I met with a prospective couple last night at a restaurant for appetizers. We talked about the normal stuff: What they can expect from me as their photographer, their vision for the wedding, their story. We got to talking about the cost of weddings, of course. I was reminded of just how expensive weddings can get. Sure, a five-star wedding would be amazing, but not everyone can or wants to pay for that. It boils down to what you and your partner want, not what everyone else expects. Which is exactly what Garrott and I are doing. As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen a lot of tricks to make your wedding appear fancy, but remain on a strict budget. Here’s a list of some of the best:
1/ DETAIL PHOTOS
From your wedding album, your detail photos are probably going to be the most telling area. Invitations are expensive, but here’s a trick to hack the detail photos: get the minimum order of invitations (usually ten). Reserve one for a keepsake, one for photos, and a few for close friends and family. My personal favorite is Zola (which also comes with a free website for your wedding). Hop onto another website for the rest of the invitations, handwrite them, or simply keep it to email or phone invitations.
Clean your ring before you give it to your photographer. Some photographers (me) bring their own ring cleaner so you don’t have to worry about that, but just play it safe and bring some of your own.
Ring boxes can change the entire look of your detail photos. They don’t have to be fancy and they’re really not too expensive. I got mine from a shop on Etsy.
2/ DIY YOUR BOUQUET
This can get pricey, but there are ways around that. Find out when your local Hobby Lobby has their next sale on floral and go get an entire bouquet worth of artificial flowers for half off. I made a bouquet from Hobby Lobby last year and it cost around $200, but it was big and heavy. Get on Pinterest to find inspiration and go from there! If you want to splurge a little more, check out Afloral.com. Their flowers are the most realistic I have seen; some of them even feel real. Now, if they could make them smell like real flowers … I wouldn’t stop.
You can also get what’s called an “egg” from Hobby Lobby. this will help keep your arrangement together while you’re putting it together. They’re kind of awkward to hold onto after you’re done, so I cut the bottom off of mine when it is all finished. Finish it up by tying tule around it (the tension is the key here), and then wrap around that with lace or chiffon ribbon.
Now you have a bouquet that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, won’t die if you drop it, and will last forever.
You can also go by your local HEB and grab a few flowers of each that match your color scheme. I do this often for bridal sessions and styled shoots. Look on Pinterest for different bouquet shapes and sizes. YouTube can be super helpful for the actual arranging part!
3/ SPLURGE ON YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
Our wedding is costing us about $2000 without our photographer. We found an Airbnb on a private beach for $1000 for three nights and it sleeps 23. I know, we got lucky. But we’re also getting married in February and on a weekday (2/22/22 so we won’t ever miss an anniversary). My dress came from Azazi for $400 and my mom and I did the alterations together. I upgraded my bouquet to an Afloral one, and that cost about $400. Shoes came from Azazi, veil from JJs, and earrings from Etsy. We’re spending $5000 on our photographer because I know she can make our wedding look fancier than it actually will be. Guys, we’re having Dominos Pizza for dinner. If she can make that look classy, she will have won at life.
Plus, I know I’m going to be looking at those photos because they’re forever. Pizza is one meal, most people have no idea or care who designed your dress, and my flowers look real in photos. I’m going to look at that first kiss and the very ugly cry I’ll definitely be doing during our vows more than remembering what kind of champagne we had.
4/ GET MARRIED ON A WEEKDAY
This may not be an option for some, but if it is, it will save you a ton of money. Most photographers are available on weekdays over weekends, venues don’t charge as much, lodging is cheaper, and bartenders aren’t as expensive.
5/ GET A TRAVEL AGENT
Did y’all know that travel agents cost zero extra to you and they can find amazing deals? I didn’t know until I started planning and got super frustrated with honeymoon planning. We found an amazing agent who set us up within a day with our dream honeymoon package. You don’t pay any extra for an agent! It’s a no-brainer. They can also help with destination weddings and elopements! 10/10 recommend doing this. It’ll save you money and frustration.
6/ HAVE A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER MARRY YOU
Getting ordained is literally the simplest process I’ve ever seen. You click a button and you’re done. It seems crazy, but it’s legit. Obviously, there are some wonderful officiants that are absolutely incredible at what they do. I support them fully. But if you’re on a budget or eloping, having someone that’s already coming with you can save some money. My mom is marrying us – not only is it free, but it’s so special.
7/ GET A FOOD TRUCK
Food trucks are fun, unique, and local. You don’t even have to pay for everyone’s meal with these. You can use one of those classy invitations or website to say “Dinner will be available to purchase at our favorite food truck” and that’s all. Sure, it’s nice to provide guests’ dinner, but you don’t have to if you’re on a budget.
To take the edge off, don’t ask for gifts or simply have a honeymoon fund set up on a wedding website if people would like to give something.
Provide champagne for toasts (or don’t) and leave the rest to your guests. Alcohol is expensive, plus a bartender, security, and all of that. You can say it in a classy way, like, “Bring your favorite booze and your dancin’ shooze,” or something clever along those lines. They’ll get the hint. Some venues may require that you still have security and a bartender, but you’re saving a ton of money on purchasing the actual alcohol. You can give some cushion to that by providing mixers, cups, and ice.
9/ DO YOUR OWN HAIR AND MAKEUP OR HIRE A STUDENT
I know I have a leg up on this one because I am actually a cosmetologist, but I’ll freely admit that I am not a makeup artist. I buy drugstore makeup and don’t know the first thing about lipstick application. But, I am comfortable doing my own makeup and making it look pretty good. If it’s totally out of your element, watch YouTube videos, get some new brushes and makeup, OR hire a student. Contact your local cosmetology schools to see if they have anyone interested in doing hair and makeup for your wedding. You can request a trial run before your wedding to make sure they live up to your expectations.
10/ PLAN A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT
It’s easy to say “Oh it’s just $30,” but that stuff adds up so fast. Look at Pinterest or Instagram and get a solid idea of what you need to make your wedding your dream. Make a list and then a budget, and stick to it! There will be things that surprise you that you didn’t account for (like a custom hanger for your dress or suit), so make some breathing room for yourself for the small things you’ll probably want.
It’s also helpful to make a list of the things you want in order of priority. Get the top priority things first and then fill in the rest if your budget allows.
As always, comment or email me for more tips or any questions! I could go on for days!
Jan 10, 2022