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by | Apr 19, 2017 | 3 comments

If you haven’t already, make sure to check out “WEDDING: 260 GUEST, $12,000 BUDGET” to get caught up.


If you’re anything like me, you have been planning your wedding for months. Initially, it seemed like an easy task to do yourself. However, planning your dream wedding on Pinterest and making it happen are not one in the same, I have learned.

I said YES to his proposal in December and started planning my wedding in January. I found a great location that had almost everything we wanted. When they handed me the contract, I was not prepared for the total cost they presented to me. We kindly declined and decide to start our search all over. I needed to go back to the drawing board and put some parameters on my planning. This decision came 5 months into our wedding planning. Can you imagine the frustration we felt?

Before we initially began planning, I decided I wanted to save money every where possible. That means we didn’t get a wedding planner (read more about Wedding Planners) and I worked not to buy anything at full price. If I’m being honest, a little less than halfway through, I started thinking this was a big mistake, but it was too late to turn back now. The time came to reworked the budget and put together a list of all of our must-haves which I kept in my wedding binder and a pocket sized notebook that I carried everywhere I went. When there was a tough decision to make, I looked at my must-have list before confirming the necessity.

Here’s a quick and dirty list of how to get started:

Wedding Binder (very necessary!)

You have options here. You can make your own binder or notebook, purchase a pre-made binder or find a free version online. My mother-in-law purchased a binder for me and I added in pages from different versions I found online to make sure it covered everything from engagement to the wedding to honeymoon to changing my last name. Whatever you decide, your binder or notebook is the place for you to keep all wedding related information in one place.

You May Need To Be Flexible With Your Dates

This depends on what’s more important to you; the venue or the date. I suggest you pick at least three dates you are willing to get married before you start visiting venues. This will save you time down the road if your first option is not available. At times, you may find that the venue you pick will not have your date available. In this case, if you already have alternative dates picked you can check them all immediately rather than having to go think through more dates with your fiance. Take a look at The Knot‘s list of dates to avoid in 2017, 2018, 2019 (plus birthdays, graduation,etc.) and remember Thursday and Sunday are cheaper than Friday and Saturday. The cost during seasons vary as well.

Destination or Local Wedding?

It’s time to decide whether you want a destination or local wedding. It is important to keep in mind your date and the weather if you pick a destination wedding, so you don’t run into hurricane season, their national holidays, etc. It would be wise to work with someone who is familiar with the area if you are going to be traveling to a destination you have never been. Also if you may not be able to afford both a wedding and a honeymoon consider a destination wedding where you can stay for the honeymoon. Also, skip the typical wedding registry and let guests contribute to your honeymoon with gift cards from Honeyfund to cover your wedding-honeymoon.

Wedding Website

Research the wedding websites like The Knot and Weddingwire. They have many tools to keep you on track so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can make your website, wedding registry, plan seating at the reception and so much more. You website will be the place where people go to get their information and potential rsvp for the bridal shower and wedding so pick something you think is user friendly.

Non-negotiable Items

Pick 4 items that are non-negotiable. This will help you stay true to your plans. If you have to make a decision to sacrifice something this list will help you decide how important it is to you. Here’s an example – The venue holds at least 250 guest, waterfront venue, chandeliers and BYOB/BYO caterer. Unfortunately, my venue did not have chandeliers, however we were able to bring them in and have them hung for my wedding. Can you say blessed by friends and family! They knew how important it was to me.

Ask The Right Questions

Research venues and ask these important questions (this could save you tons and I’ll add — ask if you must include yourself and vendors in your head count for catering). Some venues provide the couples meal for free and charge a discounted rate for box lunches for vendors. Other venues charge full price for vendors also. Read your contracts! Vendors will tell you in the contract if you are required to provide their meal.


If you can bring your own alcohol and caterer you cut a significant cost. One vendor was going to charge us $5,000 for the bar so we choose a BYOB venue and purchased from a liquor store that excepted returns and spent $807 for 260 guest instead. Cha-chang, just saved us a boat load!

Tip: If the cost of alcohol is a concern, have a Stock the Bar Bridal Shower where each guest brings a bottle of their favorite drink to add to the wedding bar. Thanks to one of my bridesmaids for sharing this, we were able to cut the cost even more.

To Hire or Not To Hire A Wedding Planner

Decide if you can handle planning without a wedding planner. Be honest with yourself because even though you pay them they can help you save in places you haven’t realized! There are other options like Day of Coordinator which some venues offer with their event space or wedding planners who have simplified pricing to help starting at various points in the planning process. I suggest you always hire someone because you CANNOT focus on set up and coordinating the wedding while you’re in line to walk down the aisle.

Document Everything!

Get everything in writing, I mean EVERYTHING! If it isn’t written then it doesn’t have to be upheld. You do not want to learn this through experience. I will tell you it is so frustrating and I ended up deciding against this venue for that very reason.

Create Your Own Tradition

You don’t have to follow the typical wedding traditions, make your own! If your budget is small then cut out save the dates and go straight to invitations. Etsy has some awesome handmade items that are budget friendly. You can also take your engagement pictures using your phone (like we did!) or have a friend go online to become your officiant as their wedding gift to you. Also, keep your wedding party small to limit cost of gifts and hotel cost the night before the wedding.


Do It Yourself

Make your own save the dates and wedding invitations using Canva.com  and have them delivered to you so you can stamp and mail them out. You can also find amazing DIY projects for weddings on pinterest that will save you money and not cost you too much time.

I hope this provides a smooth start for you. Make sure to check out the links to get more information on wedding planning and I’d love to hear any ideas you have to add to the list in the comments below.