Focus on what is important to the two of you!
Wedding budgets - kind of icky to think about, right? It wasn't my favorite part of the process either, so we wanted to provide some tips to couples looking for ways to reduce costs and focus on what's important about their wedding day; the celebration of their marriage!
Tip # 1: Pick your top 3 budget items
This is going to look different for every couple, but working with your partner to identify your top 3 budget items will go a long way to helping you prioritize where to spend and where to save during the planning process! For Adam and I, our top 3 were photography (duh), food/drinks, and hotel rooms for our immediate family. For others, it could be venue, wedding planner, and food/drinks, or photography, venue, and flowers. Once you pick your top 3, those can be your guiding points in decision-making during the planning process, and will help things go a lot more smoothly!
Tip # 2: Wedding Flowers
If flowers wasn't in your top 3 (see Tip # 1), then this is a great area to save money in. Most cities in the US have farmer's markets where you could pick up flowers the day of, or, if that sounds too risky to you, you could work with a local flower farmer (yes, that's totally a thing) to get a few buckets of flowers that you can arrange yourself, and they can look to meet your color/style preferences where possible. In Madison, Mad Lizzie's Flower Farm is a great place to check out! Depending on the size of your wedding, your flower budget could look a little more like $250 than $2500, depending on the size of your wedding, and if exquisite and specific flowers aren't in your top 3, this is a great way to save while still getting beautiful, fresh flowers. Plus, you're buying local!
Tip # 3: Wedding Bands and DJs
Again, if this is killer for you, and you want your guests on the dance floor all night, then do it up! We can recommend some great people! But let's say you're not super into dancing, and want a more quiet and intimate reception evening with your guests. If that's the case, don't feel like you need to have a wedding band or DJ just because it's what you usually see. You do you, and if 'you' involves an iPod (do they still make those?) and a playlist you and your person made together, well then that's freaking fantastic, and can save you some cash. :) If you want an intermediate solution, ask a friend to emcee the evening (announcing dinner, first dances, etc.) and then you've got the best of both worlds!
Tip # 4: Dinner
Here's a good tip, because even if great food is a super big priority for you and your partner, don't feel like you have to break the bank to provide it! As a person who has eaten a lot of wedding food, let me assure you that more expensive does not necessarily equal better tasting. Sometimes the opposite. You know what people love? Tacos. Pizza. BBQ. You know what's cheaper to provide than fancy plated meals that don't taste that good? Tacos. Pizza. BBQ. If you're in Madison, think of all the great places you could go with! Tex Tubb's Taco Palace has an amazing catering buffet that works for meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians, and those who are gluten sensitive, all without doing anything special! Ian's Pizza is iconic Madison food, and delivers! Smoky Jon's caters (although make sure to have a vegetarian or vegan option if needed)! There are tons of wonderful, local restaurants you can use that will provide fantastic food, at a fraction of the normal 'wedding plated meal' cost. Check them out!
Tip # 5: Venue
This tip might be more geared towards weddings under 50-60 guests, but is still valid. Wedding venues are expensive, and if you're not attached to a particular venue, then you can get a little creative with where your wedding will take place. Your friend's backyard? Sure! A small local art gallery? Why not! At a State Park? Sign me up! Take into careful consideration whether your off-the-beaten-path venue can comfortably support the number of guests you'd like to invite, but otherwise, go nuts!
In the end...
The two of you get to decide what's important to you. Figure out what's at the top of your list for your wedding day, and remember that your guests are going to remember celebrating with you more than they're going to remember anything else, so try not to stress out too much, and just know you don't have to sell your first born in order to have a beautiful and fun wedding day!