You are getting married! Congratulations! It’s incredible. I am sure you are going to be very happy together. But now it’s time to plan. The whole process can feel like a series of increasingly obscure customs designed to stress you out and hemorrhage money. It doesn’t have to be that way! You can have a gorgeous, fun, perfect wedding on any budget, and you don’t have to end up with a whole head of gray hair at the end of it. Here are the biggest secrets your wedding planner will never tell you so you can get a head start with some useful insider knowledge.
1. Your marriage is out of date. The engraved invitations? Tights. Opt for a champagne dress rather than ivory? Tights. Get a wedding cake? Tights. No matter what you choose someone is going to think it’s so cheesy so just relax and get what you want.
2. Cut the flowers and buy in bulk. Planners often have relationships with florists, so they will recommend that you call on their friends. But if floral design isn’t a top priority for you, find out about wholesalers or save your flowers for your bouquet and make them from flowers from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (they can be gorgeous – do trust). Do you like magnolias but are getting married in January? Well, buttercups are going to be a quarter the price and still totally bridal and adorable. Your floral budget doesn’t have to be sky-high, but if you imagine Monet’s garden, it’s going to cost you dearly.
3. Stop telling people you are going to get married. Fun Fact: If you call a bakery and ask for a tiered cake, the price is lower than a tiered wedding cake. Lower still? A few dozen white cake cupcakes with white buttercream frosting. Consider getting a cupcake to make the ceremonial cup and serving any other cupcakes already portioned.
4. No one will notice your origami card holders. Extras are lovely and fun to imagine, but they are secondary at best. Here’s what they’ll notice: (1) Were there enough chairs to sit on? (2) Was there enough food and drink? (3) Were there enough places to pee? (4) Did the two people who got married seem really happy to do so? That’s it. Make sure you rent enough porta-pots and don’t waste your money on silly things you don’t really care about. It really adds up.
5. Bridesmaid dresses don’t have to be ugly or expensive. The prom section of any department store, ModCloth, and even malls like Banana Republic have dresses that are easy to order, in millions of sizes, under $ 200, and sufficiently decorated. Just say no to long lines and open changing rooms at David’s Bridal.
6. Pinterest is your marital happiness number. 1 enemy. Think of your wedding board as an inspiration rather than a model. It’s like bringing a picture of Blake Lively to the salon when you get your hair cut and expect to literally look like Blake Lively. I can’t make you 6 feet tall and blonde, but we can definitely make long layers. You can definitely buy peonies for your wedding bouquet, but I can’t make this suburban country club the Waldorf-Astoria.
7. Can’t you afford to pay me? You can always get a planner. Look for a “day coordinator” in your area. For a fee, she’ll make sure the florist shows up on time, that your dress is sprayed, that the DJ never plays Chicken Dance, and a myriad of other things you haven’t even thought of. You, your mom and your bridesmaids can just enjoy the day. If your eyes popped out of your head when your planner gave you a quote, ask if they can recommend a good daytime colleague.
8. I know better than you. You will play a pivotal role in hopefully planning no more than two or three weddings in your life: yours, your sister’s, and your best friend’s. I made dozens of these suckers. The biggest day of your life is my Tuesday, so trust me, I’ll do everything to make it perfect and it will. When I need to pay my taxes or have a tooth pulled out, I’ll call you.
9. Don’t do business with your friends, no matter how much you love them. Got a cousin trying to start her photography business or is your neighbor a budding DJ? It’s great, and you should definitely be supporting them in their dreams. That said, if Sheila overexposes every shot of your ceremony, or if Steve has a hangover and misses your reception, you’ll ruin that relationship and be crushed by having your marriage ruined. If Christy the Wedding Photographer does a shit job, well, you never have to see her again and you can hate her for martinis with Sheila.
10. Your mother is so crazy. I know what you are thinking. No! Angie is so awesome! Really fun, laid back and cool lady. She is now. Once you get married, a toggle switch and everything goes to hell. You’re going to call me crying because she convinced you that you’re not really married if you don’t have custom stamped cocktail napkins at your reception. And if it’s not her, it’s your mother-in-law, Aunt Judy, or Meemaw. Believe me, there is one in every family.
11. Buy, don’t rent. Renting tablecloths, plates and forks is very expensive and you get nothing out of it. Check and see if there are any on eBay that you can buy – you can get a good deal on a few hundred cloth napkins. Buy a ton of inexpensive porcelain plates and silverware from a restaurant supply store, then keep them in your garage for the big parties. Better yet: if you have friends who are getting married around the same time, go together and pass them around.
12. We really want to work with you. Even when you’re a nightmare. Not really. You confided in a virtual stranger to help you start your married life. It is an incredible honor that we do not take lightly.
13. Don’t do a cash bar. Just … don’t do it. Throw the wedding you can afford to make your guests feel welcome and no one has to think about the appropriate amount to tip what should be a carefree and fun day. Running out of money? Try making beer, wine, and a signature cocktail instead of an open bar. Really strapped for cash? Do like your grandma and throw a punch and cake reception in the morning. It’s tasteful, and everyone loves the punch.
14. The buffets seem lame, but a buffet with staff isn’t actually a bad one low cost option. Multi-course dinners are great if money isn’t an item, but for most of us, money is definitely an item. The buffets can seem a bit casual, so try to do a buffet with staff. The cost will be less because there is less food waste (everyone is clumsy when it’s a free-for-all), and it’s a little more fancy because you’re served.
15. Read. The. Contract. Break off your engagement? The place does not have to reimburse you. Need to postpone because you broke your leg in a bicycle accident? You may have lost your deposit. Write it down, read it carefully, and don’t sign anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Any good, reputable supplier will take your concerns seriously and help you. Conversely, a lot of the shady sellers are actively looking to take you for a ride, so if it smells like fish, get out of there.
16. All that matters is that you tie the knot. As long as the two planned people got married at the end, the marriage was perfect. Do not lose sight of this.
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