Finding the ways to fill the time
Today I’m celebrating my 1st wedding anniversary.
I’m grateful for many things: Grateful that the transition from living in sin to lawfully wed went smoothly, both on the day and since; grateful that I could share the experience with family and friends, from near and far; and grateful that the total price of our ‘special day’, from the decorations to the honey-moon suite, tallied up to $5000 AUD.
In a country where the average cost of a wedding is estimated to be between $36,000 and $48,000, this was not an easy feat.
While waitressing at a wedding reception centre, I got to see some grand affairs of limousines, live-bands and bottomless bar-tabs.
Witnessed too were bridal gowns stained by chocolate mudslides, fathers of the bride making staff cry because his expensive wine wasn’t dry enough, and once the entire bridal party taken to the police station for doing donuts in the wedding limos.
I decided that the stress and cost of a Big Day like those, wasn’t worth it. On the other hand, we wanted something fun, something shared, something that couldn’t be described using the words: barefoot, boho or cow-paddock.
Here’s 10 tips on how we made our 5K dream wedding work.
Have DIY or budget wedding tips to share? Comment below~
Hand-making the majority of our decorations was both one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of the wedding, as well as the most labour intensive. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and produce, and involve as many hands, willing or otherwise, in the job.
We spent 6 months preceding the date scouring Etsy and blogs for wedding ideas, the Internet and Youtube for tutorials, and many nights attempting to recreate them. Mum made organza hair pieces for my bridesmaids and scrap-book styled cards for guests to sign, I made kanzashii flowers for our ribbon sashes, origami jewellery for the girls, and designed and printed guest invitations, while the whole family was involved in the making of jars of origami lucky stars, kusuma-dama flower bouquets and felt flower balls for the table centrepieces.
At times a task both endured and enjoyed, the effect garnered attention and drew conversation without being overwhelming.
Depending on the size of the family, or close-knit nature of friendships, keeping the invites to a minimum may be the trickiest part. When reading an article on Australian weddings hitting $60,000, I asked my friend in shock if she would ever consider spending such an amount. She replied with a shrug saying, “Depends how many people come. ”
We capped our list at 50. This managed to incorporate all family members, family friends, and some special personal friends. Less guests meant that we were able to budget more for the food, which, as I was often reminded, will be the feature a lot of attendees will remember most clearly.
Having a wedding on a Wednesday, with a mid-morning ceremony and lunch-time reception will earn you many raised eyebrows and comments on how unique you’re being. It saves money though, as many hotels and businesses have higher weekend or dinner-time rates.
This is admittedly often a difficult time for guests to attend. Scheduling the date smack between Christmas and New Years, when many people are on holidays in both Australia and Japan, allayed this for us somewhat (and made for a much larger Christmas party than usual), however added a few hassles as well, particularly with clashing holiday plans and with finding which businesses that would still be open.
The Dress – such a difficult and expensive decision for a garment often only worn once, but does it need to be any of those things?
After cooing over the gorgeous styles in bridal magazines, we nearly succumbed to severe sticker shock when checking their prices. I combed through online, direct buy stores, until a dressmaker friend announced on Facebook in deep frustration that she was no longer going to adjust the shoddy dresses bought through such merchants. I considered simple style from Etsy or second-hand gowns, before my mum, (half-jokingly I think) offered her dress.
Accepting her offer is one of the best decisions of the wedding. Handmade by my grandmother, the dress is truly ‘one of kind’, and, having a vintage feel, remarkably trendy. The mixture of Japanese and Western styles, created by incorporating a second-hand Japanese obi, meant there wasn’t too much dress déjà vu for those present at my parents’ wedding.
How many dresses are packed lovingly away from dust and light, never to see another moment of glory? What family member or close friend would reject the chance to see match their own wedding memories with their loved one’s? Spread the word for future generations – stop the Trash The Dress photo-shoots!
Meanwhile, my bridesmaids chose their own dresses, though trying to keep within the colours of deep blues and creams. It took a little extra work, as we swapped photos and went shopping together (such a hard life), but in the end both girls got dresses they liked, they would wear again and, importantly for all of us, within their budget.
A controversial cost-saving measure. To many the open-bar is an essential feature, and puts the ‘celebration’ into ‘wedding celebration’.
Again, those memories of my waitressing days, watching many a wonderful ceremony degrade into trashy debauch and dangerous stunts (let’s go to the bar – by jumping across all the tables!) made it easy to kibosh the free flowing booze.
It is ridiculously hard to hire a wedding photographer without a package. Difficult to the point of having to (slightly) deceive my photographer in order to get the rates of hiring by the hour for an event (I carefully excluded any mention of wedding).
The cost of a professional package, with all the location shots, can be upwards of $2000. I am not saying it’s not worth it. I know how much effort editing takes. There should be however the choice to book by the hour. At the reception, during the preparation, push some cameras at people and enjoy the crowd-sourced results, but at particular moments, like during the ceremony, you want a pro behind the camera and your friends and family focused on you.
The option does exist, but you will have to push (or slightly fudge initial inquiries) for it.
I loved my bouquet. It was fresh roses and babies breath with tiny sprigs of silk hydrangeas. As I picked it up from the florist, all sparkling with little drops of water, I fell in love and was glad I had expended a little on this luxury.
It cost me far less than a true bridal bouquet however, as I chose to take a smaller bridesmaid bunch down the aisle with me, while my attendants wore wrist corsages.
My biggest savings came from extensive shopping around, taking the time to call up, or check the sites of, most of the town’s wedding suppliers. In this way I was able to identify what the best venue, florist, photographer and wedding celebrant. Even though budget was a priority, it was value that mattered most – what hotel event managers returned emails and had a sense of humour, what photographer was the most friendly and punctual, which florist listened patiently to rambling lists of colours and made helpful suggestions and which baker made adjustments to work within our price range.
Keeping the relationship light and friendly, keeping in check the inner bridezilla, will also mean vendors are more willing to help when the inevitable complications come up.
It can be hard to resist the suggestion that you are undermining your wedding day happiness (and therefore tainting your memories of it forever) when you are making inquiries from some in the wedding business. “But its your day, you want it to be special. ” or, “You’ll want it for the memories. ” was repeated to me to the point of cliche.
If you don’t want to pay $180 for plain seat covers for a 15 minute ceremony, provide personalised bonbonnieres guests may ignore, or shell out for a candy buffet then don’t despite the shocked expressions. Because after-all, it is your day.
I love a good live band, playing all the party favourites. Adapting the lessons of the lost art of the mixtape to my Ipod, selecting from the classics, the love songs, our songs, and songs like Rebecca Black’s Friday to perk up the ears of musically discerning guests, was a reasonable substitute however, and anyway, some of the best concert moments are the unexpected ones.
The most important tip for any wedding, no matter how much it costs, comes from a dear friend, who planned and stressed the details for her special day, only to remember the event as a blur.
Gripping my arm, with a slightly manic expression her simple advice was: Just make sure you actually enjoy it!