Planning a wedding? Here's how to have a glam wedding and not break the bank!
In 2018, I married the love of my life in front of 380 of our closest friends and family on New Year's Eve! The night was filled with chandeliers, confetti canons, and balloon drops -- all the necessities of a NYE's party!
When we got engaged, my parents and I met to go over a budget and plan all things we needed and wanted -- note how I emphasized the word "wanted." There were things we had to have (food, alcohol, a dress) and things we wanted, and there is a very important distinction between the two! Throughout this post we will go over some of the tips + tricks of how we decided what was necessary and what extras we could stick in our budget to make our dream wedding come to life.
Let's get started!
*All photos in this post were taken by Sarah of Wild Valley Collective or The Mobile Jams Team
From the very start, my parents and I made a list of all the things we absolutely needed for our wedding day to happen. Those things included: the venue, a photographer/videographer (if you are debating on booking a videographer this is your sign to DO IT -- more on that later), food, alcohol, my wedding dress, decor, invitations, a DJ, and florals. We went down this list of necessities and wrote down how much money we were willing to spend on each item on the list. This set up a realistic budget and gave us a look into what we were going to be spending. After finalizing this budget, we could choose how much we could or wanted to set aside for the all the other wants.
What will people remember?
My dad is a smart man, let me tell you what! He said one sentence that will stick with me forever: "The guests at your wedding will remember 3 things -- the food, the alcohol, and the entertainment." And he was right. So that was exactly where we started.
Having a New Year's Eve wedding, we didn't have a typical wedding day timeline! We wanted to celebrate the way we normally would for NYE so we decided to have a late ceremony. It started at 8:30pm so we could dance our way into the new year! By the time we were eating is was 9:30pm so we were able to forgo a full blown meal and decided to have a smaller meal like we have every year before -- sausage, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes! We also had a bread spread and homemade Olive Garden salad -- because YUM. My dad made a comment in his welcome speech that we were celebrating like we do every year, we just decided to invite a few hundred more people than normal ;)
We also wanted to have a special treat since we didn't do a full meal so we decided to surprise our guests and have a midnight snack table! It was an absolute hit. The table had roasted olives, chips and homemade salsa, seasoned pretzels, and much more!
Having this meal made it incredibly special to us! That is something that you can incorporate into your meal as well! That might look like a burger bar, tacos, gourmet pizza, or if you two are obsessed with Chipotle, get them to cater! Whatever you choose, making it special to you two makes your wedding that much more memorable!
Now that brings us to dessert -- a favorite among many! With having so many guests, we didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a cake that would most likely not get eaten. I had a close friend make us a small, one tier cake that we could use for the traditional cake cutting! Besides, my mom is famous for many things and one of those things is her Texas Sheet Cake. We asked some of my mom's besties and a few of my aunts to each make a cake to serve to our guests. The sheet cakes could go a lot further than a tiered cake and are pretty freaking delicious if I do say so myself!
The alcohol was something we did a bit of research on. Depending on what you're wanting to serve at your wedding is up to you, but as a whole, we decided to serve beer and wine. Because we had so many guests and knew we didn't want to have one million tables we had to be a little creative with our table arrangements. Instead of using the standard 8 foot, rectangular tables individually and only getting 8 people around it comfortably, we put two of them together to form a large square table to fit 12 people around it. This was a great option for us to use our space wisely and we truly thought it made the reception space look a little more glam!
Because of this, we put 3 bottles of wine at each table for them to start the night with. We ditched the traditional "receiving line" and had our guests go straight to the ceremony (Again, more on that topic later)! No one likes waiting for the bridal party unless there is a cocktail hour and since we were already done with all the photos we needed we didn't want to make them wait any longer! Having those bottles of wine at the table already gave them reason to stay in their seats and not run to the bar until the meal started.
**get a friend of your sibling to bartend for you because chances are they know a lot of the people at your wedding and makes a great bartender!
The entertainment might be the most important decision we made during the wedding planning process that made our wedding so memorable! We knew that taking our guests away from their usual NYE party meant they couldn't miss out on anything! Our DJ ended up being what we spent the most money on. As surprising as that is to hear, it was the best money we could have spent. We went with Bob Hickman from Marquee Events and it paid off big time!
When we booked him, we ended up getting much more than just a DJ that plays good music. He had a timeline and stuck to it, he played great music that kept 100+ guests on the dance floor all night, and had some amazing additions that just made our night magical!
When we met with him, the one thing that my husband wanted was "dancing on the clouds" and boy am I glad he made that a priority! During our first dance, Bob blew a fog machine that literally looked like Kenny and I were dancing on clouds and it was unreal!
We also wanted to set up a screen to project the ball drop when it hit midnight. That plan didn't work because we didn't have access to stream it, so we improvised and it ended up being the best plan b we ever could have had! Bob had access to large nets for an epic balloon drop. We set it up and at midnight the strings were pulled and hundreds of balloons dropped down on our guests and it was ah-ma-zinggg!
Ceremony to Reception
The time from the ceremony ending to our bridal party entering the reception, our first dance, and all our guests getting through the food line was approximately 45min. This was very important to me because I have been to so many weddings that this down time has been up to 2 or 3 hours - and while that is sometimes necessary and enjoyable for guests, it can also bring the energy down - which was not what I wanted for our wedding night!
We came up with a great system to get our guests from the ceremony to the reception quickly, efficiently, and painlessly! First of all, we eliminated the traditional receiving line. We knew we would be the first to eat so we made our rounds to each table while they were eating instead of doing it as they left the ceremony. This cut down a TON of time because we had so many guests.
Instead of having a seating chart that people have to hover around as they walk into the reception, we made an insert for the programs that had the seating chart on it. The seating chart was alphabetical by last name with the table number at the end. Because they knew their table before the ceremony even started, we had our wedding coordinators stand at the reception entrance guiding people to tables. This was a great system for us and I highly recommend doing something similar!
Speaking of wedding coordinators, GET ONE! You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding planner (I mean you can if you have the budget because they are amazingggg - check out my college teammate's wedding planning business here!). But you need to find someone you trust that you know will help keep your wedding day moving along. My mom's best friend, Jo, and her daughter, Megan, are two of the most organized, determined, get yo' shit done kind of women that my mom and I know combined! We gave them our vision and they helped us get it done! Throughout our wedding night, I truly don't think one thing went wrong! And it's because of them. (Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Jo + Meg)
**hey you type A brides -- LET PEOPLE HELP YOU!! Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk
No Kid Reception
What is the main goal of a wedding reception? Having a good time and partying with your favorite people in the whole world, right?? What's the one thing that can immediately kill that vibe? Okay, I'll be the one to say it -- kids.
I love kids!! Some of my favorite humans are my little cousins - but sometimes it just needs to be an adults only evening! And there are going to be the "are my kids allowed to come?" or "Well if my kids can't come, then I'm not coming" people. You can simply explain that you are so excited to host them at the biggest party you've ever thrown and you want them to have a good time and enjoy themselves! Free date night, am I right??
Remember -- it's YOUR day!
Lose the favors!! End of discussion.
Ohhhh "the dress" is so special right?? I actually wanted to wear my mom's wedding dress and redesign it to make it more modern but my mom was a little skinny mini at the ripe age of 19! So getting married at two months shy of 25, it didn't fit me...so I headed to Lavender Bridal Salon in Dover, Ohio.
I knew in my heart what I wanted, but I still went in with an open mind! I think that is my biggest tip going into wedding dress shopping - even if you think you know what you want, give other dresses the chance! You never know :) I tried on 3 dresses until I found "the one" but tried on 2 more to make my mom happy ( lol ).
Ask anyone I know and you'll realize I'm not the girliest of girls but when I stepped into that third dress, I looked at my bridal consultant, smiled, and said, "yep, this is the one." Definitely had my "Cinderella moment" and could picture myself walking down the aisle to my husband.
My budget for a dress was $1,000. I wanted to feel like a bride but wasn't willing to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on a dress you wear once. I know your wedding day is important, but your marriage is a whole lot bigger than putting you or your parents in debt for a dress you'll wear once. One of my bestie, Janel, even thrifted her wedding dress and was stunning!
Throughout your wedding day there are so many places to add unique little touches that encapsulate both of you as a couple! Your guest book is no exception. There are many great ideas on Pinterest but they all seemed very overdone and outdated. We came up with the idea of using a world map as our guestbook, having our guest sign it and leave a note, and be able to frame and hang on our wall.
We had a sign that said "It means the world to us that you're here." We doctored up a little table, added some pine, and brought it all together! It was one of my favorite details of the day :)
I ended up having 9 bridesmaids! Each and every one of those girls meant something different to me, but were equally important to have standing beside me on the biggest day of my life. Some were college teammates, one a future sister-in-law, an aunt best friend, a cousin bests friend - all lifelong friends. Find your tribe and love them hard, ladies.
There were 3 top priorities when choosing what I wanted my bridesmaids to wear: be comfortable, be something they can wear again, and not break the bank.
- My bridesmaids were all different heights, shapes, and sizes. One dress wasn't going to flatter all nine women and NO ONE wants to feel uncomfortable for 10 hours, in a dress they don't feel beautiful in.
- Who else has been personally victimized by bridesmaid dresses hanging in your closet that you'll never wear again?
- Every woman who has ever been in a wedding knows how fun it is to be a bridesmaid, but also knows how frustrating it can be to spend $300 on a dress you will never ever wear again. Remember, we're balling on a budget, sister.
I never really wanted a "traditional" wedding so having mismatched dresses was an easy decision. Having a NYE wedding, I wanted my girls to wear any party dress they wanted - it just had to be black, dark green, or grey. I didn't know how well it'd go without telling them which color to get, but God was on our side and it was pulled off flawlessly.
**I totally recommend doing a first look with your bridesmaids! It's precious!
Kenny and I were together for 8 years by the time we got engaged so ya girl was ready to get married! We got engaged in July so having a five month engagement we didn't even send out save the dates because by the time those were ordered and sent out, it would be time to send the invites.
We decided we could keep the invitations super simple to save money! We knew most people would look at it, put it on their calendars and throw it away.
Our friend Josh designed our invites and programs very inexpensively and ordered them for us. To save even more money on postage, we set up an account on theknot.com to have our guests RSVP through the website or simply text me. This made keeping track of the guest list very simple and very inexpensive :)
Our parents and bridal party did so much to support and help give us the wedding of our dreams and they deserve to be thanked with a thoughtful gift. Where a lot of people go wrong is spending a fortune on these gifts! I was able to find thoughtful gifts but staying within our budget to do it.
My mom - A ceramic jewelry box that read "All that I am I owe to my mother" with a personalized message on the inside
Kenny's mom - A ring dish that read "Thank you for raising the man of my dreams"
My Dad - A watch inscribed with a personalized message on the back
Bridesmaids - A handmade macrame keychain, a cute pineapple tumbler with straw, and champagne glass with my nickname for them on it
Groomsmen - Yeti Rambler + 6 pack of their favorite beer
I'm a sap for super personal gifts and also love supporting small businesses! If there are local stores or Etsy shops you can buy from, think about supporting those small businesses before you go to Target :)
Photography + Videography
As a wedding photographer myself, I know firsthand how important picking a wedding photographer is! Finding someone you know will have your back throughout the whole day is so important because you will spend the majority of your day with them! Think about that - do you want to spend 10 hours straight with someone you don't connect with? Absolutely not. Finding a wedding photographer that fits you and your fiancés' personalities and needs is the key!
There is a photographer out there for you! If you're looking for a wedding photographer, you can check out my website here!
One of the best decisions we made was hiring a videographer! Photos are so so special to look back on and pass down to the generations to come after you - BUT - having a video of your day and getting to literally relive the best day of your life all over again is worth every penny. If you are on the fence and needing a sign to help you decide if it's worth it - THIS IS IT.
In the two years we've been married, I have watched our wedding video at least 15 times - no joke!
Final Do's + don'ts
- Thrift for decor
- Keep a list in your phone of possible ideas of wedding vows if you're writing your own
- Ask your officiant to move to one side or the other during your first kiss
- Have a wedding day emergency kit like this one here!
- Check out this website for disposable dinnerware
- Rent a tent - buy table cloths
- Think about using fake flowers (we did!)
- Don't let people take away your voice - IT'S YOUR DAY!
- Don't stress about things going wrong...if at the end of the day you get married, your wedding was a success
- Don't go into spiraling debt over one day
- Don't leave for your honeymoon immediately - trust me.
If You Made It This Far...
If you made it to the end, I hope you were able to take away one thing that can help make your dream wedding come to life. My prayer for you as you continue planning your special day, as gorgeous and picture perfect as you make your wedding, is that your marriage is even more breathtaking. I married the best guy I know and truly hope every single person finds someone to make them as happy as Kenny has made me.