Today is our second wedding anniversary, and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Looking through our wedding pictures and receiving sweet notes from our families got me thinking about how crazy that time was before our wedding, and how I’m not exactly sure how I (we) got through it all. When we found out that Kevin had landed a job in the U.K, we knew it meant we’d have to get married in a hurry if I was going to join him. We had been talking about marriage for a few months, but neither of us expected to have to pull a wedding together in 6 weeks. But somehow, we did it. And we had a lot of fun.
So, if you’re in a hurry to get hitched, or if you have an itty bitty budget, I have a little advice for you.
1. Get by with a little help from your friends (and family, and friends of friends).
If people offer to help, resist the urge to control everything, and let them. My mother in law set up the chairs for our ceremony. One of Kevin’s colleagues had a friend who offered up their backyard as a spot for our ceremony, and we made it work (free venue in Napa Valley!). A friend helped me get ready on the big day (after a hair tutorial from my stylist). We saved a ton of money on set up fees and avoided having to hire a planner.
2. Keep it small.
One of the best ways to get your wedding costs (and stress) under control is to keep your guest list short. We started with a list of 120 and narrowed it down to only 45, and it was the best decision we made. The small guest list reduced our hassle and expense, but it also allowed us to enjoy quality time with everyone who attended. We emailed the friends and family who weren’t invited and told them the truth-that we love and appreciate them, but that we could neither afford nor manage a big wedding. The responses were overwhelmingly kind and supportive.
3. Be resourceful.
I hired one of my former students (who is now studying photography) to be our photographer. I cared about getting great candid shots more than portraits, and I knew she could handle it. Her services for the evening cost us all of $200. Kevin’s best friend played his guitar at our ceremony. His services were free. For our reception we brought our iPod with a pre-planned playlist and Bose speakers, and saved ourselves the cost of a DJ or band (as well as awful requests like the Hokey Pokey).
4. Throw tradition out the window.
Given the size of our wedding, we decided not to have a wedding party. When you only have 35 in attendance, it feels like one big, unofficial wedding party, except no one had to spend money on matching outfits. One of our closest friends officiated the wedding, which allowed us to personalize the ceremony as much as we wanted to (we kept it short and sweet at 8 minutes long). We didn’t care much about having a traditional cake, so we saved a lot of money by letting our guests order dessert off the menu at the restaurant that hosted our reception.
In the age of Pinterest and a gazillion wedding blogs, it’s easy to get carried away with the planning and spend hours (if not days) agonizing over decor and favors. Do you remember the favors from weddings you went to 5 years ago? Or what colors the flowers were? Neither do I. People remember who they met, how much they drank and danced, and whether or not it was a fun wedding. We decided to put the bulk of our budget towards food and booze, and our guests seemed pretty pleased with that decision.
6. Don’t waste time organizing things that don’t need to be organized.
I sat down to organize a seating chart, agonized over it for a few hours, then gave up. I realized that our guests are adults who are perfectly capable of picking a chair, sitting in it, and enjoying their evening. It wasn’t necessary for me to micromanage the experience. Everyone made new friends and the seating chart ended up being a non-issue.
*I did create a seating chart for the “head table” so we could sit with friends who had participated in the ceremony.
7. Remember that it’s your wedding.
Kevin and I decided from day 1 of planning that we were willing to hear advice and input from family and friends, but that ultimately our wedding would be about, well,us. Guests were going to have to choose between a vegetarian and a meat option because I’m a vegetarian. Meat eaters would have to either enjoy their steak dinner or try something new. We walked down the aisle together, hand in hand, because we were starting our life together. My dad didn’t give me away because, well, that’s just antiquated nonsense. Obviously every couple and every family is different (ours kept pretty quiet about their opinions and let us do as we pleased), but it’s really important to filter out the noise and plan the wedding you would enjoy the most.
8. Don’t fall into the wedding markup trap.
Venues and vendors mark up their rates significantly for weddings. Whenever you can get away with it-lie your ass off. We told the restaurant that we were renting the space for a going away party, we told the chair vendor that we were renting for a garden party, and so on. They’re not going to come after you for the secret markup if they find out you’re lying! Another secret: use small or lesser known vendors whenever possible. We found our amazingly talented and affordable florist on Yelp. She does flowers for parties and weddings as a hobby, which meant she was really flexible (we hired her 2 weeks before the event) and easy to work with. And did I mention talented?
9. Make it a multi-day affair.
We were living in California wine country when we got married, so we invited everyone to come for a three-day weekend and enjoy everything Napa Valley has to offer. We set up an itinerary on our wedding site and let people choose which activities they’d like to do with us, as well as other options if they wanted to go their own way. We had a really fun wine tasting caravan the day before our wedding, and it allowed us to spend quality time with everyone, which left us feeling relaxed before the big day.
10. Enjoy the process and the day.
Don’t let anyone tell you that nonsense about how you won’t spend time with your spouse at the reception, and you won’t have time to eat, blah blah blah. Make time for what is important. Enjoy yourself, and don’t succumb to the cultural pressure to have the BIGGEST MOST MEMORABLE WEDDING EVER. Focus on having fun and appreciate the special moments. You only get to do this once.