10 tips to make a wedding look more expensive than it is
I have planned one wedding in my life (my own) and somehow with absolutely no experience, I managed to create a decent wedding for about $3000! Mason and I were young when we got married and we didn’t have a lot of money. Looking back through the lens of being a wedding photographer, I know that I did quite a few things right but there were also many things that I would change. For example, I did a good job with the venue but I severely regret not choosing real flowers. Now that I am a wedding photographer, I see things a little differently and if I were to go back and plan my wedding again, I would do some things differently.
I hope you can learn from my experience as a bride and as a wedding photographer. You don’t have to spend $50,000 to have a beautiful wedding - you just have to be a little more creative with your money.
Make it personal. My most favorite weddings are the ones that include personal, meaningful details. For example, one bride used her grandmother’s china instead of buying or renting plates. The result was beautifully elegant, timeless, and significant. It’s great to choose a personal motif like this and carry it throughout your entire day.
Choose your venue wisely. The venue is usually the largest chunk of the wedding budget. For my own wedding, I chose Kansas State University’s chapel and it only cost me $125! However, it was a gorgeous location with tons of soft light streaming in through tall windows. Mason and I were lucky enough to go back there last year and photograph a wedding. Other great, inexpensive wedding venues are the homes of friends and family. Some of my favorite weddings are intimate, backyard affairs.
Limit DIY projects. I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. I see a lot of brides go overboard with trendy DIYs that don’t add a lot to their wedding day. If there is something cute you see on Pinterest, considering hiring a professional to do it. For example, when I got married it was all the rage to do a thumb print guest book. I was an art major in college so I had some drawing experience but I definitely should have paid a better artist to draw the image of the tree that I wanted.
Consider a morning wedding with brunch or pastries. Venues usually offer discounts for morning or non-weekend weddings. I have seen some awesome morning weddings that were full of sweet details. If your wedding is at 10 am, for example, you could serve coffee and pastries during your reception (which will cost significantly less than dinner). This will open up room in the budget to splurge on other priorities.
Get more bang for your buck on flowers. Real flowers are pricey, there’s no doubt about it. For my own wedding, I chose silk flowers and it’s something that I deeply regret. You can’t fake the elegance of real flowers. If you’re on a budget, try to choose in-season flowers and choose flowers that are less expensive in general. Here is a great list of flowers and their relative prices. Whatever you do, don’t follow my example. Flowers should be at the top of your priority list because they are one of the best ways to make your wedding look more fancy.
Downsize your bridal party. It’s going to be a lot easier and cheaper to manage the costs of your bridal party if there are less people in it. Your whole group (and therefore the wedding pictures) will be sharper and classier if there are less people. I know It’s hard to cut people out but it could be worth it. Think about the costs associated with each member of your wedding party: dress (if you’re paying for it), shoes, jewelry, bouquet, suits/tuxedos, boutonniere, lodging, food and drinks on the wedding day, hair and makeup, and gifts. It adds up substantially.
Borrow what you can. Luckily, I knew a woman that owned an antique shop and owned a ton of pretty decor. Maybe you know someone that you can borrow things like shoes, your veil, decor, your getaway car, tables, lights, the list goes on and on. Almost everything can be borrowed. When borrowing items, don’t go overboard with a bunch of different styles. I recommend choosing 3 or 4 “style words” such as timeless, modern, industrial, rustic, natural, elegant, etc. Knowing the words that describe your wedding can help you stick to your individual style.
Get help from friends and family. I found that when I was planning my wedding a lot of people wanted to help out and luckily, I have a ton of talented friends and family members. One of my friends was able to do the catering - I just paid for the food and her time, another friend wanted to be a day of coordinator (heck yes!), and my mom’s friends were happy to decorate. Pay the pros when you do need but allow others to help when they can.
Get a pretty cake just for the two of you. And then buy sheet cakes for your guest. Simple.
Hire the best photographer that your budget allows. A good photographer can make your wedding memories look prettier than it did in real life while a not-so-good photographer can make the opposite happen. A good photographer will know what camera settings, light, and composition will look best at all times. A good photographer will capture all of the meaningful, priceless details that went into planning your wedding day. You will have stunning images to remember your wedding day by. Trust me, a bad photographer could make a million dollar wedding look cheap while a great photographer can make a well-planned but budgeted wedding look like a million bucks.