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How to make your summer wedding a reality without breaking the bank!

Happily Ever After, not Bankrupt!

When my wife and I decided to tie the knot and started the initial planning for our big day, we quickly realized the vast expense that a summer wedding could amount to. As teachers, our natural instincts of setting up seating charts, going deep into creative research (which included watching every episode of Four Weddings and Say Yes to the Dress), and scouring the internet for the best venue and vendors took over most of our free time. It was honestly a blast to sit together and plan, agree on certain ‘perfect little ideas and accents’, visit venues and meet so many incredible hosts, and see the visions of our ‘perfect wedding’ become visualizations in our minds. The whole process was hunky dory, we were on cloud nine, everything was falling into place until it struck us…“Holy Hell! Will we ever be able to afford this?”

I will never forget going to one of our top venues for a visit. After experiencing an amazing tour, we were hit with the astronomical price tag right before we exited. My wife and I looked at each other and, without saying anything, knew that this was going to be a difficult road ahead. With a massive amount of disappointment, we also knew that the venue we had our hearts set on was not in the realm of our reality.

So, that’s when things regarding wedding planning changed for us. It was certainly an early gut check that quickly straightened out our brains and outlook in an instant. The best way I can describe it is like watching one of HGTV’s many home buying shows, seeing an amazing residence, and thinking to yourself, “That is totally the type of home I’m going to live in someday,” and then that day comes to buy a place, and that house you fantasized about is over your budget. It’s a bummer, sure. But it’s also not going to stop you from buying a place. The same goes with weddings. Even if we couldn’t afford a venue we loved, that wasn’t going to stop us from finding a great space for one of the most memorable days of our lives. We knew our wedding planning needed to take a more practical, realistic, and affordable approach. We agreed to compromise, to budget, to explore all possibilities, and to also not give up on making our dream wedding a reality.

We learned a whole lot and have come up with 7 tips to help you make your dream wedding a reality without breaking the bank. Through everything, try to remember to enjoy the process and that in the end, what really matters is the celebration of love and togetherness of you and your partner, not the chair somebody will sit on during the salad course. It’s easy to get lost in it all, so stay focused, check-in with each other, and relish in the future stories and tales you will get to share with loved ones. Best of luck!

7 Tips to Saving Money on Your Summer Wedding

1. Friends and Family

Before jumping into the rabbit hole, your first thought should be, “Do I have any friends, family, extended family, or contacts through friends and family that are vendors or in the wedding space?” We immediately made contact with former colleagues that do breathtaking photography (see Janelle Carmela & Erinn Kiley), and officiate weddings beautifully (see Marry Me Karla). Reaching out to people you know and trust not only can save you a few pennies, but can also put your mind at ease. So, break out the old rolodex and scan your phone and Facebook lists…

2. Choose Off-Peak

If you are like us and chose to get married during the summer, know that this is PEAK time for wedding venues and vendors, and some jack up the prices and make their pinnacle profits. One of our biggest pieces of advice is to (if possible) schedule your wedding date and reception for an off-peak time during the summer months. This simple little tactic can save you thousands of dollars, but buyer beware: You will need to book (oftentimes) well in advance! What is Off-Peak? Well, look for Fridays and Sundays, weekdays, earlier in the day timing for ceremonies and receptions, and holiday weekends like Memorial Day or Labor Day. If you plan it out with the necessary lead time, this is a huge way to keep dough in your pockets, not debt!

3. DIY Superstars!

My wife and I had our minds made up that we needed a “teacher-themed” reception because we were, and continue to be, inspired by education and helping others. (Also, we happened to meet at work, so it seemed like a no-brainer!) We made a checklist of “must-have” items to be included in our day and then went out and found them for cheap, or made them ourselves. For example, we wanted our centerpieces to focus on literature. We bought used early-20th century original books from a library book sale to create pedestals for our flowers. We ended up creating a guest book out of an old dictionary with printed directions as you would find in a classroom activity, and we had pencil wedding favors that were inexpensive, easy to create, and a fun way to remember the day. As much as you can, try to do things yourself. Budget your time wisely before the big day and take a few nights and weekends to visit yard sales, search Facebook marketplace and other resale sites, get inspired by Etsy shops and images, reach out to your creative friends and family, and harness your inner DIY-er!

4. Flower Power

Couples usually spend around 10% of their overall wedding budget on flowers…holy honeysuckle! When trying to stretch a budget and save in this domain, here are a few tips:

  1. Make friends with your local flower dealer and let them know you would like to create the centerpieces yourself! Ask for tips and tricks before you DIY.

  2. Have the dealer put together the bouquets and boutonnieres, but buy the flowers in bulk. Then, you can arrange them for your centerpieces yourself (with the help of your family and friends, if they are willing and able) at home.

Note that this money saving tip works best if you have a crew to help you, especially since you have to assemble the day prior or day of the wedding in order to avoid droopy, sad flowers. Another option? Nix flowers in your centerpieces altogether, or at least traditional cut-from-the-vine ones- think potted plants or faux wood ones.

5. Mindful Menu

I can remember being blown away by the catering company at our tasting, and looking at all the hors d’oeuvres and add-ons (like a pasta course and upgraded bread basket). They were beyond tempting to add to our own menu. Unfortunately, all additions come with a price tag. Revising our menu and opting to keep it simple- the minimum passed hors d'oeuvres, and salad and a choice of main for dinner- was a money saver in the end.

Another aspect of food and drink…is the drink part. If having an open bar is important to you, then by all means, go for it! If it is not a must-have, opting for a cash bar, either the whole time or for part of your event, can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars.

6. Shop Til’ You Drop

For the areas of planning that we did not have personal connections, so much of our time was spent Googling and looking into potential vendors. Our top criteria? Quality, customer experience, and price. There are so many vendors out there that offer high quality and excellent customer service at an affordable price, but sometimes you have to sift through a lot of sites and customer reviews to find the ones best for you, your wedding, and your budget.

7. Invitation Imagination

Calligraphy or printed addresses on envelopes are beautiful and can be a time saver, but there are ways to DIY and save some money in the process. Plus, the envelopes just get recycled anyways! Have any family or friends with beautiful writing? Consider asking them to help you address your invites! My wife, her mother, and her matron of honor hand-addressed our save the dates and invitations, and made a morning of it! If you are looking to save money and have a positive impact on the environment, consider sending out paperless, electronic invites.

BONUS TIP: Keep it Simple

After we journeyed through the wedding planning gauntlet and made it out alive…and NOT broke…we realized that we needed to get involved as a vendor in this space. Instead of a photo booth at our reception, we opted for marquee letter lights that spelt out ‘LOVE’. This was another money saving move that was also one of the highlights of our party. It was so beautiful and heartwarming to see our friends and family getting their photos taken around this classic and elegant sign, and I think this spurred our inspiration to create Simply Marquee. Our ultimate goal is to provide a letter light service that is affordable to ALL people, professional, and straightforward. We currently have ‘LOVE’ and ‘MR & MRS’ letter sets that can be set to all different color combinations and effects, and we have numbers available for rent this June! We would love to help illuminate your future memories, and if interested in booking, please check out the helpful links below. We would be thrilled to work with you and your ideas to make your dream party come to fruition without breaking the bank!

Thank you, and this wedding planning thing? You got this!

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