I've been there babe,
You finally got engaged and now get to plan the wedding of your dreams. The only catch is, you're broke. The wedding industry is no joke, we're an expensive group of people. We are some hardworking, creative people who put our heart and souls into your day, put in some ungodly hours, and still barely make enough to scrape by and feed our families.
It can get to be a lot. And as much as I love Pinterest and Instagram, as a former bride I know all too well the pressure and want to have the dreamiest wedding possible. It has nearly become a competition.
But what if I told you that you can still have your dream day and not be in debt by the end of it? I've made it my mission to help couples who are on a tighter budget by offering flexible pricing. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO GO INTO DEBT TO GET MARRIED!
A little backstory...
Why am I so passionate about this? Because that was me! I fell in love with my husband in 2015. I was from America going to Bible school in England. He was (and still is) a mountain running coffee roaster who had just moved back to NI after spending a year working at a children's home in Zimbabwe (I mean girls, how could I not?!). I met him one fateful April night after being set up by some mutual friends while I was travelling here in NI. We went on our first date in June and were engaged by the end of July. Yep. Five weeks from our first date to him being down on one knee. We had no idea what was coming! I quit my job in healthcare in October and moved to NI in November and started planning our February wedding. We then met with an immigration lawyer to learn about what I needed to do in order to get a marriage visa. Long story short I had to move back to the States for a few months and apply for my visa. We also had to spend all of Jonny's savings on funding my visa. Visas are expensive y'all. When I finally got over in February I wasn't able to work for 6 months because of the visa I was on, so I had no income. But we were so in love and wanted to get married ASAP. Thankfully our parents were so gracious and supportive and helped fund the majority of our wedding. However, there was still a budget and we had to prioritise.
I knew what I could DIY and what I couldn't. Here's what I knew: I could sort invitations, decor (more on this below!), my makeup and nails, flowers (something I actually regret DIYing to be truthful!), drivers, and refreshments for the drinks reception. Things that I knew I COULDN'T DIY and needed to invest in were venue, photography (this was by biggest priority!), my dress (I had my dress for years already though!), the guys' suits, and my hair.
We were married on the 26th of February 2016 on the most beautiful winter day and it was PERFECT. (See some of our photos below done by the incredible Adam and Grace)
Before I get into my tips and tricks for your budget friendly wedding, let me preface by saying. I have so many friends in the wedding industry. From florists, make up artists, videographers to graphic designers and venue owners. I honour and support their work and will always encourage you to book them. However, I completely understand that everyone's budget is different and we may need to get creative on how things are done.
What is important to you on your wedding day? What do you feel confident doing yourself and what do you need to let a professional do? This is YOUR day and you have complete control over what it looks like and how much you spend. Make a list of what is important to you to have done professionally (i.e. flowers and photography etc.) and what you can do yourself.
Unlike some countries, here in Northern Ireland we can't just get married anywhere (In the States you can literally be legally married in the middle of the road...). It is very common in NI to be married in a church and then go somewhere else for your evening celebration or reception. But here is where you can get creative! Instead of having your reception in a fancy (and pricy) hotel or venue, what if you put a marquee in your parent's garden, or if it's a beautiful summer day (which may be few and far between) have a beautiful al fresco dinner? This is not commonly done here in NI, because rain, but how refreshing would it be to change it up if the weather is on your side? You don't have to have the same reception in the same venues!
This really piggybacks well off of my venue point. If you pick the right venue, you won't have to spend too much on decor. If you go for a venue with loads of character then it will speak for itself. My mom and I did all the decor for my wedding! We spent hours at craft stores and online. We made my favours (I definitely don't recommend favours either btw, they only get left and are a waste of money!), centrepieces and my sister in law, who is brilliant at calligraphy hand lettered our table names. I bought our cake topper off of an Etsy shop. For the front of the church, we bought small, potted trees from IKEA and wrapped them in fairy lights. When in doubt, just use loads of fairy lights! Do you have a creative family member or friend? Ask them to help you! Odds are they'd be delighted and it just makes your day that much more personal! And it's true, less is always way more!
I tried to do this one on my own and I wish I hadn't. But that's not saying it wouldn't work for you! The day before my wedding, I went to Marks and Spencer, grabbed tons of bouquets in the colours I liked, took the all apart and with the help of my sister-in-law re-arranged them and put them back together. I had no idea how flowers should work together, thankfully my SIL did and helped me tons, but it was something I would have been safer leaving to the pros. However, if you feel creative this way or have a family or friend who can help go for it! Below is an example of my flowers on my wedding day. They worked, but I had no idea what I was doing and should have hired a pro!
4.Hair and Makeup
Ladies, if you're someone who loves playing with makeup and feel confident doing your day to day makeup go ahead and do it on your own! Just remember that you'll need it to last all day and be flattering for your photos. So do your research on any new products you may need to buy! YouTube is full of handy makeup and hair tutorials that are usually pretty easy to follow!
Do you know a family friend with a cool car? Ask if they'd be cool with driving you!
Brides, when it comes to your dress keep an eye out for sample and trunk sales (this isn't always size inclusive so just make sure your size is included in the sale) at bridal boutiques. Also did you know that ASOS has wedding dresses?! Of course it's not going to be Alexander Wang but some of the styles are actually gorgeous! You can also find bridesmaid dresses on ASOS. Also, why not have your bridesmaids pick their own dress? Mismatched bridesmaids are such a beautiful look. Just give your girls a colour or a colour scheme and let them find the dress that best suits them. Guys, same for you! Check out sales and online retailers (Like ASOS) to find the look you're going for.
7.Photography and Videography
You bet I'm going to throw myself in there too! I am sensitive that everyone's budget is so different. I try to work with any couple regardless of budget (within reason). I completely understand that we can be expensive. We are not only charging for shooting your day, but for our travel to and from your day, rental of any extra equipment we need, paying our second shooter, editing after etc. But if you want to do this on a budget but still do it well, find those of us who will work with your budget OR look for photographers who are just starting out. I know this gets a bad wrap, "How can I trust someone to shoot the most important day of my life who is just starting?!" but often photographers who are just starting out aren't inexperienced! They've second shot weddings or have some kind of photography experience. You aren't going to get a total novice! We all need to start somewhere and you just may be the break that someone's portfolio desperately needs. Often newer photographers will offer photography for less if they're looking to build their wedding portfolio. I had never planned on being a wedding photographer, but then some of my dear friends asked if I would. I charged them £500 for the full day and immediately fell in love. It actually turned out much better than I could have ever hoped and I owe my whole career path to them! Never be afraid to give someone a chance!
I know this often comes with the venue (which I highly recommend looking for in your venue packages!), but if it doesn't how can you get creative here? For my drinks reception, we had some ladies from our church make OUT OF THIS WORLD shortbread and buns. My husband, who is a coffee roaster, obviously supplied all the coffee. Could you have a barbecue instead? Could some of your mum's friends chip in and make some of their favourite dishes? Do you know someone who needs to be on the Bake Off? Have them make your cake! Or opt for homemade pies instead of wedding cake. Your celebration could be totally different and unique and with that it could be cheaper too!
Two words here: Spotify Playlist. Pay to upgrade or take advantage of their three months free promotion to get rid of adds! Can the worship band at your church or your musically talented friends come together to play a few songs if you're wanting live music?
10.Invites and stationary
There are so many ways to DIY your invites now. From sites like Vistaprint or Snapfish to apps like Canva or Over, making custom invitations are super easy! Add your engagement photos to them (from your complimentary engagement session with me!) to give them a personal feel!
What it all comes down to is this...
PLEASE DO SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES! We need you now more than ever. Wedding vendors have had a tough year, but we know you may have too. We're sensitive to budgets and constraints and most of us care immensely for your marriage. So remember to prioritise and explore all your options if your budget is tight.
Do you need it all? I always tell my couples, "If you would get married in your jeans, then you've found the right one." Do we really need massive, flashy weddings? Social media has made us feel like we NEED the perfect, insta-worthy wedding. Has that replaced our love and focus on marriage? But I've been there. I wanted the dreamy wedding, and I loved how my day turned out. To me it was dreamy. It was simple and humble but it was the best day of my life (as cheesy as it is to say!). I didn't need everything to be perfect because forever with the man at the end of the aisle was all I wanted. So as you're planning your wedding, friend remember to prioritise. What do you need help with professionally? What can you do yourself or with help from friends? I wholeheartedly support the DIY wedding and encourage you to explore it a bit more.