Andrew and I got engaged in April of 2018 and as many of our family & friends know, it was a complete surprise for me when he got down on one knee! We had always made references to our "future wedding or say things like "Oh I'd love to do a destination wedding" as a lot of couples do, but it was never fully on my radar. So when Andrew did propose, I admittedly went into instant panic mode. I was a WEDDING photographer & yet the idea of planning my own wedding completely freaked me out! Not only can it be a lot of work to plan a wedding, but I know how costly weddings can be, especially from my experience in the industry. I told myself I'd relax for 3 months before even looking at a wedding venue. Well, you know how it goes. Once I peeked at one venue's website, I couldn't stop. Eventually, I was in the thick of planning within the second month of being engaged & I ended up loving it!
I was blessed with a fiancé who let me make nearly all the decisions (he knows me well!) but there were certain elements that were extremely important to both of us. We knew we wanted a venue that was beautiful but comfortable with great service & amenities. We knew we wanted it to be almost all outdoors (which is part of why we chose California), & if I'm being totally honest... we knew we wanted an open bar! I also knew I had to have fresh florals, and plenty of them. Biggest on our list, we wanted our day to be a fun & easygoing celebration of love.
All of that being said, we also had a budget & knew we would have to sacrifice some things in order to get everything that was on our must-have list. Saving money may take some thoughtful planning & research, but trust me, it is so worth it! As it was a destination wedding, we couldn't DIY much, but instead had to rely on our choices & the vendors we worked with. Here are the 3 biggest ways we saved money during our wedding planning so that we could afford our dream wedding!
Choosing buffet over plated dinner
I had originally wanted plated dinner service because as we were doing a more intimate & small destination wedding, I wanted our guests to feel pampered. BUT, this option was almost a third more of the price. We thought back to all of the weddings we've been to and realized something... We LOVE buffets! We love them because you get to choose exactly how much or how little you want of something & most importantly, you don't leave dinner hungry! In our search, we found a venue with amazing service and catering built in. We had staff coming around all night taking drink orders and making sure our guests were comfortable. I can't say enough good things about the Perry House. We ended up saving a ton of money doing buffet and they displayed & plated all of the food so beautifully. We also saved money by only doing napkins & a printed menu at each place setting, with the silverware & drink glasses provided by our venue. A great way to save money is by doing a special place setting for just the head table or just the bride & groom, with a charger & special plates/glasses. This way, your photographer captures a beautiful tablescape but you don't have to pay extra for every place setting. In the end, we stuck with neutral basics and kept the focus on the floral centerpieces & candles. Our guests were raving about the food all night & we still get compliments on it, months later!
Nixing smaller floral items to save for the statement pieces
When I first contacted florists, I had many of the traditional items on my list of wants. I had bouquets for myself and six bridesmaids, centerpieces for our reception, boutonnières for our six groomsman + dads + grandpa, corsages for the moms and grandmas, and aisle decor for the ceremony. I quickly realized how fast everything was adding up! Ultimately, we decided to do pocket squares for the groomsman & just have one boutonnière for Andrew. We chose a beautiful rose and it was the perfect way for him to stand out as a groom. Bonus, it was actually complimentary with the purchase of my bridal bouquet! Even more of a bonus, no one had to fuss over attaching them to the groomsmen lapels! It's safe to say that our groomsmen didn't mind one bit. The next item I chose to do without isn't very common but... Andrew and I both have very modern moms and grandmothers & we asked them: is it must that you have a corsage? All four of them quickly said absolutely not & to save our money! We weren't scared to ask because we knew they wanted us to save in whatever areas we could. Trust me, everyone at our wedding knew who they were & their beautiful dresses were all they needed to stand out. Along with that, we also decided to do no ceremony decor in the aisles. I had originally wanted ribbons and florals hanging on the chairs in the aisle. Instead, we put half of our budget into making the arbor (where we would stand under for the whole ceremony) beautiful by draping it in florals. We spent a good chunk of money on this & it was the statement piece of our wedding. We used it for more than the ceremony too, by repurposing it to be the base of our head table and where everyone would do their toasts. We also included a custom neon sign which made it the perfect backdrop for photos throughout the night! Our guests LOVED taking photos in front of it. Our gorgeous floral covered arbor is in so many of our photos which makes me so happy with the choice we made to deck it out. Last but not least, we repurposed all the bridesmaids bouquets into centerpieces at the reception! This is a popular choice that is so easy & truly a no brainer. Right after the ceremony, my girls found an empty vase on the cocktail tables to put their bouquet in & they didn't have to keep track of it all night!
Side-note to brides: if you can invest in just one real floral item, make it your bouquet! The pictures are so worth it!
Choosing a venue with an all-inclusive bar package
It's no secret that I love a good glass of champagne! Once we knew we were having a destination wedding, an open bar was even more important to us. Our guests were flying halfway across the country to celebrate with us & we didn't want them to worry about costs for the evening or having cash on them. When we decided on our venue, we asked about the open bar & what the costs would be. We figured out that it was a set flat price for each person. This made us ecstatic. We've heard our share of horror stories about how big the tab was at the end of the night & the last thing we wanted was to deal with that! We paid one large sum upfront & all of our guests were able to choose any drink of their choice all night long, plus our two signature drinks (a gin fizz for Andrew & a berry mule for me!). With this, we also received a complimentary champagne toast from the venue & champagne in the girls suite for getting ready. I knew our venue choice was meant to be when they said the champagne was included!
P.S. We provided a shuttle transportation to all of our guests & I would always recommend this if you are supplying alcohol at your wedding! Of course there is always uber too :)
What do you think?
I hope this helped you or inspired you with ways to save on your own wedding day! Whatever is most important to YOU, I don't think you ever need to sacrifice style, elegance or a good time when you are saving money. We truly had the wedding of our dreams & I wouldn't change a thing. I give my wedding clients a lot of credit because I have been inspired many times over the past few years & I don't think our wedding would be what it was without all of my experience photographing so many amazing weddings! Brides: if you need ANY help at all, please do not hesitate to shoot me a message. It can be a question about average pricing for cakes to what kind of robes to get ready in- I'm here to help and am always happy to pass on any tips I have! Additionally, I'd LOVE to hear your ideas for your upcoming wedding or how you saved on your wedding! If you want to hear more about my own experience wedding planning, drop me a message with an idea for a blog post! Any excuse to post more wedding photos right?