Now, I can't claim to be any sort of expert on wedding planning. I can only tell you what I learned from planning my own, from watching my friends plan theirs, or from blogs I've read.
The biggest thing to realize is that, if you're doing more than just going to the courthouse in your jeans (which could be the perfect thing for you and your partner!), you will be spending more money than you probably realize. Something important to do, though, is to decide what is important to you (and your partner) and what isn't as important. The things that are important, well, you may find that you splurge on those things. The things that are not as important have some room to help you save money.
The most important things for us were/are:
- Small intimate ceremony on a fun day, dinner to follow
- Party in the summer to celebrate with our family and friends (much bigger)
- Open bar
- Plenty of food
- I make my dress
- Fun photos
- Good DIY Projects
- Music to dance/party to
Some less important things:
- Decorations, like centerpieces, aisle runner/hangings, etc.
- Traditional ceremony
- Programs/menus/other paper stuff
- Wedding planner
- Engagement party, bridal shower, rehearsal and dinner
- Cake (I baked a pie for Pi Day, and we're still figuring out dessert for the summer)
- Seating charts and a sit down dinner
Now saying that something is not as important doesn't mean that it's trivial to us - for example, we saved a ton of money on our invitations, but I spent a LOT of time on that aspect of our wedding to make them as pretty as possible (see my previous post about invitations). And we did have a ceremony (less than 10 min) in Nathaniel's parent's backyard. I carried flowers from the grocery store that I arranged myself. We had baby's breath in mason jars around where we stopped to say our "vows" which we wrote ourselves. We picked a song ("Here, There and Everywhere", Beatles covered by Jake Shimabukuro) that meant something to us for us to enter (separately) to.
We won't be making any other paper things, except our thank you cards (because I love sending mail like that). There won't be any extra parties. Just the one big awesome one this summer, and I'd rather be the planner of that day, with a little help from my sisters (because I have two now!) and my mom and mom-in-law. Also, I have amazing friends who don't stop offering help. I'm extremely lucky!
On the flip side, just because something is important to you doesn't mean it has to break the bank. My sister took our photos and they turned out AMAZING. She's a photography student so she knows what she's doing (you could look for students in your area, just do your research!). Had we not had my sister available, I would probably have splurged here, or worked incredibly hard to make sure any non-professional was someone I trusted enough with this. At our party, we might have a friend doing candid shots, and we are toying with the idea of a photo booth. Our food at our party is also going to be awesome - we went with a reasonably priced taco truck. People will get to sit/stand wherever they want and eat whenever they want.
Also, I ended up making my own dress. While this was a lot more work on my part, I spent about $200 for all the fabric, thread and zipper. The stress level was high sometimes, but I wanted something simple and classic looking, so I wasn't trying to overachieve with a giant princess gown. I was also completely accountable for everything - rather than going to the dress shop several times for fittings, I could put it on, pin it, tweak it, and try it on again. Of course I know I'm strange for doing this part of my wedding, but there are other ways to get an amazing dress without breaking the bank (ModCloth, Consignment shops, just find something white [or not!] that suits your personality that you feel beautiful in).
I literally could go on and on about this, but maybe I should wait for the next installment :)