I never thought planning a wedding was going to be so difficult! Props to all those who have already done it :) In the few months I've been planning this wedding, I've learned a lot from the many blogs I've read, sites I've looked over, and research I've done. Here's a list of ten things that will inevitably make your wedding less expensive and more enjoyable.
1. Start as soon as you can. Whether you've got two months to plan or two years, don't wait to start planning. I've had about four months to plan my wedding. In Utah (where I've been planning my wedding), I've learned that generally people plan 4 to 6 months out, but sometimes it can be longer. When I reserved my temple date the day after we got engaged, the other large temple room was already taken. And the place we wanted our reception to be was reserved 15 minutes before we got there. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do about that one. We put off going there for several days because we thought we had time.
2. Do your homework. Really. This may seem to conflict with the last bit of advice, but before you book, you really should know what you're getting yourself into. When it came time to go to the florist consultation, I looked online to see approximate pricing of different flowers, I googled different kinds of wedding flowers, and I met with two florists.
3. Create your budget and they stay under it. My mom and his mom gave us a certain budget. Now there are some things you have less control over, like room fees or minimum spending amounts from certain vendors (though you can control who you choose to be your vendor), but there are always little things you have to pay for that you aren't thinking about when you're planning out your budget--like postage stamps, manicures, and dress alterations. Besides, the less you spend on your wedding, the more you will have after the big day.
4. Skimp and splurge carefully. Before I started planning my wedding, I knew that there were two things at the top of my priority list--the photographer and my dress. (P.S. My photographer is amazing! Check out her stuff at camillabinks.com). Even though I was willing to pay a little more for my dress, I didn't immediately run to the most expensive places. We went to a rental shop (which I would highly recommend, they really take care of you it seems) and a discount shop. Only when I didn't find anything there did we look at the regular bridal gown shops. I think there is no problem splurging on a few things. Get what is important to you (though more than anything else, I'd recommend splurging on a really good photographer, but that's another post altogether). Because I had spent a lot on those things, I designed my own invitations and printed them at as low a cost as possible; I cut down a lot on flowers and bought fake branches for my centerpieces (at half off!); we shot our photographs at places that didn't require fees. Little things like that can add up quickly if you're not careful.
5. Enter contests to win free stuff. Okay, this one probably sounds a little weird, but seriously do it. If you see a contest (they're often at bridal fairs, on Facebook pages, wedding websites, etc), enter it. The worst that can happen is that you don't win, no harm done. I entered several contests and ended up winning a free cake (which has been a huge blessing) and a free bridal photo shoot (really awesome, I'm so excited for that).
6. Don't be afraid to go the used, fake, or eBay route. You may ick at the thought of used anything, but you can find a lot of really great deals on some of the little things. We bought part of our centerpieces at Deseret Industries (kind of like Rescue Mission stores). Fake may also be the way to go. We got fake centerpieces that cost $10 less than their live counterparts, and with 12 tables, that a savings of $120. Doesn't seem like much, but those little things add up fast. I also bought my petticoat on eBay for $25 dollars (including shipping), which was $40 less than the cheapest one at the bridal store.
7. Find a good checklist. It can be really overwhelming to plan a wedding, and it's really helpful to have a checklist, especially one tailored to your needs. For LDS weddings, I've found BYU's bridal guide extremely helpful, at least with the basic LDS wedding checklist (bridalguide.byu.edu). Wedding websites (like theknot.com) also have really good and detailed checklists.
8. Research, research, research! Research your vendors; check out reviews from past clients as well as pricing information. Research ideas in the style you like; look at poses, props, DIY ideas, etc. Research deals; sometimes you get lucky with your first shot, but more often, you can find better deals by looking a little harder.
9. Get help!! Okay, this one is one of the most important. You will go crazy if you have to do everything yourself. Whether in the form of a wedding planner or a close family member (like your mom) or friend, find someone who will help you accomplish what you want to accomplish. I would not have been able to put together nearly as much of our wedding if it weren't for his mom. I'm from New York, but live in Utah. My mom is still in NY and has done a few things, but there are a lot of DIY things that she wouldn't be able to do. His mom has been so, so helpful in helping me realize many of my wedding ideas. Also, it's good to have someone there when you start to go overboard or obsessing. They'll point out that you don't really need all those things you think you do. I don't think our wedding would be half as amazing without all her help and support.
10. Make sure to include your fiance. I was surprised at how much he cared about things in our wedding! But I tried to let him be a part of the decision-making as best I could. For example, when it came to his wedding day outfit, we went to a tux shop and a suit store. I told him that I liked the tux and two of the suits he tried on, so he could choose which one he wanted. I also picked out three ties I liked and let him choose. Little things like that can really make him feel like he's a part of the big day too. Invite him to meet with the baker (if only to taste the cake flavors) or let him choose his own outfit. He decided that he thought it would be fun to wear colored Converse, and I was totally open to that idea.
11. Okay, okay. Just one more. Make it you! This is your wedding day. You don't have to get caught up in the current trends. If you want your first dance to be the polka, go for it! (okay, that's a bit of a cheat. Our first dance is going to be the polka). If you love cowboy boots and country songs, make that part of your wedding! If you hate pink, don't use it even though it's the color of the year. Just be you. It's your day after all. :)
All in all, planning a wedding is not easy nor cheap, but it is possible. And if in the end, something doesn't turn out quite right, don't fret. (I know it might be hard, but remember not to get caught up in all the little details, especially when it's at a point where you can't do anything about it).