girl, redeemed

{Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story. Psalm 107:2}
My story

That time I planned my daughter’s wedding in 8 weeks.

{8 tips for Planning a Wedding in 8 weeks while staying on a Budget}

Many brides take a year to plan a wedding. So many details to iron out, so many decisions to make. But it’s possible (dare I say preferable) to plan a wedding in just eight weeks. If you have enough money, you can make almost anything happen overnight. But when your time is limited and your funds are limited, planning a wedding can be a challenge. We met this challenge head on and lived to tell about it.

(disclaimer: I actually had nine weeks to plan the wedding, but I only needed eight)

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Pros and Cons of planning a wedding in eight weeks:

The pros: you only have eight weeks to agonize over every decision.  And then it’s over. Because you are crunched with time, you make decisions much more quickly and you don’t look at a zillion options. You don’t put off making phone calls or asking for help. You see a good deal and grab it.

The cons: you might struggle finding available venues or caterers.  It is intense.  There is no extra time to flit around town looking for the perfect venue/dress/caterer/florist. I was off work for the summer, and I needed (almost)every day.

My Story and My Advice:

My daughter BethAnn and her boyfriend T.J. shocked us last June when they announced that a) they were pregnant and b) they were getting married.  Due to several considerations, one being that the wedding needed to take place BEFORE I started back to school (I’m a teacher), we decided to set the date for August 8.  Nine weeks.  I could do it!

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[Side note: The whole summer BethAnn was working 60+ hours per week and was nauseated all the time. She was mostly unavailable to work on wedding plans. It was up to me. And it was very nerve-wracking planning a wedding for someone else.]

Tip #1: The first thing I did was PRAY.  I am not a party planner and I had not planned a wedding since I was 19 (my second wedding was at the courthouse). I do not have any natural talent in this area. But even though this wedding was a surprise to me, it was not a surprise to God. I asked every day that God would give me the wisdom and creativity to make this a wedding that would be special for BethAnn and TJ and be a blessing to every guest who attended.

Tip #2: Budget — Get one and keep it

Our budget was $5000, which can only buy so much. Keep a cute binder with all your plans, to-do lists, calendar, expenses, and deposits.  It helps you to plan where to skimp and where to splurge. It is easy to keep buying and buying, but a budget can give you reality checks when you need it most. Just remember, a wedding only has to cost as much as the marriage license.  Everything else is fluff.

[Money Saver – Keep all your receipts. You will probably not use everything you buy.]

Decide early on in the planning process what is most important to you in your wedding.  For us, it was making the ceremony special and making sure everyone had fun. Stay focused on that.

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Don’t let the American consumer mentality dictate how elaborate your wedding is. You will be just as married with or without the fanfare.

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Tip #3: Choose a Venue – quick!

At first we planned on a very simple backyard wedding with family pitching in for a pot luck reception.  Everyone was down for that.  We planned to hold the wedding at my twin sister’s house because she has a beautiful back yard.  This would also save a lot of money. We even printed our own wedding invitations with her address as the venue. But then the pesky realities started popping up.  Where would the guests park? Who knows? But her backyard was pretty and it was free. What happens if it rains?  It had rained ALL spring, was STILL raining in early summer, and probably would NEVER quit raining.  How do you move sixty+ people inside for a ceremony and food? Let’s rent some tents.  But what happens if there is a monsoon? What if it is 100 degrees with 95% humidity? I simply could not throw a party and hope that my guests were not miserable.  It was time to come up with another plan.

[Money Saver — At this point you have to decide how many guests to plan for that will fit your budget and your venue. The more guests you have, the bigger venue you have to rent, the more food you have to buy, and the more tables and chairs you have to rent. We originally planned on sixty, but that number quickly grew to eighty and eventually to 100. Sigh. ]

We visited a few local venues that had the date available.  One venue was brand new and was only a few blocks from our house.  CityPlace in LaGrange.  I knew it was perfect when we viewed it, but it took a little convincing for BethAnn.  She had a vision of an outdoor Bohemian chic wedding. This place was brand new and gorgeous, but it had an industrial look.

I envisioned a canopy of tulle. (Well, I really can’t envision anything, but I hoped we could soften it up a bit.) CityPlace had a large enough space for the wedding and reception, plus they had a pavilion and lawn where we could have the ceremony if the weather cooperated.

It had beautiful bathrooms, air conditioning, a sound system, and support staff who would set up and take down tables and chairs. The rental was $900, which wasn’t much more than the cost of renting tents, but with better amenities. It was a great cost for a beautiful place. Sold.

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[Money Saver — Only rent the number of tables and chairs that you really need. Our venue rented their own tables and chairs (and set them up!), so it was super convenient. The ceremony was outside and the reception was inside, but I didn’t want to pay for chairs for both. So I ordered enough for the ceremony, and then we had the guests move the chairs to the reception area.  It sounds kind of tacky, but because the wedding was pretty casual, it worked.]

The convenience of the location ended up being more important than I had imagined. I don’t know how many times I went over there throughout the eight weeks to plan and talk to the coordinator. And then the Friday and Saturday of the wedding we spent hours there getting it decorated. Of course, we had to make multiple trips back home to gather the items we had forgotten or the things we didn’t know we needed.

Tip #4: Invitations – print your own sucks

After the Print-Your-Own-invitation-with-the-wrong-venue debacle, I decided to look into having them printed online. I had assumed that printing your own had to be cheaper. Well, I was wrong. There are so many affordable online print shops. I chose Vistaprint, designed the invitation (printed on front and back), and had them delivered in two days. What a relief. The cost was only $61 for 80 invitations and envelopes. And they were adorable.  This is exactly the same price I paid for blank invitations at Target. I hoped BethAnn would like them. That’s right. I printed and shipped them before she ever got to see them. Oops. Fortunately, she loved them. Bottom line – it takes a day to design and order and two days to receive the invitations. Plenty of time to get them addressed and put in the mail!

[Money Saver – Don’t purchase reply cards. We had the guests RSVP to an email address.  You could also order postcards instead of cards for wedding invitations. It takes less postage and can be so cute!]

Tip #5: Wedding Dress – off the rack

When you only have eight weeks to plan a wedding, you buy your dress off the rack. Girls, your wedding dress does not have to be perfection wrapped up in a gown. It does not have to be sewn by fairies and sprinkled with diamond dust. Just pick a dress that flatters you (think twice about strapless…seriously) and complements your wedding style (formal? informal? in-between?).

Even better, borrow a dress from a friend, buy it on Craigslist, or rent one. Also, have the bridal store tailor it for you.  It is worth the expense and gets one more thing off your plate. BethAnn’s dress was $219 and the alterations were $90.

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For the bridesmaids, pick out something cute (and hopefully multi-purpose) that is affordable — off the rack, of course. Shop online, the mall, Target, wherever. Make it fun and interesting, but don’t get caught up in making it perfect. When you see what you like, buy it now. There is no time to waste. Keep in mind that your girlfriends probably don’t have a bunch of extra money to blow on being a bridesmaid in your wedding. BethAnn bought coordinating dresses for the girls (about $30 each), and she had them wear whatever shoes they wanted.

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[Money Saver – Make your own veil or buy one from a craft store. I found one at Michael’s for $10. A friend made the headpiece from wrapped craft wire and artificial flowers. ]

 

Tip #6: Caterer – book early, make a plan

Wedding guests usually expect to be fed. Bummer. Fortunately, we found a great caterer – a friend-of-a-friend. My main goal was to have too much food. It is never good when your guests go away hungry. Even I know that. So we planned on too much food. And we were successful.

The caterer and I decided on multiple food offerings (buffet/finger foods) and the cost was $8 per person.  This also included tea, water, iced coffee, and hot coffee. $8 x 80 people = $640, which isn’t a bad price. However, the week of the wedding, more people decided to show up to the wedding, including people that were not invited or had assured us they could not come. So I had to add another 20 people to the catering bill. I also had to rent extra tables, chairs, and buy more linens to accommodate those extra people. And, of course, at least 10 of those people did not show up. So frustrating!

[Money Saver – Don’t serve alcohol. That is one of those things that is impossible to afford on a $5000 budget. It is also one of those things that was not important to the bride and groom.  Interestingly enough, at the last minute several of the guests did not attend because there was not going to be alcohol. Too bad I had already paid for their food!]

Another friend-of-a-friend makes wedding cakes, so I booked her right away. BethAnn wanted a naked wedding cake.  I sent the cake lady a picture of what we liked. The cake would only feed about 50 because we were planning a DESSERT BAR. A dessert bar at a reception is the best thing ever. My daughter-in-law, Grace, introduced me to the idea at their wedding. Guests LOVE it. And if your family brings the desserts, it is super cheap (free). Desserts can include anything you like. We had pies, cakes, cookies, Oreo fluff, and Krispy Kreme donuts.  The cost of the wedding cake was $175 (including delivery and setup). The dessert bar was free.

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Tip #7: Decorations and Flowers — Enlist lots of help

Start a Pinterest board right away so that you can accumulate your thoughts and ideas in one place. You can also collaborate with your key players so that everyone can throw in their ideas. After you have booked the venue and the caterer and ordered the invitations, you can now concentrate on bringing your ideas to life. Get the most bang for your buck. Decide what will fit your theme/style and keep it simple. This category can cost a lot if you let it, so decide what you can borrow from friends or buy from Craigslist or thrift store.  BethAnn’s Bohemian chic style fit in nicely with the plethora of candles, jars, old books, various vases, etc. that are so easy to get your hands on these days.  My big idea of professionally decorating the ceiling with tulle came to a halt when I priced it out ($800!!). So we stuck with white lights, Chinese lanterns, and garland made from scraps of fabric.

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{Practical Tip – as you buy and gather decorations for the wedding, organize it all in boxes or plastic tubs that are LABELED. I did not think about the fact the others would be setting up the wedding without me. It would have been helpful for all my helpers to know what was in every box and where to find that missing piece of whatever they needed. It would also make it easier to organize everything after the wedding when it all needs to come down and get dragged back to my house.}

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To stay on a tight schedule, I asked for help to make the garland. To decorate the venue, we needed yards and yards of it, so I cut the fabric strips and had a friend create a few of the strands for me (thanks Sheila, Grace, Claire, and Beth!).  For the super creative parts, I enlisted the best talent around, which just happened to be my daughter-in-law, Grace, and a good friend, Victoria. They brought my ideas to life and kept me sane.  We picked the practical and affordable parts of our Pinterest boards that would make the biggest difference at the wedding.

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[Money Saver – Don’t do wedding favors. Guests don’t really care. They just want to have fun and be fed. They will not be disappointed if there is no favor for them to take home.  Another way I saved money was by buying some of the décor at a thrift store. I bought old vases (various colors and sizes) for cheap. We used those as part of the table décor.]

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Fortunately, Victoria has a flare for putting together beautiful flower arrangements. For bridal party bouquets, centerpieces, and various other arrangements, I checked out Sam’s and Trader Joe’s because they had the best prices.  On the day that we actually bought the flowers, Sam’s had almost nothing in stock, so we bought the bulk from Trader Joe’s. Affordable, beautiful, fun. Victoria worked her magic on the flowers and they were stunning. Fresh flowers: $120. Artificial flowers: $80.

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TJ and BethAnn brick wall

[Money SaverPurchase your table linens. I was shocked at how much cheaper it was to buy table linens than it was to rent them. The quote for renting was $250. Buying from linentablecloth.com was $120. After the wedding you can sell them on Craigslist to recover some of your expense.]

[Money Saver – Have a friend who is a professional photographer offer to take your pictures. To make it extra awesome, get married in a town that has unique and interesting photo ops. The wedding venue photos were good, but the best ones were taken before the wedding in our little downtown. Scour your area with the vision of what will make a great backdrop for wedding party photos: Brick walls, historic homes, interesting alleyways, murals, railroad tracks, train cars.]

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Tip #8:  MusicMake it simple but meaningful

Playlists are free and the sky is the limit.  I used Spotify to gather the playlists and I paid for the premium service for a few months. This allowed me to download the songs instead of streaming them online. I could not take the chance of the wi-fi going out at the venue. However, we wanted a little more when it came to the ceremony. A friend told me about a fella who plays the mandolin and it seemed to fit the bohemian flair. It.Was.Perfect.

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The Spotify playlist for the reception was on my iPad which was connected to the sound system.  My nephew ran the sound and kept the party going. Remember to pick music for every part of the reception: presentation of the newlyweds, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance, dinner music, cutting the cake. Music can make or break a reception. We had some trouble with the sound system not being loud enough, but for the most part, it worked fine. But I wish I had asked for more help picking the music.

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Extras: Even with a tight budget, BethAnn and I decided to spend money on hair and makeup. Hair and makeup for both of us was $200. It was worth the splurge.

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Last minute stresses included creating a wedding day schedule and a reception schedule.  I guess I just thought that those things fell into place on their own. They don’t. I had to decide how long everything was going to take, when to send all my helpers to the venue to set up, when to start pictures, and when to have the caterer arrive. The reception plan is tricky because you don’t want the guests to start leaving before the cake is served. We had food, cake, then dancing. It worked out well, but I wished I had put someone in charge of the reception. I was making too many decisions during the reception and it was stressful.

[Money Saver – don’t buy anything extra for the send-off. We considered sparklers and glow sticks. In the end, we bought nothing. I’m glad. It was fun to just cheer the newlyweds as they walked off to their car and their new life together.]

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My last tip: take a week off after the wedding. I had to go back to work two days after the wedding, so I never had time to decompress and get rested. It took me a month to recover!

Eight weeks was perfect to plan the perfect wedding. The wedding turned out to be more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed.  It was fun, special, and memorable. God led me through each step, helping me make decisions and leading me to the people and places that would make this wedding everything it needed to be.

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What are your tips and tricks to plan a wedding with limited time and limited funds? Please share in comments!!  Thanks!

Photo Credit: Country Creations by Jackie took most of these awesome photos! Thank you, Jackie!!

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