Ok, so you've gotten engaged! Now what??
I remember after my husband plopped that ring on my finger, the first question everyone asked was, "would you like a large or a small wedding?"
At the time, I almost felt like this decision was already made for me. I come from a military family; my father retired a Colonel after 27 years in the Marine Corp. We lived in many different places where we made many different friends. I basically grew up with countless "aunts, uncles, and cousins", so for me, I knew my family wanted to throw a huge gathering where we could reunite everyone over the years and what better way than little Krissy V's wedding!
Though my wedding was big and beautiful, it was STRESSFUL! Now, I say that with a grain of salt because I didn't realize how stressful it was until AFTER everything was said and done. Even with the help of an amazing wedding planner we flew in from California, things were bound to derail slightly. Nothing major of course, other than a few people knocking over tables, my cousin getting a chunk of her hair pulled out, and my mom's best friend wanting to "bitch slap" a self proclaimed socialite. You know .. typical family shenanigans.
It was stressful because when all was said and done, I realized I didn't get a chance to walk by every single table and thank every single person for sharing our special day with us. I wasn't able to spend more than 10 minutes sitting down with my best friend who flew in from Texas with his wife and children to be there for us. I wasn't able to just sit and ENJOY my day to the fullest because there was always something next. It was an event that we gathered SO many people to just for us, but when all was said and done, I was thrilled when it was over.
Would I go back and change it? Absolutely!
And I don't mean that in the "I'm so ungrateful, what have I done, whoa is me" sort of way. My wedding was beautiful! But as a wedding photographer, I've been to all sorts of ceremonies and learned a lot in the process. The "dos and don'ts" so to speak.
Last night, I shot a small 25 person wedding, but it felt like I was surrounded by hundreds of the couple's closest friends and family ... there was THAT much love within this small pod of people. Thanks to COVID, they had to change their date and plans around 4 times ... 4 ... freaking ... times! I wish I could say this was my only bride that had to do that, but alas, it is not.
But from start to finish, the wedding, though small, felt like the biggest bash on earth! The guests all had an amazing time which was extremely evident, the bride and groom were surrounded by so much love, and everything went off without a hitch! Once I got home and finally kicked my feet up, I was reminiscing on the event and had to remind myself, "that was a smaller wedding" because it sure didn't feel like it! You can still have the best day of your life without breaking the bank, overwhelming yourself with SO MUCH and SO MANY, and just remembering that bigger is not always better.
So here are a few tips I picked up for you beautiful brides planning your smaller, budget-friendly Happily Ever After:
NUMBER ONE: The cost of a wedding is basically decided by the number of guests you intend to invite. Remember, venues, caterers, alcohol ... these are the three most expensive parts of wedding planning ... you already p[an to keep your guest list smaller to surround yourself with the most intimate people in your life; there is no need to go overboard! It's quality, not quantity my friends ... this can be said of both your guests AND the alcohol!
NUMBER TWO: Once you figure out your guest list, focus on your BUDGET! And STICK to that budget! Have a friend who is crafty? Ask them to make your table decorations. No need to splurge on expensive traditional glass vases for floral arrangements ... the Dollar Store has the exact same thing Crate & Barrel has for only a buck! That beautiful designer dress you've been pining over?? Guess what? You ONLY wear it once ... smaller, local boutiques carry gorgeous gowns made for all shapes and sizes ... oh, and so does David's Bridal at a fraction of the cost! Oh, and the cake everyone will either eat or forget about? Grocery stores now make some amazingly beautiful wedding cakes; no need to drop hundreds of dollars on something that you can't keep! Planning for a wedding on a budget has never been easier because now, you literally have HUNDREDS of options for EVERYTHING!
NUMBER THREE: Ok, so once you've decided your guest count and your budget, it's time to think of LOCATION. You often need to pick the location before you can even pick your date; there are only so many wedding venues and often, they can get booked years in advance! But hey, we're planning a smaller, budget-friendly wedding, right? Who says you NEED a venue?? Courthouse not for you? That's fine! Parks, museums, zoos, bars ... surprisingly these are some of the more budget-friendly locations to have a wedding! Get married in a church and have the reception there as well; they often have reception halls where you can party the night away without having to pay two location rental fees, or transportation! Same with hotels; many things are included as a package if you book with a hotel, and again, no need to drive anywhere else for a reception! Have a friend or family member with a beautiful backyard?? Sounds like the perfect place to say "I do!" without spending an arm and a leg! Another money-saving tip if you still want that gorgeous venue you've always had your eye on?? Get married in the off-season! Venues would rather have your business than none at all!
NUMBER FOUR: Decide what the most important expenses are to you. You've already saved a lot through the guest list, so what would you like to splurge on? Camera phones are amazing and all, but after it's all said and done, you only have the memories. Photographers don't all cost $5,000 to shoot your wedding; many of us will definitely work with your and your budget! How about a videographer? That way you can relive the day for the rest of your life! Or shoot, pocket the remainder and enjoy a wonderful honeymoon to your dream destination! That's the beauty with planning a wedding ... so many choices and the choice is yours!
Stick to your guns when it comes to budgeting and planning a smaller wedding; you don't need to go traditional if you don't want to. You don't need to do "whatever everyone else does!" It is YOUR day to surround yourself with the people YOU guys love most! Because if you plan it right, the smallest wedding will create the biggest memories!