Wedding planning: Looking at the big picture and getting started on the right track

This week I’m covering basic initial planning and getting yourself started on the right track. You’ll find that I come back to these basic principles throughout the series because they truly were the basis of my wedding planning strategy. They affected each and every detail of my wedding, and ultimately determined our bottom line.

Prioritize and cut corners on the things that matter less to you.

When you first start planning, it can be overwhelming. There is so much to do. One of the most helpful tips I read in the beginning was, “Sit down and think about exactly what you want. Look at the big picture before you start planning.”

Many wedding planning magazines and websites urge you to think about everything you want so you won’t leave out any of the over-the-top fantasies you’ve always had about your wedding day. When I sat down to think about the big picture, I considered what was most important to me instead.

I considered doing a small affair with just immediate family in a casual setting, but I ultimately decided that I didn’t want to miss out on the basic traditions: the white dress, the floral bouquet, my best friend as my maid of honor, or having the people close to me beyond my immediate family present.

Once we had a list of what was absolutely most important to us, we started cutting out the things that didn’t matter so much. I didn’t need a huge, extravagant party with a DJ and dancing. I didn’t really want a sit-down dinner or a huge guest list. All of those things cost a lot of money, and many people think you have to have them just because most people do. But if it isn’t important to you, then it’s not worth spending all that money. If you figure out what matters most to you, you can spend more of your money on that stuff.

Keep your guest list short

This isn’t an option for everybody because it’s a tough thing to do. Ultimately, I felt that my wedding was a very personal thing, so I only wanted my closest friends and family to be there. Our guest list ended up being about 50 people.

Our small guest list saved us money in a lot of ways. We had a beautiful reception venue at an absurdly affordable price, but the catch was that the place only held 50 people with no room for dancing.

This worked for us because we didn’t want a lot of people there. If inviting your entire extended family is one of your priorities, you’ll have to cut corners elsewhere to make it work.

Keep your attendant list short

Both my husband and I have known our best friends for many years. They were our college roommates, and we’ve known them since childhood. So it was very important to us to include them in our wedding. However, even though I have three sisters and a sister-in-law who I love very much, I just couldn’t do 5 attendants for each of us. It would have complicated the process of choosing their attire and inflated our flower costs.

We loved having two attendants. It made our best friends feel extra special, and it also made it a lot easier to plan for attire and buy flowers.

Do it yourself if you can.

This is the most obvious tip for planning a wedding on a small budget, but it bears repeating. If you can do it yourself, then it’ll probably cost you a lot less. We made our own invitations and favors, provided the music for our reception by creating a huge iPod playlist of our favorite songs, and made our own centerpieces for the tables.

Open a separate checking account for wedding funds and ONLY use that debit card when paying for wedding related things.

This final tip is about money management. Even when planning a frugal wedding, it’s easy to be swept away in the planning and spend more than you want. That’s why it’s important to keep the money that you’ve saved specifically for the wedding separate from your day-to-day living money and your regular savings.

We had a lot of money coming in from several different sources, including our own savings and contributions from our parents. To simplify things, I kept all of the wedding money in a separate wedding account with a debit card.

You could easily open an ING checking account for this purpose and earn a little interest in the months leading up to your wedding. Whatever works for you. I just know it would have been a lot more confusing to keep track of our budget and stay on track if our wedding funds were combined with our regular money.

Having a separate account also made it a lot less painful to make those big purchases. The money was there and it was set aside specifically for our wedding, so I didn’t even flinch when I had to spend large amounts of money for the big-ticket purchases like the reception food.

Come back next Wednesday for the second installment: cutting costs for the ceremony and reception!

3 thoughts on “Wedding planning: Looking at the big picture and getting started on the right track

  1. tiffanie

    great tips :)

    we kept our guest list to about 100 and had a catered buffet style dinner, but the hall, DJ, and catering was all in a package price. we found a married couple who had just opened a reception hall where he does the music and she does the food, and you can get it all for a single price. oh! and decorating was also included, which was awesome…no clean up afterward! it was VERY affordable because they were new and trying to spread the word. and it was beautiful :)

  2. Judy Yublosky

    What a great article! Very informative and I especially liked your tip about opening up a separate checking account just for wedding items. That is a great tip. I look forward to the next article.

  3. Pingback: Wedding Wednesday: Planning an elegant reception without spending a fortune « Living Well on Less

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