My husband and I tied the knot in Washington, D.C., just weeks after the 2001 attacks. Many of our guests canceled because they were afraid to travel, and a few of our vendors even lowered their rates because we didn’t back out of our reservations. As a result, we were able to throw a much more extravagant celebration than what we had initially planned. And, honestly, we needed a big party. There were tanks on the streets, people rarely went outside, and everyone was afraid. We were all longing for a celebration focused on life, love, family, and friendship.
I mention this back story because I felt it would be hypocritical not to. I’m about to dispense advice for how to plan a simple wedding when ours wasn’t. Most of the advice listed below we followed (1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 10), but not all of it. I loved our wedding day and don’t regret the choices we made at that time, but if we were getting married now, we would certainly do some things differently. For starters, I would ditch my 12′ veil and the heavy, wet, velvet rose, flower-ball bouquet nightmare our flower girl carried.
Ten tips for planning a simple wedding:
1. Set your budget with money that you already have in a bank account. No one, under any circumstance, should go into debt for a wedding. If you only have $500 to spend on a wedding, then plan a $500 wedding. If your parents are paying for the wedding and say that they have $5,000 for your wedding, then plan a $5,000 wedding. Best case scenario, spend less than you have budgeted.
2. When choosing bridesmaids dresses, remember that the dresses will only be worn the day of the wedding. (No matter how many times a bride tries to convince her bridesmaids otherwise.) Asking your bridesmaids to spend hundreds of dollars on a dress and matching shoes might not be the best way to treat your friends. Consider letting them choose their own dresses, or buy them matching floor length skirts and ask them to buy coordinating tops in any style they want.
3. When hiring a photographer, work with someone who will shoot your wedding digitally. You won’t have to pay for printing proofs.
4. When choosing groomsmen tuxedos, consider letting them wear their own if they have them instead of forcing them to rent.
5. Be sure to ask your wedding venue their policy on flowers and musicians. Many churches require that you leave altar flowers after your ceremony and pay for their staff musicians even if you don’t use them. We coordinated with the other couples who were getting married on the same day at our venue and the three of us split the costs of two large arrangements that worked with all of our flowers.
6. Be willing to think outside the box. You and your future spouse are unique individuals and your wedding should reflect that. Just because everyone else has their wedding a certain way, doesn’t mean that you have to. Be sure to manage guest expectations, however. If you’re getting married on the side of a mountain in ski gear, your guests won’t appreciate it if you forget to provide this information. No one likes to ride a ski lift in a dress.
7. Consider having flowers that are locally grown and in season — you’ll save a lot of money if they don’t have to be flown in from the tropics.
8. Remember that your marriage is what is most important, not your wedding day. Keeping this in perspective will save you time and stress when it comes to making decisions about minute details.
9. If you choose to have party favors, consider something edible or consumable. (We made chocolate lollipops in the shape of maple leaves for our fall wedding for our guests.)
10. Keep in mind that even if your cake is destroyed or your friends start a fight or your organist doesn’t show up and everyone has to sing a Capella that at the end of the day, you’re still married.
The points I’ve made barely cover the tip of the iceberg on the topic of planning a simple wedding. I’d like to open up the comments to everyone to share your tips on how to plan a simple celebration!