A Bride Confesses: I Hate Weddings.

Image source: [http://bit.ly/2eYsBD1]
Image source: [http://bit.ly/2eYsBD1]

I’m married, but I hate weddings.

This might come as a surprise to everyone who attended my wedding last year. Don’t get me wrong – we had a blast. It was a wonderful family reunion, and the best party we’ve ever thrown. I just really, really wish it hadn’t revolved around us.

My husband and I were very happy that our families wanted to celebrate our union. If we made our mothers happy, then mission accomplished. But I didn’t want to play bride. I just wanted to be a wife.

The day we got engaged, everyone went into production mode. Where will the wedding be? Do you know what kind of dress you want? Have you decided on colors? How many people are going to be invited?

It surprised me that so many people cared. But then, I hadn’t realized just how many people lose their shit over weddings. People love them. They’re a big deal. And while I felt ready for marriage, I was not ready for a wedding.

Saving on Your Wedding: The Best Money-Saving Tips from a Poor Grad Student

It’s no secret that weddings can get expensive, but you don’t have to empty your savings to fund the day of your dreams.

It’s no secret that wedding costs have gotten a little out of hand. Every time I watch Say Yes to the Dress I’m shocked at how much people will spend on a single gown. Each time I see Four Weddings I gawk at the priciest events, wondering who has that kind of money.

And the truth is, the amount you spend on your wedding doesn’t really matter in the long run. How tall the cake is doesn’t say anything about how big your hearts are and the length of your train doesn’t show how much you love each other.

Still, weddings are expensive even if you’re not going for a luxury wedding. Costs add up and even the most basic features can really drain your bank account.

I realized first-hand how pricey weddings can get when I began planning ours, and as a poor grad student. The only way we could make it work was  to use my money-saving skills to keep the big day reasonable. I learned a lot about what corners to cut and how to save a few bucks, and in the end, I found a great balance.

Here are my 8 best life-hacks for saving money on your wedding and still having the day of your dreams.

1. Before you do anything else, take account of what you have

First things first: decide on what you need and what you already have.

From flowers, to wedding favors, to your dress, to centerpieces, things can really add up. However, you might not need to spend full-price on every item on your list. Doing some things yourself (instead of using a vendor) can save you a lot of money. But be careful… sometimes DIY can end up being even more expensive. The secret is to use what you’ve got.

I’m pretty crafty and I have a lot of friends that drink wine. So, I looked online for instructions on how to take the label off of empty wine bottles and how to paint them. Then I stuck some flowers in the bottles, added some tea candles, and boom, centerpieces: done.

But maybe you’re really good at baking and can make your own “cookie bar” for dessert at your reception. Or maybe you’re great at sewing and could do the alterations on your dress, or even make the whole thing.

I knew a woman whose family owned honeybees and they gave little jars of honey to wedding guests as favors. It was cute and personal, and cheaper than a comparable wedding favor.

Don’t be afraid to be creative and use what you have.

2. Reach out to friends for help.

When I first started planning my wedding, I wished I had friends in the industry. I thought it would be easier to hire people I trusted, rather than just depending on Yelp reviews to find all my vendors.

As it turned out, I did know some people in the industry, but I had to dig for them. I knew a girl in college who was starting a business as a wedding coordinator. Since she was a friend and just starting to do weddings, I got a serious discount when I hired her. Plus, I got someone I trusted to help me plan the big day.

Later on, I realized through Facebook that another old friend had a floral business. I got a great deal on some beautiful florals and got to connect with an old pal.

Then, I remembered my cousin used to take calligraphy classes. As a wedding gift, she helped me address my invitations, and they looked incredible.

Look up old friends on social media and ask around, you never know who’ll you’ll find.

3. Know which kinds of shops you’re going into. If they give you champagne… run.

I started my dress search at a cute boutique. The shop had lovely decorations and beautiful, sparkly dresses on display all over the place. When I walked in I was given champagne and shown into a giant dressing room. It was such a great experience…until I saw price tags.

Remember that some shops are “premium” shops, with premium prices. You might enjoy the fancy look and the royalty treatment of some stores… but you’ll pay for it.

I ended up looking for more hole-in-the-wall bridal salons near me. It was less like going to Tiffany’s and more like going to a neighborhood jeweler… but it was worth it. I paid a low price for a dress I loved, which is something I wouldn’t have gotten at the glitzier place.

Know what kind of shops you’re going into. If you want to try out one of the fancier salons for the experience, go for it. But don’t think those five thousand dollar dresses are your only option. Also don’t think they won’t have the same dress for a smaller price at another shop.

And when it comes down to it, just remember, you’ll only wear this dress for the one day. While you might want to look perfect, how you feel on that day, and the love you share with your partner, are much more important than what you wear. Your smile and the way you look at your spouse, will make you look perfect no matter what you’re wearing.

4. Use a friend as an officiant.

Usually, the services of a priest or rabbi will only require a donation to the church, but most officiants can cost around $500-$800.

You might need a certain officiant based on your religion, but if not, think about getting a friend to do it. It only costs about $20 to $40 to get ordained online and you could end up having a really great officiant who knows you both really well.

It could make your ceremony as special and unique as your relationship.

romantic wedding couple

5. Forget about the extra flowers.

Do you need flowers on the aisle seats? No. Do you need flowers on the table where people collect their name cards? No.

Look, flowers are expensive and all those extra arrangements can really add up. Many people spend at least five thousand on their flowers…and for many of us, that’s just not realistic.

See if a florist can do an à la carte service for you: just the bouquets and boutineers. It will cover what you need but will also keep your bill low.

As for decorating the ceremony and reception space, you can find some lanterns for cheap online or put together some cute pictures (in fancy frames) of you and your spouse on tables. Don’t be afraid to stray from those traditional flowers: it might end up making your decor even more special and personal.

6. Skip the photo booth: it’s a downgrade no one will notice.

Photo booths are a fun way to get your guests feeling wacky and it gives them a fun party favor to put on their fridge. But photo booths are super expensive, so what do you do?

Try to apply the same idea to something less pricey. Your guests will have just as much fun posing with props in front of a cool background. Put up a poster or some balloons and set out some fun hats and accessories. Or even put disposable cameras on tables. People will have fun posing and posting their pics and it won’t break your bank.

7. Ask for vendors instead of gifts from your close family.

Trust me: you can totally go without that pressure cooker you put on the registry. Or at least, you can wait until after the honeymoon to go get it yourself.

One great way to get the wedding of your dreams is to ask your close family and friends for a special wedding gift: something you can enjoy on the day. Ask your sister for the gift of the bridal bouquet (which usually costs about $100-$150) or ask your aunt for an hour or two of music from a DJ.

Most close friends and family will probably spend about $100 on your wedding present, and if you think they’re close enough, or not too traditional about gift-giving, ask for part of your wedding to be their gift. You get to save money, you won’t end up with eighteen sets of silverware, and your guest doesn’t have to wrap anything: win-win-win!

8. Make it a rule: no plus ones.

When I first made my invite list, I made a rule: no plus ones.

I know this can be unpopular, but plus ones are expensive and if you’re on a budget, this should be the first thing on your chopping block.

Your cousin might be upset that he or she can’t bring a date, but you probably don’t want some stranger (or someone you don’t know very well) at your wedding anyway.

Of course, if your guest is married, invite their spouse for sure. Or, if your best friend has had this boyfriend or girlfriend for many years, consider inviting their mate. Just don’t spend money on a random date someone scraped up for your event.

Weddings can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams of having your ideal day. Use these tips to save money in style, and save up for that honeymoon!

Wedding Planning Woes: Questioning Traditions that Separate the Bride and Groom

I was on a mission to make our wedding more modern, more inclusive, more about “us.”

When I got engaged, I started planning my wedding right away.

Before I knew it, I was waist-deep in Pinterest boards, bridal magazines, and cake samples—and loving it. There was just one problem: in all my planning, I realized that there were a lot of wedding traditions that I didn’t like. Or, at least, didn’t connect with.

Of course, I knew that some wedding traditions are old-fashioned (looking at you bride-wears-virginal-white), but I was prepared for that.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how many traditions separated the bride and groom.

Between the separate bachelor/bachelorette parties, ladies-only wedding dress shopping excursions, and even the tradition of not seeing each other the day of the wedding, I felt like my fiancé and I were being pushed away from each other. Which, call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure is the opposite of what’s supposed to happen with a wedding.

Between a bridal shower, bachelorette party, and more, I would spend a lot of time with my mom and my friends, but I really wanted my future husband to be there too. It was our wedding and I wanted to share every experience leading up to it with him.

In my frustration and (moderate) case of wedding planning mania, I did some Googling. I wanted to find out where these separation traditions came from in the first place. As it turns out, back when most of these practices started, it was common for couples to only know each other for a short period of time before getting married, if they’d even met at all.

So, It makes sense that the couple would spend more time with their friends and family than they would with each other (after all- they likely knew their friends better than their future spouse).

But these days, people date for a long time. My husband and I were together for nearly a decade before we got engaged, so when it came to wedding plans and pre-wedding parties we decided to do things a little differently.

Here are some of the things we did to put a twist on wedding traditions, making our wedding more modern and more about us.

1. Shopping for the dress together.

I know that it’s supposed to be bad luck to see the bride’s dress before the wedding, but I was willing to take that risk.

I wanted my husband to help me dress shop because I knew he’d be good at it. He’s always been pretty stylish and he has a good eye for what looks good (and bad) on me.

Plus, I didn’t want to (potentially) spend thousands of dollars on a dress without at least getting his opinion on it. If seeing the dress before the wedding was bad luck, spending lots of money on an outfit the groom hated had to be even worse.

We ended up going to a few different shops and, while I felt like dress shopping took a long time, having my fiancé there made it so much fun. Shopping for a dress can be stressful and it was nice to be able to talk to my future husband about it, look at pictures together, and get his opinion on different styles. I wanted the wedding to be about both of us, and both of our tastes, and I was happy my dress was included in that.

I know you might be thinking that maybe some grooms won’t care that much about what their brides wear, or that they won’t be able to pick up on subtle differences between dresses (to be fair- I was useless when trying to help my husband pick out a suit). But at the end of the day I loved having the experience of shopping together and it made me feel even more confident with my dress.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos

2. Throwing a duel wedding shower.

When it came time for my bridal shower, I had decided that I wanted a more traditional shower- just me and all our closest female friends and relatives. But lots of couples think it’s even better to do it together. And I think they’re on to something.

While I had a more traditional bridal shower, my husband and I also threw a duel engagement party. Right after we got engaged, we invited our closest family and friends over for drinks and appetizers to kick off our marriage celebration. It was a great way for our families to get to know each other, and it felt good to have a casual pre-wedding celebration we could enjoy together.

3. Choosing decor and decorations as a team.

Maybe it’s not necessarily a written tradition, but after seeing a lot of friends get married, I realized that a lot of times the bride plans the bulk of the wedding and makes almost all the style decisions. I thought that sounded unfair: I didn’t want to plan a whole wedding by myself and I also didn’t want to leave my fiancé’s style out of our big day.

In the end, we found that we were able to do almost everything together.

We went on every venue tour together, we looked on Pinterest for flower ideas together, and even picked out wedding favors together (we decided on cookies- they were delicious). In the end, it was a great way to practice making decisions as a couple and we got to spend some quality time together looking forward to our big day.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos

4. A combined bachelor/bachelorette party.

The idea of a “last fling before the ring” or “last night of freedom” seemed so unnatural to me. My husband and I have never been big party-goers, but when we do go out, we’re always together. We liked the idea of going out with our friends for a “girl’s night” or “guy’s night” but we decided that this particular party was in celebration of our wedding, and we wanted to be together.

In the end, the two of us, plus all the bridesmaids and groomsmen, rented a house for a weekend-long pool party—and had a ton of fun. It was a great way to let the bridal party get to know each other before the wedding and it was a chance for my future husband and I to spend some relaxing quality time together before getting back to wedding planning.

5. Walking down the aisle together.

There’s nothing quite like those pictures of the groom getting teary eyed as he watches his bride come down the aisle… but I found that walking down the aisle together is just as special.

I always hated the idea of being walked down the aisle and being “given away.” It just wasn’t something I was comfortable with—so I decided early on that I didn’t want to have a parent walk with me. To make matters worse, I can get pretty bad stage fright and didn’t love the idea of walking down the aisle alone (with everyone looking at me).

In the end, my fiancé and I decided that we should walk down the aisle together. We felt that it symbolized our togetherness and support for one another, and we liked that it was a little different from the tradition. As an added bonus, I loved having a quiet moment alone with my soon-to-be husband outside the venue, peeking in at everyone in their seats, before we walked in.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos

6. Writing your ceremony together.

Just because others use those classic vows doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, it could feel even more special if you write your own together.

Of course, some religious ceremonies will have a set script, but when you can personalize your ceremony, I say do it. When we were getting ready for our ceremony, our officiant sent us a few different ceremony scripts to choose, combine, and change as we pleased. My fiancé and I sat down at the computer one night and cut and paste together an original ceremony that we thought fit us.

We loved how personal our ceremony was and, on top of that, we had fun working on them together.

7. Spending the wedding day together.

It’s tradition to have the bride and groom in separate rooms before the wedding, but it’s your special day, and you deserve to enjoy it together.

You might want to have breakfast together, get ready together, or just set aside a good amount of time for pictures before the ceremony. My husband and I loved taking pictures before our wedding because it gave us some time to enjoy each other’s company before our guests arrived. Seeing each other helped us both stay calm before the ceremony and we were so thankful for the extra time together on our wedding day.

Time goes by so quickly during the ceremony, and before you know it, the reception is over. That time of excitement spent together before the ceremony might just end up being what you cherish most.

There are so many wedding traditions… but that doesn’t mean you have to follow every one of them. You’ll find that the best wedding memories are the ones you and your spouse share together, so don’t be afraid to put a twist on tradition and make your wedding your own.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos