisions and move onto the next task.
4. Flowers are NOT a Necessity
I don't know anything about flowers. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned within a day, so the idea of choosing the perfect arrangement was stressful and overwhelming. Instead, I incorporated a literary theme and ordered pre-made book bouquets from Etsy. Etsy has so many options for floral-free bouquets, and you don’t need to worry about keeping them fresh for the delivery or preserving them after the wedding. My bouquet is made of paper and looks as good today as it did when I got married in November.
I then used books, candles, and succulents for the centerpieces, which saved me a FORTUNE. Fresh flowers can get expensive really quickly. When I discussed my original vision of using succulents and earthy plants instead of flowers, I was getting quotes for $800 or more. Luckily, we have a family friend that loves gardening, and she put the centerpieces together herself.
5. A Cake is Just a Cake
The wedding cake is one of the highest mark-ups you will find. Even though it’s a well-known fact, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Hear enough of these quotes for $900 – $1,200 and it even starts to sound reasonable! I met with three cake vendors (sticking to my vendor rule of three), and two of them gave me quotes in the $1,000 price range. That was for only 50 guests.
I found a small local bakery that designed some gorgeous wedding cakes and decided to make them my third option. The owner was a hard-working small business owner who was just looking to gain more customers and hopefully have enough one day to expand her business. Her exact words were, “Well to me, a cake is a cake. I see no reason to charge you way more for something that takes me the same amount of time.” After selecting the size, flavor, design (I wanted something that looked like a tree trunk with our initials carved into it), and adding a delivery charge, our wedding cake was less than $200! You can get the cake you want without spending a fortune. It is possible.
6. You Don’t Actually Need a Wedding Planner
I definitely spent a lot of time I really didn’t have in order to plan my wedding. There were even periods of extreme stress and very little sleep. But you know what? Being that hands-on with every aspect of the wedding and working with my husband to figure out what made the most sense for us and our budget turned out to be a lot of fun.
What’s more – it was an excellent exercise in what marriage would be like. You need to compromise, you need to make some tough decisions, but in the end, you need to be on the same team. If I had a wedding planner take care of everything, we wouldn’t have gone through that process together, and our bond wouldn’t be as strong as it is today.
I did have a day-of coordinator though, and I cannot recommend this enough. A fraction of the cost of having a full-on wedding planner saves you a ton of money and stress. You don’t need to be fielding calls from vendors on the day of your wedding. Just having someone take care of those last-minute details was a major relief.
You could spend your entire engagement on Pinterest and meeting with vendors. You could read endless books and magazines telling you what’s trendy, and what is right or wrong for YOUR big day. But in the end, you need to make sure that you can look back on your wedding with the fondest of memories. Your guests should say things like, “This theme is SO YOU!” and “You look so happy!” And you should feel nothing but overwhelming love. However you choose to get there is up to you. But just know that overpriced cakes and expensive wedding favors aren’t necessary to achieve that.
Chrissa Hardy is a Writer and Editor for HelloGiggles, BuddyTV, and CouponPal. She spends most of her time with a screen in her face and an adorable dog by her side. Her favorite time of year is “hoodie season” and sometimes she tweets @chrissahardy.
All photos in this post are courtesy of Smetona Photo