A wedding can be a daunting undertaking. After the excitement of an engagement settles, there are more details, “to-do” lists and headaches than one can possibly imagine. However, if nothing else, remember these six little words: “It’s supposed to be about you.”

It’s so easy to get lost in the mayhem: to please your parents, your husband’s parents, your girlfriends, your work colleagues and even your distant relatives you haven’t seen in years. You get swept up with the tradition of it all, instead of focusing on what you and your groom actually want or need. If you are stressing about money, a word to the wise: don’t spend $30,000 on a day that will be over before you can blink. Spend it on your lives together. Opt for a small gathering and then celebrate with an informal party after you return from a luxurious honeymoon.

If your parents are willing to shell out that much money for a wedding (if you’re not paying for it yourselves), ask them to help you with a down payment on a home instead. Or to start a business. Or put half of it away and use the other half for living expenses while both of you explore your dreams. The bottom line is, you have options. Think about what you both, deep down, truly want and then make that decisions together.

Alex and I decided to not only pay for our wedding, we planned every last detail and rang in the total budget at less than $5,000. I can honestly say it was the best day of my life, and I have zero regrets. We both felt calm and relaxed, and because of that were able to enjoy every single moment. How? A few tips to begin:

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1. Decide on a location that you both like. My husband and I are not traditional. We both didn’t feel comfortable in a church and searched for a place that meant a lot to both of us. We settled on a beautiful hotel in downtown Chicago, Sofitel, where a lot of decorations would not be needed. Picking a venue that is naturally beautiful can go a long way. For instance, the Sofitel always has fresh cut flowers, dim lighting and exquisite windows, which makes for a perfect event and stunning photographs. And the staff is wonderful. We settled on a small banquet room on the third floor that is often used for conferences, but on the day of the wedding, it was transformed with chairs, votive candles, and a beautiful bank of windows overlooking a park. The room rental cost? $300. Included in that cost was the gorgeous bar and entirely separate room where people could mingle before the reception. After our ceremony, people gathered in the sleek bar area while the staff transformed the ceremony room into our reception area. Only a few tables and chairs made for a more “mingling” atmosphere, instead of a formal sit-down affair. So, do your research and find venues that are beautiful on their own, so they don’t need a lot of fancy decorations. If you decide on a smaller wedding, you can get creative with your space, which frees up your budget.

 

2. Dessert reception. I cannot say this phrase enough! Never have we had so much fun picking out desserts (made from Sofitel’s world-renowned French pastry chef). Dark chocolate baguette bread pudding, triple chocolate brownies, dark chocolate mousse with cocoa nib tuiles, assorted chocolate chunk cookies, Mexican hot chocolate, coffee, tea, chocolate milk and regular milk were just a few items on the menu. And the food was beyond fabulous. While many people come to weddings to eat, don’t be afraid to do something fun, creative and inexpensive. People love desserts. Not only is it romantic and intimate, it’s so much more affordable at $15 per person. While we almost went with a more traditional menu, we decided to make our ceremony a bit later in the evening, so people would have time to eat dinner, and then we constructed a dessert menu full of decadent dark chocolate treats. For the alcohol, we chose wine and Champagne only, and if people wanted a mixed drink, they could just pop downstairs and order one from the bar. The cost? With tax and gratuity, the food and alcohol bill came out to just $1000.

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3. Pick a venue that has a wedding coordinator. The details of your wedding – however small – are better coordinated with a professional. Even if you hire a “day of” coordinator, you want the least amount of stress as you get ready. Let professionals (or even apt family members) handle all of the seating arrangements, the music and the timing of your ceremony and reception. As a bride, you need to feel comfortable leaving someone else in control. I literally drank Champagne and lounged in my suite while others did the set-up. We worked with Rachel Siegel at the Sofitel, the hotel’s amazing wedding coordinator. Not only did she take care of everything, there was no extra charge for her services. She told us time and time again we were the most low-key couple she’d ever worked with, and our day went off without a hitch. She kept in close contact via email, and always answered any questions we had. Total cost? $0.

Stay tuned next week for more helpful tips, from the guest list and music to attire and flowers. Have questions? Send them my way!

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Written by prolog

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