I'm getting married next Spring and have learned a few things: Never mention "Wedding". The vendors have all the same items but have a new menu with a marked up cost. We went to a hotel a few hours away we frequent and told them we were interested in doing a family reunion. They were extremely reasonable. When they heard we recently got engaged, they showed us all the wedding stuff and said there was a $10k food & bev minimum for the same exact kind of party/food.
Eventually we settled on a local restaurant beside a marina on the water that will host both the wedding and reception. They do not usually open to the public for lunch on Saturdays so we reserved the place until 3pm, and we aren't having to make up the difference in what they would have earned had we not been there. They are also very flexible re food & bev choices. We talked with them about a brunch & a signature cocktail like a mimosa, and he told us it is actually more cost effective to do by head by hour for open bar & we are limiting the open bar hours to 2. the per person per hour rate will include all soft drinks milk juice etc etc for the entire period not just the 2 hours. He is also going to lower the per person cost if we bring our own wine & champagne, but won't allow us to bring our own liquor (need liquor license etc for that).
I was married before & had the big Italian traditional wedding and large reception (180 people at the reception). This time I am inviting the people I know I will stay in touch with, not the people that my parents feel obligated to invite. Our goal is to share our day with the all people we know & love that have supported us all these years. That is really what it OUGHT to be about. In that vein, we're going to do a FUN wedding reception, and I have already prepped the extended family who is traveling the furthest that it will be fun, but not traditional.
We are not using a florist. I was on stumbleupon.com & found the wedding sites and blogs with zillions of ideas. I came across brooch bouquets and figured I could pull that off for less than what they sell on Etsy.com (also a great site for supplies, jewelry, crafts etc, as is recycledbride.com). My bouquet is made up of jewelry now that I have put together, from goodwill, flea markets, and donations from friends & family (so there is sentimental stuff in there too). It's not together yet, and will require some effort, but I get to keep it and not have to pay an arm & leg to "preserve" it or make it into potpourri.
I was originally going to do the centerpieces with Egg Carton flowers (found on wedding site) which you can do for cheap but they are a little labor intensive. If you had a group of gals with an assembly line it would be fun.... but ended up doing my toss bouquet with them instead. My mother was determined to use her Stampin' Up supplies to do my flower centerpieces, so I have bought her all the paper supplies & she is having fun with her girlfriends putting them together. The vases are donations from freecycle, goodwill, and good friends. In the end, I cannot remember a wedding I've attended where I actually remember what the centerpieces looked like. So... why spend so much money on them?
Instead of a big bridal portrait, we bought a new digital frame (my birthday present) and loaded up pictures of the two of us together & growing up to put on the guest table. People eat that stuff up, especially the ones that didn't know you growing up.
For the guest book, rather than spend $30-$50 on a book where even in a big wedding only the first few pages have signatures... we're having a friend take pictures of our guests (either with fun props or without) and then sign a sheet of paper. We'll upload to snapfish or some other similar program and get a book bound with both pictures and names.
Sign up for AC Moore & Michaels emails, which tip you off on sales & send you coupons. If you're buying your own wine, check your grocery store. I get Harris Teeter emails that let you know when there are specials on wine, and they always have a case or sometimes half-case mix & match discount in addition to whatever the sale price is on the wine you choose. Costco or Sams is also a decent deal when you compare to what you could have paid.
The trick to reducing your guest list is trying to figure out who you'll actually keep in touch with in 5 years or 10 years. If you feel like you should invite your coworkers, but have the kind of relationship where if you lost or quit your job you would never hear from them, they should not be the highest priority.
I wanted a dress I found by scouring dress designer sites, and finally found a place locally that sells that designer. Though I wanted to spend less than $350, turns out the dress was discontinued. This boutique said they could get it mail order, sight unseen (so I can't tell how it would actually look on me) for $275. In the meantime she said I had to try on dresses from this designer to figure out what size to order anyway. Not only was I trying on those dresses, but she brought some others. My friends nearly tied me down and forced me to buy a certain dress which we thought was over budget, but as it turned out, it was on clearance for $99 (because it was a much older style & last one around). It wasn't exactly like what I wanted, but I walked out with it anyway. It fits nearly perfectly and is incredibly flattering, just needs to be taken up, add a bustle button, and pull up the halter; all minor changes a seamstress friend can make.
If you spend a bunch of money and then have to order your dress months ahead (so they can make it according to your measurements) it should FIT YOU LIKE A GLOVE when it comes back. Alas, they generally do not and then you pay hundreds to get it altered to work.
I have no bridesmaids. This wedding & reception is supposed to include everybody closest to me, so how do I choose? I'm wearing purple shoes with my gown, and on my webpage I'm asking the ladies who want to be considered honorary bridesmaids to also wear purple shoes (any kind) as a show of sisterhood. My relatives and friends are having the best time with the shoe shopping!
Good luck. Check out the book "Bridal Bargains" with lots of fabulous tips. Don't let the wedding industry take advantage of you! This is a day to celebrate, not to go into debt on details nobody will remember.