Wedding Series:  Part 1

Wedding season is right around the corner so I thought it would be fun to do a 5-post blog series covering some unique ideas, stress-reducing tips, and more!  People who have gotten married and/or planned a wedding usually fall into one of three camps when it comes to reminiscing:  1)  I wish I had just ditched all the drama and ELOPED! 2) I wish I had done things a lot differently 3) Best day of my life and I’d love to have the party all over again!  You can probably guess that I align very well with #3. It doesn’t mean it was all rainbows and butterflies – it wasn’t – but I learned so much through the process and in hindsight, and am excited about sharing with you some things that might make your life a little bit easier.

This post will cover 6 unique DIYs and cost-saving tips you may not have come across.  Weddings are expensive!! MUCH more expensive than I could’ve ever imagined.  As we began to understand the amount of money we’d be working with + all of the possible costs involved, we had to start finding things to cut back on or remove entirely from the event.  I think we did a great job of using some of our creative strengths to add our personal touch, but keep our costs down in every way we could.

1)   Aisle runner with hand-written poem (total cost – $15.41)
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This is one of my absolute favorite wedding DIYs because it was memorable, made SUCH a huge statement, and cost almost nothing.  If you go search Etsy and Pinterest right now you’ll find all sorts of runners; the plain burlap ones are $50-100 and then you’re looking at hundreds for something more detailed, and even more for hand-written or calligraphy details.  Do this instead:  go buy a bolt of cheap muslin fabric (I got mine from Wal-Mart, believe it or not), and a big thick Sharpie marker.  The trickiest part was measuring and staying consistent with my writing (I have zero professional letting skills) and keeping the fabric flat.  To do that, I used a glass table top and 6-8 old-school binder clips to hold the fabric down and focused on writing one stanza at a time.  I kept a piece of posterboard beneath the muslin that was sized just right to fit a 5-line stanza, based on our guesstimates.  I practiced lettering for a good 20 minutes before I started in on the real thing – writing in big print like that is much different than your everyday handwriting!

We hung ours from the ceiling at the venue so we actually had a connected backdrop and aisle runner in one.  We chose 2 different poems, leaving a bunch of open space in the area where we’d stand.  The backdrop showcased Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXIX and the wording on the runner was Henry David Thoreau’s “Friendship” poem.  Bonus:  we now use it as a piece of art in our home.  We took a standard closet dowel rod and rolled up most of the fabric, leaving a few stanzas showing and it’s hung with fishing wire and a tiny nail.

2)  DIY Centerpieces and Flowers (total cost est. $375)
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If you’re in the process of planning a wedding, I can almost guarantee you that one of your first GASP moments will be at that first florist estimate, especially if you’re planning on over 150 people attending.  In my humble opinion, flowers are a waste of money and will die within a few days, especially those big giant centerpieces… and they are fricking expensive!!!  Not to mention, they kind of block you from seeing the people across the table.  Now, I still used a florist for my bouquets and boutonnieres, but I even scaled those back as much as I possibly could (we went a BIT overboard with 22 in our wedding party so I had to. Don’t laugh, I know it’s ridiculous).
Instead of hiring a florist to construct 20+ centerpieces and even more for the cocktail tables and food tables, we decided to take matters into our own hands.  We used a combination of clear mason jars, solar lights (the top part only), craspedia (billy balls) from Whole Foods flower shop, sunflowers from a friend’s yard, and flea market jar & bottle finds.  We used some combination of those things on each table, keeping the them in line with our simple, minimalist decor.  My mother-in-law bought a ton of the cheapest solar lights she could find and we bought cheap mason jars in bulk – pop the top into a mason jar and you’ve got yourself some cute little flameless lights instead of candles.  My husband ordered around 100 of the billy balls in advance from Whole Foods and picked them up the day of the wedding.  Each table got 2-3 milk bottles or vases with a few yellow balls, and the head table got the sunflower arrangements from the ceremony aisles and the bridal party bouquets.  I’ve included a few pictures to show the lights and flowers, but I literally cannot find a picture of the “centerpieces” – and I’m ok with that!  Simple, minimal and a HUGE cost-saver!!!
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3) Window-pane seating chart
(total cost $15)
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I’ve definitely seen a ton of creative seating charts at the weddings I’ve attended over the last few years, but I think I still place mine in the top 2 or I’ve seen advertised for the style of wedding we had.  The giant chalkboard/lettering seating chart is a cute one, too, but will run you upwards of $250 to pay someone to write that stuff out (no really, my best friend just had it priced for her wedding)  My husband and I frequent our local flea market looking for unique finds and things we can use to upcycle for our latest projects.  We had been looking for window panes to use as a “greenhouse” of sorts for our garden and the idea to use one for the wedding just kind of came to us.  We saw a window that was in decent condition, had some character, and no cracks in the glass and I convinced him I could turn that into our seating chart.  I went out and bought a silver paint pen and made it happen.  I think I only made 1 mistake, but covered it up pretty well!  I kept it simple:  alphabetical order and numbered tables.  I love how it turned out, and we now have this window hanging in one of our guestrooms over the bed.   With the light wall behind it you have to look close to tell what it really is, but it definitely fits with the modern industrial style in our house!

4) Usable Guest Book – we opted for a handmade “floating” bench (total cost, est. $75 for the wood and metal)
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The idea here is more around a guest book you can use, and less about the bench itself (although it’s awesome so I’ll brief you on how it was done). We’ve all seen the standard guest book on a podium as you enter the ceremony, or the tree where everyone puts their fingerprint and signs their name, and all sorts of other pretty cute ideas.  My personal gripe with all of those things, though, is that after a couple of years will I really want my wedding tree “guest book” or my enlarged signed wedding photo hanging on display in my home?  My husband and I thought…nahhh, no thanks.  Instead we came up with a creative, usable option that may stand the test of time.
I’ll be the first to say that I have some very skilled friends.  One friend, Josh, cut and welded the metal legs and my husband and our friend, Seth, measured, cut and perfectly sanded the wood for the bench.  The way it’s constructed, the welded legs are hollow inside and welded in the shape of a rectangle with one extra bar about 1/3 from the top. The bench itself has 2 cutouts underneath allowing it to rest just perfectly on the bars inside of each metal rectangle.  This gives the bench a floating look.  The bench his still standing strong, holding it’s own 4 years later in a spot right behind our couch.

5) Cupcakes + Candy Bar (total cost est. $200)
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My husband is a type 1 diabetic and I am obsessed with cupcakes so we opted out of having a wedding cake altogether.   Think about it – have you ever had a slice of unforgettable wedding cake?  Well, I hope you have but I personally have not.  It’s always been underwhelming for me.  Now, the average cost of a wedding cake for 200ish people is around $500, and cupcakes are super expensive, too ($3-4 each!) so we didn’t order them from a popular local bakery.  We paid for the supplies and ingredients and had a family friend who bakes on the side make 4 different flavors as our wedding gift… and they were AMAZING!!  Really, they were perfect – not dry and extremely delicious.  (I chose cookie n cream, lemon, vanilla with strawberry cream cheese icing, and the standard vanilla buttercream on vanilla).  On top of that we decided to create a little candy bar of our.. (MY) favorite candies that were either yellow or silver or neutral.  We bought some bulk candy, some flea market jars, and Home Goods apothecary jars and called it a day! (Bonus:  the chalkboard signs were DIY as well.  Cabinet doors cost $1-2ea. from Habitat for Humanity ReStore and I hand-painted the chalkboard portion with paint I already had)

6)  Bridesmaid dresses that are likely to be re-used in real life! (total cost $105-$120ea)
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This one is less about you and more about your bridal party.  If I added up the amount of money I’ve spend on bridesmaid dresses + alterations in the last 10-15 years I think I may actually have a heart attack.  We’re talking thousands of dollars here.  It’s gross.  So do your bridal party a HUGE favor, and maybe pick a dress (or dress options!) that they may actually wear again.  Bonus if it comes in under $150.  I also really like the idea of finding a line of dresses in the same color with multiple styles, giving bridemaids an option to find a style that works best with their body type.  We had an interesting wedding party to say the least – excessively large and a bit non-standard with both guys and girls on each “side”, so our answer was 2 different dresses in different colors.  The girls on my side were in yellow lace (a dress I found online at a UK-based store), and the girls on my husband’s side were in grey (we went with a classic grey shift dress from J.Crew – much cheaper than their bridal line).  Both dresses were very reasonably priced and could (likely would!) be worn again in real life after the wedding.  I still wish I would’ve bought a yellow one for myself – I LOVED that dress!
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I ordered a sample of each of the dresses based on my measurements so we knew how to guide our girls on ordering.  With so many people, someone on each side was the same size and could use the dresses I ordered.  Luckily both were true-to-size and there were only a few alterations for the whole wedding party that had to take place at all.  *For every wedding I’ve been in, I’d say my average alterations cost is around $100, more for lots of fabric layers. Thank you, curves! 🙁

We have TONS of other ways we cut costs, and I’m happy to share with you if interested.  Comment below or send me a private email to champagneandblackcoffee @ gmail dot com and I’ll be glad to dish!

Be sure to check in for other topics in the series over the next week or two.

Part 2:  6 Wedding Planning Tips That Will Reduce Your Stress Level
Part 3:  7 Pieces of Priceless Wedding Day Advice
Part 4:  Contrary to Popular Belief…
Part 5:  OK You’re Married, Now What?