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Posted February 16, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

A DIY bride offers DIY advice

Centerpieces made from candles, seashells and sea glass purchased in bulk make a beach wedding in North Carolina last June shine for only a few hundred dollars. Courtesy Coree Reuter

Do-it-yourself wedding favor boxes are shown at a wedding in North Carolina. Printing labels yourself and buying in bulk can help cut costs when making your own wedding favors. Courtesy Coree Reuter

A candy bar at a wedding in North Carolina offers an alternative to wedding favors, allowing each guest to choose their own take-away while saving the bride and groom money. Courtesy Coree Reuter

Steve McNamara, left, proposes to Coree Reuter on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Now the two are planning their June wedding, hoping to save as much as possible through do-it-yourself projects and thrifty finds. Courtesy Coree Reuter

Coree Reuter

By Coree Reuter/Daily Correspondent

I think I'm crazy. In addition to being a full time graduate school student, I'm getting married in less than six months, right smack dab in the middle of my summer semester. Luckily, my wonderful fiance and I have been engaged since July 2011, so we've had plenty of time to get organized, but June 28 is creeping up on me.

I admit that I never dreamed about a wedding growing up. I was your quintessential tomboy. I played outside in the mud all day long, spent most of my time on the soccer field or riding my horse, and never once envisioned myself as a bride. So when Steve and I got engaged, I had no idea what I wanted or where to start. Luckily, I had plenty of friends and family who offered suggestions and advice (some of which was too much advice) and now I'm well on my way to the wedding of my dreams.

Of course, being in graduate school means there isn't a lot of money in the bank, so my fiance and I had to be creative. We've been scouring the Internet and local stores for bargains, spending many late nights trolling Pinterest for ideas, and putting away a little bit of cash every month to pay for the things we weren't willing to skimp on. So for all you brides out there who are on a serious budget like I am, it can be done. Have faith! Here are my suggestions:

Make a list

I am not organized, so a list is essential to keeping me on track. I use Google Docs to keep things in order, and my bridesmaids, mother and cousin are all allowed access to this document so they can keep me on track, too. I also have a list on my computer desktop, so if I remember something, I can jot it down while I'm working.

There're so many components of a wedding that it'd be almost impossible to keep it all in your head, and you would not want to start to walk down the aisle just to realize you forgot to buy your shoes.

Stick with a theme

The theme of my wedding is "travel," as my fiance and I love to see the world. We are incorporating this theme into our invitations, centerpieces and reception decorations. Your theme doesn't necessarily have to be something so specific, though. You could do "stars" or pick a color or focus it on the season. The important thing is to have a central idea that your wedding will revolve around.

There are so many amazing wedding ideas out there that it can be hard to decide what not to do at your wedding, rather than what to do. Having a theme will allow you to narrow down your ideas and streamline your decorations. If an idea you like doesn't fit into your theme, you can toss it out.

Do the research

Websites like Pinterest, WeddingWire and The Knot are priceless resources for your wedding. Not only can you find great, creative ideas to make your wedding special, but also WeddingWire and The Knot have all kinds of articles on do-it-yourself projects, as well as reviews on vendors and local resources.

Educating yourself on prices will help you snag the best deals, but I also think you should be prepared to jump on a sale item if it comes available. For awhile we've been looking for a good way to display the globes that will be the focal point of our centerpieces, and while at Target the other day, we found the perfect cylinder vases on clearance. These vases were $25 regularly, which would have cost us $350 total. Instead, we got them for $9 each, which saved us over $200.

We also did a lot of research on ceremony sites and reception sites and visited many places before we made a decision on our locations. Taking the time to do our research actually saved us $2,500 on our reception alone, as we knew that having a wedding on a Friday would cut costs at that particular location.

Doing your research also will tell you about the rules of your sites. Some locations will allow you to bring in your own alcohol, which is a tremendous money saver. Know all the rules and restrictions before you book anything, otherwise you might be disappointed by what you can and can't do at your wedding.

Be hands on

The fact is, the more you are willing to do on your own, the more money you will be able to save. It'd be great to be able to pay everyone to do everything for you, but the reality is most of us don't have that much money.

Save the dates and invitations are easily made and designed on your own computer, but online companies like MagnetStreet and VistaPrint can offer cost-effective solutions. Don't forget about postage, though. If you really want to save money, consider sending postcard-sized save the date reminders and invitations. Postcards are only 33 cents to mail.

We plan on printing our passport invitations at Staples, then tying them together with ribbon. Our RSVP cards will be plane tickets and postcard sized.

With your centerpieces, Sandy Beach of Elegant Events in Front Royal advised looking outside of the box. You don't have to be traditional when it comes to your centerpieces, and you could use practically anything to spruce up your tables. We bought vintage globes for less than $20 apiece and plan on cutting them in half and repurposing them into bowls. Each globe will serve two tables, so we cut costs even further. The sky is the limit, though, and brides should consider everything from fruit to live plants to old books or antiques to decorate their tables.

You can also be creative with your flowers if you have enough hands and time, and I am planning on foregoing the traditional roses in favor of hydrangeas. Hydrangeas are fuller flowers, so you don't need as many stems to make a gorgeous bouquet. We are also using flowers in our centerpieces, but we plan on using a lot of greenery as filler in order to create a full look. I estimate my flower costs for seven bouquets, two wrist corsages, 10 boutonnières and 14 centerpieces will be less than $500, which is a far cry from the $1,200 or more quotes I received from area florists.

Don't be afraid to ask

They say in the business world it's not about what you know but who you know, and that holds true when it comes to weddings.

Don't be afraid to ask around and see if anyone you know is in the business of weddings or knows anyone who might be able to cut you a great deal. You never know who your friends might be friends with, and those connections could save you a lot of cash.

Also don't be afraid to ask your vendors if they offer any sort of discounts. We were very surprised to find out Michaels gives a discount to teachers. It wasn't a huge discount, but every little penny helps. Inquire about military discounts, public education discounts, "born-on-the-second-Tuesday-of-the-month" discounts. Look for coupons, Groupons and sales.

If you don't ask, you'll never know how much money you might be able to save.

Don't settle

If there's something you really want for your wedding, don't settle on anything less. As a former professional photographer, what I find important is having great photos. I wasn't willing to sacrifice quality for saving money when it came to my photos, so we budgeted for photography from the very beginning.

Perhaps your "must have" is good food or having a designer dress. Whatever it is, you shouldn't sacrifice it in order to save money. You want to look back on your wedding day knowing it was everything you wanted it to be. You definitely don't want to look back and be disappointed. If you give yourself enough time and make realistic decisions, you can have the wedding of your dreams no matter how small your budget may be.


This is very important. We have bigger problems on our hands if we stop breathing. This wedding business is stressful. It will keep you up at night and make you want to drown yourself in wine. But I promise it will get better, and every little thing you check off your list will make the load on your shoulders feel lighter.

When you finally get to your big day, don't stress too much about the things that didn't get done. There's always going to be something that you won't be able to incorporate or you weren't able to do, but remember, your wedding is about you and your future partner, not necessarily about the decorations or whether the centerpieces have two candles or three.

I can't wait for our big day, but there's still much to be done before June 28. But I've got my list and my man, and as long as I remember to keep my lungs functioning and stay away from the wine, we just might make it to the altar.

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