Classy Not Pricey Weddings - How to "Bride" on a Budget

In honor of the wedding (this weekend) of a very special Classy Not Pricey supporter, this post is dedicated to the bridal side of Classy Not Pricey. Sorry, gentlemen readers - this one is focused on the ladies. :)

Throwing a wedding is expensive, no matter how you slice that four-tiered cake.  These days, the average wedding costs over $26,000*!! And this does NOT include the engagement ring or the honeymoon. Yikes. We've received a few requests for suggestions on how to have a Classy Not Pricey wedding over the last couple of weeks. This is clearly no easy task! However, as one who personally planned a wedding in only four months within a budget, here are the Classy Not Pricey starting points I recommend the following three easy ways to bride on a budget...

1.  Figure out what you can do without vendors or planners (and not drive yourself crazy)
  • Use free tools to organize yourself.  I personally used the free resources on www.theknot.com and still do as a reference guide for all my to-dos, budgeting, and guest list tracking (including who came to each of the parties, addresses and check lists for thank you notes, etc.)
  • Be open to the unconventional.  These days, "traditions" of wedding protocol are regularly challenged (in some great, creative ways). For example, instead of the traditional invitation approach, we started with an e-card for our save the date that directed guests to our wedding website. For our "formal" invite we sent a "You are Invited" magnet (we redesigned the text on a "Save The Date"magnet from www.WeddingPaperDivas.com; also check out www.evermine.com for a well-priced alternative) directing people to our wedding website and requested online (or phone) RSVPs. We saved several hundred dollars AND our guests the hassle of keeping track of papers with wedding information. Another new alternative to saving on expensive printing of wedding information is to create a customized app (!) on www.appycouple.com. It's only a one-time fee of $35 for the basic design or $65 for luxury designs, and your guests can have all of their information for the special day in one place! Sometimes the unconventional is what can make a wedding really stand out.
  • Recruit friends to help!  My wedding jewelry and accessories were all made by my very good friend, and another wonderful friend designed all my stationery for the day-of events. Yet another great friend was my wedding singer. It's amazing how your gifted friends can (and want to!) help make your wedding more personal and special, and your wish list a reachable reality.
2.  Find creative ways to buy the most expensive items at affordable prices (or make them yourself!)
  • Be open about how to find your wedding dress.  Your options are endless! You can borrow, rent, buy used, buy new at larger warehouse chains, buy new at boutiques and negotiate, and more! You can also enjoy the shopping experience in the boutiques to get a feel for what you want, and then look for the dress online, in warehouse stores, or at rental locations. DressilyMe is a example of an online store where you can either rent or buy heavily discounted bridal gowns, accessories, and even bridesmaid items. Once Wed is another great option for finding used dresses and other DIY ideas, Kennedy Blue has some reasonable options for both the brides and the bridesmaids, and The Dessy Group has a collection called "After Six" where elegant gowns are offered at affordable prices (and right now all Dessy Group jewelry is 30% off with the code JDG15 until the end of April!). 
  • Avoid pricey accessories in bridal stores.  Want a beautiful sash? Forget the one at the bridal boutique that's $200... go to the ribbon store and buy gads of it for a fifth of the price! M&J Trimmings is one example of a store you can order items online, or check your local listings to see options in person. Not only did I buy my sash at M&J Trimmings, I also bought my veil online (I used and recommend www.simpleveil.com). My veil was exactly what I wanted for a fourth of the price I was able to find anywhere else. 
  • Choose your reception location wisely. The reception is often the greatest expense area of a wedding. While choosing a location that works for your tastes, make sure it also respects your budget. If you go with a coordinated venue, some will allowing outside catering (so you can have your cake and afford it too). Even better, some will allow you to bring your own liquor/wine/beer. One trip to Costco and your bar budget is less than half of what most venues would charge by consumption or per hour. I also had a friend host her wedding at the house of a friend on a farm. She had an incredible backdrop and was able to spend the facility and catering fees exactly how she wanted.
3.  Make some money BACK after the wedding!
  • Sell some of the items you bought for your wedding.  When the big day has come (hooray!) and gone, the total cost of the wedding can actually decrease if you decide to unload some of the items you bought for your nuptials. The RealReal, Inc accepts designer gowns for consignment (read more about them in our recent article about them). Tradesy is an online marketplace for buying and selling used fashion, including wedding items, and previously-mentioned Once Wed is a great resource as well.
  • Register wisely.   While this should come early on in terms of order of items tackled after you get engaged, many times you won't know what you are in for in terms of the generosity of your guests until the home stretch. It is important that you register in a place that is affordable for your lifestyle, not only for your guests, but because you might have store credit, gift cards, or incomplete sets from that merchant after the wedding. Remember, if you only receive half of the expensive crystal you registered for, YOU have to shell out the cash to complete the set (or settle for store credit that you might not want). I registered at Bed Bath and Beyond because I knew they would issue a check (aka "cash back") upon request if something we registered for didn't work the way we expected. Plus, their prices were very competitive if we needed to use our own money to complete our registry (which we did).  
This is only the very top layer of that beautiful cake of smart wedding planning. By combining free resources and do-it-yourself techniques with financially savvy choices for your big ticket items and post-wedding activities, your wedding can truly become Classy Not Pricey. If you find this article helpful, let us know and we'll work on bringing you more great wedding resources!

What other great Classy Not Pricey wedding tips have any of you current or past brides/grooms used? One reader shared their love for the great prices at www.myweddingfavors.com for personalized wedding favors, decorations, and accessories (thanks, Ashley!).  Do you have favorites to share?


You might also like: Wedding Etiquette 101:  Common Guest Faux Pas To Avoid 
                                   Rethinking the Definition of Classy : Did Coco Chanel Have It Right?
                                   Five Great Ways to Make the Most of Pinterest and Why We Love It!

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*According to http://www.costofwedding.com/ Google