Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this


By Nancy and Dawn Clemens, Dollar-Wise Divas columnists

May 19, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) - Brides come in all ages, shapes, and sizes yet, they all have in common a desire to look radiantly beautiful for their wedding day and to share a special, memorable day with treasured friends and family. So how do you accomplish this on a small budget?

Your first step is to brainstorm with your future husband to make sure you both have the same ideas about what your perfect wedding would look like. Here are some questions to start the conversation.



  • What are your priorities? What is most important to you? Do both you and your mate have the same vision of what this special day looks like?
  • How involved does your fiancé’ want to be in planning?
  • What is your budget?
  • Where do you want to hold the wedding ceremony? Where would you like to have your reception celebration?  Do you want the wedding and reception to be at the same location?
  • How many people are you inviting? Reducing the guest list is one easy way to save money.
  • What time of day? Daytime is less expensive. Saturday nights are most expensive as this is the most popular time for people to get married.


Here are some of our favorite money saving ideas.


Wedding expenses are in two categories; one category is things you can do yourself. The second category you will likely need to hire professionals to do for you.


The do-it-yourself ideas include:

- Wedding planner/consultant - flowers - music

- Food - clothing - wedding venues - transportation

- invitations and thank you cards

- table decorations and favors.


Michael’s stores have a large wedding section for do-it-yourselfers with party favors, silk flowers, invitations and thank you cards. There are three locations in East County The stores frequently have coupons in the Sunday paper so you can save even more money. By making things yourself you can create exactly what you want. Office supply stores and floral supply stores can be of a big benefit to you as well.


Wedding Planner/Consultant: Buy a book on wedding planning and then create a notebook to keep track of your ideas, bids, guest list and other important information.


Enlist friends to help with the planning (if you want to share that role) and in the implementation of your ideas. The most organized friend could be in charge of the overall flow of events, one could be in charge of food and the punch bowl and another could be the greeter to make sure that everyone signs your guest book.


Flowers: Buy flowers in season, out of season flowers cost much more. Hire a florist to make a special floral arrangement or buy flowers at a wholesale supply house and do them yourself. Buy vases at a floral supply or discount store and create a simple arrangement of flowers for each table.


Music: Use an iPod to provide the music. The music is easy to find, inexpensive and you can program the order of the playlist. Rather than use a D.J., you may want a trusted, funny friend as a master-of-ceremonies. If you want live music, hire a single musician like a harpist to save money.


Food: Create a simple menu and go to Costco or Smart and Final for party trays like hors d'oeuvres, vegetable trays and dips. Ask a few close friends to provide special salads or other special treats.


Have a potluck. Ask each guest to bring one of their all-time favorites dishes that serves at least eight people. You will be amazed at the variety of delicious foods for all to share.

Do provide the wedding cake and commemorative utensils for cutting the cake. One clever way to save money is a cake dummy. This is a cake made of Styrofoam pieces that is iced and decorated to look pretty but is not edible. Go to Costco and buy tasty sheet cakes to serve your guests. The cake dummy looks good and no one will be the wiser as it looks like a real cake, one local company that can create one for you inexpensively is .


Buy a case of champagne and disposable champagne glasses for a toast. Alcohol for a crowd is expensive and a toast is a perfect way for everyone to have just a taste and is easy on your wallet.

Clothing: Buy a Wedding gown at a wedding re-sale shop as a typical gown would be half price or less than you would pay if you bought it new. Another option is to buy wedding dresses in the off-season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shop at a wedding gown trunk sale, as they sell last year’s gowns for a fraction of original prices.


Venues: A beautiful backyard...yours or a friend’s can work really well for a small, intimate wedding.


Use a church or an attractive meeting hall, especially if you can hold the reception at the same location. There is normally a piano so you could hire a pianist or harpist, if you want live music. You can have a florist, a friend or create a large floral arrangement and have smaller vases at each table with cut flowers or silk flowers. Flowers that are in season will be less expensive and save you money.


Outdoors in a park – Gazebos tend to be popular in the summer months and are inexpensive to rent for a special event. Make sure to double check on reservations to avoid a problem with overbooking. Some venues rent up to a year in advance.


Invitations and thank you cards: Office supply stores carry reasonably priced kits so you can create your own invitations and thank you cards. Involve your family and friends that enjoy creating craft projects.


Table Decorations: Keep it simple, with a nice tablecloth and a vase of cut flowers at each table.


Favors: Make your own. They can be prepared well ahead of time.


Transportation: Skip the limo or ask a friend to do the driving.

Three areas you do not want to skimp on are hair, make-up and photography/videos.


Hair and make-up: Unless someone in your circle of friends is very talented, hire a professional to make sure your make-up looks fresh for several hours of photo shooting. You deserve a little pampering on your special day and do not want to have a bad hair or make-up day and end up feeling and looking frazzled. You want to look beautiful and not washed out for the photos. Schedule a hair and make-up session prior to your wedding. This allows you to try a different look and know if you like it or not.


Photographs and videos: Hire a professional! This will be a lasting reminder of your wedding. A friend’s offer to be your “official” photographer is a wonderful gesture, but you get what you pay for with pictures. Verify the reputation of the photographer and ask for referrals of their past clients. Call the people they refer to you. Find out if they were happy with the photographer and the quality of their work. Would they hire that person again? What would they do differently? Be clear about how much it will cost. What the photographer will do at your event. Who has the rights to the photos? What equipment do they use? If they use a digital camera, can you get a CD or do you buy each picture separately? Write up your agreement.


Place disposable cameras to each table and collect them at the end of the wedding. You are likely to get priceless shots of friends and family. The photographer can only be in one place at a time, but the disposables can really paint a fun picture of the guests. If you assign table seats, ask a person at each table to be responsible for the photos at that table as well as ensuring the camera is turned in at the end of the event.


The estimated average cost of a wedding nationwide is $27,000 and the cost for a second wedding is $12,000. That is a lot of money, especially in this economy. Pick even just an idea or two from this article and follow-up; you can save yourself lots of money and still enjoy a wonderful wedding and celebration of your new life together. The dollars saved can help purchase a new home or fund an exquisite honeymoon for you. Congratulations!

Another resource for you is from La Dolce Belladonna , they are cosponsoring a FREE Bridal and Beauty Fair with East County Magazine on Sunday, June 6th from 12 – 4 come and meet vendors from the bridal and beauty industry. Mark your calendar and stop by 596 Westwind Drive in El Cajon for a fun and informative day. East County Magazine is a co-sponsor of this event.


Nancy Clement is an east county Realtor®, mortgage broker and freelance writer and can be reached at 619-563-4184 or Dawn Clement is a stay-at-home mother of three, a freelance writer, and creative shopper.


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.